A Generous Pentecostalism, Part 3: Eschatological, Missional Urgency
A Generous Pentecostalism, Part 3: Eschatological, Missional Urgency
I'm wrapping up this series (Part IPart II) I've been calling "A Generous Pentecostalism" on a "lowercase 'p' pentecostalism." In this post, I'm describing the third characteristic I find in this 'catholic pentecostalims': Eschatological, Missional Urgency. (Bear with me, this might require a little explanation.)

The Eschaton Isn't Just the End; It's a New Beginning!

By "eschatological," I simply mean a look toward the way God is completing the great narrative of history, or the way God is remaking all things. Modern, Western Christians (particularly U.S. Americans, for at least the last two hundred years or so) have exclusively interpreted Revelation as a book about the future. This has unfortunately led to a largely escapist theology that discounts the Kingdom's role in the here and now. But what if the whole point of Revelation was not just to tell us about the future, but about how we are to live in the present? What if John, and the other authors of the New Testament, weren't primarily concerned with what the future will look like when Jesus reappears, but instead are inviting the church (then and now) to join with God in establishing God's Kingdom on earth as it is in heaven? When we think about the proverbial "Last Days" do we think about the end of history, or do we think about the age in which we are currently living? The sermon Peter issues in response to the outpouring of the Holy Spirit in Acts 2 is instructive for us. In it, Peter, as a good first-century Jew, immediately gives language to this experience from the Hebrew Scriptures. He legitimatizes the disciples' experience by calling his hearers' (and our) attention to the book of Joel, where God promises to do a new thing in the "last days." Quoting Joel, Peter says,
In the last days, God says, I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your young men will see visions, your old men will dream dreams. Even on my servants, both men and women, I will pour out my Spirit in those days, and they will prophesy. (v.17-18)
Peter, therefore, claims this experience is the outpouring of God's Spirit about which Joel wrote. At the same time, Peter was also claiming that, since this experience was happening at that very moment, that he and his hearers were all living in the biblical "last days." How could that have been true? Here you and I are reading Peter's words nearly 2000 years later, and human history continues to march on. If God was wrapping up history in the first century, why isn't he finished yet?

The Mission is Now!

This brings us to the third and final characteristic I'm using to describe the "pentecostalism" to which the whole church has access. When the Spirit shows up in our midst personally and collectively, we enjoy: 1) Direct Dynamic Relationship with God; 2) The In-breaking of God's Kingdom; 3) Eschatological, Missional Urgency. What Peter declares is that God is on a mission to redeem all things, reclaim his good creation, and he has invited his people into that mission with him. We are time-travelers! We have future clothes, future thoughts, future ways, and we bring them in to the present in order to make this world new again! The urgency we sense is not merely because judgment approaches—although that is true too. It is true that the fire of God's love floods our lives exposing those materials with which we have constructed idols and brings them to nothing. But, more than this, the pentecostal urgency is produced by the hope of New Life, New Beginnings, a New Way of Being Human! Traditional views of missional urgency come from the looping threat of hell. "Unless we preach the Good News, people will die and go to hell." The type of pentecostal urgency I'm proposing challenges this notion. Is not Christ's love, the hope of glory, the renewal of all things motivating enough to send missionaries and evangelists around the world?
"It is a travesty to maintain that the primary motive of missions is to rescue souls from hell. The purpose of the Christian missions is much broader, and its motivations more far reaching. ... Missions are part of God’s strategy for transforming the world and changing history. One goal of missions is quantitative, to baptize and form congregations. The other goal is qualitative, to change life’s atmosphere, to infect people with hope, love, and responsibility for the world.The Gospel proclamation is not an announcement of terror, but news of God’s boundless generosity. ...The fear of hell is not the primary motivation for missions. The deepest motive of all is to see the kingdom come and God’s rule established. Like the early Christians, we go in obedience to the Lord’s command, with a concern for the glory of God, and in the power the Holy Spirit." 1
The type of pentecostal, missional urgency I'm describing comes from the overwhelming joy of knowing God has invited us into his future reign of shalom here and now! It comes from the passionate embrace of those for whom Christ died and the compassion heart of the Father who is calling them back to himself.

Why Does This Matter?

The church of Jesus Christ is called on mission with God to a hurting and lost world with the best news imaginable: God's Reign of Love has Come! Liberation and New Creation are Here! The empowerment of the Holy Spirit compels us to Go and fulfill the Great Commission. You don't have to be Pentecostal to have an urgency for missions—you just have to be pentecostal.
  1. Clark Pinnock, A Wideness in God’s Mercy, p.178.