What Holiness Brings to the Table

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“Why do you always pick on Holiness Pentecostals, Natalie?!” This is a question I’ve been asked multiple times, and the short answer is because I am passionate to see Holiness Pentecostals reach their full potential in Christ. They are some of the most sincere, passionate, and devoted Christians I know. If their energy and dedication were combined with the discipleship, outreach, and thorough study of scripture that I have seen in other movements, there’s honestly no telling what God would do through them.

 

The Value of Christian Fellowship

Every genuine Christian movement is a part of the body of Christ, and as such, every movement has something to bring to the table, something to contribute to the greater good of the greater Church. From serving missionaries in Albania, to working as church staff in Colorado, to visiting churches all across Europe, I’ve definitely been in and around other movements. I’ve been extremely grateful and excited to see what God is doing in the rest of the Church world! I’ve sat under incredibly thorough, expositional, and exegetical preaching; I’ve been introduced to a plethora of theologically deep books, podcasts, articles, and other resources; I’ve been a part of young adult groups that have supported, encouraged, and challenged me in my walk with Christ; I’ve attended Bible studies that have grown my mind and soul simultaneously; I’ve witnessed local churches of many denominations working together with amazing unity to reach their community; I’ve seen discipleship and evangelism that turned tiny, church pioneer works into thriving communities of thousands of believers.

There is no doubt in my mind that God is on the move and that His Church is not defeated. However, the more time I’ve spent fellowshipping Christianity at large, the more I realize positive trends I’ve taken for granted in the past. I’ve come to cultivate great appreciation for the distinctive strengths of Holiness Pentecostals. While these strengths are not lost in the larger Church world, they definitely need to be reinforced and shared, and I believe that Holiness Pentecostals have the potential to do this.

 

Strengths of Holiness Pentecostals

Here are just a few strengths in Holiness Pentecostalism that would greatly bless other Christian movements:

1. Fervent Desire to Please God and Live in His Will

In studying the early Holiness movement and early Pentecostalism, I am amazed at the amount of common pleasures that these Christians were willing to give up out of zeal to please Christ. They forfeited everything from picnics, to ruffles, to colored clothing—just in case God didn’t approve of these things (even if they weren’t sure). I see this same “over and above” zeal in many modern Holiness Pentecostals as well. They also are adamant about the need to live in “the will of God.” There is an expectation that everyone is seeking God’s favor in their life choices and desiring to do whatever God would want them to do. Kept in check, this kind of peer pressure is healthy and beautiful.

2. Skepticism Towards Unfamiliar Doctrinal Stances

As a writer and publisher of doctrinal ideas which are not familiar to Holiness Pentecostals, I’m in a good position to know how they respond to what they perceive to be new. They definitely have a great hesitance to accept any doctrine not taught to them since salvation. The decision to openly express a belief which differs from their peers often takes five to ten years of consideration. I truly respect and appreciate this skepticism. In the grand scheme of things, God preserves His Church; thus, it’s always safest to stay with the doctrines and traditions passed down to us through classical Christianity. We should never be hasty when accepting unfamiliar theology.

3. Great Care To Shelter Their Children

I’ve interacted with multiple Christians, especially abroad, who have the idea that children do best when they are immersed in secular culture. They want their children to “understand” the culture and they neglect to see how secular culture is molding their children’s worldviews. I greatly appreciate the fact that many Holiness Christians reject this idea. Instead, they tend to homeschool, limit or ban television, discourage video gaming, choose friends carefully, and filter the magazines, books, and other influences which come into their children’s lives. This is an important step in protecting the hearts and minds of the next generation.

4. Emphasis on Personal Relationship with Christ

From the beginnings of holiness teachings there was an emphasis on personally loving and knowing God, and from the beginnings of Pentecostalism there was an emphasis on personally having an experience with God. The roots of this personal Christianity can be clearly traced and seen in the writings of John Wesley (a forerunner of the Holiness movement):

“I answer: A Methodist is one who has “the love of God shed abroad in his heart by the Holy Ghost given unto him;” one who “loves the Lord his God with all his heart, and with all his soul, and with all his mind, and with all his strength. God is the joy of his heart, and the desire of his soul; which is constantly crying out, “Whom have I in heaven but thee? And there is none upon the earth that I desire beside thee! My God and my all! Thou art the strength of my heart, and my portion for ever!”[1]

This is a beautiful teaching grounded in scripture, and I’m so thankful to see that many Holiness Pentecostals still stress the need for personally loving and knowing Christ today.

5. Emphasis on Prayer

Along with personal relationship with Christ, Holiness Pentecostals also stress the importance of daily prayer. They have a firm faith that God hears and answers us, which is encouraged in testimony service, song service, and sermons. Songs such as, “Power of Prayer,” “Prayer Bells of Heaven,” and “Just a Little Talk with Jesus” are all favorites. Testimony service is a time when the congregation is asked what God has done for them, and they regularly respond by telling of specifically answered prayers. The Holiness movement also has a rich heritage of men and women who lived in the rural 1800s, the desperate 1930s, and the harsh economic conditions of the world wars. The miraculous ways God came through for these early Holiness families are still being passed down today, further boosting their confidence in prayer.

6. Belief in Miracles

In a world where several Christian denominations (though not a majority) have begun to teach complete cessationism, it’s refreshing to find that Holiness Pentecostals are still adamant in their belief in miracles and divine healing. Ask anyone who’s been in the movement for five years or more and you may get to hear about a miracle they saw themselves! During my junior year of Bible School, we had so many incredible answers to prayer, that I began typing up and collecting the accounts. Churches are far more likely to have miraculous answers to prayer when they accept that God still works in miraculous ways, so it’s great to find this belief alive and well.

7. Understanding the Need of a Spirit-filled Life

While listening to Dr. William Lane-Craig’s doctrinal series on the Holy Spirit[2], I was surprised to come across his section on why it is so important for Christians to seek to be full of the Spirit and to hear his regret that so few are. Dr. Lane-Craig is firm in his belief that we receive the Spirit upon believing in Christ, so his comments helped me realize that many non-Holiness Christians also understand the importance of living Spirit-filled lives. I’ve come to greatly appreciate how openly we discussed and taught on the Spirit in my Pentecostal background. The Pentecostals I grew up with knew that there were many charismatics and other movements who abused teachings on the Spirit, but it never hindered them. The false teachings only made them more adamant in their desire to teach pneumatology correctly. That’s an admirable response.

The above strengths of Holiness Pentecostal believers could definitely be a blessing and a have a positive impact on fellow believers from other traditions and denominations. As the Body of Christ, we must understand that we need each other. We will never agree on everything, but we will always benefit from supporting one another, sharing resources, and working together to impact our culture and reach our communities.

 

Benefits of Fellowshipping The Church at Large

Similarly, the strengths of other believers could also be a great blessing to Holiness Pentecostals. We’ve gleaned from many non-Holiness Pentecostals in the past: Polycarp, Justin Martyr, John Wycliffe, Desiderius Erasmus, William Tyndale, Martin Luther, Jonathan Edwards, John Wesley, Count Zinzendorf, Charles Spurgeon, Amy Carmichael, Hudson Taylor, Fanny Crosby, and C. S. Lewis, among many, many others. While we recognize and appreciate the influence of Christians who have gone before us, we are much less likely to glean from the great Christian leaders, thinkers, and ministers of our day. Why? Because they do not share all of our distinctive beliefs, non-essential though they may be.

I have personally listened to ministers preach hard against David Platt’s books and sermons, only because he doesn’t share their doctrine of the Spirit. Matthew Henry and Cyrus Scofield also didn’t share their doctrine of the Spirit, but we use their commentary and reference Bible. I’ve also heard that we shouldn’t use any of Beth Moore’s women’s Bible studies because she wears pants. However, I’ve seen Gladys Alward praised as a godly missionary. I agree that she was, but would like to point out that she also wore pants. There seems to be an inconsistency between how we respect Christians leaders from the past versus how we respect those in the present.

I believe the reluctance to accept current Christians as fellow, mature believers is even more detrimental than denying Christians of the past. This is because we are not only losing their resources, their thoughts, and their books, but we are losing their flesh-and-blood fellowship. We are losing their smiling faces across our dinner tables, we are losing their hands in community service projects, we are losing their mentorship… when we need to know how to begin Bible studies, offer biblical counseling, fight to end human trafficking, rehabilitate drug- and alcohol-addicts, defend the Faith on college campuses, train our youth in systematic theology, host successful kids’ outreaches, or the plethora of our other noble goals that, let’s admit, would benefit from someone else’s experience, advise, and guidance.

The thought that, “we’re better off isolated; we don’t need anyone else,” has an undertone of pride and a consequence of selfishness. If Christ clearly taught that His Body would better function and glorify Him when we work together, then we’re forfeiting His glory, we’re forfeiting souls, and we’re forfeiting the well-being of fellow believers when we stoop to the attitude of, “I’m better off without you.”

“Neither pray I for these alone, but for them also which shall believe on me through their word; That they all may be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us: that the world may believe that thou hast sent me. And the glory which thou gavest me I have given them; that they may be one, even as we are one: I in them, and thou in me, that they may be made perfect in one; and that the world may know that thou hast sent me, and hast loved them, as thou hast loved me.”
— John 17:20–23

 

The Difference Between Essential and Non-Essential Doctrines

A crucial first step of working with believers from other movements is to understand the difference between an essential and a non-essential doctrine. Essential doctrines are those that define Christianity and directly impact one’s salvation, for example: monotheism, deity of Christ, salvation by grace, resurrection of Christ and the gospel. In contrast, non-essential doctrines are doctrines which do not affect salvation and believers are at liberty to disagree on, for example: Calvinism/Armenianism, water baptism, church government, and pneumatology.

Unfortunately, we have a human tendency to stress the doctrines that make us unique so much that we forget they are not essentials of the faith. This results in needless church splits, disfellowship, and other harmful division. The first step in reversing this pattern is to stop and rethink the unique doctrines which are most prone to being divided over. Are they essentials or non-essentials? Should we break fellowship over them or not? This is where Berean Holiness steps in. We publish content geared towards cross-examining the arguments for Pentecostal Holiness distinctives and presenting mainstream perspectives. This helps Holiness Pentecostals parse their essential doctrines from their non-essentials.

If anyone allows themself to think that they have the only legitimate interpretation of certain scriptures, then everyone who disagrees is ignoring biblical teaching and classifies as an immature believer—if they’re even recognized as a believer. For example, if we think that the only way to interpret Deuteronomy 22:5 is to believe that women’s pants are an abomination, then 95%+ of Christian women are viewed as living in moral sin and most likely not Christians at all. In contrast, if we recognize that there are other plausible ways of interpreting and applying this verse, then we can view our interpretation as a non-essential doctrine which we are at liberty to disagree on. This realization would free us to fellowship and bless the Church at large (without compromising our personal convictions).

 

First Steps of Fellowship

Where do we start practically? How can we take our first steps to move from isolation into fellowship? There are so many ways to connect and partner with other local churches and believers that I’m unable to address them in this article. However, I can think of a good place to start, and that would be by reaching out to the believers who were once part of the Holiness movement. Far too many Holiness Christians have come to honestly disagree with a non-essential doctrine, only to be disfellowshipped and mistaken as backsliders or rebels. Being thought of as a backslider by your church friends is a heavy weight to carry, and it’s only more painful when it’s a result of aligning your beliefs with your understanding of the Bible.

The Christians in this situation are at risk for succumbing to bitterness and discouragement. They are in further danger of becoming isolated, since very few of them had built relationships with non-Holiness Christians while in the movement. Upon being disfellowshipped, many find themselves totally alone with no support or encouragement in their walk with Christ. It wouldn’t take much for Holiness Pentecostals to break this cycle. It starts with a mere phone call, maybe an apology, but above all else, true love. Taking these Christians out for coffee, sitting down and asking them questions, listening to them, hearing them out, and genuinely caring about why they believe the way they do, just might be a game changer. There’s no need for blessing and strengthening other members of the Body of Christ to seem like some overwhelming impossibility. It could just be a cup of coffee and a smile.

For as the body is one, and hath many members, and all the members of that one body, being many, are one body: so also is Christ. For by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body, whether we be Jews or Gentiles, whether we be bond or free; and have been all made to drink into one Spirit. For the body is not one member, but many… God hath tempered the body together, having given more abundant honour to that part which lacked. That there should be no schism in the body; but that the members should have the same care one for another. And whether one member suffer, all the members suffer with it; or one member be honoured, all the members rejoice with it. Now ye are the body of Christ, and members in particular.”
— 1 Corinthians 12:12–14, 24–27

 

Conclusion

Why do I do I spend so much of my time researching, reading, writing, editing, and publishing for Holiness Pentecostals? Why have I invested months of my free time working to engage an audience who often opposes my work? The answer is simple: because I care. I care deeply about seeing the Body of Christ reach her full strength and potential, but the only way for that to happen is for every member of the Body to stay healthy and connected. Every Christian tradition has something to offer the others, and Holiness Pentecostals are no exception. Their fervor to please God, caution in accepting unfamiliar doctrines, carefulness in guarding their children, emphasis on prayer and personal relationship with Christ, belief in miracles, and desire for Spirit-filled lives could be a great example and influence on their fellow believers. They would equally benefit from other believers’ strengths in evangelism, discipleship, and Bible study, but more importantly their communities would be better reached and God would be more greatly glorified. The only way for this to happen is for us each to know the difference between our essential and non-essential doctrines, to be able to recognize what teachings we are biblically required to part ways over, and which ones we are at liberty to disagree on and continue in fellowship. It sounds like an incredible leap, but in reality, it’s only a series of steps. Who knows? The first step might just be a cup of coffee.

— Natalie Mayo

 

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Resources:

  1. Character of a Methodist by John Wesley
  2. Defenders Class: Doctrine of the Holy Spirit by Dr. William Lane-Craig