The Wolves in Pentecostal Sheep’s Clothing

As I attested to in my former letter, O Theophilus, I was born and raised (and have spent my entire ministry life) in Pentecostal churches.  I’m a native son.  Yes, my friend, I do speak in tongues on a daily basis.  Yes, my friend, I do instinctually pray for divine healing when I hear someone is sick.  Yes, my friend, I have also received countless “words” from others over the years.    And yes, my friend, some of them hit me between the eyes and rocked my soul, while others made me wonder what “spirit” was giving instruction to my “prophetic” contributor.  If you’ve grown up a Pentecostal, you’re smiling right now (unless you take yourself way too seriously, and if so, you’re going to hate me by the end of this blog…just a fair warning).

If you google phrases like “You know you’re a Pentecostal if…” you’ll come upon some playful lists and videos that poke fun at the Pentecostal life and church experience.  This blog is not intended to add to that collection.  I write this blog with more of a heavy heart.  My last post really introduces this issue, so read that for clarification.  What is here is more intended to serve as a sort of check-list to help self-proclaimed Pentecostals “2 Corinthians 13:5 themselves.”  My hope is that if you consider yourself a “Pentecostal Christian” that you would truly examine yourself, as God’s word instructs.

Additionally, I write this for my people.  I feel like it is my job as the pastor of a local church to make sure that Matthew 7:21-23 isn’t the end of the story for any of my people.  Jesus’ words from the Sermon on the Mount should be very sobering for us as Pentecostals:

Matthew 7:21-23

“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.  22 On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’  23 And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’

Will the real Pentecostals please stand up???

How do you know if you are or are not a REAL Pentecostal Christian?

Here’s a list I’ve compiled from my last 31 years of experience in the Pentecostal church.  I’m not intending to simply define what a Pentecostal is NOT, so this list also includes marks of a true Pentecostal as well.

[WARNING: the following may offend you.  If it does, I would ask you to pray and ask God if that offense is actually the conviction of the Holy Spirit, the one that you most likely claim to be “filled” with.]

Here we go…

If you speak in tongues of men and of angels but have not love, then you’re not a Pentecostal.

If you think His gifts are the evidence of the Holy Spirit at work, but you’ve never read Galatians 5, then you’re not a Pentecostal.

If you’re more focused on being “spirit-filled” than “mission-engaged,” then you’re not a Pentecostal.

If you love the instruction on spiritual gifts in 1 Corinthians 12 through 14 but miss the correction for misguided fakers, then you’re not a Pentecostal.

If you think the “spiritual gifts chapters” in 1 Corinthians are 12 AND 14 rather than 12 THROUGH 14, then you’re not a Pentecostal.

If you find yourself seeking after signs, rather than seeking after souls, then you’re a Pharisee, not a Pentecostal.

If you want an altar call at the end of every church service, but you don’t want to respond yourself, then you’re not a Pentecostal.

If during corporate worship you’d rather hear a message in tongues from a total stranger, than a biblical sermon delivered in a language you can understand from your pastor, then you’re not a Pentecostal.

If you love words of prophecy spoken in church sanctuaries, but you don’t hate words of gossip spoken in church lobbies, then you’re not a Pentecostal.

If you think the Holy Spirit’s concern is your experience rather than Jesus’ glory, then you’re not a Pentecostal.

If your dynamic experience reflects His gifts, but your daily reality is bankrupt of His fruit, then you’re not a Pentecostal.

If you yawn during your token golf-clap while people are being baptized in water, but bemoan the fact that you haven’t heard any spontaneous tongues songs through the microphone lately, then you’re not a Pentecostal.

If you care more about the manifestation of the Holy Spirit’s gifts inside the four walls of the church, than the manifestation of the Holy Spirit’s mission in your neighborhood, then you’re not a Pentecostal.

If your heart is cold because you believe the church has “lost the Holy Spirit,” rather than broken because your co-workers have never met Jesus, then you’re not a Pentecostal.

If you spend a ton of money on yourself and call it God’s blessing, while neglecting generosity, faithful, regular, cheerful, and sacrificial giving to the mission of God, then you’re not a Pentecostal.

If there is an ounce of pride in you because of your experience of the Holy Spirit, then you’re not a Pentecostal.

If you think you’re on a higher plane than other Christians, then you’re not a Pentecostal.

However…

If your spouse and kids would identify you as Spirit-filled because of your true spiritual character, not simply the person sitting next to you on Sunday because of your “spiritual gifts”, then you’re a Pentecostal.

If you speak in tongues of men and of angels and have love, then you’re a Pentecostal.

If you can’t stop sharing Jesus with everyone around you, then you’re a Pentecostal.

If you’re more concerned about reflecting the character of Christ than the gifts of the Spirit, then you’re a Pentecostal.

If you’re on mission with Jesus every day, working to heal the world, then you’re a Pentecostal.

If you realize that anyone who says “Jesus is Lord” has the Holy Spirit working in their life, then you’re a Pentecostal.

If you test every spiritual experience by God’s word to see if it is really of Christ, then you’re a Pentecostal.

If you’re growing in humility, servant-hood, compassion, and self-control, then you’re a Pentecostal.

If you’re hungry for God’s word, as the true prophetic word (1 Peter 1:19-21), then you’re a Pentecostal.

If you practice the accountability of Matthew 18 when confronted with the sin of your brothers and sisters in Christ, then you’re a Pentecostal.

If Jesus is becoming greater in your life and your self is becoming less, then you’re a Pentecostal.

My heart breaks when I see other Christians cringe at the mention of the word “Pentecostal.”  I’ve lived my life in the Pentecostal church and Pentecostal experience, and when I see brothers and sisters in the faith cringe because of the wolves among us, I grieve.  Imagine how the Holy Spirit feels.

Will the real Pentecostals please stand up?

About Pastor Andrew

Follower of Jesus, Husband to Carissa, Daddy to four daughters, Lead Pastor at LifePoint Church in Vancouver, WA.
This entry was posted in 2theSource, For Pastors, Life @ LPC and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

17 Responses to The Wolves in Pentecostal Sheep’s Clothing

  1. Jon Friesen says:

    Fighting tears as I read this blog. God is faithful. Just what I needed to hear today!!!!

  2. Tim Padget says:

    Some great perspective, thanks Pastor.

  3. This is one of the best posts I have read on these issues. Great points, perspective, and heart.

  4. Brian ROden says:

    This ties right in with the series on the Holy Spirit I’ve been teaching for our Latino ministry.

  5. Dave Dingman says:

    I also think that this is perhaps the best comment regarding what being a Pentecostal I have read. How many jump from church to church these days in search for the move of the Holy Spirit. It seems they are searching for supernatural moves of God and left the mission we have been commissioned with.

  6. Pingback: Concerning Spiritual Gifts | 2theSource

  7. Gene Pearce says:

    Very interesting, especially given the fact that several days ago the Lord brought Matthew 7:21-23 back to my memory while telling me there was much more to this passage of scripture than what I currently understood it to be. Time to do some studying! Thanks pastor, good word!

  8. This was hard to write and as I read it again today it is very convicting to me as well. Thank you for reading it and weighing it with care. As I talk to other pastors and leaders in the Pentecostal church, particularly from my generation, I see and hear a passion to re-claim the true biblical definition of a Pentecostal. Our flesh has a tendency to steer us wrong, and I think rather than timidly divorcing ourselves from Pentecost, we need to get back to the word of God and stand up for the truth. These words, as with anything I post on this blog or preach in my sermons, cut deeply through my own heart before I share them with others. This was a tough one, but I feel like someone needs to say it. The Bible tells us that wolves will come among us to win people to themselves (Acts 20), I feel a call as a local church pastor to guard my flock. I’ve noticed a tendency in Christians to assume that false teachers, wolves, or heretics aren’t actually actively at work in our day. There is an underlying assumption that “we’re all on the same team.” We excuse pharisaic attitudes, godless character, self-worship, and the like with phrases like “well, that’s not their heart.” The Bible says it is their heart, and that outside of Christ that heart is totally depraved. We kill our ability to engage the mission of Jesus as a local church when we give quarter to wolves. My prayer is that Christians will truly engage the word of God, stand up for truth, hold one another accountable, and that true, biblical discipline and discipleship will return to the church.

  9. Chris Linzey says:

    Loved the blog post, but I would posit that the things you mention should apply to all Christians, not only those of us who call ourselves Pentecostal!

  10. Gene Pearce says:

    Wolves have been, and always will be, in the midst of the church. I have learned that the way to identify these wolves is to see who is murmuring, complaining, and expressing their own selfish desires. (Jude 16; Philippians 2:14-16) These wolves tend to avoid direct confrontation with leadership but would much rather complain to those in the body or make “suggestions” to leadership anonymously. Not only does this make them out to be cowards but by their words and actions they are harming the unity of the church, contrary to the Word of God. (1 Corinthians 1:10; Ephesians 4:1-3). While we certainly need to pray that the Lord will convict them and soften their heart, which would lead to repentance, it is still necessary, for the sake of preserving unity, that these wolves be identified and confronted about their rebellious spirit. They need to be held accountable.

  11. Deb says:

    I wonder about the dress wearing women I know who stand up in church and denounce pant and makeup wearing women without looking around to see if maybe someone wondered in today who is seeking God and if maybe that is more important than what they have on.
    What is your view on that?

    • Yeah Deb- I would categorize such a person as a wolf, or at least as someone with wolf-ish tendencies. There was a long period of time where individuals associated with the “holiness movement” held those kind of views. Many of the Pentecostal denominations or networks that are currently in existence (Assemblies of God, Foursquare, Church of God) grew out of the holiness movements. The problems within these movements stemmed from their definition of holiness as something that was attained by what you avoided (makeup, pants, movies, playing card games) rather than something that you attained by the grace of God through your relationship with Jesus. In my personal experience, most of those who hold to erroneous views of holiness have either had their views tempered, or they’ve learned to keep criticism to themselves. I’m sure you could walk into any church in America and find at least one person who would have poor theology or an arrogant demeanor in this regard, but by and large I think (speaking optimistically here) that those days are behind us… By the grace of God.

      • Deb says:

        Thank you for your fast response , we recently started attending a church where my husband responded to the spirit for the first time in years, was recently baptized and loves to go to church. But I have become alarmed with the lack of love, on the afore mentioned subject, and also the teaching you are not saved unless you are baptized in the Holy Ghost ??? I love that he is enjoying the church but worried he is getting deceived in some areas, what would you suggest?
        Thank you for your time.

  12. audrey rogers says:

    this is an awesome post, Andrew. totally agree with you.

  13. Michael says:

    If you make a list of things you think Pentecostal Christians should do… YOU may be a legalistic pharisee… 😀

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