When I was in high school, I worked at Kroger as a bagger and cashier. I befriended a fellow believer who was a Pentecostal. I had never met a Pentecostal before. In general, Pentecostals believe that Christians receive (or are baptized by) the Holy Spirit separately from justification, rebirth, and (of course) water baptism. The sign of this baptism by the Spirit is speaking in tongues.
I volunteered to my friend that I had never spoken in tongues. He was surprised and disappointed. The next day at work, he handed me a booklet he wanted me to read. It was called The Bible Way to Receive the Holy Spirit—which I needed, obviously, because I had never spoken in tongues! It was written by the late Kenneth Hagin, who represented (I think) a cultic fringe of the Pentecostal movement.
The booklet gave step-by-step directions on how to (I guess) motivate God to baptize you in the Holy Spirit. It was very troubling. As I recall, it recommended getting on your knees, opening your mouth, and sort of loosening your larynx to prepare for the gift of tongues. Even at the time, I thought that if the Book of Acts were your template, why would you need to work so hard at it? Speaking in tongues seemed effortless there.
I imagined all these poor, confused Pentecostal Christians, feeling very anxious because they didn’t speak in tongues—and feeling as if they weren’t fully Christian until they did so.
If I could offer them any pastoral guidance today, I would point them to the scripture I preached on yesterday: 1 Corinthians 12:1-20. The very problem Paul deals with in chapters 12-14 is Corinthian believers who thought that they were more “spiritual” than their brothers and sisters in the church who didn’t have the gift of tongues.
I’m not judging the entire Pentecostal movement based on this one experience. I have enjoyed fellowship with other Pentecostals who didn’t have this extreme view of the gift of tongues—or even if they did, they weren’t all in-your-face about it.
The truth is, I need the witness of my Pentecostal brothers and sisters. I need to be reminded that God is a living, breathing reality in my life; that I ought to pray with the expectation that God will actually do something; that miracles still happen.
I don’t want to be part of the “frozen chosen.” Pentecostals can help thaw us out.