I’m not sure our hyper-individualized faith understands the immensity of what happened at Pentecost. Yes, we know the Holy Spirit rested over the disciples. We say that was the moment the church was born.
I’m convinced it’s something much greater.
For the last several weeks, I’ve been reflecting on the ascension of Jesus. In particular, how Luke describes what happened has caught my attention. According to Luke, Jesus told the disciples to wait in Jerusalem. We know now that is where they would experience the outpouring of God’s Spirit as the people of God celebrated Pentecost.
But it’s what Jesus told them to wait for that strikes me.
Many translations depict Jesus’ words to be something like, “Remain in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high.” That makes me think of how Colossians 3 encourages believers to “clothe” themselves in love. It’s not an outfit, of course. It’s an inherited quality.
As much as love defines who we are to be as the body of Christ, Jesus wanted his disciples to know the power they would inherit, too.
That’s what makes what happened at Pentecost so important. The church wasn’t formed at that moment. It was fully clothed, empowered and fully equipped to begin its work without Jesus. Now, most of us are okay with that so far.
I’m just not convinced we’re convinced enough. I’ll sum up my reason in two words: spiritual gifts.
If I had to put an order to my priorities as a pastor, my list would go like this: prayer, studying scripture and spiritual gifts. To be clear, I mean prioritizing these ideas as foundational to congregational living. I’ve talked, preached and written ad nauseam about prayer and Bible study. So, today, a focus on our spiritual gifts is in order.
In all honesty, I’ve struggled to get people excited about their spiritual gifts. I’ve done studies, sermons and Sunday school classes about what they are and why they’re important. For the most part, I can’t say many people have let our discussions take root.
I have two ideas why that may be the case.
First, as I said in the beginning, a hyper-individualized faith doesn’t need spiritual gifts. And it doesn’t have room for them. I need Jesus to comfort me and I want the Lord to bless my life. Those aren’t bad prayers, mind you. They’re just not full, mature prayers. Diluting the Christian faith to be only about you and Jesus misses the beauty God first inspired the church to know.
Second, I imagine there have been preachers and leaders that have overemphasized “helping the church.” This is when the pastor wants you to serve on some committee or cook something for an upcoming event. Without getting too longwinded about it, this is the busy-ful model of doing church.
When the Holy Spirit empowered the church at Pentecost, it was not to help the church. It was to share the good news of Jesus. That’s the first thing that happened as a result. Likewise, the spiritual gifts given to every believer are not to merely help. As empowered people, our spiritual gifts allow us all the opportunities to continue the outpouring that happened at Pentecost.
Every one of us has a spiritual gift. That gift is from God and is part of what we should experience at Pentecost even today.