Doing Missions in the Spirit in 2018

April 20, 2018 by  
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Mission Test Series:

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The Sinking of Cross-cultural Bridges and the Collapse of the “Western Theological Corpus”

AJ Tomlinson preaches at Tellico mountains: People laugh, cry and fall in the Spirit in 1907

May 10, 2017 by  
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AJ Tomlinson preaches at Tellico mountains: People laugh, cry and fall in the Spirit in 1907

Nov. 19.[1907] Just came home last night from the Tellico mountains, where I have been for a week holding meetings. Some good work done, the Spirit was present every service, at one service in a special manner. While I was preaching some laughed, about all cried, and one fell off his seat and just bellowed out in good fashion. Everyone present touched. I think every one in the house came to the altar. I was very calm, but surely the signs of God’s presence were manifest. I preached ten sermons on this trip. I am in quite a financial strait just now, but I believe God will help me out some way.

110 Years ago, William J. Seymour was baptized with the Holy Spirit

April 10, 2016 by  
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After starting a fast on April 6, 1906 in Los Angeles, the small group experienced what would become the first baptism with the Holy Spirit at the Azusa Street Revival. Several more followed shortly. William J. Seymour himself was baptized 110 years ago on April 12, 1906.

On the seventh, which was Good Friday, Seymour and his followers leased an abandoned church property at 312 Azusa Street and begin cleaning it up. Easter was on April 15, 1906 when they held their very first Pentecostal service at Azusa Street. The rest is history…

The Work of the Spirit in Rhode Island (1874-75)

August 30, 2015 by  
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From B.F. Lawrence, “A History of the Present Latter Rain Outpouring of the Holy Spirit Known as the Apostolic or Pentecostal Movement,” The Weekly Evangel, 22 January 1916

From B.F. Lawrence, “A History of the Present Latter Rain Outpouring of the Holy Spirit Known as the Apostolic or Pentecostal Movement,” The Weekly Evangel, 22 January 1916.

Doing Missions in the Spirit

September 10, 2014 by  
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Authentic Fire

June 5, 2014 by  
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AuthenticFire[1]Michael Brown’s Authentic Fire, reviewed by John King

Dr. Michael Brown in his work Authentic Fire confronts the misinformation of Pastor John MacArthur’s outspoken zeal against all things charismatic in his book, Strange Fire. While Dr. Brown admits that on some points Dr. MacArthur is right on, his language is radically abusive in tone. And some of Pastor MacArthur’s comments are simply untrue. Brown carefully separates the message from the messenger in addressing charismatic abuse before proceeding to the good stuff: how to burn with authentic fire.

Michael Brown’s Authentic Fire, reviewed by Daniel Snape

Authentic Fire is Dr. Michael Brown’s response to John MacArthur’s book Strange Fire. MacArthur’s Strange Fire launches a scathing attack on the Christian Charismatic Movement and so it comes as no surprise that champions of the charismatic community should launch a defense to MacArthur’s assertions. Dr. Brown leads the charge with a book just shy of 420 pages that seeks to address MacArthur’s main contentions.

Michael Brown’s Authentic Fire, reviewed by Loren Sandford

In my review of John MacArthur’s Strange Fire, I pointed out what I considered to be inexcusable intellectual dishonesty regarding the Charismatic Movement and its contributions to worldwide Christianity. Blanket statements were made with little documentation or knowledge of those within the movement who have made strong intellectual, scholarly and corrective statements. MacArthur singled out rare abuses and presented them as if they characterized the entire movement.

Michael Brown’s Authentic Fire, reviewed by William De Arteaga

Authentic Fire, by Dr. Michael L. Brown, is a masterful answer to the intemperate and angry attack on Charismatic movement and Pentecostalism by John MacArthur in his work, Strange Fire. In the public launch to Strange Fire, MacArthur made clear his utter disdain for the Charismatic Movement in particular.

Highlights from Michael Brown on the Spirit

On Saturday afternoon, May 3rd, 2014, Dr. Michael Brown, spoke at Christian Assembly in Somerville, Massachusetts. He spoke to pastors and ministry leaders about the charismatic work of the Holy Spirit, drawing heavily from his recent book Authentic Fire. This seminar was sponsored by the New England District ( of the International Fellowship of Christian Assemblies.

R. T. Kendall: Holy Fire, reviewed by Craig S. Keener

In his nine-page foreword, Jack Hayford rightly titles this “a landmark book.” He also rightly highlights Kendall’s work as irenic (pp. xxi-xxii), offering a notable contrast to some works today. I did not intend my review to prove as long as Pastor Hayford’s foreword, but if readers find my review too long I should mention that its most salient features appear toward the beginning.

The False Doctrine Behind John MacArthur’s Strange Fire, by Eddie Hyatt

In his latest book, Strange Fire, John MacArthur viciously labels the Pentecostal-Charismatic movement as “a false church as dangerous as any cult or heresy that has ever assaulted Christianity.” As I have read and reread his polemic, one thing that becomes clear is that MacArthur’s entire theological outlook is guided and determined by his commitment to the Calvinistic doctrine of cessationism, i.e., the belief that the miraculous gifts of the Holy Spirit were withdrawn from the church after the death of the original apostles of Christ. This, however, is a false doctrine that cannot be substantiated by either Scripture or church history.

Rites in the Spirit

September 20, 2013 by  
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9781841270173[1]Rites in the Spirit approaches Pentecostal practices and experiences with an approach often not seen by Pentecostals. Through identifying Pentecostal distinctiveness with rites terminology, the book proves that they have astonishing effect on the believers’ formation. In the light of Albrecht’s work this paper will reflect on: (1) ritual time, space and identity, (2) fundamental structure and modes, (3) positive consequences and (4) characteristic qualities and formational role of Pentecostal practices and experiences.

Ritual Time, Space and Identity
Albrecht explains that Pentecostal experience of spirituality has effect on time as spirituality is affected by the experience itself. He further proposes three time cycles as a characteristic: (1) weekly/annual events, (2) lifetime and (3) the time of the worship service. The worship time itself contains three distinct elements: (1) the worship, (2) the message and (3) the alter service. On the same page, the author writes that in the process of the Pentecostal service momentary/spontaneous encounters with God are often present as a part of the worship.

While time forms the Pentecostal field for ritual, space provides the physical boundaries. Albrecht identifies several space related issues and their prominence for Pentecostal worship. He states that the worship space reveals the attitude of the Pentecostal congregation. He speaks of the sanctuary as a “ritual place” where the Pentecostal services are performed. In this setting, there is space for the congregation and its dynamics (congregational space) and for the leadership (platform). Finally, Albrecht properly notices that there is also an “alter space” where the congregation and leadership come together.

In the time and space of Pentecostal worship, different people assume different roles or identities. Five are pointed out by the text: (1) worshiper, (2) prophet, (3) minister, (4) learner and (5) disciple. (pp. 136-43). The Pentecostal congregation has a main role in the worship service, as the believer’s worship is viewed as a direct offering to God. The mystical element in a Pentecostal worship service is a result of the desire to experience God directly and intimately. The personal experience with God opens the worship to supernatural intervention and the ministry of the Spirit. The very presence of spiritual gifts challenges the individual believer to become a leader, while this spiritual mode is both recognized and evaluated by the congregation.

The goal of these aspects of Pentecostal worship is a personal encounter with God and spiritual transformation of the believer. In this context, the ritual time, space and identity are expressed in Pentecostal worship through preaching, prophetic uttering, healing, miracles, etc. These elements express awareness of a given individual/corporate problem/situation as spontaneous manifestations of supernatural power and leadership challenge not only the traditional leadership forms, but effect social structures as well.

Fundamental Structure and Modes
Albrecht explores the structures and modes of the Pentecostal worship. By structures he understands the elements of the service. He places several of these in the following paradigm: (1) worship and praise, (2) pastoral message and (3) altar/response as transitions occur between them. These structures reveal the role of each believer in the corporate worship. They also reflect on the needs that each individual brings in the corporate setting of the Pentecostal worship.

The modes on the other hand, deal with the emotional aspect of the service. They can be: celebrative, contemplative, officious, penitent, estates, etc. These are the ways through which the believers respond to the structure of the service. In a way, the modes are each believer’s personal expression in the unified corporate setting of the worship service.

The structure and the modes:
(1) reveal the roles of each believer in the process of the service
(2) express human concerns; these are micro rites, like singing and music, through which an expression of the believer’s humanity is given
(3) express social structure; expresses the group’s social life and role in society
(4) reveal theological relations – express theological convictions and beliefs
(5) express relationship to God as a personal experience
(6) express relationship as community – how the body comes together and how the believer acts as a part of the body
(7) accent on relationship to the worlds as a mission approach and an evangelistic attempt

Positive Consequences
(1) Liminality – has to deal with a tripartite structure that marks a significant change in status. The liminal is the moment between the before and after of the event, and is, as it were, outside of the security of these more stable definitions.
(2) Community – deals with relationships between people under liminal conditions.
(3) Reflexivity – a self-conscious examination of the individual believer in the corporate context of Pentecostal worship
(4) Transformation – deals with both the changes taking place in the believer as well as the changes in the congregation as a whole.

Characteristics Qualities and Formational Role
The characteristic qualities within Pentecostal worship have a formational role for the individual believer through:
(1) offering leadership toward the experience of God
(2) creating a community atmosphere in which spirituality, leadership, ministry and mission of the Christian community are clearly envisioned
(3) motivating the believer to both allow and implement formation in the context of the community
(4) practicing spirituality in the context of the Christian community and as a mission to the world

Spirit Filled Life Bible Review

September 10, 2013 by  
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Several months ago, our team undertook the task of comparing and reviewing a growing number of Study Bibles appearing on the book market recently in what we called a 21st century Revival of Study Bibles. This article is part of our Study Bibles review series as outlined here:

Spirit Filled Life Bible Review
Dony K. Donev, D.Min.

The Spirit Filled Life Bible is another great example of a Pentecostal study Bible from the 90s, which sets the stage for this century’s study bibles revival. It was edited by Jack Hayford who later served as president and chancellor of King’s University (formerly The King’s College and Seminary). The text provides Bible commentary from a conservative Pentecostal perspective and study notes are a bit more detailed than the Fire Bible.

For example, the first Old Testament control passage we use in our study from Number 6 is well documented and discussed almost verse by verse. Under the title of “Priestly Blessing,” the Spirit Filled Life Bible makes the case for: (1) wave offering as part of worship (v.20), (2) personal blessing through the singular “you” in the original Hebrew (v.22), (3) a definition of blessing (v. 24) and much more on the final phrases in the blessing: “make His face shine upon you” and “lift up His countenance upon you.”

Jeremiah 18 also has several historical commentaries in the Spirit Filled Life Bible as part of Jeremiah’s laments described in a note in ch. 11. The point here is being made that the responsibility for the law in the Old Testament was given to the priest.

The doctrine of the Rapture is commented in Revelation ch.4 in both the footnotes and a special block note within the text. The first one gives three views of the Last Days (dispensational, futurist and historic/preterist), while the second correlates with the elements of John’s vision. The Dispensational interpretation is offered in continuity with the interpretation of the 7 Churches of Asia-Minor. Two other block notes with markings “Word Wealth” and “Kingdom Dynamics” are placed in 1 Thess. 5 explaining the origin of the word “Rapture.” The significant for Pentecostals phrase “in the Spirit” is explained as “a state of heightened spiritual sensitivity.”

The Tribulation is also clearly explained as post-Rapture event with a classic interpretation of the prophecy given in the text of Daniel 8. The 24 elders are viewed as “evidence of the church’s exemption from the Great Tribulation” as they “are already glorified, enthroned and crowned,” which without a doubt proceeds from pre-Millennial doctrinal interpretation.

The doctrine of the Trinity is preserved as per the Biblical Truths of the Foursquare Church, namely: “Trinity of God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit.” Thou the word “Trinity” itself is absent from the detailed word Concordance at the end of the Spirit Filled Life Bible, perhaps because it is not present in the actual Biblical text, it is persistently present in the commentaries. This is true even in the largely disputed (from a manuscript point of view) 1 John 5:5-6 which is explained as Trinitarian in the comments.

Similarly to the Fire Bible, the Holy Ghost baptism is explained in the forward to Acts along with a page full with notes on speaking in tongues in Acts ch. 2. Additionally, there is a chart with a six-fold involvement of the Holy Spirit in human history: in the beginning, the Old Testament and Old Testament prophecy, in salvation, the New Testament and in the written word. The Spiritual Gifts in 1 Corinthians 12 are discussed one by one. There’s also a very nice write-up at the end by Paul Walker of the Church of God who further explains “Holy Spirit Gifts and Power.”

The commentary notes at the end contain a self-guide by Pat Robertson, named “Spiritual Answers to Hard Questions.” Power over demons is explained along with the process of exorcisms, without explicit statements about the influence of demons over born-again Christians. The following subject on the Kingdom of God is also dealt with without any explicit reference to Kingdom Now Theology, although explicitly lengthier and detailed in comparison to the rest of the subjects. The final note deserves special attention and should be hereby quoted in place of an epilogue: “Lack of forgiveness blocs access to the kingdom (of God) and its marvelous power. (See also Mt. 6:5-15; Mark 11:22-26).”

Spirit, Pathos and Liberation

August 5, 2013 by  
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liberation_logo-3The research presents Hispanic Pentecostalism as “the voice of the voiceless.” Solivan prepares the reader for the cultural and religious context in which orthodoxy has failed for various cultural, historical and theological reasons. He further proposes that the new term of “orthopathos” should be used. Orthopathos is the combination of orthodoxy (what we believe) and orthopraxis (what we do). As such, it introduces an interlocutor between God and humanity and between beliefs and works. God is the God who suffers for creation and with creation. The act of repentance is then the human response to the passion of God for humanity and joining with His sorrow in the death and alienation of mankind. Such appeal is against the dehumanization of revelation. It reduces the salvific experience to a simple claim of Biblical truths based on a logical choice.

Several reasons are given to prove that such intercalative paradigm is necessary for the Hispanic Pentecostal communities. Among them are not only Biblical, theological and mission requirements, but also sociopolitical, ecumenical and identity ones. These necessities expand the orthopathic approach beyond the church-religious context into the area of social transformation, thus proposing it as a larger paradigm for Christian mission to the world. Solovan claims that pathos denotes the idea of goodness and passion, which were very often missed by the ecclesial formations which followed the early church and was never properly restored by the Reformation. The discussion addresses the imago Dei and the pointed by Tertullian’s argument that God’s expression of passion is not a reflection of ours, but rather a reflection of His image.

Having established the pathos idea, Solivan goes further with showing how orthopathos can become a means of human liberation even through suffering. Three theological principles of orthopathos are presented as follows:
1. In connection with the Biblical principle of identification.
2. In connection with the Biblical principle of location.
3. In connection with the Biblical principle of transformation.

Through the Biblical foundation, the starting point of orthopathos is identified with the suffering and its relations to the category of poverty within the socioeconomic matrix. The author continues with a parallel between suffering and the work of the Holy Spirit and His work among the poor.

Once, the pneumatological factor is introduced, Solivan goes a step further to discuss Pentecostal glossolalia. He sees it as an affirmation of the work of the Spirit among the poor. This gives a Pentecostal conclusion of the orthopathos topic and allows the author to explore its practical implementation within the Hispanic Pentecostal community.
The book further introduces three critical questions concerning the topic of orthopathos. The first one is concerned with the imago Dei in reference to the emerging identity of Hispanic Americans and more specific Hispanic American Pentecostals.

The first concern is continued by the second question about the common experiences and culture in the context of North American immigration dynamics. This factor has a rather unicultural and ecumenical approach, but brings several interesting possibility for communality within the Holy Spirit. The third concern deals with the transformation of practice into praxis in a Pentecostal context and is connected with the last question which calls against passivity toward suffering and poverty. The book concludes with a call for social transformation which is addressed by Pentecostal theology and praxis.

Practical Implementation
In the background context of the treated problems and issues, the book inevitably stands against passivism toward social injustice and touches on the role of the church in the social transformation dynamics. Although, the book is dedicated to a Hispanic Pentecostals, the principles of social transformation are applicable also in my area of ministry in postcommunist Bulgaria. The similarities are many.

First, just like South America, Eastern Europe after the Fall of the Berlin wall in 1989 is struggling economically. Along with the social and political instabilities in the region, the economical crises have separated the Bulgarian community into a small percentage of extremely rich, and a majority of extremely poor with minimal or no middle class separation between them.

Second, while South America’s religion is monopolized by the Catholic Church, this role in Bulgaria has been occupied by the Eastern Orthodox Church. The last has been credited as the protector of the Bulgarian culture during the Turkish Yoke and the Communist Regime. However, in both cases, the Eastern Orthodox Church has participated in historical dynamics which have created environments for the rich and powerful minorities, thus oppressing the poor and the underprivileged majorities.
Thirdly, through the Protestant missions Pentecostalism was introduced to the Bulgarian culture in the 1920s. Today it is the fastest growing religious movement in Eastern Europe. Protestantism has rightly and faithfully fulfilled its role as a sociological factor in the formation of the Bulgarian culture exactly in the historical moments when the Eastern Orthodox Church has been or had chosen to become socio-culturally inactive.

Fourth, cross-cultural problems which Hispanic communities in North Amerca face are similar to the problems which Bulgarian immigrant communities face. The cross-cultural processes, struggle with identity, loss of heritage, as well as their recovery and reclaiming through the Biblical salvific experience, are dynamics which essential for the Bulgarian immigrant communities and the Bulgarian immigrant individually.

Finally, Pentecostalism has drawn a paradigm for personal and social transformation which has created an environment for liberation of the oppressed by postcommunist reality Bulgarians both in Bulgaria and internationally. It has further effectively addressed theological and practical issues through Pentecostal identity, experience and community becoming a factor within the social transformation and the postcommunist mentality as well. As such Pentecostalism, in a larger scale, has become an answer for many through providing answers to existential questions in the midst of crises, transitions and insecurity as its call for orthopathos has integrating the sacrifice of God with the present search and suffering of the Bulgarian nation.

The Liberating Spirit

April 20, 2013 by  
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9780802807281[1]The Liberating Spirit is an analytical examination of the Pentecostal movement in the Latino community. Pentecostalism is presented as a social transformation factor. The research is written for a scholarly audience, though it is understandable by the common believer as well. It argues for a “pneumatic” social ethic, and urges Pentecostals to move beyond selective preaching of salvation and to address such systemic issues as human rights, social injustice, racism, etc.

The study follows a well developed structure which integrates Pentecostalism and social transformation within the context of a Hispanic American culture. Chapters one and two of the study deal with the Hispanic American culture through focusing on the Hispanic immigration in North America. Chapter three is an overview of the Hispanic Pentecostal reality to identify the Pentecostal church as a center for liberation from oppression in the context of Pentecostal eschatology. Chapter four provides Scriptural proof for the presented ideas, and chapter five concludes the research with a presentation of social ethic for the Hispanic American Pentecostals.

Pentecostal churches are presented as traditionally unlearned in their majority, but always open to the needs of the poor among them. Villafane even speaks of “menesteroso” (the oppressed) as a main focus of concern of the Pentecostal churches. Since its beginning the movement has emphasized the inclusiveness of the Christian community existing in the context of Christ’s love for all with special emphasis on the poor, suffering, sick and oppressed.

Being concern with all of these, Pentecostalism has viewed the pneumatic theology and praxis not only as a heritage of its ethos, but also as means through which social justice is made possible within the church and the world which the church reaches through ministry. In the pneumatic part of the research, the author responds to Karl Barth’s dream for theology of the Spirit. Villafane sees Pentecostalism as the movement that brings such theology.

In relationship to the immigration dynamics, the author gives an extensive overview of the Latin American immigrants and the way they experience their ethnic belongingness. Villafane shows that Latin American immigrants form at least four groups of language preferences (1) English only, (2) Bilingual with English preferences, (3) Bilingual with Spanish preferences and (4) Spanish only. This division is somewhat different than the Bulgarian language preference. At this present time, research shows that all Bulgarian immigrants speak some English but prefer Bulgarian among them. Also, all Bulgarian-born immigrants have studied Russian beside Bulgarian and English, but do not use it in their communication within or outside of the Bulgaria community. And finally, at this time there is no English only preference group among the Bulgarians. Perhaps such will be formed when a second generation of Bulgarian immigrants emerges in America.

Another interesting point of difference is the ethnos of the immigrant communities. Villafane shows that Latin American immigrants represent five such groups as follows:

  • Mexicans 61%
  • Puerto Ricans 15%
  • Cubans 6%
  • Central and South America 10%
  • Other Nations 8%

The ethnic structure of the Bulgarian immigration in North America is close to the ethnic ratio in the Bulgarian nation which are: Bulgarians 80%, Turks 12%, Roma (6%) and others 2%. This presents several major differences between the Latin American and Bulgarian diasporas which are:
(1) The Latin American diaspora represents a much larger ethnic and geographical area from which immigrants have come than the Bulgarian one.
(2) The Latin American diaspora represents a much larger immigrant group in North America, with a longer history and large geographical location than the Bulgarian one.
(3) The Bulgarian diaspora represents a less defragmenter community as a large majority (80%) is Bulgarians. In the Latin American case almost 50% of the immigrants are with different ethnic background.
(4) The Bulgarian diaspora represents a different ethnic group, which differ not only by national belongingness, but by language as well.

In this context it must be critically noted that until recently cultural assimilation was considered an inevitable fact which can be prevented neither by the assimilating culture nor by the assimilated culture. It was considered that once a group of two or more cultures meet, assimilation begins. In America, however, assimilation is no longer seen as an inevitable process. Instead a cultural diversity exists in a rather mosaic structure described by the term “segmented assimilation.” Such phenomenal ethnic formation derives from the multiplicity of lifestyles and worldviews that formed a contemporary American culture. The technical term for this new mixing is “transnationalism.”

Villafane’s research further offers an in-depth overview of the Latin American communities in North America examining their culture and paradigms and influence of Pentecostal ministry among them. The text speaks of the “homo socius” or the person in the context of community, claiming that an individual is only a person when acting in the social context. A certain transformation from one social context to another is also suggested when viewed in cross-cultural dynamics of immigration, assimilation and naturalization. These processes are similar within the Bulgarian immigrant communities in North America in relation to the ministry of Protestant churches among them.

The Bulgarian Christian communities are searching for a model of adjustment to the assimilating culture in which they exist. This can be accomplished by adopting a strategy of incorporating the postmodern setting of worship, theology and praxis within the Bulgarian Christian community. It should be accompanied by an intentional process of liberation from the dysfunctional model through which the Bulgarian Protestant Church operated during the Communist Regime (1944-1989). This process should purpose to liberate the believers from an oppression mentality and transform them toward the mind of Christ, in order to minister effectively in the present context of existence. Failure to address this present dilemma will result in an inability of the Bulgarian Christian community to communicate its faith and to minister to the younger, faster-adjusting generation of Bulgarian-Americans, whose religious belongingness remains unexplored and often even unknown to themselves.

In all cases, the Bulgarian Evangelical churches accept the responsibility of being much more than a religious center, as it serves as a social and ethno-cultural center as well. Thus, in the context of ethic assimilation and cultural regrouping, the Bulgarian churches not only remain a protector of the Bulgarian ethnicity and the Bulgarian way of life, but also acts as an agent of cultural integration. Naturally, as such it has received the attention of Bulgarian immigrants who have altered it to meet present needs.

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