All will agree that Pentecost, as described in Acts 2, is foundational to the church.
Now, here is an observation (not an accusation): We don’t write or talk about Pentecost as much we used to.
It’s true both for our magazine and our churches.
The index for Christian Standard’s first 100 years shows there were well over 200 articles about Pentecost published during that time. W.E. Sweeney’s keynote address at the 1929 North American Christian Convention was “The Challenge of Pentecost.” A dozen articles about Pentecost were published during 1930, a year in which the 1,900th anniversary of the birth of the church was celebrated.
A yearly observance of Pentecost was once common in our churches. But that hasn’t been the case for awhile. As far back as 2007, a reader wrote to then editor Mark A. Taylor to ask why there was no mention of Pentecost Sunday—which occurs 50 days after Easter—in the print magazine that year. In an online column, Mark shared the tongue in cheek final paragraph of the reader’s letter:
“It may be wise not to let the world in on the significance of this day. Otherwise we could end up with Pentecost trees, Pentecost cards, Pentecost decorations, Pentecost gifts, and Pentecost sales. This could even lead to special services aimed at CEP (Christmas, Easter, Pentecost) Christians.”
All humor aside, this coming Sunday, June 9, is Pentecost Sunday. Does your church have anything planned? Will it even be mentioned?
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The Fundamental Significance of Pentecost
An editorial in Christian Standard
May 18, 1929; p. 8
There can be little value in Pentecost as a date only. The mere fact that the church was founded on that date is of itself valueless. Unless the celebration of Pentecost brings us face to face with a study of the sort of church founded, the celebration will be worse than useless. If it is to be the occasion for perpetuation of just any sort of church, or the church of man’s devising, or the church of history, or church of compromise, we shall be better off without ever having heard of Pentecost.
If, on the other hand, the celebration be the occasion of a restudy of the church and of Jesus’ purpose in the church, and of the apostolic guidance of the church and a thorough self-examination on the part of the church membership, then no one can set the bounds to the good that may be accomplished.
For that which was established at Pentecost was unlike any other institution on earth. It can not be likened to any organization. . . . The church is not an organization, but an organism—and Pentecost drives this point home with peculiar force.
There is not in the events of Pentecost a solitary hint of organization. What took place there was a transformation—or, more exactly put, rebirth—of individuals. It was a vital thing—intensely vital. They were not asked to accept an organization, an institution, a belief, a formal creed, an ordinance—they were convicted of their personal sinfulness and called upon to believe in and obey a Person, the very enthroned Lord of the universe. It was as personal and as vital a thing as individual birth, individual partaking of food, individual breathing of air. Those who did so became members of the church by the action of the Lord Himself.
And that constituted the church—not church rolls, or orders, or votes, or organization, or any other such thing.
And that constitutes the church to-day. If we will but grasp that idea, we shall be well on the way to Christian unity, and we shall have a revitalized church. We shall grasp the principle that it is the glorious privilege, the natural function, of every member of that vital body to express the life of Jesus and to testify for Him. We shall not wait upon organizations for evangelism and social amelioration. Such organization as is necessary will be but the expression of the vital power of members personally united with the living Lord.
Those three thousand were promised the gift of the Holy Spirit. So are we. Paul says to the Ephesians that we are temples, the Spirit dwelling in us. The fruit of that Spirit is love, joy, peace, temperance, long-suffering, brotherly kindness, as Paul tells the Galatians. These fruits appear in the lives of individuals by virtue of the vital abiding in the vine.
Wherever there is such a reborn soul living in vital relationship with the Lord, there the church is—and the world knows it.
That is the church that was established at Pentecost.
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—Jim Nieman, managing editor, Christian Standard