What most people think of when confronted with Pentecostalism are the extraordinary things, and unfortunately, sometimes the abuses of a few charismatic churches and figures. While gifts such as speaking in tongues, prophecy, and words of wisdom are certainly crucial components to our theology and practice, I think there is a better place to begin when thinking about Pentecost and the birth of the church.
Paul famously deals with these issues in 1 Corinthians 12-14. I think we should begin where Paul does in 1 Corinthians 12:1-11. Instead of commencing by answering the issues of should we speak in tongues and how often, Paul begins by combating ignorance. The Corinthians were destructive in their use of the gifts because they were not clear as to why they were given-answering the question why is always primary to the question how.
The thrust of verses 2-3, rather cryptic themselves, is to point out that while the Corinthians used to worship mute idols, they now need to learn how to worship a God who is actually speaking to them and through them. No small matter indeed. (A fascinating cross-reference to this issue is Habakkuk-especially the opening questions compared to God’s words in the last third of chapter 2.)
Verses 4-6 arrange a Trinitarian example for the body of Christ; there may be many gifts that are given in many ways, but they are all given by the same God. The same point is made in verses 8-11. The simple thought in verse 7 is the fulcrum of this passage.
“To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good.”
From the reality of the Trinity to the potentiality of the body, Paul urges us to understand that the Spirit is given to the church to create unity amidst our diversity. The phrase above, “common good” in the Greek is part of the work family from which we get our word “symphony.” The body is like a well written and executed symphony in which the Spirit is manifest diversely in each member while the good of the whole is served by the actions of each individual. You should take a minute or two to read through 1 Corinthians 14 and note how often Paul urges everything to be done for the edification of the body-it happens over and over.
If God has given you a spectacular gift-maybe you really are some kind of a prophet-then you should exercise that gift in keeping with Christ-like humility and in deference to your brothers and sisters in Christ. If God has given you a gift that causes you to find yourself in the shadows more often than not, realize that God is using you to build up the body to look more and more like His Son.
This is where we begin when we think about being a Pentecostal church.