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Lessons from History: Expectant Assembly

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[Note: This is part three in a series examining the history of the Assemblies of God and the lessons we can draw from it. You might find it helpful to start with part one or two.]

Do you work better under pressure? I do. I don’t like that I do, but I do. I guess I’m just one of those people who needs a deadline. I need to know that, somewhere, a clock is ticking.

The ticking clock was one the greatest motivating factors for the early Pentecostals and Assemblies of God. They were working to spread the Gospel and advance the Kingdom with enthusiasm and a laser-focus because they knew time was limited. They were an expectant assembly, a body of believers living in light of the fact that time was limited.

Limited by what? The return of Christ. They expecting Him to return, and like a child cleaning their room because they know that their mom is coming to check it, they were busy doing the work He had asked them to do.

Make no mistake about it, regardless of your particular view on the timeline, Jesus will return, and when He does, time’s up. Pentecostals at the turn of the 20th century understood that. Why have we lost that awareness, that urgency? I think there are two reasons.

Cultural Comfort
As Pentecostals began to be accepted in the larger circle of Protestant churches and even the broader US culture, as Pentecostals began to share in the affluence that followed in the wake of WWII, they became comfortable. And as a group becomes comfortable, the drive to evangelize dwindled and distractions increased. When this world becomes enjoyable, we forget about the world that is yet to come, the world that lasts forever, the world that so many people have not yet been invited into.

Now, I think that this malaise, this lack of urgency lead to this last issue.

Crying Wolf
Now, this issue could not have been more clearly exemplified than in a recent bit of eschatological fear-mongering, but I’m not going to talk about it directly. I don’t want to shame someone for rightly bring concerned about our time limit, even though they were very wrong in their response to that concern and the reason for their renewed concern.

You see, throughout the past century, the Western Church, specifically its evangelical and Pentecostal elements, have fallen victim to several false prophecies about Jesus’ return and the end of this world. Why do we get tricked so often? That’s another topic, but I think that part of the problem comes from older believers who remember the concern of their predecessors and see the lack of concern of the current generation, and they can’t stand it. They want their kids and grandkids to understand that the clock is ticking.

This is all fine because there is a serious disconnect between younger people and the reality that this world is going to be invaded by heaven. The problem, however, is when concerned individuals grasp onto false prophecy and/or bad Bible study to justify their concern and convince others. All this does is creative a “prophet who cried Rapture” situation that causes many believers to further ignore the ticking clock.

Furthermore, one of the bigger issues with these false end times predictions is that they don’t prompt a proper response to a swiftly dwindling time. Instead of hitting the mission field or evangelizing their neighborhood, these individuals prepare for the end by hunkering down, giving into fear, and wasting whatever time might remain.

What we need is concern based upon the reality that Jesus is coming back in His Father’s timing—which we cannot predict—and a passionate obedience to what He told us when He left:

Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” Matthew‬ ‭28:18-20‬

He has the authority, and He is with us. Until the end of the age. Then, we’ll be with Him. Until then, we should “go and make disciples of all nations….”

2 replies on “Lessons from History: Expectant Assembly”

I really enjoyed the portion that you wrote about the “Cultural Comfort”, I believe that it happens to be a large problem within society as a whole today. When you look back throughout history it becomes clear the people who really evangelized with their faith and were striving for great lives were those on the fringes of “popular society”. They were always the disenfranchised and the slighted, the poor and hungry, the meek and powerless. These people knew that because they had little or nothing in this life they would then turn and focus on the next whereas the popular majority always struggles with the idea of focusing on the next life whenever the current one is so comfortable.

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