Why are you a Pentecostal? Is it history, present experience, future hope, or a combination of them all? If you dug out my baptism certificate, you would know that I was Christened Anglican. Mom returned to her childhood faith at a Pentecostal Sunday School when my siblings and I were very young. Both of my grandmothers are Pentecostal, but neither my father nor grandfathers at that point professed faith.

For that reason, religion for my siblings and I wasn’t mandatory. We had to choose, especially as we grew into our teenage years. I was discipled by mom and my two grandmothers. God made sense to me on both intellectual and personal levels, and it didn’t take long before I had an encounter with Him and made a profession of faith. The Pentecostal part was assumed for the moment.

In High School, I went to Salvation Army music camp, was a camp counselor for years at an Anglican Camp, and joined the leadership team of a Charismatic Catholic youth group. I saw that living faith crossed Denominational lines, and was also confronted with the important distinctions between faiths. The Pentecostal family still resonated most, mainly due to the style of worship, the openness to gifts of the Spirit, and the heritage I had there. When I was baptized in the Holy Spirit at age 18 at YC2000, it sealed my choice.

I started reading Burton Janes’ “History of the Pentecostal Assemblies of Newfoundland,”[1] when I was elected to this role, and having conversations with my Nan Nippard about my Pentecostal heritage. I discovered that my Pentecostal roots ran even deeper than I thought. My family came to faith in Victoria Cove through a family Bible and the visit of a Salvation Army officer. My Great-Grandfather Nippard cut the lumber for the first Pentecostal church in Wing’s Point. Wow!

These reflections have stirred a larger conversation in my own heart. Why are we still Pentecostals? I want to briefly discuss  three distinctives of belonging to Pentecostal identity that are still particularly compelling for me: urgency, community, and vibrancy.  My friend Dr. David Newman influenced my view of urgency particularly and prefers “piety” to “vibrancy,” [2]  and my other friend David Kentie  takes another academic perspective on these three broad categories if you’d like a deeper dive.[3]

The reason I point to urgency first is that two of our Pentecostal distinctives are connected: Baptism in the Holy Spirit, and the sign of tongues-speaking, is an indication of Christ’s soon return. This urgency galvanizes community and catalyzes vibrant faith. Early Pentecostals believed this, and it led to a joyful freedom in their worship, fellowship, and missional zeal. Here’s an example from a 1927 issue of the Elim Pentecostal EvangeI: “The latter rain is falling. Jesus is coming soon. The Lord has marched on before us, and prepared the hearts of thousands…Let us no long sit down at ease under the mulberry trees. Shall we bestir ourselves?”[4]

We are prayerfully discerning in community how to reemphasize these important dimensions of Pentecostal identity. There is a beautiful variety in Pentecostal expression here in NL, so we are mindful that Pentecostal belonging must be encouraged contextually. Jesus said that our unity would be a testimony to the world of the truth of the story (John 17:21-23). That doesn’t mean uniformity. For the world, there is nothing more compelling right now than a community that is not divided by politics, demographics, worship style, background, or ideological minutiae, but united by shared love for Jesus, his mission, and each other.

What to do seems fairly straightforward from a knowledge perspective and almost daunting from an obedience perspective. Vibrancy or zeal means remembering and honouring the best of our history (and learning its lessons). It means doing the hard work of investigating our own hearts with regards to the essentials, and prayerfully committing to renewing the covenant to belong to our Pentecostal family.

The fruit of urgency, community and vibrancy can’t be harvested without the personal cost. Our rallying cry this year is, “belong.” We are convinced that belonging together to God’s mission is the means to our maturity. Let’s commit again to belonging to a Pentecostal family that is being renewed and restored in this generation.

[1] Burton Janes. “History of the Pentecostal Assemblies of Newfoundland. St. John’s: PAONL. 1996. Print.

[2]David Newman. “The eschatology of Newfoundland and Labrador early Pentecostals: “Jesus is coming soon,” 1910-1949. St. John’s: MUN. 2012. Web.  https://research.library.mun.ca/8353/

[3]David Kentie. “Kingdom Now, a Pentecostal Paradigm of Mission.” Toronto: Tyndale. 2015. Web. https://digitalcollections.tyndale.ca/handle/20.500.12730/1761

[4]Burton Janes. “History of the Pentecostal Assemblies of Newfoundland. St. John’s: PAONL. 1996. Print.