Words a Pentecostal Does Not Want to Hear . . .

Pentecostals are known for their can-do attitude in light of the Spirit’s empowerment.

This means that faith remains significant for them. As Canadian pentecostal David Courey writes:

The unwritten measure of true Spirit-fullness among Pentecostals is not so much speaking in tongues, as it is indomitable faith: the confident assertion that, whatever the circumstance, God will come through; and, its necessary corollary for the Pentecostal, by faith I will overcome.[1]

Thus, when a pentecostal hears the words, “You do not have enough faith,” it cuts to the quick of their pentecostalism. As such, one can understand how deeply such words can injure a pentecostal.

And that scenario is, oh, too familiar. A Christ-follower is suffering . . . be it sickness, finances, ongoing difficulties . . .  and a well-meaning pentecostal will say, “You do not have enough faith.” And just like that, the wind is knocked out of the sufferer’s sails. Just like that . . . the sufferer is isolated. Just like that . . . the wounded have experienced additional wounds.

Unfortunately, the pentecostal wannabe helper is drawing heavily from the pentecostal theological narrative of a can-do-type of transformation when they could be reaching for the theological narrative of presence, which is transforming in its own right. It is no secret that pentecostals hunger after God’s presence. When they encounter the presence of God, they testify to being encouraged as they sense peace, love, and strength . . . even when their circumstances have not changed. The change that occurs in this case is not in their circumstances but in their very being. Their being becomes the place of healing.

This leads to the theological gift pentecostals bring to Christianity: experiencing God’s presence. As a practical/pastoral theologian, I see that this gift, the very DNA of pentecostalism, provides a distinct and profound grasp of how presence has its own way of healing. Herein lies an opportunity for pentecostals when they encounter a hurting individual. Since pentecostals experience God’s presence that heals (e.g., provides strength, peace, and love), pentecostals may draw from this experiential awareness. That is, they may participate in Christ’s ministry of presence through the power and presence of the Spirit by being present to the hurting other, which generates healing (for more discussion on this topic, see Who is Present in Absence?: A Pentecostal Theological Praxis of Suffering and Healing . . . yes, I just brazenly promoted my book).

With that being said . . .  and despite the pain that it produces, . . . the phrase, “You do not have enough faith,” ironically holds truth: I do not have enough faith.

If I had more faith in God  . . .

  • I would not be anxious;
  • I would not count the “likes” I receive on Facebook, being disappointed when there are not enough;
  • I would not compare myself to others;
  • I would not attempt to be busier than you to help me feel I am enough;
  • I would not wonder if I belong;
  • I would not question in the night if I matter;
  • I would not attempt to prove that I am enough through work, food, or fitness (thank you David Zahl);
  • I would not belittle or crucify others;
  • I would not blame you (or the Democrats, Republicans, the liberals, the conservatives) in order to make myself feel better;
  • I would not wonder, “Am I doing enough?”

Complete trust in God says, “Christ is enough, so I do not need to add anything else to my enoughness.

If I had more faith in God, I would trust that Christ is enough, which paradoxically implies I am not enough. In other words, where I fall short in my faith, Christ is enough. This is the vicarious humanity of Jesus Christ in that Christ’s faith becomes my faith (See Christian D. Kettler’s The God Who Believes: Faith, Doubt, and the Vicarious Humanity of Christ).

So it would seem that when I stand in that place where I am admitting that I do not have enough faith, this is where I find faith . . . in Christ. It is in this recognition that I am joining the father of the demonized boy in Mark’s Gospel who said, “Lord, I believe. Help me in my unbelief” (Mk 9:24). Pam’s paraphrase, “I trust you. Help me to trust you in my-not-enough faith.”

After all, isn’t this the reason Jesus came? We could not do or be enough?

 

A special thanks to David Zahl’s Seculosity: How Career, Parenting, Technology, Food, Politics, and Romance Became Our New Religion And What to Do about It for the fodder for this blog.

Thanks to pixabay.com for the image.

[1] David Courey continues, “Often the expression of this kind of faith is the most common form the average person experiences of Pentecostal triumphalism.” David J. Courey, What Has Wittenberg to Do with Azusa?: Luther’s Theology of the Cross and Pentecostal Triumphalism (London: Bloomsbury Publishing, 2015), Kindle Edition, 71.

 

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