What Makes a True Pentecostal Church?

The nation’s largest Pentecostal group drew some 1,400 people to a prayer summit that centered on a divine power that many of America’s churches are leaving out, according to one preacher.

Brooklyn Tabernacle Senior Pastor Jim Cymbala leads in prayer as hundreds of men and women leave their seats to flood the altars and aisles, seeking God, at the conclusion of the opening service of the Assemblies of God Prayer Summit Monday night. The Prayer Summit, held at Central Assembly of God in Springfield, Mo., March 5-7, featured Cymbala in three of the five plenary sessions scheduled for the event.

“I’m afraid that in a number of our (Christian) churches around America, we’re preaching an oxymoron of an Old Testament Christianity,” Jim Cymbala, senior pastor of Brooklyn Tabernacle in New York, told summit attendants in Springfield, Mo. “We’re preaching Jesus and we’re preaching laws, but we’re missing the dynamic element of the one who is able to make you … what God wants you to be.”

Cymbala spoke of the power of the Holy Spirit.

The Pentecostal preacher of the Brooklyn megachurch opened the Assemblies of God Prayer Summit Monday night telling fellow believers that they are hopeless without the Holy Spirit.

“How sad to travel around the country and world and see churches trying to have a Christianity that represents the New Testament without an understanding and an emphasis on the ministry of the Holy Spirit,” he said.

In place of the third person of the triune God, Cymbala noted that many church leaders have become formulaic.

Church models and conferences may lead some church leaders to copy the way a successful pastor runs ministry. The “copycat” mode, however, prevents the ministry from being blessed by the Holy Spirit, Cymbala indicated.

“God has something better for us,” he exhorted. “He has his Holy Spirit to lead us and guide us.”

Another possible hindrance to the Holy Spirit working is seminary. Cymbala never attended seminary but realized that seminary graduates adopt “some formula and some traditional way,” whether it be a Baptist or Pentecostal way of running ministry. And formulaic leaders show little dependence on the work of the Holy Spirit, the Pentecostal pastor noted.

Pentecostals are no exception.

“Think of all the churches that have Pentecostal doctrine around this country and that are doing nothing for God,” Cymbala shouted. “They don’t baptize 10 people in a whole year and they’re speaking in tongues and they believe in the cardinal truths of the Bible.

“There’s got to be more than just an Acts 2 experience.”

Then, how can you distinguish a “true spirit-filled” church? Cymbala says the Holy Spirit “cuts to the chase” and penetrates like fire when it works within a congregation.

Pentecostal preaching is supposed to penetrate into people’s hearts and not be clever or showy; music is supposed to penetrate and not just entertain churchgoers; sinners are supposed to feel uncomfortable; and the power of the Holy Spirit is not “user-friendly and seeker-sensitive.”

“It says ‘get in or get out.'”

With all that, “when fire (Holy Spirit) comes, there are changes in people’s lives,” Cymbala said. “This is what makes Christianity unique – God Almighty dwelling in a man or a woman.”

The Assemblies of God Prayer Summit concludes Wednesday.

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