In my mind, there are three aspects in the evaluation of a church model that are critical for my stamp of approval for an “ideal church”; not a “perfect church” as the so often cop-out cliché is used, but an ideal one.
1. The Pastor.
2. The Good Works.
3. The Koinonia.
These three aspects are what I will use to evaluate my vision of what an ideal Pentecostal church would look like.
1. The Pastor. Without the pastor having a holy life, in pursuit of God, and living in separation from the world, with its sexual and profane movies and TV programs, with its endless intellectual excuses for carnal behavior, and countless diversions; without a pastor that studies the Bible, teaches and preaches the Bible and the New Testament gospel, there can be no church. It starts with the pastor. He determines the spiritual climate of his church–and him alone! Church members might cause trouble at times, but the pastor is the spiritual thermostat. He is the one at fault if lukewarmness enters the church. It is all his fault if this happens. The pastor must constantly have a steady stream of Puritan, Reformed, and Wesleyan books in the pipeline. He should be ever increasing in his understanding and personal application of New Testament sanctification; and preach what he practices, with heart searching and heart rending precision. He should avoid preaching against no sin; and avoid no subject that would contribute to the deliverance of his hearers. First and foremost, he must be a Gospel preacher; he should know the book of Romans inside and out; Justification and Sanctification should be his theological strong suites, and soteriology; he should always be pointing many to righteousness! Read Richard Baxter’s The Reformed Pastor, Charles Finney’s Lectures on Revivals of Religion, John MacArthur’s Pastoral Ministry, Iain Murray’s John MacArthur, Thomas Oden’s Pastoral Theology, Carol Wimber’s John Wimber, and Gary Wilkerson’s David Wilkerson.
Now for the Pentecostal aspect. Sure the praise and worship would be heartfelt, sincere, in Spirit and in truth, concentrated, often with closed eyes, and raised hands, and loud cymbals (Ps. 150). But read Frank Bartleman’s Azusa Street. The Pentecostal pastor would imitate William J. Seymour. He would facilitate “Holy Ghost meetings” where spiritually hungry people could seek and pray for the baptism in the Holy Spirit with the evidence of speaking in tongues. Also, there would be times of prayer for healing and deliverance (see John Wimber’s Power Healing, aka “ministry time”). It wouldn’t just be the pastor either (1 Cor. 14:26). He would see himself like Elijah, raising up a school or church of prophets, seers, and prophetesses. He wouldn’t just be a preacher, he’d also be a facilitator for the miraculous gifts among others present. He would, like Wesley, give opportunities for training lay preachers, in the pulpit and in the streets. In a word, he would be a revivalist, a prophet, a man of God, and live above approach inasmuch as it is possible, God helping him. Read Donald Gee’s Concerning Spiritual Gifts, Stanley Frodsham’s Smith Wigglesworth, and Larry Martin’s “The Azusa Street Library.”
2. The Good Works. Matthew 25:31-46 on the judgment of the sheep and the goats, would play a big role in the church’s sense of mission and good works. Feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, quenching the thirsty, visiting those who are sick or in prison, and harboring the homeless:–these would occupy the church’s calendar of events; and most definitely not those popular “bless me club” events which have no support in the Bible. The Great Commission would be fulfilled by street meetings, small and large; and also, through other innovative evangelistic ideas, so long as there is no conflict with Scripture; and the Gospel of Jesus Christ is clearly being preached. Praying for the sick would be implemented in public. Read George Railton’s The Authoritative Life of William Booth and Thomas Oden’s The Good Works Reader.
3. The Koinonia. Genuine, authentic, godly, holy Christian friendships cannot grow if the pastor is authoritarian (Acts 2:42). The pastor must embody a loving, godly friendliness (koinonia) in order for the gift to spread to others in the church. Koinonia is contagious, but again, this rests on the pastor’s attitude towards others in the church. If he just preaches against their sins on Sunday, rather than targeting society’s sins (out there), then its going to hurt them, and they will feel more and more distant from him. Secondly, if the pastor has a “pastor’s mystique” idea that he’s operating with–that’s not good. He must be more friendly than everyone else (but not in a fake way); he has to be himself, and just not put on a front. He must be the same person on Sunday that he is on Tuesday evening with his family. Read David Johnson’s The Subtle Power of Spiritual Abuse.