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The Past is Future:

Benefits of our Apostolic Heritage

Stunned and saddened, my wife and I sat through the Memorial Service at General Conference and heard of the many ministers who departed this life, taking their stories with them. My mother, brother-in-law and aunt were among the names remembered, but beyond the sense of loss, a profound understanding of spiritual wealth slowly dawned on me.  They left us far more than they took away. 

Heritage is that vast body of knowledge, traditions, stories, practices and values that has been handed down to us from the past.  Like a luxuriant tapestry, it is interwoven with meaningful experiences, symbolic events and deeply significant relationships, all of which exert a profound influence upon our present identity.  While obsolescence may push many aspects of the past into irrelevance, the underlying spirit, principles and values remain timeless.   Capturing the essence of these qualities makes reflection on the founders of the modern Apostolic movement richly rewarding.

The exponential pace of change in our present world often distracts us from the importance of the past.  Technological advances, for instance, make daily life today so different from that of a generation ago that many of us feel a huge disconnect from former eras.  New methodologies, new philosophies and new widely-held values drive us even further from the way our parents and grandparents did things.  Many not only want to distance themselves from them, they actually harbor disdain and ridicule for them.  We make a huge mistake to dismiss our heritage as irrelevant to the twenty-first century.  Such a response violates scriptural principles, depletes our moral resources and skews our judgment about our own era.  The past has much to teach about our future. 

In our day when some are intent on “rocking the boat,” we need to take a fresh look at our Apostolic beginnings.  Embracing the benefits of our heritage doesn’t mean studying history, although historical experiences may prove extremely helpful to our understanding.  History concerns itself primarily with an intellectual knowledge of who, when, where, what and how of major events and developments.  Curiosity alone may be enough to study and enjoy history.  A full appreciation of our heritage, however, involves a genuine gratitude for the struggles of our forbears and a re-commitment to the core values and convictions that provided their motivation. 

Our heritage revolves around the personalities of leaders in the early Apostolic movement.  Howard Goss, E. N. Bell, Frank Ewart, R. E. McAlister, G. T. Haywood, Andrew Urshan and many others were colorful and dynamic personalities of our past.  Their fervor and passion were key to the early successes of the Jesus’ Name cause, and the accounts of their ventures, often at great expense and against unbelievable odds, drove the movement forward.  Their stories provide a vital source of inspiration to us today.

But the personalities were only part of the story.  The way Apostolic beliefs developed from scant beginnings to full and comprehensive tenets of faith inspire us as well.  Doctrines central to our message followed a path from initial revelation to increasing enlightenment, and people today are edified and instructed as they understand these developments.  Each challenge had its breakthrough moments, and the evidence of divine blessing in the way it worked out serve to enhance our appreciation for them. 

Pentecostal pioneers accomplished much as they established organizations, built congregations, started Bible colleges, opened up mission fields and experienced tremendous revivals.  Added to these are reports of miracles, healings and great moves of the Spirit still thrill people today.  It is highly informative to outline the specifics about our pioneers that deserve our undying gratitude.

They believed: They possessed a passion they had for doctrinal truth that became an insatiable hunger.  They read, studied, debated and researched the Bible into the wee hours of the night, never seeming to get enough.

They pursued:  They insisted on pursuing truth and getting to core doctrines, regardless of where the path led them.  The “San Antonio Experiment” in which tongues was observed to be the evidence of the Holy Ghost baptism illustrated how they put the scriptures to the test. 

They left:  Like Abraham left Ur of the Chaldees, our forefathers left careers, positions and associations for the sake of truth.  For some who were accomplished and already recognized as leaders in their respective churches, this represented a significant loss of livelihood.  They walked by faith in a very literal sense.

They sacrificed:  Many of the pioneers held a bedrock conviction that worldly possessions and financial concerns were unimportant.  They often embarked on cross-continent missions with nothing but change in their pockets and an apple or a cracker to eat. 

They confronted:  They demonstrated an exemplary boldness in opposing powerful forces that they believed were wrong.  Many, like Goss and Haywood, withstood even the Pentecostal titans of the day in order to show their devotion to scriptural truths.

They separated:  Their consecration to God pervaded every fiber of their lives: their speech, their clothing, their intake of food and drink, the way they spent their leisure time and the amount of time they dedicated to God.  They possessed a desire for singular purity in living lives totally given to holiness and separation.

They worked:  They gave themselves tirelessly to building the kingdom of God, above and beyond the call of duty.  It was not unusual for them to have two or three services a day for weeks at a time. 

They loved:  They loved God with a consuming love, often to their own physical suffering and hurt.  Every waking moment was filled with conversation about God, prayer, witnessing, worshipping and anything that would benefit the kingdom of God. 

Our heritage must be given prominence in this modern era.  It is a formidable standard by which we must judge our own devotion, but it is also a fabulous resource of inspiration and challenge.  The sobering question for us is this:  If they did so much with so little, can we be satisfied accomplishing so little with so much? 


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Reader Comments (1)

Thank you for this timely post. Quote, "We make a huge mistake to dismiss our heritage as irrelevant to the twenty-first century." Thank the Lord for the past, Someday we will have one of our own!

October 12, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterPaul B Thomas

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