(Photo: Reuters / Jonathan Ernst)
Depending on the church tradition you embrace, Pentecost Sunday may have significant value to you or it may have none at all.
While many churches from the mainline and liturgical traditions plan to celebrate Pentecost on Sunday, few evangelical congregations will be marking the day the Holy Spirit descended upon the disciples and the day the church was founded some 2,000 years ago.
One reason, says Bay City, Mich., Pastor Ron Benson, is that “most free-wheeling evangelicals don't follow the church calendar at all, except for Christmas and Easter.”
Pastor of Grace Christian Fellowship, a non-denominational evangelical church, Benson explained to The Christian Post why some Christian churches, including his, don’t celebrate Pentecost.
He said that other than Christmas and Easter, and maybe Advent and Holy Week, “the rest of the church calendar is viewed as liturgical and ritualistic.”
“Pentecost” means “fiftieth day” after the Sabbath of the Passover Week (Lev. 23:4-7, 15-16) and it was one of three annual feasts that came before Passover. Pentecost is also referred to as the “Feast of Weeks” (Deut. 16:10).
Churches refer to Pentecost as the “birth of the church” or “the celebration of the gift of the Holy Spirit to the church,” which comes from Acts 2:1-4:
When the day of Pentecost arrived, they were all together in one place. And suddenly there came from heaven a sound like a mighty rushing wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. And divided tongues as of fire appeared to them and rested on each one of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit gave them utterance.
Pastor Benson conceded that some are afraid to celebrate Pentecost because of discomfort with certain charismatic expressions.
“Ironically, a second reason we don't pay much attention to Pentecost Sunday is that we're afraid of the edgy displays of Holy Ghost-ism. It's sad, but the more outrageous expressions of Pentecostalism and Charismatics make a celebration of Pentecost a little risky.”
He added, “I also think we want Jesus to be the main thing. Can't say if that's right or not.”
Benson pointed out that in the history of the church, especially among Orthodox, Roman Catholic, and older Protestant denominations, special holidays were created and practiced with flourish.
“Which ones are worthy of paying attention to?” he asked. “It's hard to pick.”
Higher Living Christian Church, a charismatic church with campuses in Hampton and Jonesboro, Ga., on the other hand, is planning to go all out to celebrate Pentecost Sunday.
“I do believe a certain segment of the church has de-emphasized Pentecost,” said André Landers, senior pastor at the church. “Too many Christians view it as a denominational distinctive instead of a Holy Convocation for all believers. Pentecost is not just for Pentecostals, but for every person who believes.”
Landers said thousands of members in their congregation dress in white and worship God for the birth of the church and the gift of the Holy Ghost.
“We take the ‘spooky’ out of the Holy Spirit and purpose in our hearts to be witnesses for the Kingdom of God,” he said.
And he says they see the day as a “time to focus on random acts of kindness to others, to be a blessing to the poor and to recommit ourselves to sharing our faith with the world.”
“The Holy Spirit was not given to us just to argue over speaking in tongues. But He was given to us to help us, to empower us to witness – to speak in the language that man understands and declare the marvelous work of God.”