When is Pentecost Sunday this year? Sunday, May 20. Did you know? Maybe not.
Because there is no “Pentecost Bunny,” stores have not decorated a month ahead of time for Pentecost, and there are no “Pentecost sales.” In other words, Pentecost has not been co-opted by commercialism or consumerism.
I recently noted with affirmation a blog post by Trevin Wax, Why Does Christmas Get a Season, But Easter Only a Day? It is a great question. But here is another question.
Why in many evangelical churches does Pentecost not even get a day?
Does your church celebrate Pentecost?
For how long has “Father, Son, and what’s His name?” been a legitimate question?
If your church celebrates Christmas and Easter, let me encourage you to celebrate Pentecost. The word “Pentecost” simply means “fiftieth day,” as in fifty days after Easter. In the Old Testament, it was the Feast of Weeks, celebrating the giving of the Law to Moses. In the New Testament, it marks the birthday of the Church, when the Holy Spirit came to give power to the Church’s witness. Here are four strong reasons your church should celebrate Pentecost.
1) Pentecost is the primary celebration of the Christian Year that hasn’t been co-opted by commercialism. Have we become so dependent on popular culture that it determines our spiritual calendar? Pentecost provides an opportunity to focus on a central theme without having it re-defined by surrounding culture. If you prepare your church, it can be a powerful celebration, without outside encumbrances. Your church can celebrate the “birthday of the Church” when the Holy Spirit came with power to empower our witness to the Risen Christ. It is an opportunity to remind believers in your church that God will empower their witness.
2) Pentecost focuses on a person of the Trinity who needs to be better understood. While we may know that the Creedal tradition affirms the Holy Spirit as “the Lord and giver of life,” what else do we know? If you ask a group of children, “What did Jesus do?” they will quickly answer, “He died on the cross for our sins.” If you ask, “What did the Holy Spirit do?” you likely will be met with silence…. That can be changed in your church as you seek to help people to understand each person of the Godhead.
A lack of “emphasis” on the Holy Spirit is “somewhat” appropriate. After all, the Holy Spirit will not glorify himself, but as Jesus says in John’s gospel, “14 He will glorify me, for he will take what is mine and declare it to you. 15 All that the Father has is mine; therefore I said that he will take what is mine and declare it to you.” (John 16:14-15, ESV) The Spirit rightly gives glory to the Son.
But what do we know of the Spirit? By observing Pentecost, we have an opportunity to address a “knowledge deficit” for most Christians and churches.
3) Pentecost gives us the opportunity to focus on both sanctification and mission. While justification is an event, sanctification is a process. Indeed, after one comes to Christ, it is the remaining vocation of our entire Christian life! To be filled with the Spirit, to walk in the Spirit, to show the fruit of the Spirit, are central to our union with Christ. The Holy Spirit is central in sanctification.
This is not only important for each Christian, but for the witness of your church. If your church was filled with people who demonstrated “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control,” how much would she increase in missional fruitfulness?
4) Pentecost is vital to the ongoing spiritual renewal of our churches.
With 85% of our churches being plateaued or declining, we desperately need the renewal of the Holy Spirit. When we celebrate Pentecost, we celebrate the birthday of the Church. When we celebrate Pentecost, we acknowledge that only the Holy Spirit can empower our witness (Acts 1:8). Without the power of the Holy Spirit there is no hope for our progress in our Christian life individually, or to making disciples in the Church corporately.
With the Holy Spirit there is great hope. For the Holy Spirit is the Lord and Giver of Life. Celebrate God in all his fullness this Pentecost. Celebrate life.
What will you do in your church on May 20? What will you do next year?