Pentecost: The Birth of the “New Testament Church”

“People today are still receiving the Holy Spirit, not only on Pentecost but all throughout the year”
( [email protected] ) May 31, 2004 01:02 PM EDT

Thousands of Churches across the nation observed the day of Pentecost with special services and worship across the nation, Sunday, May 30, 2004. The oft-overlooked celebration marks the arrival of the Holy Spirit and the beginning of the current-day New Testament Christianity.

"It comes 50 days after Easter. It is the third great feast day for Christians after Easter and Christmas," said the Rev. Keith Banwart, pastor at St. Matthew's Church in Glendale, California.

At St. Matthew’s, the Pentecost celebration has traditionally been filled with multi-lingual services and observances – this year, the same chapel hosted a Korean Peach Church and Armenian Evangelical Brethren Church service to mark the tradition.

"We're rejoicing on Pentecost in God's speaking to all people," said Melissa Bridge, the music director at St. Matthew's. "I think that Pentecost is a further realization of the faith of Easter. It's a celebratory day when we can worship together as one and see ourselves as one congregation."

Historically, in the book of Acts, Pentecost marks the day the Holy Spirit came down upon all people, giving them the ability to speak in tongues and many languages. Thousands committed themselves to Christ on the first day of Pentecost.

Many pastors emphasized this “Spiritual experience” as an integral part of their Pentecost service.

"Pentecost is a spiritual experience and not just a denomination," said Adams, the pastor of Life Tabernacle Church in Kentucky. "Both services," he continued, “centered around the celebration of the beginning and also preaching that it has never ended."

However, many others who celebrated the Pentecost did so with birthday cakes, to mark the beginning of the New Testament Church.

Still there were others who did not distinguish the Pentecost weekend from any other Sabbath.

"We don't celebrate that as any more special as any other day of the week because every first day of the week we celebrate the resurrection of Jesus Christ," said Terry Alan Jones of the Southside Church of Christ in Hopkinsville, Kentucky.

The Rev. Wayne Sayre of a United Methodist Church in Hopkinsville said many church denominations do not emphasize the Pentecost, as would a Pentecostal denomination.

"Some churches, Pentecostal… would put a higher emphasis on it because they emphasize the Pentecost tradition," explained Sayre.

However, Sayre, Comb and Adams all agreed that Pentecost is undeniably a important part of church history.

“(there are) a lot who don't subscribe to the Pentecost experience,” said Adams. But “lots of churches acknowledge it as the beginning of the New Testament church.”

A Presbyterian pastor Rev. Dr Anthony Barta called the Pentecost “a sort of a joyous celebration.”

His denomination, the Presbyterian Church USA, has even set aside a special Pentecost Offering where individuals give to local congregations and local congregations set aside nearly 40% of that offering for its own local use.

“I’m excited about the opportunities this offering creates. It is a way for people to make a difference not only in their community but also in the larger church,” said Billie Healy, manager for the Pentecost Offering.

Adams ultimately said he wants people to know the Pentecost has not yet stopped.

“People today are still receiving the Holy Spirit, not only on Pentecost but all throughout the year,” said Adams.

"Many become so traditional that they've relegated the supernatural to a bygone year," Adams observed. "The believer is not just people that go to church on Sunday. The true believer is the person that walks with the signs of God in their life, not just tongues, but the power of the Holy Ghost."

Meanwhile, Banwart expressed hopes that the original unity brought to the disciples during Pentecost can once again be observed.

"My goal is for people to feel a real celebration of the unity that we share in the Holy Spirit," said Banwart. "The Holy Spirit really shows us, regardless of background, language orientation, that we are all one in Christ and children of God."

Pentecost marks the 50th day after the Passover, and the first day of the Pentecost season that continues to Advent – Nov. 28 this year.