This is a guest blog post from a young Pentecostal pastor in Perth, Joel Seneque, who I have gotten to know these past few years. He’s smart, articulate, well-read theologically, a church planter who wants to see people come to know Jesus, and on top of that he’s a runner!
My last post critiqued the over-realised eschatology of some parts of the Pentecostal movement. Joel was among those who asked me some follow up questions, including how we might pitch a balanced eschatology of life, not over-realised, but not under-realised either. It’s one thing to promise too much in this life from the gospel, but it’s another to promise too little. Don’t we have a bigger vision of human flourishing than the world? I figure it might be worth a few blog posts on that issue. Joel got in touch with me, and here’s his wise response to set things in motion:
It’s easy to see why many find comfort in the story of the Prodigal Son. One of the most well-known bible stories, a parable of Jesus, about a young son asking his father for his share of the inheritance, so he can do whatever he likes. Finding himself in the most lowly of places, he realises his wrongs and ends up taking a trek home. He was expecting to be shown judgement but instead is lavished with extreme love. It’s one of the best feel-good stories you can get.
But there’s another side of the story that gets easily missed, the story of the older brother. The older, faithful brother who continued his hard work as a son, not wavering in his loyalty but was as steady as a rock. We see his response of outrage – “this son of yours comes home and you throw him a party!!” He chooses to miss out on the celebrations.
In our “now but not yet” kingdom, this story perfectly represents the predicament we find ourselves in.
Jesus died, was buried, resurrected and ascended to heaven.
This good news has meant ALL who live with Jesus as king are a part of an inheritance that is much bigger and grander than we can currently comprehend.
This inheritance is ours now, but it isn’t in full just yet.
We still wait for a day where Jesus will renew all things, creating a new heaven and a new earth, redeeming all things through him.
So where to from here?
Looking at the two sons we can see two extreme responses.
Like the younger son, we can over-realise our inheritance and Jesus’ call of “on earth as it is in heaven” and believe that it’s fully ours to spend now. Total blessing, total healing, total redemption (prosperity) is ours to declare in full now.
Or, like the older son, we can under-realise our inheritance, get down to business, do what we can to be loyal and faithful but lack any real confidence in the Father, lack our trust in His decisions, lack He brings power and redemption in our day-to-day lives. Ultimately we lack a deep relationship with the Father.
We can be in-between these two extremes but are often leaning towards one way.
Do I believe for God to change everything now and in full? Or do I just get down to business, be faithful but not expect too much now?
As a young, pentecostal Pastor I feel we’ve come out of a time of ‘Over-realised Christianity’ causing me to be aware of how over the top I can be. We’ve seen, at times, the damage it’s done for people who have gone through suffering, mental health issues or a deep questioning of their sexuality and have felt under-heard, misunderstood and poorly treated.
But I’m also concerned it’s pushing Christians to the other side of the spectrum, to under-realising their inheritance as God’s holy people. I see more and more younger Christians afraid of an ‘Over-realised Christianity’ that it pushes them to not trust the word, not hope in Jesus making a way and not have a deep relationship with the Father.
All in the name of not being over the top.
We walk lightly when calling people up. We trust more in the power of habits than in God’s power to change. We read the Bible for information rather than letting it change us. If hard work won’t get us there, nothing will.
In our secular age where progress has become our king we need to realise that we don’t have a progress problem. We have a discipleship problem.
Jesus’ call for us to deny ourselves, pick up our cross and follow Him confronts our “get what you want when you work hard” Christianity.
Our work, our families, our relationships, our progress must be fuelled by the renewing power of God’s Spirit.
Progress must be empowered by God’s Presence.
I need to change.
We need to change.
Now more than ever we need to learn how to help Christians navigate this “now but not yet” kingdom.
For us to move from an ‘Under-realised Christianity’ where progress and working hard are more important than God’s presence – we need to connect again with the traditional practices of surrender, repentance and lament.
We don’t know what’s best for us. We can’t progress our way into discipleship. We need to own our faults as Christians and be found in God’s Presence.
In order for us to thrive, we need each other.
Let’s live in surrender, repentance and lament together as we keep having the conversation on how we can disciple people in our confusing world.
If anyone wants to continue the conversation, reach out to me, I would love to connect.
Joel, along with his wife Michaela, is the location pastor of C3 Church North Perth. Formerly a youth pastor and worship pastor, pastoring people has always been on the agenda. He’s also a part-time graphic and web designer, so you’ll often find him deep in website code. He enjoys running, watching sport and hanging with his family in the city.