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Pentecostal Ministry in a Relativistic Culture

By Michael J. Beals

Truth

How firm a foundation, ye saints of the Lord,
Is laid for your faith in His excellent Word!
What more can He say than to you He hath said,
To you who for refuge to Jesus have fled?

I surrendered my life to Christ when the creative migration toward contemporary Christian music was just gaining momentum. Because this shift had not fully transpired, during my early years as a believer I was infused with the power and richness of the great hymns of the church. Do not get me wrong: I do not want to go back. I love the diversity, energy, and creativity of contemporary worship. Still, I received a gift that I wish today’s believers shared more broadly.

Beyond the clear sense of God’s presence and our expressive responses to His move among us, these hymns grounded me in the doctrines of the faith. Working together with biblical preaching, these hymns helped build a firm foundation for my faith. In particular, and long before Rick Warren’s important restatement of this truth in The Purpose Driven Life, hymns taught me: It’s not about me.

When truth becomes about me, I become a relativist. If I gather with others of like persuasion and the horizon of truth is our shared convictions, then we are relativists. How many of us have had someone respond to our statements about the truth of Scripture with the phrase, “That’s true for you.” This is relativism — the belief that truth functions locally. For many, the standard of right and wrong, truth and error operates only within the mind of a person or in the agreements of a group. For them, there is no objective, transcendent system of truth or morality on which they base claims and to which everyone is ultimately accountable.

Relativism is a particular form of unbelief that is pervasive in our culture. It presents formidable challenges to the presentation of the gospel as the unique revelation of God to humanity and as the only hope for eternal life. Relativism predisposes people to suspect, if not outright reject, such an exclusive message. But there is more than a message at work.

The power of the Holy Spirit transcends our limitations to communicate enduring truth and penetrates false systems of thought with illumination and conviction. As Pentecostals, I believe God has raised us up “for such a time as this” (Esther 4:14).

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