Day Two of the Global Pentecostal Summit opened with a thought-provoking devotion by Dr Brian Stiller, followed by a number of robust discussions on topics of Spirit-empowered women leadership, megachurches, digital pneumatology and reaching the unreached.
Day One of the Global Pentecostal Summit last week had left delegates with a hunger to meet the God of the Word again the next day, Saturday 4 November, at City Harvest Church’s premises at Suntec Convention.
Continuing from his sharing from the previous day on the notion of Abraham living “in the promised land like a stranger in a foreign country; he lived in tents” (Heb 11:8-9), Dr Brian Stiller, the global ambassador of the World Evangelical Alliance, challenged the summit attendees to think about how best to live on this earth as “resident aliens”.
He likened it to Jesus calling His believers to take up residence in this world to be salt and light here, although this world is temporary and heaven is their eternal home. Dr Stiller noted that possessing a deep aspiration for heaven is not just thinking about where one is going, but also about what provides one with their identity, hopes and security today.
The Pentecostal movement has revolutionised the church in the last 100 years, but as it moves into a new phase, Dr Stiller suggested that it would be wise to think about how Abraham lived his life while occupying the land. He noted that Abraham was not 50 per cent a resident and 50 per cent an alien but he lived fully as a resident in the land while living fully as an alien in tents.
To understand how to do that, believers need to think about the one request that sums up Jesus’ deepest aspiration. It is found in a conversation Jesus had with God: “My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one—I in them and you in me—so that they may be brought to complete unity. Then the world will know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.” (Jn 17:20-23)
Jesus told his disciples, “By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another” (Jn 13:35). In this world where division is everywhere, the solution is found in this wishful prayer Jesus made to the Father “that His people would be like He, His Father and the Spirit, in Trinity, in unity,” described Dr Stiller. “The gravitational pull that brings about unity is love the powerful, redeeming transforming presence of this love.”
He urged the attendees to live with Jesus’ love as their reality so that they can be free and unhindered as they live as resident aliens in this land.
PRESENTATIONS ON SPIRIT-EMPOWERED WOMEN, REACHING THE UPGS AND DOING CHURCH IN THE METAVERSE
The first plenary session of the day was presented by Dr Jacqui Grey, a professor of Biblical Studies at Alphacrucis University College in Australia. Her paper—titled, “Spirit Empowered Women: Why and How the Full Participation of Women in Spirit-Empowered Ministry Strengthens Global Christianity”—explored the dynamics of women church leaders in the early church and gave suggestions on how the modern church can release women into ministry.
Dr Grey first listed three reasons why the full participation of women in ministry is crucial. Firstly, women and men were created to work together. Secondly, the Bible models women’s ministry in leadership, and thirdly, Spirit empowerment is for both daughters and sons. She went on to give examples of women in the New Testament that helped the church to flourish, bearing in mind that there were certain expectations of gender roles in the culture back then. One of them was Phoebe, who was Apostle Paul’s ambassador and patron and the other was Priscilla, who was a more prominent church leader than her husband Aquila.
Sun Ho, executive pastor of CHC, in her response to Dr Grey’s paper sought elaboration on two points the presenter raised: that males champion the participation of women in ministry, as Paul did in his letters, and the importance of women having a good reputation in order to obtain influence and engage in public ministry.
Dr Kwabena Asamoah-Gyadu, the president of Trinity Theological Seminary in Ghana, presented his paper titled, “In the Power of the Holy Ghost: Africa and Spirit-Empowered Christianity in the Twenty-First Century”.
He stated that “The primary gifts of African Christianity to the West and to the world is how to function in the power of the Holy Spirit.” In Africa, Spirit-empowered Christianity is one in which the Holy Spirit brings forth new birth, heals the sick, conquers the past, and casts out evil spirits. Dr Kwabena reminded the attendees that Spirit-empowered Christianity is an act of divine promise that was fulfilled in Scripture and one that everyone can experience.
In the breakout sessions, Julie Ma, the Professor of Missions and Intercultural Studies at Oral Roberts University presented a paper on “Women’s Leadership in Asia and Their Influence on Global Christianity”, while Guichun Jun, a research tutor at Oxford Centre for Mission Studies presented a paper titled, “Digital Pneumatology: Presence and Power of the Holy Spirit in the Metaverse”.
Dr Ma’s paper first explained the difficulties women in the Global South face. In many of these cultures, women have limited resources and opportunities. Oftentimes, their identity stems from their husband or son and in many Asian cultures, men are considered superior to women. Another serious issue is these cultures is the trafficking of women for labour and sex.
She proposed ways in which Asian Christian women can contribute to Global Christianity despite the difficulties they continue to face. To support her proposals, Dr Ma shared her personal experiences and presented several examples of women leaders in academic settings and in the mission field. She ended by expressing her hopes that “women, especially those in academic circles, will maintain their involvement in academic and mission activities to continue to be thoughtful practitioners and develop content that will impact the future of Christianity worldwide.”
Dr Jun’s paper aimed to explore the theological possibility of digital pneumatology—a study of the Holy Spirit’s presence and involvement in digital spaces, in particular, in the Metaverse. As of July this year, 400 billion people around the world use the Metaverse; 51 per cent of them are below the age of 13. Dr Jun discussed the work of VRChurch.com and suggested that the Metaverse may be just the place to reach the youth. He concluded that it is time to reimagine Pentecostalism and have a better understanding of the Person and power of the Holy Spirit.
In response to his paper, Reverend Jennifer Hargestam of Mission One Eleven asked Dr Jun to share both the opportunities and challenges of the Metaverse church. Dr Jun was also asked how to balance the physical gathering of the church community and the digital space. He acknowledged that there are indeed many problems present in the Metaverse, one example being users creating utopia in digital spaces to escape reality.
Yet, behind the 400 billion users in the digital space, there are real people whom the church can reach. There are those who are homebound because of social anxiety or physical impairment, who can worship God together in digital spaces. With regards to the balance between physical and digital settings, he noted that those who have tasted the powerful presence of God in physical church settings, will not be satisfied to simply stay in the Metaverse.
The next breakout session saw Dr Joel Tejedo, Director of the Asia Pacific Research Center, Asia Pacific Theological Seminary in the Philippines, presenting his paper titled, “Megachurches and Public Life: How Megachurch Congregants See Life as a Whole and How Do They Live Out Their Faith in Public Life?”, while Reverends Karl and Jennifer Hargestam, president and vice-president of Mission One Eleven presented their paper on “Unreached People Groups and the Cultural Intelligence Model”.
Dr Tejedo presented the findings of his research on megachurch congregants. Using both leadership and congregational surveys, the research team sought to collect data from the leaders and churchgoers at two megachurches in the Philippines, Christ’s Commission Fellowship (CCF) and Victory Christian Fellowship (VCF). His findings include the demographic of these megachurches, the congregant’s Christian beliefs, their view on the authority of the Bible, their social and political concerns, their lifestyle choices and their church activities. Since the study was done during the pandemic, the team also collected data on how Covid-19 affected the congregation.
Reverends Karl and Jennifer shared their passion for reaching the Unreached People Group. Rev Karl pointed out that two elements are needed: one is to present the gospel through signs and miracles, and the other is to train people using the Cultural Intelligence (CQ) Model so that they can function effectively in diverse cultures and preach the gospel in a way that makes sense. Rev Jennifer shared that it only takes four simple steps to possess CQ: drive, knowledge, strategy and action. The Hargestams also shared how they have experienced success in using the cultural intelligence model in the mission field.
Senior pastor of CHC, Kong Hee responded to the paper and noted the CQ model could also work when reaching those in a culturally diverse population like in Singapore. He sought the Hargestams’ view on how a local church like CHC, whose members are not full-time missionaries but have a passion for occasional mission trips, could take strategic steps to engage UPGs.
The presentations were followed by the Saturday service, where Prof Doug Petersen preached a powerful word on children in the Gospel of Mark. The delegates ended their day over a time of supper and fellowship.