Say the word “Pentecostal” and you immediately think of a certain type of Christian who speaks in tongues. Think of Pentecost and the outpouring of the gifts is what comes to mind, especially the gift of tongues. However there is a whole lot more to Pentecost that what seems to meet the eye.
For two thousand years, believers have sought the gift of the Holy Spirit as instructed by the Lord in the Scriptures. For the majority of this time, the gift of tongues was not even on the radar of these seeking people. John Wesley would tell his Methodist followers to seek the Holy Spirit. In doing so, what they were seeking was “power” from God to enable them to live holy lives and to be godly. They had an expectation that the Holy Spirit would help them to overcome temptation and to walk in godliness. And to these seeking souls, that is what they would receive. Great revivals occurred through the Great Awakening, Second Great Awakening, Welsh Revival and other great moves of God. During all of these great moves, the gift of tongues did not feature. People were still filled with the Holy Spirit and God was working in them even though they had no understanding of spiritual gifts.
After this, William Booth, the founder of The Salvation Army encouraged his people to seek for the Baptism of the Holy Spirit and fire. He told his people that if they would do this, that God would give them the power to witness and bring souls to Christ. As his followers sought for this baptism, they became the fastest growing movement in Christianity, spreading to over 100 nations in just 20 years.
Both of these men had different ideas of what the Baptism of the Holy Spirit would bring, and they both received what they sought for. Then in the early 1900’s the gift of tongues became prominent, and as people sought for that, they received that too.
There is so much more to Pentecost that just tongues. When we read the Bible account of Pentecost, tongues does appear to figure prominently until you read it with new eyes. What was really the prominent feature was the way that the disciples and apostles were changed in regards to how they loved, how they felt about each other, and how that worked to build the Church. This is the anointing of understanding that builds community. The Holy Spirit was at work in this producing powerful change. It is something we should seek for too.