PE Conversations: Baptism in the Holy Spirit
As Christians mark Pentecost Sunday on May 24, various Assemblies of God district leaders responded to questions posed by PE News Editor John W. Kennedy. Those participating in the discussion are Tom Jacobs, superintendent of the Iowa Ministry Network; Stephen Tourville, superintendent of the PennDel Ministry Network; and James Braddy, superintendent of the Northern California and Nevada Assemblies of God.
PE NEWS: How old and where were you when you received the baptism in the Holy Spirit?
TOM JACOBS: I received the baptism in the Holy Spirit on my 14th birthday during a small Sunday evening youth service. Our lay youth leader made the offer to pray for us to be filled with the Holy Spirit. I asked, "What is that?" He responded, "If you want more of Jesus, this is what you need." I stepped forward and with no further instruction, he prayed for me and I began to speak in other tongues. I had no idea what was happening, but my life was changed. At the time I was baptized in the Holy Spirit I had known the Lord for a month. I was excited about my newfound faith. When I received the baptism in the Holy Spirit, my spiritual life was turbo-charged. I had a new love for God's Word, and couldn't stop reading it. I shared my faith with my friends at every opportunity, and my prayer life took on a whole new dimension.
JAMES BRADDY: I was baptized in the Holy Spirit at the age of 12 at youth camp. Having grown up in a Pentecostal church, this was an encounter that led then to my early call to ministry.
STEPHEN TOURVILLE: I was 12 years old and seeking the Lord at the altar during revival services. God filled me up.
PE NEWS: What impact has being filled with the Spirit had on your ministry?
BRADDY: The infilling of the Holy Spirit is essential to all of my ministry. Having served in varying capacities over the last 50 years, I do not think I could be effective or would have had this sustained ministry if it were not for the knowledge and the need for the constant presence of the Holy Spirit in my life. When elected as district superintendent in 2004, I said, "Lord, I am not smart enough or clever enough to do this on my own. May Your Spirit fill me each day and may I always rely on You, not on me!"
TOURVILLE: The empowerment of God's presence has been such a part of everything I've taught and done. I sense a greater need for His power and His anointing than I ever have. So much of it is an outgrowth of the everyday things of life, sensing God's hand in subtle and intense ways.
JACOBS: In ministry the baptism in the Holy Spirit makes such a difference. Ministry can be difficult and working with people can be messy. It takes an emotional toll -- even when things are going well and the ministry has momentum. Praying in the Holy Spirit brings me personal peace, and often brings fresh insight into difficult problems. Many times while praying in tongues, I will sense direction regarding a challenging conversation. When I'm speaking, I'll often sense a prompting of the Holy Spirit to emphasize a point or move in a certain direction during the message. I believe I'm often more reliant on the Holy Spirit than I realize.
PE NEWS: How do you encourage those who are seeking the Baptism?
TOURVILLE: I usually start with the question, "Are you hungry for more of God?" It's not about speaking in tongues; speaking in tongues is the result, not the whole event. To develop a greater passion for God, simply go to Him and ask for His fullness. Simply enter into it by faith.
BRADDY: I frequently preach on the Spirit's empowerment when I travel to our various churches and personally try to pray with those who come forward seeking this empowering experience and encounter with the Lord. Pentecost must be more than our doctrine, it must be our present experience. I encourage our churches to find new ways to present this experience in light of the demise of Sunday night services.
JACOBS: When praying for people to be baptized in the Holy Spirit, I encourage them to remember that often Scripture describes the Holy Spirit as wind. Wind always moves from high pressure to low pressure. If we will simply become a low-pressure center, getting ourselves out of the way and worshipping God, the Holy Spirit will flow into that space. It's not a matter of working something up emotionally in order to have this experience. It is a matter of allowing the Holy Spirit space in my life to fill me.