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Building Holy Spirit Bridges

When Chad Harvey, who formerly subscribed to cessationist theology, was baptized with the Holy Spirit, he began to build bridges for others who were hesitant towards Pentecostal beliefs.

When Chad Harvey entered seminary, he agreed with his church denomination’s cessationist doctrine on what the Apostle Paul calls the charismata: the spiritual gifts that include prophecy, tongues, and gifts of healing. He believed those gifts ended with the deaths of Jesus’ original apostles.

Then a class discussion arose about the explosive growth of a church in China where, at the time in the 1990s, some 15,000 people per day were coming to Christ. A fellow student asked whether the growth was mostly among Pentecostals and charismatics. The professor dodged the question but at last conceded the point: Yes, the growth is among those who believe the spiritual gifts are in operation today.

After graduating, he pastored a church within the denomination in which he had been raised, one that did not hold Pentecostal views. While in his study reading the book of Acts—a church marked by miracles, signs, and wonders—he contrasted what he was reading against what he was living.

“I wasn’t seeing that in my life or church,” Harvey reflects. So, he prayed: “Lord I’ve been taught baptism of the Spirit is not for today. I want what they had.” While worship music played and Harvey worshiped Jesus, the Holy Spirit came upon him. He began praying in tongues.

After his baptism in the Holy Spirit, his passion for Jesus ramped up to a much higher level, as did his prayer life and boldness for sharing Jesus. He didn’t have to persuade his wife, Darla, about his newfound life in the Spirit. Not only is she an Assemblies of God pastor’s daughter but also her father, Randall Rogers, at the time was North Carolina Assemblies of God District secretary-treasurer. (Today Rogers oversees the AG district’s church loans and properties.)

While Harvey continued pastoring his congregation for a time, he realized he wanted to lead a church that fully embraced the Holy Spirit charismata. After prayer and fasting, Harvey moved forward with taking courses required by the General Council credentialing committee for those transferring from another denomination and became ordained in the Assemblies of God.

When he applied to fill a pastoral vacancy at Raleigh First AG, “The church decided to take a chance. I was 29 and had no AG educational background,” he says. “The church had to be patient with me as I learned how to apply it.”

Today, Harvey, 51, is teaching pastor at Cross Assembly Church, formerly First Assembly of God, in Raleigh, North Carolina, where he’s ministered for 21 years. On his weekday radio show Truth Unfiltered, he places Scriptures in context, deepening understanding of the Bible and how it applies to daily living.

Harvey’s roots in theology resistant to the biblical teachings of the Holy Spirit have enabled him to build bridges. He identifies with the struggles of those with cessationist backgrounds and helps them understand that the Pentecostal experience isn’t just for the first century church—it’s also for today. For those unfamiliar with or uncertain about Pentecostal doctrine, Harvey uses three pillars to bridge the gap of understanding.

He notes that Pentecost is the Jewish festival of the harvest. First, he connects the baptism of the Holy Spirit to its original purpose: to be empowered to win the world for Jesus, thus bringing in the harvest. “When you do that, a lot of the barriers start to come down,” Harvey says.

Second, “divorcing it from extraneous stuff—the weirdness a lot of people have come to associate with it that people see as phenomenal,” he says. Much of that comes from sensational television broadcasting. “That’s not what it’s about. Pentecost as an end to itself can get real weird real fast.”

The third pillar is keeping the focus on Jesus. Harvey cites Azusa Street Revival witness Frank Bartleman who said, “Any mission that exalts even the Holy Ghost above the Lord Jesus Christ is bound for the rocks of error and fanaticism.” Some who believe the Spirit’s manifestation is different today than in the book of Acts hold that the center of Pentecostalism is the Holy Spirit.

“I say no: the center is Jesus,” Harvey says. He points to John 16:13-14 that says when the Holy Spirit comes, He will exalt Jesus. “Keep the main thing the main thing,” Harvey says. “It’s still all about Jesus.”

Since assuming his role as lead pastor at Cross Assembly, God has used Harvey’s spiritual journey to reach those in his community who are uncertain about Pentecostal churches because of the Holy Spirit aspect. Harvey has deliberately discipled those with cessationist beliefs and has seen the Lord grow the church to 3,000 regular attendees.

He cites the importance of mentors during his formative early years in the Assemblies of God. Trusted advisers helped him navigate his transition to theology that embraces the work of the Holy Spirit today. One is Randy Hurst, retired director of communications for AG World Missions and former executive editor of the World Missions Edition of the Pentecostal Evangel.

Another is Charles Kelly, who served 46 years in North Carolina district leadership, including 24 years as its superintendent, the position he was holding when Harvey was ordained as an Assemblies of God minister. Kelly guided Harvey through his credentialing journey.

“He’s a man of incredible principle,” Kelly says of Harvey. “He’s a person who’s always seeking, searching, not just in sermon preparation but to get to know the Bible, researching what it means.

“I point to Chad Harvey as the example of what it means to be in ministry. He’s passionate. He’s an incredible man of God,” Kelly says.

Deann Alford

Deann Alford is a journalist and author. She attends Glad Tidings of Austin, an Assemblies of God congregation in the Texas capital.