Monday, May 20, 2013

Pentecost, the Sequel

It's quite striking to compare Peters Pentecost sermon with the one he preaches a few days later in Acts 3. There's a lot of common features:

 - Peter deals with misconeptions: this time of the beggar. He is clear about what he can offer, and what he can't. What he can offer is healing in the name of Jesus. The apostles are not to be one in another long line of benefactors, they have something different, something better.

 - Peter explains what's going on: Jesus has made him walk

 - Peter keeps the focus on Jesus - he recounts pretty much the same as he did in Acts 2, how God had set Jesus apart, God's people had killed him, and God has raised him to life, and the apostles are witnesses of the fact

 - Peter gives them a clear way to respond: again, pretty much the same as Acts 2 'repent and turn to God' for forgiveness, and for 'times of refreshing' (a way of talking about the gift of the Holy Spirit?). Interestingly, he doesn't call for people to be baptised, as he does in Acts 2. Is that purely pragmatic (2000 extra men, and only 2 apostles, it might have taken some time)? Or do we take it as read?

It's looks very much as though Peter has rehearsed and clarified what he is going to say before he goes into these situations, he has the same focus on Jesus, the same clear and concise story of Jesus special status, death and resurrection, the same call for a response of repentance and commitment and the gift of divine grace.

At the Diocesan church growth strategies conference last week, I heard of a group of 18 ordinands (potential vicars) who were asked what they'd do if someone came to them and said 'how do I become a Christian?' Only 2 gave a remotely adequate answer. This is criminal. We need a church where every member can do what Peter does - know the story, know it well, and be able to tell it and show people how to respond. That means that for church leaders, we need to take time and effort to train ourselves, and others, so that this comes as naturally as us as it did to Peter.


  1. What would you count as a remotely adequate answer? My suggestion would be to invite them to pray and firstly to tell God of their intention to follow as a disciple. Then I'd ask them to consider baptism(preferably at Easter or another suitable occasionw ith a number of others). Before that, I'd look for some kind of catechetical programme that they could follow to introduce them to Scripture and to prayer. If they engaged with the course and wanted to continue to follow, they could be entered for the sacraments of baptism (and confirmation). Ideally, it would then be good to figure out how they could develop their faith within the church.

    Is that answer adequate? What were you hoping people would say??

  2. That sounds like an adequate answer to me. Certainly better than being met with incomprehension, or the suggestion that perhaps they could come to church a bit more, which were some of the reported answers.

  3. Turn to Christ. Repent of your sins. Renounce evil. Is that adequate? Probably not if the enquirer has little idea about the life and teachings of Jesus. In relation to individuals I think the answer has to be relevant in relation to that person's starting point and that may mean asking them a question and listening before speaking, e.g. 'what is your idea of what a Christian is?" I like the comment by Anonymous above and agree with that too.