Veli-Matti Karkkainen’s “The Pentecostal Understanding of Mission”
By Jared Laskey
It is said that the “mission” belongs to the “essence and ‘nature’ of the church.” Karkkainen said, “Pentecostalism as a movement that has lived out and realized this principle in the Twentieth Century in a way that no other church has,” (26). With the empowerment of the Holy Spirit, Pentecostal meetings led to sending missionaries around the world faster than the Catholic Church had as well as other Protestant denominations.
Karkkainen stated Gary McClung’s missiological insight to Pentecostal missions, citing seven points as Pentecostal mission ethos, “(1) experiential and relational, (2) expressly biblical with a high view of inspiration of Scripture, (3) extremely urgent in nature, (4) ‘focused, yet diversified’: it prioritizes evangelization, but not to the exclusion of social concern; (5) aggressive and bold in its approach;(6) interdependent (both among various Pentecostal/Charismatic groups, and in relation to older churches and their mission endeavours); (7) and unpredictable as to the future,” (28). Pentecostal praxis made the indigenous church principle an imperative, and a “Pentecostal reflection on the theology of mission,” was not released until Melvin L. Hodge released The Indigenous Church in 1953 with a sequel, Theology of the Church and It’s Mission in 1977(29).
The Pentecostal Church identified itself with evangelicalism though it offers a distinct pneumatology. Its pneumatology is incorporated into its missiology and ecclesiology, and J.M. Penney revealed, “Pentecostalism – from inception a missionary movement – saw in the Spirit-baptism of Acts 2 a normative paradigm for the empowerment of every Christian to preach the gospel,” (31). The Renewal Movement is still fleshing these concepts out at Amos Yong has recently contributed to understanding Pentecostal missiology, adding broader scope of the Holy Spirit’s work, “outside the Christian church,” (31). Steve Studebaker, a theologian from Canada, has also contributed to Pentecostal missiology, issuing a, “call to appreciate the Spirit’s role as the principle of life and creation,” which, “supports the care for environment as an essential part of mission work and affirms the importance of theological anthropology as well,” (32). It seems that a more ‘holistic’ missiology which incorporates not only evangelism but “creation care,” and social and political matters is emerging as the Pentecostal Church has matured academically.
Karkkainen states that Jesus is the center of Pentecostal theology and mission, saying, “the key to discerning and defining Pentecostal identity lies in Christ-cantered charismatic spirituality with a passionate desire to ‘meet’ with Jesus Christ as he is being perceived as the Bearer of the ‘Full Gospel’,” (34). Elaborating on the term “full gospel” Karkkainen says, “The term ‘Full Gospel’ signalled to Pentecostals the desire to embrace ‘all’ of Christ,” (35).
Karkkainen stated, “The main function of the Pentecostal worship service is to provide a setting for an encounter with Jesus, the embodiment of the Full Gospel to receive the (em)power(ment) of the Spirit,” (36). Also, Pentecostal mission always had the return of Christ at the forefront of its praxis, and quoting Acts 1:8-10, Karkkainen says, “The theological reasoning was simple and profound: finish up with the work of witnessing and then the Lord will return. In the matrix of integral Spirit-Christology, the eschatological motif was also part of the Full Gospel template,” (40). This understanding thrust Pentecostals around the world in mission and ministry.
With insights to some changes that are needed to be made in order to continue Pentecostal missions, Karkkainen concluded the understanding of Pentecostal mission saying, “Pentecostal mission better continue seeking for a balance between various dynamics built-in into its matrix such as between: an intense eschatological expectation and the focus on the work in the Now preaching the Gospel and minding social concern and justice sticking with its own unique distinctive features and opening up to a more robust ecumenical openness continuing rely on grassroots lay leadership and developing academic ministerial training models,” (43-44). It is with this understanding that the Pentecostal/Charismatic/Renewal movement is dialoguing and applying as it continues to see souls saved and filled with the Spirit and sent on mission.
(This was a paper for the Regent University School of Divinity class, Global Theology of Mission with Miguel Alvarez, Ph.D., summer semester 2016)