The church that I attend is Baptist, and the pastor, of course, is Baptist. Yet, he has a name-it-claim-it Pentecostal sort of background. At times, he argues against that background. In his sermon last Sunday, for example, he was saying that people can glorify God even when they’re sick. In making that point, he may have been disputing a name-it-claim-it idea that God always wants to heal us when we are sick, but we need to muster up enough faith for God to do so. There are times when the pastor is more explicit in his criticism of name-it-claim-it.
At times, though, the pastor seems to reflect his Pentecostal upbringing: it’s still a part of him, even though he is now a Baptist. In his prayer before his sermon, he prays that God might use his sermon to minister to the person who is in danger of losing his soul. Does that imply that a Christian can lose his or her salvation? But the pastor does not believe that a Christian can lose his or her salvation. He believes in once-saved-always-saved! I listened to a sermon of his online in which he tried to reconcile once-saved-always-saved with Jesus’ statement in John 15 that unfruitful branches will be taken away, and that branches that remain not in Jesus are burned in the fire. The pastor’s conclusions in that sermon were pretty disturbing (i.e., I understood him to be saying that God may prematurely kill unfruitful Christians in this life because they are not making a difference for God on earth, even though they are still saved and will go to heaven after death). But the effort that the pastor took to reconcile John 15 with once-saved-always-saved shows that he takes once-saved-always-saved seriously! My understanding is that many Pentecostals, by contrast, believe that Christians can lose their salvation (their soul), through persistent backsliding, for instance.
Is the pastor talking about non-believers losing their soul, not believers losing their salvation? But non-believers are already lost when it comes to their souls, aren’t they, according to his religion? They cannot lose something that is already lost! Or maybe I am being too literal. Jesus in Mark 8:36 and Matthew 16:26 says that it does not profit a person to gain the whole world, yet to lose his own soul. Jesus was not only talking to believers there, I don’t think, but he was saying that those who do not follow him are forfeiting their souls. They have a choice: to follow Jesus and to find their souls, or to reject Jesus and to lose their souls. They have the potential to find their souls, so being lost is not inevitable; if they choose poorly, however, they will lose their souls.
Before the sermon, we recite “This is my Bible. I am what it says that I am. I can claim what it says I can claim.” And the recitation goes on. Those who watch Joel Osteen or have seen sermons by his father, John Osteen, will recognize that recitation. The Osteens are often associated with the Word of Faith movement, which is similar to name-it-claim it.
The pastor is often critical of the prosperity Gospel. In the sermon last week, he was saying that being promoted for a job is not God’s will for us, if that job will take us away from God: from church, from small group, from reading the Bible, etc. And yet, the pastor seems to believe that God can and does bless people in their businesses. But, come to think of it, that is not necessarily a distinguishing mark of Pentecostalism, for much of North American Christianity, maybe even world Christianity, believes along those lines.