When I was in one of Amsterdam’s busy local markets today, where I was participating in a joint healthcare program between Pentecostal Council of Churches and the hospital, an elderly gentleman approached me. I thought at first that he might be homeless. His face told me a lot about his life, his broken teeth perhaps not brushed for months; his overall appearance expressed a hard life.
“Are you a Pentecostal pastor?” he asked me. As I was trying to avoid a direct answer, he repeated the question, “Are you or not?”
“Yes, I am indeed,” I replied.
“Good,” he said. Then he continued and asked, “What happened to love? What happened to justice? You all preach about love, and yet you hate Muslims, you dislike Catholics, and then you say God loves you. You make everything look so good, beautiful and nice, but look around you, even your own people – those who believe in your message – are suffering. When are you going to take these masks off and preach the real message of the Pentecost to us, the real love of God?”
He continued, “Your pamphlets, posters, and booklets do not speak to me at all. I am fed up and tired of all these lies, of pretending. Do you Pentecostals really care about us?”
I summoned my courage and responded. I told him that not all Pentecostals fit his description. There are many of us who are also tired of pretending, tired of fake love, and the relational evangelism kind of friendship. Many of us are also in search of change.
He then asked me, “Do you really want to bring change to Pentecostalism? Ask little children what they really think about you, listen to their criticisms, and their genuine questions. There you will find answers to your quest for change.” With that, he turned and left me.
As Pentecostals, we have to ask the serious questions he posed. We have to be more self-critical. Before secular mainstream journalists judge us based on simple common sense, let us have the honor and integrity to begin to investigate our own conduct, and if needed, let us be open to corrections. The world is not impressed by how big we are or how loud we shout. People know very well that “the emperor is naked, even when he pretends to be dressed.” Let us be open, honest, and real to the world around us!