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THE MINISTRY AND THE GIFTS

OF THE HOLY SPIRIT TODAY

by J. Lowell Harrup

We cannot predict what we might see when we are in the Spirit. John provided a record of what he saw, and this record forces us to re-examine everything we think we understand about this world. John’s vision in the Spirit is a narrative not only of the past, but also of the future.
Vance Havner, speaking at Grove Avenue Baptist Church in Richmond, Virginia, said, “When I was young, I embraced modernism—the gospel for the modern mind. I soon found it was neither gospel, nor did it satisfy the mind.” Havner had experienced a decline in the power of his ministry as he embraced a deception. When he repented, his testimony was that God restored what he called “the fire,” and gave him nearly 50 more years of ministry. The result of that confession was that hundreds went to the altar weeping in repentance. I was with them and also wept.

To paraphrase Dorothy Sayers: “No church, including the Pentecostal church, is immune from the forces that have tamed and declawed the lion of other revival movements and turned him into a housecat.”1 These forces include deception, hubris, and acceptance. The deception is that we can do the work of the kingdom with something less than total dependency on the Holy Spirit by using our skills and accomplishments. The hubris is thinking we cannot be deceived. Acceptance is the carrot for which we have hungered and reached.

Fostering revolutionary life in the spirit in our churches that conserves what God has done and makes the church dangerous to worldly forces in high places is the focus of this article.

Duplicating Yesterday Is Not The Answer
I grew up in the Assemblies of God. I am a third-generation Pentecostal, and I have no desire to return to the good old days. We are presently accomplishing many things of which past generations would not even have dreamed. But there is a strategic essential—a treasure—that we cannot afford to abandon or see attrited. This treasure is neither style nor our ideas concerning Pentecostal culture. As precious as our traditions are, this treasure does not even reside in them. To the degree that the dynamics of culture and style may take place, we must, with all haste, recover this treasure. And the deliberate duplication of style, culture and tradition as the answer to our dilemma will not make us more spiritual, but more carnal, because our problem has spiritual roots.

Genuine And Deliberate Dependence On The Spirit
What made the good old days so good? It was our forefathers’ genuine and deliberate dependence on the Spirit. When we read Paul’s epistles, we are convinced of his total dependency on the Holy Spirit. This was not thrust on him by lack of educational opportunity or inability to perform; it was his deliberate choice and was essential to his effectiveness in the kingdom. Paul wrote to the Corinthian believers: “And when I came to you, brethren, I did not come with superiority of speech or of wisdom, proclaiming to you the testimony of God. For I determined to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ, and Him crucified. I was with you in weakness and in fear and in much trembling, and my message and my preaching were not in persuasive words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, so that your faith would not rest on the wisdom of men, but on the power of God” (1 Corinthians 2:1–5, NASB). Notice the italicized intention and purpose.).

In the early days of our Movement, our founding fathers believed this attitude of dependency was necessary. The first wave of Pentecost included men with fine education and training from many other organizations. Even with some abuses, shortsightedness, naiveté, and lack of professionalism, our salvation was in our true dependence on the Holy Spirit. We were not only creating a style and building tradition, but we were also following the Spirit. This generalization may have some exceptions, but it was universal enough that it established a Pentecostal ethos.

An Unintended Deviation: Reducing The Work Of The Infinite Spirit to Bite-Sized, Predictable Models
We have trimmed, shaped, cultured, boxed and packaged the ethos of Spirit focus into a special language. (I am not referring to glossolalia, though outsiders might think so.) With the taming of the Spirit, we no longer need to tremble in fearing His presence, His searing knowledge of our hearts, or simply what He might do.

As leaders, we desire a level of predictableness. We should not, however, think or suggest that the Spirit—the God of all creation—is predictable. He is dangerous. His ways are not ours. He acts as a sword that none of us can escape—a rushing, mighty wind that does not blow from the north, south, east or west, but from heaven.

We cannot predict what we might see when we are in the Spirit. John provided a record of what he saw, and this record forces us to re-examine everything we think we understand about this world. John’s vision in the Spirit is a narrative not only of the past, but also of the future.

This taming of the Spirit has been incremental yet progressive. We put the Holy Spirit in a dated cultural box, analyze His gifts until we understand them, reduce what He has given us to nine influences, and then imply—but never state—that the Spirit is a lesser God, or only part of God. There is no indication that any of this was ever intended. It happened, in part, because we did not believe it could. (Remember the first step of deception?) This is not cynicism. I am merely saying that life in the Spirit is exciting. Churches that promote and seek His presence may demonstrate every possible style, but are more alike than those that are bound together by style. Dealing with the Spirit is forever challenging, exciting, fear inducing, dangerous to the flesh; at times stomach churning, yet healing, encouraging, renewing and restoring. The list is endless. The Holy Spirit does not reside in the middle of the standard deviation index; He fills the whole spectrum and beyond of any norm we establish.

Paul wrote to the believers in Galatia: “I am amazed that you are so quickly deserting Him who called you by the grace of Christ, for a different gospel; which is really not another” (Galatians 1:6-7a NASB). Our amazement should mirror his when we think not of what we have, but of what we should have—and, in too many cases, do not have.

Our creeds must be more than shibboleths that identify and separate those who cannot from those who can. Our creeds are valid descriptions of living, vital experiences, or at least experiences we truly seek. Creeds often begin as exciting discoveries but soon become codified statements seeking to protect life. We parse, analyze and defend them. In this process, however, we cannot recapture the experience we seek to protect. We must go back to the source—the living, vital experience of the Spirit. The organization of the church demands creeds; the organism of the church does not and, in fact, struggles with them.

Ideas fit into creeds; the Holy Spirit does not. He cannot be defined, restricted, or embodied in a statement. Yet He is willing to cleanse, fill, indwell, energize, speak through, stimulate, empower, and employ any person who will dare to believe Him, trust Him, and cooperate with Him. Let the creed stand on its own, but release the Holy Spirit to do what He wills.

“Release” may not have the best denotation, but its connotation is clear. It is this reality of His presence that provides the answer for the post-Christian, postmodern world in which we live. It is also the answer for the animistic Third World, and even the world of the not too distant future—one that most of us will never see, but which our children will inhabit.

PREACHING ON THE SPIRITUAL GIFTS

By J. Charles Crabtree

The apostle Paul’s desire that the church be schooled in the gifts of the Holy Spirit must be a concern of every Pentecostal preacher. If Pentecostals do not preach and teach on the subject, who will?
Sound, biblical, Spirit-filled teaching on the value and operation of the gifts of the Spirit is a classic example of ove rcoming evil with good. Admittedly the topic has been fraught with so much misinformation, misunderstanding, and misapplication many preachers have thrown up their hands and chosen to avoid it. But if the gifts were not vital to the life of the church, they would not be part of biblical doctrine and practice. The proper use of spiritual gifts is a blessed provision and glorious blessing that far outweighs any possible negative consequences. Contemporary Pentecostal preachers must understand potential dangers and abuses—and then set out to correct them.

FOUR GREAT OBSTACLES
There are four great obstacles the preacher must overcome in the area of spiritual gifts. Paul was very conscious of them, but none of them dissuaded him from recognizing the value of these gifts and insisting upon their being operational in the church.

Ignorance
Sadly, Paul would find a great deal of the same ignorance and misunderstanding about spiritual gifts in the church today he found in the church at Corinth. It would not be difficult to find Pentecostal churches in America that know almost nothing about the gifts of the Spirit or have wrong views about them.

Fear

“No one who is speaking by the Spirit of God says, ‘Jesus be cursed’” (1 Corinthians 12:3). The Pentecostal preacher of today has to address the same fear Paul addressed in the Corinthian church. People coming into a Pentecostal fellowship hear believers claiming to speak messages by the Spirit of God. How can they know whether what they are hearing is of God or not? Paul is quick to identify one sure test: The Spirit of God, which is the Spirit of truth and revelation, always glorifies the Lord Jesus Christ; God’s Spirit would never curse or denigrate the Son. Wherever the Pentecostal church has endured, it has done so because its theology and teaching have been Christ-centered, both in spirit and in Word.

Apathy

“Eagerly desire the greater gifts” (1 Corinthians 12:31; compare 2 Timothy 1:6). Paul knew the church could become indifferent to spiritual gifts; hence, his admonition to believers to set their hearts upon receiving and exercising “the greater gifts.”
There is a clear and present danger in Pentecost of losing focus and intentionality concerning spiritual gifts. One reason is the proliferation of so many good things, which can crowd out the highest and best. The church calendar is full of wonderful programs, wholesome activities, special events, and social action. Therefore, the critical question to ask about the church is not how many activities it contains but the spiritual priorities those activities reflect.
The preacher must protect the pulpit and be proactive in declaring the whole counsel of God—which will include a regular emphasis on the gifts of the Spirit. If the apostle Paul were to visit Pentecostal churches today, would he be pleased to see congregations heeding the command to “eagerly desire the greater gifts,” or would he be disappointed and alarmed?

Pride
This is by far the greatest threat to the proper use of the gifts of the Spirit. On the one hand, pride produces the kind of embarrassing behavior that causes most of the criticisms of Pentecostals by non-Pentecostals. On the other hand, pride, a fear of who may be visiting the church, keeps Pentecostals from wanting to demonstrate gifts of the Spirit. They do not realize the large number of people who were brought to God, became Pentecostal, and joined the church because they witnessed the power of God through the proper demonstration of spiritual gifts.
Paul was very much aware of the destructive force of pride and was careful to teach on the subject of spiritual gifts within a context of humility and love, the antitheses of pride.
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CHARLES T. CRABTREE is assistant general superintendent of the Assemblies of God, Springfield, Missouri. Adapted from Pentecostal Preaching (Springfield: Gospel Publishing House, 2003). Used by permission.
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When we discuss sermon structure today, we do not necessarily mean classifications such as topical and expository. All sermons should be expository, not in the classic homiletic definition, but in the sense of clearly expositing the truth of Scripture and the claim it has on our lives.
Fostering The Life Of The Spirit Within The Church
The Christian life is a Spirit life that does not oppose natural tendencies, but carnal ones. In our “already, but not yet” experience, we have access to the Father in the Spirit, are fellow citizens with saints, are of God’s household, and are part of the same building as are the apostles and prophets—with Christ as the cornerstone. We belong; we truly fit. Together we are the temple, “a dwelling of God in the Spirit” (Ephesians 2:18–22).

How can church leadership effect a revolutionary change in our churches that conserves what God has done, is not carelessly iconoclastic, and once again makes us dangerous to worldly forces in high places? Gordon Fee, in Paul, the Spirit, and the People of God,2 suggests several essentials if true life in the Spirit is to be fostered in our churches. I have borrowed his suggestions as a basic outline guide, but the content is mine.

Immersion in the Spirit-inspired, life-giving Word
We must take people back to Scripture. This standard begins with the pastor-teacher—God’s gift to the church. This is not the duty of a moment, a sermon, or a short series. This must be the regular diet of the church.

When we discuss sermon structure today, we do not necessarily mean classifications such as topical and expository. All sermons should be expository, not in the classic homiletic definition, but in the sense of clearly expositing the truth of Scripture and the claim it has on our lives.

When I came to Northland Cathedral, I wanted to develop a deeper theology of the Spirit. The church was mature and Pentecostal because it had been pastored by wonderful, orthodox, spiritual men. I felt, however, that their understanding of the Holy Spirit had areas of disconnection. We did not have a sense that the Spirit in Genesis 1:2, who brooded over the chaos during creation, was, in fact, the same, unchanged, divine Spirit through whom Jesus offered Himself to the Father as an unblemished sacrifice (Hebrews 9:14). This was the same Spirit who was poured out on the Day of Pentecost in Acts 2. Had someone asked a yes or no question concerning this aspect of the Spirit, all would have answered correctly. But the explosive truth concerning the Holy Spirit was not part of the ethos of the church.

The people understood the gifts, but I sensed their integration could be stronger. I believed that if we began not with the gifts, but with the person of the Spirit as God, we would widen the boundaries of expectation, we would increase our anticipation, and we would co-operate with Him. We began to study the person of the Spirit revealed through different writers throughout the Bible to develop a biblical pneumatology.

Living in Scripture produces the result the Scripture intends. If we believe the Bible is the Word of God, then it is worthy of serious study, intense focus, and a humbling of ourselves before the God of the Word. But before God’s Word reaches our people, it must lay its claim on the teacher. Studying the biblical text is not a purely academic discipline, yet it demands that we bring this discipline to the table with its entire rigor. But the Giver of the text will also be there, leading, illuminating, revealing, guiding, correcting, encouraging, and equipping whose who teach. Far more frightening, He will apply the text as we exegete it. This becomes an adventure, a journey of discovery that has no parallel.

Focus on the letters Paul wrote to churches and church leaders. These letters not only reveal, but also often distil and apply other biblical truths. These letters take the Lucan power encounters and balance them with the ongoing place of the Spirit in the church. They constructively correct the misapplication of the Spirit. They show the Spirit’s exaltation of Jesus Christ.

A Restored View Of Our Place In This World—The Power Of The Age To Come As It Addresses The Needs Of This Age
Believers must view the church through a new paradigm that includes how we relate to the world. Scripture repeatedly reminds us of the short shelf life of the world’s system. It will pass away; it is already on the decline. It is, in fact, the world system of the dying. We are not part of it; we belong to the world of the living.

When Jesus rose from the dead and ascended to the Father, “He gave gifts to men” (Ephesians 4:8, NASB). These gifts are post-resurrection gifts given to pre-resurrection people. The resurrection has already begun, Christ was the first to experience it. It is not yet our turn, but these post-Resurrection gifts are already ours in everlasting supply. Colossians 3:1 says thatsince we have been raised with Christ, to “keep seeking the things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God” (NASB).

There is an “already, but not yet” tension in every Spirit-given manifestation. We have access to the supernatural powers of the Spirit to address the needs of this world. We have been redeemed, yet redemption is still to take place. The fullness of the Spirit is, in particular, an eschatological reality. Joel, a spokesman for God from the perspective of his present age, said of the age to come, “It will come about after this that I [God] will pour out My Spirit on all mankind” (Joel 2:28a, NASB).

Peter’s identification, “This is that” (Acts 2:16), brings together these ages. Peter was still Peter, however, and was later rebuked by Paul “because he stood condemned” (Galatians 2:11).

Yet, shortly after the Spirit was poured out on the church, the Holy Spirit in Peter energized his use of the name of Jesus (Acts 3:6). “I do not possess silver and gold, but what I do have I give you: in the name of Jesus Christ the Nazarene—walk!” (NASB). A man, lame from birth, was instantly healed—the power of the age to come addressing a need of this age. This power operated in a man, not yet perfect, but nonetheless a new man in Christ.

We live in this age but belong to the age to come. Paul said, “… this world in its present form is passing away” (1 Corinthians 7:31b). Jesus focused on our otherworldliness in John 17. John addressed it in 1 John 2:17, “The world is passing away, and also its lusts; but the one who does the will of God lives forever” (NASB). The one who does God’s will does not just outlast the world; he lives forever.

Restoring this truth will energize the church. While we can preach this, it takes the resident Holy Spirit, active in a congregation, to shift the focus from the ostensible permanence of this transient age to the true permanence of the coming age. The humbling question is: what action will the Spirit of God take to accomplish this?

Q&A ON THE HOLY SPIRIT

Q. WHAT IS THE RELATIONSHIP OF JOHN 20:22 WITH ACTS 2:47?

A. John 20:22 is important to understanding the full ministry of the Holy Spirit. This verse records the disciples’ receiving the regenerating work of the Holy Spirit before the Day of Pentecost (under the new covenant founded on the resurrection of the crucified Jesus). The Acts 2:4 experience occurred after the disciples’ regeneration by the Holy Spirit, as a separate and distinct work of the Spirit. The regeneration and the Spirit baptism experiences are normative for all believers. Thus all believers receive the Holy Spirit at salvation, or regeneration. After this regenerating work of the Holy Spirit, every believer can experience the baptism in the Holy Spirit, the enduement of power to be more effective witnesses (Acts 1:8; 2:4; 2:39). Some have suggested that John 20:22 was merely a symbolic promise of the Holy Spirit’s descent at Pentecost. But the Greek aorist imperative for “receive” indicates that an action took place at that time, not sometime later. John recorded a historical event that had its own significance for the normative experiences of every believer today.
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Abridged from the General Council of the Assemblies of God official position paper on the baptism of the Holy Spirit.
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Both friend and enemy were aware of this presence. God may sound benign as a pillar of fire by night and a cloud by day. His presence, however, was anything but benign to the enemies of Israel.
Becoming a people of the presence—not only in word, but also in reality
Spirit activity in the church is discomfiting to many. They wish to proclaim an indwelling Spirit in individuals and a life-giving Spirit in the church—providing He remains silent, unnoticed, transparent and inactive, or will only act in a way no one can identify.

What separated Israel from the nations around her as she travelled through the wilderness was not the Law or the ark of the covenant. The Babylonian king, Hammurabi, developed a code of ethics similar to the ethical demands of the Law. Boxes covered with gold that approximate the ark of the covenant are extant in funerary discoveries in Egypt, including that of Tutankhamen. No other nation, however, had the presence. Whether in a pillar of fire at night, a cloud by day, or one that came down over the tent of meeting, the presence that shook the mountain and covered it with thunder and lightning, or that defeated enemies, or empowered Moses and Aaron—all identified Israel as God’s chosen people.

Both friend and enemy were aware of this presence. God may sound benign as a pillar of fire by night and a cloud by day. His presence, however, was anything but benign to the enemies of Israel. Pharaoh came to know God’s presence when he lost his army in the Red Sea. Abiram and Dathan, who should have known better, learned of His reality. God is omnipresent. When we speak of His presence in the church, however, we are implying intentionality and purpose on His part. Psalm 24 says everything belongs to God, but that is different from the way the church belongs to Him. When the church comes together in the name of Jesus, He is present in the person of the Holy Spirit.

Intentionally Responding To The Ever Active, Energizing Spirit Of God
The identifying trait of Pentecostal or charismatic congregations has been the intentionality of the people to be sensitized to and responsive to the Spirit’s presence. We have customs, styles and traditions that have become a part of the culture of these churches. But the identifying dynamic has been the intention and effort by the people to respond to the intention and effort of the Spirit.

When the Holy Spirit came in new fullness on the Day of Pentecost (He was certainly resident before that), He did not come to be silent, inactive or dormant, but resident. He came to relate, to energize, to encourage, to convict, to reveal, to advise, to enable memory, and to give insight. Fire, a sound like the blowing of a violent wind, and language were present. Peter’s preaching was inspired and effective. Peter established and demonstrated a new Pentecostal hermeneutic in his sermon as the Spirit gave him a proper understanding of Old Testament prophecy.

The Spirit came with gifts—charismata—and dispensed them to the church. There was no preliminary teaching as to what the gifts were, but the Spirit found expression in innumerable ways. These gifts were not intermittent moments of Spirit activity; they filled the substance of the church’s meetings—prophesying, healing, leading, helping, serving and giving. They were not codified; they energized.

The Lists of the Gifts: The Tip of the Iceberg To All That The Spirit Can Do
Fleshly expression, however able it may be, never produces spiritual results. It is our hubris that makes us think otherwise. Whether the Spirit anoints learned skills (administration, leading and serving) or gives abilities untraceable to any human effort (healings, miracles, tongues, and interpretation of tongues), it is equally charismatic. A Pentecostal service should be a continuum of Spirit activity; otherwise, all that is not Spirit is filler.

No writer, including Paul, suggests an exhaustive list of what the Holy Spirit will do through individuals and in the church. He identifies a number of these things in different lists (1 Corinthians 12; Ephesians 4; Romans 12). All of these, in the words of Fee, are ad hoc. The only factor that is defined is love, and this is not identified as a gift.

Paul’s intent was not to codify the gifts so people could limit by definition and categorize them, but to remind them, and us, that the Holy Spirit was and is active. He called them ministries, effects, and manifestations. The fact Paul spoke of gifts reminds us of God’s desire to freely bless us with treasures from heaven.

It is this reality and awareness that must permeate the church today if we are to recapture the dynamic of the early church. It is not the structure of the service that will affect this; it is the awareness of, the desire for, and the co-operation with the activity of the Spirit by the leadership and by the congregation, in whatever form, that ensures this reality. He may refresh like the wind or convict like fire, speak with the tongues of men and angels, or He may simply brood over the congregation to illuminate the spoken Word.

Co-operating With The Spirit
There are particular times in our services when the Holy Spirit desires to disclose Himself, sometimes through the charismata, and always to honour Christ. The disclosure of the Spirit through gifts is not the beginning of His activity in the service, but a particular focus within an otherwise Spirit-energized service. These elements include times of intentional worship, times following the proclamation of the Word, times of intentional ministry in prayer, and times when we give an invitation for the lost to come to Christ or for believers to gather at the altar in His presence.

I make this observation not to analyze the mystery of the Spirit, and certainly not to manipulate Him, but to encourage co-operation with the Spirit. This co-operation is sometimes pursued simply by the leader’s patience and sensitivity to the mind of the Spirit.

I recently preached in Zimbabwe at their General Council with missionary Dean Galyen. The first several services were good, but in the third or fourth service, Galyen sensed that the Holy Spirit was seeking a more deliberate role. We waited, but nothing identifiable happened. We finished that service and, after a break, started another. We were minutes into that service when a powerful anointing came on the congregation, expressed through gifts of the Spirit. I am convinced that Galyen was sensitive to the direction of the Spirit, and what he said sensitized the congregation.

In the church I pastor, we take time during each Sunday morning service to minister to people’s needs. Between 20 and 30 leaders come to the front, I give a two- to-three-minute lesson on the ministry of Christ, and invite people to come for prayer. The leaders pray in pairs. I have repeatedly observed that as they minister in the power of the Spirit, the nature of the service changes. People are healed, saved, filled with the Holy Spirit, and find direction in their lives—every kind of miracle takes place. The time is intentional and planned; the results are Spirit-energized.

Our Sunday evening services are more fluid. As we sing, the staff pastor leading the service is responsible to seek direction from the Spirit. As he senses what the Spirit wants to accomplish, he has latitude—whether we have finished singing the songs that have been scheduled or not—to pursue the direction the Spirit is leading and encourage others to respond.

The formation of an unwritten code of propriety concerning the expression of spiritual gifts within each congregation is generally the result of teaching. Leaders should not be reticent to talk to people individually about their ministry in the Spirit, whether it be the content of their messages or their timing and effectiveness. Effective ministry needs to be encouraged; new ministry needs to be nurtured; improper ministry needs to be corrected so it can become effective. This is done carefully and sensitively, but it must be done. Paul’s limiting the number of messages in tongues in a service—without saying that any beyond three are false—indicates there is a spiritual propriety that needs to be understood. (See sidebar, “Preaching on the Spiritual Gifts.”)

Is there cause for apprehension in co-operating with the Spirit? By all means, yes. People have apprehensions about getting married, having babies, and growing up. It is not the fear of evil, but of the unknown. Fear makes adventure adventurous. Fear is the unidentified shadow cast by anything of magnitude as it approaches. The moving of the Spirit can be wonderful, but it can also be frightening when we consider it.

Co-operation with the Spirit does not imply a lack of planning for a service. No service should be planned without the guidance of the Spirit. During the service, however, a leader must constantly be sensitive to the direction of the Spirit and be ready to step in and lead others. We do not quench the Spirit when we make people aware of His presence and guide them in their response. Carnal attitudes and insensitivity to God and His people do that.

God has given leaders (elders, pastors) authority, and they must use it carefully with the awareness that the right of all to contribute must be protected (1 Corinthians 14:26). The role of leadership is not control, but peace. Leadership, rightfully used, should create confidence in people to discover and use the gifts God has given them and to understand their purpose—that is, the intent of the Spirit—the edifying and building up of the church (1 Corinthians 14:12).

The church is God’s mysterious miracle, hidden from past ages, destined for eternity, but entrusted to us for this time. He is in the midst of the golden candlesticks of Revelation 1:12-13—intentionally, not coincidentally. What He freely gives, we desperately need. And it is available without cost.

ENDNOTE
1. Dorothy L. Sayers, Christian Letters to a Post-Christian World, ed. Roderick Jellema (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1969
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J. LOWELL HARRUP, is is senior pastor of Northland Cathedral (Assemblies of God), in Kansas City, Missouri.
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