Magazine article International Bulletin of Mission Research

Three Waves of Christian Renewal: A 100-Year Snapshot

Magazine article International Bulletin of Mission Research

Three Waves of Christian Renewal: A 100-Year Snapshot

Article excerpt

April 2006 marks the one-hundredth anniversary of the Azusa Street revival, one of the most remarkable events in twentieth-century Christianity. Table 1 (next page) puts this event in the context of three waves of Christian renewal (Pentecostal, Charismatic, and Neocharismatic) and 100 years of growth of global Christianity. Several observations can be made:

* The renewal was well underway by 1906. Just over 1 million Christians were part of the movement, largely centered in independent churches in Africa.

* The renewal, expressed in three different waves, experienced a meteoric rise in the twentieth century. Renewalists grew at five and a half times the rate of growth of global Christianity as a whole (line 3, col. 3 [6.6 percent] divided by line 2, col. 3 [1.2 percent]).

* The renewal has slowed considerably into the twenty-first century but now involves over one in four Christians. While 60 percent of all Christians live in the global South (Africa, Asia, and Latin America), nearly 80 percent of all Renewalists are found there. With its hub in the vibrant Christian South, the renewal is expected to grow somewhat less than one and a half times as fast as global Christianity over the next nineteen years. Also expected to grow is the overlap in categories, producing over 30 million doubly counted Renewalists by A.D. 2025.

* The Pentecostal renewal, most directly traceable to Azusa Street, is still active but is the smallest and slowest growing of the three waves that make up the renewal. Independent churches in Africa and Asia increasingly represent the prototypical Renewalist.

Behind the figures is the reality that Renewalists are now found in every Christian tradition, in every country, and in nearly every people group with a Christian presence. From small beginnings in the earliest part of the twentieth century, the renewal has become an essential and ubiquitous feature of global Christianity.

Todd M. Johnson is Director of the Center for the Study of Global Christianity at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, South Hamilton, Massachusetts.

Table 1. Three Waves of Christian Renewal,
A.D. 1906-2006, with projections to A.D. 2025

                                                1906        % per year

Global Population
   1. Total population                      1,753,248,000      1.3

Global Christianity
   2. Total Christians                        625,880,000      1.2

Global Renewalists
   3. Total Renewalists                         1,009,000      6.6
   4. as percentage of global                        0.2%
First Wave Pentecostal Renewal
   5. Pentecostals (First-Wavers)                  25,000      8.4
   6.   Denominational Pentecostals                25,000      8.4
   7.     Classical Pentecostals                   25,000      8.4
   8.     Oneness Pentecostals                          0     11.1

Second Wave Charismatic Renewal
   9. Charismatics (Second-Wavers)                 14,000     10.0
  10.   Anglican Charismatics                       1,000     10.3
  11.   Catholic Charismatics                      12,000      9.8
  12.   Protestant Charismatics                     1,000     11.1
  13.   Orthodox Charismatics                           0     11.0
  14.   Marginal Charismatics                           0      5.4

Third Wave Neocharismatic Renewal
  15. Neocharismatics (Third-Wavers)              970,000      6.0
  16. (a) In 2 kinds of wholly Third              970,000      5.8
        Wave networks
  17.   Non-White indigenous                      940,000      5.7
  18.   White-led Independent                      30,000      7.7
  19. (b) as % of 7 kinds of non-                       0     13. … 
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