Pentecostalism in Mission and Evangelism Today

By Chai, Teresa | International Review of Mission, June 2018 | Go to article overview

Pentecostalism in Mission and Evangelism Today


Chai, Teresa, International Review of Mission


A very basic question and a good starting point for studying Pentecostalism is "Who are the Pentecostals?" Allan Anderson's answer is comprehensive in describing globally all churches and movements that emphasize the workings of the Spirit, both on phenomenological and on theological grounds. He has "Pentecostals" as the catch-all term for four categories of Pentecostals:

1. The established "classical Pentecostal" denominations (e.g., Assemblies of God, Foursquare, Pentecostal Holiness, Church of God, Cleveland Tennessee).

2. The independent churches (i.e., newer churches that may claim to be non-denominational but hold to key Pentecostal doctrines and practices).

3. The "charismatic" churches (i.e., that are part of mainline churches such as Anglican, Baptist, Catholic, Lutheran, Methodist, Presbyterian, and Reformed, but as churches or sub-groups in the church who affirm many key Pentecostal doctrines and practices).

4. The independent megachurches (i.e., huge churches in terms of membership or attendance that deserve their own category because of their international influence). (1)

Others have coined such terms as "neo-Pentecostals" that may be linked to the second category in the list above and "neo-charismatics" linked to the third category. Other scholars talk about the Pentecostal categories in terms of "waves" that have broken on the shores of global Christianity such as the "Third Wavers" of the Vineyard or the late John Wimber group. In any case, the categories help us to understand that there is not just "one kind of Pentecostal" even though all groups bear a "family resemblance," as Anderson puts it. Another term for Pentecostals thrown into the mix by Johnson and Crossings is "renewalists." (2)

Pentecostals believe that all Christians can experience the same empowerment of the Holy Spirit. This empowerment is most likely to happen at a time separate from conversion or water baptism. The emphasis for many Pentecostal churches is on the teaching of the "full gospel" or "foursquare gospel." The four squares focus on Jesus, (3) who

1. Saves according to John 3:16.

2. Baptizes with the Holy Spirit according to Acts 2:4.

3. Heals bodily according to James 5:15.

4. Will come again to receive those who are saved according to 1 Thessalonians 4:16, 17.

Anderson also describes Pentecostalism as "a polynucleated and variegated phenomenon." (4) There is no "one" centre for Pentecostalism even though it has made a definite shift southward, and no "one size fits all" in terms of the elements or manifestation of the Spirit. It is best seen from its pneumatological centre, as well as historically related movements where the emphasis is on the exercise of spiritual gifts.

Pentecostalism can also be described as the proverbial elephant in the room. Similar to the metaphor of an elephant touched from various sides by blind men, it is hard to describe it fully. However, the size of Pentecostalism can be seen in the church growth figures, which testify to the phenomenal numbers and reach of Pentecostalism.

Growth of Global Pentecostal and Charismatic Christianity

While these figures are rapidly changing even as this is read, here are some statistics on Pentecostalism globally, reported as of 2014 with comparisons from years past:

* In 1970 there were 63 million Pentecostals; in 2014 there were 631 million Pentecostals making up one-quarter of the Christian population worldwide.

* In 1900 there were 981,000 Pentecostals; in the mid-2010s, astronomical growth resulted in an estimated 614 million Pentecostals, charismatics, and neo-charismatics, according to the Center for the Study of Global Christianity at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary in South Hamilton, Massachusetts. This surge is expected to increase to 797 million by 2025, a growth rate of 2.42 percent annually, higher than the rate of growth of any other religious group. …

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