In their book Global Pentecostalism, sociologists Donald E. Miller and Tetsunao Yamamori study what they label “Progressive Pentecostals”, Spirit-filled Christians who have an active social ministry to help people around them.
This is a growing phenomenon, especially in the Majority World. We have previously interviewed Dr. Miller about the exciting potentiality of Pentecostals and Charismatics to promote peace and justice.
The fourth chapter of the book looks at how Pentecostal faith transforms individuals and societies. Miller and Yamamori describe their visit to St. Stephen’s Society, Jackie Pullinger’s ministry in Hong Kong that shares the Gospel and helps drug addicts.
They were astonished to see what appeared to be supernatural intervention in the lives of these people:
”The remarkable thing in the testimony of these ex-addicts, however, was that they often reported the withdrawal process to be painless, or nearly painless, which is completely different from the wrenching process that addicts typically experience in prison or even in a hospital.” (p. 100)
”Something was happening to these individuals at the deepest level of their being. In our interviews with them, they claimed that the Holy Spirit had entered their bodies and a process of spiritual transformation was initiated.
They confessed that they didn’t know what was happening when they first spoke in tongues, but the fact that they came off drugs with little or no pain was so unusual that they acknowledged that a divine power was at work.” (p. 104)
Recognizing that it’s a bit controversial to suggest that the Holy Spirit is doing miracles in an academic study, the authors clarify that they aren’t definitively saying that what they observe is supernatural. At the same time, they don’t exclude it either:
”What is occurring when addicts spontaneously speak in tongues prior to their first meeting at St. Stephen’s Society? If this were occurring during the meeting that follows, then one might argue that addicts are modeling behavior that they have observed around them.
But this is not the case.
They have had no prior experience with charismatic worship. And why do many addicts suffer little or no withdrawal when they are coming off drugs at St. Stephen’s? Is there something supernatural occurring or does surrounding someone with constant loving attention trigger a neurological response that blocks the pain associated with withdrawal?
Clearly insiders believe that it is the power of the Holy Spirit intervening in their lives.
Should this religious explanation be denied a priori because it does not fit within the naturalistic theories of twenty-first-century social science? The obvious choices are to dismiss what Pentecostals say about themselves as pure illusion, to reframe their experience within naturalistic categories such as autosuggestion or self-fulfilling prophecies, or to acknowledge that there may be realms of experience that need to be incorporated within our theories of human behavior.” (p. 109)
Personally, I’m convinced that it was the Holy Spirit. He wants us to use his gifts to serve others (1 Peter 4:10), and he helps us supernaturally as we do what Jesus has commanded us to do.
Micael Grenholm is a Swedish pastor, author and editor for PCPJ.
Pentecostals & Charismatics for Peace & Justice is a multicultural, gender inclusive, and ecumenical organization that promotes peace, justice, and reconciliation work among Pentecostal and Charismatic Christians around the world. If you like what we do, please become a member!