Pentecostalism is one of the fastest growing Christian movements in our world today, especially in the global South. Some Christians in the West admire this growth. Most of them witness the decline of the organized Christianity in their own countries, while Pentecostalism attracts millions of people in the global South. As I have been observing, the Western Christians often romanticize the growing Pentecostalism in the South!
As a full time Pentecostal (Non-Western) pastor and a sociologist I have several reasons to be concerned about the current condition of Pentecostalism in the South:
There is an emerging radicalism among the Pentecostals in the South. This radicalism does more harm than good, especially in the Non-Western world. Radicalism that is proclaimed from the pulpits of the fundamentalist Pentecostals offers no room for dialogue, and communication with those who are different. Such Pentecostals do not easily accept peoples from other Christian denominations, let alone those from other faiths.
Let’s start with the song, which can be listened here. Music-wise it’s basically a very simple folk song in an American style, so simple that anyone who has had a few lessons on a guitar can easily play it (please do! It’s only G, C and D). The lyrics are a simple retelling of a story in the gospels that is often called ‘the rich young ruler’ in English, a passage found in all three synoptic gospels (Mark 10:17-27, Matthew 19:16-22, Luke 18:18-34): Continue reading Sell Everything You Have, and Give It to the Poor!→
Yoido Full Gospel Church (YFGC), with 830,000 members, is well-known for being the largest church in the world. The Assemblies of God congregation, located in Seoul, South Korea, was started by Yonggi Cho in 1958. However, some readers may be surprised to learn that the congregation’s growth is due in large part to the ministry of women. In a 1979 Pentecostal Evangel article, Yonggi Cho shared how the Holy Spirit prompted him to train and empower women ministers — despite the negative view of Korean culture toward women leaders. These women became the backbone of the church’s cell group structure.
Yonggi Cho’s ministry in Seoul began with dreams and visions. As a newly minted Bible college graduate, he had a dream that he was going to someday pastor the largest church in Korea. People scoffed at this dream, which he believed God had given to him. He worked very hard, and after six months he had used all of his sermons and wore himself out. Continue reading How Women Ministers Fueled the Growth of the World’s Largest Church→
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Sometime in the latter part of the first century, during the peak of the Roman Empire’s power and decadence, Jesus appeared to his beloved disciple John while he was imprisoned on the island of Patmos. John’s vision led to the writing of what we now know as the Book of Revelation. Between 666, seven-headed dragons, and the whore of Babylon, Revelation’s imagery is cryptic and notoriously hard to interpret, but there’s one passage that stands out as particularly relevant for Americans living in 2017.
Jesus tells the Church at Ephesus they’ve lost sight of their first love, and that if they don’t repent, He’ll quickly remove their candlestick (Rev 2:1). As a person raised in the Protestant faith, I don’t believe that anyone—not even the Pope—has the infallible ability to speak for Jesus today, but that doesn’t mean that we can’t make an educated guess as to what He might be thinking. So I’ll give it a try: I think Jesus is removing the candlestick of white evangelical Christianity. Continue reading Why Supporting an Accused Pedophile is Disastrous for White Evangelicals→
As a Jew, I love Israel. There’s no way around that. In fourth grade I remember being assigned to write a report on any country in the world, and it was a complete no-brainer as to which country my report would be about. With great pride I decorated the blue-and-white report cover with the Israeli flag. Although seemingly irrelevant, I sprinkled some family recipes for things like matzo ball soup into the report, although now I see that the ethnic pride in recipes and that nationalistic pride in my peoples’ country really are not that far apart.
Years later, I’d get to take my first trip to Israel, and tour dozens of ancient Biblical archaeological sites. And where our Israeli tour guide could not take our group, but instead handed us off to a Palestinian tour guide, we also got to tour the ancient sites of the West Bank. As I came to realize how many places in my peoples’ history and my Bible were not under Jewish ownership but instead Palestinian, I started to realize that this did not sit well with my fantasies of what the “Jewish homeland” should be. My inner child wanted a complete restoration of what once was – I was living a fantasy of having walked back through the pages of the Bible, into the land of my Fathers and Mothers and into the “Kingdom of Israel” — with King David or Solomon, take your pick, ruling from Jerusalem, the Shekinah glory of God sitting on the Temple Mount in the Jewish temple, and every ancient parcel of land firmly a land for me, for us, the Jews. Continue reading Waking Up from My Fantasy About Israel→
In my opinion, many evangelicals have neglected, if not denied, the supernatural due to a general search for respectability. Nowhere is this evangelical search for respectability more evident to me than among Pentecostals. All Pentecostal Christians pay lip service to miracles, but how many actually believe in and pray for miracles? Many do, but I would guess their number is fewer than fifty years ago. To a very large extent, according to my observations, American Pentecostals have blended in with American society and lost their particularity—except on paper.
One notable feature of Pentecostalism that is gradually changing is its anti-intellectualism and that I consider a positive sign of maturation. In the past, intellectually inclined Pentecostals had to work outside their tradition (in non-Pentecostal evangelical organizations and institutions) or leave Pentecostalism altogether. Today there is a rich and growing intellectual subculture among American Pentecostals evidenced by the large and flourishing Society for Pentecostal Studies and its scholarly journal Pneuma. Pentecostal leaders are far less devoted to anti-intellectualism than fifty years ago. It’s not difficult to identify Pentecostal scholars with reputations beyond the movement’s borders: Veli-Matti Kärkkäinen, Amos Yong, Gary Tyra, Frank Macchia, Gerald Sheppard, Russell Spittler, Cheryl Bridges Johns, Stephen Land, Gordon Fee, Craig Keener, James Smith. Continue reading Why American Pentecostals Stopped Being Pacifists→