Reinventing Pentecostal Prophetic Ministry in the Philippines

by Hadje C. Sadje.

“Sociologically, (Pentecostalism) it was a religion of the poor, marginalized, and dispossessed, who had little interest in matters of theology or church politics.” – Alister McGrath, Christianity’s Dangerous Idea (2007): 436-437.


Notably without a question mark, the quotation above expresses the truth about Filipino Pentecostal/Charismatic movements are more attractive to poor and marginalized. According to Julie C. Ma and Wonsuk Ma (2010), a Korean couple who spent the 13 years working as missionaries in the Philippines, argue that such daily struggle has made Filipino people turn to religions which promise divine answers, and Pentecostal-Charismatic Christianity has presented the most attractive message. For instance, they both describe that the nine-million strong El Shaddai Catholic Charismatic group in the Philippines exemplifies the flight of poverty-stricken masses to the miracle-performing God (p. 239).

Besides Catholic Charismatic group, there are non-Catholic Pentecostal Christians to be found all across Philippines. A 2006 Pew Research Center survey shows that 81% of the population is Catholic and more than 7% is Protestant. A 2003 survey finds that 15% of Philippine Catholics are charismatic, while more than a third of non-Catholic Christians are pentecostal or charismatic. For example, The Philippines General Council of the Assemblies of God, Inc. (PGCAG), Church of the Foursquare Gospel in the Philippines, Cathedral of Praise Manila, Jesus is Lord Movement, Victory Christian Fellowship, The Kingdom of Jesus Christ: The Name Above Every Name, and Jesus Miracle Crusade to name a few. Although some Filipino social scientist demands these survey to be update. Like Terence Chong, a senior fellow at the ISEAS-Yusof Ishak Institute; and regional editor for the News from Southeast Asia section in the Newsletter, clearly writes,

A 2011 Pew Research Centre study estimated that there are 279 million Pentecostals worldwide, comprising 12.8 percent of all Christians. There are no accurate estimates for the number of Pentecostals in Southeast Asia but the percentage of Christians (including Catholics) in Malaysia, Indonesia, Philippines and Singapore are 13.2 percent, 8.8 percent, 85 percent, and 18 percent, respectively. The exact number of Pentecostals are difficult to pin down because most country censuses do not differentiate Pentecostals from the larger Christian community. In addition, Pentecostalism does not have strict doctrines or hierarchy, and may manifest as standalone churches or as fringe congregations in mainline denominations.

What is certain, however, it is difficult to ignore this phenomenon, particularly in the Philippine religious landscape.   

But, the ongoing problems (poverty, human rights violations, natural disasters, corruptions, etc.,) that have beset the Philippines for many years revealed, according to Joseph Rommel L. Suico (2003), the ambiguity of the Pentecostal movement’s understanding of its role in society. Suico argues, “Pentecostalism in the Philippines has been interpreted mainly by outsiders who tend to ignore the context, particularly the socio-economic dimensions of its members” (p. 13). Suico further explains, “There is an obvious lack of knowledge and understanding of the significance of the Pentecostal experience especially its institutional relationship to society” (ibid). As Suico observes, “…the attitude of other churches and communities is often marked by theological and cultural prejudices” (ibid). Therefore, Suico claims, “pertinent that formal studies are undertaken to assess the validity of the prevailing perception of Pentecostals’ lack of involvement in socio-economic and political activities” (ibid). 

Despite of Filipino pentecostals strong emphasis on prayer and evangelism, one of the results of Suico’s research (mixed method) demonstrates that majority of his Filipino Pentecostal respondents perceive prayer and evangelism plays an important role in social, political, and poverty alleviation. Simply put, they see prayer and evangelism in a distinctive way that leads to social transformation.

The Challenges of Reinventing Pentecostal Prophetic Ministry in the Philippines

One of the ongoing challenges, however, face by Filipino Pentecostals to reconstruct contemporary pentecostal public ministry in the Philippines. There are, of course, those who do Pentecostal political theologies and contextual theologies, who are often more aware to these challenges. For instance, Joel A. Tejedo and Doreen A. Benavidez, recently attempt to reinvent the pentecostal prophetic ministry in the Philippines. Although such reconstructing or reinventing contemporary pentecostal prophetic ministry is always theologically challenging and often messy. Nevertheless, both Tejedo and Benavidez take up the call.

Joel A. Tejedo is one of the emerging Filipino pentecostal theologians. Tejedo is a professor of Asian Pacific Theological Seminary Philippines. His areas of specialization are in research method, public theology, and moral economics. Tejedo has published numerous international and local articles. Recently, he published the book entitled, “The Church in the Public Square: Engaging our Christian Witness in the Community” (2016). This book is a collection of Tejedo research and conference papers. He arranged the book into six chapters. In keeping with the theme of the book, namely arguing that Pentecostal theology have a strong biblical foundation for civic engagement, potential religious non-state actor to combat human trafficking, poverty reduction, and economic problems. According to Tejedo (2016),

The wealth of theological evidence supporting the theology of civic engagement should encourage believers in their Christian witness in society. God is at work in all of creation, and by virtue of creation and redemption, he has empowered us to be witnesses in word and action. While the Holy Spirit is increasingly making the church as a charismatic community, it is the task of every believer to creatively engage in his or her community through empowered ministry, and address the complex issues found there. With the help of the Spirit of God, Pentecostal local churches will remain at the cutting edge of Christian mission if they work collectively to promote the common good of the community in which they are called to serve” (p. 10).

For Tejedo, there is proof of God’s strong emphasis on social justice numerous times in the Scripture. Take for example, Exodus 20:1-17; 23: 11 and Leviticus 19:10; 23:22; 25:35 stresses the caring for the poor, weak, sickly, marginalized, and oppressed people. Pentecostal local churches, as Tejedo insists, can be a powerful social force for social and economic developments. Also, Tejedo challenges the popular view about Pentecostals that frequently labelled as less concerned over public life due to their preoccupation to other-worldly (p. 12). Using empirical research, Tejedo proves that Pentecostal churches work and partner with other organizations to produce a just and loving society.

For instance, Pentecostals provides livelihood program among poor communities to create financial literacy, to combat addictive vices, and to achieve desirable lifestyle changes (pp. 34-35). But, Tejedo is aware that Filipino Pentecostals need to realise their unique gifts and capacities as a social catalyst. To carry out this, however, Tejedo strongly suggests, “there is a need for a new breed of Pentecostal scholars to develop a Pentecostal theology of politics, integrating their biblical doctrine on politics in the fellowship meetings and bible studies, whereas members of the local church need to develop a holistic understanding of political society” (p. 126).     

In 2017, Doreen A. Benavidez, a Pentecostal scholar, published an article entitled, “Pentecostalism and Social Responsibility,” that offers a critical reflection towards contemporary Filipino Pentecostalism. Aside from social services, Benavidez (2017:171-178) suggests that social action is part of the Pentecostal spiritual mandate and has a pivotal role in the global mission. “Filipino Pentecostals should be able to contribute to transforming the structure of society,” she further contends.

Furthermore, Benavidez insists that evangelism and social concern should be a unified effort among Filipino Pentecostals. She suggests, “What is needed is a theology of church ministry capable of integrating programs of evangelism and social concern into a unified effort in fulfilling the church’s global mission” (p. 174). For Benavidez, they have to overcome the dualistic view between evangelism and social concern. She proposes that evangelism must go hand in hand with social concern. Nevertheless, Benavidez argues that pentecostals need to distinguish these two concepts. Apart from evangelism, she further claims, social action is part of the Pentecostal spiritual mandate and has a pivotal role in the global mission. In conclusion, Benavidez writes,

To be a Christian is to have your ‘heart broken by the things that break the heart of God.’276 In the Philippines alone, the majority of the Philippine people are below the poverty line. Because of this poverty, together with other social problems such as prostitution, drug addiction and corruption, the society is affected. We are living amidst of fear and social decay. What does our pentecostal belief offer to solve this problem? How can our faith be relevant to the people in the world? The church cannot afford to be apathetic when the world is suffering. The ministry of the Spirit is to control how the churches address the present socio-political and economic issues and Scripture must be recognized to provide the key principles and framework for this task (p. 177).    


Being colonized by Spain for 350 years, Philippines is known as a multi-faceted society with a long struggle for independence. Acknowledging socio-historical context, Filipino Pentecostals have hardly remained static. The complexity of Pentecostal theologies and various forms of ministry with colonial experiences have thus shaped such facets of the wider society as identity, class, gender roles, ministry, and public discourse. Ignoring the inherent diversity of Filipino Pentecostalism fails to do justice toward its complex worldviews, theologies, and practices. Giovanni Maltese and Sarah Essel, for example, argue that Filipino pentecostals perceives themselves differently. Also, they suggest the construction of Filipino Pentecostal identity is a process that is ongoing and shaped by different markers including gender, ethnicity, theological orientation, affiliation, and interpersonal relationships (Maltese & Essel, 2015). In short, it would be naïve to think that Philippine Pentecostal movements are static and monolithic, but dynamic and developing.

Moreover, Philippines is one of the countries that openly embraces the economic globalization (liberalization, deregulation, and privatization). With in-depth social analysis, however, Walden Bello (1997), a prominent Filipino sociologist, describes that globalization process in the Philippines has also generated peripheralization and social exclusion. For example, the gap between poor and rich Filipinos is broadening. According to Social Weather Station survey, “In 2017, the percentage of (Filipino) families rating themselves as mahirap (poor) was 50 in March, 44 in June, 47 in September, and 44 in December, for an average quarterly rate of 46 for the whole year.” Aside from the persistence poverty, most of Filipino faces several social challenges such as human rights violations, economic inequalities, narco-politicians, failed democracy, land grabbing, human trafficking, environmental problems, and powerful oligarchies. These social problems have continued to challenge many Filipino pentecostal theologians to undertake constructive or reinvent Pentecostal prophetic theologies from a political-social-economic spectrum.

Evidently, Tejedo and Benavidez put forward a bold proposal for pentecostal political and public theologies informed by the particular experiences and perspectives of Asian, particularly Filipinos. Therefore, Tejedo and Benavidez see contemporary Philippine social problems as inevitable locus theologicus or new source of doing Filipino pentecostal theologies. But, it clearly shows that Filipino pentecostal political and public theologies are ongoing projects among contemporary Filipino Pentecostal theologians. 

Hadje Cresencio Sadje is an associate member in the Center for Palestine Studies-SOAS.


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 join our Facebook forum, and sign up for our newsletter!


Benavidez, Doreen A. (2016). “Pentecostalism and Social Responsibility,” Prospects and Challenges for the Ecumenical Movement in the 21st Century”. Insights from the Global Ecumenical Theological Institute, No. 12, (Geneva,, 171-178. Retrieved July 13, 2017,

Maltese, Giovanni and Essel, Sarah. (2015). “The Demise of Pentecostalism in the Philippines: Naming and Claiming the Impossible Object and the Politics of Empowerment in Pentecostal Studies”. In Asia and Oceania, Amos Young and Vinson Synan (Ed.). Global Renewal Christianity vol. 1. Lake Mary, FL: Charisma, 255-279.

Suico, Joseph Rommel L. (2003). “Institutional and Individualistic Dimensions of Transformational Development: The Case of Pentecostal Churches in the Philippines”, Ph.D. Diss. University of Wales.

Tejeda, Joel A. (2016). The Church in the Public Square: Engaging our Christian Witness in the Community, Baguio City, Sambayanihan Publishers.


Re-thinking Romans 13

Romans 13:1-8 is a passage that has been used in ways that are unjust.  It has been used to justify the divine right of kings, to justify slavery, to justify apartheid and segregation.  This text has been used in support of the Just War Theory.  It’s still used in the church to justify oppressive policing and discounting of immigrant’s basic human rights.  If people would just obey the law, the logic goes, then they will be left alone.  But is that what this passage means?  Is Paul saying that that all laws are good? Is he saying that all people are treated equally under the law? Is he saying that laws should be obeyed without question?  These things are often read into the passage making these verses something like a sword to keep oppressed people in their place.  I don’t believe that was Paul’s intent.

Just because a particular action is legal does not mean it is just.  As God’s people it’s imperative that we carefully discern and think through texts like these so that we might walk well in the way of Jesus.  How shall we view this set of scriptures? Continue reading Re-thinking Romans 13

Heidi Baker on Gender Equality in the Church

Heidi Baker, founder and CEO of Iris Global – a missionary organization based in Mozambique – has inspired thousands of Christian women to aspire for leadership positions and reach their full potential. In this video from God TV, she explains some of the reasons we should embrace gender equality in the church. Who honestly thinks their daughter cannot change the world, or that a donkey would be more worthy of sharing God’s word than a woman?

What is the best argument for gender equality according to you?

It’s Impossible to Both Love and Kill Our Enemies

Jesus told us to love our enemies (Mt 5:44). This has been the cornerstone of Christian pacifist theology; whether you look at the early church, or the Anabaptists or the early Pentecostals, they all agreed on that loving enemies is incompatible with killing them, and hence they refused to wage wars or use violence against other human beings.

For this reason, the Christian non-pacifist has to argue for one of the following positions:

  1. Killing is an act of love towards the one you kill.
  2. We should not follow Jesus’ command to love enemies when we decide to kill people.

There are serious problems with both of these ideas. Let’s start with the first one. Continue reading It’s Impossible to Both Love and Kill Our Enemies

The Difference Between Pentecostalism and Christian Pentecostals

As reflective Pentecostals, we have many concerns about the progress of the movement. We know how much it is growing in the world. We know how many marvelous stories and testimonies we can find in our churches, but also we know about the abuse of power. We know about the general rejection of theology; we know about the unconscious politicization. So when we put all that stuff in balance, we have two options: leave or remain. I have to be honest. I left, a few years ago. Disappointed. Sad.

I couldn’t understand how God was working among people who despise to know him. It took me some years to understand that God works wherever he wants. And also, that the rejection of an intellectual knowledge doesn’t mean rejection of other kinds of knowledge. Then I realized how lost I was. I tried — wrongly — to use all the tools I acquired studying, but I forgot that theology is not merely an intellectual discipline, but a way of life. That is the meaning it had for the first Christians. In other words, I discovered that not only my brothers were unconscious about themselves — so was I. Because I hadn’t understand the core of Pentecostalism. Continue reading The Difference Between Pentecostalism and Christian Pentecostals

Charismatics Have A Hope the World Doesn’t Have

lucy peppiattLucy Peppiatt, principal at Westminster Theological Centrehas written an excellent piece on why all Christians should be charismatic and why the risk of “charismania” shouldn’t put us off from seeking the gifts of the Spirit. One of the reasons she gives relates strongly to what I call charismactivism, the fact that Spiritual gifts ought to promote peace, justice and a better world:

I think that most of us feel overwhelmed by the world’s problems. It’s enough to deal with our own and our family’s problems let alone terrorism, unemployment, war, addiction, crime, disease, homelessness, abuse, etc. etc. I’m always astonished and deeply moved by how resilient human beings are in the face of horror, and this seems regardless of whether they have a faith or not. Sometimes humans are just extraordinarily strong. All Christians should carry a hope that good will triumph over evil in the end, because that is the promise of Jesus’s life, death, and resurrection.

Continue reading Charismatics Have A Hope the World Doesn’t Have

Hijacked Pentecostalism

by Sam Lee. Originally published at his blog.

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.

Continue reading Hijacked Pentecostalism

Pentecostals & Charismatics for Peace & Justice