“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). Continue reading Reinventing Pentecostal Prophetic Ministry in the Philippines→
Lucy Peppiatt, principal at Westminster Theological Centre, has 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.
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.
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→
The last two years have been very important to Latin America concerning the relationship between religion and politics. In fact, there have been three significative cases in which evangelical-pentecostals have shown their will to participate in public debates.
Second, there is the 2016 case of Peace Agreement in Colombia that intended to be a way to finish the war with FARC (Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia), in which the Christian and particularly evangelical-pentecostal vote was an important factor for the victory of “no” option. The agreement considered the possibility for FARC to integrate into the political system, but this was not the most problematic issue for evangelicals. The agreement also considered issues like gender inclusion and LGBT demands. Continue reading How Right-Wing Politicians Captured the Hearts of Pentecostals in Latin America→
Ever since rev. Campbell Morgan called Pentecostalism “the last vomit of Satan” and the Los Angeles Times warned the public about the “new sect of fanatics [that] is breaking loose” from Azusa Street, Spirit-filled Christians have had a bad rap. Other Christians as well as non-Christians oftentimes find us weird, and sometimes a bit dangerous. A lot of those perceptions are based on myths and misconceptions. Here are nine common beliefs about Pentecostals and Charismatics that are totally wrong.
1. It’s a small movement
Depending on where you’re located, the Pentecostal and Charismatic (P&C) movement might seem pretty small. But when you look at it on a global level, it turns out that 600 million people are P&Cs. 200 million are Pentecostals, 100 million are charismatic Catholics, and 300 million are charismatics in a big variety of denominations and churches. Since the number of P&Cs amounted to around zero in the beginning of the 20th century, the P&C movement is commonly described as the fastest growing religious movement in the world.
2. It’s a Cult
I’ve heard surprisingly many casually state “All of Pentecostalism is a cult”, to which I like to respond “That’s about as true as the statement ‘The moon is a tomato’.” Cult is not synonymous with “religion I don’t like”, it has an academic meaning of an isolated group with an authoritarian leader, and while there surely are several sad examples of charismatic churches that have developed into cults it is simply ridiculous to claim that we all would be part of some sort of Jonestown. At least that’s what my Leader tells me and he’s always infallible when he drinks goat blood.
Review originally published at the LSE Africa Blog. Reposted with permission.
Gregory Deacon of Oxford University says that the book Pentecostalism and Development: Churches, NGOs and Social Change in Africa (edited by Dena Freeman) provides some compelling answers regarding Pentecostalism and development.
With its noisy churches and high profile media presence, Pentecostalism is religion writ large and exciting. Dramatic claims are made – for example that it is ‘redrawing the religious map of the world’. Dena Freeman’s edited volume tackles head on whether this is good or bad for development. This is done in the context of 30 years of neoliberalism and an explosion in numbers of non-governmental organisations (NGOs) as well as Pentecostal churches. The role of both in alleviating poverty and improving living conditions for Africans is considered.
Over the past three decades, Pentecostal Christianity has exploded across Africa. At the same time many secular development agencies, including the UK’s Department for International Development (DFID), have been struggling to incorporate religion and faith based organisations into their policies and processes. As a research fellow at the University of Oxford looking at religion and development, I have similarly found Pentecostalism impossible to ignore. Continue reading Is Pentecostalism Doing More for Africa’s Poor than International NGOs?→