A New Face on the Old Guy
Within the Southern Hemisphere, researchers (including myself) are witnessing a rise of Pentecostalism, which leaves us to consider whether there’s a social impact that’s influencing this movement in our urban and social context. With more than 600 million people in membership, there’s no doubt the Pentecostal Movement is experiencing extraordinary growth in its worldwide impact. “Pentecostals emerged on the American scene as a prophetic voice, challenging the vitality of the American church, contending that the gospel gives life and dignity to all people.” The movement attracted the poor who felt alienated by other churches but they also enjoyed the vigorous worship style.
Miller and Yamamori insist that each reader familiarize themselves with the term Progressive Pentecostalism, which describes the emergence of this growing (and dynamic) religion. Progressive Pentecostals are “Christians who claim to be inspired by the Holy Spirit and the life of Jesus and seek to holistically address the spiritual, physical, and social needs of people in their community” (2). The belief by the authors is that people become transformed after encountering God but they also need an alternative social reality with fundamental theological values. It is the theological conviction that will emphasize that all people created in God’s image have dignity and equal rights.
Let’s be clear about one thing: the authors did not write an historical overview of Pentecostalism and they do not suggest that all Pentecostlas engage the social culture of their country. However, they did highlight that in 1970, 10% of the world’s Christian population regarded themselves as Pentecostals but that number could rise to more than 30% by 2025. Even if those numbers are inaccurate, the reality is that the movement has become a dynamic phenomenon. One of the reasons for the growth is the perceived benefits. In Jamaican, Pentecostalism brought so much more than water baptism and speaking in tongues. “Pentecostalism removed the burden of the religious integration of status and suffering from the individual by providing a form of religious expression which combined the highly valued behavior of regular church attendance of denominational Christianity with devalued emotionalism and spiritualism of the African-Christian cults and sects.”
There are several other facets you’ll find in the pages of this book about the Pentecostal movement. These include:
- An expression of holistic understanding of faith
- Holistic ministry challenges the claims of the Christian faith
- It has an affective and effective action
- It aims to remove the pain of poverty
- It has an incremental impact on social welfare
- It focuses on human rights
- It has programs that fosters mercy, emergency services, education, counseling, medical assistance and economic change
Overall the movement focused on individual relief and systemic change. It is true that Progressive Pentecostals are theologically and politically conservative but the end product is this: “while Liberation theology opted for the poor, the poor opted for Pentecostalism” (12). There are three myths highlighted in this book regarding Pentecostalism:
- Progressive Pentecostals have worship services with proverbial chaos
- Progressive Pentecostals give care to social equality so this is an indication that all members are of a lower social class
- Progressive Pentecostals are heavenly-minded so they are useless on hearth
Growing up in Jamaica, the assumption was that Pentecostalism was a denomination and in some cases, an organization so everyone who spoke in tongues was a Pentecostal. Miller and Yamamori shows us that Pentecostal theology is a way of understanding God’s activity as it relates to charismatic Christianity today but it’s also a movement of God through the Holy Spirit with the manifestation of the nine spiritual gifts. One of the unique challenge is to develop a unifying worldview of Pentecostalism in this transcending and diverse movement. While there are many conceptions of Pentecostalism, Miller and Yamamori focuses on Pentecostal groups with active social ministries in their four years of global travels in twenty different countries. The research and content of this book qualifies it as a recommended book to connect its audience with a movement that is trans-national and trans-continental.
 Tackett, Zachary Michael. 2013. “As a Prophetic Voice: Liberationism As a Matrix for interpreting American Pentecostal Thought and Praxis”. Journal of the European Pentecostal Theological Association. 33, no. 1:56
 Toulis, Nicole Rodriguez. Believing Identity: Pentecostalism and the Mediation of Jamaican Ethnicity and Gender in England. Oxford: Berg, 1997, p. 102
6 responses to “A New Face on the Old Guy”
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Good blog Garfield. You do not know my research topic, so I will pose the same question to you that I have with some of the others. You said:
An expression of holistic understanding of faith
Holistic ministry challenges the claims of the Christian faith
It has an affective and effective action
It aims to remove the pain of poverty
It has an incremental impact on social welfare
It focuses on human rights
It has programs that fosters mercy, emergency services, education, counseling, medical assistance and economic change.
I believe that if we can connect the Millennial generation to the “expressions of faith found in the Pentecostal movement” and connect the to the missional purpose of the Charismatic gifts that are being displayed around the world as Miller describes, then we could potentially see an awakening in that generation. What do you think?
You wrote, “…that number could rise to more than 30% by 2025. Even if those numbers are inaccurate, the reality is that the movement has become a dynamic phenomenon.”
Do you suspect, or have evidence that their numbers might be inaccurate (if so what) or are you speaking more rhetorically?
Thanks Garfield for an interesting and thorough blog at the end of the semester.
It truly has been delightful, educational, and inspiration reading blogs and learning from your creativity aspect. Thank you for a great semester of learning, you have a joyful spirit!
Peace and Love Rose Maria
Hi Garfield. Sometimes when I read your blogs I pause and think that I am reading some amazing writing. You often write at such a superior level. Thanks for challenging this cohort to a higher level of communication.
Did you find your reflection of pentecostalism in Jamaica in the ’70s and this book to be helpful with your CQ research?
What do you see as the primary differences if any, of the way Pentecostalism is worshiped in Jamaica vs. worship in the United States?
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