Doctor of Leadership in Global Perspectives: Crafting Ministry in an Interconnected World

global pentecostalism

Written by: on October 9, 2014

In Ethiopia, Protestant churches are the next largest to Orthodox churches. Protestant Christianity is often associated with western mission aids because the people who introduced Protestant Christianity were from the western countries. Although there are some churches in Ethiopia who have partner churches in the west who support their urban and rural integrated ministries, the majority of protestant churches are indigenous and support themselves. The holistic ministry approach is not common among the majority of Evangelical and Protestant churches in Ethiopia but salvation is the majority’s primary mission focus. Thus believing communities are good at looking after their fellow believer’s physical and social needs but often less involved in the lives of others outside their Christian community. In addition, protestant churches often face rejection and physical abuse by Muslims and Orthodox Christians when sharing their faith, which makes feel other-worldly. As a country under dictatorial regime, we are also very much divided socially and politically, which also affects how we live and love our neighbors.

It is with this cultural background I read Donald E. Miller’s and Tetsunao Yamamori’s book on Global Pentecostalism: The New Face of Christian Social Engagement, which depicts compelling stories of God’s work from churches in the developing counties that are involved in significant social ministry in their respective communities. Miller and Yamamori tell their readers that in their study they intentionally excluded Pentecostal and Charismatic churches who have aligned themselves with right-wing repressive governments, who exclusively focus on healing or “health and wealth” and who emphasize conversion as their only mission to the community (pg. 2). Instead, their research focuses on churches that seek to balance between evangelism and social ministry, which the author call them Progressive Pentecostals. Miller and Yamamori define Progressive Pentecostals as “Christians who claim to be inspired by the Holy Spirit and the life of Jesus and see to holistically address the spiritual, physical, and social needs of people in their community” (pg. 2).

Miller’s and Yamamori’s definition of Protestantism poses challenging thoughts to many churches in my country who emphasize conversion as their primary mandate from God. Many protestant churches in Ethiopia have no big difference in terms of their worship styles and how they practice spiritual gifts, but their biggest challenge is how they view their place in the society. Poverty and lack of solid discipleship created an opportunity for TV evangelists to propagate the “Prosperity Gospel of health and wealth.” As a result churches “Too frequently they put most of their energy into producing crusades, tent revivals, and healing meetings and have little time left for addressing the practical social needs of members of their local community” (pg.31). How can we possibly bring about social change if we do not take time to listen and connect with the very people we are called to serve?

Miller and Yamamori share excellent examples of two prominent leaders in our time: Florence Muindi’s work among poor village in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia and Maggie Gobran’s remarkable program for impoverished children and youth in the slums of Cairo. Their stories are very remarkable. These two women left behind their affluent lifestyles to serve the poorest of poor. I was struck by Muindi’s theologies when she says, “‘ We are the hands of Jesus Chris.’”(pg.40). In the same ways, Maggie “understood that the way to touch Jesus is by ministering to the poor” (p.57). In the faith tradition I come from, people go to church on Sundays to be touched through worship and prayer which is a good thing, but they often leave the church unprepared how to encounter Jesus in everyday life for the rest of their week. Christianity becomes simply a part of their lives’ routine, they come to church and dance in worship and go home. The prayers, songs and preaching is mostly all about us, we hardly pray eyes to see and ears to hear. So, I continue to think deeper about what it takes churches in my community to learn how to balance evangelism and serving the poor. What is that motivates believes’ in my church for services? We need to remember Jesus’ simply and straightforward command—Love your God with all your heart, soul and strength and love your neighbors as yourselves .

About the Author

Telile Fikru Badecha

11 responses to “global pentecostalism”

  1. Deve Persad says:

    Thanks for your post Telile, as it provides a real life intersection between your own experience and some of the stories in the book. I appreciate your question: “How can we possibly bring about social change if we do not take time to listen and connect with the very people we are called to serve?” That is the challenge that more churches in my canadian culture are seeking to address and therefore we are slowly realizing the need to learn from those, in other parts of the world, who have been engaging their communities successfully.

    • Telile Fikru Badecha says:

      Deve, thank you for your comments. Despite our cultural differences, I believe, we all have something to learn from one another. I admire churches in your community for seeking to address and realizing the need to learn from others who have been engaging community effectively.

  2. Telile, thanks for your thoughtful post. It really made me think deeply.

    My question as a read your post has to do with balance. So what is the balance between “conversion” and “service”? I do not know the answer; however, I do know that we do need to be serving others “as the hands of Jesus.” Frankly, even though I believe this to be true, I have to look at myself and ask another question: “Bill, what are you doing?” This is a hard question for many reasons, mostly because I am not doing much with the poor and the needy. My work and ministry is primarily about teaching and encouraging students at an institution of higher education. My goal is to point students and instructors to be the people they have been created to be — but I am I doing enough? My wife and I are in the process of looking for a church right now, so we are not “plugged in” to any church work at the moment. So what kind of a church am I looking for? I am looking for one that reaches out to the poor in tangible ways, or am I looking for a typical American church that exists merely to sustain itself? This is an important search. I pray that we would find a church that sees itself as being the hands of Jesus to a needy world. I will let you know what happens.

    • rhbaker275 says:

      You are always so wonderfully transparent … this kind of honesty and “soul-bearing” leads us all to think and seek more deeply into the riches of Christ. I commented below on Telile’s post somewhat on the dilemma you reference concerning “conversion and service.” Do you agree or see the theological point that John Stott is making?

      In addition to my quote below, in his book “Christian Mission in the modern World,” he makes these observations:
      1. God is greatly concerned for … our bodies and our society.
      2. One day both body and society will be redeemed.
      3. Love compels us meanwhile to labor in both spheres, seeking to promote physical health (by therapeutic and preventive means) and seeking to create a radically different social order …” “Nevertheless,” he states, ” having emphasized the importance of these things to God and therefore to us, we still have to affirm that they are not the salvation which God is offering human beings in Christ now” (Kindle, 1210-1215).

      I pray for your family in your church…

      • Telile Fikru Badecha says:

        Ron, I appreciate your thoughtful comments on Bill’s comments and very insightful insert from John Stott theology on mission that I continue to reflect on.

  3. Telile Fikru Badecha says:

    Hi Bill, thank you for raising a great question. We must try to balance the sharing of the good news from helping the needy. It is not healthy to overemphasize one and neglect the other. From my own ministry experience, I learned that we cannot fix all the needs we see in our society, we can do what we can and leave the rest to God. As someone from the developing country, I know how money is the challenge when we want to help others but the lack of resource shouldn’t stop us from relating to others and engage in our community in any possible ways.
    Bill, I think you are shining the light of Jesus in teaching and encouraging students and fellow professors to be the people they have been created to be. Thank you for the great work! I pray you find the church that supports your vision of sharing the gospel in deeds and words.

    • rhbaker275 says:

      You said, “We must try to balance the sharing of the good news from helping the needy. It is not healthy to overemphasize one and neglect the other.” Very well stated!

  4. Hey Telile,

    Great statement you make, “How can we possibly bring about social change if we do not take time to listen and connect with the very people we are called to serve?” It is so true that if we project our own thoughts onto the people we want to serve we have done them a disservice. Or we come along and give them what we think or give them nothing at all because we don’t take the time to know them, then we have fail at social change and also on bringing Christ to the very ones we came to give the savior to.

    Another statement that I appreciated you writing was about church people how they “often leave the church unprepared how to encounter Jesus in everyday life for the rest of their week.” Is this not the challenge of the church today? Church people come and soak up all the “services” that the local church provides but leave totally unchanged. This does not build the Kingdom. God help us. Thanks for the words.

    • Telile Fikru Badecha says:

      Mitch, I agree with you. Failure to equip believers to engage with others in their community is a common phenomena among many churches today. We need to pray for our churches and also share our learnings with others our circles.
      Thank you!

  5. rhbaker275 says:

    Your post brought the text into a personal perspective for me … very rich and rewarding, yet, your writing made me sense a feeling of guilt and failure. The promise in scripture is that when we earnestly seek God, we shall find God (Dent. 4:29). And, those who hunger for righteousness shall be fulfilled (Matt. 5:7). The question is when we find God and discover the fulfillment of a righteous life, how is that live out and demonstrated in our world?

    You ask it this way, “How can we possibly bring about social change if we do not take time to listen and connect with the very people we are called to serve?” This is not just the struggle of the global South or East – I believe it is becoming the cry of the church in the West.

    You make an indictment that it is hard to bear, although true, “we hardly pray eyes to see and ears to hear.” Finding the true mission God who seeks to redeem all of creation is a difficult search and the church often misses the mark. What is the central message of going into all the world to make disciples? Is it peace with God, social equity or justice, or liberation or all of these? John Stott notes, “liberation from oppression and the creation of a new and better society are definitely God’s good will for man, yet it is necessary to add that these things do not constitute the “salvation” which God is offering the world in and through Jesus Christ” (John Stott, Christian Mission in the Modern World, Kindle, 1145). If we see evangelism – going into all the world – as sociopolitical liberation or social activism, we will have a problem with Stott’s statement. I do like the way, as Stott notes, this mission/evangelism imperative is stated in the Lausanne Covenant, paragraph 5: “reconciliation with man is not reconciliation with God, nor is social action evangelism, nor is political liberation salvation, nevertheless we affirm that evangelism and sociopolitical involvement are both part of our Christian duty…”

    You also note, “We need to remember Jesus’ simply and straightforward command—Love your God with all your heart, soul and strength and love your neighbors as yourselves .” It seems to me that the one sure way of expressing our love is to “do it unto the least of these”

  6. Telile Fikru Badecha says:

    Ron, Thank you very much for your thoughtful comments as always. My prayer for myself and the body of Christ is for God to deliver us from our selfish ambitions and help us learn from Christ how to be humble, take up His cross daily and follow His lead and serve one another.

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