Bebbington’s Evangelicalism in Modern Britain took me back to my own faith experiences which began in the mid-‘70s. I was particularly drawn to chapter 7 which dealt with the charismatic movement. While my dad grew up in the culturally Catholic state of Bavaria Germany, my mom grew up in a southern Primitive Baptist environment heavily influenced by her favorite paternal aunt who was United Pentecostal (oneness or modalism in relation to the Godhead). This combination along with dad’s WWII PTSD rage issues made for a culturally and religiously divisive family of origin environment. Eventually, I landed in the Assemblies of God (AoG) in 1975 and soon felt called to be a pastor. During the late-‘70s and ‘80s, I pursued ordination and eventually became a pastor of a local AoG church. The following reflections are from this context of being a local pastor within that Pentecostal denomination.
The Assemblies were formed out of the Pentecostal revival of Azusa Street in 1914. This move of the Holy Spirit has been called the First Wave of the Holy Spirit. Similar to the Restorationism movement, there was a strong tone of anti-denominationalism among the AoG which therefore chose to call itself a fellowship rather than a denomination. Also, similar to the Restorationism movement, it was formed to be a home for the disaffected pastors, missionaries, and congregants who were no longer welcome within their former church affiliations. As a local pastor during the ‘80s and ‘90s, these feelings and sentiments were still very much alive and well among AoG clergy.
While I am unsure of the scope and scale of British Pentecostalism in place at the onset of the Charismatic renewal, the AoG certainly viewed themselves as the largest global Pentecostal denomination and perhaps, therefore, the gatekeepers of the classical Pentecostal tenets. I can see from our subject source why the AoG was reticent and even distanced itself from engaging with and openly supporting the “new” Charismatic renewal. This move of the Holy Spirit has been called the Second Wave of the Holy Spirit. First, within Pentecostal worship practices, there has always been the temptation to emphasize dramatic experiences (or exciting testimonies) over Scripture. The Charismatic renewal as a fledgling movement typically included many excessive worship expressions. Second, coupled with the alleged (from the AoG perspective) doctrinal errors of more liberal denominations and even Roman Catholics, Pentecostals found affirmation to be an untenable position. Third, Pentecostal experiences in the early twentieth century formerly led pastors and congregants to leave their former affiliations (as in Restorationism) and join or form Pentecostal fellowships. However, congregants and ministers during the Charismatic renewal often stayed within former affiliations and instead influenced their respective locales with their newfound worship expressions. Perhaps pridefully, Pentecostals could neither understand nor reconcile how Charismatics who enjoyed the same worship expressions (e.g., speaking in tongues) would choose to stay within their former affiliations instead of joining classing Pentecostal associations. Bebbington states, “For all its legacy from Pentecostalism, the charismatic movement had different cultural affinities.”
Our source mentions the Vineyard movement leader John Wimber and the impact of his visits to England and Scotland in the mid-‘80s. His empowered evangelical approach gave a fresh impetus to the charismatic cause in Britain. Bebbington states, “Repeatedly the new world was called in to bring vision to the old.” From my faith journey, I had to work through many questions and constructs as I felt drawn to leave the AoG and move towards the Vineyard movement in the early 2000s. While I never met John, the legacy of his “Doin’ the Stuff” leadership style lives on in today’s global Vineyard movement. Ed Stetzer explains how John Wimber and the Vineyard Movement were catalysts for what became known as the Third Wave of the Holy Spirit. For Britain and the rest of the world, I wonder how the next wave will express itself? I wonder what my role will be in its unfolding story?
My takeaway from my selected reading of this source is the amazing ways our faith journeys, stories, and histories are tied together. Currently, I am assisting the coaching network within the Vineyard movement serving the UK and Ireland. I am planning to meet with this team of coaches (in person for the first time) at their annual planning retreat immediately before our London/Oxford advance. I joy in playing a small role in the unfolding of the ongoing story of evangelicalism in modern Britain.
 Bebbington, D. W., Evangelicalism in Modern Britain: A History from the 1730s to the 1980s, rev. ed. (New York, NY: Routledge, 1989), 230.
 Bebbington, Evangelicalism in Modern Britain, 231-232.
Ed Stetzer, “The Third Wave: The Continualist Movement Continues,” Christianity Today (October 23, 2013), accessed December 28, 2018, https://www.christianitytoday.com/edstetzer/2013/october/third-wave.html.