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DMin, Leadership and Global Perspectives: Crafting Ministry in an Interconnected World

A Global Expression

Written by: on January 19, 2017

In Donald E. Lewis’ and Richard Pierard’s work, Global Evangelicalism: Theology, History, and Culture in Regional Perspective, the authors attempt to define the vast ocean that is evangelicalism.  While many may hear the term evangelical and immediately conjure up an American voting arm, Lewis and Pierard discuss how evangelicalism is growing movement around the world. While ninety percent of all evangelicals came from Europe and North America as early as the 1900s, this tribe of Christianity is swelling world-wide.  Mark Noll, a contributor to the book, states:

At the start of the Twenty-First century, evangelical Christianity constituted the second largest worldwide grouping of Christian believers.  Only the Roman Catholic Church enjoys more adherents in today’s world Christianity than evangelical churches.  By comparison with other    world religions, evangelical Christians – taken only by themselves rather than as part of the world’s two billion Christians – are more numerous than all Muslims and Hindus…today, the total number of evangelicals in each of Africa, Latin America, and Asia exceeds the total in Europe and North America combined (Lewis and Pierard, p. 17: Mark Noll contributor). ”

Our contributors to this work will go on to explain regional aspects of evangelicalism to offer a more defined perspective.

REFLECTION

While reading this book, it drives me back to last semester and reading Miller’s and Yamamouri’s work, Global Pentecostalism.  If what Pierard and Lewis point out about evangelicalism being concentrated on North America and Europe in the early 1900s is true, then what was the catalyst to this worldwide growth?  This is where Miller and Yamamouri come into the picture.  The beginning of the Pentecostal movement and the spread of evangelicalism go hand in hand.

While the Pentecostal/Charismatic movement as well as the Assemblies of God is often associated with ecstatic and emotional experiences, tongue talking, healing revivals and expressive prayer and worship, it was fundamentally birthed as a missionary movement. William J. Seymour was the Pastor of the Azusa Street Mission on 312 Azusa Street during the outbreak of the revival in which the Pentecostal movement was birthed.  Despite humble beginnings in this rundown dilapidated church, the fire of God fell that would eventually lead to the formation of the Assemblies of God, Church of God in Christ and a host of other Pentecostal organizations.[1]  In summing up this powerful revival that shook the foundation of Christianity, Seymour stated:

“We believe that God’s design in raising up the Apostolic Faith Church in America was to evangelize over these lands.  As proof hereof we have seen since 1906 that time of an extraordinary work of God extending throughout the United States and Territories, and throughout the whole world. [2]

Seymour did not overstate his case.  Almost immediately workers carried their experience with them and used this new power to proclaim the Gospel.[3] Azusa Street Mission soon began to send missionaries around the world.  Miller records that India, Sweden, Palestine, Angola, Liberia, China, and Japan all had Pentecostal missionaries by 1908.[4] He goes on to state:

“By 1916, only ten years after the beginning of the Los Angeles Azusa Street revival, western Pentecostal missionaries were found in at least forty-two nations outside North America and Europe.  This was indeed a remarkable achievement, especially in view of the lack of central organization and coordination, the naiveté of most of these missionaries, and the physical difficulties and opposition they encountered. [5]

Deeply moved by the Spirit and an eschatological worldview that was undergirded by their Biblical interpretation provided the framework for these missional approaches. Early Pentecostals did not see the spread of the Great Commission as an option. Rather, the fire of God that burned within these pioneer’s hearts gave them the confidence that they could change the World with the Gospel through the power of the Spirit. This is one of the single greatest factors of the spread of evangelicalism.

Conclusion

Both works, Global Evangelicalism and Global Pentecostalism, should be read as a grouping.  Both truly define the spread of Christianity.  While evangelical’s growth is certainly amazing, the term has fallen on hard times in America.  Often associated with a political movement, evangelicalism is not taken seriously as a movement of Christians any longer but is simply seen as a lobbying group for conservative politicians.  Christians in the States will have to work hard to re-frame what evangelicalism and we will probably have to separate from the highly charged politics of some wings of evangelicalism if we hope to see growth of the movement in our societies.  That being said, evangelicalism is one of the greatest religious movements in human history.  History shows that if focused in the right direction, then it can bring about transformation.

[1]  Cecil M. Robeck, Jr., “Launching a Global Movement: The Role in Azusa Street in Pentecostalism’s Growth and Expansion,” in Spirit and Power: The Growth and Global Impact of Global Pentecostalism, eds. Donald E. Miller, Kimon H. Sargeant, and Richard Flory (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2013), 44.

 

[2] IBID.

[3] Robeck, Jr., “Launching a Global Movement: The Role in Azusa Street in Pentecostalism’s Growth and Expansion,”54.

               [4] Robeck, Jr., “Launching a Global Movement: The Role in Azusa Street in Pentecostalism’s Growth and Expansion,” 55.

               [5] Allan H. Anderson, “The Emergence of Multidimensional Global Missionary Movement: Trends, Patterns and Expressions,” in Spirit and Power: The Growth and Global Impact of Global Pentecostalism, eds. Donald E. Miller, Kimon H. Sargeant, and Richard Flory (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2013), 25.

About the Author

mm

Jason Kennedy

I am a pastor of a thriving church in Grapevine, Texas. With two little girls (5,8), and a wife that is a medical doctor (family practice), life is non-stop.

7 responses to “A Global Expression”

  1. Jason I too think both books should be read as a grouping. I agree that evangelicalism has lost its “punch” so to speak. One reason I think is by the behavior of “leading” evangelicals like Franklin Graham who seem to proof-text certain Bible verses to justify access to political power. How do we as pastors “reframe” this conversation?

    • AP,
      Thanks. This may sound controversial, but I think pastors have to get back to being apolitical. This year I was invited to a “banquet” to pray for our nation. It turned out to be about electing Ted Cruz, and all these pastors were believing Cruz would save our nation. We pastors forget who our savior really is. It is not politicians. We even worship at the altar of the USA, and we forget the global dimensions of Christianity. I think we have to change our perspectives in our own minds first.
      Jason

  2. mm Marc Andresen says:

    Jason,

    Thanks for putting “Global Pentecostalism” and “Global Evangelicalism” side by side.

    Do you think either of these books provides a foundation and context for the other? In other words, does “Global Pentecostalism” fit within the framework of “Global Evangelicalism” – or the other way around? Or are they best regarded as being equal and parallel to each other?

    • Marc,
      Hope all is well. Thanks for the question. I think the rapid spread of evangelicalism is due to pentecost. Now, I may be bias 🙂
      I think both go hand in hand. I think the early pentecostals were inspired by spreading the word and were empowered by the spirit. So, I do think Pentecostalism is the driving force behind the spread of evangelicalism in the 20th century. Of course this is just my opinion. Blessings, Jason

  3. mm Phil Goldsberry says:

    Jason:

    Thank you for your wisdom in tying the two “Global” books back together. Interesting that the West is being marginalized in today’s context (and deserving of it), yet you highlighted the thrust of “going into all the world” that was found in the early 1900’s with the Holy Spirit and the Azusa Street revival.

    Do you sense that the West, especially the USA, could see another visitation and shift, like the early 1900’s, and evangelism explode again? Your thoughts.!

    Great job

    Phil

    • Phil,

      I think it is possible. However, I do not think it will. I think there is some historical context that must be viewed along with Azusa. America in the 1900s was not a global power. Before World War 1, the US was a burgeoning power, but they were not anything near where we are now. I think this is significant. Here’s why. Now that we are the world power, prosperity has spoiled us. This will make what happened in Azusa difficult. I am not saying it will never happen, but I do not think the environment is right. I think many things will have to change in America for a major shift. Just my thoughts. By the way, I have the flu, so I may not be making sense.
      Jason

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