I must admit, I have had a very naive view of Pentecostalism. I’ve always just classified those that speak in tongues as Pentecostal and more lately I’ve connected Pentecostalism to the prosperity gospel. Well, I have been proven wrong. Miller and Yamamori’s book, Global Pentecostalism – The New Face of Christian Social Engagement, has given me a fresh view of Pentecostalism and makes me want to be one….if I’m not one already.
Miller and Yamamori start their book with a very broad definition of what it means to be Progressive Pentecostal. They claim it is “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.” Miller and Yamamori’s definition is so broad I think it covers the large majority of Christian denominations and by their definition I think I’m Pentecostal, and if I’m not I think I want to be.
I went into this book expecting to see some health/wealth gospel but was surprised to find the authors directly address this issue. Miller and Yamamori say, “It is important to note, however, that the goal of conversion is not financial; rather, financial gain is an unintended consequence of a changed life. As individuals become more disciplined in their spiritual lives, they establish patterns that contribute to their work life and business activities. This new ethic, however, does not exist in a vacuum, it is supported by a number of associated factors that strengthen the link between Pentecostalism and economic advancement.” Who wouldn’t want to be a part of that kind of Christianity? It’s not a hocus pocus form of faith where you all of a sudden become healthy and rich but instead the Truth leads to changed lives, and better lives.
According to the authors, Progressive Pentecostalism is a way of life, not just a Sunday ritual, and not just head knowledge. The authors say those that are truly progressive Pentecostals make this a way of life. They stated, “It is impossible to separate their Christian commitment from their social engagement with the community. They want to be known by their love for others, rather than by their words.” And they later go on to state that “The task of the Christian, in their opinion, is to transform people holistically, ministering to their physical as well as spiritual needs. They believe their role is to be Christ’s agent in the world, following the example that he established during his ministry on earth.”
I believe the Gospel makes a positive difference in the lives of individuals as well as communities, and when it comes to making a difference we can’t separate someone’s spiritual needs from their physical/economic needs. We too often preach solid biblical messages on Sunday but follow it up with no social interaction during the week. Miller and Yamamori have made me want to join the progressive Pentecostal movement and they concluded their book with a hopefully outlook for Progressive Pentecostals when they said, “this movement seeks a balance approach to evangelism and social action that is modeled after Jesus’ example of not only preaching about the coming kingdom of God but also ministering to the physical needs of the people they encounter.” Our cookie cutter weekend services don’t cut it anymore.
 Donald E. Miller and Tetsunao Yamamori, Global Pentecostalism: the New Face of Christian Social Engagement (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2007), 2.
 Ibid., 169
 Ibid., 40
 Ibid., 40
 Ibid., 212