Oops My Bad, I Believe That Too, and That Is What I Felt in Hong Kong!
I had three major reactions while receiving and positioning “Global Pentecostalism: The new face of Christian social engagement” by Donald Miller and Tetsunao Yamamori into my personal library. First I had a “Oops, my bad” moment. Next I was thinking “I believe that too,” and finally, I had a “That is what I was felt in Hong Kong.”
The “Oops my bad” came when Miller and Yamamori dispelled the stereo types of Pentecostalism when working to define their take on Progressive Pentecostalism. I was definitely guilty of seeing a narrow view of Pentecostalism as health and wealth Prosperity Gospel driven, focused on sign gifts of tongues, prophecy and healing, and bent towards emotive and expressive worship. Miller and Yamamori went on the define Progressive Pentecostalism as … “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.” Personally that is what I see or at least hopefully see my Catholeyan (Catholic/Wesleyan) Evangelical profile as, so I initially found myself guilty of being naïve to what God is up to in Progressive Pentecostalism … but I will own that for now.
Secondly, actually somewhat eluded to above I thought, “I believe that!” This thought came more clearly from the chapter entitle “Practicing the Faith: Transforming Individuals and Society.” Miller and Yamamori state Progressive Pentecostals “Embrace the Pentecostal tradition of the power of the Holy Spirit and the emphasis on personal transformation, but they also engage the world around them.” In this chapter, the stories of four key ministries studied and researched were told, finding radical life change being experienced and being experienced in such a way as to create social impact.
The social impact accomplished as Miller and Yamamori describe was relatively nonpolitical. “Progressive Pentecostals are not trying to reform social structures or challenge government policies so much as they are attempting to build from the ground up an alternative social reality.” This was clearly articulated to me when I specifically asked Jackie Pullinger if there was any political or social organizing that St. Stephen’s Society was engaged in. The two primary distinctives Miller and Yamamori noted in common with these ministries is there was an absolute unconditional love and supernatural intervention. It was the love and the supernatural not only transforming lives but doing so by addressing some of the greatest social ills of the culture and context and providing an alternative social culture and context for addicts, victims, and the enslaved being reached and transformed.
At the heart of my dissertation work is the core belief that the Gospel, where it is truly being offered and experienced doesn’t only change lives but it has to impact society. Most of what I am discovering in my research would support a Progressive Pentecostal approach, best articulated by Stanely Hauerwas, (not a Progressive Pentecostal) that the Church has been designed to effect society by offering the alternative society God designed and desires his people to actually live out. So again in discovering what Progressive Pentecostalism actually believes and practices, I thought, “I believe that too!”
Finally, “That is what I felt when I was in Hong Kong” relates to my reaction when I read Miller and Yamamori in chapter six conclude, “Hence Pentecostalism ethic is very similar to the Protestant ethic – namely, it produces people who are honest , disciplined, transparent in their business dealings, people who view their vocation, humble or elevated, as a calling by God that warrants commitment.” No sooner than when I turned the page I see Miller and Yamamori diving into Weber and his work on the Protestant ethic. What I thought in Hong Kong, as we heard about a rather optimistic state and future of Christianity in Hong Kong and mainland China, and that the government was rather favorable towards Christianity helping out socially and morally, was that this is like in the West how Christianity helped capitalism and capitalism helped Christianity.
To me it makes sense that in developing countries God is using Christianity, a Progressive Pentecostal Christianity, to help shape society, as much as much as the society may be “using” it, to advance the spread of the Gospel and the hopeful transformation of individuals and society as a whole. When one life begins to realize she is made in the image of God, that her life has infinite worth and that all people and lives should be viewed and held in such regard, and when a group of people begin to live as a community of lives that hold such tenants to be ultimately true … Christianity is not going to be able to do anything but spread as it transforms lives and shapes society or societies back into God’s intended way. Whether government and socio-political systems are tapping into that or not, it is true and seems to be what God is using to bring renewal and redemption to the world yesterday, today, and probably tomorrow.
 Donald E. Miller and Tetsunao Yamamori, Global Pentecostalism: the New Face of Christian Social Engagement (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2007), 2.
 Ibid., Miller and Yamamori, 2.
 Ibid,. Miller and Yamamori, 127.
 Ibid., Miller and Yamamori, 4.
 Ibid,. Miller and Yamamori, 165.