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

Oops My Bad, I Believe That Too, and That Is What I Was Thinking in Hong Kong!

Written by: on October 28, 2015

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.[1] 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.”[2] 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.”[3] 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.”[4]  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.”[5] 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.

[1] Donald E. Miller and Tetsunao Yamamori, Global Pentecostalism: the New Face of Christian Social Engagement (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2007), 2.

[2] Ibid., Miller and Yamamori, 2.

[3] Ibid,. Miller and Yamamori, 127.

[4] Ibid., Miller and Yamamori, 4.

[5] Ibid,. Miller and Yamamori, 165.

About the Author

Phillip Struckmeyer

16 responses to “Oops My Bad, I Believe That Too, and That Is What I Was Thinking in Hong Kong!”

  1. Jon Spellman says:

    I KNEW you were a closet Pentecostal!

    • Phillip Struckmeyer says:

      Jon, It seems funny that for the most part, whatever tradition(s) we grow up in when we find out about the heart of another traditional that might have always been labeled just the other side of the fence … we find out the fence was not as tall or thick as we thought. 🙂

      • mm Jon Spellman says:

        Today was the fall quarterly onsite gathering for the Atlanta Church Planting Alliance. We gather leaders of church planting NETWORKS/denominations into relationship and learning community. So I’m sitting around with Assembly of God, Wesleyan, Southern Baptist, PCA, Anglican, Independent Christian, Non-denominational, Foursquare… and today we weren’t all there! The C&MA guy is on Sabbatical, the WestRidge guy was called away on an emergency, the EV Free guy is still finding his way into the Alliance (but he will!) We’re all focused on how much alike we really are! It’s crazy how we have constructed those fences you mentioned but they are largely fictitious…

        J

        • mm Jon Spellman says:

          Oh I forgot to mention the New Thing Network leader for ATL is in now too!

          I would HIGHLY recommend any denominational leader who is given oversight of a city or region to make the effort to connect network leaders through some kind of an alliance. It is some of the most rewarding work I’ve done in a long time!

          • Phillip Struckmeyer says:

            Jon, Powerful stuff is happening the collaboration and a growing unity. I was just in NYC and it is amazing what Keller and the City to City network is doing. The involvement is much greater but there is a report getting ready to come out where it is believed that will show that NYC has increased its evangelical pollution from 1% to 5% over the past 8-10 years. With 8 million people in NYC and 20 million people in the greater NYC sprawl, that is a significant difference being made … and the city-wide networks are at the heart of the work God is doing. Pretty cool stuff!

        • mm Dave Young says:

          Like a little bit of heaven…

          • mm Nick Martineau says:

            Such a cool group…I wish something like that existed in Wichita. I might need to try to make it happen.

  2. mm Mary Pandiani says:

    At some point, I think I’m going to see a Dictionary According to Philip Struckmeyer. “Catholeyan”? You hit on a point, whether humorously or otherwise, that we’re seeing more hybrids of denominations, focusing on what we have in common, as Jon mentions above. At least, I see it happening in places that have the same vision as the Progressive Pentecostals – hoping to join in the work of the Spirit to bring about shalom. And interestingly enough, it’s usually places that don’t have an option not to work together. They need each other. I wonder if that’s what you’re referencing about how the Gospel changes not only individuals but an entire societies – communities are changed in part because they have to lean into one another.

    • Phillip Struckmeyer says:

      Mary, I was not thinking of the unity and common ground of the Catholeyan, but it is a good point and is what I meant. I remember seeing a couple of pictures about 5 years ago that showed to circles, each representing a different denomination, expressing how much they have in common. The first picture was based on how most denominations had believed and behaved over the past 30-40 years. The circles in this first picture barley overlapped with just a little part touching where Jesus was identified. The second picture was of almost an entire overlap that showed our little doctrinal differences as small when it is compared to the work of Jesus and the Holy Spirit in our lives. I believe we are in a new way and more and more we see the image of the second picture playing out. Funny how God works like that!

  3. mm Dave Young says:

    Phil, Love your last paragraph and it makes me want to read your dissertation… is that done yet. Just kidding. But it is inspiring to think about how the spread of the gospel transforms lives, transformed lives impact society. I also found your post convicting. It’s easy to shape our churches, our worship environments around a thread of teaching that is very theologically accurate but does little about making real change in people’s lives or in the society in which we live. Evangelicals, Pentecostals and Catholics for that matter have all done this. Believed ultimately in a small manageable gospel instead of an expanding powerful gospel.

  4. Phillip Struckmeyer says:

    Dave, It is funny, right now it seems like it takes as much radical faith to believe my dissertation will ever actually get done as it takes to believe in a powerfully expanding gospel changing the world. As far as my status right now … I am betting on the latter happening first. 🙂

  5. Travis Biglow says:

    Phil, Progressive Pentecostalism is something that all societies will need in the 21st Century. With the emergence of social media i see a new vehicle to do this. I see it as being a cure to society not so much as being political but being the presence of Christ in a hurting world.

  6. Dawnel Volzke says:

    Phil,

    I can’t wait to read your dissertation. You said, “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.” I can’t wait for the time when barriers are torn down between churches and we learn to work together for the common good of the communities in which we serve. More and more, the Lord is laying a passion on my heart to connect churches and communities together to influence meaningful change in people’s lives. We have so many resources, yet we don’t share or work together in meaningful ways. This has been bubbling in my heart since we left Cape Town…just not sure yet where the Lord is leading.

  7. Phillip Struckmeyer says:

    Dawnel, I have similarly thought there are so many good resources out there but the rate and effectiveness of implementation is greatly lacking. Implementation through effective coaching and consulting does seem to be a need in the church and helping it to better connect with the community. I will be interested to see how God leads you and in this concern and passion.

  8. mm Nick Martineau says:

    Phil…Love your post. I can really resonate with it. This book for me too really cleared up some of my pentecostal stereotypes and I also remembered your question to Jackie Pulling (particularly when Miller brought her up). And then again I thought about you while reading because it ties in nicely with your research. It’s one thing to research best practices/methods for community revival and it’s another thing to see where/how God is moving. It’s going to fun to see you piece it all together in your dissertation.

  9. mm Brian Yost says:

    “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.”

    The more we focus on this reality, the less time we have to fight and squabble amongst ourselves. While there are doctrinal differences among us, there are bigger issues at stake. It seems that the more we ache for those who don’t know Christ, the more we find ourselves working together and appreciating our differences. When we lose focus on the Great Commission and the Great Commandment, we put up walls between us and begin to focus on ourselves.

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