Global Pentecostalism, The New Face of Christian Social Engagement by Donald E. Miller and Tetsunao Yamamori is a look at the Pentecostal movement in the 21st century. Miller and Yamamori take an in depth look at how the Pentecostal work has changed and developed since it’s modern day inception in 1901 in Topeka, Kansas to the present. They look at the morphing of this very conservative and somewhat narrow legalistic brand of Christianity to the fastest growing Protestant brand in todays’ world.
Miller and Yamamori define Pentecostalism as both a Holy Spirit inspiredly driven denomination as well as an independent movement that is not only focused on evangelism, holistic well being, and “ecstatic” worship, but also social needs and reform. Much focus is on an emergence of Pentecostalism defined as Progressive Pentecostalism, who combine classic pentecostal distinctive while addressing “the spiritual, physical and social needs of people in their community.” (Miller, 2). The authors are quick to point out that “Pentecostalism is not a uniform phenomena”(Miller, 19) but rather varies greatly depending upon culture and geographic locale. Probably the biggest departure from classic Pentecostalism that Miller and Yamamori point out is to distill common myths: hyper emotional services populated with physical manifestation, composition of Pentecostal churches are lower-class uneducated needy people, and that they are too heavenly minded.
I thought this book was well written, fairly reported, and a true snapshot of what the Pentecostal Church looks like today. I loved the fact that Miller and Yamamori stayed out of the theological weeds of the dispensation of the Holy Spirit in the the 20th and 21st century. They reported on what was indeed happening today and not just in one social, economical, or geographical area, but what the Pentecostal Church looks like world wide.
As a third generation Pentecostal believer that traces my roots back to the 1906 Azusa Street Revival and the founding of the Assemblies of God in Hot Springs, Arkansas in 1914, I found this book spot on. I really liked the “Progressive Pentecostal” perspective that was offered and described as “a progressive element within the AG and other denominations that is not sectarian in a legalistic sense and instead embraces many elements of contemporary culture, albeit with clear limits regarding promiscuity, corrupt business practices, political compromise, and other behaviors.” (Miller 29) That is the Pentecostal church that I pastor and am a part.
This growing and developing “progression” that moves the Pentecostal Church from a holy huddle to a life changing place is what I am committed to as a leader. I and the Progressive Pentecostal Church hold fast to classic Pentecostal theology (embrace and practice of book of Acts Holy Spirit dispensation and activity) without the classic culture that has often accompanies it (hyper emotional services populated with various manifestations). The reason for this departure is not theological but cultural. First, the reason for the Pentecostal church is not for the “found” but the lost. In many situations, the lost never get a chance to experience life change, not because of the Holy Spirit but the hyper emotional culture surrounding it. Second, the Pentecostal Church as demonstrated in the book of Acts is all about meeting the holistic needs of people. Third, the best way to reach the lost (Great Commission) with the love of Jesus is to minister with compassion to the felt needs first just as Jesus did and allow the Holy Spirit to lead us and work in them.
I feel the Progressive Pentecostal church is what the church of the first century was all about. Ministering to the spiritual needs: 3,000 saved at Pentecost. Ministering to the physical needs: Peter with lame man at Gate Beautiful. Ministering to the social needs: Acts 2:46, “…breaking bread from house to house, they ate with gladness.” As the authors point out this occurs in all shapes and sizes of churches, in all cultures, economies, and geographies. I write this blog from a café in Burma visiting with Pentecostal ministerial students and leaders that embrace the same brand of church that I lead half a world away. The Progressive Pentecostal Church truly is Progressing around the world.