DMINLGP

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

The Engine

Written by: on December 1, 2016

“The major engine driving this transformation [of the demographics of Christendom] is Pentecostalism…The engine of Pentecostalism is its worship.” This is the bold claim of Drs. Donald Miller and Tetsunao Yamamori in their book, Global Pentecostalism: The new Face of Christian Social Engagement. [1]

In a well documented and readable volume these two men present the findings of a four year, twenty nation study of the Pentecostal movement and its holistic ministry. As they trace a brief history of Pentecostals they describe the distinctives of an emergent movement within Pentecostalism. They created “a new term to define ths movement, which is Progressive Pentecostalism,” defining Progressive Pentecostals 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]

Miller and Yamamori state, “…the thesis of this book is that some of the most innovative social programs in the world are being initiated by fast-growing Pentecostal churches.” [3] The authors distinguish this work as being “different from either the Social Gospel or Liberation Theology. With a few exceptions, it is relatively nonpolitical.” [4]

Their intent in writing is clear. “The central question of this book is whether Pentecostalism in all of its different manifestations can have an impact on the many problems facing our world, and especially developing nations. Our answer to this question is a qualified ‘yes,’…” [5]

As Miller and Yamamori praise the Progressive Pentecostal movement, one odd aspect of their writing is that at least three times, they repeat a similar phrase: “At the risk of being accused of having gone native [emphasis mine]…” [6] For some reason they seem to feel the need to make sure their readers don’t think they’ve been swept up into the Pentecostal movement. Whether this is restated defensively, or in order to maintain an air of objectivity is not clear. But they seem to need to be clear on this point.

The authors wrote, “…we see a blend of functional and substantive reasons for the growth of the movement. Some of these explanations fit neatly in the deprivation box of religion as a compensation for the misery and pain of life.” [7]

Since 2005 I have made four trips to Uganda and two to Liberia and have observed an intriguing ecstacy in the worship life of Christians. I have watched and contemplated what I see, trying to understand their rapture. This past August, during a personally emotionally low period half way through my month in Uganda it became clearer, when I found myself alone and isolated from virtually everything familiar and comfortable. It was then that I realized the down side of living a life filled with material blessing.

My language to describe this phenomenon and analysis of worship would not follow the line of “deprivation” as though God were saying, “you’ve had a tough life and have been good. Here’s your reward; here’s some compensation.” Rather, the spiritually deep connection I observe occurs in life-contexts of few, or no “distractions.” What we might call “deprivation” is also the absence of the myriad of things that vie for our attention in wealthy America. We humans see what is in front of us. If what we see is material blessing, then that is what we look at. Absent the distraction of wealth, we are forced to look beyond material blessing and have less that “gets in the way” of seeing God.

My conclusion is not that the misery is simply replaced with an emotional high or a distraction, but rather that without pleasure and comfort, the worshipers actually experience God at a deeper and more profound level.

A second point of personal connection came in the description of Kampala Pentecostal Church. “…church members have created a series of villages…and the houses were arranged in circular clusters of eight homes, with the doors facing inward toward a large central lawn.” Each home had eight children and a single mom to care for them. [8] “The formula for healing these children is quite simple: unconditional love offered within a structured environment.” [9]

In 2006 we saw this exact model in an orphanage outside Kampala, operated by an American missionary couple. Mr. and Mrs. Danger were careful to create a healthy environment that was close to the standard of living likely to be experienced by the children once they “aged out” of the orphanage. Our experience with orphans in Uganda affirms “…and most important, help these children think about their future.” [10]

It was also gratifying to read of Miller’s and Yamamori’s meeting with Jackie Pullinger. I read Chasing the Dragon perhaps a decade ago. Meeting Jackie Pullinger in Hong Kong last year was a profoundly moving experience.

Our cohort was also treated to a reunion with one of our books from last year. “Max Weber…prepared the way in his classic volume The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism.” [12] Our current authors nicely summarized the work of Weber. They remind us of “two key concepts that emerged out of the Protestant Reformation.” From Matin Luther we gain the value of “calling,” showing that all professions are of value, and from John Calvin the reminder of salvation being a matter of God’s grace and that the reward for hard work can exhibit the signs of election. [13]

Yamamori and Miller connect Weber to their work by stating, “…the lifestyle of Pentecostals does not differ substantially from Weber’s description of the Puritans…Furthermore, their businesses gain a reputation for honest transactions…” [14] They add an interesting comment about the life of Pentecostals: “The warmth of their community life compensates for the denial associated with their moral discipline.” [15]

Throughout this book I was continually reminded of Jeremiah 29:7 and the prophet’s call to seek the welfare of the city and to pray to the Lord on its behalf. What Global Pentecostalism reports is as clear a presentation of Jeremiah as I have seen.

[1] Donald E. Miller and Tetsunao Yamamori, Global Pentecostalism: The new Face of Christian Social Engagement (Berkeley and Los Angeles, CA: University of California Press, 2007) 17, 23.
[2] Ibid., 2.
[3] Ibid., 6.
[4] Ibid., 4.
[5] Ibid., 31
[6] Ibid., 219
[7] Ibid., 22
[8] Ibid., 69.
[9] Ibid., 70.
[10] Ibid., 69.
[11] Ibid., 28.
[12] Ibid., 162
[13] Ibid., 163
[14] Ibid., 164-165
[15] Ibid., 172

About the Author

mm

Marc Andresen

I have a B. A. in Music from San Diego State University and received an M. Div. from Fuller Theological Seminary in 1977. July 1 2015 I retired after 38 years in pastoral ministry. The passion and calling that developed in the last 20 years is leadership training in cross-cultural contexts, as my wife and I have had many opportunities to teach in Eastern Europe and Africa. I have been married for 38 years and have two adult children, one daughter-in-law and a beautiful granddaughter. My hobbies are photography and British sports cars.

12 responses to “The Engine”

  1. Marc,

    Thanks for your writing. In the context of worship, what have you experienced on the campus and on the mission field? Do those two settings ever merge together? Students from another country who have been influenced by Pentecostal worship, do they ever come and interact with your student ministry? Always interesting what people have seen and experienced globally.

    Kevin

    • mm Marc Andresen says:

      Kevin,

      I have to say that other than trying to meet international students I have not really been a part of any worship times with students. So I don’t have much comparison point.

      My observations are in Africa in various settings. Sorry I can’t give you report on interactions.

  2. mm Phil Goldsberry says:

    Marc:

    Great perspective! Do you feel that the writers allocated the effectiveness of Pentecostalism/charismatics to “developing nations”? Is this an anomaly that is only outside the U.S.?

    Having been with you in Hong Kong, did you believe that they presented St. Stephen’s Society correctly?

    Phil

    • mm Marc Andresen says:

      Phil,

      I can only guess. It seems there interest was purely on developing nations, and I would guess that what they studied did not intend to make comment at all on what happens within the U. S.

      Also, I don’t have any data, but I would not think that what the authors describe happens only outside the U. S. I think the book is purely a function of their choice to focus on developing nations.

      St. Stephens – I will say it this way: I did not read anything in their report of St. Stevens that seemed out of line. Having read “Chasing the Dragon” many years ago, their report seems consistent from what I read in that book.

  3. Pablo Morales says:

    Marc,
    You shared an insight in your blog that got me thinking. You said, “My conclusion is not that the misery is simply replaced with an emotional high or a distraction, but rather that without pleasure and comfort, the worshipers actually experience God at a deeper and more profound level.”

    When I was ministering in Liberia, I noticed the lyrics of the worship songs. People were singing a lot about the hope of eternity in light of the temporal suffering. Some of the Pastors had suffered horrible things throughout the war, and there was a depth to their worship that I found inspiring. Even though this was not in a charismatic context, it was nonetheless a heartfelt worship.

    Suffering seems to make us connect at a more emotional level in our worship. I remember the worship during my daughter’s memorial service. Singing in the midst of grieving brought a whole new flavor to the words we were praying through song. “In Christ alone my hope is found, He is my light, my strength my song… ’till He returns or calls me home here in the power of Christ I’ll stand.”

    I believe you are right in your observation. Tragedy and pain can help us experience God in a more profound level than we seem to experience in times of comfort.

    Thank you for a great blog.
    Pablo

    • mm Marc Andresen says:

      Pablo,

      I believe that I have observed an experiencing of God at a deeper level and in a more profound and real way than is the experience of most(?) American Christians. I think somehow God’s presence is more palpable for the believers I have met several times in Uganda and Liberia.

      It is part of God’s grace and mercy that the pain we experience can actually serve to bring us deeper into God’s presence and deeper relationship with Him. I came through 2009, when my mom and brother died, and 2010, when I went through cancer surgery with a testimony of a significantly deeper awareness of the mercy of God. It is His doing and His presence.

      I can barely imagine the depths of pain and the depths of the mercy of God experienced by you and your wife.

  4. mm Rose Anding says:

    Thanks Marc for a great blog on Miller and Yamamori
    Why do you think they name this new movement the “Progressive Pentecostals,” whom they define 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 the people in their community” (pp. 2, 212). I was Pondering on the facts of what happen on the day of pentecost in the book of Acts. Why is it being called progressive… does the gospel need a facelift? Just my thoughts.
    A great blog and thank you for a great semester of sharing Rose Maria

    • mm Marc Andresen says:

      Rose,

      Great question, and I can only guess, of course. As I read this book I would say they used the word “progressive” because as they studied the ministries in these 20 countries they saw forward progress in that state of the Church. As we live out Jeremiah 29:7 our following of Christ grows as we demonstrate in word and deed the truth of God’s love. As non-Pentecostals they probably view the social engagement as an important addition to the ministries of these churches.

      Immediately following Pentecost there are wonderful pictures of God’s people sharing everything in life, including meals together. Acts shows us a holistic Church.

  5. mm Garfield Harvey says:

    Marc,
    Great blog and interaction of some scholarly work. Over the last few weeks I’ve been studying on cultural Intelligence (CQ) and found that our effectiveness in business or ministry is dependent on having CQ. You referenced Jeremiah 29:7 about his calling to the city. I think it’s important that we first understand our calling and respond based on our understanding of the culture. Had Jeremiah responded outside the cultural context, he wouldn’t have been effective. Pentecostalism existed for years, but as you’ve noticed, the authors needed to brand it as being “Progressive” to meet the societal context in which we live.

    Garfield

    • mm Marc Andresen says:

      Garfield,

      My assessment of the book, and having witnessed St. Stephens and Kampala Pentecostal Church, is that you are accurate in your comment, and that the ministries sited did implement culturally appropriate and sensitive ministry.

      Part of the story of Kampala Pentecostal Church is that its founder is Canadian, but he figured out how to contextualize ministry. One of the “products” of that church is my friend Gerald Mwebe who started his own church in a Kampala slum and has replicated the Pentecostal church ministry. Streams of Life Church has also grown significantly in the last fifteen years.

  6. Hi Marc. Love your writing this term. I too think Jeremiah 29 is key here. I’ve been meditating on those verses all Fall. As was said in our Zoom this morning, “You are more scholarly than you give yourself credit.” Great blogging this semester my friend.

    • mm Marc Andresen says:

      Aaron,

      Thanks for the kind remarks. (The real intellectual in my house is my wife who completed a double major at Stanford in four years and didn’t think it was hard.)

      I am thrilled when I see Jeremiah 29 put into action. I see the emerging generation of leaders very cued into this prophet’s call.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *