A History of the Charismatic / Pentecostal Movement.
Key Notes: Definitions. Latin America. Africa. Asia. Europe. America. A personal view.
In a simplified way one could say that Pentecostalism refers to any denomination or group that traces its historical origin back to the revival that began in the US in’01 and that holds to 3 doctrinal positions:
(1) baptism in the Holy Spirit is ordinarily an event necessary to conversion, and
(2) baptism in the Holy Spirit is made evident by the sign of speaking in tongues, and
(3) all spiritual gifts mentioned in the NT are to be sought and used today.
The terms “Pentecostal” and “charismatic” are often used interchangeably. Indeed, they do have many features in common and have common roots. Pentecostal groups usually have distinct denominational structures, the most prominent of which is the Assemblies of God.” (Systematic Theology. W.Grudem; Zondervan,’94, p.763). Other classical Pentecostal denominations are the Church of God (Cleveland, Tenn.), the Church of God in Christ, and the International Church of the Foursquare Gospel.
Roots of Pentecostal theology are found in’-century Fundamentalism:
(1) holiness groups;
(2) revivalism, e.g. Charles Finney;
(3) faith healing movement;
(4) premillenialism and a need to live in expectation of the imminent return of Christ;
(5) restorationist longings for the vitality and miracles of NT Christianity.
All these streams contributed to the ‘four-square’ emphases of Pentecostal preaching: Christ the Savior, Christ the Baptizer in the Holy Spirit, Christ the Healer, and Christ the Coming King.
The charismatic movement grew out of the same roots and followed many of the teachings of Pentecostalism.
In a simplified way one could say that “Charismatic" refers to any groups that
(1) trace their historical origin to the charismatic renewal movement of the’60s and’70s,
(2) seek to practice all the spiritual gifts mentioned in the NT (including prophecy, healing, miracles, tongues, interpretation, and distinguishing between spirits), and
(3) allow differing viewpoints on whether baptism in the Holy Spirit is necssary to conversion and whether tongues are a sign of baptism in the Holy Spirit.
“Charismatics will very often refrain from forming their own denomination, but will view themselves as a force for renewal within existing Protestant and Roman Catholic churches. There is no representative charismatic denomination in the US today, but the most prominent charismatic spokesman is probably Pat Robertson with Christian Broadcasting Network, the television program “the 700 Club,” and Regent University (formerly CBN University).” (Grudem)
In summary, the charismatic renewal (like the Pentecostal one) seemed to flow out of a perceived vacuum in American religious life, and a longing to return to the essence of NT Christianity, either within one’s own church tradition, or, if need be, in separate separate charismatic communities, and later, independent megachurches.
C. The “Third Wave”: “In the’80s yet a third renewal movement arose, called the “Third Wave” by missions professor C. Peter Wagner at Fuller Seminary. (He referred to the Pentecostal renewal as the first wave of the Holy Spirit’s renewing work in the modern church, and the charismatic movement as the second wave).
"Third wave" people encourage the equipping of all believers to use NT spiritual gifts today, and believe that the proclamation of the gospel should ordinarily be accompanied by “signs,wonders, and miracles,” according to the NT pattern. They teach, however, that baptism in the Holy Spirit happens to all Christians at conversion, and that
subsequent experiences are better called “filling” with the Holy Spirit.”“The most prominent representative of the “third wave” is [was] John Wimber, senior pastor of the Vineyard Christian Fellowship in Anaheim, CA, and leader of the Association of Vineyard Churches.” (Grudem)
D. Assessment of the Three Waves: With their exuberant worship, vibrant preaching, emphasis on subjective religious experience and spiritual gifts, claims of miracles and wonders, and a language of experiential spirituality, rather than of theology, the three waves seek to daily live out the will of God in joy and service to win others.
They have spread to other Protestant churches, the Roman Catholic church, and finally the Orthodox churches in a flexible variety of worship patterns, cultural adaptations, ecclesiastical structures, and methods of evangelism. Their success in evangelism may well constitute the most dramatic increase in numbers of believers in the history of the Christian church.
It has been projected that in countries where there is a significant Christian presence, Pentecostal / charismatic churches will be the fastest-growing group in at least 80% of those nations. (DPCM. see below). Thus, it is worthwhile to look at this growth using the following references:
*Dictionary of Pentecostal ahd Charismatic Movemen. (Dictionary of Pentecostal and Charismatic Movement. (DPCM). S.M.Burgess and G. B.McGee, edit., Grand Rapids: Zondervan,1988
*Christianity Reborn, (CR ) The Global Expansion of Evangelicalism in the Twentieth Century. D.M.Lewis, ed. Eerdmans; 2004 (based on Conference papers given in’99).
*New Dictionary of Theology. [NDT] S.B.Ferguson, D.F.Wright, and J.I.Packer, eds., IVP ’88;
E. Remarkable Growth in Numbers; Effects; Dangers: Globally, Pentecostals / charismatics are the largest distinct category of Protestants today. (DPCM)
In’80 the adherents of the major Protestant families of the world were:
|Pentecostals||~51 million||Charismatics||~11||(when not in other denominations)|
From’75 to’85 Pentecostal / charismatic groups grew from 95 to 247 million! Today’s figures are even higher.
Spot checking global regions:
Latin America: Continent-wide statistics are hard to come by, but overall, there are more Portuguese-speaking than Spanish-speaking Pentecostals. (CR) The explosion of Protestantism in Latin America has been Pentecostal in orientation: Of the 50 million Protestants, 30 million ( 60%) are ~Pentecostal / charismatic.;
Brazil has the largest Protestant community = 15 % of population, 2/3 of them Pentecostal.
Chile has 15–20% Protestants, 3/4 of them Pentecostal.
Guatemala has 20–30% Protestants, ~ 3/4 of them Pentecostal.
El Salvador has 22 % Protestants, ~2/3 of them Pentecostal.
Assessment (mostly via CR):
1) Pentecostalism is both Christian and close to popular Latin American religiosity.
2) Latin American Pentecostalism is extremely segmented, with hundreds of independent churches. This seems to facilitate social flexibility, competition, localized supply, and expansion. It creates voluntary networks, in place of inevitable ones given by birth or indigenous communal identity.
3) Lack of history and tradition provide more freedom to adapt, but also cause certain problems. One of these problems is diluted heritage. The Bible is accepted as the sole theoretical source of authoritative knowledge, yet independent churches are formed around dynamic leaders, often from the same social class as the participants. These leaders often feel that God selected them and speaks especially through them. They tend to be good entrepreneurs, but bad collaborators.
4) Pentecostalism tends to accommodate the poor in general. Women, men, families are greatly helped. A more positive practical context for black struggles for equality is provided.
5) Assessment of economic attitudes and outcomes may need two or three more generations. Hard evidence for upward social mobility is scarce.
6) Political role of Pentecostalism. Presidents Collor in Brazil and Fujimori in Peru ignored the “evangélicos” once elected. Later, in the’86 elections of Brazil, several leading Pentecostal churches chose official candidates in internal primaries, helping the Protestant caucus in Congress to rise from 14 to 33. In Guatemala, President Serrano became a charismatic. With a 30% Protestant population - 80 % of them Pentecostal / charismatic, and proximity to the US, election of 22 Protestant national deputies was possible. Protestants, mostly middle- and upper-class charismatics, have become key figures in social work and education, areas which the State has virtually handed over to them.
In summary, “Pentecostalism and evangelical renewal have offered a new voice and a fresh space for the adoption of transforming disciplines that fast-forward the aspirations of millions as they move from countryside to megacity. Also offered are a protective capsule for women and the opportunity to reform the family.” On the other hand, “keying-in” to popular culture creates the dangers of perpetual motion, theatricality, irrationality, and cheapening of salvation. A more stable membership and leadership might produce greater influence on social reform.
Africa: The Christian movement south of the Sahara increased from ~ 10 million at the beginning of the 20th century to ~ 400 million by the end. Classical Pentecostal denominations do not play as much of a part proportionally in church growth in Africa as they do in Latin America. However, some 30 million people belong to newer independent churches that resemble Pentecostal or charismatic ones even though there is no organizational link. (DPCM)
Nigeria is the largest nation in Africa, divided roughly half and half between Christians and Muslims. Until recently, it was ruled by a large Muslim military establishment. Pentecostalism is credited with creating autonomous space over against corruption, monopolies of power, State violence, and economic exploitation. There is communal solidarity and mutual assistance protecting against “the world”. Many Pentecostal / charismatic churches appeal to the young and mobile, with a strong base in the universities. (CR)
In other countries like Ghana, Zimbabwe and Zambia, many evaded older missionary control and slid back into the old ways until the sixties, when a serious expansion of Pentecostalism began, with healings and vibrant services setting aside written orders, taking untrained pastors, and expressing an undertone of protest against a religion based on rules that neglected the Spirit. Reviving healing and exorcisms in the Christian context, believers can revisit the past safely rather than submit to a radical disenchantment that rejects the whole world of the spirit. There is space to negotiate modernity and hope for material betterment. In these countries, Pentecostal churches now make up ~ 10% of the population, matching proportions present in Latin America.
In southern Africa Pentecostals countered personal social disintegrations of violence, promiscuity, alcoholism, gambling, and crime. As in Latin America, they created a counter-society based on work, self-discipline, the integrity of the family, and the mutuality of the church. (CR)
Assessment: As so often, danger lies in concentrations of power and displays of success canceling the atmosphere of participation. There are tensions between an older more populist Pentecostalism that acknowledged suffering, the danger of riches, and valuing humility on the one hand, and on the other a smoother Christianity susceptible to personality cults, display, greed, and opportunistic alliances with politicians of doubtful records.
Asia: In none of the 25 Asian nations has a classical Pentecostal denomination risen to the top, although Pentecostal / charismatic growth rates surpass that of other groups in many Asian countries. (DPCM)
In China, denominationalism as we know it, is nonexistent. Of the 50 million believers in China (~ 2% of a population of 1 billion), 10–12 million are probably tongue-speakers. A larger number belong to ministries that are characterized by prophecies, healings, signs, and wonders, miracles, deliverances, up-raised hands, and the like. From that appearance, Pentecostals and charismatics probably number 43 million, growing from 13 million in just 5 years, mostly by adult conversions from non-Christian backgrounds! (DPCM).
Singapore is exceptional. A dramatic shift among young, high-status, English-educated Chinese occurred toward charismatic Christianity. Protestantism is viewed as modern, international, and offering an orderly rational world. Charismatic Christianity is well-adapted to an English-speaking middle class of a modernizing society and fits well with health and prosperity presentations of the gospel. At the same time, charismatic churches connect them also with their spiritist past by providing a strong sense of the supernatural that is to be realized in renewed personal identities and moral reformation. (CR)
South Korea has a large portion of Pentecostal / charismatic groups and also strong third wave influences.
In India, “a large proportion of (south) Indian Christians now belong to activist churches which emphasize the gifts of the Spirit, including prayer, healing, exorcism, and prophecy. They have charismatic leaders and promote corporate and individual discipline. At their heart are assemblies of people under lay leadership with little regard for established hierarchies. The professional and commercial classes are also attracted, both by the new churches and by parallel changes in the older Christian bodies, including Catholicism.”
Whether Latin America, Africa, or Asia, the amazing success of the Jesus Film by Campus Crusade (CRU) illustrates what has been happening: Non-technically trained villagers take its message literally and believe that Jesus heals the sick and casts out demons today. New converts begin healing ministries almost as soon as they are saved. Campus Crusade’s Paul Eschleman tells story after story of the signs and wonders that follow the Jesus Film in the Third World.
Europe as whole has a 5% adult Protestant attendance at church. Pentecostal and charismatic incursions have been minor, although they seem to be the only ones that have major growth in numbers. Folk and ethnic traditions have become absorbed into a militant secularized high tradition associated with the State and national solidarity. These provide a religious identity and inhibit commitment to a Pentecostal or charismatic church, because this would likely result in loss or reduction of status and of community membership. Spiritual apathy prevails.
In America ,a’85 estimate for Pentecostal / charismatics is 9 million adults active weekly attenders. This includes ~ 4.2 million charismatics (2.8 Protestant, 1.4 Catholic). Growth by’90 was expected to reach ~ 15 million; by 2000 ~40 million.
Two Personal Observations:
1) Most Pentecostal and charismatic groups are predominantly Arminian. I personally believe that sound Reformed theology best guards and complements a charismatic experience. The two together provide a wonderful balance between objective sound doctrine and a vital subjective relationship with God.
2) When I personally heard teaching about baptism in the church, I repented of all known sins and yielded again every area of my life to God, asking Jesus to baptize me in the Holy Spirit. I received an immersion baptism, and a month later, with the help of some friends and in the privacy of our living room, began speaking in tongues quite readily. I see this experience as a filling with the same Spirit who had earlier caused my conversion, a great hunger to study God’s word, teach it to my children, apply it in my work, and mention it to my colleagues. And I welcome other fillings that may come, usually as I read and meditate on God’s Word, in order to worship my Father in heaven, glorify Jesus, and ask the Holy Spirit for assurance and guidance in my life.
Prepared by I. Wallow, MD. Dec.2004