Pentecostalism–a variety of Evangelical Protestantism for which direct experience of God and baptism with the Holy Spirit are crucial features–is experiencing something of a boom in many parts of the world today. According to this essay by the historian of religion, Randall J. Stephens, Pentecostalism is “the second-largest subgroup of global Christianity” and claims “a worldwide following of 430 million”–an estimate that is likely already dated since Stephens wrote the piece.
Here are two recent books from Oxford University Press that discuss this religious phenomenon and its historical, political, and social importance. The first is To the Ends of the Earth: Pentecostalism and the Transformation of World Christianity by Allan Heaton Anderson (OUP February 2013). The publisher’s description follows.
No branch of Christianity has grown more rapidly than Pentecostalism, especially in the southern hemisphere. There are over 100 million Pentecostals in Africa. In Latin America, Pentecostalism now vies with Catholicism for the soul of the continent, and some of the largest pentecostal congregations in the world are in South Korea.
In To the Ends of the Earth, Allan Heaton Anderson explores the historical and theological factors behind the phenomenal growth of global Pentecostalism. Anderson argues that its spread is so dramatic because it is an “ends of the earth” movement–pentecostals believe that they are called to be witnesses for Jesus Christ to the furthest reaches of the globe. His wide-ranging account examines such topics as the Azusa Street revival in Los Angeles, the role of the first missionaries in China, India, and Africa, Pentecostalism’s incredible diversity due to its deep local roots, and the central role of women in the movement. He describes more recent developments such as the creation of new independent churches, megachurches, and the “health and wealth” gospel, and he explores the increasing involvement of pentecostals in public and political affairs across the globe. Why is this movement so popular? Anderson points to such features as the emphasis on the Spirit, the “born-again” experience, incessant evangelism, healing and deliverance, cultural flexibility, a place-to-feel-at-home, religious continuity, an egalitarian community, and meeting material needs–all of which contribute to Pentecostalism’s remarkable appeal.
Exploring more than a century of history and ranging across most of the globe, Anderson illuminates the spectacular rise of global Pentecostalism and shows how it changed the face of Christianity worldwide.
The second book is Spirit and Power: The Growth and Global Impact of Pentecostalism edited by Donald E. Miller, Kimon H. Sargent, and Richard Flory (OUP August 2013). The publisher’s description follows.
Pentecostalism is the fastest growing religious movement in the world, currently estimated to have at least 500 million adherents. In the movement’s early years, most Pentecostal converts lived in relative poverty, yet the rapidly shifting social ecology of Pentecostal Christians includes many middle-class individuals, as well as an increasing number of young adults attracted by the music and vibrant worship of these churches. The stereotypical view of Pentecostals as “other-worldly” and disengaged from politics and social ministry is also being challenged, as Pentecostals-including many who are committed to working for social and political change-constitute growing minorities in many countries. Spirit and Power addresses three main questions: Where is Pentecostalism growing globally? Why it is growing? What is its social and political impact? The contributors to this volume include theologians, historians, and social scientists, who bring their diverse disciplinary perspectives to bear on these empirical questions. The essays draw on extensive survey research as well as in-depth ethnographic field methods, with analyses offering diverging and sometimes competing explanations for the growth and impact of Pentecostalism around the world.