Home > Book discussion > Book discussion: The Charismatic Century, part 3

Book discussion: The Charismatic Century, part 3

Moving onward through chapter one of Jack Hayford and S. David Moore’s The Charismatic Century….

Today we’ll learn how far the charismatics and Pentecostals have spread throughout the world.

On page 9, we learn that Christianity has grown tremendously in the global east and global south largely through charismatics and Pentecostals.

The authors note that the tendency to talk about the global church in terms of its impact in Europe and North America ignores its growth in the east. In fact, the authors say that the Greek Orthodox church

had the more robust theology of the Holy Spirit and saw the exercise of the supernatural gifts of the Spirit from the New Testament period all the way through the medieval centuries. (10)

The authors also say that the worldview of those in developing countries is “far more akin to biblical realities” than those in the west. (10) Rationalism’s influence on western culture contrasts sharply with eastern views; for example, the idea of religion as a private matter makes little sense to those outside the west, the authors say, as those people often cry out for supernatural intervention in their dealings with corrupt civil authorities. (10)

It seems by the authors’ account that Christians in developing countries assume a high level of ongoing supernatural intervention in the natural world and in believers’ lives, even to the point of raising of the dead. The authors tell a story on pgs. 10-11 of a woman in Papua New Guinea who died and rose and many in the village turned to Christ, and a Foursquare church was built over what was to be the woman’s grave.

The offer of hope, healing and spiritual liberation is a significant reason for the great attraction to Christianity and its explosive growth around the world. All the more remarkable considering that much of the twentieth century pronouncements were made about the demise of Christianity. (11)

Since 9/11, Islam has gained far more public attention than the growth of the Christian church worldwide, the authors say. Yet, in many regions of the world Christianity is outpacing Islam, especially in Africa, particularly in Nigeria, and the Pentecostal/charismatics are leading the way. (12)

In North America, estimates of the number of Pentecostal/charismatics run from 40 to 75 million. (13) The charismatic movement’s largest growth on the continent is occuring amongst African-Americans and Hispanics (the authors cite two megachurches – T.D. Jakes’ The Potter’s House in Dallas and Joel Osteen’s multi-ethnic Lakewood Church in Houston – as examples). (13)

The authors say the growth of Classical Pentecostalism in the early 20th century and the growth of the Charismatic Renewal beginning in 1960 has ushered in a new era of acceptance and respectability for Pentecostals and charismatics. (13)

Over the decades they moved from poverty to prosperity, from being overwhelmingly poor as a group to middle-class (or higher), building colleges and universities, running successful businesses, becoming reputable community leaders, meeting in the nicest neighborhoods. The influence of mainline and Catholic believers who were touched by the charismata contributed to the fading of the social stereotypes associated early on with Pentecostalism. (13-14)

More and more non-Pentecostal Protestant denominations and networks are acknowledging the continuation of the spiritual gifts of 1 Corinthians into today’s era and rejecting the cessassionist ideas many churches held at the start of the 20th century. This is especially true on the mission field, where the need for a visible manifestation of the Holy Spirit is crucial. (14)

Other areas in which Pentecostals and charismatics have influenced the rest of the body of Christ are in worship (Integrity Music, Promise Keepers and, though not mentioned in the book, Hillsong would have to be counted) and the importance of prayer in the life of the church.

It is a fair assessment to say that Pentecostal/Charismatic Christianity is helping supply new vitality to the Christian church in the United States and is prodoundly rearranging the landscape of global Christianity. Most demographers and futurists believe its worldwide impact will only grow over the coming years. (16)

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