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Global Pentecostal Renaissance? Reflections on Pentecostalism, Culture, and Higher Education, by Jeff Hittenberger

In summary, Pentecostals have rich internal resources, such as those characteristics identified as the Azusa Street DNA: exploratory, global, holistic, and Christ-centered. Pentecostals have at various times and places taken diverse approaches toward culture, sometimes condemning, sometimes critiquing, sometimes copying, and sometimes consuming. At times, these approaches have hardened into postures that have limited discerning engagement with culture. Impediments may arise when Pentecostals lose touch with the passion brought about by dynamic encounter with the Holy Spirit. But evidence of an emerging “Renaissance,” often characterized by creativity and cultivation, bode well for the future. Pentecostals are now constructively engaged in virtually every domain of society in nations around the world: hundreds of thousands of teachers in both the public and private sector; school principals and superintendents at every level; doctors, nurses, and other health care professionals; responsible business people creating excellent products and services, building up their communities, and treating their employees with dignity; lawyers and government officials advocating for justice; social workers and community advocates seeking to strengthen families and cities; engineers, scientists, mathematicians, and technologists researching, discovering, and applying in all the domains of the physical world; professors and university administrators both in church-related and secular institutions mentoring the next generation of leaders; entertainers, media professionals, and other communicators bringing their faith to bear on the formation of people’s hearts and minds; pastors, missionaries, and aid workers in every community of the nation and every nation of the world, extending the Gospel and sharing the Pentecostal experience of the empowerment of the Holy Spirit. Many Pentecostals are embracing learning every day both for the sheer joy of knowing God and God’s world and for practical preparation to serve in God’s love.

What Biblical and historical precedents are there for a Global Pentecostal Renaissance?

I have defined Global Pentecostal Renaissance as a Spirit-empowered awakening among Christians worldwide that integrates a passion for God, a passion for learning and creative expression, and a passion for redemptive service and mission.

A Global Pentecostal Renaissance will help us remember our core identity and our core mission.

How might the Pentecostal movement draw on the DNA that was evident at Azusa Street to grow as a learning movement that can impact the world in ever greater ways, including the domains of education and artistic and creative expression? To answer this question, it is important to look at Biblical and historical precedents (I’ll describe promising current initiatives in the concluding section of the paper) upon which we can draw as we move in this direction.

“In the beginning, God created …” Genesis 1 describes the breathtaking panorama of God’s creative genius, a world which He assesses as good, good, good, good, good, good, and very good. God’s creation culminates in the creation of human beings, male and female, created in God’s image (imago Dei). The imago Dei has been variously and inexhaustibly interpreted, but given the context it must at least include sharing in God’s creative impulse and genius. What do humans create? Humans create culture, and they do so from their earliest commissioning by God, Who sets them in a garden to cultivate it, gives them stewardship over the earth and all its living creatures, and invites them to use their new gift for culture making, language itself, to name the animals.10

This is an extraordinary vision of humanity called to culture making, sometimes called “the cultural mandate,” in partnership with God.

This mandate was violated when humanity sinned, but the mandate was never abrogated and continues to be our calling. This mandate, this calling to create and cultivate in partnership with God, begins at birth when a child begins to learn the language and cultural patterns of his or her family and continues with education in the home, in the community, through the media, and at school.

Pentecostal theologian Frank Macchia has written: “The biblical precedent for linking pneumatology and learning is vast.”11 The literary forms of Scripture themselves bear powerful witness to the calling to learning and culture-making. Under the inspiration of the Spirit, the writers of Scripture employed genres of many kinds (poetry, history, epistle, parable, proverb) to communicate the messages of God to humans in their languages and cultural settings.

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Category: Living the Faith, Pneuma Review, Spring 2013

About the Author: Jeff Hittenberger, Ph.D. (University of Southern California), serves as Provost/Vice President for Academic Affairs at Vanguard University. He previously served as Director of Graduate Studies at Evangel University and as Dean of the School of Education at Vanguard University. He served as a Rotary Ambassadorial Scholar at Mohamed V University in Rabat, Morocco, has served as a consultant and researcher in Cameroon, Mali, South Africa, Israel, and Haiti.

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