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Global Pentecostalism in the 21st Century, reviewed by Dave Johnson

Haven’t they been surprised?

Some sociologists had been predicting Pentecostalism’s demise.

A lot of attention is also given to the growing political clout of poor Pentecostals. As David Martin notes, “As large assemblies of hitherto unnoticed and excluded people look around them, and as politicians learn their language to seek their support, the once-excluded realize they quite literally count for something” (p. 40).

Gender relations also occupy quite a bit of space. Bernice Martin notes that in the Latin American context:

Although moral restrictions fall heavily on women, those laid on their menfolk—giving up alcohol, tobacco, drugs, promiscuity, violence—compensate by drawing men out of the culture of ‘machismo’ of the street and bar and returning them to the home. Money not wasted on male vices puts food on the table and sends the children to school. Men find a new dignity as head of the household and responsible providers, while marriage, though formally based on the superiority of the man and the submission of the woman, in practice becomes more compassionate (p.126).

All of the authors demonstrate sensitivity to the context in which they are writing and do well in describing Pentecostalism within their African, Asian and Latin American contexts. My personal favorite was Katharine Wiegele’s article on the Catholic Charismatic movement in the Philippines (223-46) because my wife and I live and work as missionaries in the country. Wiegele demonstrates a deep knowledge of the culture and the movement she describes. It is probably fair to assume that the other authors do the same.

It is by now a commonplace in sociology, anthropology, and comparative religious studies to observe that Pentecostalism is the fastest growing religious movement in the contemporary world.

—Robert W. Hefner in his introduction

All of the authors treat Pentecostals fairly although none of them appear to be Pentecostal or charismatics themselves. As a Pentecostal I appreciated the opportunity to get an etic perspective of the movement in which I have been involved for 42 years. While it is magisterial in its global sweep of Pentecostalism, the authors do not distinguish between Pentecostal, Charismatic and Third Wavers, although Hefner does admit that Pentecostals are theologically “multifarious” (p.1). Since these distinctions are more theological than sociological, this may not have been important to their purposes and doing so would not likely have impacted the outcome of the book.

While the authors do touch on spiritual issues such as having a relationship with God, the Baptism in the Holy Spirit, the charismata, spirit world issues and so forth (i.e. p. 116), they do not delve into them in any great degree, nor do they seek to find answers to Pentecostalism’s dynamism there to any great degree. Consequently, they fail to notice some of the major reasons for the movement’s explosive growth.

Nevertheless, for those looking to study Pentecostalism’s social impact, this book is a fine contribution to the field and I heartily recommend it.

Reviewed by Dave Johnson


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Category: Fall 2018, Ministry

About the Author: Dave Johnson, M.Div., D.Miss. (Asia Graduate School of Theology, Philippines), is an Assemblies of God missionary to the Philippines. Dave and his wife Debbie have been involved in evangelism, church planting, and Bible school and mission leadership. Dave is the Managing Editor of Asian Journal of Pentecostal Studies, the director of APTS Press in Baguio City, Philippines and coordinator for the Asian Pentecostal Theological Seminary's Master of Theology Program. Facebook Twitter

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