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The Globalization of Pentecostalism: A Review Article, by Paul Elbert

Another fine study in the Changing Paradigms zone, pastorally useful to all Great Commission Christians, is by Jackie David Johns, “Yielding to the Spirit: The Dynamics of a Pentecostal Model of Praxis” (70-84).  Illustrating the humorous influence of different perspectives in dialogue, Johns, a compassionate and bible believing pastor, is misunderstood to be the pastoral  Bultmann (!) by a dialogue partner, José Míguez Bonino, the “Dean of Protestant Theology of Latin America” (7), in his “Changing Paradigms: A Response” (120).[15]  With respect to such ongoing dialogue, it is highly `doubtful that glossolalic utterance should ever be understood as a “sacrament” (121), rather, it is better understood  (the following understanding not being at all exhaustive) as symbolizing “The ‘groans’ too deep for words (Rom 8:26) among the people of God, bringing them into solidarity with suffering humanity – even the entire suffering creation (Rom 8) – in order to struggle toward their redemption and liberation.”[16]

Perhaps the highlight of this volume accentuates what should be an unchanging paradigm, rather than a “changing paradigm.”  Echoing William Seymour’s[17] call of trying to get people saved, L. Grant McClung, Jr., calls attention to the christocentric confession of Pentecostal missiology in his “ ‘Try to Get People Saved,’ Revisiting the Paradigm of Urgent Pentecostal Missiology” (30-51).  McClung envisions the Lord allowing us to extend His work into the next century so that global Pentecostalism, along with an interdependent partnership with all Great Commission Christians, will be characterized by the vision printed in The Apostolic Faith (September 1906),[18] headlined “Pentecost Has Come,” page one:  “The real revival is only started, as God has been working with His children mostly getting them through to Pentecost, and laying the foundation for a mighty wave of salvation among the unconverted.”

In the second category, Pentecostalism as a Global Culture, Edward L. Cleary, in his “Latin American Pentecostalism” (131-150), concludes that “being grounded in experience has important consequences.  In a profound sense, neither institution nor any other person mediates in a Pentecostal person’s conversion to God.  No formal rite (not even baptism) is required … The testimony and fervour of the person shows the faith of the Pentecostal person.  The Pentecostal movement does not require more than this testimony for one to be accepted as a convert and participant in services” (144).

In this global culture arena we are also offered a little-known (in the West) overview, much to be recommended, by Ivan M. Satyavrata, the principal of the Southern Asia Bible College in Bangalore, India, entitled “Contextual Perspectives on Pentecostalism as a Global Culture: A South Asian View” (201-221).  Satyavrata thinks that one of the main reasons for the appeal and success of the Pentecostal movement is that in it ordinary people whose participation in discourse is limited and constrained by the formalization of orthodox rites find themselves enfranchised, where they are engaged, heard, and given support (216).  South Asian Pentecostalism has been marked by “simplicity with a reliance on spontaneity and the spoken word appropriate to the non-literal mind-set,” by the “perpetuation of an oral tradition through preaching, testimonies and personal ministry” (210).  Satyavrata’s study is now complemented by Burgess’ and George’s welcome introductory assessment of developments in India, also little known in the West.[19]   Synan points out in his discussion of Western examples of Pentecostal/Charismatic revivals, what is not yet adequately documented by historians, that “There were countless others breaking out in cities and towns all over the world. In fact, in many Third World nations, there were thousands of charismatic revivals that transformed communities and, at times, entire nations.”[20]

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About the Author: Paul Elbert, physicist-theologian and New Testament scholar, teaches theology and science at the Pentecostal Theological Seminary. He is co-chair of the Formation of Luke-Acts section in the Society of Biblical Literature and is a research advisor to the Dominican Biblical Institute, Limerick, Ireland. His writings have appeared, for example, in Zeitschrift für die neutestamentliche Wissenschaft and in Catholic Biblical Quarterly. He served as editor of two anniversary volumes for Old Testament scholars, Essays on Apostolic Themes (1985) and Faces of Renewal (1988).

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