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Good News of the Kingdom of God: An Interview with Paul Pomerville

Theology matters; if theologies are deficient in the doctrine of this “missionary Spirit” they hinder the missionary cause. Ironically, a strong influence of dispensational theology continues today like an albatross around the necks of evangelicals and strangely also around the necks of American classical Pentecostals. Therefore, due to the influence of these two streams of theology (rationalistic scholastic theology and dispensational theology) the Pentecostal experience of the Spirit in Christian America has emerged in a historical context of doubt as to its authenticity. Pentecostals in America view the Pentecostal experience as both a “renewal” and an experience “subsequent” to salvation. However, they do not view the Pentecostal experience this way in the global South. Especially after the “third wave” of Pentecostal-charismatic renewal, the Southern Hemisphere’s “faith-context” for receiving the Pentecostal experience was that it was part-and-parcel of the gospel message, the same normative Christian experience of the Spirit that was revealed in the New Testament. Why do you think two-thirds of the total number of Pentecostal-Charismatic Christians are found in the global South? What factors have contributed to making this so.

Paul Pomerville: First, I would say that the existence of the large numbers of Pentecostal-charismatic Christians in the global South is due to both the sovereign act of God pouring out his Spirit and also the unique “faith context” of those Christians in the global South who experienced the outpouring of the Spirit in the “third wave” early in the twenty-first century. I don’t think that these two factors contradict each other, or that it must be an either/or. The answers that I gave to your previous question goes a long way in explaining why two-thirds of Pentecostal-Charismatic Christians are in the global South and why the vitality of the Christian faith has shifted from the Northern Hemisphere to the Southern Hemisphere—Spirit-deficient theologies. Why did this incredible movement take place in the Southern Hemisphere and not in the Northern Hemisphere (the West)? In the West, scholastic, rationalistic theology from the post-Reformation period neglected and all-but ruled out the experience of the Holy Spirit. The influence of this rationalistic stream of theology strongly influenced American evangelicals at the beginning of the nineteenth century and continues to do so today, as does the influence of dispensational theology which denies the Pentecostal experience today.

Pentecostalism was a historical correction, revealing the Spirit-deficiency in Western theology.

Second, The Third Force in Missions shows the following factors affecting the occurrence of the “third wave” of Pentecostal-charismatic renewal in the global South: 1) its particular historical context in western Christian missions, 2) the animistic cultures, the spirit-oriented societies in which the movement took place and, 3) the faith-context of Southern Hemisphere Christians who viewed the gospel and the Pentecostal experience of the Spirit was normative first century New Testament Christianity. These are all reasons for the powerful third wave “down south.” These three factors make up the unique historical, cultural and “faith context” of the third wave in the global South and they add up to an open vigorous expectant faith among Christians there. Faith is the enduring crucial principle in all of salvation history; in the New Covenant, faith brings the fullness of the gospel of the kingdom of God to fruition in the lives of Christians.

Regarding the “sovereign nature” of the outpouring of the Spirit that I mentioned previously, in the history of Western missions all of the churches in the global South—traditional churches planted by Western missionaries, as well as those planted by Pentecostal missionaries and also churches emerging independent of Western missions—experienced the first and second waves of Pentecostal renewal at the same time as Christians in the Western world experienced them (early 1900s classical Pentecostal movement and the mid-1960s the Charismatic Movement in mainline churches). Some of the independent churches in the global South like the African Independent Churches represented hundreds of millions of Pentecostal-charismatic Christians and some of these churches had no historical causal connection with Pentecostal missions from the West. Many had become “breakaway” independent churches from the mission denominations, because of their unwanted insistence in expressing their Christian faith through their local cultures (unwanted by Western missionaries). Also, in their quest to find “Christian” answers to the world of spirits that harass them daily, often Western missionaries did not have answers to those questions because of their rationalistic theology. Then, around the turn of the twenty-first century it was the way all of these churches responded to the third wave of Pentecostal outpouring of the Spirit that reveals why two-thirds of all Pentecostal-charismatic Christians are in the global South.

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Category: Ministry, Spring 2018

About the Author: Paul A. Pomerville, PhD (Fuller Theological Seminary), is a seventeen-year veteran of the Seattle Police Department who served as a missionary to Asia and Europe for thirteen years and as a Graduate Professor and Department Chairman of Christian Missions and Cross-cultural Communications at the Assemblies of God Seminary for two years. He is a graduate of Fuller Theological Seminary’s School of World Mission. For seven years he trained police in cultural diversity all across the United States, and continued for another seven years training police in Indonesia, East Timor and Bosnia Herzegovina. He is the author of The Cross-Cultural American: Ending America’s Obsession with Race (CreateSpace, 2009), Culture Blind Evangelicals and the Good News of the Kingdom of God (CreateSpace, 2009), Recovering Jesus’ Gospel of the Kingdom in American Culture: A Study in Luke’s Gospel-Acts of the Apostles (CreateSpace, 2010 and second updated edition 2016), The New Testament Case against Christian Zionism: A Christian View of the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict (CreateSpace, 2014), and The Third Force in Missions: A Pentecostal Contribution to Contemporary Mission Theology (Hendrickson Publishers, 1985 and second updated edition 2016).

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