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Pentecostal and Charismatic Contributions: Beyond What We Normally Think

3) Breaking Race & Socio-Economic Barriers

Lastly, I want to consider the contribution Pentecostalism and the Charismatic movement has had at the racial and socio-economic level. Roberts Liardon offers an interesting remark in The Azusa Street Revival: When the Fire Fell:

In addition, the Pentecostal movement was birthed in racial unity – Parham was white and Seymour was black; yet the movement would eventually fragment into racial prejudice and division.10 

So, the door was opened very early on for race relations. However, the details seem to show that the divide easily remained in the early years. And one can simply enter the Sunday gatherings of the southern states to find the church as one of the most racially segregated places of today. We know this must change!

But what we’ve seen happen is African-Americans, and Africans as a whole, now have a strong place-marker in regards to positive contributions to global Christianity. David Daniels III underlines this sentiment:

Throughout the 20th century, black Pentecostalism has been a vital movement within American Pentecostalism and Christianity. It has been instrumental in creating new options in religious music, social ethics, community ministry, preaching and theology.11

Not only that but, while many Christian traditions have been at work amongst the poor of society, Pentecostal and Charismatic Christians have helped that door open wider in the care for and call to those to whom Jesus himself came to proclaim the good news (Luke 4:18-19). This is strengthened by the work of these groups in the “developing world” or “global south”. Matter of fact, social scientists note the massive shift taking place in our 21st century world:

…the demographics of Christendom are being turned upside down – quite literally, because the vitality of Christianity is moving from the Northern Hemisphere to south of the equator.12

Miller and Yamamori go on to say, “The major engine driving this transformation is Pentecostalism.”13 Such a renewal movement is positively affecting the poor of the global south. In discussing the decline of missionary-founded churches, Liberation Theology and Roman Catholicism within the developing world, the two authors note: “The root problem, said one commentator, is that while Liberation Theology opted for the poor, the poor opted for Pentecostalism.”14

On many levels, the race and socio-economic barriers are being torn down through the favorable work of Pentecostals and Charismatics.

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Category: Ministry, Winter 2015

About the Author: Scott Lencke, MA (Covenant Theological Seminary), is currently undertaking a Doctor of Missiology from Fuller Theological Seminary. He serves on staff at Visible Music College, a music and ministry college with campuses in Memphis, Chicago, Dallas, and Germany. Scott is an active blogger at prodigalthought.net. He is the author of Change For the First Time, Again.

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