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Strange Fire? Not in a Global Pentecostal Context of Ministry

Pastor Balcombe puts it rightfully:

This doctrine is almost totally foreign to the true Chinese churches in most parts of Asia, especially Hong Kong and China. [Prosperity] is being preached and practiced to various degrees of success mostly only in some more prosperous Asian nations. We would immediately think of Singapore and the mega-church of Joseph Prince which is also well known for the teaching we call antinomianism. Though this church is large and considered to be Charismatic, we would not identify it as a solid Pentecostal/Evangelical church.

Marius Lombaard of the University of South Africa agrees that:

The Pentecostal church I was part of was very opposed to prosperity teaching. It distinguished itself from other Pentecostals and Charismatics. Members at the time ranged from ordinary poor, to middle class people and no body was above middle class.

Hanny Setiawan affirms the above by saying:

Bill Hamon’s book the eternal church has helped me map the charismatic churches in Indonesia. With the Full Gospel movement (more traditional Pentecostal churches), Indonesian Pentecostal were “updated” into charismatic teaching in 1998 during the Asian turmoil. That’s when the prosperity teaching came into various emerging mega churches.

And then he wholeheartedly declares:

As part of both Pentecostal and charismatic churches I strongly state that I hate prosperity teaching. And yes, we have issue upon this teaching.

For working with the poor, I have to be honest that what I am doing is not typically with charismatic/prophetic churches in Indonesia. But few churches have already started doing work for wide-nation program in the social sector.

Even in my own European descent, I have to agree with these views when applied into global Pentecostal context. In my own dissertation a decade ago I wrote of Bulgarian churches that planted in North American context of ministry.

The fifteen years of economical crises, political disorder and the high rate of unemployment in Bulgaria have not helped the church plan for the future or find alternative ways for support. Thus, the Bulgarian Protestant Church remains a poor church. Moving to a land of greater prosperity (viz., North America), however, has not brought much improvement to the situation. The financial blessings enjoyed by individual Bulgarian believers are not always reflected in the financial ability of the church. Even within the American context, the Bulgarian church remains a beggar in a land of plenty (Bulgarian Churches in North America, 2004).

Prosperity is a mindset, a worldview of its own. And how it is measured remains entirely cultural. But one thing is for sure, it is not the worldview of the entire global church, regardless if they are Pentecostal, Baptist or even Catholic. In other words, no one movement can be holistically and globally prosperous. And when ministering among the poorest of the poor, the Bible does remind of Jesus’ teachings whereas our personal prosperity cannot remain self-centered. It must be applied toward the needs of the others as well. Or we are in the danger of Laodicea—to be rich, yet poor in the site of God.

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Category: Spirit, Spring 2014

About the Author: Rev. Dony K. Donev, D.Min. is a graduate of the Pentecostal Theological Seminary and cofounder of the Institute of Bulgarian Protestant History. He is the author of scholarly articles in textual criticism, protestant history, Christian media and contemporary church movements. In 1999 with his wife Kathryn, they established Cup and Cross Ministries International with a vision for restoration of New Testament theology and praxis. They are currently serving as missionaries and leadership developers in his native Bulgaria.

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