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Michael Bergunder: The South Indian Pentecostal Movement in the Twentieth Century


Michael Bergunder, The South Indian Pentecostal Movement in the Twentieth Century, Studies in the History of Christian Missions (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans, 2008), 392 pages, ISBN 9780802827340.

There will be several groups who will thank Michael Bergunder, professor of history of religions and mission studies at Heidelberg, for writing this book. First, historians of the Pentecostal/charismatic movements will find this work a treasure trove of the major persons and places of South Indian Pentecostalism. The introductory chapter lays out the global/non-Western perspective that marks so much of contemporary historiography of Pentecostal/charismatic history. The first section of the book in six chapters covers the origins and development of Pentecostal churches in South India. It covers both western missionary efforts (such as the Assemblies of God and Church of God) as well as indigenous churches (such as the Indian Pentecostal Church and the Ceylon Pentecostal Mission).

Second, Bergunder’s book will be important to Pentecostal/charismatic pastors, evangelists, and missionaries. In his section, “Beliefs and Practices,” he draws on an extensive reservoir of personal interviews to portray a vibrant if often complex Indian Pentecostal spirituality and ecclesiology. Though there is a definite Asian sub-continent flavor to how Pentecostalism adapted to India, there is a core of theological and practical measures that will resonate with any Pentecostal/charismatic minister and believer anywhere in the world. In the twenty-first century, western Pentecostal/charismatics will need to turn to global Pentecostal/charismatic movements in order to define of who they are.

Third, students of Pentecostal/charismatic movements will find this book a model of careful research, clear presuppositions, and honest assessments. The book has three appendices: (1) Seventy-nine brief biographical sketches of both foreign missionaries and national leaders; (2) lists of the leaderships of the Indian Pentecostal Church, Ceylon Pentecostal Mission, Church of God, and Assemblies of God; and (3) six pages of church statistics from 1930 to 2000. There are fourteen photos inserted between the two main sections of the book. Before a thorough index, there is a ten-page list of people that Bergunder interviewed and a valuable thirty-five page bibliography.

As we progress through a second century of the Pentecostal/charismatic movements, the need for an accurate and unbiased history calls for many others to follow Bergunder’s lead.

Reviewed by Malcolm R. Brubaker


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Category: Church History, Spring 2009

About the Author: Malcolm R. Brubaker, Th.M. (Westminster Theological Seminary), M.Div. (Trinity Evangelical Divinity School), B.A. (Evangel College), is Professor of Bible at Valley Forge Christian College in Phoenixville, PA, extension faculty for Assemblies of God Theological Seminary at VFCC, and a Ph.D. candidate at Regent University (Virginia Beach, VA). Malcolm has experience serving as a pastor and is the author of numerous articles and papers on biblical theology and homiletics, including the Ezekiel (1999) commentary for the Complete Biblical Library (World Library Press).

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