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Vinson Synan: Where He Leads Me

Vinson Synan, Where He Leads Me: The Vinson Synan Story (Franklin Springs, GA: LifeSprings Resources, 2019) 236 pages. ISBN-10 : 091186699X,  ISBN-13 : 978-0911866995

Vinson Synan is well known as a Pentecostal historian and scholar. He authored many books about the work of the Holy Spirit, these include: The Century of the Holy Spirit: 100 Years of Pentecostal and Charismatic Renewal, 1901-2001, An Eyewitness Remembers the Century of the Holy Spirit, and In the Latter Days: The Outpouring of the Holy Spirit in the Twentieth Century. He was also the general editor of Spirit-Empowered Christianity in the 21st Century: Insights, Analysis, and Future Trends from World-Renowned Scholars and was one of the editors of the four volume series Global Renewal Christianity.[i] Synan was an ordained minister with the International Pentecostal Holiness Church. The current volume, Where He Leads Me, which was published a little more than a year before he died, is his autobiography.

Over the years I have read a few of Dr. Synan’s books, but this one was very different from the others. The others focused on Pentecostal and Charismatic history, this one focused on his personal life, which I knew nothing about. I learned he was the son of a minister (page 14) and that he was converted in 1951 (page 36). The night after his conversion he received a call to preach (pages 37-38) and months later received the Baptism in the Holy Spirit (pages 38-39). In the preface of the book he says that he always had an interest in history (page 11). Over the course of his life the kind of history he focused on changed, eventually leading him to write extensively on Pentecostal/Charismatic history (page 11). There was also much that I did not know about his ministerial life. As I read through the book one thing that struck me was how busy Dr. Synan was throughout his life!

His ministerial involvements were quite diverse. He served in pastoral ministry in a number of different churches (pages 52-53, 59-60). He also served in the academic community, two of the schools he served were Regent University and Oral Roberts University (page 7). One of his lasting academic legacies is the Society for Pentecostal Studies. He was one of the founders of this organization (pages 82-85). He also served in various denominational capacities in the International Pentecostal Holiness Church. He served as the General Secretary (page 101) and the Director of Home and Family Life (page 103).

One thing that really caught my attention was his relationship with the Charismatic Movement. I did not realize he was so involved with it. He supported it and networked with various leaders of the movement, including Catholics. In chapter 6 Synan shares a profound experience he had with God at a Catholic Charismatic meeting at Notre Dame University (pages 90-91). At that time the Lord told him that this movement was from Him and that Synan would have a part in it (page 91). And it was true, he did work with Catholic Charismatics and spoke regularly at some of their gatherings (page 209). He participated in the Catholic Pentecostal Dialogue in Rome (pages 95-99). He also spoke at the golden anniversary celebration of the Catholic Charismatic Renewal which was held in Rome (page 209).

Dr. Synan did much to encourage the Charismatic Movement. He was involved in planning the charismatic conference that was held in Kansas City in 1977, close to 50,000 people attended this gathering (page 108). The conference brought Catholic and Protestant Charismatics and Pentecostals together (pages 108-109). He participated in other conferences as well, which are mentioned in the book. Synan was truly ecumenical. However, not everyone appreciated his involvement with the Charismatic Movement, he admits that he had some critics (pages 143-145).

Vinson Synan’s life is an example of a life well lived. He served the purposes of the Lord by serving the church. He had a significant impact on the body of Christ. Dr. Synan was truly a historian of the Spirit. His books chronicle and preserve the rich history of the work God has done as He has poured out His Holy Spirit. Vinson Synan not only wrote about these events but during the course of his life he participated in some of them. May his life and work serve as an inspiration to those of us who are part of the Spirit-filled movement.

Reviewed by John Lathrop


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[i] Editor’s note: The four volumes of Global Renewal Christianity: Spirit Empowered Movements: Past, Present, and Future are: Europe and North America (2017), Africa (2016), Latin America (2016), and Asia and Oceania (2015).

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Category: Church History, Fall 2021

About the Author: John P. Lathrop is a graduate of Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary and is an ordained minister with the International Fellowship of Christian Assemblies. He has written for a number of publications and is the author of four books Apostles, Prophets, Evangelists, Pastors, and Teachers Then and Now (Xulon Press, 2008), The Power and Practice of the Church: God, Discipleship, and Ministry (J. Timothy King, 2010), Answer the Prayer of Jesus: A Call for Biblical Unity (Wipf & Stock, 2011) and Dreams & Visions: Divine Interventions in Human Experience (J. Timothy King, 2012). He also served as co-editor of the book Creative Ways to Build Christian Community (Wipf & Stock, 2013). Amazon Author page. Facebook

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