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Vinson Synan: Pentecostal Trends of the 90’s

Vinson Synan, “Pentecostal Trends of the 90’s” Ministries Today (May/June 1999, Vol. 17, No. 3), pages 60-64, 77.

“It is my opinion that the experience called the baptism in the Holy Spirit, with the sign of tongues as the first evidence and all other charismata as confirming signs, has fueled the worldwide Pentecostal explosion.”
—Vinson Synan

Leading church historian and theologian Vinson Synan gives an overview of the trends and directions the Pentecostal/charismatic movement have taken is the final decade of the Second Millennium.

Professor Synan begins with a broad view of some of the positive press coverage the Pentecostal/charismatic movement has received in recent years. He mentions the 1998 Newsweek poll that 75 percent of evangelical Protestants have “personally experienced the Holy Spirit,” and the statement by religion writer Mary Rourke, “with almost no fanfare, the U.S. is experiencing its most dramatic religious transformation in this century.”

Vinson Synan

Vinson Synan

Synan then mentions these seven trends: (1). Great growth continues: Pentecostals have planted over a million churches worldwide in this century and are still growing. (2). Worship becomes more charismatic: the Pentecostal style of worship has entered the main stream of non-Pentecostal churches and especially among those open to the contemporary gifts of the Spirit but who do not call themselves Pentecostal. (3). Pentecostal preaching creates megachurches: The largest and fastest growing churches throughout the world are predominantly Pentecostal or independent charismatic. (4). Cultural accommodations?: “Are Pentecostals lowering their holiness standards just to attract even larger followings?” (p. 61). Synan says, “Although some churches and pastors in the United States and Europe may be softening their standards on such things as movies, tobacco and alcohol, almost all stand firmly for biblical standards on such questions as abortion, pornography, illegal drugs and homosexuality” (p. 62). Rather, Pentecostalism in the United States is taking historic steps to heal racial divides. (5). Convergence movement: Former Pentecostal and charismatic pastors joined together in the early 90’s to form a movement that attempts to combine evangelical preaching and the gifts of the Spirit with liturgy and sacramental expressions. Synan notes that while this is a notable trend, there are still many more leaving churches that are more liturgical and sacramental to join “enthusiastic, fast growing Pentecostal and charismatic churches” (p. 62). (6). The New Apostolic Church Movement: C. Peter Wagner believes the age of the “Post-denominational” church has dawned. Synan says that this new apostolic movement is made up almost completely of Pentecostal/charismatic churches and leaders even though Wagner himself downplays the experience of the Baptism in the Spirit and the teaching that the “initial evidence” of this baptism in praying in tongues. (7). Revival manifestations: Synan says that, “Since about 1992, waves of revival with distinctive manifestations” of the Spirit’s presence “have swept through the church world” (p. 64). He briefly contrasts the “Toronto Blessing” revival with the Pensacola outpouring.

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Category: Church History, Fall 1999, Pneuma Review

About the Author: Raul L. Mock is one of the founders and directors of the Pneuma Foundation and editor of The Pneuma Review. Raul has been part of an Evangelical publishing ministry since 1996, working with Information Services and Supply Chain Management for more than two decades. He and his wife, Erin, have a daughter and twin boys and live in the Grand Rapids, Michigan area. LinkedIn

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