Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Forum Explores Pentecostal Explosion

Whatever could the global explosion of Pentecostal "renewalism" have upon the religious, political, national, and social landscapes of countries increasingly being touched and impacted? Like countries in North America, Latin America, Africa and Asia?

This question has been repeatedly asked and debated since its inception in the Upper Room at Jerusalem during the Jewish Feast of Pentecost (Acts 2:1-13)

To address the rapid growth of one of the fastest-growing segments of global Christianity with a quantitative study on the religious, political and civic views of the participants, the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life, with financial help from the Templeton Foundation, revealed some interesting data.

Before identifying the survey, key terms must be understood. Pentecostal is used to describe individuals who belong to classical Pentecostal denominations, such as the Assemblies of God (AOG) or the Pentecostal Assemblies of Canada (PAOC).

Christians who have experienced the "in-filling" of the Holy Spirit but who are not members of Pentecostal denominations are Charismatics (graced with gifts from God). Most charismatics belong to mainstream Protestant, Catholic and Orthodox denominations.

The report when referring to Pentecostals and charismatics as a group uses the umbrella term "Renewalist".

The World Christian Database suggests that 1/4 of the world's 2 billion Christians are Renewalists. The common denominator of the Renewalists is the belief that God, acting through the Holy Spirit, continues to play a positive, direct and active role in their everyday lives.

Survey Says

The Pew Forum surveyed 10 countries with larger than normal renewalist populations. These were the United States; Brazil, Chile and Guatemala in Latin America; Kenya, Nigeria and South Africa in Africa; and India, the Philippines and South Korea in Asia. In each country, the surveys were randomly taken of the public at large, as well as a larger representation of pentecostals and charismatics.

The report is lengthy and comprehensive. Therefore, for the sake of brevity we'll crunch the numbers. In the United States 5% are Pentecostal, 18% Charismatic, for a total of 23%. Brazil is 15% and 34% respectively, totaling 49%; Chile, 9% and 21%; Guatemala, 20% and 40%; Kenya, 33% and 23%; Nigeria, 18% and 8%; South Africa, 10% and 24%; localities in India, 1% and 44%; the Philippines, 4% and 40%; and South Korea, 2% and 9%. These findings show that Renewalists not only make up a significant portion of the country’s population but as well make up the majority of all Protestants.

Pentecostal Distinctives

There are certain distinctives that distinguish pentecostals and charismatics to a lesser degree, from other Christians. In seven countries surveyed nearly half of pentecostal churches include the gifts of the Holy Spirit, such as tongues speaking, prophesying or praying for healing of the sick. Charismatic services are less so, though still prevalent.

When it comes to healings and miracles, receiving divine revelations from God, and the casting out of evil spirits (exorcisms) renewalists outnumber other Christians. In South Korea, for example, healings have been witnessed by 56% of Pentecostals, 61% of Charismatics, and 20% of other Christians.

It is interesting to note, however, that outside of the United States these manifestations of the Spirit do rise significantly among non-renewalist Christians. In the USA only 28% of non-renewalists witnessed healings, 25% received a direct revelation from God, and 7% saw an exorcism while in Guatemala, for instance, it's 47%, 39%, and 28% sequentially. Perhaps this is because the need is greater.

Beliefs and Politics

Renewalists also have a higher view of traditional Christian doctrines and practices. In eight of ten countries renewalists believe the Bible is the literal Word of God. Amazingly this drops in the USA and Chile.
> Compared with non-renewalist Christians, renewalists stand out for their views on the "end times". The survey showed that in six countries over half believe that Christ will return in their lifetime. More than 80% in each country believe in the Rapture.

Pentecostals also share their faith with unbelievers at least once a week. And 70% in every country, except South Korea, completely agree that Jesus Christ is the only way of salvation.

Renewalist Christians are not apolitical; they believe there is a place for faith in political and public life. In every country they are as likely as others to express their views on day-to-day social and political issues. They also believe that political leaders should have strong Christian beliefs. Most believe in separation of church and state, but many adhere to the idea their nation should be Christian. This view is strongest among African pentecostals; 48% in Kenya, 58% in Nigeria, and 45% in South Africa.

Pentecostals are divided on whether or not AIDS is a punishment from God, are more likely to stand with Israel than with the Palestinians and are more willing to allow women leadership roles.

You can access and resource this and other survey material at http://pewforum.org/surveys/pentecostal/.


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