There has been some discussion on the net the last week or so on the growth of Pentecostalism in light of the fact that most of Christianity is on the decline in the US and elsewhere.
First came Missiologist Ed Stetzer who wrote for CT asking “Why do these Pentecostals keep growing?” While he rightly identifies Pentecostalism’s message of Spirit Baptism as the thrust of the movement, his basic answer seems to be that although Pentecostals are strong believers in their belief in the Baptism of the Holy Spirit with evidence of such being speaking in tongues (per Acts 2, etc) Pentecostalism seems to be providing a viable alternative to supposed “bland Evangelicalism.” Simply put, Pentecostals tend to be passionate about what they believe such that they share it with others and they work hard to plant churches. Their passion is contagious!
Then a blog post by Sociologist Michael Wilkinson that he wrote a couple of years ago started showing up sort of in follow-up to what Stetzer wrote. Wilkinson posted a response to the latest report on the status of Christianity in the world that was published in January 2013 in the International Bulletin of Missionary Research (IBMR Vol. 37, No. 1: 32-33). He discusses the interpretation of the recent findings.
Finally, Dale Coulter, a theologian and scholar in the Church of God Cleveland, TN, has responded (positively) to Stetzer and offers further reflections that I think are true and insightful. Coulter titles his blog post “Pentecostalism and the Question of Culture.” I think it really is true that various facets of Pentecostalism, all centered around its message of the Baptism of the Holy Spirit resonates with aspects of current popular culture, and I think in a good way, not a negative way. Pentecostalism is not acquiescing to the culture but rather in how it is and has been expressing its spirituality and beliefs, provides answers people are looking for in healthy ways that above all else, point to Christ! People want more than to know God, they want to encounter him. They want to experience God. If people are coming to your church and they leave without having in some tangible way experienced God, they will probably end up going elsewhere in their search. The simple fact of the matter is, people are looking for a spiritual encounter with God. You know how many people say they are spiritual just not religious? That is reflective of their desire for a spiritual encounter, and as Coulter rightly states in his post “Pentecostalism offers a framework for just such an encounter.”
Read what he has to say. Let me know what you think!
I also really appreciated Mark Stevens’ response as well.