Pentecostalism and the Future of the Christian Churches: Promises, Limitations, Challenges
Richard Shaull and Waldo A. Cesar
Eerdmans, 236 pages, $25

The new kids on the block hardly seem like new kids anymore. Pentecostalism, which by most accounts was birthed in America only a century ago, is now basking in its own Golden Era. Even if, to be cautious, you shave a few million off the number of followers, the movement boasts some pretty impressive figures. Religious statistical guru David Barrett quite comfortably tosses off the statistic of 523 million charismatics and Pentecostals.

For the longest time, most religious pundits in their ivory towers seemed unaware of what was happening down below. The movement has had its own well-trained cadre of scholars, but not until fairly recently have outsiders thrown in their hats. Harvard's Harvey Cox made the biggest splash in the 1990s. Two more scholars, Princeton Seminary's Richard Shaull and Brazilian sociologist Waldo Cesar, have now taken the plunge.

Some have been drawn into the discussion because of the sheer size of the movement. How can you ignore it? Others are fascinated by Pentecostalism's effectiveness. Why and how is it working where others have failed? Pentecostalism is a vibrant faith among the poor; it reaches into the daily lives of believers, offering not only hope but a new way of living. Again, why?

Shaull and Cesar, who have long been concerned about the plight of the poor, think Pentecostalism may just hold the key to the church's future. It is only when you take the vitality of this faith seriously can you hope to grasp its significance, they suggest, for Pentecostalism is no less than a "new expression and form of Christian faith and life" altogether.

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November 13, 2000

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