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After 100 years of modern renewal history, we Pentecostals and our charismatic cousins have been probed and described from every possible angle—theological, sociological, historical, phenomenological, psychological, and more. We've been called a revitalization movement, a movement of social transformation, a millenarian movement, and a movement of racial integration. No doubt a Google search for "Pentecostal" would yield even more labels, thus providing fodder for endless rounds of doctoral dissertations and blog sites.

Pentecostals have endured the anathemas of adversaries ("the tongues movement" being one of the nicer of many unflattering descriptors) and enjoyed the accolades of academics. With our weakness toward self-congratulation and our breakneck pace toward upward mobility and social respectability, Philip Jenkins's words in The Next Christendom could easily become a favorite among us: "Since there were only a handful of Pentecostals in 1900 and several hundred million today, is it not reasonable to identify this as perhaps the most successful social movement of the past century?"

They now talk about us (and even to us!) on CNN and in the halls of Harvard. So it is predictable, especially during this centennial year of the Azusa Street revival, that everyone from theologians to historians to sociologists to the media are seeking to impose their preferred definitions on global charismatic Christianity.

Yet, ultimately, it is up to us to determine for what we will be most known. From the inception of the Pentecostal movement, our mission has always been missions. Indeed, Pentecostalism cannot be understood apart from its self-identity as a missionary movement raised up by God to evangelize the world in the last ...

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April 2006

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