Until the publication in 1969 of the masterly study of the Latin American Protestant church by Read, Monterroso, and Johnson (Latin American Church Growth, Eerdmans), few were aware that fully two-thirds of Latin America’s rapidly multiplying Protestants are Pentecostals of one kind or another. This proportion is likely to continue to increase.
Pentecostal growth patterns are not entirely uniform. In windswept Bolivia, for example, they make up only 7.5 per cent of the Protestants. But in Chile, the string-bean country on South America’s Pacific coast, 82.8 per cent of the Protestants are Pentecostals. Although many investigators have become fascinated by the Pentecostal growth phenomenon, as yet no one has made a definitive study of comparative growth rates and their dynamics. All agree, however, that the cultural factor is one of the keys. Somehow the Latin American Pentecostals have developed more culturally meaningful patterns of church life than many of the other Protestant denominations.
In any younger church, the training of the ministry is often one of the most sensitive indicators of that church’s ability to fit certain necessary functions of church life into culturally relevant forms. The training pattern based on residence seminaries in the United States, for example, is culturally appropriate and has been helpful to the churches. It is quite different from the German system, though, and even from the American system of a century ago. Some observers also suspect that, though the current system of training in seminaries may be relevant to the WASP culture, the assumption that it could function equally well in the black American church community is an anthropological blunder.
Although the cause-and-effect relation ...1
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