The part of our church called Pentecostal (named after the massive outpouring of the Holy Spirit in Acts 2), has had an important influence on the body of Christ in the twentieth century. No, that needs to be stated more strongly: The part of our church called Pentecostal has made crucial contributions to the body of Christ. Without those contributions, today’s church would be far less than it is.


The church would certainly be smaller. In the United States, the principal Pentecostal denominations—the Assemblies of God, the Church of God (Cleveland, Tenn.), the Pentecostal Holiness, and the Church of the Foursquare Gospel—have been among the fastest-growing churches in recent decades. The Assemblies of God, for example, has increased about 400 percent, from just over 500,000 members in 1965 to well over 2 million in 1985.

Growth inspired by Pentecostal influences has not been limited to their own denominations, however. Much has taken place because of charismatic renewal groups in traditional denominations. (Some Pentecostals and charismatics dispute who influenced whom.) It is hard to get a fix on the actual growth encouraged by renewal groups, but many church-growth experts suggest it is significant. Further, as Peter Wagner, professor of church growth at Fuller Theological Seminary, notes, independent charismatic churches are the fastest-growing individual churches in the country: “The majority of new churches established in the 1980s that have grown to at least a thousand within two years are almost exclusively Pentecostal or charismatic.”

Worldwide, the growth story is even more dramatic. Indigenous Pentecostal and charismatic churches in Africa and China have shown phenomenal increases. ...

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