This interesting statistic is somewhat mind-blowing. In James D.G. Dunn’s 1970 essay “Spirit-Baptism and Pentecostalism” he writes, “Pentecostalism is now reckoned to be between ten and fifteen million strong, and is still growing faster than any other Church.” *
According to BBC’s 2009 report, “During the last three decades of the twentieth century Pentecostalism grew very strongly and there are now over 250 million Pentecostals around the world, who make up more than 10% of all Christians. (Some writers suggest the number is more like 500 million.)”
The global population sits at about 7 billion now. In 1970 it was around 3.7 billion. The world population has almost doubled in the last four decades. Global Pentecostalism has grown somewhere between seventeen times (if 15 million to 250 million) to fifty times (if ten million to five hundred million) larger in the last four decades.
I presume some of these statistics will be debatable, especially as regards whether “Pentecostal” is the correct label for many charismatic Christian movements that wouldn’t necessarily espouse traditional Pentecostal dogma. Also, I don’t know how to go about validating Dunn’s estimate in 1970 or even modern estimates. That said, even if the statistic needs to be tweaked here and there, that’s impressive growth.
Also of interest: T.M. Luhrman, Why We Speak in Tongues (NYT)
* see James D.G. Dunn, The Christ and the Spirit: v. 2: Pneumatology (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1998), 86.
I’m pretty sure the 500-600 million statistic was produced by the Pew Forum. Pentecostal scholar, William K. Kay (he does work in theology, sociology and psychology) uses that number in his large book on Pentecostalism.
Further, the “500 million” is used when referring to both Pentecostals and charismatics, not just Pentecostals.
Thanks for the clarification. It is helpful for understanding the stats. I wonder if Dunn would have drawn a line between Pentecostal and Charismatic in 1970 with the charismatic movement emerging in the 60s.
What ‘brand’ of Christianity is the Chinese house church movement credit with? The rate of growth of the Chinese house church movement in China (you know, that one feeding the ‘Back to Jerusalem movement’) is the fastest in Christianity.
If it is Pentecostalism that may be where Pentecostalism gets its numbers … (it’s hitched to the right horse)
Good question. Though I know there has been an increase in books written on Chinese Christianity in recent years I am not familiar with their findings. It would be interesting to know how Pentecostalism is doing in China, or if these Chinese house churches have multiple affiliations that would correspond to known denominations, or if they lack affiliation with our known denominations.
@Andrew: I’m nearly 100% confident that the percentage of pentecostals (lower “p” to maintain inclusivity of Charismatics and Third-wave) in Asia is in the teens. Around 40-45% of Pentecostals are in Africa and around 35% in Americas.
To answer my own earlier question about Dunn’s terminology, on the next page he writes, “…since 1960 Pentecostal teaching has been making a significant penetration into older denominations. The ‘new Pentecostalism’ has crossed denominational boundaries…” apparently identifying what would be called “the Charismatic Movement” as “new Pentecostalism.”
Yes, the growth is incredible. I know that most Evangelicals, especially those charismatically-oriented (one way or another), assess this as the work of the Holy Spirit. I hold something (as a former Evangelical, eventually charismatic) close to that interpretation. But I don’t connect it with “saving faith” as they do, and/or some “subsequent” work of the Spirit unique to believers.
Rather, I see it as both a continuation/modification of established worldviews and practices (as in much of the “developing” or 3rd world) and a re-connection to spirit/Spirit (in the secular and science/rationalism-dominated Western world). Of course, Western missionaries, church leaders, etc. often fan the emergence of charismatic beliefs and practices in “developing” areas… my brother-in-law being just one small case-in-point, with his fairly frequent trips to Africa both evangelizing and doing healing (hands-on) ministries and such, from a Vineyard/3rd wave perspective (vs. oldline Penetostal). He and others help train and materially support African pastors who do the same.
But many Africans and Latin Americans (plus those from tribal and/or non-Westernized areas elsewhere) are already predisposed this way and do not experience the barriers to “charismatic” phenomena that many Westerners do. This is widely known, but often I think not very deeply understood. A part of this lack of depth is orthodox folks (as to Christian dogma and worship/prayer practice) not realizing that many who are getting counted as “charismatic” Christian may well be significantly syncretistic. This I know is true in much of Latin America, especially Brazil, where Sangria is one large example (tho I’m not sure if its followers are getting counted among charismatic Xn’s or not). I’d be very surprised if it is not also true broadly in Africa, esp. in non-urbanized or recently urbanized areas.
Back to Latin Amer., its well known that many Latino Catholics (still the big majority where Spanish is spoken, unlike Brazil) have highly syncretistic beliefs. When they cross over to Protestantism, as many are, they are likely to bring that with them, at least for a time, before eventually modifying IF they get consistent input to that effect.
Does all that I’ve said diminish the potential good of honoring “non-rational” ways of being, of finding healing, etc.? Not at all. But I DO have concerns about the doctrinal attachments, either from X’n orthodoxy or the misguided thinking of animism or occultic systems. Either way, I do think the West still has a lot to offer, but not in the earlier colonistic or one-way style.
Indeed, there remains a lot that Christians from Europe and North America can teach other Christians and a lot other Christians can teach those of us from Europe and North America. One of the important benefits of engaging us is that they may be able to avoid many of the mistakes we’ve made and gain from some of our own reforms. That said, we European and North American Christians have a complicated relationship with our brothers and sisters, especially as our people and governments have imperialized, subjected, and enslaved them, often exploiting them to this day for resources, sometimes invading their lands with less than altruistic motives. Forms of Christianity that allow them to adopt the religion without it being another form of western hegemony will have a missional advantage over and against those forms that are seen as accompanying unnecessary baggage.
Comments are closed.