Wednesday, September 29, 2010
Pentecostalization of the traditional churches
I'm writing my dissertation. I think it is good to post portion of it here. This will be posted here as a series.
Church growth specialists claim that it is the works of the Holy Spirit that produce phenomenal church growth all over the world in the past decades. This remarkable growth of Christianity especially in the third world is can be attributed to the Pentecostal missionary movement. Pentecostal churches constitute the largest family of churches in Christendom after Roman Catholicism. Pentecostalism and its adherents within other denominations are now approaching 250 million. This rapid growth and the pentecostalization of the traditional evangelical churches alarmed the western conservative scholars and published literatures that oppose and attack the Pentecostal and charismatic movements to the extent that their practices especially speaking in tongues are attributed to the work of the devil. This however just proves that it draws undue attention not only from its adherents but also to those who are strongly against it. This extraordinary attention to the theology the Holy Spirit began at the close of the nineteenth century and continues until today.
Donald Bloesch rightly observes that during the first part of the twentieth century, the Holy Spirit seemed to be the missing person of the Trinity. However, within the past several decades, abundance of books on the Holy Spirit has been published and numerous conferences on the Holy Spirit and spirituality had taken place. Citing Joachim of Flora, Bloesch agrees with the statement that “it seems that we are passing from the Age of the Son to the Age of the Spirit.” However, Pentecostal movement is not the only reason for this seemingly excessive fascination with the Holy Spirit. Evidently a more important reason is the undeniable fact that many believers from different denominations claim that they have experienced the reality of the Holy Spirit in their lives in a tangible way.
Erickson sums up the reasons why the study of pneumatology is important for the contemporary church. First, he agrees that the Holy Spirit is the way by which the triune God becomes personal to the individual Christians. Second, churches of today elevate the role of the Holy Spirit more prominently than the other members of the Trinity. Lastly, the current culture emphasizes the experiential and it is through the Holy Spirit’s work that Christians feel God’s presence. Apparently these personal experiences of the works and presence of the Holy Spirit have transformed the structure, programs, ministries and worship practices of several Filipino Southern Baptist churches.
Even though Pentecostal denomination and Charismatic movements have been in existence in the Philippines for decades, it is through the Third Wave Movement of the 80s, embraced and introduced by the younger church leaders into the Southern Baptist congregations that churches begin having Pentecostal-like worship services and activities. “Third Wave” is the term used by Peter Wagner to describe the works of the Holy Spirit in the present century that is preceded by the first and second waves of the Holy Spirit which represent the Pentecostal and the charismatic movements respectively.
Third Wavers are those who strongly believe in the ministry of miraculous healings, deliverance bay casting out demons, and to some extent speaking in tongues. However, their doctrinal position on the baptism of the Holy Spirit as once for all experience paves the way for this movement to be easily accepted in the Southern Baptist circles. Hence when the Third Wave practices are adopted in the ministries, discipleship, and worship services of the traditional Southern Baptist churches, it creates tension among the members, churches, associations, and up to the Convention level.