Distinctives in Pentecostal Theology

Mathew Clark
Director of Postgraduate Studies, Regents Theological College
1. Introduction
In the mid-1980’s the Institute for Theological Research at University of South Africa launched
the Pentecostalism and Neo-Pentecostalism Project. It was managed by the Department of
Systematic Theology, with Henry Lederle as Project Leader. The Project was advised by a
board which included a number of Pentecostal church leaders.
In January 1987 I was sponsored by the Institute to research and write the work that was
eventually published in hardcover by Unisa in 1989 as What is distinctive about Pentecostal
Theology? It was the first publication from the project and appeared under both my name and
In the 1970’s and 1980’s the notion of Pentecostal propria or distinctives was very much in
vogue. Scholars such as Lederle (e g Lederle (1981)), who was of traditional Reformed
background and theological education, were attempting to understand the implications of the
experiential aspects of neo-Pentecostalism for theologising, while an emerging Pentecostal
scholarship was equally keen to articulate the essentials of their theology as distinct from the
non-Pentecostal varieties. This led to a flowering of serious theological literature – systematic,
Biblical and historical – from Pentecostal scholars or about Pentecostalism, e g monographs
from Cronje (1981), Dayton (1987), Lederle (1986), Stander (1985) and Stronstad (1984), and
collections from Spittler (1976) and Elbert (1985). It was also a standard topic at theological
conferences such as SPS, and in many journal articles on Pentecostalism.
This paper is the beginning of my own serious attempt to revisit the issue, something I have
intended to do for a number of years now. It is prompted by a basic question: is it still relevant
to Pentecostal studies to scratch where it itched 2 decades ago? If not, why has the itch gone
away, and has anything replaced it?
2. The relevant issues of the late 1980’s
A major spur to Pentecostal research in the 1970’s and 1980’s was the growth of the neoPentecostal
and charismatic movements. An initial concern of scholars involved in these
movements was how to incorporate their new-found experiential dimension of Christianity into
the theological frameworks of their traditions. How could one articulate, in the language of
rational western theology, the relationship between doctrine/tradition and experience
Linked to this was the question of emotional expression: is strong emotion inevitably linked to
charismatic experience? If so, how can we live with or express this in our own very prosaic
traditions and liturgies? Lederle (1981) approached this challenge from his own experiences as
a Reformed theologian in South Africa.
Most Pentecostal graduates at that time had studied at non-Pentecostal universities under
non-Pentecostal professors, and on their graduation the movement had not always assimilated
them without some tension. It is significant that a number of the first generation of Pentecostal
graduates either became post-Pentecostals or continued in their denominations in ongoing
tension with many of their peers in Pentecostal ministry. In South Africa some anti-intellectual
ministers would actually boast “I have been to the braambos (the burning bush) not the
Stellenbosch (seat of a Reformed theological faculty)” The search for a Pentecostal
hermeneutic that marked the 80’s and 90’s threw some light upon this matter by highlighting
the problems involved in applying a hermeneutic learned in a Protestant/Evangelical/Reformed
environment within the dynamics of Pentecostal ministry, e g McClean’s (1984) and
Sheppard’s (1984) contributions in Pneuma. The role and use of the Bible in a movement
whose ethos is rooted in Anabaptist-Wesleyan-Holiness method and values may be
significantly distinct from groups whose roots are in classical Protestantism. On the other hand
there is some debate today as to whether the roots of 20th century Pentecostalism should be
sought in one of these camps or the other – e g Menzies (2007) argues that the ReformedEvangelical
roots are more significant than any others, whereas Dayton (1987) argues for the
primacy of the Wesleyan-Holiness roots and Clark (2004) adds to this the relevance of the
Anabaptist-Moravian roots for Wesleyanism and thus for Pentecostalism.
By the second half of the 20th century, Pentecostal missions were being hailed as a
remarkable success story in comparison to the mission efforts of most other Christian groups.
Research into the planting and growth of Pentecostalism outside of the North Atlantic world
focussed attention upon the distinctive aspects of Pentecostal evangelisation, preaching,
liturgy, and community. The astonishing growth of Pentecostal-type churches in Africa, Asia
and Latin America was reducing the North Atlantic churches to an insignificant minority – in
terms of numbers if not of resources, research, publications and money. Today there are
probably more Pentecostals within 100 miles of Seoul, Sao Paulo, Johannesburg, Lagos or
Accra than there ever have been in the whole of Europe and the UK. Pentecostals also
overwhelmingly outnumber evangelicals in most of these contexts, the opposite of the situation
in the North Atlantic region. This means that how they preached, prayed, evangelised and
worshiped in achieving this remarkable situation became vital for Pentecostal selfunderstanding.
McClung (1986) was among those who focussed upon this area of Pentecostal
The extension of Pentecostalism in significant numbers into the so-called Third World also
confronted the movement with demands of social justice within this region. This was an area
that apocalyptic movements either avoided as far as possible, or lost themselves in totally.
Pentecostalism had generally adopted the former course. In White-ruled countries in Africa
such as Rhodesia and South Africa the White-dominated Pentecostal denominations were
faced by the attraction to Black, political and liberation theologies on the part of their Black
colleagues. In Latin America the growth of Pentecostalism was paralleled and challenged by
the growing popularity of theologies of revolution and liberation among churchmen of that
region. The study of Pentecostalism and socio-political issues thus became an area of crucial
interest for Pentecostals at that time. My own doctoral research (Clark 1989), prompted by the
contrasting attitudes of Pentecostals and Evangelicals in the Rhodesian war to those of the
ecumenically aligned churches, addressed this by investigating the political theology of Jurgen
Moltmann from a Pentecostal perspective. Pentecostal leader Chikane recounts his own
involvement in the anti-apartheid struggle in South Africa (Chikane 1988), and was also a
motivator behind the publication of the Kairos Document (Kairos Document 1985), a
declaration that challenged all Christians to overtly join the liberation struggle, to the extent of
using or condoning violence if necessary.
Crucial, if not always central, to addressing all of these concerns lay the notion of “encounter
with God.” Pentecostals were essentially people who claimed to have had a particular
encounter with God. Not a “new” encounter, but an encounter such as that modelled in e g the
gospels and Acts – an encounter that occurs within parameters defined by the Christian
scriptures. The challenge for Pentecostal theologians has thus been to articulate theology as
people who have had this encounter, while neither diminishing the dynamic aspects of the
encounter nor playing fast and loose with the technical demands of theological science and its
disciplines. This has probably been one of its most difficult assignments, particularly in those
intellectual contexts dominated by post-Enlightenment categories, as Kelsey (1974) pointed
out. The temptation has been either to reduce the encounter to some sort of sociological,
anthropological or psychological phenomenon, or (in reaction) to reject a “dead” theological
system that refuses to take God seriously. These were all issues that naturally presented themselves to my research in 1987, and I
attempted to address them as thoroughly and relevantly as possible.
3. A plurality of Pentecostalisms: regional and cultural diversity of burning issues?
Any approach to the matter of Pentecostal propria in this decade of the 21st century is faced by
a number of complexities that render it difficult, if not impossible, to treat Pentecostalism
simplistically as a monolithic movement. The theme of this conference highlights one of those
areas: non-western Pentecostalism.
The spread of Pentecostalism into the developing world, where the overwhelming majority of
Pentecostals are now to be found, and the increasing competence of developing-world
theologians to record and articulate their own belief and practice, offers an alternative
approach to the self-understanding of Pentecostalism that can no longer be ignored. Are there
not perhaps at least two disparate sets of burning issues that need to be dealt with? And what
will determine who documents the process normatively, and how?
My personal journey illustrates the challenges of living, researching and articulating
Pentecostal issues in two different worlds. In South Africa I served in a denomination of over 1
million members with 2000 ministers, at least 50 of whom held PhD or equivalent in theology
(2007 data.) I am now accredited as a minister in a UK Pentecostal denomination that has less
than 60 000 members nationally, with about 600 ministers, of whom 2 or 3 have PhD or
equivalent in theology (2008 data.) But just 2 UK-grown contemporary Pentecostal scholars
(Warrington and Kay) have published and edited as many theological collections and
monographs as all the South African scholars combined.
The picture is similar if one takes the scholar/publication ratio of North American Pentecostals
and compares it with Asia, Africa and Latin America, even within a single multinational
denomination such as Assemblies of God. In the developing world Pentecostal scholars are
more likely to be local (large-) church ministers, national leaders, or teachers intensely
involved in meeting the massive training demands in an environment of rapidly growing
churches, than tenured scholars in seminaries or universities. This has the rather odd effect
that students researching issues in the developing world are using, as the primarily available
published sources, works that originated outside of, and often with little or limited reference to,
their own ministry and existential situation. The migration to the North Atlantic region of
developing-world scholars with prolific publication records, such as Amos Yong, Allan
Anderson, Wonsuk Ma and others, may still have something of an ameliorating, if attenuated,
A case in point is the typical North Atlantic Pentecostal-Evangelical debate on issues such as
hermeneutics and initial evidence. In the North Atlantic world these are crucial areas of debate
and revisiting them is relevant to the normal ministry situation of most Pentecostal ministers.
However, in the developing world many elements of the Pentecostal-Evangelical debate are
simply irrelevant to most ministry situations. On the interface between a dynamic Pentecostal
form of Christianity and animism or Islam or Buddhism or Hinduism (or even folk Catholicism
as encountered in e g Latin America and the Philippines) these may be peripheral rather than
central matters.
Two monographs that appeared in 2008 illustrate this divide, Warrington’s Pentecostal
Theology and Kalu’s African Pentecostalism.
Warrington describes his aim as “to focus on a Pentecostal theology which is defined by
distinctive elements of Pentecostal belief and praxis but especially by an undergirding
Pentecostal philosophy” (Warrington 2008:vii). Chapter headings then include God, the church,
the Bible, Spirituality and ethics, mission, Healing, exorcism and suffering, and eschatology The longest chapter is on God, in which 16 pages deal with the Father and Jesus, and 86
pages deal with the Holy Spirit, and of those 35 pages deal with the baptism in the Holy Spirit
and especially the issue of subsequence. While at certain “relevant” places in the work nonWestern
scholarship is indicated or referenced (such as in the overview of world
Pentecostalism and the discussion of mission) the sources he lists for the majority of the work
are overwhelmingly Western and the issues that are raised are described and discussed from
primarily that perspective. For Warrington the burning issues of Pentecostalism are the burning
issues of North Atlantic Pentecostalism. Even in the discussion on mission the sources and
topics are oriented predominantly toward the Western perspective. Within Warrington’s own
culture and context this is a valuable and insightful work. But as an adequate representation of
complex and diverse global Pentecostalism(s) it is not so convincing.
Kalu’s work aims at presenting a comprehensive overview of the complex historical, social,
political and theological influences that have shaped African Pentecostalism. In his conclusion
he states “The effort has been made to retell the story of African Pentecostalism by paying
attention to space, time, themes, and various scholarly discourses. The overarching
conceptual scheme indicates that African Pentecostalism emerged from African indigenous
and cultural responses to the gospel message.” (Kalu 2008:291.) In outlining the burning
issues that Pentecostal theology in Africa seeks to address, he asks: “How do Pentecostal
theologies connect the conception of salvation with issues of contemporary significance like
poverty, wealth, prosperity, health, healing and the reconstruction of daily life? Is African
Pentecostalism a genre of fundamentalism? Finally, how do Pentecostals read and preach the
Bible and claim the enduring, archaic power of its oral nature?” (:250.)
Kalu provides in his select bibliography an impressive list of Pentecostal writings relating to
Africa, an equally impressive African contribution among them. The manner in which he
shapes his history and theological discourse in conversation with these sources provides a
cogent model for contemporary Pentecostal theologising. It is more than just aware of cultural
distinction: it offers an account and analysis of the Pentecostal thinking of a major portion of
the Pentecostal church that can be read by those who are not African and still be understood
to recognisably represent Pentecostalism as they too know it. Kalu contends that Pentecostalism in Africa has recently changed at a pace as rapid as it has
grown. The following significant shifts in its shape and ethos have occurred since the later
1. Prosperity theology is widely criticised;
2. there has been a return to a holiness ethic;
3. there is a blossoming of intercessory ministry;
4. evangelism has intensified;
5. there is wide engagement of the public space;
6. there has been a massive charismatisation of the mainline churches.
(Kalu :19)
It may well be that Kalu is here reporting his own West African context, as in e g Southern
Africa not all of these changes might be as evident. However, they do indicate how the burning
issues have migrated within part of the African region of the Pentecostal movement.
Kalu (:21) reports Martin (2005:121) with regard to the ambiguities born of the dynamism of a
movement that is called to articulate itself relevantly in different parts of the world:
even when it crosses borders, it goes native;
2. there are some cases of Anglo-Saxon origins, but many more where it is free-standing;
3. in some places it expresses folk religiosity but also ingests it;
4. the class content of its membership cannot be easily classified;
5. it may be varied but retains family likeness; 5
6. it fuses the modern mode with an ancient spirit or primal piety; and
7. it recovers the Word but also transcends it.
It is in the notion of “family likeness” that one may find a rationale for looking for itches that are
common to the wider family, and not just to the North Atlantic clan on the one hand or to the
African (or Asian or Latin American) clan on the other. This is a quest that, as Warrington’s
(2008:12-13) list of dissenters and sceptics indicates, might well seem simplistic at best and
impossible at worst. Does this mean we need to despair of achieving it?
In revisiting the major issues of 1987, and in awareness of the regional and cultural pluralities
within Pentecostalism, it might nevertheless reasonably be suggested that a common ethos
and some common burning issues can still be identified. For instance, Kraus’ (1979:173-174)
description of the Anabaptist ethos might well be appropriated by wider Pentecostalism as its
own identifier, and as such be able to provide a common understanding of “Pentecostalism”
that could suffice for the purposes of this analysis: a radical, Jesus-centred, martyr movement
(see my detailed argument for this appropriation in Clark (2004)). However, even this is merely
articulation of a common ethos (a symptom) and not of a common worldview (the disease?) 4. What is distinctive about early 21st century Pentecostalism?
4.1 Can a distinctive Pentecostal world-view be identified?
In the realm of philosophical studies it is possible to identify major world-views and their
derivatives, and to utilise them to gain some understanding of diverse cultures and religions.
There is a recognisable Buddhist world-view (a subjective world-view) and a recognisable
Judaeo-Christian world-view (an objective world-view.) Within the Christian family there are
recognisable variations of the Judaeo-Christian world-view, and even some possible
adaptations (Islam) and some major apostates (the dualistic world-view of E W Kenyon and
the Faith Movement, and the Buddhist-type world-view undergirding some of the “positive
confession” schools of doctrine.)
Since so much of the diversity within Pentecostalism is an expression of the various regional,
ethnic, cultural or class diversities embraced by the movement, it might well be possible to
proceed further than the search for distinctive doctrine or even ethos, and find out at what
philosophical level Pentecostalism operates. For instance, if it is pre-modern as some indicate
(Poloma 2003:22), how does it then so regularly facilitate modernisation, as others have
noted? (e g Wedenoja 1980:41-43.) If it is postmodern (a popular categorisation) then why are
so many Pentecostals convinced of particularist and absolute Truth e g a literal understanding
of John 14:6?
While one encounters many references to “the Pentecostal worldview” in the literature, as a
simple internet search will demonstrate, rarely does one encounter a serious attempt to outline
the nature of that worldview in any detail. One encounters either a rather glib “it is premodern”
or “it is postmodern” comment in passing, or an assumption that it entail notions of
pneumatology (especially tongues-speaking!) or of magic and mysticism or of encounter. One
even finds it discussed under the traditional headings of Christian doctrine. Despite offering to
highlight “an undergirding Pentecostal philosophy” Warrington does not seem to avoid this
typical limitation. Johns (1995), in conversation with those who urge Pentecostals to accept
their place in the postmodern way of thinking and acting, has (in my reading) come the closest
to presenting a philosophical approach to a Pentecostal world-view, as opposed to a list of its
doctrinal and experiential differences, or simply a description of its ethos.
Kalu (2002) and Khathide (2003) have both presented useful descriptions of the African
worldview and the manner in which Pentecostalism has interacted with it. Onyinah (2002) 6
shows how worldviews may interact in Africa when deliverance as part of Pentecostal ministry
comes to be understood in terms of an alternative worldview that sees the “deliverer” as a
Christian shaman – an alarming syncretism in Africa. The question as to whether Paul Yonggi
Cho represents a shamanisation of Pentecostal practice confronts Pentecostals with the
challenge of defining its worldview in contrast to the worldviews of Asia. Klauck (1994)
demonstrates the discontinuity in worldview, and Luke and Paul’s efforts to highlight it,
between the oracular and thaumaturgical practices of first century Christians and those of their
pagan counterparts. For Pentecostal ministry in a non-western setting this latter demonstrates
that the Biblical material is as crucially involved with this issue as is Pentecostal selfunderstanding.

Until Pentecostal scholarship is able to clearly define a Pentecostal worldview that successfully
illustrates the core of the “family likeness” of global Pentecostalism, the two worlds of
Pentecostalism may continue to drift on in isolation from each other, each thinking it’s a priori
realm of ideas is the only (or at least most important) one.
4.2 Pentecostal involvement in socio-political issues
The most common comment by South African lecturers on any research paper, article, thesis
or dissertation in theology offered in the 1980’s and early 1990’s would be: “But what are the
socio-political implications of this?” The expected answer would be that somehow your
research should show you how Christian theology could be harnessed into the service of the
anti-apartheid struggle. Research that did not serve such a purpose was often dismissed as
irrelevant, and a sort of “correctness” meant that it would receive little priority for publication or
other dissemination.
At the same time the dominant paradigm for conceptualising Christian involvement in politics
was the particular Marxist perspective on social-analysis and the resolution of the “people’s
struggle.” Within Pentecostalism there was an obvious attraction to such a simplistic and virile
approach to resolving “liberation” issues such as apartheid or oppressive land-ownership
practices in Latin America. The Kairos Document (1985), motivated by a Pentecostal pastor,
insisted that the weakness of evangelical-Pentecostal apolitical options was their failure to do a
social-analysis before doing theology – but uncritically implied that the only valid social
analysis was the Marxist one.
In the post-Soviet era, where Marxism in Europe has been recognised as a political, economic
and environmental failure, this simplistic notion that the Marxist understanding and solution is
the only viable one, has come to be questioned in many areas of Christian thinking. In the
context of Christian missions West (2000) asks outright: Should Christian’s take Marxism
seriously anymore? Scholars often note (apparently on the basis of a comment by an
Argentinean pastor) that “Liberation theology opted for the poor, but the poor opted for
Pentecostalism” (quoted e g by Miller & Yamamori 2007:215.) This present-day relativisation of
the oppressor-oppressed paradigm provides space for Pentecostal socio-political involvement
to develop within in own particular genius rather than to be one more assenter to the liberation
Miller & Yamamori (2007) present a sociological perspective upon the manner in which
Pentecostals around the world are dealing with social need as they encounter it. They recount
numerous cases of people of various races, classes and gender engaging in context-modifying
activities either because of the unbearable pressure of compassion, or simply because “God
told me/us to do it.” Rather incautiously for secular sociologists, these authors note:
… they (Pentecostals) frequently say that the Holy Spirit speaks directly to them about
their social involvements in the community. Therefore, the most economical
explanation may simply be that social theorists should include some reference to the 7
spiritual realm in their attempts to understand social movements. Perhaps the
demographer’s toolbox, loaded with the variables of race, class, ethnicity, and social
location, is inadequate. The primary motivator for those joining Pentecostal churchhes,
based on our interviews, seems some type of encounter with the sacred, with all of
these other elements simply contextual variables.
(Miller & Yamamori 2007:37-38)
This motivation for 20th century Pentecostals to work in a context of social need was
documented at least as early as David Wilkerson’s Spirit-led mission into New York’s
ganglands, culminating in the Teen Challenge enterprise which now spans the world. This
ministry, like so many founded by Pentecostals, demonstrates the intervention of God not only
in the calling that originated it, but also in the manner in which it operates – drug addicts
experience miraculous rehabilitation from hard drugs by the power of the Holy Spirit.
“Charismatic direction” in becoming involved in social issues and politics in modern time is at
least as old as the Methodists such as the Clapham Sect. In the face of a consistent antipolitics
stance by Pentecostals, I noted 20 years ago:
It must be acknowledged that the sovereignty of the Spirit to direct individuals must
preclude limiting the scope of that calling by declaring politics off-limits. .. it is consistent
with the notion that the God who has control of the strategy of the history of the world
can call men to obedience in tactics in any area in which he wishes.
(Clark 1989:223-224) (see also Clark 1988:82-83.)
Is there a “family likeness” in this area of human endeavour that might enable Pentecostals
everywhere to articulate and practice the divine intervention of their God in every aspect of
human existence, including social and political need? Does Pentecostalism hold a distinctive
view of God, humanity and the cosmos that permeates the entire diverse family?
4.3 The challenge of operating as people of both text and Spirit
The African Kalu (2008:249-255) and the British Warrington (2008:180-205) both take note of
the importance for Pentecostals for understanding their relationship to the Christian Scriptures.
Kalu (2208:254-5) notes a number of reasons why African Pentecostals (at least) cannot be
branded Fundamentalists, either ideologically (e g as right-wing conservatives) or
1. The character of African expressions of Christianity is often branded as conservative,
but the meaning of the terminology remains ambiguous;
2. The movement’s focus is experiential and charismatic driven – this sits uneasthis sits uneasily upon
Fundamentalist shoulders;
3. Its recovery of the pneumatic resources of the Scriptures has reshaped the religious
landscape and charismatised mission-founded churches;
4. The variety of theologies and practices within a movement that is notable for its
diversity defies easy labelling;
5. The movement is noted for its lack of ideological militancy in the social and religious
spheres – it has great political import but does not promote a strong political agenda;
Yet African Pentecostals do emphasise church-growth, winning converts, healing, deliverance,
signs and wonders and other expressions of divine power – they are literalist in their use of the
Bible, but not fundamentalist. They are also ethically conservative in their understanding of
Biblical norms – witness the ongoing debate in the Anglican communion with regard to
homosexual priests, where the (primarily charismatic) African bishops have taken a stand that
might easily be stereotyped as conservative, reactionary and fundamentalistic. Perhaps the 8
search for a Pentecostal hermeneutic that once was so popular in the west needs to revived, in
conversation with non-western partners? 4.4 Sacrificial life and ministry, or acquisitive?
The last two points to be made in this paper are in a certain sense nostalgic. The early history
of Pentecostalism indicates that involvement in Pentecostalism in general, and in its ministry in
particular, demanded a price of the person who undertook it. That there are heroes in
Pentecostalism is not a myth, it is a reality. This may be as simple (but hurtful) as
perseverance in the face of social exclusion – only recently could a young Afrikaner
Pentecostal in a South African school ever hope to play for the First XV rugby team – or
dogged commitment in the face of life-threatening persecution. A Mozambican Pentecostal
mother told me how, because the village shaman and elders opposed Pentecostals, her 12
year old daughter was taken from her and dedicated as “bride of the ancestors” – effectively
shunned by the clan to go insane in isolation. Many pioneers of Pentecostalism braved poverty
by giving up their (often lucrative) careers to undertake Christian ministry or mission.
Some more recent paradigms operating within Pentecostal and charismatic circles, e g the
Prosperity Gospel and the so-called New Apostolic Paradigm, have provided an alternative
and diametrically opposed view of the spiritual hero: a person of great wealth and influence, of
almost wizard-like autonomous spiritual potency, a celebrity who is never defeated or
depressed, a leader of God-given anointing and authority. Through their influence an
apocalyptic movement which in its origins was inimical and subversive to the dominant western
paradigm of capitalism, consumerism, media- and celebrity-driven culture has been in danger
of becoming one of its chief exponents and source of role-models.
Pentecostals, and Pentecostal leaders and ministers in particular, need to make it clear
whether the “family likeness” of global Pentecostalism is going to extol the virtues of an
egocentric populist acquisitive form of spirituality, or continue to model the sacrificial form that
was bequeathed it by its founders. If Kalu (2008:19) is correct that African Pentecostalism is
turning from Prosperity Theology during the last decade, this would be good news indeed. In
the diversity of ministry philosophies that currently influence Pentecostal leadership paradigms
and ministry, the movement might well benefit by weeding out those that extol the popular
notion of hero and return to the Biblical model of the doulos of Christ, the humble and
sacrificial disciple that demonstrates the heart of a servant and not of a king.

4.5 Is there still place in the heart of Pentecostal liturgies for the notion of a simple
“encounter with God”?
Warrington subtitles his work A theology of encounter. The spread of the movement in the
developing world redounds with narratives of the ongoing encounter with God that changes
lives and communities. However, in the west, where Pentecostalism is at best moribund, it is a
notion (in liturgy at least) that rarely seems to find expression. Where once no-one had to be
told in a Pentecostal gathering that “God is here”, in recent years it seems that it requires
powerful orators and charismatic celebrities to assure the audience that “what is happening
shows that God is here.” Previously Pentecostal worshippers were loathe to leave the service
and go home, because they could feel the presence of God. Today it seems more likely that,
despite the best efforts of musicians and “worship leaders” to programmatically lead the
congregation into the presence of God, and despite the assurances of “anointed” leaders that
“God is truly doing something here today”, at the end of the service there is a mass exodus to
get away as rapidly as possible and return home to more exciting and fulfilling pursuits and
experiences than one has in church. Rarely, too. does one encounter recent Pentecostal
research that discusses the previous ideal of “preaching the Word in the power of the Spirit.”
This seems to have been abandoned by the wider pastorate in the west to the “great men of God”, the media-sponsored icons of Pentecostal ministry, or to seeker-sensitive conversational
“tips for living.”
In this area too a conversation between non-western and western Pentecostals might be
fruitful in directing the movement back to its experiential roots.
5. Conclusion:
22 years after What is distinctive about Pentecostal theology? was written it may well be that
not only is there a need and a hope for articulating a unifying Pentecostal worldview, a “family
likeness” that transcends the movement’s diversity, but that some of the old itches might still
need to be scratched.

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