Renovatio: Even More Emerging Pentecostals

31 03 2008

Emergent Village announced once again the development of a pentecostal stream in the ongoing conversation, this time from Brazil. People familiar with the AG are acutely aware that the pentecostal movement is growing almost exclusively outside our borders, most notably in South America. This is either great news or the canary in the coal mine, depending on one’s perception of the emerging conversation.

A Match Made in Heaven

While the sheer number of pentecostal believers in South America should cause those of us in the emerging church movement to take notice, what’s most interesting is the marriage between emergent philosophy and the pentecostal experience. I have sensed since first wading into these postmodern waters that while emergent is a potent force for practical reformation by challenging cultural assumptions on theology, the pentecostal experience has the equal potential to place disciples of Jesus into an Acts 2 model of healthy orthopraxis by balancing the emphases of encountering the Holy Spirit along with a lifestyle of following the Gospel of Jesus.

In South America, the social-political climate was likely the impetus for the pentecostal movement to spread like wildfire: the shortcomings of the social gospel met with the uneven distribution of capital have unleashed a movement to experience God firsthand as provider and empowerment. Unfortunately, a parasitic caricature has seeped in with the tide, namely, a health and prosperity message that swings the pendulum in the opposite direction and frames God’s will as mostly centered on personal wants and needs. This is a message that has been honed and perfected in the American West, as the baby boom generation perfected an inherited consumerism to quell our cold war jitters and distract us from the unpleasant realities of mass production and the end of small town America. And with the American evangelical church joining forces with American Free Market Enterprise, what else would we use to measure spiritual vitality but the consumer index (how many in your church, how new is your stuff)? This became the lens through which we perceive the blessing of God, no longer in an Abrahamic, instrumental context but instead as an instrument for personal satisfaction. Book titles like Your Best Life Now (Joel Osteen) and The Secret to True Happiness (Joyce Meyer) become the de facto baseline for what to expect from one’s Christianity in the US. Often American pentecostals simply narrow the framework a little more by adding the condition of baptism in the Holy Spirit as the true key, though to many it opens the same door, albeit with a whole lot more charisma than the baptists.

A Northbound Wave

The rise of an emerging stream within South American pentecostalism stands to change that dynamic dramatically. Can believers north of the Mexican border accept the possibility that millions of our Spirit-baptized brethren are willing to cut out the prosperity baggage and model for us a radically different pentecostal witness? One that embraces the Spirit and walks a path of social responsibility instead of consumerism? Will our Ameri-centric sensibilities survive the realization of thriving pentecostal churches in South America when it becomes more and more apparent that they’re giving up on American expressions of mega churches and celebrity pastors in favor of obscurity and loving “the least of these,” driven by the Holy Spirit to the open sewers and orphanages instead of the fast food window and the super wal-mart?

The potential reality of a world literally turned upside down by an emerging pentecostal wave from South America reminds me that we are racing to catch up with what the Holy Spirit wants to do in our world. When we meet in Sacramento in April and as cohorts begin to bubble up across the US, we won’t have the luxury of pretending we’re being innovative. We just want to be ready when the wave hits our shores.

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2 responses

1 04 2008
Phil Wyman

This is a long awaited consideration, which I have posted about previously on my blogs. see http://philwyman.blogspot.com/2007/05/pentecostals-emergent-anabaptists-and.html

I am not sure this can be so simply stated that American Pentecostals are all based in “faith ministry” theology. The fact is that it is large movement, and filled with a wide variety of thought. Much of it which has a distaste for faith and word of faith theology. My emergent pentecostal friends have struggled with feeling like they fit into the movement, and some of that feeling is based upon such characterization unfortunately.

These are just a few of my thoughts as a Pentemergent, or a Emergematic or whatever I am.

3 04 2008
johnohara

I like that… emergematic.

I hear you, Phil. This author simply isn’t knowledgeable enough to paint with finer-tipped brushes than are presently being used to describe macro-level influences on the cultural baggage of a Spirit-of-God movement.

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