Church historian Vinson Synan has made 20 trips to Latin America while studying the explosive growth of Pentecostal Christianity and he believes that it's time to state the obvious.
"We've reached the point where you're not going to be able to get along very well with many believers in the Third World unless you embrace the gifts of the Holy Spirit," said Synan, who teaches at Regent University in Virginia Beach, Va.
"You just can't have a closed mind when it comes to healing and prophecy and speaking in tongues if you want to talk to people in places like Latin America, Africa and Asia. Wečre talking about the whole church there -- almost all of the Protestants and many of the Catholics."
Synan has been saying this for decades in books like "The Old-Time Power" and "The Century of the Holy Spirit," and he isn't alone. Now, researchers at the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life (www.pewforum.org) in Washington, D.C., have released a wave of data from 10 nations documenting that the diverse 100-year-old movement called Pentecostalism has touched the lives of one in four Christians around the world.
The Pew team defined "Pentecostals" as members of older bodies such as the Assemblies of God, the Church of God in Christ and the International Pentecostal Holiness Church. Then there are "charismatics" who are Catholics, Anglicans and mainline Protestants who embrace healing, prophecy and other spiritual gifts, yet remain in their own churches.
Together, these groups form what many now call the "renewalists." According to this study, these believers -- to cite four eyebrow-raising examples -- make up 60 percent of the population in Guatemala, 56 percent in Kenya, 49 percent in Brazil and 44 percent in the Philippines.
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