Spreading Fires: The Missionary Nature of Early Pentecostalism

by Allan Anderson

In this book, Allan Anderson seeks to identify the essential characteristics that produced the unprecedented worldwide growth of Pentecostalism by analyzing its origins.

Orbis Books, P.O. Box 302, Maryknoll, NY 10545, 2007, 320 pages, $35.00.

Reviewed by DeLonn Rance, chair of the global missions department and visiting professor of intercultural studies, Assemblies of God Theological Seminary, Springfield, Missouri.

The beginnings of Pentecostalism reveal a mixture of stories of supernatural power, incredible faith, sacrifice and expansion intertwined with stories of human weakness, failure, aberrant belief and behavior. This historic mix of divine and human evidenced in the spread of the gospel fires of Pentecostal revivals reveals the missionary nature of the Holy Spirit. Though still often shrouded in mystery and scholarly debate, the history of the phenomenal expansion of the Pentecostal expression of the Christian faith is beginning to emerge.

In this book, Allan Anderson seeks to identify the essential characteristics that produced the unprecedented worldwide growth of Pentecostalism by analyzing its origins. Anderson organizes the presentation of his research into three sections. Part One sets the stage by examining the historical, theological and social environments of early Pentecostalism. Part Two presents the meat of Anderson’s research, chronicling the fascinating story of the birth and spread of Pentecostalism in India, China, East Asia, Africa, the Middle East, Latin America and the Caribbean during the first two decades of the twentieth century. Part Three describes the emergent mission theories and practices of the Pentecostals of the period, highlighting the critical roles of evangelism, healing, eschatology, the relationships of power and the impact of Spirit-driven ministry by laity.

Anderson identifies—but does not escape—several significant minefields in the developing discipline of Pentecostal historiography. Among these are: the limited access to global primary sources and an overreliance on Western and English sources; the danger of overemphasizing or underemphasizing the role of Western missionaries in contrast to the impact of national believers and leaders on Pentecostal growth; the ecumenical nature of the experience of the Spirit and the fierce independence of early Pentecostals; and the paradox of missionary ethnocentrism and dynamic Spirit-empowered indigeneity.

These issues will continue to be debated by scholars interested in the rise of global Pentecostalism, thus illustrating the need for not one single history of Pentecostalism, but multiple contextual histories. Each narrative must demonstrate the diversity of Pentecostal expression while affirming the one Spirit who continues to reveal the mission of God.
The narrative that Anderson presents gives witness to the missionary nature of early Pentecostalism. It also gives witness that as men and women yield to the call and empowerment of the Holy Spirit, the gospel is preached, people are saved, the Church is established, the Great Commandment and the Great Commission are fulfilled and the fire spreads.

Check these titles:
McClung, Grant, ed. 2005. Azusa Street and Beyond: 100 Years of Commentary on the Global Pentecostal/Charismatic Movement—Azusa Street Centennial Edition. Gainesville, Fla.: Bridge-Logos Publishers.

McGee, Gary B. 1986. This Gospel Shall Be Preached: A History and Theology of the Assemblies of God Foreign Missions to 1959. vol.1. Springfield, Mo.: Gospel Publishing House.

________. 1989. This Gospel Shall Be Preached: A History and Theology of the Assemblies of God Foreign Missions since 1959. vol. 2. Springfield, Mo.: Gospel Publishing House.

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Copyright © 2008 Evangelism and Missions Information Service (EMIS). All rights reserved. Not to be reproduced or copied in any form without written permission from EMIS.


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