In his Christianity Today article titled Why Do These Pentecostals Keep Growing, Ed Stetzer, a noted Christian researcher and missiologist, is not focusing on aberrant Pentecostal groups but what he terms “orthodox evangelical Pentecostals.” Neither is he interested in debating Pentecostalism. Rather, his focus is a sociological one, seeking to explore why these orthodox evangelical Pentecostals keep growing while other mainline denominations are in decline.
I’ve read Stetzer’s findings with keen interest, and I believe it all comes down to this:
“Pentecostals believe in their approach. Their Christian walk has benefited, and they think everyone should have access. While others are figuring out what to do now to achieve growth, Pentecostals are focusing on who they are and are achieving growth.”
Then, he adds the following about declining denominations, “Most are mainline, a few are evangelical, but most simply are not as excited about what they believe—and don’t think it needs to be propagated as much—as the Pentecostals” (some non-Pentecostals are bound to object to this analysis–perhaps it’s the shortcoming of the approach used by Stetzer to anaylze the growth phenomenon).
Or perhaps there’s a greater explanation. Stetzer mentions it in the second paragraph of the article: “Pentecostals will say they are growing because the Spirit is moving in a powerful way.” Then Stetzer adds, “I get that, and actually would affirm that as part of the reason, but from a sociological perspective, other things are happening and worth exploring.”
Stetzer, it’s not part of the reason. It is THE reason. While I commend Stetzer’s sociological approach, I believe such an approach is really downplaying the powerful work of the Holy Spirit here.
But it’s worth noting that Stetzer mentions the growth of the Methodists during the Second Great Awakening, the Baptists in the 50s, and the Vineyard Church movement in the 1980s, which I believe is evidence of the work of the Holy Spirit.
Now I submit the following: we need to pause for a moment and appreciate this historical tidbit to help us better understand what is going on here. Or we can choose to become distracted by a preoccupation with how different Pentecostals are than us non-Pentecostals.
And miss the move of the sovereign Spirit–wherever he chooses (John 3:8).