Changing the self-understanding of Pentecostal Christians worldwide

Challenging the popular perception of Pentecostalism as a ‘made-in-the-USA’ religion and advocating the global beginnings, multiple origins and local initiatives of the phenomenon, Professor Allan Anderson's research has had profound effects on the self-understanding and practices of Pentecostal Christian churches across the globe.

Objectives

At the heart of Anderson’s research are three contentions:

  • Pentecostalism originated and spread as a missionary movement throughout the world from multiple centres of renewal and revival.
  • The popularity of the Pentecostal movement can in part be attributed to its contextual spirituality.
  • Pentecostalism has been more meaningful precisely because it has continued some pre-Christian religious expressions and symbols and invested them with new meanings.

These contentions have emerged from extensive fieldwork undertaken over a period of twenty years (since 1993) in eight African and five Asian countries, in Chile and Ecuador, and also in the UK, Germany, USA and Canada. It began with pioneering research on the rapidly changing nature of African Christianity, but quickly expanded to a broader scope, resulting in three co-edited collections on global Pentecostalism (1999), Pentecostalism in Asia (2005, 2011), and theories and methods in the academic study of global Pentecostalism (2010).

Impact

The research has resulted in two highly influential recent texts in the field: An Introduction to Pentecostalism (OUP 2004), and Spreading Fires: The Missionary Nature of Early Pentecostalism (SCM and Orbis Books 2007). Both these works were voted as among the 10 outstanding books by the International Bulletin for Missionary Research in their respective years of publication, while in their respective years of publication, while Spreading Fires was awarded the Pneuma Book Award for 2007 by the Society for Pentecostal Studies. Anderson’s research has continued to develop this distinctive contribution and message with the recent publication of To the Ends of the Earth: Pentecostalism and the Transformation of World Christianity (OUP 2013).

Influencing the next generation of Pentecostal practitioners, leaders and lay-persons

An Introduction to Pentecostalism has sold over 6,000 copies worldwide (the majority since 2008; a second edition is due in 2014) and, owing to its impact in South America and East Asia, it is available in Spanish (since 2007) and Korean (in progress) translations. This is the first comprehensive textbook on Pentecostalism to be published from an international perspective, and it remains the leading text read by non-academic audiences, and prescribed in seminaries and universities worldwide.

On the basis of his published research, and particularly An Introduction to Pentecostalism (2004), Anderson has been invited to speak in twenty-three countries on five continents. He has lectured to church congregations, often of considerable size, and also addressed consultations for church leaders, lay persons and seminary groups around the world. In both his public lectures and consultationaddresses he has advanced his multiple centre argument for the origins of Pentecostalism, and the global perspective of the phenomenon. He continues to influence the direction of thinking in churches and seminaries through his involvement with the individuals, churches and organisations he has encountered.

Influencing teaching and curriculum design in training institutions and seminaries

The most focused impact of Anderson’s work on non-academic audiences has been through its influence on teaching and curriculum design at theological training institutions in Ghana, India, the Philippines and Ecuador, and on attitudes of pastors connected with them. This influence has been exerted both through Anderson’s publications and through his personal visits as expert consultant. Since 2008, students in these institutions who are training for ministry (after five years these now number in their thousands), mainly among Pentecostal church congregations, have followed courses which enshrine Anderson’s principles: that Pentecostalism originated in many different places as local phenomena, rather than as an export from the USA; that it bears specific characteristics in different locations; and that it frequently incorporates assimilated forms of pre-existing religious beliefs and practices.

Anderson has had close connections with a number of theological colleges in various parts of the world. Among them is Pentecost University College, Accra, Ghana, which was founded by the Chair of the Church of Pentecost and President of the Ghana Pentecostal and Charismatic Council, the largest denomination in Ghana. Anderson visited the College in April 2008 soon after its foundation, and advised the newly-appointed staff on curriculum design. One of those who benefited was the Chair himself, who reports that Anderson’s research influenced his design of a new course. Another institution with which Anderson has had close ties is Filadelfia Bible College, Rajasthan, India, which educates mainly ‘tribal’ Christians in church leadership. Here, Anderson worked with the staff on curriculum development in November 2009.

Anderson has also worked with staff at Asia Pacific Theological Seminary, Baguio City, Philippines, ‘a cooperative ministry of the Assemblies of God national churches of Asia, Pacific Oceania, and the Assemblies of God World Missions-USA’. The on-going impact of his influence stemmed from the Fourteenth William Menzies Lectures that he delivered in February 13-17, 2006, to an audience of about 200 people including local pastors, teachers from other theological institutions, ministers from other parts of the Philippines and interested lay people.

A fourth example of this profound influence is SEMISUD, Seminario Sudamericano, Quito, Ecuador, which trains church leaders. In September 2011, Anderson gave a series of lectures to students, all practising Pentecostal ministers, from eight different Latin American countries, and also advised staff on the curriculum. SEMISUD’s President comments: ‘During the said lectures there were representatives of 18 countries of Latin America in the classroom. Most of them were pastors that have shown great deal of success in their Christian ministry’. His overall assessment was that ‘it was an inspirational and educational moment for the life and ministry of the Pentecostal leaders who attended the lectures’.

Learn more

If you are interested in the work that Professor Allan Anderson undertook in this area you can learn more by contacting him: a.h.anderson@bham.ac.uk.

If this has sparked an interest in studying a course in the Department of Theology and Religion, you can find more information on the Undergraduate, Postgraduate and Doctoral research opportunities on offer from the department below.