Full Gospel


It is impossible to fully understand the expansion of Pentecostalism in the global South without a consideration of its central ideologies or theological emphases. It was inevitable that the driving force behind and leadership of the movement would pass swiftly to local leaders, given the principles and features of the early pentecostal missionary movement. Without a true translation of the message into the thinking of the people, the work of the foreign missionaries would never really be effective. When missionaries discovered they could not automatically speak the local languages with the help of the Spirit, their only option (if they stayed) was to use interpreters and train locals. Very early on, indigenous leaders took up the baton and so began a swift transfer of leadership that was unique in the recent history of Christianity. Sometimes these leaders interacted with foreign missionaries as part of a pentecostal denomination; but increasingly, new movements arose in the South with little foreign missionary participation or none at all. The revivals in the first decade of the twentieth century had resulted in feverish missionary activity in the decades that followed among new Christian groups that had arisen in various parts of the world. Fundamental to the expansion of these revivalist movements was a conviction that the Holy Spirit had been poured out upon the earth to enable witnesses in every nation to spread the good news to the ends of the earth. Pentecostalism was missionary by nature and its mission was first and foremost evangelism. Its missionaries’ fundamental task was proclamation, and most of these missionaries set out to establish churches wherever they went.

Because of the missionary nature of Pentecostalism, and because its missionaries instilled this orientation in their converts from the beginning, evangelism snowballed. This was combined with the experience of the Spirit and a particular form of premillennial eschatology that declared that the second coming of Christ would soon bring the end of the world as we know it. These believers did not share the confident hope in the benefits of Western civilization that characterized older Protestant churches. In the words of Albert Norton, veteran pentecostal missionary in India, Western civilization had entered “the dark shadow of the greatest national apostasy in all the history of mankind.” The missionary task was urgent, and before the cataclysmic eschatological events accompanying the return of Christ, the power of Pentecost would be restored to the church. What were popularly termed “signs and wonders” would enable the Christian gospel to be preached all over the world. These missionaries were also convinced that the power of the Spirit had been given them to enable them to preach this gospel, and that this was the fundamental reason for their going far beyond their homes in their northern “Jerusalem” to the “ends of the earth.” Their message spread rapidly, as messengers fanned out into a world dominated by Western colonial powers, where previously difficult-to-reach areas were being opened up by new and faster transportation and communication links.1

The concept of evangelism in pentecostal practice was inherited from late nineteenth-century radical evangelicals and differed significantly from that of older denominations. Simpson’s “Fourfold Gospel” of “Jesus Christ: Savior, Healer, Baptizer and Soon Coming King” remained an important concept in Pentecostalism—with regeneration, divine healing, holiness and/or baptism in the Spirit, and the premillennial second coming of Christ the essential constituents of the pentecostal message. This “full gospel,” as it came to be known in Pentecostalism, included a message of a personal, experiential, and exclusive salvation from sin through a “born-again” or conversion experience; an instant, distinctive experience of holiness following conversion known as sanctification (among Holiness pentecostals); the practice of healing the physically sick through prayer and laying on of hands; the baptism in the Spirit empowering for witnessing (often characterized by the “evidence” of speaking in tongues); and a sense of the imminent, premillennial return of Christ. Fundamental to all activities was the conviction that this “full gospel” had to be preached, modified by different pentecostal groups but foundational to their theology and practice.2

It is sometimes assumed that pentecostals so overemphasize the Spirit that their Christology is obscured. However, the focus of pentecostals in seeing Jesus as Savior is always Christocentric—“coming to Jesus,” “receiving Jesus”—and a lifestyle conversion and a radical break with the past or the “world” is a prominent part of their “full gospel” proclamation and implicit theology. In fact, some suggest that as a result of their central Christology, Pentecostals might have a limited Trinitarian framework. Be that as it may, Pentecostals identify with the evangelical “born again” movement whose essential message is that “Jesus saves,” expressly declaring the life-altering nature of Christian conversion, and the invitation to “sinners” is “Let Jesus come into your heart.” This is expressed in the popular songs that form part of pentecostal worship worldwide and in the testimonies of radical change that are expected of pentecostal believers. I have stood in the blazing sun by the banks of a river in tropical Africa and watched baptisms by immersion of scores of new converts. The converts first must testify one by one of their conversion experience by stating what sort of life they have been “saved” from. The testimony will include a list of deeds thought to be unacceptable to Christian practice. Sometimes the pastor prompts the candidate if the list of sins is not long enough. The emphasis is always on a radical break with these past deeds after receiving Christ. This “born-again” conversion experience is the most important, foundational part of pentecostal experience and without it no other experience in the “full gospel” is possible. But the Christological emphasis continues: Jesus is also seen as the one who heals, the one who makes holy, the one who empowers believers by giving the Spirit, and the one who will soon return to reward the faithful and bring judgment to a decadent world.

This was the essential thrust of the message that was to be translated into the contexts of the peoples in the global South. The “full gospel” was intrinsically part of it. In continuation with the emphases of the various revival movements it emerged from, the power of the Spirit in pentecostal thinking is always linked to the command to preach the gospel to all nations. Pentecostal preachers had to proclaim this gospel everywhere with attendant signs that demonstrated the Lord’s presence, especially that of healing the sick. The task of proclaiming the full gospel was also given urgency in view of the impending return of Christ. The Bridegroom’s Messenger declared that the world was about to end and Christ had sent the new Pentecost to prepare for His coming. The nations of the world had to be evangelized through the power of the Spirit—with “signs following” before this cataclysmic event occurred—by missionaries “speedily propagating the word of truth in all nations before He comes.” The power to preach the gospel and evangelize all nations permeated the activities of the missionaries and their converts, but not to the exclusion of all other activities. Pentecostals saw their task made both easier and more effective by the power of the Spirit. This view sometimes brought them into sharp tension with more experienced evangelical missionaries who had labored at individualistic evangelism for many years with limited results. The conflict became even sharper when newly Spirit-baptized missionaries and their converts declared that the previous efforts of the older missions had been virtually futile, and that they had found that the freedom of the Spirit gave them faster and more efficient methods than those of the bureaucratic machinery of established mission societies. W. W. Simpson described his evangelistic task in China as follows:

I know by practical experience and actual work that the evangelization of the Heathen can be carried on now exactly as in the days of Peter, Paul and Philip. This knowledge had revolutionized my whole work and methods, I now see the complete evangelization of China in the course of two or three years as a practical possibility within our grasp. Not by opening large mission stations and establishing extensive plants and institutions and cumbering the work with elaborately organized machinery, not by boards and committees and high sounding phraseology, not by suasive [sic] words of wisdom and discussions and councils, but by the foolishness of preaching in the demonstration of the Spirit and the power is the work to be done.3

It is no wonder the established missions were threatened by this sort of propaganda. There were other emphases linked to the pentecostal priority of evangelism, not least of which was the importance of sustained prayer. Writing about a new pentecostal team that had arrived in Johannesburg in 1908, W. J. Kerr explained the importance of prayer in the missionaries’ strategy. They had emphasized “the necessity of much prayer, and most of the meetings are largely prayer meetings, either before or after the usual gospel service.” It was customary for the workers to be in a back room of their meeting place “for one or two hours either praying with people, or waiting on God for His blessing,” he wrote. It would be a mistake, however, to conclude that this “spiritual” kind of evangelism was the only activity pentecostals were engaged in. What is quite remarkable about the first missionaries was their occupation with rescue missions, famine relief, feeding the poor, and especially the creation of orphanages and schools to care for the many destitute children they came across. It was not just a case of preaching the full gospel and leaving their converts to take care of themselves. Looking after the physical needs of their converts and of needy children was an integral part of the gospel they proclaimed. This continued to be a characteristic of the many indigenous movements that emerged.4


The full gospel proclaimed that Jesus was the Healer from sickness and all forms of disease. This was in direct continuity with the divine healing movement at the end of the nineteenth century, one of the most important influences on early Pentecostalism and another expression of the popular beliefs on the fringe of Christianity out of which it emerged. Despite all the divisions that were later to erupt in Pentecostalism, divine healing remained constant. It is also likely that above all else, healing is the main reason for the appeal of Pentecostalism in the global South. Like the earlier advocates of divine healing, even though they suffered from severe illnesses and many of their earliest missionaries died from tropical diseases, pentecostals remained unshaken in their conviction that physical divine healing had been restored to the church in the worldwide revival of the last days. Healing was both an indispensable ingredient of their message and the means by which the nations would be brought to faith in Christ. Pentecostals believed that “signs and wonders” would follow their preaching in fulfillment of Christ’s Great Commission. Healing and miracles are still prominent in pentecostal practice, especially in the Majority World. Indeed, in many cases, the ability of a preacher to heal is the primary cause of church growth. Recent studies have emphasized that healing, more than any other factor, is the single most important category for understanding the expansion of Pentecostalism during the twentieth century.5

In the nineteenth century, divine healing became more acceptable within Protestantism. Figures like Johann Christoph Blumhardt (1805-80) in Bad Boll, Germany, and Dorothea Trudel (1813-62) and her successor Samuel Zeller (1834-1912) in Mannedorf, Switzerland, operated centers for healing through prayer. The fame of Blumhardt and Trudel reached the English-speaking world in the second half of the century. Among those who were influenced and involved in healing by prayer were Charles Cullis, an Episcopalian physician, and the CMA leader A. B. Simpson, whose missionaries played a major role in early Pentecostalism in China and India. The healing movement gained momentum toward the end of the century and developed international networks. The “International Conference on Divine Healing and True Holiness,” held in London in 1885, marked one of the high points in the healing movement and brought together leaders from several, mostly Western countries. The conference chair was William Boardman (1810-96) and the speakers included A. B. Simpson and Elizabeth Baxter (1837-1926). John Alexander Dowie (1847-1907), the controversial founder of Zion City near Chicago, has been regarded as “the father of healing revivalism in America,” although there were several earlier figures. His Christian Catholic Apostolic Church was founded in 1895, placing Dowie in the tradition of the Scottish Presbyterian revivalist Edward Irving (whose followers became the Catholic Apostolic Church), and forming a link between Irving and Pentecostalism. Dowie’s radical eschatology was still premillennial but included a strong missionary orientation and an emphasis on healing; his end-time restorationism and his acceptance of people from all walks of life became prominent motifs in Pentecostalism. In 1904 Dowie declared himself “First Apostle,” and the following year Zion City went bankrupt, after which Dowie suffered a stroke and died in disgrace. Several Zion leaders became Pentecostals, and Dowie’s influence extended far beyond North America. His Zionist movement was one of the most important formative influences on the growth of both Pentecostalism and of “Spirit” churches in Africa. Millions of “Zionists” attend celebrations at African “Zion Cities” in southern Africa, where healing, prophecy, and speaking in tongues are often the main activities. The Faith Tabernacle in Philadelphia was founded by a former Zionist and was an important influence on early West African Pentecostalism. Some leaders in the healing movement taught that divine healing was possible without medical assistance and some, like Dowie and some early Pentecostals, rejected the use of medical science altogether. Although this was not the view of the majority, the rejection of medicine was also a feature of early Pentecostalism and independent churches throughout the Majority World.6

The presence of healing gifts sometimes broke down barriers of gender and race. Some of the prominent American healers were women, such as the African American Elizabeth Mix, who prayed for the healing of the Episcopalian woman Carrie Judd Montgomery (1858-1946) from an incurable disease. Montgomery published a monthly periodical, Triumphs of Faith, which began in 1881 and continued for almost seven decades; it was “devoted to faith-healing and to the promotion of Christian holiness.”7 Many of the articles were on healing and were written by women, and some leading ministers in the healing movement like her friend Elizabeth Baxter were featured. Montgomery was one of the most prominent American healing evangelists and bridged the gap between the healing and holiness movements and Pentecostalism when she became pentecostal in 1908. Montgomery’s early views of physical healing were clear and included the rejection of medicine. These views were to typify pentecostals through much of the twentieth century. Maria Woodworth-Etter (1844-1924) was a tent evangelist who traveled around the United States in radical evangelical circles, and before the rise of Aimee Semple McPherson, she was the most popular featured speaker in early American Pentecostalism. Healing ministries were often the most effective ways to reach people with the Christian message, and this distinguished pentecostal missionaries from those from older missions. One of the earliest pentecostal missionaries in Shanghai, Antoinette Moomau, based her extensive ministry on prayer for the sick, writing:

I believe I am safe in saying that whenever there is a case of healing, there are always one or more families reached simply through that testimony that Jesus is able to heal the sick. Many times the power of God comes upon these sick ones the first time they are prayed for, and in a short time they receive a clear experience of salvation.8

Healing evangelists have always been part of the pentecostal movement in the North, from Carrie Judd Montgomery, Aimee Semple McPherson, and Smith Wigglesworth in the earliest years of the movement to Kathryn Kuhlman and Morris Cerullo in the 1970s, through to Benny Hinn and German evangelist Reinhard Bonnke from the 1980s onward. Healing evangelists are long established in pentecostal circles in Latin America (Carlos Annacondia in Argentina), Asia (John Sung in China, Yonggi Cho in Korea, and Bhakt Singh and D. G. S. Dhinakaran in India), and Africa (William Wade Harris and Garrick Braide in West Africa and Engenas Lekganyane in South Africa in the 1910s, Joseph Babalola in the 1930s, and Benson Idahosa in the 1980s in Nigeria, among many others). A massive increase in membership among Argentine evangelicals during the 1980s was particularly the result of Annacondia’s campaigns. He and compatriots Omar Cabrera, Hector Gimenez, and Claudio Freidzon were responsible for the rapid growth of pentecostal churches in Argentina, where divine healing has become the sine qua non for church growth and their central practice.

The Argentine movement had international repercussions. Freidzon was a key figure in the development of the “Toronto Blessing” that commenced a year after Canadian Vineyard pastors John and Carol Arnott visited his church. Argentine pentecostal congregations are now among the largest in the world.9

Pentecostal denominations have sometimes had an uneasy and ambiguous relationship with international healing evangelists, who usually operate independently. Their healing campaigns, which contributed to the growth of Pentecostalism in many parts of the world, developed in North America after the Second World War and had their peak in the 1950s. David Harrell considers the period 1947-58 to be the period of “the great healing revival” in the United States that “dwarfed the successes of earlier charismatic revivalists; it had a dramatic impact on the image of American pentecostalism and set off a period of world-wide pentecostal growth.” This may be overstating the case, for it does not account sufficiently for the efforts of indigenous and denominational pentecostal leaders. At first, healing evangelists enjoyed support from most pentecostal denominations, but some were embroiled in controversies that embarrassed the denominational leaders and caused them to distance themselves from these healers. Indeed, many of these evangelists themselves found it more expedient to work independently and reported remarkable healings and miracles in their campaigns. William Branham (1909-65) and Oral Roberts (1918-2009) were the best known and most widely traveled. Branham’s sensational healing services, which began in 1946, are well documented. He was the pacesetter for those who followed before he became involved in doctrinal controversies that continue among his “Branhamite” followers. A. A. Allen (1911-70) died an alcoholic. Tommy Hicks (1909-73) was responsible for revival meetings in Buenos Aires in 1954 at the behest of President Juan Peron, which 400,000 people were reported to have attended. T. L. Osborne (1923—) had large crowds at his campaigns in Central America, the Caribbean, Indonesia, and East Africa. By 1960, Oral Roberts had become the leading pentecostal evangelist, increasingly accepted by mainline denominations, and one of the most influential pentecostals in the emergence of the Charismatic movement. His moving from the Pentecostal Holiness Church to the United Methodist Church in 1969 marked the end of the relationship between healing evangelists and denominational pentecostals, who were becoming increasingly critical of the evangelists’ methods, particularly their fund-raising and often lavish lifestyles. Sometimes the emphasis on the “miraculous” has led to shameful showmanship and moral decadence, exaggerated and unsubstantiated claims of healing, and triumphalism.10

However, pentecostals regard “signs and wonders” to be such an indispensable part of their evangelism that without them their preaching is powerless. They consider this evidence that the apostolic power is as available as it had been in the time of the New Testament. These ideas were promoted in pentecostal periodicals. Elisabeth Sexton wrote that unbelievers would be convinced by “the supernatural manifestation of His power in His saints” and that the world had the right to expect signs to follow their ministry. William Burton in the Congo wrote that Christ’s command to heal the sick had never been withdrawn. His apostles continued his healing and miracle ministry to the end of their lives. The present days were “apostolic days” and God was still sending apostles to the nations of earth. Jesus had given the example of a method of evangelism and he expected it to proceed in like manner, with “signs following” just as had happened from the beginning of his mission. Early twentieth-century pentecostal newsletters and periodicals abounded with testimonies to physical healings, exorcisms, and deliverances from evil spirits. Healing was an evangelistic door opener for pentecostals by which the full gospel was demonstrated in a physical and personal deliverance. Pentecostal missionaries and especially the healing evangelists expected miracles to accompany their evangelism, and as McGee put it, they “prioritized seeking for spectacular displays of celestial power.” The “signs and wonders” promoted by healing evangelists have led to the rapid growth of pentecostal churches in many parts of the world. Harrell considers the independent American healing evangelists responsible “more than any other single force” for bringing “the message of God’s miraculous power to the masses in the Third World.”11

But while it is true that Roberts, Osborne, Hicks, and in recent years Reinhard Bonnke have been major players in popularizing healing evangelism, there were long-established traditions of healing evangelism initiated by indigenous preachers throughout the sub-Sahara, and from India to China. In many cultures of the world, healing has always been a major attraction for Pentecostalism and independent churches, and it has not had to overcome the anti-supernaturalism of rational enlightenment thinking prevailing in the West. In many rural African and Asian cultures the religious specialist had extraordinary power to heal the sick and protect from evil spirits and sorcery. The proclamation of healing and miracles related directly to those who saw the pentecostal message as powerfully able to meet human needs. Numerous healings reported by pentecostal preachers confirmed to them that God’s Word was true and that God’s power was evidently present—with the result that many were persuaded to become Christians. As Burton put it, healing belonged to the missionaries’ credentials, and above all the “signs” promised in Mark 16, “again and again, we lay hands on the sick in the Name of Jesus and they recover, whereas the witch doctors’ fetishes could not, in some cases, heal them.” Furthermore, in contrast to the traditional healers who charged for their services, pentecostals offered their healing power for free. Burton wrote that healing was “the very foundation of pioneering missionary work.” It was, in effect, this power confrontation with traditional healers that won converts. This healing activity was played out in many different contexts and occasions, often spreading much quicker through native agency. A missionary in South Africa wrote in 1909 that God was “doing marvelous things amongst the native people.” When Africans got saved and healed, they also had “faith in God for the salvation and the healing of others.” He continued, “It goes like wildfire from one to another. It is the ministry of healing that carries the Gospel. Missionaries without faith for healing do not amount to much here. There are plenty of them here now who cannot touch the people.” Another early pentecostal described divine healing as “one of the greatest powers we have” and the means by which people were “brought to Jesus.” He declared that he “could fill a fair sized newspaper with detailed accounts” of people “completely healed in answer to prayer.”12

But it was not always power and glory for pentecostals. Some doubted the authenticity of the many reports of healing and some were later proved to have been exaggerated. Occasionally, cases of failed healings were reported, many missionaries themselves succumbed to sickness, and some tragically died of diseases like smallpox and malaria in their adopted countries after only a short time; there is no evidence that they were any different from other missionaries. Some taught, like contemporary “faith” preachers, that all sickness is from “the devil” and does not belong to a Christian, so that when one “feels” sick one has the symptoms but not the sickness itself. Some were more philosophical in their approach to their own physical weaknesses. Lillian Garr, who died soon after her return to the United States from Hong Kong and who lost both her daughter and her domestic helper to smallpox soon after their arrival there, wrote of the loss of two children of other missionaries, who had to “give up” their children because God was preparing them for “higher ministry.” As a result of their “double sorrow” they would “come forth as gold.” As she nursed her terminally ill husband in China, PMU missionary Maggie Trevitt struggled with the conflict between her faith in divine healing and the tragic reality of her husband’s tuberculosis. The couple did “not understand why deliverance does not come,” she wrote. They had both “asked the Holy Spirit to search us and anything that was revealed we confessed it and asked for cleansing and forgiveness, but still deliverance is withheld and the Lord must have a purpose in it.” Sadly, her husband died soon after this letter was written.13 Burton struggled with the issue of taking quinine as protection against malaria after he discovered how many missionaries had died of malaria in southern Africa:

The Apostolic Faith and Pentecostal Mission have 33 graves of splendid men and women who refused quinine and died. But now these malaria victims are dying, and of course some of the Spirit filled missionaries are taking quinine, and they don’t die, and they ask me which gives God most glory? To take this stuff and live, or refuse it and die?14

These were the dilemmas faced by pentecostal missionaries. Healing is probably no longer as prominent as it once was, but in many parts of the Majority World, the problems of disease and evil still affect the whole community. These mostly rural communities are health-oriented and in their pre-Christian religions rituals for healing and protection are prominent. Pentecostals responded to a void left by rationalistic forms of Christianity that had unwittingly initiated the destruction of familiar religious values. They preached a message that reclaimed biblical traditions of healing and protection from evil and demonstrated the practical effects of these traditions. So they became heralds of a meaningful message that offered to meet physical, emotional, and spiritual needs of people—solutions to life’s problems and ways to cope in a threatening, hostile world. But too often, this message of power has become an occasion for the exploitation of those who are at their weakest.15

Arguably the most effective and best-known Chinese healing evangelist of the twentieth century, John Sung (Song Shangjie, 1901-44), was an independent itinerant revivalist preacher in the 1930s. He lived during a turbulent time in China; but this was also the time of the Shandong Revival, when spiritual gifts were accepted in many Protestant churches. Song drew thousands to his meetings and regularly prayed for the sick, anointing them with oil. Startling results were reported. Born in the home of a Methodist preacher in Xinghua, Fujian, in southeast China, Song went to Ohio State University, graduating with a PhD in chemistry in 1926. One eventful year in the United States included a semester at Union Theological Seminary, New York, when he burned all his theological books and renounced theological education. After a “breakdown” (which he always claimed was a mistaken diagnosis for a spiritual experience) and six months in a mental hospital, he returned home in early 1927. This was the period of the anti-Christian movement in China, but for the next thirteen years, until ill health overcame him, he devoted himself exclusively to evangelism and healing, bringing at least 100,000 to conversion (some estimates are considerably more) and revival to hundreds of churches. He had an indefatigable preaching schedule throughout China and Southeast Asia, including Malaysia, Singapore, Borneo, Indonesia, the Philippines, Thailand, Vietnam, and Burma. Wherever he went, his diary recorded hundreds of conversions and healings from all kinds of afflictions. His hundreds of meetings (usually three a day with two hours of preaching in each service) were characterized by drama and emotion, including theatrics and vivid illustrations on the platform, vigorous clapping, spontaneous prayer in unison, and free-flowing tears. Song dressed in an informal long Chinese shirt and often appeared disheveled, with his hair falling over his forehead. His stem revivalist preaching appealed to common people, demanded repentance from moral vices, and was accompanied by revival songs, emotional scenes of people repenting with loud cries and tears, and exorcising demons. Numerous cases of healing in Song’s ministry were reported, with overwhelming numbers of people lining up for prayer for healing and exorcism in his meetings. Wherever he went he set up evangelistic teams to continue the work he had started and hundreds of these teams operated throughout China and Southeast Asia. He became an international figure, but his many critics charged him with fanaticism, emotionalism, and even insanity.16

Although Song cautioned against what he saw as pentecostal excesses and had an ambivalent relationship with pentecostals, his ministry most certainly was characterized by pentecostal phenomena and he preached in pentecostal churches. He was a healing evangelist who not only was baptized by immersion in 1932 in Hong Kong, regularly prayed in tongues (a gift he first received in March 1934), and prayed for the sick during every campaign, but he also exercised a gift of knowledge and prophecy in the course of his preaching. With the gift of knowledge, he would speak out about personal details of people in his audience without contact with them beforehand. He was also reported to use predictive prophecy, and his diary records his occasional visions. These were also features of later Pentecostal healing evangelists. His view on tongues was that it was the least of the gifts, but that every Christian should be filled with the Spirit. Like pentecostals, he saw this as an experience subsequent to conversion, prayed for people to receive the experience, and taught that it should be accompanied by receiving love and at least “one of the 9 gifts of the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 12:8-10).” He was also a conservative fundamentalist who sometimes used questionable exegesis and allegory, an outspoken critic of “liberal” theology, and one who believed that Western missionary control was a hindrance to the Chinese church. He wrote in his diary that only after the missionaries had gone and Western funds stopped would the Chinese church really grow. He made his views known clearly, declaring: “I feel that most of the [church] organizations set up by Westerners do not last long. The churches that God blesses are those built by Holy Spirit-inspired Chinese.” He held annual Bible Conferences for church leaders; the one in Beijing in 1937 was attended by 1,600 delegates. Song prophesied that there would be a great revival in China after the missionaries left and after the Chinese church had suffered greatly. In spite of his often searing outbursts against Western missionaries, Song was welcomed in Western-founded churches (usually evangelical ones), and occasionally he was invited by the missionaries themselves. His effective ministry was regarded by many as preparing the Chinese church for the rigors of the impending Japanese war and the repression under Communism that was to follow. Song suffered from recurring tuberculosis and in 1940 was forced to give up his heavy traveling and preaching schedule when diagnosed with cancer. He died in 1944 at the age of forty-two after several major operations. His funeral service was conducted by his friend and well-known Beijing independent church pastor Wang Mingdao. Song’s impact on Chinese Christianity was enormous. Not only was he spiritual father to many thousands of Chinese Christians, but his style of integrating emotional prayer with fundamentalist evangelism is now dominant in Chinese Protestant Christianity.17

The full gospel continues to be a central part of Pentecostalism’s attraction in the Majority World, even in its much modified forms, but nowhere is this more evident than in its proclamation of Jesus as Healer. Indeed, in many parts of the world, divine healing is part of all Christian belief and permeates Catholic, Protestant, Pentecostal, and Independent alike. In May 2005 the World Council of Churches (WCC) Commission on World Mission and Evangelism convened an international conference near Athens on the theme of reconciliation and healing. Although the conference did not set out expressly to deal with physical healing in Pentecostalism, this was clearly an important topic. A series of preparatory meetings were convened in London and Accra in 2002, Santiago de Chile in 2003, and Bangalore in 2004, in which I was invited to participate. There and in Athens, pentecostals were represented and their views heard. Pentecostal scholars including Finnish scholar Veli-Matti Karkkainen and Ghanaian Church of Pentecost leader Opoku Onyinah helped in the planning of these consultations and worked in various capacities in Athens. The meetings in Accra and Santiago were specifically aimed at bringing together pentecostals and churches involved in the ecumenical movement, and a complete issue of The International Review of Mission was devoted to “Divine Healing, Pentecostalism and Mission,” with reflections, reports, and papers from the meetings in Ghana and Chile. The January 2005 issue of the International Review of Mission dealt with the conference theme and the practices of healing familiar to pentecostals, and a series of preparatory papers were sent out before the Athens conference. In Preparatory Paper 11, “The Healing Mission of the Church,” a WCC document gave attention to healing gifts and the world of spirits for the first time. Sections of this document affirmed pentecostal beliefs, declaring that “spiritual powers” had not received adequate treatment in earlier WCC documents and that “a narrow rationalistic world-view and theology” was challenged by the views of proliferating Christian churches outside the West. The manifold gifts of the Spirit—including healing by prayer and laying on of hands, and the exorcism of evil spirits—were part of the ministry of Christ and of the worldview of the New Testament. These were biblical practices according to the apostle Paul’s list in 1 Corinthians 12, and were seen as being among many other approaches to healing within contemporary Christian traditions.18

Although pentecostals from thirteen countries constituted less than 5 percent of the participants at Athens, that was a larger number than had attended any previous WCC event. For several other reasons their participation had a high profile. The first plenary paper was presented by Korean pentecostal Wonsuk Ma, testimonies were given by Latin American pentecostals in plenaries, Ghanaian Charismatic Methodist theologian Kwabena Asamoah-Gyadu and I were “listeners,” and pentecostal presentations in well-attended workshops and a remarkable pentecostal dialogue with Orthodox delegates took place. In his opening address,WCC General Secretary Samuel Kobia referred to the significance of Pentecostalism to ecumenism, speaking of changes in the global dynamics of Christianity not only in its geographical change southward but also in the flourishing of pentecostal spirituality, having “spiritual, moral, theological, missiological” implications. As a result, he said, “forms of expressing our faith that grew out of European culture are no longer normative.” There were a few tensions felt by pentecostal delegates: a desire for more enthusiasm to be expressed in the worship, the Orthodox litany that felt particularly foreign to pentecostals from the South, and concerns about the discussions on religious pluralism and the role assigned to difficult Old Testament texts seeming to condone violence. Some of the pentecostal concerns were expressed in a joint statement drawn up and agreed on by nineteen participants at the close of the conference. Part of it read:

In spite of the goodwill of many, we still feel that Pentecostals are often misunderstood, misrepresented, and even unfairly caricaturized. We admit that we Pentecostals are equally responsible for the mutual suspicion and misunderstanding.... Considering that many of us will be critically probed by our own people because of our personal decisions to participate in this conference, we become aware of this difficult task of bridging the gap between Pentecostals and the wider Christian community. At the same time, we affirm our commitment to the spirit of church unity.19

The Athens conference did help break down some of the hostility and misunderstanding that had arisen between the pentecostal delegates and the Ecumenical Movement, but there are at least two qualifications that temper a too optimistic assessment. First, the vast majority of pentecostals were not represented at the WCC meeting. With notable exceptions like the Korean Assemblies of God and some Latin American pentecostal churches, official representation by pentecostal leaders and major pentecostal denominations in national ecumenical councils remains rare, especially in the case of denominations in the North. Some still eschew such an affiliation and see this as an attempt to create a “world super-church” that will have apocalyptic consequences. Participation in ecumenical gatherings has often been by somewhat isolated individual pentecostal theologians and not by their denominational representatives. There is also resistance among some WCC members to enter into dialogue and involvement with pentecostals, who are still regarded as schismatic.20

Second, the pentecostal perception of “healing” is not as holistic as it is portrayed in WCC circles, at least at first glance. This was typified by a comment made on the first day to Wonsuk Ma, who was then a pentecostal missionary in the Philippines, by another Korean who remarked that Ma had presented a view of healing as “physical cure” rather than offering a “deeper,” more comprehensive view of healing. Of course, the so-called holistic view of healing often excludes the “physical cure” or what pentecostals call “divine healing.” Ma replied that the pentecostal context was often marginalized, but pentecostals also needed to learn how to respond to the scientific approach to healing and to expand the notion of healing beyond the merely physical. The difference between pentecostals and most other Christians used to be that pentecostals believed that the gifts of the Spirit continue in the time between the Ascension and the Second Coming of Christ, whereas most Protestant churches influenced by modernism and rationalism believed that the time of miracles had ceased. This dichotomy is no longer as sharp, for the ecumenical movement acknowledges the active presence of the Spirit in the church through spiritual gifts, and pentecostals admit that other forms of healing (such as medical science) are also part of the healing economy of God. At the conference Wonsuk Ma said that pentecostals represented the “poor,” and that the “core” of their pneumatology was “empowerment for witness.” Coming from the poor, their conversion to Pentecostalism resulted in some of them moving upward socially, which was seen as evidence of the blessing of God. Healings and miracles were interventions of God that were regularly expected in Pentecostal ministry.21

There is another side to healing as practiced in some forms of Pentecostalism, however. The preparatory paper also warned about the idea of a “power encounter” that leads to “a triumphalistic, aggressive presentation of the gospel,” but that an urgent dialogue “for the sake of the churches’ ministry of healing” seemed appropriate. A testimony of restoration from a failed marriage by the daughter of a pentecostal pastor in Argentina demonstrated that her church was a healing and reconciling community where she had found acceptance and forgiveness. The testimony of a blind man from Kenya told of a pentecostal evangelistic healing “crusade” and the seeming failure of anyone to get physically “healed” there, leaving him hurt and disillusioned. The tendency of pentecostals to believe that physical healing will always occur is contradicted by these “failures” and their own experience. This is one of the disturbing questions concerning divine healing seldom discussed by pentecostals and for which there are no easy answers. During a workshop, Opoku Onyinah said that the WCC statement of healing was very close to his own understanding as a pentecostal and as an African, for the pentecostal salvation is holistic and includes physical healing. Pentecostals are no longer opposed to medical science but believe that however healing takes place, God heals, whether through prayer or medicine. Pentecostals affirm that God is all- powerful and compassionate and is deeply troubled by the suffering in this world. Healing is not seen as an end in itself, but as a sign of God’s kingdom rule, as a confirmation of the power of the gospel to bring people to faith. But healing should not become “anathema in the ears of persons with disabilities” but a real possibility for everyone to experience the loving grace of God in healing, whether or not the physical cure is achieved.22

Baptizer in the Spirit

The rapid growth of Pentecostalism can also be attributed to a factor called the “Missionary Spirit,” the motivation and driving force behind pentecostal expansion. The central doctrine of Spirit baptism has gone through several modifications and controversies in the Western world. The kaleidoscope of pentecostal missionaries illustrates several principles. First, the gift of tongues received with Spirit baptism was often referred to as the “gift of languages” in early American Pentecostalism and became the primary reason for the sending out missionaries. The Apostolic Faith in Los Angeles revealed that the expectations of early American pentecostals were that this gift had been given to fulfill the commission “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation.” As a result,

The Lord has given languages to the unlearned Greek, Latin, Hebrew, French, German, Italian, Chinese, Japanese, Zulu and languages of Africa, Hindu [sic] and Bengali and dialects of India, Chippewa and other languages of the Indians, Esquimaux [sic], the deaf mute language and, in fact the Holy Ghost speaks all the languages of the world through His children.23

Early American pentecostal periodicals abounded with testimonies to this divinely bestowed gift of languages; but soon it dawned on pentecostals that there was no shortcut to language learning and their missionaries were faced with the same difficulties of communication as any other foreigner. They began to talk of speaking in tongues as being primarily “unknown tongues” and the shift away from “missionary tongues” was rapid when faced with the challenges of life in a different country and culture. However, because the pentecostal missionaries took many years to become familiar with the languages of the nations, they depended much more on the “native helpers” than other missionaries did. The traditional missionary set out to master the language and thus become less dependent on local people, whereas the foreign pentecostal missionary could not succeed without indigenous workers.24

The primary motivation behind the belief in missionary tongues was the conviction that the Spirit had been given to evangelize all nations. As The Apostolic Faith put it, it was “the baptism with the Holy Ghost which is the enduement of power, that will make you a witness to the uttermost parts of the earth.” Inquisitive people went on pilgrimages to Azusa Street and returned having experienced their own personal Spirit baptisms. Not all the early pentecostal missionaries were novices. Some were already missionaries who had spent some time in the “field,” like George Berg in India, Bemt Berntsen and Antoinette Moomau in China, and Samuel and Ardell Mead in Angola. These had all traveled far to Los Angeles and returned to these countries as pentecostal missionaries. Berg had been a Brethren missionary in South India and on his return to India after visiting Azusa Street he began with Brethren mission contacts. Berntsen was a Scandinavian Alliance missionary and Moomau a Presbyterian one. Because they were convinced they also had a message for traditional Christians, many of the first pentecostal converts were from existing Christian missions and included other foreign missionaries. Nevertheless, the remarkable fact was that these untrained and (in most cases) inexperienced pentecostal missionaries were sent all over the world from centers like Los Angeles, Indianapolis, London, Oslo, and Stockholm, according to one estimate reaching over twenty-five nations in two years. T. B. Barratt observed in 1909:

In heathen lands, among Missionaries, native preachers and Evangelists, as well as among the people, this Holy Fire is spreading, and will do so increasingly. It is said that some fifty thousand people have within two years been baptized with the Holy Ghost and have spoken in tongues. Thousands of God’s people have been wonderfully blessed of God outside of this number.25

Of course, it was part of the legacy of Protestantism that the world outside the Americas and Europe was regarded as “heathen,” the dark world to which they had been sent with the light of the gospel and Western “civilization.” But for pentecostals, the biblical texts were more significant. They were as much convinced by Acts 1:8 (“But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth”) as they were by Acts 2:4 (“All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them”), often regarded as their defining text. Pentecostals believed that the command of Acts 1:8 was not an option; it was the only way that the Great Commission could be fulfilled and it had to be sought before it was too late and Jesus had returned. In 1908, Indianapolis pentecostal leader and later first General Secretary of the Assemblies of God J. Roswell Flower put it, “When the Holy Spirit comes into our hearts, the missionary spirit comes in with it; they are inseparable” and “carrying the gospel to hungry souls in this and other lands is but a natural result.” The PMU’s director, Cecil Polhill, expressed the conviction that for any revival to endure it must have “the true Missionary Spirit.” He thought that the “Pentecostal Blessing must go right through the world” and was “the very best thing in the world for the Mission Field.” The gift of the Spirit was a “Missionary Gift.” His mission organization was founded on the conviction that “every true Pentecost means missionary service to the ends of the earth.” Alexander Boddy, Anglican vicar and board member of the PMU, wrote that a true “Pentecost” meant “a growth of the Missionary Spirit,” that “the indwelling Christ is an indwelling Missionary” who had sent pentecostals to go into the world. When they obeyed, “He goes with us in the power of the Holy Ghost to preach a great and a full Salvation for Body, Soul, and Spirit.”26 This theological link between Spirit baptism and Christocentric mission has always been made in the pentecostal movement and was inherited by the first pentecostals from the earlier revival movements they had been part of. The point cannot be overemphasized: just as Spirit baptism is Pentecostalism’s most distinctive doctrine, so mission and evangelism are Pentecostalism’s most important activities. This is the primary reason for its tendency to expand wherever it can. The spread of Pentecostalism worldwide should be seen in this light. Pentecostalism as a whole does not depend on highly specialized clergy to perform its mission, for its fundamental conviction is that all of God’s children who are filled with the Spirit are called to be God’s messengers of the good news. Minnie Abrams explained that Spirit baptism should “make us world-wide” and “enlarge us,” for Christ had said “that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in His Name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem,” which was “the program that He laid out for us.” Christ had said that “He would endue us with power from on high that we might be able to do it.” Abrams was probably the first to give a detailed exposition of Spirit baptism within a Holiness framework, and she linked spiritual gifts with missions. Pentecostals were given gifts of the Spirit in order to engage in service to others—this was their mission to the world. As she put it, the “full Pentecostal baptism of the Holy Ghost” had not been received unless someone had received both the fruit of the Spirit and the gifts of the Spirit as outlined in 1 Corinthians 12. These gifts alone “enabled the early church to spread the knowledge of the gospel, and establish the Christian church so rapidly.” It was this exposition that was shared with her friends the Hoovers in Chile that led to the beginning of Pentecostalism in that country.27

This fundamental and inseparable link between Spirit baptism, spiritual gifts, and Christocentric missions remained the central plank of the whole structure of Pentecostalism from its beginnings. Polhill stated that every missionary needed the baptism of the Spirit with the accompanying spiritual gifts for the task. There had to be “a distinct seeking of the baptism for service for every missionary, and equally a clear receiving or manifestation, probably the speaking in tongues, accompanying which will be some distinct spiritual gift or gifts to each one.” Only in this way, he wrote, would “the Gospel be presented to every creature in the shortest possible time.” Reflecting on the expansion of Chilean Pentecostalism over two decades, Willis Hoover wrote that it was “the missionary spirit” that moved pentecostals to go to places where the pentecostal experience was not known. For this some were prepared to migrate to other towns, work at their trade, and “sow the Word of the Lord.” Some became pastors as a result—to this day, Chilean Pentecostalism prefers tried-and-proven leaders who have shown their gifting in ministry rather than those theologically trained ones who have not yet proven their practical abilities. For pentecostals, the baptism in the Spirit is both the primary motivation for and only essential prerequisite for mission and evangelism. Although they did engage in all sorts of philanthropic activities, they had been empowered by the Spirit to go into the most distant parts of their world. That local leaders soon arose with the same single qualification meant that Pentecostalism indigenized quicker than older mission churches had.28

But pentecostals also used Acts to affirm that, for them, the primary purpose of the outpouring of the Spirit was to send countless witnesses for Christ out to the farthest reaches of the globe. It could be argued that Acts 1:8 was their most important motivation for expansion beyond the Western world, for the power of the Spirit had been given for the express purpose of reaching out as “witnesses” beyond their “Jerusalem and Samaria” to the “uttermost parts of the world.” Pentecostals also frequently used the disputed appendix to Mark’s Gospel (16:15-18), in which Jesus commanded them to “Go into the whole world and preach the gospel to all creation,” promising that the “signs” that would follow their faith included healing the sick, speaking in tongues, and casting out demons. It was this use of biblical texts to integrate their experience of the Spirit with their mission that resulted in thousands of transnational missionaries going out to plant churches and cause the fastest expansion of a new Christian movement in the history of Christianity.

Soon Coming King

The final declaration of the full gospel was the affirmation that Jesus Christ was the “Soon Coming King.” A particular kind of eschatological expectation was a dominant theme in Pentecostalism in its early years, further adding to the urgency of world mission and evangelism. A shift from the optimistic postmillennialism of early nineteenth-century Protestantism to a pessimistic, premillennialist “secret rapture” dispensationalism swept through evangelical circles later that century. It was believed in these circles that Christ’s coming could occur at any moment, when believers would be raptured from the earth and the rest of the world left to await judgment. The world was seen as evil beyond repair and the task of the believers was to snatch as many as possible out of the certain flames of hell. This shift occurred gradually in the Holiness movement toward the end of the nineteenth century. It was the result of several factors, but it was precipitated by the influential teaching of John Nelson Darby of the Plymouth Brethren in Britain. A monthly periodical, The Prophetic Times, commenced publication in 1863 and prophetic conferences like D. L. Moody’s annual Prophecy Conference in Massachusetts (beginning in 1880) prominently advocated Darby’s eschatological views. Popular evangelical preachers A. T. Pierson, A. B. Simpson, and A. J. Gordon all expounded premillennialism; eventually it was accepted by a majority of evangelicals, and it was a prominent theme of the Keswick conventions in England that commenced in 1875. With few exceptions, most of the Holiness movement, many evangelicals, and subsequently most early pentecostals accepted premillennial eschatology. The reasons for this were complex but include a pessimistic reaction to theological liberalism and the “social gospel” that increasingly came to dominate the main Protestant denominations. The complex and intricately detailed premillennial eschatological system was the product of a highly rationalistic and literalist approach to biblical passages, especially the Book of Revelation. As most Holiness groups gradually accepted the Keswick position of Spirit baptism for mission service through exposure to its teachers, they also accepted its eschatology with its stress on the coming of a new Pentecost and an imminent worldwide revival to usher in the return of Christ. The demise of postmillennialism, with its optimistic view of a coming “golden age” of material wealth and progress, was replaced by an increasingly pessimistic view that the world would get progressively worse until the return of Christ. Accordingly, the missionary task was to rescue individuals from certain peril rather than seek to transform society.29

But this premillennialism was not entirely pessimistic, for there was a certain tension between the negative view of the world and the very positive view of their place in it. This ambiguity was especially noticeable in Pentecostalism. The outpouring of the Spirit in the last days made mission and evangelizing the nations possible and almost guaranteed its success. Pentecostals believed that they were part of the greatest spiritual revival the world had ever known and their evangelistic work was a direct consequence. The differences between these various interpretations of biblical apocalyptic literature were vast. Postmillennialists held that Christ would return after a thousand year period and therefore they laid greater stress on social activism in order to make the world a better place. Their mission work included educational, philanthropic, and medical activities as well as evangelism and church planting, but church planting was given less attention. By contrast, premillennialists believed that because Christ’s return was imminent, the world should be seen as a temporary place in which Christians were merely brief visitors. This premillennialist eschatology and ethic of “separation from the world” influenced pentecostal political views considerably. For decades, pentecostal faithful were exhorted to have nothing to do with politics. The political realm was part of the evil world system that would end at the coming of Christ. For the same reason, many early pentecostals were opposed to war and advocated pacifism. During the Great War of 1914-18 most pentecostals were conscientious objectors, holding that war was another evil consequence of the end of the age and that Christians should have no part in it. For most of them, the outbreak of the war was evidence that the end had come and that the world, of which they were certainly no part, was involved in a bloody conflagration that would lead to the final battle of Armageddon preceding the return of Christ. As believers, they would be snatched away from the world’s conflicts, and therefore they should have no part in war. But in the years following World War I their pacifism changed radically, as pentecostals began to see governments in a more positive light and were influenced by prevailing warmongering cultures and a “just war” theology. Pentecostal chaplains joined the American army to minister to pentecostal soldiers fighting in Vietnam, Iraq, and Afghanistan. A minority, including the largest African American denomination, the Church of God in Christ, continued to be pacifist in official orientation and more recently, the Pentecostal Charismatic Peace Fellowship founded by AG minister Paul Alexander in 2002 became a lobbying group for pentecostal involvement in international social justice and opposition to war. This organization holds annual conferences and is now called Pentecostals and Charismatics for Peace and Justice. But for the majority of white North American pentecostals, their prevailing eschatology and membership of the National Association of Evangelicals caused them to be proponents of the so-called religious right.30

Pentecostal periodicals were full of exhortations about the imminent return of Christ. In many pentecostal circles, current events are taken as signs of the times, proof that the Lord would be coming back soon. Their mission work consisted particularly (but not entirely) of feverish evangelism and church planting, and together with most of the “faith missions,” they began to propagate this eschatology. But we must remember that early pentecostal missions also had philanthropic and educational components, especially the creation of orphanages, schools, and rescue centers—Albert Norton’s and Mark Buntain’s rescue work in India, Mok Lai Chi’s schools in Hong Kong, and Lillian Trasher’s orphanages in Asyut, Egypt, being prime examples. Norton wrote disapprovingly of those missionaries who fraternized with European colonialists in their sports and amusements “to ignore and deny the existence of the sufferings of the poor.” The evangelism of the pentecostals did not therefore obliterate all other concerns, although it must be said that all other activities were usually seen as subservient to the primary task of getting individuals saved and filled with the Spirit. The first pentecostals saw the soon coming of Christ as the prime motivation for the urgent task of preparing the world for this cataclysmic event. Prophecies, tongues, and interpretations and visions affirmed this expectation on almost every occasion. The second coming of Christ would occur when the Gospel had been proclaimed to every nation, they declared, and so it was necessary to engage in the most rapid evangelization possible. In 1911W. W. Simpson, while still a CMA missionary and in the midst of the revolution against the Manchurian empire, wrote to Mok Lai Chi stating,

Whatever may happen politically we hope to be able to remain here till the Lord comes which we believe is very soon.... The work is in a very prosperous condition. The churches purified, revived and mightily baptized and filled with the Holy Spirit and all earnest in serving the Lord and eagerly waiting for the Lord’s return.... Tell all that in standing for the Latter Rain teaching I have been standing for the Truth of God and shall receive the Lord’s “Well done” for it when He comes and that His coming is nigh even at the doors; for “this generation shall not pass away till all be fulfilled.” “Look up and lift up your heads for your redemption draweth nigh.” The best of us are not half earnest enough in expecting the Lord’s soon return. Let all who believe the teaching practically get ready and join in the continuous prayer. “Even so, come Lord Jesus,” and it will not be many days before He will come for those who love his appearing.31

Despite their optimism about their role in this end-time mission, pen- tecostals’ view of the world around them, especially the religious world, was decidedly negative. The increase of “false prophets,” the expansion of Islam, theological liberalism (especially “Higher Criticism,” anathema to these premillennialists), and the spread of heterodox Christian groups like Mormons and Jehovah’s Witnesses—all were signs of impending doom. In fact, for so many of these pentecostal missionaries and their children, the “soon coming of the Lord” was realized in their premature death through diseases—especially smallpox, malaria, and from 1918, the influenza epidemic. The preceding quotation also reveals that their belief in the imminent coming was linked to some apathy toward political events.32

There is evidence that these early eschatological emphases remained for much of the twentieth century in Pentecostalism, especially among its first constituency, the poor and oppressed. But with the coming of a new, middle-class, and prosperous form of Pentecostalism (including those aspiring to be so) in the last quarter of the twentieth century, a different approach to eschatology arose, if not a rejection of premillennial pessimism entirely. In many cases, the new emphasis was on “realized eschatology,” God’s kingdom present in the here and now, and not only evidenced by divine health but also through financial prosperity and success in this life. This shift also meant that the world was no longer a desperately evil place to be shunned and escaped. Many of these new pentecostals are world-affirming; education and economic success become priorities; and longing for a better life in the hereafter is replaced by a desire for a better life in the here and now. Indeed, the new emphasis continued the optimistic pentecostal trajectory that a good God desired good things for people, not just in the hereafter but especially in the here and now. This new emphasis was to reach its zenith in the prosperity gospel and spread worldwide in the 198os.The particular eschatology still espoused in pentecostal churches, especially in the United States, includes a particularly undiscerning approach to biblical prophecy relating to Israel. This is sometimes called Christian Zionism and sees Israel’s occupation of the Holy Land as the fulfillment of end-times prophecies and the oppression of Palestinians as its logical, justified outcome. Wild and speculative assertions as to the personality of the “Antichrist” and fantastic interpretations of obscure biblical texts all combine to create an ideology that is decidedly right wing and driven by world events, therefore changing regularly. Thus, the “scarlet whore” of the Book of Revelation, also identified with the Antichrist, has been variously identified in pentecostal circles with the Roman Catholic Church and/or the pope, the World Council of Churches, Germany, Russia, fascism, communism, and currently, militant Islam.

Pentecostals place primacy on evangelism, which includes signs of the Spirit’s presence and the coming of the eschatological kingdom of God. These emphases have created distance and suspicion between pentecostals and other Christians that continues today, especially when pentecostals use a language of power and a tendency toward triumphalism in their evangelism, and neglect the role of suffering in Christian experience. The charismata of the Spirit are, for pentecostals, proof that the gospel is true. The “full gospel” is understood to contain good news for all life’s problems, particularly relevant in those societies where disease is rife and access to adequate health care is a luxury. As Wahrisch-Oblau has observed in China, the need for healings is in direct proportion to the unavailability of medical resources and the breakdown of the public health system there. Prayer for healing is “an act of desperation in circumstances where they see few alternative options.” That people believe themselves to be healed means that for them the “full gospel” is a remedy for their frequent afflictions; it therefore seeks to be relevant to human totality and to proclaim biblical deliverance from the real fear of evil. The methods used to receive this deliverance and the perceptions concerning the means of grace sometimes differ, but pentecostals believe in an omnipotent and compassionate God concerned with all human troubles and willing to intervene to alleviate them. They exercise the authority that they believe has been given them, reinforced by the power of the Spirit, to effect deliverance from sin, sickness, and oppression, and from every conceivable form of evil.33

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