News / USA

Global Study: Growing Pentecostal Churches Have Social Mission

Multimedia

Mike O'Sullivan
Religion scholars say the fastest-growing form of Christianity is Pentecostalism, with its exuberant worship and belief in the so-called gifts of the Spirit, including speaking in tongues and divine healing. Researchers say Pentecostals and charismatics - Catholics and others who share in Pentecostal practices - make up one-quarter of the world’s Christians, with the greatest numbers in the developing world. A new study finds the fastest-growing Pentecostal churches are tackling social problems in their communities.

In Los Angeles, members of the Angelus Temple are rebuilding a community that has fallen on hard times. This Pentecostal church was founded by evangelist Aimee Semple McPherson nearly 90 years ago.

Today, a mobile clinic provides health care, and food and clothing are distributed in two of the many social projects at the church’s Dream Center, which is housed in a former Catholic hospital. The church bought the property for almost $4 million and has spent another $28 million refurbishing it. The center houses homeless families, counsels victims of sexual trafficking, and helps people with drug addiction problems.

At Sunday worship at Angelus Temple, a youthful crowd is on its feet, dancing and praying.

Professor Donald Miller of the University of Southern California’s Center for Religion and Civic Culture said churches like this are booming around the world. He has visited many, from a Catholic charismatic congregation in India to a Pentecostal assembly in Singapore.

"They believe that God is powerful and that miracles happen in the present, just as they did 2,000 years ago," said Miller. "They also believe in the possibility of prophecy and of the gift of tongues, speaking in tongues. And they believe in a supernatural God that can do anything.”

This Catholic charismatic congregation in Brazil is part of a huge movement in the country, where the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life says half of the population may be charismatic or Pentecostal.

Charismatic Episcopalians in Brazil work with impoverished people who scrape out a living in garbage dumps. In Egypt, charismatic Coptic Christian Maggie Gobran works with children in Cairo’s garbage dump, providing support and training.

A church-sponsored center in South Africa provides care for young children.  

A Hong Kong ministry works with drug addicts, and helped this former gang member set up his own business.

Miller is coordinating the study of Pentecostal and charismatic Christianity in Africa, Asia, Latin America and the former Soviet Union.  Grants totaling $3.5 million are going to regional centers and individual scholars to study the movement.

He said the findings so far are preliminary, but striking. He said scholars are finding a shift in emphasis in Pentecostal churches. Once, most of them focused only on individual spiritual needs, but now many have expanded into community service. He said they provide a sense of belonging for people with little support in modern cities.

In Los Angeles, Angelus Temple Senior Pastor Matthew Barnett said he welcomes those who are not conventional church-goers.

“That means we will sometimes have a drunk yelling out in the middle of the service, something that is maybe is kind of strange or different, or maybe someone will come to church that was in a nightclub the night before and they partied until three o’clock in the morning. But the concept is this: you belong first in order that you may believe.”

A former gang member, Kory Barmore, works with other troubled young men to find a new direction. He said this way of life is grounded in his religious experience and community worship at Angelus Temple.

“When I close my eyes, all my worries just go away," said Barmore. "I mean, all my problems just go away. I just feel the Spirit there.”

Miller said the new churches often are built by entrepreneurial pastors, but they enlist the help of members in running their growing ministries and social outreach programs.

“And if someone is sick, they are helped," he said. "And if someone is poor, they are assisted with a job or food, and they really become like extended families.”

He said the more involved lay leaders become in the church, the more likely they are to develop skills that are useful in the workplace. He said that is one of the ways the churches are spurring social changes.

Researchers say religions compete with each other, and many Pentecostal congregations are thriving because they are addressing the social, as well as religious needs, of their communities.

 

You May Like

On Everest, Helicopters Rescue Stranded Climbers

Choppers transport some of more than 100 mountaineers trapped after deadly quake, avalanches More

Video Ten Years After Riots, France Searches for Answers to Neglected Suburbs

In 2005, a Paris suburb exploded into violence after two teenagers were electrocuted as they hid from police; since then, somethings have changed, others not More

US, Japan Announce Historic Revision of Defense Cooperation Guidelines

Nations say new guidelines will be 'cornerstone for peace and security' in Asia-Pacific region while also serving as 'platform for a more stable international security environment' More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
‘Angel of the Migrants’ Helps Desperate Syrians Arriving in Europei
X
Henry Ridgwell
April 26, 2015 10:36 PM
Waves of migrants are continuing to arrive on the shores of southern Italy from North Africa. After their dangerous journey across the Mediterranean, they face an unknown future in Europe. In the Sicilian city of Catania there is an activist dedicated to helping the refugees on their journey.
Video

Video ‘Angel of the Migrants’ Helps Desperate Syrians Arriving in Europe

Waves of migrants are continuing to arrive on the shores of southern Italy from North Africa. After their dangerous journey across the Mediterranean, they face an unknown future in Europe. In the Sicilian city of Catania there is an activist dedicated to helping the refugees on their journey.
Video

Video Ten Years After Riots, France Searches for Answers to Neglected Suburbs

January’s terrorist attacks and fears of more to come are casting a spotlight on France’s neglected suburbs. Home to many immigrants, and sometimes hubs of crime, they were rocked by rioting a decade ago. Lisa Bryant visited the Paris suburb of Clichy-sous-Bois, where the 2005 violence first broke out, and has this report about what has changed and what has not.
Video

Video Gay Marriage Goes Before US Supreme Court

This week, the U.S. Supreme Court will hear arguments on whether gay people have a constitutional right to marriage. VOA’s Michael Bowman reports, the case could lead to the nationwide legalization of same-sex marriage, or a continuation of the status quo in which individual states decide whether to recognize gay unions.
Video

Video Study: Insecticide Damaging Wild Bee Populations

A popular but controversial type of insecticide is damaging important wild bee populations, according to a new study. VOA’s Steve Baragona has more.
Video

Video Data Servers Could Heat Private Homes

As every computer owner knows, when their machines run a complex program they get pretty hot. In fact, cooling the processors can be expensive, especially when you're dealing with huge banks of computer servers. But what if that energy could heat private homes? VOA’s George Putic reports that a Dutch energy firm aims to do just that.
Video

Video Cinema That Crosses Borders Showcased at Tribeca Film Festival

Among the nearly 100 feature length films being shown at this year’s Tribeca Film Festival in New York City are more than 20 documentaries and features with international appeal, from a film about a Congolese businessman in China, to documentaries shot in Pakistan and diaspora communities in the U.S., to a poetic look at disaffected South African youth. VOA’s Carolyn Weaver has more.
Video

Video UN Confronts Threat of Young Radicals

The radicalization and recruitment of young people into Islamist extremist groups has become a growing challenge for governments worldwide. On Thursday, the U.N. Security Council heard from experts on the issue, which has become a potent threat to international peace and security. VOA’s Margaret Besheer reports.
Video

Video Growing Numbers of Turks Discover Armenian Ancestry

In a climate of improved tolerance, growing numbers of people in Turkey are discovering their grandmothers were Armenian. Hundreds of thousands of Armenians escaped the mass deportations and slaughter of the early 1900's by forced conversion to Islam. Or, Armenian children were taken in by Turkish families and assimilated. Now their stories are increasingly being heard. Dorian Jones reports from Istanbul that the revelations are viewed as an important step.
Video

Video Migrants Trek Through Western Balkans to Reach EU

Migrants from Africa and other places are finding different routes into the European Union in search of a better life. The Associated Press followed one clandestine group to document their trek through the western Balkans to Hungary. Zlatica Hoke reports that the migrants started using that route about four years ago. Since then, it has become the second-most popular path into Western Europe, after the option of sailing from North Africa to Italy.
Video

Video US Businesses See Cuba as New Frontier

The Obama administration's opening toward Cuba is giving U.S. companies hope they'll be able to do business in Cuba despite the continuation of the U.S. economic embargo against the communist nation. Some American companies have been able to export some products to Cuba, but the recent lifting of Cuba's terrorism designation could relax other restrictions. As VOA's Daniela Schrier reports, corporate heavy hitters are lining up to head across the Florida Straits - though experts urge caution.
Video

Video Kenya Launches Police Recruitment Drive After Terror Attacks

Kenya launched a major police recruitment drive this week as part of a large-scale effort to boost security following a recent spate of terror attacks. VOA’s Gabe Joselow reports that allegations of corruption in the process are raising old concerns about the integrity of Kenya’s security forces.
Video

Video Japan, China in Race for Asia High-Speed Rail Projects

A lucrative competition is underway in Asia for billions of dollars in high-speed rail projects. Cambodia, India, Indonesia, Malaysia Thailand and Vietnam are among the countries planning to move onto the fast track. They are negotiating with Japan and the upstart Chinese who are locked in a duel to revolutionize transportation across Asia. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman in Bangkok has details.
Video

Video Scientists: Mosquitoes Attracted By Our Genes

Some people always seem to get bitten by mosquitoes more than others. Now, scientists have proved that is really the case - and they say it’s all because of genes. It’s hoped the research might lead to new preventative treatments for diseases like malaria, as Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Bible Museum Coming to Washington DC

Washington is the center of American political power and also home to some of the nation’s most visited museums. A new one that will showcase the Bible has skeptics questioning the motives of its conservative Christian funders. VOA religion correspondent Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Afghan First Lady Pledges No Roll Back on Women's Rights

Afghan First Lady Rula Ghani, named one of Time's 100 Most Influential, says women should take part in talks with Taliban. VOA's Rokhsar Azamee has more from Kabul.

VOA Blogs