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

FIFA Indictments Put Gold Cup Tournament Under Cloud

Experts say US indictments could lead to charges of other world soccer officials, and lead to major shakeup in sport's governance More

Video Seoul Sponsors Korean Unification Fair

At a recent even in Seoul, border communities promoted benefits of increased cooperation and North Korean defectors shared stories of life since the war More

Video VOA EXCLUSIVE: Iraq President Vows to Fight IS 'Until They Are Killed or We Die'

In wide-ranging interview with VOA Persian service reporter, Fuad Masum describes conflict as new type of fight that will take time to win 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.
Expelled from Pakistan, Afghan Refugees Return to Increased Hardshipi
X
Ayesha Tanzeem
May 28, 2015 6:48 PM
Undocumented refugees returning to Afghanistan from Pakistan have no jobs, no support system, and no home return to, and international aid agencies say they and the government are overwhelmed and under-resourced. Ayesha Tanzeem has more from Kabul.
Video

Video Expelled from Pakistan, Afghan Refugees Return to Increased Hardship

Undocumented refugees returning to Afghanistan from Pakistan have no jobs, no support system, and no home return to, and international aid agencies say they and the government are overwhelmed and under-resourced. Ayesha Tanzeem has more from Kabul.
Video

Video Britain Makes Controversial Move to Crack Down on Extremism

Britain is moving to tighten controls on extremist rhetoric, even when it does not incite violence or hatred -- a move that some are concerned might unduly restrict basic freedoms. It is an issue many countries are grappling with as extremist groups gain power in the Middle East, fueled in part by donations and fighters from the West. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London.
Video

Video Floodwaters Recede in Houston, but Rain Continues

Many parts of Texas are recovering from one of the worst natural disasters to hit the southwestern state. Heavy rains on Monday and early Tuesday caused rivers to swell in eastern and central Texas, washing away homes and killing at least 13 people. As VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Houston, floodwaters are receding slowly in the country's fourth-largest city, and there likely is to be more rain in the coming days.
Video

Video 3D Printer Makes Replica of Iconic Sports Car

Cars with parts made by 3D printers are already on the road, but engineers are still learning about this new technology. While testing the possibility of printing an entire car, researchers at the U.S. Department of Energy recently created an electric-powered replica of an iconic sports roadster. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Al-Shabab Recruitment Drive Still on In Kenya

The al-Shabab militants that have long battled for control of Somalia also have recruited thousands of young people in Kenya, leaving many families disconsolate. Mohammed Yusuf recently visited the Kenyan town of Isiolo, and met with relatives of those recruited, as well as a many who have helped with the recruiting.
Video

Video US Voters Seek Answers From Presidential Candidates on IS Gains

The growth of the Islamic State militant group in Iraq and Syria comes as the 2016 U.S. presidential campaign kicks off in the Midwest state of Iowa.   As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, voters want to know how the candidates would handle recent militant gains in the Middle East.
Video

Video A Small Oasis on Kabul's Outskirts Provides Relief From Security Tensions

When people in Kabul want to get away from the city and relax, many choose Qargha Lake, a small resort on the outskirts of Kabul. Ayesha Tanzeem visited and talked with people about the precious oasis.
Video

Video Film Festival Looks at Indigenous Peoples, Culture Conflict

A recent Los Angeles film festival highlighted the plight of people caught between two cultures. Mike O'Sullivan has more on the the Garifuna International Film Festival, a Los Angeles forum created by a woman from Central America who wants the world to know more about her culture.
Video

Video Kenyans Lament Losing Sons to al-Shabab

There is agony, fear and lost hope in the Kenyan town of Isiolo, a key target of a new al-Shabab recruitment drive. VOA's Mohammed Yusuf visits Isiolo to speak with families and at least one man who says he was a recruiter.
Video

Video Scientists Say Plankton More Important Than Previously Thought

Tiny ocean creatures called plankton are mostly thought of as food for whales and other large marine animals, but a four-year global study discovered, among other things, that plankton are a major source of oxygen on our planet. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Kenya’s Capital Sees Rise in Shisha Parlors

In Kenya, the smoking of shisha, a type of flavored tobacco, is the latest craze. Patrons are flocking to shisha parlors to smoke and socialize. But the practice can be addictive and harmful, though many dabblers may not realize the dangers, according to a new review. Lenny Ruvaga has more on the story for VOA from Nairobi, Kenya.
Video

Video Iowa Family's Sacrifice Shaped US Military Service for Generations

Few places in America have experienced war like Waterloo. This small town in the Midwest state of Iowa became famous during World War II not for what it accomplished, but what it lost. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, the legacy of one family’s sacrifice is still a reminder today of the real cost of war for all families on the homefront.

VOA Blogs