State of the Pentecostal Movement
EDITOR'S NOTE: This article first appeared in the magazine Pentecostals.
The Assemblies of God is part of the fastest-growing movement in the history of Christianity: the Pentecostal movement.
When William J. Seymour arrived in Los Angeles in 1906, the face of Christianity throughout the world was radically different from today. Seymour was unassuming in every way — blind in one eye, the son of slaves from Louisiana. The building at 312 Azusa St. in Los Angeles was also unassuming. The stench from the building’s days as a stable lingered in the floorboards. Yet from those humble beginnings, the Pentecostal and charismatic movement now numbers more than 660 million people globally.
I’ve often been intrigued by stories from great moves of God. The only Assemblies of God general superintendent to attend the Azusa Street Revival was E. S. Williams. His recollections painted a vivid picture of people seeking God with great fervor.
“I wish I could describe what I saw,” Williams later recalled. “Prayer and worship were everywhere. The altar area was filled with seekers; some were kneeling; others were prone on the floor . . . I simply stood and looked, for I had never seen anything like it.”
The exciting thing about his recollections is that they weren’t stated from a heart estranged from revival. In Williams’ tenure, the Assemblies of God experienced remarkable growth — nearly tenfold!
We can rejoice that the revival he described continues in our nation and throughout the world even today. Just imagine a short two-mile walk from the Azusa Street Mission to modern-day Dodger Stadium. You could fill that massive stadium 50 times with the number of people who have experienced the baptism in the Holy Spirit through the U.S. Assemblies of God in the past three decades. To God be the glory!
Perhaps the growth of the Pentecostal movement should not have come as a surprise. When Jesus promised another Comforter in the gospel of John, He said that the Spirit would point people to Him. Indeed, a Spirit-empowered life truly does focus on pointing people toward Christ.
One of the remarkable trends I’ve noticed in Assemblies of God history is persistence in the midst of impossible circumstances.
In the greatest financial disaster in modern history — the Great Depression — missions giving did not decrease. In fact, giving to Assemblies of God missions nearly doubled during the course of the Great Depression.
During the global turbulence of the Second World War, church growth did not stagnate. The global footprint of the Assemblies of God doubled in the six years of war.
These cases are not historical anomalies. They are consistent patterns of God moving His Church forward to reach a lost world.
Today, the Assemblies of God is represented around the world by more than 69 million people worship- ping in over 370,000 churches. That’s truly a work of the Spirit. I can assure you the vision for a healthy, Spirit- empowered church in every community has never been stronger.
Twenty percent of Assemblies of God churches in the U.S. were planted in the past 10 years. In a time of trending decline in American denominations, God has blessed the Assemblies of God to experience 12 percent growth in U.S. adherents in the past decade. Also notable, the Fellowship has grown in the 18-34 age category (often classified as millennials) by 11 percent. God is on the move!
We are especially grateful that God has allowed this growth to represent increased diversity and racial healing. In 2001, the U.S. Assemblies of God was 29 percent nonwhite ethnic minority. By 2017, that number had risen to nearly 44 percent, making the U.S. Assemblies of God one of the nation’s most diverse religious groups, according to Pew Forum.
Still, my mind goes back to the recollections of a young E.S. Williams walking through the doors of the humble Azusa Street Mission, observing that “prayer and worship were everywhere.” In the midst of the remarkable move of the Spirit among us, may visitors in our midst still see us as people of prayer — people dependent totally and completely on the Spirit.