Review: Azusa Street and Beyond

Azusa Street and Beyond

Azusa Street and Beyond: 100 Years of Commentary on the Global Pentecostal/Charismatic Movement, edited by Grant McClung. Gainesville, FL: Bridge-Logos, 2006.

Grant McClung, in his timely volume, Azusa Street and Beyond, provides a valuable collection of 21 essays exploring the robust growth experienced by the global Pentecostal movement. McClung, a veteran missions leader and professor at the Church of God Theological Seminary, identifies missions as central to the identity of the Pentecostal movement and traces this missiological focus from Azusa Street through the ensuing century of Pentecostal history.

McClung divides the essays, written primarily by church leaders and scholars from classical Pentecostal denominations, into four sections: Historical Perspectives, Theological Motivations, Strategic Issues, and Future Choices and Challenges. Authors include missions and church leaders such as Donald Gee, Melvin Hodges, Thomas Zimmerman, and J. Philip Hogan, and leading scholars, including Allan Anderson and Gary McGee. McClung authored introductions to each section, tying the essays together and providing an interpretative framework for understanding the global movement. By assembling previously-published essays in an accessible volume, this book provides challenging reading for those interested in the implications of the emerging global Pentecostal movement.

Azusa Street and Beyond is a revision of McClung’s 1986 book by the same title. Ten of the sixteen essays from the 1986 book are included in the new book. A shift has occurred regarding how scholars approach the subject of Pentecostal growth. The 1986 book contained a section on McGavran/Wagner church growth ideology, which sometimes views missions in terms of strategies that succeed in western churches. McClung did not include this section (which now seems dated) in this new book, instead focusing on global aspects of Pentecostalism.

McClung identifies missions as the raison d’etre of the Pentecostal movement, noting that Pentecostals’ “profound experience was integrated with an eschatological urgency” that resulted in “a passion for souls.” To illustrate this, McClung begins with an admonition from The Apostolic Faith (published at the Azusa Street mission): “Now, do not go from this meeting and talk about tongues, but try to get people saved.” McClung develops this eschatology/experience/evangelism paradigm and suggests that “the primary purpose and self-identity of the Pentecostal movement centered on a revival raised up by God for world evangelization.”

Pentecostalism often seems to grow most quickly when it takes root in marginalized cultures. The movement’s egalitarian urge that marked growth during its earliest years now also accompanies surging membership in non-western countries. The center of gravity of Christianity is moving away from Europe and North America to Latin America, Africa, and Asia. The typical Pentecostal now is a poor female living in the developing world. McClung comments, disturbingly, that “North American middle-class Pentecostalism (at the outset of the 21st century) is neither really at home with our past nor our future.”

What will this brave new Pentecostal world look like? This book predicts that non-westerners increasingly will provide leadership, grappling not only with heresies of western origin (such as extreme faith, prosperity, Kingdom Now, etc.), but also addressing theological and ethical dilemmas from their own regions. McClung posits that, in order to hold the increasingly diverse movement together, Pentecostals needs to re-emphasize their missiological focus.

Reviewed by Darrin Rodgers. (Originally published in Enrichment: A Journal for Pentecostal Ministry, Spring 2006, p. 177)

Paperback, 338 pages, illustrated. $11.99 retail. Order from: Gospel Publishing House

Visit the official Azusa Street and Beyond website

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