The Pentecostals are a relatively new section of the Christian Church. For many years they have been considered to be outside mainstream Christianity; but, more recently, due to their phenomenal growth, they have begun to be noticed and heard. Here in Australia, they are the fastest growing of all the churches and their wider influence in society is increasing.
In the past century, Pentecostal Christianity evolved from a small group of believers to a worldwide movement with an estimated 588 million adherents. This incredible growth is unprecedented in the historical development of Christianity. Although the participants in this movement at the time of its inception at the turn of the twentieth century were on the margins of society, the expansion of charismatic experiences has now pervaded all parts of world Christianity. In the last 5 percent of Christian history, Pentecostals have become a major global force in Christendom, second only to the billion Roman Catholics in the world. Pentecostalism has also influenced various sectors of mainstream Protestant, Roman Catholic, and Orthodox faith and has prompted the birth of a neo-Pentecostal movement, a Charismatic Renewal movement, and a Third Wave movement, forming somewhat of a global culture and in the words of researcher, Harvey Cox, “a religion made to travel.”
Pentecostalism in Australia began in the early 1900s. Though influenced by people from overseas, it was not founded by them and has not depended on them. Over the last century, the Pentecostal churches in Australia have emerged as one of the fastest growing religious communities in Australia. In his landmark study on the Pentecostals in Australia back in 1996, Philip J. Hughes declared that nationwide the Pentecostals outnumbered almost every other religious group in actual church attendance.
There are a large number of different Pentecostal groups in Australia. The largest Pentecostal denomination is the Assemblies of God. Other significant Pentecostal denominations include the Apostolic Churches, the Christian City Churches, the Christian Outreach Centers, the Christian Revival Crusade, and a number of large independent Pentecostal “mega-churches”such as Riverview Church in Perth and CityLife in Melbourne. Numerous other smaller Pentecostal denominations and independent churches also exist.
The Pentecostal churches are very diverse and autonomous. They vary in some of their theology and philosophy of ministry. They also have no singular voice to the community. In addition, they still are not considered mainstream Christianity by some people, despite their amazing growth and size.
Tomorrow ... Part 2