USC Dornsife College Of Letters Arts and Sciences

University of Southern California

The History of Pentecostalism

The History of Pentecostalism

The History of Pentecostalism

PCRI_history

Among many American scholars, the standard narrative about Pentecostalism is that
contemporary global expressions of the movement trace their roots to Los Angeles and
the Azusa Street Revival in the first decade of the 20th century. But the charismatic
impulse in American Christianity has a much older lineage—including the camp
meetings at Cane Ridge, Kentucky in the early 19th century and other events associated
with the First and Second Great Awakenings. Members of renewalist movements often
locate the source of their theology and practice even farther in the past, identifying their
cultivation of ecstatic experiences with the spiritual fervor of Christianity’s earliest
apostolic age. And many Pentecostal and Charismatic communities in Korea, Fiji, Latin
America, sub-Saharan Africa and elsewhere nurture origin stories that offer a counter-
narrative to the assumptions that underlie the Azusa Street mythology.

The radically decentralized nature of Pentecostal and Charismatic religion also means
that renewalist movements often readily absorb local spiritual and even secular
practices into their modes of worship and evangelism. For example, shamanic beliefs in
eastern Russia and indigenous forms of animism in Nigeria figure into some
expressions of renewalism in those countries. And in China, outlawed renewalist churches have adapted Maoist cell-group strategies to propagate themselves and
ensure their survival in an extremely repressive environment. Thus an accurate
historical perspective on Pentecostal and Charismatic religion necessarily entails a
close examination of the cultural idiosyncrasies and innovations of particular
communities as well as the broader characteristics of the movement within the span of
Christian history.


Patrick Platett, University of Alaska, Fairbanks
Center for the Study of Pentecostal and Charismatic Movements in Russia