Today’s Pentecostalism in America is not what it used to be. As Australian Pentecostal groups – such as Hillsong, C3, and A21 – are rapidly growing across America, they are also transforming previous Pentecostal practices, branding, and financial models. The Guardian interviewed CRCC’s Senior Director of Research and Evaluation Richard Flory on how Pentecostalism became one of the fastest growing religious denominations in the world.
Here’s an excerpt:
“It is based on consumption, where the lines between so-called secular society and religious groups is increasingly blurred,” says Richard Flory, senior director of research and evaluation at the University of Southern California’s Centre for Religion and Civic Culture. “They’re saying: ‘I look just like everybody else, so you should come hang out with me because I have an inspirational message.’”
Flory says that Hillsong, C3 and A21 are at the forefront of a global movement that is looking not to save souls, but to transform societies. The activities of A21, which is strongly supported by US vice president Mike Pence’s family, are about repackaging evangelical sexual ethics into the language of contemporary social justice.
Led by independent religious entrepreneurs, often referred to as apostles, “this is the next generation of megachurches, only with less content, more show”, Flory says. The decentralised nature and focus on an inspirational leader means that almost anyone can start one, and for very little cost.