Pentecostal Missions and the Changing Character of Global Christianity
A Review, By Jesse Brown
Heather D. Curtis is an associate professor and interim chair of the department of religion at Tufts University. She received her PhD from Harvard University in History of Christianity and American Religion. Some notable publications include Faith in the Great Physician: Suffering and Divine Healing in American Culture (2007) and Depicting Distant Suffering: Evangelicals and the Politics of Pictorial Humanitarianism in the Age of American Empire (2012). Currently, Heather is writing her second book, Holy Humanitarians (in progress) and teaches at Tufts.
Success in spreading the Gospel is united with the Holy Spirit, not with presupposed cultural superiority. Missionaries need be in close partnership with native evangelists acknowledging the Holy Spirit’s authority in relationship and conversion.
While the World Missionary Conference (WMC) was getting underway in Edinburgh (1910), a much smaller missionary conference, dubbed “A Glorious Convention” was happening at Stone Church in Chicago. Both conventions believed that in the new millennium God would bring a great global expansion of faith. However, the story of the Stone Church Convention brought a profound philosophical and strategic shift in mission.1
In the opening section Pentecostal Qualms About Christian Civilization (Pp.122-23), Curtis contrasts the individual styles of missions expressed during each convention. While the WMC held optimism in the ideological and financial power of western Christendom, it was criticized at the Glorious Convention. The Glorious Convention stressed that heathenism was not just abroad, but at home. Therefore, the Pentecostals at the Glorious Convention denounced the perception that civilizing foreign converts was a prerequisite for Christianizing.2
Curtis writes in the following section, Pentecostals and Missionary Science (Pp.123-24) that while the WMC was strategizing and analyzing past missionary data, the Glorious Convention was convicted the power of the Holy Spirit would guide their conference and future converts. Both conferences were using modern forms of technology to communicate their strategies, but the Glorious Convention was hosting foreign speakers and inviting native leaders in partnering cultures to author articles in their international publications. Instead of collecting data and crafting reports, they were putting emphasis on manifestations of Gods supernatural power in ushering in a new era of evangelization and conversion.3
Concerning Pentecostal Missions and Indigenous Leadership (Pp.124-125), Pentecostals were emphasizing that Holy Spirit baptism qualified natives to serve as partners and lead indigenous churches.4 Additionally, the Glorious Convention was searching for avenues to bridge the gaps in cross cultural relationships. Some of the strategies proposed included that missionaries embrace a humbler lifestyle and challenged their missionaries to live with or alongside their native brothers and sisters.
In Curtis’s last section Pentecostal Missions in Practice (Pp.125-26), she speaks of the missionary’s faith in God rather than established organizations for missionary and native support. Missionaries set out after the conference living with native Christians forgoing the comforts of modern missionary compounds.5 By living with native partners and through intercessory prayer Pentecostals pioneered and witnessed one of the largest Spiritual revivals in history, changing strategies of international missions by cultivating truly universal Christian communities.6
In her concluding argument the baptism in the Holy Ghost should make us worldwide (P. 126), Curtis points out that cultural and ethnic differences are brought together with Gods grace through the Holy Spirit, emphasizing that Gods Holy Spirit anoints all individuals of the Kingdom to serve as leaders of the Church.
1Curtis. Pentecostal Missions and the Changing Character of Global Christianity, 122.
Curtis, H. D. “Pentecostal Missions and the Changing Character of Global.” International Bulletin of Missionary Research 36, no. 3 (2012): 122-28.
“Heather Curtis – Tufts University.” Department of Religion: People. Accessed April 13, 2016. http://ase.tufts.edu/religion/people/facultycurtis.htm.