“Across much of Africa, Asia and Latin America, Pentecostalism has become the de facto ‘Southern way’ of being Christian.” (John L. Allen Jr. from the National Catholic Reporter, Jan. 28, 2008.) I choose this quote by Allen because it summarizes a worldwide revolution in Christianity; and the world in general, for that matter. In fact, the very title of his article is shocking: “If demography is destiny, Pentecostals are the ecumenical future.”
In this short space one could not possibly include all the dialog that is occurring in every quarter of society about the most significant revolution in centuries, Pentecostalism. It is the unfolding story of the era, an epic revolution. Let young men and women who have dreamed of being in a historic drama of immeasurable magnitude, one that alters the future in every corner of the earth, awaken themselves. This is their day.
The key word is being. Being in this moment. Being ready to speak, being submitted to the message, being ready to give, perhaps even to die.
The Wall Street Journal’s weekend edition of July 20-21, 2013 pointed out that the recent trip of Pope Francis to Brazil, originally planned by his predecessor, more than anything else, was an effort to rally the troops in a worldwide awakening combating the growing influence of Pentecostals. The Catholics’ membership has dropped from 96% of the population of Brazil to 67%. Their losses are overwhelmingly to Pentecostals.
The Pontiff, in one service alone, preached to three million people, mostly youths, along the great beach in Rio. He challenged them to devote their lives to advancing the message of Christ through the Catholic Church. He called for a bold confrontation, calling out to the priests and the youth to “take it to the streets.” To witness. The Catholic Church’s tradition is to co-opt opposition. Research will reveal much discussion about dialoging and interaction, but the agenda is always to bring contrary religious views under suppression. Already in Brazil, for example, Catholics are holding their own Pentecostal meetings, with rock bands and traditional Pentecostal type elements.
The gauntlet has been dropped. Not only in religious circles, but in culture as well. Anti-Christian forces are demonstrating new boldness. They are pro-homosexual, hate any sign of holiness and absolutism, and they believe they have the majority numbers on their side. For those who love the Lord, may I say, this is not a good time to be afraid. Fearfulness is the deathblow to any hope we might have of being a part of this great moment, this great epoch.
Our missionary Bishop Bennie DeMerchant and his wife, Theresa, went to Brazil nearly 50 years ago. They made history. They confronted non-Christian tribal traditions, Catholic entrenchment, demons and political powers. Yet they dug out an amazing Pentecostal community across this beautiful and massive country. They established sound doctrine: the Godhead, holiness, the infilling of the Holy Spirit. They built hundreds of churches, schools and megachurches; built a cohesive organization, and garnered broad political influence. The city of Manaus alone has over 220 UPCI churches. Others, not included in this count, have spun off from the UPCI over the years but remain oneness and would, if counted, increase numbers greatly. The Pentecostals of Manaus, as do other groups in their respective cities, have their own city conference in their own conference center nestled on a high ridge overlooking the great Amazon River. It draws nearly ten thousand for some services. Let us pray for Brazil. The battle lines have been drawn there, I believe, for a full confrontation. However, the great powerful, prayerful, anointed, Godly Pentecostal youth of Brazil will continue to win the day. God is with them.
If we looked for the one factor to explain the great success of the Brazilian revival, I believe it would be fearlessness. You would have to see them work, witness and worship to understand fully their boldness and its impact on their culture.
We here in North America have yet to discover what is on the other side of fear. The fear of confrontation, the fear of standing on the principles of a holiness lifestyle, the fear of personal commitment. I have seen, in my own life, times when fear was the hindrance. It’s painful to contemplate the missed moments, the missed opportunities to witness. Our churches must not blink. I pray that our youth will be inspired to lay down their worldly interests and go with the call of God, unafraid of the cost.
The Apostles clearly laid their lives on the line. They lived in the “no fear zone.” Imagine for yourself what it would be like to live in the no fear zone. Facing down every fear. Overcoming every fear. The day is here. The time is now. There are no other options for believers except to give all … fearlessly.