The talk on Christian blogs lately is all about African Pentecostalism; most hail its rapid growth and particularly explosive recent popularity with enthusiasm, but you don’t have to look far to find it more worrisome than reassuring.

For instance, Christianity Today recently published an article reviewing Ogbu Kalu’s The Africanness of African Pentecostalism, a book exploring in detail the origins, characteristics, and movement of African Pentecostalism, and essentially arguing that African Pentecostalism sprang up on its own almost completely without help or influence from outer/Western sources(i.e. missionaries). The book, and the review, both focus on the cultural and social aspects of the movement, more concerned with whether the movement is culturally original that the theological ramifications and implications behind it, but what they do say about the movement itself is both highly revealing and worrisome .

More to the point, unlike the original preaching of the gospel message, the outpouring of the Holy Spirit does not need a foreign missionary. And the nature of African spirituality is such that ‘from the earliest contact with the gospel, Africans have tended to appropriate its charismatic dimensions, attracted to the extra power offered by the new religion, and stamped it with an African identity.’ On the ground, local believers spontaneously experienced the baptism of the Holy Spirit in the context of recurrent revivals and a perennial quest for spiritual power—much to the consternation of foreign missionaries, whose fastidious norms and control mechanisms were thus subverted. Western (Pentecostal) outsiders were only invited after the fact.”

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