Changing the self-understanding of Pentecostal Christians worldwide

Submitting Institution

University of Birmingham

Unit of Assessment

Theology and Religious Studies

Summary Impact Type


Research Subject Area(s)

Language, Communication and Culture: Literary Studies
History and Archaeology: Historical Studies
Philosophy and Religious Studies: Religion and Religious Studies

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Summary of the impact

Challenging the popular perception of Pentecostalism as a `made-in-the-USA' religion and advocating the global beginnings, multiple origins and local initiatives of the phenomenon, Anderson's research has had profound effects on the self-understanding and practices of Pentecostal Christian churches across the globe. He has inspired a world-wide audience through his outputs that are used within Pentecostal communities and have resulted in invitations to give public lectures and addresses to large, global church audiences.

His writings and lectures have also influenced the philosophy behind curriculum design and course content in seminaries where lay and ordained ministers are trained, particularly in India, the Philippines, South Korea, Ghana and Ecuador. The Anderson agenda for alternative, `post-colonial' Pentecostal identities has helped develop a new vision for the movement and its regional missionary expressions.

Underpinning research

Allan Anderson, has been teaching and researching at the University of Birmingham since 1995 and first as Senior Lecturer then as Professor of Mission and Global Pentecostal Studies in 2005. He is the founder of the Centre for Pentecostal and Charismatic Studies. This influential Centre is one of the few of its kind in the world. His research has played a key role in challenging American-centred mission methodologies and in endorsing the independence and authenticity of local, indigenous versions of Pentecostal practices. He is one of very few internationally acknowledged specialists on global Pentecostalism, and enjoys a reputation as `one of the greatest scholars of the phenomenon' (Philip Jenkins).

At the heart of Anderson's research are three contentions:

  • Pentecostalism originated and spread as a missionary movement throughout the world from multiple centres of renewal and revival.
  • The popularity of the Pentecostal movement can in part be attributed to its contextual spirituality.
  • Pentecostalism has been more meaningful precisely because it has continued some pre-Christian religious expressions and symbols and invested them with new meanings.

These contentions have emerged from extensive fieldwork undertaken over a period of 20 years (since 1993) in 8 African and 5 Asian countries, in Chile and Ecuador, and also in the UK, Germany, USA and Canada. It began with pioneering research on the rapidly changing nature of African Christianity, but quickly expanded to a broader scope, resulting in three co-edited collections on global Pentecostalism (1999), Pentecostalism in Asia (2005, 2011), and theories and methods in the academic study of global Pentecostalism (2010).

Most important are two highly influential recent texts in the field: An Introduction to Pentecostalism (OUP 2004), and Spreading Fires: The Missionary Nature of Early Pentecostalism (SCM and Orbis Books 2007). Both these works were voted as among the 10 outstanding books by the International Bulletin for Missionary Research in their respective years of publication, while Spreading Fires was awarded the Pneuma Book Award for 2007 by the Society for Pentecostal Studies. Anderson's research has continued to develop this distinctive contribution and message with the recent publication of To the Ends of the Earth: Pentecostalism and the Transformation of World Christianity (OUP 2013).

References to the research

R1) Zion and Pentecost: The Spirituality and Experience of Pentecostals and Zionists/Apostolics in South Africa, Pretoria: University of South Africa Press, 2000. [Available from HEI on request]

R2) African Reformation: African Initiated Christianity in the 20th Century, Trenton NJ, Africa World Press, 2001. [Available from HEI on request]


R3) An Introduction to Pentecostalism: Global Charismatic Christianity, Cambridge: CUP, 2004 [2nd ed. 2014]. [Available from HEI on request]


R4) Ed. with Edmond Tang, Asian and Pentecostal: The Charismatic Face of Asian Christianity, Oxford: Regnum, 2005, 2011. [Available from HEI on request]


R5) Spreading Fires: The Missionary Nature of Early Pentecostalism, London: SCM, and Maryknoll: Orbis Books, 2007. [Available from HEI on request]


R6) To the Ends of the Earth: Pentecostalism and the Transformation of World Christianity (OUP 2013). [Listed in REF2]


Details of the impact

Influencing the next generation of Pentecostal practitioners, leaders and lay-persons
An Introduction to Pentecostalism has sold over 6,000 copies worldwide (the majority since 2008; a second edition is due in 2014) and, owing to its impact in South America and East Asia, it is available in Spanish (since 2007) and Korean (in progress) translations. This is the first comprehensive textbook on Pentecostalism to be published from an international perspective, and it remains the leading text read by non-academic audiences, and prescribed in seminaries and universities worldwide. In 2013, the senior pastor of the Yoido Full Gospel Church, which has a membership of over 1 million people, observed that `Anderson's prominent book, An Introduction to Pentecostalism, is indeed a must-read not only for scholars but also for pastors and interested lay leaders', and reported that `readers of Dr. Anderson's book have contacted my church from all around the world with various comments and questions', and that Anderson's `creative insights in An Introduction to Pentecostalism have helped Yoido Full Gospel Church specify its strengths and weaknesses' (see corroborating source 1). These reactions attest impressively to the attractiveness to church leaders and members of Anderson's revision of the origins of Pentecostalism, and the desire of huge numbers of Pentecostal Christians to hear more about them.

On the basis of his published research, and particularly An Introduction to Pentecostalism (2004), Anderson has been invited to speak in 23 countries on five continents. He has lectured to church congregations, often of considerable size, and also addressed consultations for church leaders, lay persons and seminary groups around the world. In both his public lectures and consultation addresses he has advanced his multiple centre argument for the origins of Pentecostalism, and the global perspective of the phenomenon. He continues to influence the direction of thinking in churches and seminaries through his involvement with the individuals, churches and organisations he has encountered. Examples include the following:

a) Every year since 2008 Anderson has been invited to the Ecumenical Institute at Bossey, an international centre of the World Council of Churches in Geneva for encounter, dialogue and formation, to deliver annual guest lectures to Pentecostal and other church practitioners from six continents.

b) Anderson's post-colonial views about the origins of Pentecostalism have readily found recognition among influential church organisations in non-Western countries. In April 2008, he spoke about his distinctive global Pentecostal theology and multiple-origin history at five separate regional Easter convention meetings in various parts of Ghana for the Church of Pentecost, the largest denomination in Ghana, with audiences totalling about 7,000. In November 2009, he was guest speaker at an immense gathering of 35,000 Indian Pentecostals at the Filadelfia Bible College, Rajasthan (source 2). He has had a similar influence on the leaders of churches and seminaries in the Philippines and in Ecuador (details are given in the accounts below).

Influencing teaching and curriculum design in training institutions and seminaries
The most focused impact of Anderson's work on non-academic audiences has been through its influence on teaching and curriculum design at theological training institutions in Ghana, India, the Philippines and Ecuador, and on attitudes of pastors connected with them. This influence has been exerted both through Anderson's publications and through his personal visits as expert consultant. Since 2008, students in these institutions who are training for ministry (after five years these now number in their thousands), mainly among Pentecostal church congregations, have followed courses which enshrine Anderson's principles: that Pentecostalism originated in many different places as local phenomena, rather than as an export from the USA; that it bears specific characteristics in different locations; and that it frequently incorporates assimilated forms of pre-existing religious beliefs and practices. Pastors connected with the institutions have also been influenced in their understandings of the origins of Pentecostal movements in their regions both by Anderson's publications and by the lectures he has delivered there. The net result is increased confidence that the forms of Pentecostalism practised in specific locations have their own authenticity, and that they should continue to develop along their own lines rather than conform to foreign models.

Anderson has had close connections with a number of theological colleges in various parts of the world. Among them is Pentecost University College, Accra, Ghana, which was founded by the Chair of the Church of Pentecost and President of the Ghana Pentecostal and Charismatic Council, the largest denomination in Ghana. Anderson visited the College in April 2008 soon after its foundation, and advised the newly-appointed staff on curriculum design. One of those who benefited was the Chair himself, who reports that Anderson's research influenced his design of a new course. Furthermore, `This course is taught to all Church of Pentecost ministers in training. The course has also been approved by the Ghana National Accreditation Board and has become a major course for the BA Theology degree held at the Pentecost University College in Accra (source 3).

Another institution with which Anderson has had close ties is Filadelfia Bible College, Rajasthan, India, which educates mainly `tribal' Christians in church leadership. Here, Anderson worked with the staff on curriculum development in November 2009. The College Principal explains that he `helped our colleagues to develop a "Pentecostal cognitive structure" in their academic pursuit without losing their "Pentecostal spirituality". ... As a result, a new generation of leaders who are prepared in the Filadelfia Bible College are trained from a global Pentecostal perspective to treasure our particular Indian heritage and history' (source 2).

Anderson has also worked with staff at Asia Pacific Theological Seminary, Baguio City, Philippines, `a cooperative ministry of the Assemblies of God national churches of Asia, Pacific Oceania, and the Assemblies of God World Missions-USA'. The on-going impact of his influence stemmed from the Fourteenth William Menzies Lectures that he delivered in February 13-17, 2006, to an audience of about 200 people including local pastors, teachers from other theological institutions, ministers from other parts of the Philippines and interested lay people. A recent faculty member indicates that `during and after' these lectures, Anderson's input had profound effects, in the form of new confidence in local versions of Pentecostalism among pastors and also new interest in local Pentecostal history. He continues: `Several of those who attended Prof. Anderson's lectures and became acquainted with his books [were challenged to] look at their curriculum, particularly the Pentecostal studies.' Moreover, `The comments from Filipinos and Asians in particular are consistent. They appreciate the information that they were getting from the lectures that basically decentralizes the North American Pentecostal experience as the paradigm and the source of the mighty movement of the Holy Spirit. ... There is that sense of growing confidence and clear realization that the expressions and forms of their Christian faith are not only due to the influence of Western Christianity.' Finally, he suggests that Anderson's influence has extended into the wider Pentecostal communities: `the books that he has written already reached the Asian Pentecostal congregations through the ministers of the gospel that read them' (source 4).

A fourth example of this profound influence is SEMISUD, Seminario Sudamericano, Quito, Ecuador, which trains church leaders. In September 2011, Anderson gave a series of lectures to students, all practising Pentecostal ministers, from eight different Latin American countries, and also advised staff on the curriculum. SEMISUD's President comments: `During the said lectures there were representatives of 18 countries of Latin America in the classroom. Most of them were pastors that have shown great deal of success in their Christian ministry'. His overall assessment was that `[i]t was an inspirational and educational moment for the life and ministry of the Pentecostal leaders who attended the lectures' (source 5).

These wide-ranging examples give clear evidence of Anderson's unrivalled influence among Pentecostal church leaders in many parts of the world, and the ready response his ideas have met. Influenced by his mould-breaking research into the origins of charismatic manifestations in various locations, local congregations and seminarians have achieved new understanding and new confidence. The path from his historical and theological teachings to fresh expressions of religious faith is clear, and their impact is both wide and deep.

Sources to corroborate the impact

Supporting Statements from:

[1] Factual statement provided by Senior Pastor, Yoido Full Gospel Church, Seoul, Korea.

[2] Factual Statement provided by Principal, Filadelfia Bible College.

[3] Factual statement provided by Chair of the Church of Pentecost and the President of the Ghana Pentecostal and Charismatic Council.

[4] Factual statement provided by former faculty member, Asia Pacific Theological Seminary, Baguio City, Philippines.

[5] Factual statement provided by President of SEMISUD, Quito, Ecuador.