Building where it all began

The worldwide Pentecostal movement started on Azusa street in Los Angeles. It was led by the son of a former slave: William J. Seymour who studied theology by sitting in the hallway outside the classroom because segregation laws forbade him entering the classroom. Immediately, the racial and ethnic makeup of the group began diversifying. While some Pentecostal denominations segregated, the movement has remained very diverse. American Pentecostals are much more likely to worship in diverse congregations and have diverse friends than most any other religious grouping – far more than American Methodists, Presbyterians, Lutherans and Episcopalians. This is ironic because pentecostalism is considered intellectually inferior to those forms of Christianity, and it is predominantly working class unlike its white collar Christian cousins.

Also, pentecostalism has spread all over the world becoming at home in many cultures and languages. In Africa, it was often the Pentecostal churches who first allowed local art forms into worship. This included local music styles, local instruments and local dance. They allowed this at a time when more “respectable” forms of Christianity such as the mainline denominations opposed those things. Pentecostal churches often quickly promoted local Christians to positions of leadership. In fact, many African Pentecostal churches were founded by men with low levels of education. They nevertheless became very successful, growing to be as big as or bigger than churches with highly educated leadership.

Pentecostalism has most often been an unsophisticated, working class, and theologically conservative Christian Movement. It would not say that diversity is one of its greatest values, yet it might be the most open, diverse and inclusive modern movement of any kind, religious or not. It beats more sophisticated Christian churches at manifesting their own professed values. It makes one wonder if the road to real diversity is not where the proponents of diversity think it is.

Sermon feedback

In many churches in Ghana, the congregation gives frequent feedback to the preacher during the sermon. People might say amen, or make another affirming comment, or even giggle in appreciation or even clap. Once when I was in church and the congregation was not giving enough verbal feedback for the preacher so he stopped and asked us: “Are you preaching with me?”