Pentecostalism and charismatic worship from an african perspective

Term Paper, 2015

10 Pages



Scholarship on Pentecostalism and charismatic forms of worship has described Pentecostal and Charismatic churches in African as part of “a rapidly growing form of African Christianity;” that as a movement, “it is fast becoming one of the most significant expressions of Christianity on the continent…”( Anderson, 2001:167). This growth can be identified with many factors. Among these, is the issue of biblical interpretation, which compared to the mainline churches follows, distinct approaches. Despite this growth, the way in which most Pentecostal interpretations extract meanings from the text also points to certain hermeneutical challenges. Some of these challenges have been expressed in Herholdt (1998) model of Biblical hermeneutics. This work attempts to discuss two of Herholdt’s facets model of hermeneutics. It points out how biblical hermeneutics has come to be singled out as one of challenges faced by these churches. An attention has been put on how these models may have contributed to the rapid growth of Pentecostalism and how still they can pose a challenge to sustain the currently experienced growth.

Key words : Pentecostalism, charismatic, healing, worship, salvation, biblical hermeneutics.

Understanding the Pentecostal and Charismatic Churches.

Pentecostal and Charismatic churches[1] are understood as “a movement concerned primarily with the experience of the working of the Holy Spirit and the practice of spiritual gifts”( Anderson,2001:169). They are distinct from the mainline churches in their vitality and in their use of gifts such as speaking in tongue, vibrant praise and worship, healing, and exorcism (Herholdt, 1998). From this understanding we locate the PC movements as those whose central mission is to manifest the presence of the Holy Spirit in the life of the Christians. This is not to say that mainline churches do not manifest or stress the presence of the holy spirit among the faithful. However, we make this distinction from the aspect of the holy spirit because Pentecostal movements tress above all the physical awareness of the presence of the Holy Spirit in the life of Christians, and the fact that the baptized are recipients of the Holy Spirit (Pobee, et al 1998:49). From an African perspective, PC churches attempt to respond to the day-to-day challenges and needs of people such as illness, poverty, success. As argued by Anderson, (2001:168) PC Churches like the earlier forms of African Indigenous Churches “offer a personal encounter with God through the power of the Spirit, healing from sickness, and deliverance from evil in all its manifestations, Spiritual, social, and Structural”. This is believed to take place because for the PC churches the Holy Spirit is vibrant through the perceived activities that manifest the “ever-present God occupying the affairs of believers” (Herholdt, 1998:419).

The vibrancy of the holy spirit is not something believed to be hidden or something of the future. For example, in the face of poverty many Pentecostal preachers would instruct the faithful to expect immediate miracle of deliverance from a state of poverty to one of abundance by the power of the Holy Spirit. Being ‘Born-Again’ for them means life in fullness here and now. For example, the unemployed get employed; the sick get healed; the hungry get fed. This is not just expected eschatologically but most stressed in the physical lives of the Pentecostal Christians. In the following part I discuss the aspect of Biblical hermeneutics within Pentecostal Churches.

Pentecostal and Charismatic Churches and Biblical Hermeneutics

Biblical Hermeneutics is a study of interpreting the scriptures in view of getting the hidden meaning of a particular biblical passage. As such it involves certain guidelines, or procedures that Christians have to follow in order to find relevance of the selected part of scripture in their lives. According to Scott, (1979:67) Biblical hermeneutics “in religious studies is distinguished on the one hand from exegesis, as the application of principles for interpretation to a particular Biblical passage in order to ascertain its meaning, and on the other from Biblical theology, which seeks to organize the teachings of all the passage in the Scriptures or in a particular part of them into a coherent whole”.

Most PC churches follow a literal style of Biblical Hermeneutics. To most Pentecostals scriptures make authentic meaning insofar as it is not diverted from its word to word meaning. Literal interpretations hold that the words and their meanings cannot be altered for another form of interpretation as this could be in contrast with the meaning of the inspired word or text. The literal text in this case is the one believed to be the Holy Spirit inspired word. “The literal meaning is held to correspond to the intention of the authors” (Abdullah, 2014). Apart from the word of the Scripture, another dimension of the literal interpretation is that the spoken words of the interpreter, or the preacher, who may most probably be the Pastor are of authority. They are regarded as inspired through the Holy Spirit. In other words, literal interpretation of the Bible gives authority to the preacher’s words as true. The preacher’s words carry authority because within the PC churches preaching and interpretation is said to be entirely based on the Bible “either directly or implicitly” (Anderson, 1998:403).

Biblical interpretation is seems to be a challenge in the Pentecostal and Charismatics. A part from socio-economic challenges that may have inspired the emergence of new Christian movements in Africa such as the PC churches, there was as well the problem of Biblical hermeneutics. The hermeneutical problem arose within the African context when the mainline churches seemed failing to respond to people needs from the scripture point of view. The Bible was discovered as being far from the people lived experience, that is in its modality of reading, translation, accessibility, and interpretation. In the contemporary time, one of the biggest Biblical Hermeneutical challenge faced by PC churches is:

on one hand, they are determined to remain faithful to the principles for the literal, grammatical, historical interpretation of the Scriptures as the objective, authoritative, unchanging Word of God. On the other hand, they wrestle with the seldom-voiced conviction that the rules for interpretation, especially the traditional ones, have proven ineffective in meaningfully applying Biblical revelation to the complex needs of modern [P]ersons and society (Scott, 1979:69).

In the following part I discuss the aspects of healing and Salvation within the Pentecostal and charismatic churches. I attempt to analyze how biblical hermeneutics are used in the understanding and application of these concepts in the life of Christians.


[1] In the work ahead PC will be used as a short from of Pentecostal and Charismatic churches.

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Pentecostalism and charismatic worship from an african perspective
University of KwaZulu-Natal  (Religion philosophy and classics)
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Gyaviira Kisitu (Author), 2015, Pentecostalism and charismatic worship from an african perspective, Munich, GRIN Verlag,


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