Pentecostal Christians Widening Influence, Poll
NEW YORK – A new 10-nation survey of Pentecostal and charismatic Christians, considered the fastest-growing stream of Christianity worldwide, shows they are deeply influencing the Roman Catholic and mainstream Protestant churches and are poised to make a big impact on global affairs.
The poll released Thursday by the Washington-based Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life found that "spirit-filled" Christians, who speak in tongues and believe in healing through prayer, comprise at least 10 percent of the population in nine of the 10 surveyed countries.
The study also found that followers are more willing than previously thought to bring their traditional values into public debates, potentially shaping government policies in the years ahead.
The surveys were conducted over the spring and summer in Brazil, Chile, Guatemala, Kenya, Nigeria, South Africa, India, the Philippines, South Korea and the United States.
Researchers polled both Pentecostals, who form their own denominations such as the Assemblies of God, and charismatics, who have adopted some Pentecostal beliefs but remain members of traditional Protestant and Catholic churches.
The survey estimated that Pentecostals and charismatics together comprise at least half the population of Brazil, Guatemala and Kenya, and 44 percent of the Philippines.
They make up about one-third of the population of South Africa and Chile and nearly one-quarter of Nigerians and U.S. residents. The figure for South Korea is smaller, at 11 percent. In India, the poll was limited to three states with large Christian populations, so a national estimate could not be made.
The study found Pentecostal beliefs have a strong hold in major churches in many countries.
In the traditionally Catholic nations of Brazil, Guatemala and the Philippines, charismatics are a larger share of the population than Pentecostals.
In six of the 10 countries, Pentecostals and charismatics together make up the majority of the overall Protestant population, according to the survey.
The Pentecostal movement, which began a century ago in Los Angeles, spread quickly overseas because of its adaptability to local cultures, whose indigenous beliefs often include healings and casting out of evil spirits, and because of the exuberance of its worship.
While Pentecostals and charismatics are known for speaking in tongues, the survey found respondents were more likely to say that they had personally witnessed or experienced other signs of the Holy Spirit, such as a healing through prayer or a direct revelation from God.
The majority of Pentecostals in every nation surveyed except South Korea and India believed religious groups should express their views on social and political issues. In seven of the 10 countries, 70 percent of charismatics agreed.
"These are folks for whom the world of spirit is remarkably alive ... but that in no way diminishes their commitment to social justice for the poor, for instance, or a role for government in meeting those needs," said Luis Lugo, director of the Pew Forum.
The polls were conducted by phone in the U.S., and in person overseas, with margins of error ranging from plus or minus 4 percentage points to 9 percentage points for some subgroups.
The polls in Brazil, South Africa and South Korea focused on urban areas. Fox