In my research for the Global Christianity course, one pattern that started to emerge is that Pentecostalism seems to require an environment similar to the free-wheeling religious freedom of the United States to really thrive — in countries where they are kept from starting new churches basically at will (examples include Mexico or Cameroon), they have difficulty spreading, and they certainly don’t experience the “explosive growth” that scholars of Global Christianity are so excited over.
So here’s a thought: Pentecostalism arose in the US, which was a remarkably hospitable region for new religious movements, particularly by the 20th Century. It’s arguably one of the only major Christian movements to arise without significant conflict or persecution—could this have something to do with the optimistic outlook, the lack of emphasis on suffering or injustice, the indulgence in things like prosperity gospel, the failure to gain ground when they face anything but a totally open field for expansion?
How different would Pentecostalism be now if it had initially faced persecution on the scale of that experienced by Liberation Theology, for example? Would it still be enjoying “explosive growth”?