How Some Pentecostals Misrepresent Their Global Size

And the Truth about How Many Pentecostals there are in the World

At times I have heard Pentecostal Christians triumphantly declare that Pentecostalism now consists of over 600 million people in the world. I assume they have the good intention of encouraging those Pentecostals who are listening.

I sometimes worry, though, that they are implying that the large and growing number of Pentecostals in the world implies that Pentecostals are right in their distinctive theology. While I am Pentecostal in theology, I don’t think numbers determine correct theology. If it did, I would become Catholic, or perhaps Muslim, as there are more of them in the world than Pentecostals.

Aside from my ramblings, here is the truth of the numbers.

How Many Pentecostals are There in the World Today?

There are indeed over 600 million Pentecostals in the world today, IF you have the whole “Pentecostal-Charismatic” movement in mind. This is typically how scholars will speak of global Pentecostalism.

Defined this way, the 600 million Pentecostals in the world includes:

  • 92 million denominational Pentecostals (or “Classical Pentecostals”). This number includes 2.7 million Oneness Pentecostals.
  • 234 million Charismatics. This includes Catholic (177 million), Orthodox (4.2 million), and Protestant (35 million) Christians.
  • 259 million Independent Pentecostal/Charismatics.

Many people who describe how many Pentecostals there are in the world today are thinking only of the first group (Classical Pentecostals). Since they don’t realize that the 600 million includes many other types of Christians, they unintentionally misrepresent the global size of denominational Pentecostals.

A key lesson here is that when people talk (or read!) about Pentecostals, it helps to clarify what is meant.

And Growing

Taken as a whole, Pentecostals (in the large sense of the term) make up over 25% of all of the world’s Christians. So Pentecostalism is large! And it will continue to grow. By 2025 scholars expect over 30% of Christians will be Pentecostal-Charismatic.

Question: Are you surprised by how big global Pentecostalism is? You can leave a comment by clicking here.

*Note: Numbers are current as of 2010, as reported in the World Christian Database (Brill, 2011), and by Todd M. Johnson, “Global Pentecostal Demographics,” in Spirit and Power: The Growth and Global Impact of Pentecostalism, ed. Donald E. Miller, Kimon H. Sargeant, and Richard Flory (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2013), 320-321. Johnson reports a total of 584 million Pentecostals, whereas Allan Anderson, An Introduction to Pentecostalism: Global Charismatic Christianity, 2nd ed. (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2014), 1, suggests that there were possibly over 600 million Pentecostals by 2010.

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