The Assemblies of God, one of the largest Pentecostal denominations, is growing faster than the U.S. population.
AG reported that its U.S. adherents increased four percent in 2010, which is several times higher than the U.S. population growth rate, which is about one percent a year. Adherents of the Assemblies of God USA have surpassed three million followers, 3,030,944 to be exact, in 2010.
This is the largest annual percentage increase since 1983, according to AG records.
Considering that a Pentecostal church service is sometimes much like a rock concert, this is not surprising. Now, granted, I am glad that there are more Christians in the world but I wish they were Catholic. Only the Catholic Church has the Mass which is Heaven on earth.
About one in ten belong to the Oneness Pentecostal movement. While they are not as far outlying as the Mormons, Jehovah Witnesses or Ingelsia Ng Cristo they do not describe God as three persons but rather as three manifestations of the one living God.
The “Borat” scene of people “Holy rolling” and speaking in tongues with a snake in their hands is a rare sight in an Assemblies of God service.Other denominations put more and less emphasis on the speaking/praying in tongue.
I have known Catholics who joined AG, but nowhere near as many as one might expect here in the AG’s main territory. Maybe 70-80% of its adherents are formerly Catholic, but i sure would question that in the absence of seeing any kind of reliable statistics on it.
I have also known former AG people who converted to Catholicism; more than went the other direction.
that’s all anecdotal of course, but again, in the absence of any reliable statistics, I really have to question that 70-80%.
Most of the converts to AG that i know of are protestants to start with. Two things that really have to be remembered before anybody gets into a major panic with this:
Growth percentages are relative to starting baselines. At one time the Mormon church had the highest growth rate and might still. But that doesn’t mean too much in numbers. If I start a church with one person and convert one additional person, I have had a 100% growth rate.
The AG is not unlike a lot of evangelical sects. Its appeal is both emotional and “institutional”. As to the first, it is very, very common among evangelical and fundamentalist people to change churches, and they do so with a frequency that one might find surprising. Also, the nature of an institution often draws people, especially from other, similar sects. AG is pretty lavish in its physical setup, its music, dramatizations and its socializing. But, in my opinion, at least, it’s a pretty shallow draw, because the big bugaboo of such groups is the centripetal tendency that all similar groups have to spin off splinters based on personal biblical interpretation. Also, the extreme socialization can get very old after awhile with many. AG can be intrusive into one’s life, and expects a lot of its adherents, significant financial support being one of its requirements, without which one can get invited to leave. Finally, AG is given to overrating “miracles”, finding them almost casually. It gets kind of superstitious in its seeking spiritual “power”. That can be a heady brew for a horribly catechized Catholic or protestant for that matter. It can also be a massive letdown.
The local AG, which is just outside the borough limits, is more Country or Gospel, than Rock. Unfortunately, I kind of lost my welcome about 10 years ago. They do seem to place more emphasis on enjoying your visit, as opposed to an opportunity to shove some doctrines down any throats, which seems to have something to do with where I went wrong. They were not the least bit contentious.
It might be worth noting that conversions to the Assemblies of God have been flat for at least a couple years. An older news report indicates a 0.8% decrease in conversions in 2008, and the current press release indicates that conversions increased only by 195 last year.
The Assemblies of God has grown steadily but slowly over the years. In the 80s they were the fastest growing denomination, but much of that growth could be said to result from the charismatic renewal. In the last couple of years they seem to have reemphasized equipping and resourcing church planting.
Pentecostal churches don’t place priority on officially joining a church. It’s not surprising that their adherents are larger than their members. It’s also not surprising that they don’t hold onto members very long. This is a common trend among evangelical and Pentecostal churches. In the South, its pejoratively called “church hopping.”
Many may be surprised to learn that “speaking in tongues” is not all that common in the AG anymore. Sure tongues as initial evidence of Spirit baptism is their “doctrinal distinctive,” but in many AG churches it has all but disappeared. In fact, the AG’s 2009 General Council (its highest governing and representative body) passed Resolution 21 “Reaffirmation of Pentecostal Distinctive” which was meant to have the General Council go on record as still supporting the doctrine and to encourage all of its ministers to preach and teach it.
I’ve read that the Pentecostal proselytizers display pictures of the Blessed Mother in their window fronts to lure unsuspecting Catholics in, even though A of G trivializes or even disdains Our Lady’s unique place in the Christian life.