There are an estimated 279 million Pentecostal Christians around the globe. That means that if we took the combined flocks of Anglicanism, Sikhism, Judaism, Lutheranism and Methodism, they would still be outnumbered by Pentecostals. Pentecostals now amount to a tenth of all the Christians in the world and four percent of the world’s population.
Catholics are still by far the largest group of Christians in the world. However, it is likely that Pentecostals have now overtaken Orthodox Christians to become the second largest branch Christianity. They are also by some distance the largest protestant denomination.
These huge numbers are doubly remarkable. Firstly, because they developed remarkably quickly. Pentecostalism dates from the early twentieth century making it one of the newest branches of Christianity. As recently as 1970, there were just 15 million Pentecostals.
Secondly, the figures I have been quoting only relate to the members of specifically Pentecostal churches or denominations. It therefore, excludes Charismatic Christians who hold to Pentecostal type beliefs and practice Pentecostal style worship in non-Pentecostal denominations. If we took them and traditional Pentecostals together their numbers soar above half a billion, or a quarter of all Christians in the world. If as a hypothetical exercise we treated them as a faith in their own right, then they would replace Buddhism as the world’s fourth largest religion.
Looking at the religious news pages of the BBC, Guardian and Telegraph, I can’t see any stories that are obviously about Pentecostalism. However I can see stories about Anglicanism, Presbyterianism, Judaism and Shia Islam even though these movements are all significantly smaller than Pentecostalism. So to reiterate a point I’ve been making this week: Pentecostalism is a movement worthy of our attention. If for no other reason than its sheer size.