Critical Reflections on the Growth of Pentecostalism in Malaysia

In: Asia Pacific Pentecostalism
Authors:
Denise A. Austin
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Lim Yeu Chuen
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There is evidence of the charismata in Malaysia (Malaya prior to 1963) as early as the 1870s, and later with Azusa Street Mission workers visiting in 1907. Over the course of the 20th century, Pentecostalism spread so rapidly that, by 1985, Pentecostals made up 75 percent of the Christian population. Today there are around 206,000 Pentecostal adherents, and Malaysia boasts one of the largest charismatic church complexes in Southeast Asia. This chapter argues that there are three key reasons for the growth of Pentecostalism in Malaysia. First, the indigenising and transnationalising tendencies of Pentecostalism benefited early pioneers who migrated from China and Ceylon, as well as missionaries who came from Great Britain, Europe and the United States of America. World War ii dealt a severe blow but freedoms of the postwar era fostered a revival atmosphere through charismatic leadership. The catalyst for post-independence growth was the organisational acumen of Pentecostal leaders who opened training colleges, led church planting drives, and established megachurches. The 1970s to the 1980s period was a melting pot for the emergence of many independent Pentecostal and charismatic movements. Finally, fresh waves of revival have brought more of a focus on contemporary engagement and diversity.

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