At the Faithdome in South Central Los Angeles in May, one of the most dynamic religious movements in the world was out in full force for the 19th annual World Pentecostal Conference. Almost a century after the 1906 Azusa Street Revival, there are now half a billion pentecostal worshipers worldwide. Seventy percent of pentecostal worshippers are nonwhite, according to religious demographer David B. Barrett; the single largest group is China's 60 million.
Pentecostals are beginning to win broad public acceptance, thanks in part to a new focus on social ministry. Four years ago, for instance, the Assemblies of God church began launching "Convoys of Hope" throughout the nation, bringing health clinics, food, clothing, and the gospel to as many as 25,000 people every weekend, according to Thomas E. Trask, the denomination's general superintendent. In a global study of rapidly growing churches with social ministries, sociologist Donald Miller found that nearly 90 percent of them were run by pentecostals. Results countered stereotypes that liberal Christians were doing the social ministries while pentecostals focused on the hereafter.