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1/ I said I would review Jerry DeWitt's Hope After Faith, his 2013 book explaining how he went from fanatically devout Pentecostal itinerant preacher in poor, rural Louisiana/Mississippi to an atheist. Jerry is in my NWFL Humanist group, so I got the book's backstory. The book is
2/ is essentially the proposal sent to the publisher. Jerry had written what he thought would become the book, thinking he had 3 years to write it. The publisher liked it and gave him virtually no time to revise it, except for inserting chapter subheadings. So, to point out its
3/ faults seems like piling on. For me, never having stepped into a Pentecostal church, there is only snippets of what life in the Pentecostal world is like. It is very insular, very conservative, and very judgemental. And, there are liberals! Liberal Pentecostal women have their
4/ hair done at the beauty shop, wear modest makeup, and may work. Men would not have facial hair. In his life story, I guess it makes sense in the Pentecostal world. He graduates high school in a LA town of a few thousand people. He's preached off and on as a boy. So, his life
5/ ambition is to become a preacher. Mind you, without any formal training. He meets a young Pentecostal woman working as a grocery clerk right out of high school, falls in love, and in 3 months marry. Now, her parents bless this marriage even though Jerry is unemployed--no job
6/ whatsoever. So, they live in a bedroom in his grandma's house. For years he struggles to find a church, a pure doctrine, and a living. He meets the Goodwinites in Iowa and Branhamites in Arizona. He's turned off by their teachings and most of all their cult status. His meeting
7/ meeting the Goodwinites is disturbing. Goodwin misleads him: there is no desperately wanted church apartment, no ministry training, and no ministry job. It is cult indoctrination, living in an elders' home, and working for a church-linked insurance company. Throughout the book
8/ DeWitt & his wife & son are living hand-to-mouth. His wife Kelli is the hero. She supports him and rebels against Christianity. They divorce. But, along the journey--the first chapter, "God Loves Everyone," is 152 pages, and the remaining short chapters introduce parts of the
9/ Pentecostal belief system that show me why the New Apostolic Reformation sweeps through that denomination. In the book, DeWitt gives glimpses into the business of Christianity, whether you are a travelling revival preacher, a revivalist, or a preacher with your own church--it
10/ is a business. The size of the congregation determines the size of the preacher's salary. It is a world that naturally produces or appeals to entrepreneurs, innovators. In the search for a pure doctrine, everyone is essentially trying to create their own economic niche. That
11/ is my interpretation of his book. I assume all these preachers want to create the Kingdom and start a revival, but they also have to create a niche for themselves, a biblical interpretation within a denominational framework that they can "sell" to people and make a living.
12/ And here is why I think (not DeWitt) the NAR does so well. C. Peter Wagner, the guy who coins the NAR, taught how to grow churches. I am not discounting the theological innovations and borrowings from Latter Rain and incorporation of Pentecostal beliefs and practices. No,
13/ those are central and important, but what struck me reading DeWitt's book--and how desperately poor all these Pentecostal preachers are, whether or not they have a small city or rural church to call their own, is that Wagner and NAR had a successful business model. When I was
14/ in the Bay Area, I attended (as a non-believer) a non-denominational church that I thought was undergoing a subtle transformation into the NAR. Anyway, because the church did not have a permanent building--it rented--the pastor did an "Imagine" campaign for a building fund.
15/ I Googled it. Yes, there is an "Imagination" industry for churches. It is a formula with specific, tested spiels used by Catholics, Episcopalians, all denominations. It is a business practice. So, one of the things I got out of DeWitt's book is to look at the business appeal
16/ of the NAR, for those who study it. Lastly, DeWitt explains that in many of these churches, who really run the churches are the old Pentecostal families with money. They have the real conservative beliefs. And the Dominionists. DeWitt was preaching at a time when the NAR
17/ Dominionists were just penetrating his area of LA. The Dominionists are backed by the wealthy conservative old families. So, there is probably a class dimension to the NAR as well. Jerry has about 3 writing projects going on. He was introduced to the wider world in this NY
18/ Times article. I enjoyed his book. He is a good writer. He is a good public speaker. It is a good read. nytimes.com/2012/08/26/mag…
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