Saturday, March 14, 2020

Love & the Assemblies of God -- A Book Review by Sutton


GODLY LOVE and the 




Margaret M. Poloma 

& John C. Green. 


Poloma and Green report findings from a sociological study of the Assemblies of God by interpreting interview and survey data from 447 clergy and 1,827 congregants, contextualized by historical narratives, website documents, previous research, and sociological theories. 

They posit that organizational tension between charisma (primal spirituality) and social structure (pragmatic, organizational concerns) can catalyze revitalization; however, extant data are not quite sufficient to support the hypothesized dynamic. Data illustrate both a commitment to classic Pentecostal experiences (e.g., glossolalia, divine healing) as well as concerns for orthodoxy and structure. We also see a strong moral stance consistent with their history.

Godly Love is offered as a theory to explain a dynamic interaction between believers and God, which yields love energy flowing outward in benevolent service. Attitudinal and benevolent activities data suggest the potential for Godly Love as a relational model of the Pentecostal experience.

The analyses and interpretations are heavily dependent upon self-reported attitudes and behaviors. Some survey scales are challenged by low scale reliability and limited construct validity. The lack of cohort-based longitudinal data in the context of the American host culture and other religious bodies may relegate trend analysis to speculation. Nevertheless, the authors successfully maintain a delicate balance between a plethora of statistics and readable narratives making the work a primary source for a wide audience of scholars interested in this century-old American Pentecostal journey.

When I think about Christian love, I think about forgiveness, but forgiveness is not a concept listed in the index. My colleagues and I explored the concept of forgiveness and reconciliation in a few publications, including a a research study (See references below.)

The tables at the end of the book are a bonus, which offers useful information to generate hypotheses for future studies and implications for consultants. I included references to some of their findings in Counseling and psychotherapy with Pentecostal and Charismatic Christians: Culture & Research | Assessment & Practice (2021).

Some examples of pastors' Pentecostal practices from Table A.2, p. 208

Pastors: 16% reported speaking in tongues with interpretation at least weekly. And 82% pray in tongues at least weekly. The percentages were low for weekly or greater experiences of singing in the spirit (18%), Holy laughter (5%), and dancing in the Spirit (8%).

Examples of beliefs and values from Table A.5, p. 210.

Pastors' Beliefs- data for those who Agree and Strongly Agree
The devil actually exists 99%
Scriptures are literally accurate 98%
Christ is the only way to salvation 100%
Immanent rapture 99%

Pastors' morality
No dancing 76%
No gambling 99%
No movies 51%


Mittelstadt, M. & G. W. Sutton (eds.) (2010) Forgiveness, reconciliation, and restoration: Multidisciplinary studies from a Pentecostal perspective. Eugene, OR: Pickwick Publications. ISBN: 9781608991945

Poloma, M. M. & Green, J.C. (2010). The assemblies of God: Godly love and the revitalization of American Pentecostalism. New York: New York University Press.

Sutton, G. W. (2011). [Review of the book The Assemblies of God: Godly love and the revitalization of American Pentecostalism by M.M. Poloma & J.C. Green]. Religious Studies Review, 37, 185. Accepted 3 February 2011.   Academia Link    Research Gate Link  

Sutton, G. W. (2021). Counseling and psychotherapy with Pentecostal and Charismatic Christians: Culture & Research | Assessment & Practice. Springfield, MO: Sunflower. ISBN-13 : 979-8681036524 (See review) AMAZON 

Sutton, G. W., Jordan, K., & Worthington, E.L., Jr. (2014). Spirituality, hope, compassion, and forgiveness: Contributions of Pentecostal spirituality to godly love. Journal of Psychology and Christianity, 33, 212-226. Academia Link     ResearchGate  

Sutton, G. W. & Mittelstadt, M. W. (2012). Loving God and loving others: Learning about love from psychological science and Pentecostal perspectives. Journal of Christianity and Psychology, 31, 157-166.  Academia Link Research Gate Link

 Related Books

Counseling and psychotherapy with Pentecostal and Charismatic Christians: Culture & Research | Assessment & Practice AMAZON

Forgiveness, Reconciliation, Restoration: Multidisciplinary Studies from a Pentecostal Perspective
Published by Pickwick / WipfandStock  FREE copies to Reviewers and Instructors

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