The 1930s was a transitional decade for American Protestant missions. As historic churches lost confidence in the project of converting the heathen to Christianity, “faith missions” funded by evangelical groups expanded. Despite the relative vitality of evangelical missions, even these more dynamic programs suffered setbacks during the great depression. This article explores the effects of the global financial crisis on Pentecostal efforts to proclaim the “full Gospel” in “foreign lands.” Like their peers in the broader evangelical movement, Pentecostals were wary of Protestant modernism and pledged to prioritize proselytizing in an effort to differentiate themselves from liberals champions of the Social Gospel. Many “Spirit-filled” missionaries, however, found the distinction between evangelism and education, preaching and poverty-relief, especially difficult to sustain as the people with whom they worked bore the “heavy burdens” of the worldwide economic downturn. Within this context, some advocated for a more expansive Pentecostal missions program that included relief and disaster efforts, schools and hospitals, orphanages and rescue homes. Because they believed in “the whole gospel for the whole man in the whole world,” these missionaries argued, alleviating poverty, suffering and even some forms of systemic oppression was an integral part of their Pentecostal “witness.”
Published in Church History: Studies in Christianity and Culture (September 2011): 579-589.