Missionary conversions: How missionary encounters pushed fundamentalists towards evangelicalism

Josh Brahinsky


Missionary encounters stimulate cultural change, although not always in ways one might expect. Throughout the mid-twentieth century, among missionaries from the Assemblies of God (AG), the world’s largest pentecostal group, encounters with postcolonial converts often generated “missionary conversions,” which instead of converting the target population, animated individual experiences of change among the missionaries themselves which then resonated across registers and transformed missiological theories, AG theology, and finally even facilitated a shift from an isolationist fundamentalism to a culturally savvy evangelicalism. This article contributes to the “anthropology of the encounter” with an example of transculturation explored through a methodology that links different registers of analysis. Together these registers generate cultural exchange that travels from the home church to the missions field and then back into the home churches. The irony is that while most missions aim towards purely external change, they clearly generate inner transformation, and it isn’t subtle.

Full Text:


DOI: https://doi.org/10.1086/711882