If you grew up in a Pentecostal church, as I did, you may think you’ve heard all there is to know about Pentecostals, charismatics, and their history.

I know I did.

I thought I could list the important names, the movers-and-shakers connected to the twentieth-century outpouring of the Holy Spirit. I could recall the anecdotes. I knew the exploits from the lives of Charles Parham, William Seymour, Smith Wigglesworth, and Aimee Semple McPherson. I had read about the trail-blazing, innovative ministries that brought a fresh encounter with the power of God to spiritually hungry people.

This was my tribe, and I thought I knew them pretty well.

That, however, was before I picked up Dean Merrill’s new book, 50 Pentecostal and Charismatic Leaders Every Christian Should Know (Minneapolis, Minnesota: Chosen, a division of Baker Publishing Group [2021]).

Merrill, well-known author and FCA friend, has done it again! In his inimitable style and engaging manner, Merrill introduces us to 50 key influencers of the modern Pentecostal movement, beginning with stories from the mid-nineteenth century! Here are names you’ve heard before (David du Plessis, Gordon and Freda Lindsay, Kathryn Kuhlman, Reinhard Bonnke, Jack Hayford) but also names you may have missed in history class (Maria Woodworth-Etter, Francisco Olazábal, Leo Josef Suenens, Bernard E. Underwood, Ithiel Clemmons, Wonsuk and Julie Ma).

Turns out there was a lot I didn’t know! In uncovering details of our spiritual roots, 50 Pentecostal and Charismatic Leaders delights even as it informs. You’ll discover new personalities in the Pentecostal family tree, of course, but you’ll also discover new details and insights about familiar Spirit-filled leaders you thought you knew.

The stories are inspiring, but they are not sugar-coated. You’ll read about both the miraculous and the missteps, both doctrinal insights and theological idiosyncrasies. In his introduction, Merrill notes that “none of the fifty was perfect” and that many displayed “human flaws and misassumptions.” He does not gloss over their faults, but he reports them charitably, displaying a respect for leaders who, while daring to seize the kingdom, occasionally went too far.

What impressed me most about Merrill’s book, though, was how it inspired me. I found myself wishing I had been there when these pioneers sought God and prayed. Reading the book sparked a desire to have seen the early days of the Pentecostal renewal, as well as a desire to pray yet again for a new day.

Merrill’s book is sure to inspire and stir its readers to seek for more from God.

—Richard Doebler