Third Wave (of the Holy Spirit)

The Third Wave of the Holy Spirit! Have you heard of it?

This term is a bit less in vogue now than it was 30 years ago, but it’s one I’ve heard off and on, and you still see the term used in books on the bookshelves of folks who were Christians back in the 1980s. Back in the ’80s, the Third Wave was hot, hot, hot stuff in some circles.

What was a surprise to me is that this term isn’t related to Alvin Toffler’s best-selling book of the same name published in 1980. I had always thought perhaps it was, but Wagner says no (see 1984 quote).


Third Wave n. Charismatic A period of Christian revival and heightened activity of the Holy Spirit that is said to have begun in the early 1980s.
The term was coined by C. Peter Wagner in 1983 during an interview by Kevin Perotta for Pastoral Renewal magazine (see citations for 1983 and 1984). Wagner later wrote The Third Wave of the Holy Spirit (1988).
Synonymous terms are Third Wave of the Holy Spirit; *signs-and-wonders movement; and neocharismatic renewal.
See also *signs and wonders.
1983 Wagner “A Third Wave?” Pastoral Renewal (Jul./Aug.) 5 : I see historically that we’re now in the third wave. The first wave of the moving of the Holy Spirit (who knows?—perhaps preparing us for the end times) began at the beginning of the century with the Pentecostal movement. The second wave was the charismatic movement which began in the fifties in the major denominations. Both of those waves continue today. I see the third wave of the eighties as an opening of the straight-line evangelicals and other Christians to the supernatural work of the Holy Spirit that the Pentecostals and charismatics have experienced, but without becoming either charismatic or Pentecostal. I think we are in a new wave of something that now has lasted almost through our whole century. 1984 Wagner “The Third Wave’’ Christian Life (Sep.) 90 : The label “third wave” surfaced while I was being interviewed on this subject by Pastoral Renewal magazine. So far as I can tell, it has no relationship to the title of Alvin Toffler’s best selling book, The Third Wave. It is simply a term which I found convenient at the moment, and which some others now have picked up, to describe this new activity of the Holy Spirit. 1984 Synan In the Latter Days: The Outpouring of the Holy Spirit in the Twentieth Century 145 : Twenty-five percent [of these new churches] will be charismatic Christians in the mainline Protestant and Catholic churches. These will come mainly from the developed Western nations in Europe and North America. Their services will be mildly charismatic and will be typical of the “third wave” type of Christian who may or may not carry the label pentecostal or charismatic. 1985 Wimber Power Evangelism: Signs and Wonders Today 000 : I believe Dr. Wagner’s “third wave” is not so much another wave as the next stage of development in the charismatic renewal. Perhaps both the Pentecostal and charismatic movements are part of one great move of the Holy Spirit in this century. This perspective emphasizes the similarities of the movements, which outweigh their differences. 1986 Wagner Spiritual Power and Church Growth 32 : I consider 1982 as the year I began participating in the third wave of the power of the Holy Spirit, which means that previous to that I spent 31 years as a born-again Christian at a lower level of spiritual energizing. 1986 Wagner Signs and Wonders Today (Oct.) : There is no question that a new and exciting era has come upon Christianity in the twentieth century. It started with the Pentecostal movement at the beginning of the century, a movement which continues to multiply under God’s blessing. It was joined by the Charismatic movement soon after mid-century. And now in these latter decades the Spirit is moving in what some of us like to call the third wave where we are seeing the miraculous works of God operating as they have been in the other movements in churches which have not been nor intend to be either Pentecostal or charismatic. 1990 Pearson Christian Healing 193 : C. Peter Wagner, church growth expert from Fuller Seminary, has popularized the phrase third wave. He identifies the first wave of the power of the Holy Spirit, which surfaced at the outset of the twentieth century, as Pentecostalism with its distinct theology and cultural expression; and the second wave as the charismatic renewal, again with its own theology and culture. The third wave that many believe is taking place today is already formulating its own theology and style. 1997 Csordas Language, Charisma, and Creativity: The Ritual Life of a Religious Movement 272 : In the 1980s a group of evangelicals and pentecostals identifying themselves as a “third wave” in the “modern outpouring of the Spirit” emerged under the banner of “spiritual warfare” against demonic forces said to be on the rise in contemporary society.
Third Wave of the Holy Spirit n. Syn *Third Wave.