Return to Light Planet home
Pentecostals believe that you must be saved by believing in Jesus as Lord and Savior for the forgiveness of sins and to be made acceptable to God. Pentecostals believe in water baptism as an outward sign of conversion, and that the baptism in the Holy Spirit is a distinct spiritual experience that all who have believed in Jesus should receive. Some Pentecostals believe that the baptism in the Holy Spirit is always accompanied initially by the outward evidence of speaking in tongues. This is a major difference between Pentecostal and Charismatic Christians who believe that a Christian who is baptized in the Holy Spirit may exhibit other physical signs instead of speaking in tongues. However, the idea that one is not saved unless one speaks in tongues is rejected by most major Pentecostal denominations. Pentecostals also believe that the Bible has the final authority in matters of faith.
Pentecostals have a transrational worldview. Although Pentecostals are concerned with orthodoxy (correct belief), they are also concerned with orthopathy (right affections) and orthopraxy (right reflection or action). Reason is esteemed as a valid conduit of truth, but Pentecostals do not limit truth to the realm of reason.
Dr. Jackie David Johns, in his work on Pentecostal formational leadership, states that the Scriptures hold a special place in the Pentecostal worldview because the Holy Spirit is always active in the Bible. For him, to encounter the Scriptures is to encounter God. For the Pentecostal, the Scriptures are a primary reference point for communion with God and a template for reading the world.
One of the most prominent distinguishing characteristics of Pentecostalism from Evangelicalism is its emphasis on the work of the Holy Spirit. Pentecostals believe that everyone who is genuinely saved has the Holy Spirit living in them and working through them. But unlike most other Christians they believe that there is a second work of the Holy Spirit called the baptism of the Holy Spirit which opens a believer up to a closer fellowship with the Holy Spirit and empowers them for Christian service. Speaking in tongues, also known as glossolalia, is the normative proof, but not the only proof, of the baptism with the Holy Spirit. Some major Pentecostal churches also accept the corollary that those who don't speak in tongues have not received the blessing that they call "The Baptism of the Holy Spirit". This claim is uniquely Pentecostal and is one of the few consistent differences from Charismatic theology.
Some ministers and members admit that a believer might be able to speak in tongues, but for various personal reasons (such as a lack of understanding) might not. This would be the only case where a believer would be filled with the Holy Spirit, but not exhibit the so-called "initial physical evidence" of speaking in tongues. This, however, would be a minority perspective.
Pentecostals believe that there are two different types of instances of speaking in tongues. One being tongues as a prayer language given at the baptism of the Holy Spirit. They believe that all Christians can be baptized with the Holy Spirit and speak in tongues as a prayer language if they genuinely ask God and wait on His timing for it to occur. The second type of situation that Pentecostals believe speaking in tongues occurs is public utterances. They believe that someone who is given the gift of speaking in tongues may speak in tongues in a church service or other Christian gathering for everyone to hear. They believe that God will give another Christian present the gift of interpretation and that the Christian with the gift of interpretation will be able to speak what the first person did in the language of the audience so that everyone can understand what was said and be edified. They believe that only some people are given the gift of speaking in tongues while everyone has the opportunity to receive a prayer language. This is what Paul was talking about in I Corinthians 12-14.
Critics charge that this doctrine does not mesh well with what they believe to be Paul's criticism of the early Corinthian church for their obsession with speaking in tongues, Paul stated that speaking in tongues is only one of the gifts of the spirit and is not gifted to all, there are other gifts that are given to others, the power of Prophesy for one.(see 1 Corinthians, chapters 12-14 in the New Testament). Advocates say that the Pentecostal position aligns closely with Luke's emphasis in the book of Acts and reflects a more sophisticated use of hermeneutics.
Dr. Dale A. Robbins writes in regards to charismatic beliefs that Church history argues against the idea that charismatic gifts went away shortly after the apostolic age. Dr. Robbins quotes the early church father Irenaeus (ca. 130-202) as writing the following,"...we hear many of the brethren in the church who have prophetic gifts, and who speak in tongues through the spirit, and who also bring to light the secret things of men for their benefit [word of knowledge]...". Dr. Robbins also cites Irenaues writing the following, "When God saw it necessary, and the church prayed and fasted much, they did miraculous things, even of bringing back the spirit to a dead man." According to Dr. Robbins Tertullian (ca. 155–230) reported similar incidents as did Origen (ca. 182 - 251), Eusebius (ca. 275 – 339), Firmilian (ca. 232-269), and Chrysostom (ca. 347 - 407).
Some Pentecostal churches hold to Oneness theology, which decries the traditional doctrine of the Trinity as unbiblical. The largest Pentecostal Oneness denomination in the United States is the United Pentecostal Church. Oneness Pentecostals, are sometimes known as "Jesus-Name", "Apostolics", or by their detractors as "Jesus only" Pentecostals. This is due to the belief that the original Apostles baptized converts in the name of Jesus. They also believe that God has revealed Himself in different roles rather than three distinct persons. The major trinitarian pentecostal organizations, however, including the Pentecostal World Conference and the Fellowship of Pentecostal and Charismatic Churches of North America, have condemned Oneness theology as a heresy and refuse membership to churches holding this belief. This same holds true for the Oneness Pentecostal towards trinitarian churches. It should be noted that in the UK the term "Apostolics" refers to members of the Apostolic Church (UK)" - a denomination which adheres to traditional evangelical teaching on the Trinity.
The Pentecostal movement was also prominent in the Holiness movement who were the first to begin making numerous references to the term "pentecostal" such as in 1867 when the Movement established The National Camp Meeting Association for the Promotion of Christian Holiness with a notice that said: [We are summoning,] irrespective of denominational tie ...those who feel themselves comparatively isolated in their profession of holiness…that all would realize together a Pentecostal baptism of the Holy Ghost....
Although the 1896 Shearer Schoolhouse Revival in Cherokee County, North Carolina might be regarded as a precursor to the modern Pentecostal movement, modern Pentecostalism began around 1901. It is the generally accepted that its origin dates from when Agnes Ozman received the gift of tongues (glossolalia) during a prayer meeting at Charles Fox Parham's Bethel Bible College in Topeka, Kansas in 1901. Parham, a minister of Methodist background, formulated the doctrine that tongues was the "Bible evidence" of the Baptism of the Holy Spirit. Further, Pentecostals point to the "upper room" experience of the gathered disciples of Jesus as described in Acts 2:1 and Peter's instructions in Acts 2:38 as justification for their practices.
Parham left Topeka and began a revival meeting ministry which led to a link to the Azusa Street Revival through William J. Seymour whom he taught in his school in Houston, although because Seymour was African American, he was only allowed to sit outside the room to listen.
The expansion of the movement started with the Azusa Street Revival, beginning April 9, 1906 at the Los Angeles home of Edward Lee, who experienced what he felt to be an infilling of the Holy Spirit during a prayer meeting. The attending pastor, William J. Seymour, also claimed that he was overcome with the Holy Spirit on April 12, 1906. On April 18, 1906, the Los Angeles Times ran a front page story on the movement. By the third week in April, 1906, the small but growing congregation had rented an abandoned African Methodist Episcopal Church at 312 Azusa Street and organized as the Apostolic Faith Mission.
The first decade of Pentecostalism was marked by interracial assemblies, "...Whites and blacks mix in a religious frenzy,..." according to a local newspaper account. This lasted until 1924, when the church split along racial lines (see Apostolic Faith Mission). However, interracial services continued for many years, even in parts of the segregated U.S. South. When the Pentecostal Fellowship of North America was formed in 1948, it was made up entirely of Anglo-American Pentecostal denominations. This was one reason why the United Pentecostal Church would not join and its interracial policy has remained throughout its history. In 1994, segregated Pentecostals returned to their roots of racial reconciliation and proposed formal unification of the major white and black branches of the Pentecostal Church, in a meeting subsequently known as the Memphis Miracle. This unification occurred in 1998, again in Memphis, Tennessee. The unification of white and black movements led to the restructuring of the Pentecostal Fellowship of North America to become the Pentecostal/Charismatic Churches of North America.
During the beginning of the twentieth century, Albert Benjamin Simpson became closely involved with the growing Pentecostal movement. It was common for Pentecostal pastors and missionaries to receive their training at the Missionary Training Institute that Simpson founded. Because of this, Simpson and the Christian and Missionary Alliance (C&MA) (an evangelistic movement that Simpson founded) had a great influence on Pentecostalism, in particular the Assemblies of God and the Foursquare Church. This influence included evangelistic emphasis, C&MA doctrine, Simpson's hymns and books, and the use of the term 'Gospel Tabernacle,' which evolved into Pentecostal churches being known as 'Full Gospel Tabernacles.'
From the late 1950s onwards, the Charismatic movement, which was to a large extent inspired and influenced by Pentecostalism, began to flourish in the mainline Protestant denominations, as well as the Roman Catholic church. Unlike "Classical Pentecostals," who formed strictly Pentecostal congregations or denominations, Charismatics adopted as their motto, "Bloom where God planted you."
In the United Kingdom, the first Pentecostal church to be formed was the Apostolic Church. This was later followed by the Elim Church.
In Sweden, the first Pentecostal church was Filadelfiaförsamlingen in Stockholm. Pastored by Lewi Pethrus, this congregation, originally Baptist, was expelled from the Baptist Union of Sweden in 1913 for doctrinal differences. Today this congregation has about 7000 members and is the biggest Pentecostal congregation in northern Europe. As of 2005, the Swedish pentecostal movement has approximately 90,000 members in nearly 500 congregations. These congregations are all independent but cooperate on a large scale. Swedish Pentecostals have been very missionary-minded and have established churches in many countries. In Brazil, for example, churches founded by the Swedish Pentecostal mission claim several million members.
The history of pentecostalism in Australia has been documented by Dr Barry Chant in Heart of Fire (1984, Adelaide: Tabor).
Pentecostal denominations and adherents
Main article: List of Christian denominations#Pentecostalism
Christianity Today reported in an article titled World Growth at 19 Million a Year that according to historian Vinson Synan, dean of the Regent University School of Divinity in Virginia Beach, about 25 percent of the world's Christians are Pentecostal or charismatic.
The largest Pentecostal denominations in the United States are the Assemblies of God, the Church of God in Christ, Church of God (Cleveland) and the United Pentecostal Church. According to a Spring 1998 article in Christian History, there are about 11,000 different pentecostal or charismatic denominations worldwide.
The size of Pentecostalism in the U.S. is estimated to be more than 20 million including approximately 918,000 (4%) of the Hispanic-American population, counting all unaffiliated congregations, although the numbers are uncertain, in part because some tenets of Pentecostalism are held by members of non-Pentecostal denominations in what has been called the charismatic movement.
Pentecostalism was conservatively estimated to number around 115 million followers worldwide in 2000; other estimates place the figure closer to 400 million. The great majority of Pentecostals are to be found in Third World countries (see the Statistics subsection below), although much of their international leadership is still North American. Pentecostalism is sometimes referred to as the "third force of Christianity." The largest Christian church in the world is the Yoido Full Gospel Church in South Korea, a Pentecostal church. Founded and led by David Yonggi Cho since 1958, it had 780,000 members in 2003. The True Jesus Church, an indigenous church founded by Chinese believers on the mainland but whose headquarters is now in Taiwan. The Apostolic Church is the fastest growing church in the world.
According to Christianity Today, Pentecostalism is "a vibrant faith among the poor; it reaches into the daily lives of believers, offering not only hope but a new way of living." . In addition, according to a 1999 U.N. report, "Pentecostal churches have been the most successful at recruiting its members from the poorest of the poor." Brazilian Pentecostals talk of Jesus as someone real and close to them and doing things for them including providing food and shelter.
Outside the English speaking world
Pentecostal and charismatic church growth is rapid in many parts of the world. Missions expert David Barrett estimated in a Christianity Today article that the Pentecostal and charismatic church is growing by 19 million per year.
On November 9, 2003, St. Petersburg Times writer Sharon Tubbs stated in an article entitled Fiery Pentecostal Spirit Spreads into Mainstream Christianity that Pentecostalism is the world's fastest-growing Christian movement.
Jeffrey K. Hadden at the Department of Sociology at the University of Virginia collected statistics from the various large pentecostal organizations and from the work by David Stoll (David Stoll, "Is Latin American Turning Protestant?" published Berkeley: University of California Press. 1990) demonstrating that the Pentecostals are experiencing very rapid growth as can be seen on his website. In Myanmar, the Assemblies of God of Myanmar is one of the largest Christian denominations. The pentecostal churches Igreja do Evangelho Completo de Deus, Assembleias de Deus, Igrejas de Cristo and the Assembleias Evangelicas de Deus Pentecostales are among the largest denominations of Mozambique. Among the Indian charismatic denominations are Apostolic Church of Pentecost, Apostolic Pentecostal Church, Assemblies of Christ Church, Assemblies of God, Bible Pattern Church, Church of God (Full Gospel) in India, Church of God of Prophecy, Church of the Apostolic Faith, Elim Church, Nagaland Christian Revival Church, New Life Fellowship, New Testament Church of India, Open Bible Church of God, Pentecostal Free Will Baptist Church, Pentecostal Holiness Church, Pentecostal Mission andUnited Pentecostal Church in India, and the largest, indigenous, Pentecostal movement in India, India Pentecostal Church of God.
From Wikipedia (used with permission of the GNU license)
Light Planet - www.lightplanet.com