Pentecostals believe that one must be saved by believing in Jesus as Lord and Savior for the forgiveness of sins and to be made acceptable to God. Being descended from Methodism and the Methodist Holiness Movement, Pentecostal soteriology is mostly Arminian rather than Calvinist, believing that the ability to believe in Jesus is a power of the human free will.
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. To be more precise, the Baptism in the Holy Spirit is a separate and distinct "second grace" received in a personal subjective and often emotional religious experience. All classical Pentecostals believe that the baptism in the Holy Spirit is always accompanied initially by the outward evidence of speaking in tongues. It is considered a liberalizing tendency to teach contrary to this historic position. This is a major difference between Pentecostal and Charismatic Christians, who believe that a Christian who is baptized in the Holy Spirit may exhibit certain supernatural signs, which may include speaking in tongues,"being slain in the spirit" (where people fall to the ground as if asleep or in convulsions), prophecy(i.e. a vision or a word of God, spoken or felt in the spirit), miraculous healings, miraculous signs, etc. Most major Pentecostal denominations reject any connection between personal salvation or conversion and the Pentecostal Baptism in the Holy Spirit and teach that it is not necessary for salvation, but a gift from God available to all Christians. Many early Pentecostals believed that the revival of the gifts of the spirit were a sign from God of the latter rain, a period of restoration before the end of the age and the coming millennial reign of Christ. Traditional Protestants believe that one is baptized with or in the Holy Spirit upon Regeneration, the work of the Holy Spirit that enables faith and belief in the unbelieving heart. They most often reject such concepts as a "second grace" though not rejecting the idea of periodic or even weekly renewal in the sacraments. Pentecostals also typically believe, like most other evangelicals, that the Bible has definitive authority in matters of faith.
Theologically, most Pentecostal denominations are aligned with Evangelicalism in that they emphasize the reliability of the Bible and the need for the transformation of an individual's life with faith in Jesus. Most Pentecostals also adhere to the doctrine of Biblical inerrancy. Pentecostals differ from Fundamentalists by placing more emphasis on personal spiritual experience.
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 Ghost 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 with 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 in which the Holy Ghost is now in them, and which opens a believer up to a closer fellowship with the Holy Ghost 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. Most 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 it is essential to repent for the remission of sins and believe in Jesus as Savior in order to obtain salvation. They believe that the Baptism of the Holy Spirit is an additional gift that is bestowed on believers.
Pentecostals believe that there are three different types of instances of speaking in tongues: One, being tongues spoken as initial evidence of the baptism of the Holy Spirit; two, being a prayer language developed in daily prayer with God; and three, being tongues and interpretation ("public utterances"). They believe that all Christians can be baptized with the Holy Spirit if they have at least repented, and genuinely ask God and wait on His timing for it to occur. Pentecostals believe that in public ordinances, 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 the baptism of the Holy Spirit and develop a prayer language with God. This is what Paul was spoke of 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 Prophecy for one.(see 1 Corinthians, chapters 12-14 in the New Testament).
Paul expressed that there is a possibility of all people to be able to speak with tongues, but prophesy is not possible for all people to have. And indeed all christians should be able to speak with tongues, yet most are not able to interpret it, because interpretation is required to pray for.
Speaking in tongues is preferred with interpretation because not only the spirit will be communicating, but you will also understand what is being communicated so that you can share with others.
By these, Paul has clearly stated that speaking in tongue is common to all, yet interpretation and prohesy are the added-on gifts of the spirit.
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. Furthermore, advocates stress that tongues as a gift of the Spirit and tongues as an initial sign of baptism of the Holy Spirit are not to be confused with one another. They believe that the baptism of the Holy Spirit described in Acts must occur before one can be used in any of the gifts of the Spirit described in Corinthians.
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).
Most Pentecostal churches and denominations accept a Trinitarian Theology in accordance with mainstream Protestantism. The world's largest Pentecostal denomination, the Assemblies of God, holds to this belief as does the Elim Pentecostal Church, Church of God, the Church of God in Christ, and the Foursquare Church (See Statement of Fundamental Truths of the Assemblies of God). Some Pentecostal churches however 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. 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.
Most Pentecostal churches hold witnessing to unbelievers as extremely important - sometimes more so than other denominations. "The Great Commission" to spread the "Good News of the Kingdom of God", spoken by Jesus directly before his Ascension is perceived as one of the most, if not the most, important command Jesus gave us. This imperative can be found in Mark 16:15 and Matthew 28: 19-20.
Being generous, primarily in the area of finance but also in time, etc. is also very important to most Pentecostal churches. Some churches spend millions of dollars every year on missions - that is, going out into the world and leading people to Jesus. This mainly includes practical acts such as the providing of food, water, prison ministry, education, etc. However, the focus of winning the lost and of giving generously is by no means an exclusively Pentecostal theology. Many other churches and denominations also highly focus on such things.
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. The most significant and controversial is his link to the Azusa Street Revival conducted by his student, the African-American, William J. Seymour. Parham taught W.J.Seymour in his school in Houston, Texas. Although W.J. Seymour was African-American, he was only allowed to sit outside the room to listen to Parham. This racial separation was deeply influenced by the social, national and political structures of the time. The Supreme Court, in the landmark decision, Plessy vs Ferguson in 1896, legalized racial segregation throughout the United States and ended Reconstruction. This national political influence resulted in an "achilles heel" for the early Pentecostal movement in the U.S. and long-term impact concerning racial unity, equality and doctrinal nuances. For example, many African-American Pentecostal leaders maintained affinities, close ties, cordial relationships and even fellowship with their African-American Holiness leaders. In fact, the Trinitarian-Oneness division within the Assemblies of God had little or no impact to many African-American trinitarian Pentecostal churches who maintained cordial relationships with newly organized African-American Oneness organizations.
Although many instances of glossolalia occurred prior to 1906, The Azusa Street Revival led by William J. Seymour is the watershed of the Pentecostal movement in the U.S and worldwide. Beginning April 9, 1906 in Los Angeles, California at the home of Edward Lee who claimed the infilling of the Holy Spirit as of such date. William J. Seymour 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 revival, "Weird Babel of Tongues, New Sect of fanatics is breaking loose, Wild scene last night on Azusa Street, gurgle of wordless talk by a sister". By the third week in April, 1906, the small but growing congregation rented an abandoned African Methodist Episcopal Church at 312 Azusa Street and subsequently became organized as the Apostolic Faith Mission. Almost all mainline Pentecostal denominations today trace their historical roots to the Azusa Street Revival.
Pentecostalism has given birth to a large number of organizations, denominations, churches,sects, para-churches, separatists and even cults with political, social or theological differences. The movement's inception was counter-cultural to the social and politcal norms of society. Record numbers of African-American men and women, both Black and white were initial leaders. As the Asuza Revival began to wane, doctrinal differences began to surface as well as the pressure from social, cultural and political events of the time. As a result, major divisions, separation, isolationism, sectarianism and even the increase of extremism were apparent. Not wishing to affiliate with the Assemblies of God, formed in 1914, a group of ministers from predominantly white churches formed the Pentecostal Church of God in Chicago, Illinois in 1919. George Went Hensley, a preacher who had left a Pentecostal church when it stopped embracing snake handling, is credited with creating the first church dedicated to this extreme practice in the 1920s that became widely practiced in such poor rural areas of the Appalachia. In urban African-American communities of the 1940s, there were Father Divine with his Peace Mission and Daddy Grace, both claiming divinity, encouraging their followers to practice the estaticism of Pentecostalism.
The role of African-Americans and women can not be underestimated in the early Pentecostal movement. The first decade of Pentecostalism was marked by interracial assemblies, "...Whites and blacks mix in a religious frenzy,..." according to a local newspaper account at a time when the Supreme Court of the United States declared in its landmark case, Plessy vs Ferguson of 1896 that government facilities were to remain racially separate, but equal. The decision ushered the JIM CROW practices of apartheid in the United States with racially separate and unequal facilities in the U.S. The forward interracial, gender equality and enthusiasm of the Asuza Revival lasted until 1924, when divisions occurred along racial (see Apostolic Faith Mission), gender and doctrinal lines. Interracial services continued for many years, even in parts of the segregated Southern United States, although after the waning years of the Asuza Revival, the practice of interracial services were merely non-existent in many white Pentecostal churches. This racial isolation, as well as doctrinal splinters, issues of church authority and autonomy, separated denominations such as the A/G, Church of God (Cleveland) and other churches from each other for many years. When the Pentecostal Fellowship of North America was formed in 1948, it was made up entirely of Anglo-American Pentecostal denominations. The Oneness organization, United Pentecostal Church would not join because of their doctrinal stance and their interracial policy throughout its history. After major, national, cultural, religious, political events such as the 1963 Civil Rights Movement led by The Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and the Charismatic Movement, many Pentecostal denominations moved from isolationism to cooperative fellowship. In 1994, segregated Anglo Pentecostals returned to their roots of racial reconciliation. Another watershed within the Pentecostal movement is the MEMPHIS MIRACLE, a meeting by Anglo Pentecostal leaders to African-American Pentecostal leaders. This unification occurred in 1998 in Memphis, Tennessee at the headquarters of the largest African-American Pentecostal body, the Church of God in Christ. The unification of Anglo and African-American leaders led to the restructuring of the Pentecostal Fellowship of North America to become the Pentecostal/Charismatic Churches of North America.
Some Holiness leaders who chose not to participate in the early 20th Century Pentecostal Movement remained highly respected by Pentecostal leaders of the 20th 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.' Charles Price Jones, the African-American Holiness leader and founder of the Church of Christ (Holiness) is another example. His hymns are widely sung at National Coventions of the Church of God in Christ and many Pentecostal churches both African-American and Anglo.
In the United Kingdom, the first Pentecostal church to be formed was the Apostolic Church. This was later followed by the Elim Foursquare Gospel Alliance, later to be known as the Elim Pentecostal Church, founded in 1914 by George Jeffreys.
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 Anglican and Roman Catholic churches, fostered in Britain by organisations such as the Fountain Trust, founded by Michael Harper in 1964. Unlike "Classical Pentecostals," who formed strictly Pentecostal congregations or denominations, Charismatics adopted as their motto, "Bloom where God planted you."
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
The largest Pentecostal denominations in the United States are the Assemblies of God, the Church of God in Christ, New Testament Church, Church of God (Cleveland), Pentecostal Assemblies of the World, Assemblies of the Lord Jesus Christ, 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 estimated to number around 115 million followers worldwide in 2000; lower estimates place the figure near to 22 million (eg. Cambridge Encyclopedia), while the highest estimates apparently place the figure between 400 and 600 million. The great majority of Pentecostals are to be found in Developing 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. In Brazil Igreja Pentecostal e Apostólica Missão Jesus is a small church focused on social action and human rights defense of poors. 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,United Pentecostal Church in India, and India Pentecostal Church of God.
See List of Christian denominations by number of members. The list indicates there may be 150 million Pentecostals with the largest Pentecostal denominations (claiming 2 million or more adherents) being:
Independent, loosely affiliated and free Pentecostal churches - 50 million
While not as large as some of the above organizations the following have made quite an impact on Pentecostalism:
Source: Operation World by Patrick Johnstone and Jason Mandryk, 2000, unless otherwise indicated.
Radio preachers and televangelists
Other notables raised in the faith