10 Things Christians Should Know about the Pentecostal Church

Amanda Casanova

10 Things Christians Should Know about the Pentecostal Church
It’s one of the oft-talked about denominations and sometimes draws the most controversy, but Pentecostalism has a long history in Christianity.

While the church has spawned a variety of other belief groups, Pentecostalism is considered a renewal movement in the Christian church.

Here are 10 things to know about the Pentecostal church.

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1. Pentecostalism started in the early 1900s.

It’s largely believed that the Azusa Street revival in 1906 marked the birth of modern Pentecostalism. At the revival, evangelist William J. Seymour preached about baptism of the Holy Spirit and the gift of speaking in tongues. However, others have said that speaking in tongues may have started as early as 1896 and 1901, when the Apostolic Faith movement began. Widely considered the first person to speak in tongues, in 1901, Bible school student Agnes Ozman spoke in tongues in Kansas. Evangelist Charles Parham called it “Bible evidence” for baptism in the Holy Spirit.

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2. The Pentecostal name comes from an event in the Book of Acts.

The church name comes from the Book of Acts and the event of Pentecost, where early Christians received the gifts of the Holy Spirit, such as prophecy and healing. Acts 2 says, “When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place. Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting.” The first Pentecost is considered the start of the church’s mission to spread the gospel to the world. The first Pentecost took place 50 days after the resurrection of Jesus Christ and fulfilled prophecies by both Jesus and John the Baptist, where both said the people would be baptized by the Holy Spirit.

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3. Pentecostal can be a broad term for many churches.

There are a number of churches and groups that call themselves “Pentecostal.” There are “Classical Pentecostals,” who came out of the first revival in the early 1900s; “Charismatics,” who arose in the 1960s; and Neo-Charismatics, which is considered the third wave of the growth of Pentecostalism. Many denominations share similar beliefs, but differ on other issues. For example, the Apostolic Pentecostal movement differs on the belief of the Trinity than other Pentecostals, saying that the Father, Son and Holy Spirit are three titles for Jesus. Other denominations include Assemblies of God and Open Bible Churches.

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4. Most groups of the religion believe in salvation, baptism through the Holy Spirit, healing through Jesus and the belief that Jesus is returning.

Again, because there are so many different sects of Pentecostals, beliefs tend to differ in some ways. However, most of the churches share the same core beliefs that salvation is through Jesus, healing is possible through Him and He is returning again. Among the core tenants of Pentecostalism are: Most Pentecostals believe in medicine and doctors, but also strongly believe in divine healing. Most believe that baptism in the Holy Spirit begins when the person begins speaking in tongues. Many also believe in the practice of foot washing.

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5. Pentecostals believe in speaking in tongues and divine gifts.

One of the most publicized features of the Pentecostalism movement is the church’s belief in speaking in tongues and in divine gifts, such as healing. Speaking in tongues is thought to be an outcome of baptism through the Holy Spirit. The church believes in the gift of speaking in tongues, both glossolalia (speech in an unknown language) and xenoglossy (speech in a language known but not to speaker). A Pew Research Center study found that globally, most countries with Pentecostalism say their church services include speaking in tongues, prophecy and divine healing. The same study found that 62 percent of U.S. Pentecostals say they have witnessed divine healing.

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6. The Pentecostal Church was one of the first religious groups to ordain women into leadership roles.

In many Pentecostal churches, women are given the opportunity to serve as preachers, missionaries and some cases as the pastors. Most cite Joel 2 as their reasoning, which says, “Your sons and your daughters will prophesy.” Female roles in the church extend to the movement’s beginning. Charles Fox Parham (whose student Agnes was first to speak in tongues) trained women for ministry. He also commissioned women to establish church plants. Seymour (who headed the Azusa Street Revival) also allowed both men and women to preach and be sent out as pastors and missionaries. While each sect of modern Pentecostalism differs on how the approach women in leadership positions, many churches ordain women or even place them in roles to lead congregations.

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7. The majority believe the bible is meant to be interpreted literally.

As divine gifts are welcomed in the church, the belief stems from a literal interpretation of the Bible. One of those cited verses is Mark 16:17-18, which says that those who believe will be able to cast out demons, heal and speak in tongues. Some divisions do not hold strictly to this viewpoint, but another study from Pew Research found that some 68 percent read the Bible literally. One Apostolic church says that biblical literalism is necessary “in our fast-paced, highly education, technology-driven word.” “The Truth—and how it is lived out— is more applicable now than ever,” the church’s doctrine says.

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8. Some sects of the religion are strict.

Some groups of Pentecostals strictly adhere to set rules, such as modest dress among women and hair guidelines for men and women. Some even forbid movies and sports and “mixed” swimming. In some divisions of Pentecostalism, women are not allowed to wear slacks, taking direction from 1 Timothy 2:9, which says that women are to dress with modesty, decency and propriety. In the United Pentecostal Church, makeup, tight clothing and most jewelry is not recommended. The UPC is one of the more conservative divisions of the Pentecostal church.

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9. Worship can be spontaneous.

Worship is not just limited to music. Along with speaking in tongues, Pentecostals allow dancing, shouting and praying out loud during worship. Worship services are sometimes elaborate, even including props. Singing is also not limited to the end of the song--if the congregation or worship leaders feel led by the spirit, they may extend the time of praise. Many believe in lively worship because of the influence of the Holy Spirit. There is praying aloud, clapping and shouting, and sometimes anointments with oil in "giving thanks, proclaiming the Lord’s excellence, expressing love for God .. and to commune with the Almighty.”

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10. Pentecostals are one of the fastest growing religious groups in the world.

While it’s hard to estimate just how many Pentecostals are in the world or even the United States, a Pew Research Center study found that of the roughly two billion Christians in the world, about a quarter of that identifies as Pentecostal. After the Azusa revival, the handful of early Pentecostals swelled to more than 50,000 in just a few years. According to the New York Times, some four million Americans belong to classical Pentecostalism. Pentecostalism has long been considered one of the fastest and largest growing forms of Christianity.

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Publication date: April 6, 2018

 

 


This Article is part of our Denomination Series listing historical facts and theological information about different factions within and from the Christian religion. We provide these articles to help you understand the distinctions between denominations including origin, leadership, doctrine, and beliefs. Explore the various characteristics of different denominations from our list below!

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