Pentecostalism is an umbrella term including a wide range of different theological and organizational perspectives. As a result, there is no central organization or church which directs the movement. Within Pentecostalism there are two major groups, Trinitarian Pentecostals and Oneness Pentecostals. However, many Pentecostals also consider themselves part of broader Christian groups. For example, Pentecostals often identify as Evangelicals. Furthermore, many embrace the term Protestant, while others the term Restorationist. Pentecostalism is also theologically and historically close to the Charismatic Movement, and some Pentecostals use the two terms interchangeably.
Examples of Trinitarian Pentecostal denominations include the Church of God in Christ (COGIC) and the Assemblies of God. Examples of Oneness Pentecostal denominations include the United Pentecostal Church International (UPCI), Pentecostal Assemblies of the World (P.A.W). It is estmated that of the world's 2 billion Christians, a quarter are Pentecostals or Charismatics.
Theologically, some 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. Pentecostals generally adhere to the doctrine of Biblical inerrancy, typically believe that the Bible has definitive authority in matters of faith, and adopt a literalist approach in its interpretation.
Pentecostals believe that in order to receive salvation and enter Heaven one must accept the teachings of Jesus Christ as described in the Bible. This includes being born again or regeneration and is the fundamental requirement of Pentecostalism. Most Pentecostals also believe that salvation is a gift received by grace through faith in Jesus Christ, and cannot be earned through good deeds alone (e.g. penance).
Both Classical and Finished Work Pentecostals believe that every person who is born again, according to the Scriptures, is in the Kingdom of God and are brothers and sisters in Christ Jesus.
Pentecostals emphasize a salvation message based on which says "Then Peter said unto them, 'Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost.'" Another passage used is , "Jesus answered unto him, 'Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.'"
Some Oneness Pentecostals believe that the only way to be saved is through the baptism in Jesus name (Acts 2:38), and the infilling of the Holy Spirit with the evidence of speaking in tongues (as the Spirit of God giveth utterance, [Acts 2, Acts 10]), sanctification and baptism in the Holy Spirit.
The beliefs among Pentecostals are as varied and diverse as the number of denominations they have split into. However, all Pentecostals share a belief that all spiritual gifts described in the Bible are at work in the church at this present time.
While speaking in tongues frequently receives emphasis in Pentecostalism, most Pentecostals also acknowledge other supernatural gifts of the Holy Spirit. Most acknowledge that not all Christians receive all of these gifts. A frequently cited list includes words of wisdom (the ability to provide supernatural guidance in decisions), words of knowledge (impartation of factual information from the Spirit), faith, healing, miracle-working, prophecy (the pronouncement of a message from God, not necessarily involving knowledge of the future), distinguishing of spirits (the ability to tell evil from good spirits), tongues, and interpretation of tongues ().
Pentecostals vary in their beliefs of the types of speaking in tongues. Following are some possible distinctions. First there is the evidence of the baptism in the Holy Spirit. This is when a believer speaks in tongues when they are baptized with the Holy Spirit. This may or may not be the only time an individual ever speaks in tongues. Secondly, there is the gift of tongues. This is when a person is moved by God to speak in tongues "as the Spirit gives him utterance." The gift of tongues may be exercised anywhere, but many denominations believe that it must only be exercised with a person who has the gift of "interpretation of tongues" present (whether that be another person or the one who gives the tongue). The interpreter may interpret the tongue into the language of the gathered Christians so that they can understand the message ().
Many Pentecostals, particularly after the growth and influence of the charismatic movement, believe that the gift of tongues is different than tongues as a prayer language or speaking in tongues (the unknown tongue). According to this view, the gift of tongues is believed to be the ability to speak in a foreign human language that the speaker does not speak while the speaking in tongues as a prayer language cannot be attributed to any human language. Other Pentecostals believe they are one and the same in which the gift of tongues is combining words from different languages (including that of angels) into a prayer language expressing the mysteries of God. Certain groups of Pentecostals emphasize the idea of speaking in tongues only when the Holy Spirit comes upon an individual, and have a problem with the idea of speaking in tongues "at will."
Early in the 20th century the majority of the Pentecostal missionaries, along with prominent Pentecostal leaders, maintained that speaking in tongues was a form of xenoglossia in which the Holy Spirit enabled them to speak in other languages. As continued investigations repeatedly concluded that speaking in tongues was a form of ecstatic utterance that lacked all syntactical structure and almost always consisted of syllables taken from the speaker's native language, Pentecostal theologians started to redefine their beliefs. Most now preach that speaking in tongues is a personal prayer language, glossolalia, and is not xenoglossia.
Numerous churches draw a distinction between "speaking in tongues," which is an ecstatic utterance granted by God for prayer, and "the gift of tongues," which is a rare miracle in which God enables a Christian to speak in a foreign language he has not previously studied in order to proclaim the Gospel.
The practice of speaking in tongues has been reported and documented throughout Christian history. Many Pentecostals acknowledge various bursts of revival throughout history in which glossolalia was present.
In the 1830s, in England, a church under the leadership of Edward Irving began to experience manifestations of tongues and prophecy. Through prophecy, certain men were appointed as apostles. Certain apostles were appointed by these apostles until the number reached 12. Irving passed away, but the movement developed into what would be called the Catholic Apostolic Church, a name adopted from the Nicene Creed. Henry Drummond was, perhaps, the most influential man in the movement at its beginnings. He was sympathetic to the writings of the early church fathers, and the movement took on a highly liturgical flair, including influences from Eastern Orthodox liturgy. The movement grew to several hundred thousand in England, Germany, and some other parts of Europe. Though a splinter group in Germany did appoint new apostles and continue on, the English group did not. The last 'apostle', Francis Woodhouse, of the Catholic Apostolic Church died in 1901, just a few months after Agnes Ozman spoke in tongues in the United States.
In the 1870s there were Christians known as Gift People or Gift Adventists numbering in the thousands who were known for spiritual gifts such as speaking in tongues. One preacher from the Gift People influenced A.J. Tomlinson, who would later lead the Church of God (Cleveland, Tennessee). Though some have considered the 1896 Shearer Schoolhouse Revival in Cherokee County, North Carolina as the beginning of the modern Pentecostal Movement, the remoteness of the region very likely kept it as a localized event and thereby limited any possibility it may have had to impact the movement that came out of the later Azusa Street revival.
Historians generally consider the 1906 Azusa Street Revival as marking the start of the modern Pentecostal renewal.
Today's Pentecostal movement traces its community's growth to a prayer meeting at Bethel Bible College in Topeka, Kansas on January 1, 1901. Here, through careful study of scripture, many came to the conclusion that speaking in tongues was the biblical sign of the Holy Spirit's baptism. Charles Parham, the founder of this school would later move to Houston, Texas, where in spite of segregation, William J. Seymour, a (literally) one-eyed African-American preacher was allowed to listen in to the Bible classes. Seymour traveled to Los Angeles, where his preaching sparked the Azusa Street Revival. According to Pentecostals, this was one of the first newsworthy outpourings of the Holy Spirit, despite records of earlier occurrences, and attracted people from all around the world. Consequently, this event is regarded as the actual beginning of the Pentecostal renewal because of the impact it had on the world. The Los Angeles Press gave close attention to the Azusa Street Revival, which helped fuel its growth. A number of new smaller groups started up, inspired by the events of this revival. International visitors and Pentecostal missionaries would eventually bring these teachings to other nations. Almost all classical Pentecostal denominations today trace their historical roots to the Azusa Street Revival.
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. In Sweden, the first Pentecostal church was the Filadelfia Church 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 largest 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 early adherents of Pentecostalism were fueled by their understanding that all God’s people would prophesy in the last days before Christ’s second coming. They looked to the biblical passage of the Pentecost in Acts, in which Peter cited the prophecy in Joel 2, “In the last days, God says, I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your young men will see visions, your old men will dream dreams.”(NIV) Thus, when the experience of speaking in tongues spread among the men and women of Azusa Street, a sense of immediacy took hold as they began to look to the time when Christ would come again. Early Pentecostals also saw themselves as outsiders from mainstream society, dedicated solely to preparing the way for Christ’s return.
Pentecostalism, like any other major movement, has given birth to a large number of organizations and denominations with political, social and theological differences. The early movement was countercultural, and African-Americans and women were important leaders in the Azusa Revival and helped spread the Pentecostal message beyond Los Angeles. As the Azusa Revival began to wane, however, doctrinal differences began to surface as pressure from social, cultural and political developments from the time began to affect the church. As a result, major divisions, isolationism, sectarianism and even the increase of extremism were apparent.
Some leaders who chose not to participate in the early 20th century Pentecostal Movement remained highly respected by Pentecostal leaders. 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 International Church of the Foursquare Gospel. 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 is another example. His hymns are widely sung at National Conventions of the Church of God in Christ and many other Pentecostal churches.
African-Americans played an important role 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 government facilities were racially separate, and the Jim Crow laws were about to be codified. While the interracial assemblies that characterized Azusa Street continued for a number of years even in the segregated South, the enthusiasm and support for such assemblies eventually waned. After a while, the interracial assemblies were nearly non-existent in many Pentecostal churches.
Women were the catalyst of the early Pentecostal movement.. Since they believed in the presence and interaction of the Holy Spirit in their assemblies, and since these gifts came to men and women, the use of spiritual gifts such as speaking in tongues, interpreting tongues, the laying on of hands and healing were all encouraged. The unconventionally intense and emotional environment dually promoted and was itself created by other forms of participation, such as personal testimony and spontaneous prayer and singing. Women did not shy away from engaging in this setting and in the early movement the majority of converts and church-goers were female. Since the movement relied on the efforts and participation of lay members, both in the church and outside, women gained great cultural influence and helped shape Pentecostalism. Women wrote religious songs, edited Pentecostal papers and taught and ran Bible schools. The availability of these opportunities to women from the start of the movement may explain the preponderance of female adherents in the movement. In addition, evidence from three of the oldest Pentecostal groups - Assemblies of God, the Church of God (Cleveland, Tennessee) and the International Church of the Foursquare Gospel – shows the numbers of women in clergy and missionary positions. Shortly after the Assemblies of God formed in 1914, clergy rolls show that one-third of its ministers were women, and by 1925, though the number of female ministers had dropped significantly, still two-thirds of its overseas missionaries were women. When the Church of God was formed in 1906, one-third of its founders were women. When Aimee Semple McPherson started the International Church of the Foursquare Gospel in 1927, single women were serving one-third of the church branches as pastors and married couples served as co pastors to another sixteen congregations.
Other aspects of Pentecostalism also promoted the participation of women. Pointing to Peter’s proclamation of the biblical prophecy of Joel 2:28 on the day of the Pentecost, Pentecostals focused on the end days during which Christ would return. Given that the baptism of the Holy Spirit led to speaking in tongues, whoever was blessed with this gift would have the responsibility to use it towards the preparation for Christ’s second coming. Due to this responsibility, any restrictions that culture or other denominations placed on women were often disregarded in the early part of the movement. Joel 2:28 also specifically included females, saying that both sons and daughters and male and female servants would receive the Holy Spirit and prophecy in the end days. Thus, the focus on spiritual gifts, the nature of the worship environment, and dispensationalist thinking all encouraged women to participate in all areas of worship.
Like African Americans, women too were actively involved in the early Pentecostal movement and served as pastors, missionaries, evangelists, and in other governance roles. Even before the Azusa Street Revival, women led their own revivals as a result of Agnes Ozman speaking in tongues at Charles F. Parham’s Bible College in Topeka, Kansas. Mrs. Waldron and Mrs. Hall, for example, brought the Pentecostal message from Kansas to Zion City, Illinois, where they ministered and later invited Parham to speak. Agnes Ozman herself evangelized throughout the Midwest after leaving Kansas. When Parham moved his ministry to Houston, Texas, eight out of the fifteen workers were women.
Other women who attended Bethel Bible College either invited or were sent by Parham to missions or churches to help strengthen local revivals. Furthermore, of the twelve elders whom Parham initially appointed to go to Azusa Street, six were women. While William J. Seymour is typically regarded as the leader of the Azusa Street revival, a number of women also contributed significantly to the revival, and depending on which firsthand accounts are considered, women’s leadership in the revival is either neglected or emphasized. More historical accounts have been available from men, and these authors tend to pose William J. Seymour as the principal leader, with other men like Charles Fox Parham and Edward Lee in important supporting roles but women like Julia Hutchins, Lucy Farrow, and Neely Terry deemphasized. On the other hand, the account of Mother Emma Cotton, pastor of a large Los Angeles Church of God in Christ congregation, reversed the relative importance of men with women. Regardless of who had the greatest share in leading the revival, it seems generally safe to conclude that the overall leadership at Azusa Street Revival was shared between women and men. It is interesting to keep in mind, too, that the idea of human leadership in the Pentecostal belief system is somewhat misplaced; participants considered the Holy Spirit the true leader, and themselves as the vessels through which he worked.
Women, of course, also came out of the Azusa Street Revival. Florence Crawford was a prominent convert of Azusa Street. While at the Azusa Mission, she was active in The Apostolic Faith newspaper and became one the first from Azusa to evangelize, primarily through the Midwestern United States. Later, she moved to Portland where she established the Apostolic Faith Mission and ministered. Clara Lum was also a significant figure of Azusa Street. Here, she co-edited The Apostolic Faith newspaper with Seymour. Ophelia Wiley also worked for The Apostolic Faith newspaper writing articles. She preached at Azusa and then evangelized throughout the Northwestern United States. Jennie Moore was an active leader of the Azusa Street revival who married Seymour and helped lead the congregation. Abundio and Rosa Lopez were active at Azusa and later led worship in the streets of the Hispanic sections of Los Angeles.
Other evangelists and missionaries from Azusa Street include Ivey Campbell who preached throughout Ohio and Pennsylvania; Louisa Condit went to Oakland, California, and then Jerusalem; Lucy Leatherman evangelized in Israel, Egypt, Palestine, Chile and Argentina; Julia Hutchins evangelized in Liberia; and G.W. and Daisy Batman were missionaries in Liberia. Overall, about half of the traveling evangelists and overseas missionaries were women.
Despite the leadership of women in the early movement, many were uncertain about the roles women held in this time and wavered in their struggle to gauge the proper role and position of women within their Pentecostal churches. Edith Blumhofer summarizes well the extent to women’s participation when she explains in “Women in Pentecostalism”, “the pastorate, not the pulpit, has historically been the obstacle for Pentecostal women seeking full ministry recognition.”
The freedom that women had in the early Pentecostal movement to hold more authoritative or official leadership positions declined for a number of reasons. During the early movement, the restorationist ideology – that is, the impulse Pentecostals had to restore Christianity to a New Testament setting – suggested both liberated and restricted roles for women. While restorationism emphasized the role of the Holy Spirit and Joel’s egalitarian prophecy, it also had to consider Paul’s writings in the New Testament. In doing this, restorationism also highlighted the seemingly contradictory nature of the theology regarding women’s roles. On the one hand, Paul’s instructions on propriety of worship in I Corinthians 11 seemed to concede the existence of women prophesying and praying in the church. However, in other passages, namely I Timothy 2:12, he warned that “I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man; she must be silent.”(NIV)
Thus, while the immediacy and the fervor of the initial revival atmosphere were subsiding, questions of authority and the organization of churches arose. Institutionalism took root. While it was clear that both men and women spoke in tongues, many started to see this gift as a non-intellectual one, and that more intellectual acts such as preaching should be undertaken by women only in conditions controlled by male leaders. The subsiding of the early Pentecostal movement allowed a more socially conservative approach to women to settle in, and as a result female participation was channeled into more supportive and traditionally accepted roles. Institutionalism brought gender segregation, and the Assemblies of God along with other Pentecostal groups created auxiliary women’s organizations. At this time, women became much more likely to be evangelists and missionaries than pastors, and when they were pastors, they often co-pastored with their husbands. It also became the norm for men to hold all official positions- board members, college presidents, and national administrators. While the early movement eschewed denominationalism because of the dead spirituality they saw in other Protestant denominations, later Pentecostal churches began to mirror the more traditional Evangelical community. Thus, the more democratic way of addressing others, whether male or female, lay person or leader, as either ‘brother’ or ‘sister’, gave way to more regular titles like ‘reverend.’ Culture also contributed to the restriction of women’s roles in Pentecostal churches. The social vision of women as the moral keepers of society began to fade as flappers in the 1920’s came on to the scene, provoking suspicions about women’s morality. Since Pentecostals wanted to distance themselves as much as possible from modernity, the ‘new woman’ was a fearful image and Pentecostals instead clung to more traditional views of women in the home and society.
In the late 1960s and early 1970s, Christians from mainline churches in the United States, Europe, and other parts of the world began to accept the teaching that the baptism of the Holy Spirit is available for Christians today. Charismatic movements began to grow in mainline denominations. There were Charismatic Episcopalians, Lutherans, Catholics, and Methodists. During that time period, Charismatic was used to refer to these movements that existed within mainline denominations. Pentecostal was used to refer to those who were a part of the churches and denominations that grew out of the earlier Azusa Street revival. Unlike classical Pentecostals, who formed strictly Pentecostal congregations or denominations, Charismatics adopted as their motto, "Bloom where God planted you."
In recent decades many independent Charismatic churches and ministries have formed or have developed their own denominations and church associations. In the 1960s and still today, many Pentecostal churches were still strict with dress codes and forbidding certain forms of entertainment, creating a cultural distinction between Charismatics and Pentecostals. There is a great deal of overlap now between the Charismatic and Pentecostal movements.
Estimated to number around 115 million followers worldwide in 2000, Pentecostalism is sometimes referred to as the "third force of Christianity." The great majority of Pentecostals are to be found in Developing Countries (see Church Growth), although much of their international leadership is still in North America. The largest Pentecostal denomination in the world, the Assemblies of God, has over 12,311 churches in the U.S. and 283,413 churches and outstations in over 200 countries, and approximately 57 million adherents worldwide. . The largest single Pentecostal church in the world is the Yoido Full Gospel Church in South Korea. Founded and led by David Yonggi Cho since 1958, it had 780,000 members in 2003.
The largest Pentecostal denomination in the U.S. is the Church of God in Christ. Other organizations in the U.S. are the New Testament Church, Church of God (Cleveland), International Circle of Faith, Pentecostal Assemblies of the World, Assemblies of the Lord Jesus Christ, the United Pentecostal Church, and the United Gospel Tabernacles. 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.
In Australia, Hillsong, a member of the Australian Christian Churches, (led by Pastor Brian Houston) is the largest church, with a membership exceeding 19,000. Many of their songs are sung across the Pentecostal churches (and other denominations).
Among the Indian charismatic denominations are the 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, ICOF India, New Life Fellowship, The Pentecostal Mission, Open Bible Church of God, Pentecostal Free Will Baptist Church, International Pentecostal Holiness Church, Pentecostal Mission, United Pentecostal Church in India, India Pentecostal Church of God, Sharon Fellowship Church, Kerala, India (Founded by Pr. Thomachayan) has planted numerous churches throughout the world.
Pentecostal and charismatic church growth is rapid in many parts of the world. Jeffrey K. Hadden of the Department of Sociology at the University of Virginia collected statistics from the various large pentecostal organizations and from the work by David Stoll demonstrating that the Pentecostals are experiencing very rapid growth. 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.
Pentecostal churches have seen rapid growth recently in Australia on the back of their massive popularity in the US, and increasingly prominent members making their attendance known, such as former Treasurer Peter Costello and Australian Idol contestants. In a bid to consolidate congregation numbers, the Pentecostal churches are becoming increasingly marketing savvy, with significant dollars expected to be spent on PR and newspaper, TV and radio advertising..
According to the last census in Brazil, 25% of Brazilians are Protestants, many being Pentecostals or Charismatics (e.g., Assembleias de Deus, Christian Congregation of Brazil, Foursquare Gospel, Universal Church of the Kingdom of God, Charismatics Baptists). The biggest denomination is the Assembléia de Deus, which has about 10 million members.
The movement enjoys its greatest in the global South, which includes Africa, Latin America, and most of Asia. 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.