Pentecostalism, a charismatic branch of Christianity, is a relatively new, but rapidly spreading movement that emphasizes the divine gifts of the Holy Spirit. It is not so much a denomination, but more of an experience. As with many Christians, Pentecostals believe in the manifestation of the Holy Spirit through Biblically based gifts such as speaking in tongues, prophesying, and healing. For a lot of churches, this isn’t anything new, but the movement across the world is the phenomenon religious scholars are noticing.
It all started in 1906 with the Azusa Street ministries. The story goes that a Black man named William Seymour established a home church in Los Angeles. Well actually, historians credit the movement to 1901 in Topeka, Kansas when a student received the gift of tongues at a prayer meeting. Seymour heard Charles Parham speak in Texas and took the message to L.A.
Getting back to Azusa Street, the establishment was attended by a few local churchgoers, including Seymour’s landlord Edward Lee and coworker Jennie E. Moore. One night, the two started speaking in tongues, some would call it a gift from God; others would call it xenoglossia, a phenomenon in which people are able to speak or write a language they have never before learned or acquired.
The church attendance grew tremendously, so the congregation rented an abandoned warehouse on Azusa Street in L.A., calling the church Apostolic Faith Mission. Until about 1914, the movement predominately dealt with the Holiness churches, but eventually formed a new denomination called Church of God in Christ.
Originally, the movement was a welcome of all ethnicities from all backgrounds of Christianity, but eventually race became an issue when White clergymen could not tolerate the integration.
Pentecostals believe in a three series experience: justification, sanctification, and baptism of the Holy Spirit.
Justification means believing in Jesus as Lord and Savior. Pentecostals believe accepting Jesus is purely a part of human free will. Sanctification is living a new life as a Christian; usually a water baptism represents the conversion. Finally, baptism of the Holy Spirit is believed to be evidenced by the speaking of tongues.
If you have ever been to a C.O.G.I.C. service, you may have noticed some healing, prophesying or even speaking in tongues. Traditionally, these acts aren’t found in the typical Baptist service, not to say it does not happen. Pentecostals believe everyone can be gifted with powers of the Holy Spirit. Some may even notice a more charismatic approach to praise and worship before the sermon is delivered, for they say there is more freedom for the “spirit” to move.
About the global movement, theologians are noticing more churches worldwide are holding Pentecostal beliefs, especially in African, Latin, and Asian countries. According to the Pew Forum, at least a quarter of the world’s 2 billion Christians claim to be a part of the Pentecostal movement.
The reason for the steady rise may in part be because of the global missionary units Pentecostal churches train. The global ministry of the movement is also credited to the original Azusa Street revival, which attracted many immigrants and foreign-born worshipers. They were taught to preach the Gospel to the world before Christ’s return. So naturally, people took the doctrine to their homes and it continued to spread like wild fire.
Pentecostals around the world claim to do much of what Jesus did like heal the sick, cast out demons, and perform other Biblical miracles, thus attracting poverty stricken people.
Many converts are also within the Roman Catholic Church in Latin America. Scholars say Pentecostals’ love for their communities and neighbors acts as a springboard for new converts.
The movement continues to flourish around the world, while Christians meet the physical needs of impoverished communities. With a force driven to preach the Gospel, Pentecostals are on the rise. Read more about it at religioustolerance.org.