Pentecostal Christians: What Do They Believe?

Members of The Bay Ridge Christian Center Pentecostal Church pray during a two-hour English language church service on April 10, 2005 in Brooklyn, New York city.

Robert Nickelsberg / Getty Images

Pentecostal Christians include Protestants who believe that the manifestations of the Holy Spirit are alive, available, and experienced by modern-day Christians. Pentecostals may also be described as "Charismatics."

Definition of Pentecostal

The word "Pentecostal" is a name describing churches and Christian believers who emphasize a post-salvation experience known as “the baptism in the Holy Spirit.” This spiritual baptism is evidenced by the reception of "the charismata," or supernatural gifts that are given by the Holy Spirit, especially speaking in tongues, prophecy, and healing. Pentecostals affirm that the dramatic spiritual gifts of the original first-century Pentecost, as described in Acts 2, are still poured out on Christians today.

The History of the Pentecostal Church

The manifestations or gifts of the Holy Spirit were seen in the first century Christian believers (Acts 2:4; 1 Corinthians 12:4-10; 1 Corinthians 12:28) and include signs and wonders such as the message of wisdom, the message of knowledge, faith, gifts of healing, miraculous powers, discerning of spirits, tongues and interpretation of tongues.

The term Pentecostal, therefore, comes from the New Testament experiences of the early Christian believers on the Day of Pentecost. On this day, the Holy Spirit was poured out on the disciples and tongues of fire rested on their heads. Acts 2:1-4 describes the event:

When the day of Pentecost arrived, they were all together in one place. And suddenly there came from heaven a sound like a mighty rushing wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting.Pentecostals believe in the baptism in the Holy Spirit as evidenced by speaking in tongues. The power to exercise the gifts of the spirit, they claim, comes initially when a believer is baptized in the Holy Spirit, a distinct experience from conversion and water baptism.

Pentecostal worship is characterized by emotional, lively expressions of worship with great spontaneity. Some examples of Pentecostal denominations and faith groups are Assemblies of God, Church of God, Full-Gospel churches, and Pentecostal Oneness churches.

History of the Pentecostal Movement in America

Pentecostal theology has its roots in the nineteenth-century holiness movement.

Charles Fox Parham is the leading figure in the history of the Pentecostal movement. He is the founder of the first Pentecostal church known as the Apostolic Faith Church. During the late 19th and early 20th century, he led a Bible School in Topeka, Kansas, where the baptism in the Holy Spirit was emphasized as a key factor in one's walk of faith.

Over the Christmas holiday of 1900, Parham asked his students to study the Bible to discover the biblical evidence for the baptism in the Holy Spirit. A series of revival prayer meetings began on January 1, 1901, where many students and Parham himself experienced a Holy Spirit baptism accompanied by speaking in tongues. They concluded that the baptism of the Holy Spirit is expressed and evidenced by speaking in tongues. From this experience, the Assemblies of God denomination—the largest Pentecostal body in America today—can trace its belief that speaking in tongues is the biblical evidence for the baptism in the Holy Spirit.

A spiritual revival quickly began spreading to Missouri and Texas, where the African American preacher, William J. Seymour, embraced Pentecostalism. Eventually, the movement spread to California and beyond. Holiness groups all across the United States were reporting Spirit baptisms.

Seymour was responsible for bringing the movement to California where the Azusa Street Revival bloomed in downtown Los Angeles, with services being held three times a day. Attendees from around the world reported miraculous healings and speaking in tongues.

These early 20th-century revival groups shared a strong belief that the return of Jesus Christ was imminent. And while the Azusa Street Revival faded away by 1909, it served to reinforce the growth of the Pentecostal movement.

By the 1950s Pentecostalism was spreading into mainline denominations as the "charismatic renewal," and by the mid-1960s had swept into the Catholic Church.

Today, Pentecostals are a global force with the distinction of being the fastest-growing major religious movement with eight of the world’s largest congregations, including the largest, Paul Cho’s 500,000-member Yoido Full Gospel Church in Seoul, Korea.

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Fairchild, Mary. "Pentecostal Christians: What Do They Believe?" Learn Religions, May. 6, 2022, learnreligions.com/meaning-of-pentecostal-700726. Fairchild, Mary. (2022, May 6). Pentecostal Christians: What Do They Believe? Retrieved from https://www.learnreligions.com/meaning-of-pentecostal-700726 Fairchild, Mary. "Pentecostal Christians: What Do They Believe?" Learn Religions. https://www.learnreligions.com/meaning-of-pentecostal-700726 (accessed May 25, 2022).

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