A Pentecostal church generally identifies with the
long standing history, traditions and theological views of the Pentecostal
movement which began to emerge throughout the U.S. at the turn of the 20th
century. The origins of the movement are usually associated with a band of
believers led by minister, Charles F. Parham. In a Bible school in Topeka,
Kansas, students and teachers, along with Parham, researched the book of
Acts, searching for the source of the Apostle's great power and success.
They all concluded that it was because of the events that began with the Day
of Pentecost. After a thorough review of Acts 2,8,9,10, and 19, they
concluded that the same experience was available to them. On New Year's eve
1900, the first student was filled with the spirit and spoke in tongues.
Then on January 3rd, others including Parham received, igniting a rapid
growing movement. The famed 1906 revival of the Azusa Street mission in Los
Angeles was a derivative of the events in Topeka. From there, it spread
through the U.S., Canada and abroad.
The Pentecostals have long been known and respected
for their great emphasis on evangelism and foreign missions. Some of the
more well known Pentecostal fellowships are: The Assemblies of God (of
Springfield, MO) with 11,689 U.S. churches, The Church of God in Christ with
15,300, The Church of God (of Cleveland, TN) with 5,776, and The Foursquare
Church with 1,558. In all, there are 43,727 U.S. churches affiliated with
Pentecostal denominations, with hundreds more of independent status.¹
Within the ranks of those who identify themselves as
Pentecostals, there are small sects which are known for more extreme or even
bizarre views. Some practice handling of snakes, or others of a Unitarian
theology insist that only those who speak with tongues can be saved.
These unorthodox beliefs are not embraced by the large body of Pentecostal
churches or denominations, however the fanaticism of this small group of
radicals has sometimes generated an inaccurate stereotype of all
Pentecostals which has been exploited by tabloid TV news shows and so forth.
¹ The World Almanac, 1995