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What is a Pentecostal church?

A Pentecostal church takes its name from the Spirit's outpouring which occurred on the day of Pentecost in Acts 2:1-4. The primary distinction of a Pentecostal church is the belief that Christians can receive the same experience as the 120 did, of being baptized with the Holy Spirit, evidenced by speaking in other tongues. In this same vein, the Pentecostal believes in the present day operation of spiritual gifts such as miracles, healing, prophecy, and other supernatural manifestations described in 1 Corinthians 12. They generally follow a similar form of liturgy to that found in most evangelical churches, and they place high value on praise and worship.

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

This article is from the book, What People Ask About the Church, authored and copyrighted © by Dr. Dale A. Robbins, 1990-2015, and is a publication of Victorious Publications, Grass Valley, CA - Nashville, TN. Unless otherwise stated, all scripture references were taken from The New King James Bible, © Thomas Nelson Inc., 1982. You may download this article for personal use as long as you retain credit to the author. Obtain permission before reproducing copies for any reason, by filling out our simple use permission form. Many of our writings are also available as free pdf tri-fold pamphlets, which can be downloaded for reproduction from our Online Catalog. For media reproduction rights, or to obtain quantities of this title in other formats, email us. A newer revised version of this book is available from Amazon. If you have appreciated these online materials, help us reach the world with the Gospel by considering a monthly or one-time tax-deductable donation.