WHAT IS A PENTECOSTAL?
One of the most undeniable trends in the last century is the rise and spread of something called Pentecostalism. Many who sit in Bible-teaching churches, including Pentecostal churches, are often confused about the origin and meaning of the term.
Here’s a quick summary: Pentecostalism emerged in the early 20th century. In 1900 an American evangelist named Charles Parham began teaching that speaking in tongues was the biblical evidence of being baptized in the Spirit. This became the unique distinctive of Pentecostal theology. Parham’s preaching and teaching led to the famous Azusa Street Revival in 1906 in Los Angeles. Virtually all Pentecostal denominations now trace their origins back to the Azusa Street revival. Just to be clear, Pentecostals generally believe in the historic doctrines of the faith—most are evangelical in the broad sense of the term.
The difference between a Pentecostal and a Charismatic is that the former claim that all Christians who are baptized in the Holy Spirit will eventually speak in tongues. In other words, speaking in tongues is mandatory, not for salvation, but for sanctification. Charismatics do not claim this. They merely see the gift of tongues as one of many spiritual gifts that are given to God’s people. According to Charismatics, not all Christians should be expected to speak in tongues.
The two largest Pentecostal denominations today in America are the Church of God in Christ (COGIC), and the Assembly of God. Worldwide estimates put the number of Pentecostals today at around 1.5 billion. The movement is growing in many parts of the world, especially the global South. In our own country, the Assembly of God is one of the fastest growing denominations.