Pentecostalism's centennial: What are their contributions?

Pentecostals are celebrating the one hundredth anniversary of their founding at the 1906 Azusa Street Revival in Los Angeles. An article from the Christian Science Monitor lists some of the defining marks of Pentecostalism. (Thanks, Chris.) Here's a list of ten, followed by my own response to each:

1. A focus on New Testament "gifts of the Spirit" such as healing, prophecy, and tongues.

2. Spontaneity due to the moving of the Holy Spirit during worship, including prayer for physical healing and deliverance, prophecy, tongues, and a change in the order of worship.

3. Expecting God to make His presence known during worship.

4. A focus on praise leading to lively, upbeat, and jubilant music.

5. Expressive worship, including the lifting of hands, tears, clapping, etc.

6. A belief in the imminence of Christ's return.

7. A belief that after becoming a Christian one should have a second experience called "the baptism of the Holy Spirit" by which the believer receives the real power that makes him able to live with "an extra zeal that is miraculous--(that's) like a turbocharged faith."

8. A belief that this second experience is normally proven to have happened by the individual speaking in tongues.

9. A denial of the need for its pastors to be trained: if God calls you, get up and preach--that's it.

10. Finally, "Pentecostalism has the ability to translate itself into the language and culture of the people being reached, drawing on local music."

Which of the above do you believe to be a gift from God, overall? I'll go first.

1. I'm very much of a split mind on this since, although I'm not the normal reformed cessationist, the vast majority of what passes today in public as the practice of these gifts is, in my experience, fake. (How many times have I heard an overwrought matron prophesying, "O my people, I just want to love you and to gather you to my bosom, if you would only let me." No thanks--this is no prophetic word, but only an overwrought matron.

And yet, I've never found the biblical arguments for cessationism convincing. My denomination, the Presbyterian Church in America, has a very good statement on this that can be found here.

2. If the controlling word is "spontaneity," I'm not a believer. The words the preacher actually uses in his prayers in an Assembly of God worship service are at least as uniform and predictable as the normal reformed worship service. What is perceived as spontaneity is usually carefully scripted and habitual, but being emotionally manipulative it somehow feels spontaneous. Still, if I'm asked whether spontaneity is good, I'll say "yes" since I don't believe spontaneity is a violation of the Scriptural command of decency and good order and I believe we should still obey the biblical command, "Do not forbid to speak in tongues" (1Corinthians 14:39).

As for prayer for healing and deliverance, I believe normally they should not be done in public. Our practice is for the elders to meet with the person making the request, read the words instituting this biblical practice found in James 5, allow time for the one being prayed over to confess his sins, and then anoint with oil and pray for his healing or deliverance.

3. Dead orthodoxy is deadly and a loss of expectation of the presence and work of the Holy when the people of God gather in worship is an indication of worship becoming a museum exhibit or historical artifact. Put more simply, I'm with Jonathan Edwards and against Mark Noll and Daryl Hart on this one.

4. Worship should have joy and sorrow, reverence and exuberance. When the emotions are absent, it's likely the people and their pastor have lost faith in the God Who is here and Who is not silent. Reformed worship needs joy and exuberance whereas pentecostal worship needs reverence and sorrow.

5. Deadpan worship devoid of emotions and physical movement is the bane of reformed worship. God gave us emotions and bodies, and both should be active in worship. As I've pointed out elsewhere, Scripture is filled with examples of the people of God in worship kneeling, shouting, dancing, falling on their faces, standing, lifting their hands, and so on. The absence of any body movement beyond standing and sitting in reformed worship is an indication of our worship of the intellect and our tendency to lift doctrine above practice. So you won't be surprised to find out that I believe it's sin, and that in our congregation we kneel, stand, lift our hands, and that I hope the day will come when we will dance and fall on our faces, too.

6. This is nothing unique to Pentecostals, having been a central part of dispensationalists' doctrine as well as many other traditions within the Church--starting with the Apostolic fathers. In fact, Jesus Himself commanded us to believe in the imminence of His return, telling us always to watch and pray lest He return and find that we are not ready for Him. Likely the better indicator of Pentecostalism is their claim to know the connection between Christ's return and the political occurrences of our time, and their always-wrong predictions of the date He will appear. So I'm for keeping our lamps trimmed but against all books making a claim to connect the dots between, for instance, the oil crisis, the red heifer, Zionism, Russia, Iraq, Iran, and Christ's return.

7. I'm against all second works of grace that tend to place Christians on two levels, whether those two levels are the "carnal" and "spiritual" Christian, or pentecostalism's division between those who have not and those who have received the second baptism of the Holy Spirit. The only division that is Scriptural is that between the sheep and the goats, and all further divisions of the sheep will inevitably diminish the clarity of this biblical division, as well as bringing into the church a pecking order that is contrary to the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.

On the other hand, I believe God does special works of grace among His people that are evident and powerful, and that should be desired and sought.

Still, these extraordinary works should never be scheduled and named, as in "First Assembly of God will be holding a revival tonight, and we invite you to join us for this special night of Holy Spirit-anointed music and preaching. The Gospel Crooners will be bringing the music, followed by Brother Kentucky Derby preaching our revival message. Don't miss it--tonight could well be your night of miracles!"

8. Since there is no biblical doctrine of a second blessing which some Christians are given and some never get, there is no test of the reception of this second blessing.

9. The men God has called to preach and teach demonstrate that gift by being "able" to teach and preach, and a critical part of that ability is knowledge of Scripture as well as the work of the Holy Spirit throughout history. And while I'm opposed to the earning of an M. Div. at an accredited seminary being the union card of pastoral ministry, I believe pastors should be trained rigorously, both in heart and mind, prior to being examined for ordination and receiving a call to serve a local church as their pastor. So I'm against both the normal practice of the reformed and the Pentecostal churches insofar as the normal reformed practice is automatically to accept men for ordination based upon their receipt of an M.Div. from an institution of higher learning, and the normal Pentecostal practice is to give the pulpit to any man who claims he has "the gift."

10. I'm absolutely in agreement with this one, believing it to be one of the greatest weaknesses of the reformed church. Until we repent of our cultural idolatry, we will never experience the power of God among us. So here, I'm absolutely opposed to Daryl Hart, and completely in agreement with John Frame as he writes here. (And don't skip over the two links in this paragraph--they're absolutely essential reading for all reformed pastors and elders.)


Heyyyy -- watch that Bro. Kentucky Derby stuff! It's actually your Chinese preacher Bro. Ho Lee Toledo -- or was it that fiery non-denominational lady preacher, Indy Anna?

That observation of Frame's on selfishness hits the mark squarely. A distressingly big chunk of our "worship wars" is simply "my way or the highway," and has little to do with genuine piety on either side. I have for years bee urging people to be "generous" in their attitudes toward worship. And I have been asking God to make me hear that, too.

Thanks very much for this piece! Pentecostalism, or some variety of it, seems to be par for the course all over the world, and so I think that we must familiarize ourselves with it and be willing to learn from it.

Frame says: "I fear that some churches seek to be mere museum pieces: historical artifacts where people can go to hear old-fashioned talk and experience older forms of church life"

And where would that be? Having visited a lot of churches in the past few years, it is in the minority. What is going on in the majority of churches is the abandonment of the tried and true in favor of Baby Boomer Pop Music Worship (with the elements of worship going more and more by the boards). If you don't like it, well, you just need to adapt. The past 20 years have seen a huge shift in worship style and content.

It must have been sin for the 1940s church to have not abandoned its hymns for Big Band Music.

Dear Tim:

Thanks for passing this on to us.

It makes me wonder if Pentecostalism, as we used to know it, still exists. So much of it has been hijacked by the prosperity gospel, a lightly batpized form of paganism.

But, dance, Tim? Dance? I don't think we want to go there.

"And where would that be? Having visited a lot of churches in the past few years, it is in the minority. What is going on in the majority of churches is the abandonment of the tried and true in favor of Baby Boomer Pop Music Worship"

Not being a baby boomer, I always get the sense that "Baby Boomer Pop Music Worship" services are, in fact, "historical artifacts where people can go to hear old-fashioned talk and experience older forms of church life." It's just that "old-fashioned" means the 60s and 70s.

Good post. Thought provoking. Having attended pentecostal/charismatic churches in the past, I must admit that I am a bit suspicious of the "Baby Boomer Pop Music Worship" as most of it sacrificed basic theological doctrines in a quest to be "relevant". The desire to be "relevant" brings with it so much baggage and seems to indicate a slow decent into liberalism, but maybe I am being to sensitive. However, I like the idea of worship having "joy and sorrow, reverence and exuberance". Being in a PCA church now, we do seem to lean too heavily on the sorrow and reverence side of worship, as Tim indicated.

Excellent thought-provoking links. Living in Nashville, I'm also not sure where the museum piece churches are. Unless, as Keith said, they harken back to a more recent age--a church where the pastor always wears Birkenstocks and condemns those terrible legalistic churches we're all trying to recover from. I was never sure where those churches were either.

As the pastor of one of those congregations that Frame would scorn as seeking to conserve mere museum pieces, I'd suggest that Frame doesn't know what he's talking about. "Old-fashioned talk" and the experience of "older forms of church life" are deplorable only to those who routinely offer generous pinches of incense to the currently popular idol of modernity.

If Frame really wishes to level a charge at religion practiced solely for reasons of personal taste, let him do so. Such can be found in any ecclesial community one wishes. I'd wager a bundle that well over 90 percent of them today are in thoroughly contemporary churches.

Members of our parish (including myself) are joyful refugees from this cult of contemporaneity in the chancel. There was nothing in the classical tradition of catholic worship to appeal to them, for they were ignorant of it, as are the vast majority of Protestants today.

But, because they love what the totality of their Bibles teaches them about the worship of that Bible's God, they discovered to their continuing delight that the patterns and precedents of Western catholic worship feel like home, because that worship is built on that very foundation by faithful teachers, pastors, and saints of Christ's church over centuries of leadership by the Holy Spirit.

Fr. B

Dear Bill,

John Frame is intimately familiar with worship that rejects the vernacular, and instead is in Latin or ancient English. Further, he himself is a classically trained musician--organist, even. He grew up on hymns. He's intimately aware of the many who have come out of the evangelical non-ecclesial mush of their childhood churches and have turned, instead, to Roman Catholic or Anglican aesthetics.

The question is whether the worship of St. John the Divine in New York City, or St. Paul's in London, is more Scriptural than the worship of, say, the African Anglican churches where there's no gold, no Elizabethan English, no Bach, and no boys choir. The music is of a different world, with dancing and drums at its center. And the language is the vernacular.

Every time I hear dear Christian brohters and sisters get on their high horse about highbrow culture's innate superiority in worship, I fantasize seeing them at worship in Africa. Or would they travel three days each week to attend a Western highbrow worship service, wherever they may find one?

I've had my share of parishioners who tried to justifiy such cultural idolatry from Scripture, but try as they might, they failed.

If a church (or pastor) is committed to the church's historic worship, that worship consists of an order of worship and the centrality of the Word and Sacraments--not Bach or Cranmer, nice though they are. (And yes, I use a number of books of worship, including Cranmer, in our services. But I don't believe I'm righteous in doing so, and I paraphrase them as I read them.)

Your loving brother,

Tim Bayly

When we moved overseas, we began attending a church we thought was "out of our worship comfort area." We have never been the same since then and now our kids (high schoolers and junior highers) worship in the presence of the Lord in a way I never learned of until my late 20's. We now go to churches where the worship is just as important as the Bible teaching and these days they are even introducing "our hymns" to our kids with their type of music. When your 4 kids walk around the house singing "Grace Like Rain" by Chris Tomlin, it brings great joy to your heart. To wrap it up, I love what Beth Moore says in her wonderful study, "Believing God". "Both the cessationists and the sensationalists are just plain wrong!"

There's no innate superiority to European "highbrow" music to other world cultures in worship. However, I just can't buy the attempt to draw an a analogy between the enculturation of Christianity in Africa, where traditional forms of indigenous culture are brought into service of the gospel, and culturally illiterate suburban Americans using whatever trend is happening in commercial-driven pop culture to displace traditions of worship developed over thousands of years. It's a matter of apples and (rotten) oranges.

And, if you attend an Anglican Church in Africa, you'll hear a lot of Cranmer.

i was raised pentecostal. i'm almost 20. i go to Lee University, a school that is pretty much by the Church of God. I'm trying to find error in pentecostalism b/c i'm seeing from much personal experience some real dangers psychologically. I want out and away from it personally. Its messed my head up pretty bad. Scripture is amazing, but should not be taken out of context and the overworking of emotionalism makes me sick now. They oversimplify everything too. That will do weird things to a person psychologically and give one (messed) up view of God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit. This of course is seen easier by those who take it to the extreme, like i did. it sucks. i liked this a lot.

pentecostalism has been bad for christianity.

what a babel of false doctrine and loose morals that has come out of it.

i believe it was rueben torrey who aptly said:

the modern tongues movement is "the last vomit from hell".

I don't understand how you can read the book of acts and still seem so wary and skeptical about speaking in tongues. I don't understand how one can read the Bible and not understand that there is a "Baptism of the Holy Spirit". This phrase comes directly from scripture and yet you here treat it as though it were something that Pentecostals invented. God created it as a gift, the first gift of the Holy spirit that people recieve-- and Paul says in Acts, "I want for every one of you to speak in tongues." Yet, you will argue, he goes on to say, "Do all speak in tongues?" If you look into this passage 1 Cor 14 it is evident that Paul is talking about 2 different uses of tongues. One is a manifestation for the edification of the church body only to be used in conjunction with interpretation. This is the gift of tongues that not everyone may possess. However, anyone can use tongues for their personal edification (see also 1 cor 14) in private prayer time. THat is what I use it for and it has revolutionized my prayer life, and given me greater boldness to tell the good news to others around me (like, the same thing it did for peter after pentecost, what a coinquidink!) You seem like a person who hovers on the boarder of belief but prefers to remain safely skeptical, along with the majority of Christians today. You barely used any scripture in your arguments, but relied on teachings of mere men.

>I don't understand how one can read the Bible and not understand that there is a "Baptism of the Holy Spirit".

Christians have for 2000 years.

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