The Pentecostal Religion

Categories: Religion

It was Ninian Smart, a renowned expert on religious studies, who came up with the six dimensions of religious worldviews, mainly experiential, mythic, ritual, doctrinal, ethical, and social. We will now use this model to examine in-depth, the Pentecostal religion.

The Pentecostal movement within Evangelical Christianity places special emphasis on the direct personal experience of God through the baptism of the Holy Spirit, as shown in the Biblical account of the Day of Pentecost. Pentecostalism is similar to the Charismatic movement, but developed earlier and separated from the mainstream church.

Charismatic Christians, at least in the early days of the movement, tended to remain in their respective denominations (Wikipedia, 2007).

Let’s first explore the dimension of experience, which is essential to understanding the spirituality of Pentecostals. Pentecostals experience God as the commissioning Lord. The One who empowers, they believe, also calls and sends. Empowerment seeks more than self edification. Instead, Pentecostals recognize in their sense of empowerment a calling to assist others.

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They understand the commission of Jesus to serve the world as their commission. They believe that their Lord's mission to fulfill the will of God on the earth now includes them and they believe that the Spirit enables them to accomplish the mission, not in their "own strength" but "in the power of the Holy Spirit." Thus, Pentecostals experience God as empowering Spirit and commissioning Lord (Albrecht).

When it comes to a mythic symbol of Pentecostalism, Azusa Street stands at the core of the Pentecostal myth of origins. In recent years scholars have stressed that global Pentecostalism has multiple origins, and that the Azusa Street revival (where the first Holy Ghost experience in the 20th century occurred) was one of several impulses that birthed a distinctly Pentecostal form of Christianity.

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In some places the Welsh Revival of 1904-1905 played the role that Azusa Street filled in North America. The Korean revival of 1907, the Indian revivals reaching back into the 19th century and some indigenous African movements are watersheds in non-Western Pentecostal narratives.

Yet, for a variety of reasons, Azusa Street has gained the most visibility, especially in Western renderings of Pentecostal history. And perhaps justifiably so: its immediate global impact, its widely circulated publications, and its networking role kept people aware of its message. Even if Azusa Street were not the only source of the global Pentecostal impulse, it had a vital role in shaping the contours of worldwide Pentecostalism. Directly and indirectly, the Azusa Street revival influenced this expansion (Blumhofer, 2006).

When observing, listening to, or participating in, even at a cursory level, the worship rituals of Pentecostalism, the emphasis on the Supernatural is unmistakable. The entire ritual assumes the awareness of the presence of God in a general sense, if not the in-breaking of the Spirit in a "supernatural way."Expectancy is heightened, as the congregation approaches certain rites, rites sometimes charged with anxious anticipation. Such anticipation is stimulated by the history of the experience of the rite and the perceived presence and action of the Supernatural. In this paper we maintain that ritual functions as an important component of Pentecostal spirituality.

Consequently, a study of Pentecostal ritual can assist the analysis and comprehension of Pentecostal spirituality. One might question whether a ritual study can truly facilitate an understanding of the elements and dynamics of Pentecostal spirituality. After all, traditionally Pentecostals themselves have often objected to or reject the term "ritual" and its implied conceptualization. To them, ritual represents something "dead," meaningless, or even "unscriptural" and "unspiritual," mechanical religion. At best, many Pentecostals speak of "ritual" as too restrictive, mechanical, potentially inhibiting the Spirit's moving and therefore not conducive to the spiritual experiences that they encourage.

However, Pentecostals do, in fact, engage in rituals, though they often call them by other names: "worship services," "spiritual practices," "Pentecostal distinctives," for example. The primary rites of worship and altar/response are particularly structured to sensitize the congregants to the presence of the divine and to stimulate conscious experience of God. The worship and praise rite especially functions as a framing context for certain mystical experiences of God. At least in part, the apparent goal of the worship service is to allow the worshippers to have a heightened sense of the presence of the divine. The gestures, ritual actions, and symbols all function within this context to speak of the manifest presence (Albrecht, 2007).

The Pentecostal religion has core doctrines. They believe that one must be saved by believing in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior for the forgiveness of sins and to be made acceptable to God. Pentecostals believe it is essential to repent for the remission of sins and believe in Jesus as Savior in order to obtain salvation. Many believe that the baptism of the Holy Spirit is an additional gift that is bestowed on believers, generally subsequent to an intermediary step termed sanctification. Sanctification refers to a work of grace wherein the effects of past sins are ameliorated and the natural tendency toward a sinful nature is likewise set aside through the working of the Holy Spirit. Other Pentecostals believe that Holy Spirit Baptism is a necessary step in God's plan of salvation citing Peter's answer to the crowd on the Day of Pentecost.

The crowd asked Peter what they must do to be saved, and Peter told them to repent, be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and that they would receive the gift of the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:37-8). Pentecostals also typically believe, like most other evangelicals, that the Bible has definitive authority in matters of faith. Pentecostals believe in water baptism as an outward sign of conversion and that the baptism in the Holy Spirit is a distinct, spiritual experience where all who believe in Jesus should receive. Most classical Pentecostals believe that the baptism in the Holy Spirit is always accompanied initially by the outward evidence of speaking in tongues.

This is another major difference between Pentecostal and Charismatic Christians, who believe that a Christian baptized in the Holy Spirit may exhibit certain supernatural signs, including speaking in tongues, "being slain in the spirit" (where people fall to the ground as if asleep or in convulsions), prophecy (i.e., a vision or a word of God, spoken or felt in the spirit), miraculous healings, miraculous signs, etc.

The majority of Pentecostal denominations hold to a Trinitarian theology in accordance with mainstream Protestantism. Some Pentecostal churches, however, hold to Oneness theology, which decries the traditional doctrine of the Trinity as biblically inaccurate and likely stemming from pagan influences. Oneness doctrine holds that God is absolutely and indivisibly one and that Jesus was the one God manifested in the flesh. The division of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are seen as some of God's manifestations rather than persons; furthermore they are seen as titles to Jesus.

Therefore, Oneness Pentecostals baptize believers "in Jesus' name" rather than what they refer to as the titles: "in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit." Most Pentecostal churches hold that preaching the Gospel to unbelievers as extremely important. "The Great Commission" to spread the "Good News of the Kingdom of God", spoken by Jesus directly before his Ascension, is perceived as one of the most important commands that Jesus gave (Wikipedia, 2007).

The ethical and social dimensions of Pentecostalism are intertwined. But regarding social action, Fundamentalist Pentecostalism tends to be inimical to social change, and until recent times, largely apolitical and asocial. They had traditionally focused on evangelism and spiritual needs. It was from within the socially active Holiness movement that Pentecostalism had it beginning. The later revivalists, however, were more inclined to social relief works than to social action ministries. By the turn of the century, such social activities were mainly limited to works of Christian love in the form of “rescue missions.”

Pentecostalism also manifested a most aggressive social ethics in its interracial composition. They submit, respect, and uphold State authority. Today, those who are active in the public arena tend to take conservative stances on major social questions as well as domestic and foreign policy issues. Pentecostals are careful in choosing their moral battle. Moral resolutions and sermons seem to be limited to private moral issues, such as drug and alcohol abuse, homosexuality, pornography, abortion, and gambling. Most Pentecostals are also wary of divorce, and discourage that practice (Leoh, 2005).



  1. (2007, April 16). In Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Retrieved 03:36, April 17, 2007, from

  1. Leoh, V. (2005). Toward Pentecostal Social Ethics. Journal of Asian Mission, 7, pp. 39-62

  1. Albrecht, D. Pentecostal Spirituality: Ecumenical Potential and Challenge. Cyberjournal of Pentecostal-Charismatic Research. Retrieved April 16, 2007 from

  1. Blumhofer, E. (7 March, 2006). Azuza Street Revival. The Christian Century, pp. 20-22


Updated: Feb 23, 2021
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The Pentecostal Religion. (2017, Mar 28). Retrieved from

The Pentecostal Religion essay
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