Pentecostalism is a form of Christianity that emphasizes the work of the Holy Spirit and the direct experience of the presence of God by the believer. Pentecostals believe that faith must be powerfully experiential and not something found merely through ritual or thinking. Pentecostalism is based on a critical event in the life of early Christians. That event is the baptism of the twelve disciples by the Holy Spirit on Pentecost. Most Pentecostals think that their movement is returning Christianity to a pure and simple form of Christianity that has much in common with the very earliest stage in the life of the Christian church.
Suppose you happened to tune into the Oxygen network’s “Preachers of L.A.” or National Geographic Channel’s “Snake Salvation.” In that case, you might believe all Pentecostals are either money-grubbing swindlers or misguided rural bumpkins. However, the truth is never in the media stereotypes. Some think Pentecostals are brainless people who go into uncontrollable fits during religious services. They’re surprised to learn Pentecostals have advanced degrees, own businesses, hold public office, and mobilize a lot of the world’s charitable work. Here are some common myths about Pentecostal Christians.
"Pentecostals don’t attend Pentecostal churches."
Since the 1960s in the United States, there have been growing numbers of Pentecostals in other denominational churches. There are Pentecostal Anglicans, Pentecostal Methodists, Pentecostal Baptists, and Pentecostal Catholics. A Pew Research Center study revealed that Pentecostals and charismatics make up more than a quarter of all Christians today. The leader of all Anglicans, the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, once admitted that he speaks in tongues.
"Pentecostals are uneducated."
The idea that Pentecostals are theologically ignorant is silly when you consider that 300 of the world’s most well-known Pentecostal scholars previously gathered to present papers. The theologians who participated in the annual meeting of the Society for Pentecostal Studies in Springfield, Missouri, represented more than 100 denominations and 200 academic institutions.
"Pentecostals live in poverty."
When the Pentecostal revival began in 1906 in Los Angeles, proponents of the movement were characterized as poor people who worshiped in tents with sawdust floors. But today, a huge percentage of American Pentecostals belong to the middle class, and in developing countries, wealthy Pentecostals are funding ambitious missionary projects. Meanwhile, the owner of Hobby Lobby, David Green, is a Pentecostal worth about $5 billion.
"Pentecostals support the prosperity gospel."
While flamboyant preachers like Clarence McClendon and Noel Jones flaunt their wealth while begging for dollars on Preachers of L.A., the prosperity gospel is not a hit among a majority of Pentecostals. One of the nation’s most prominent Pentecostal preachers, Bishop T.D. Jakes of Dallas rebuked the reality show’s stars and told his congregation to “pull the plug” on it.
"Pentecostals handle snakes."
Americans became intrigued with the oddity of religious snake handling because of National Geographic Channel’s Snake Salvation show. Still, only about 125 churches in this country belong to this strange sect, and the congregations are tiny. Remember, too, that prominent snake-handling pastor Jamie Coots of Middlesboro, Kentucky, died from a snake bite. Pentecostal denominations have condemned snake handling since the practice began around 1910.
"Pentecostals go into a trance when speaking in tongues."
People who speak in tongues pray voluntarily, and they can start and stop their prayers whenever they want. When researchers from the University of Pennsylvania studied the phenomenon of speaking in tongues, they found that it produced a feeling of peace and well-being in people who engaged in the behavior. The New York Times reported in 2006 that a study of Christians in England suggested that those who spoke in tongues “were more emotionally stable" than those who did not.
"Pentecostals are all Republicans."
Sarah Palin has attended a and has former Attorney General John Ashcroft. Still, it is rudely stereotypical to assume that all Pentecostals are white conservatives. Many American Pentecostals are African-American and Hispanic. Studies have shown that Pentecostals and evangelical Christians are the largest voting bloc in the nation. Researchers also believe that former President Barack Obama could not have won the 2008 election without sizable support from this group.
"Pentecostals are racist."While it is undoubtedly true that racism tainted the early years of Pentecostalism, today, Pentecostal and charismatic churches are more likely to be racially mixed than other denominational groups. This ideal is primarily because the essence of the Pentecostal experience, as described in the Book of Acts, involves breaking down racial and cultural walls by the power of the Holy Spirit.
"Pentecostals are prude."
There was a day when Pentecostals, along with Baptists and holiness groups, preached hard against secular entertainment and anything else that sounded fun. Women couldn’t wear pants or makeup, men couldn’t play cards, and movies were off-limits. However, this doesn’t describe Pentecostals today. Pentecostals have invaded the arts industry. Like David Cunningham, son of Youth With a Mission founder Loren Cunningham, some have become professional filmmakers.
Pentecostalism is not a church in itself but a movement that includes many different churches. It is also a movement of renewal or revival within other denominations. It’s not always easy to see if a church is Pentecostal because many Pentecostal denominations don’t include the word ‘Pentecostal’ in their name. Although Pentecostalism is often said to be rooted in experience rather than theology, Pentecostals base their theology on the text of the Bible, which they believe to be the word of God and totally without error.
Like other religions, people have misconceptions about Pentecostal Christians. People believe that they’re uneducated, prude individuals who live in poverty while handling snakes. People also believe that Pentecostal Christians are racist and conservative individuals who speak in tongues. However, that’s not the case. Pentecostal Christians are God’s people who follow God’s Word and worship Him every chance they get.
Pentecostal Christians are just like any other Christian denomination that believes in God. Instead of passing judgment about Pentecostal Christians, those unfamiliar with the religion and its practices should attempt to learn more about it. They may realize that they have more in common with Pentecostal Christians than they think.