Evangelicalism is a wing of the protestant church that emphasizes personal conversion, the authority of the Bible, and the spreading of the gospel. It started as a movement in the 18th century in Europe as a direct result of the great awakening. The Great Awakening started in Europe before moving to North Americana and it was led by John Wesley, George Whitefield, and Jonathan Edwards. One of the main tenets of this revival was emphasis on the need for personal conversion and that led to the formation of the evangelical movement.
A century after the great awakening, another revival known as the Azusa Street Revival hit the shores of Los Angeles. The revival was led by Willian J. Seymour and it focused on the power and presence of the Holy Spirit characterized by speaking in tongues, divine healing, and other forms of dynamic worship. This revival gave birth to the Pentecostal church which emphasizes the presence of the Holy Spirit and the demonstration of the gifts of the Spirit.
The main difference between evangelicals and Pentecostals
Pentecostals and evangelicals differ mostly in their approach to worship. For instance, Pentecostals believe in the demonstration of spiritual gifts (prophecy, word of wisdom, word of knowledge, working of miracles, faith, speaking in tounges, interpretation of tongues, and discernment of spirits). Evengelicals on the other hand focus more on personal conversion. Also, Pentecostals have a spontaneous style of worship while evangelicals are more structured and some even have a liturgical approach.
Worship Practices in Evangelical Churches
The evangelical worship practices vary from congregation to congregation depending on doctrine and cultural influences. However, there are some commonalities among all evangelical churches. Here are some of the notable worship practices in evangelical churches.
- Contemporary music – contemporary music and praise bands are commonplace in most evangelical churches. The bands typically consist of vocalists that lead the congregants in singing praise and worship songs. The music styles vary ranging from contemporary Christian music to rock, pop, or gospel influences. The goal of using such music to minister to the congregants through heartfelt music while at the same time worshipping God in a way that encourages a personal connection.
- Preaching and Teaching Emphasis – Evangelicals emphasize the preaching and teaching of the word. The sermon is believed to be an important component of the worship service because it provides spiritual guidance and biblical instruction for daily application and living. Preachers typically deliver expository sermons that carefully explain the text while applying the principles therein to day-to-day life.
Apart from preaching, evangelicals also include other forms of Bible instruction including small groups, Bible studies, Sunday school classes, etc. These forms allow for interaction and personal reflection which ultimately help nurture the spiritual growth of the community of believers.
- Liturgical elements – come evangelical churches may also have some liturgical elements in their worship. This may include the administration of sacraments (Holy Communion and Baptism) and other liturgical elements like the singing of hymns. The exact form of the liturgy will depend on the denomination affiliation as well as the cultural influences.
Worship Practices in Pentecostal Churches
The Pentecostal worship experience takes a distinct expressive form that makes it unique from other Christians. Here are some of the important elements:
- Music and Exuberant Praise – Music takes center stage in a Pentecostal worship service. Music is viewed as a powerful medium through which man connects to God. Churches usually sing exuberant songs that are typically led by bands. The music is used to create an atmosphere of joy and celebration as well as reverence and prayer. Worshipers are encouraged to engage through clapping and raising of hands, dancing, shouting, and other forms of physical expression.
- Spiritual Gifts and Manifestations – Pentecostals place a lot of premium on the expression of spiritual gifts and manifestations. These gifts include speaking in tongues, interpretation of tongues, prophecy, healing, miracles, word of knowledge, word of wisdom, and discernment of spirits. Pentecostals believe that these gifts must be present in the church as a sign of the presence of the Holy Spirit.
During a service, the faithful may get an opportunity to exercise these gifts e.g. praying for healing, speaking and interpreting other tongues, issuing prophetic messages as well as engaging in spontaneous prayer in the spirit. Pentecoal worship services typically have a sense of freedom and an expectation for God to move in supernatural ways.
Church Structure and Organization
Structure of Evangelical Churches
Evangelical churches have a wide range of organizational structures but they typically share some common characteristics. For instance, the structures emphasize congregational autonomy. Here are some of the notable characteristics of evangelical governance structures.
- Congregational Autonomy: most evangelicals believe in congregational governance structures. This gives each congregation autonomy in decision-making. For instance, congregants are allowed to participate in the selection of pastors, the establishment of church policy, approval of budgets, etc.
- Leadership and Governance: the evangelical leadership structures typically consist of church leaders, deacons, elders, and pastors. The pastor is usually the spiritual overseer responsible for teaching, preaching, and pastoral care. Elders help the pastor in leadership and decision-making while deacons focus on benevolence and church administration issues.
The evangelical church structures may be different from denomination to denomination but the bottom line is they all encourage shared accountability and leadership as well as the involvement of laity in decision-making.
Structure of Pentecostal Churches
Just like evangelicals, Pentecostals also have a wide array of organizational structures with some following hierarchical systems and denominational affiliations.
- Hierarchical Systems and Denominations: most of the Pentecostal churches are part of larger denominations that have hierarchical organizational structures. The churches are typically governed by a national or international leader who is at the top of the hierarchy (e.g. superintendent or bishop), who then serves with other leaders under him. The doctrine of the church typically defines the organizational bylaws and shared practices as well as a framework to be used for cooperation and accountability among the respective member congregations.
- Role of Pastors and Church Leadership: pentecostal pastors have a somewhat similar role to that of Evangelicals. They are in charge of teaching and preaching, pastoral care as well as general spiritual guidance for the congregation under them. They also facilitate the expression of spiritual gifts. The elders, deacons, and other church leaders work with the pastor to support him through administration.
Evangelicals and Pentecostals are all offshoots of a revival movement with evangelicals tracing their roots to the great awakening whale pentecosts trace their roots to the Azusa street revival. Each of these revivals had unique characteristics and these have shaped the different doctrines in both groups. For instance, while Pentecostals emphasize the gifts of the holy spirit, evangelicals emphasize personal conversion.