Pentecostalism emerged in the 20th century during the Azusa Street revival that took place in Los Angeles, California. During this revival, there was a restoration of the gifts of the Holy Spirit which were commonplace in the New Testament church but had gotten forgotten by the early church. This led to a movement of believers who emphasized the charismatic gifts of the Holy Spirit, especially speaking in tongues (glossolalia). From as early as the 16th century when the move of reformation started, different denominations had emerged but the rise of Pentecostalism opened an interesting chapter in church history due to the unique beliefs and practices that were quite different from other Christians.
Christianity can be looked at as a broad term that encompasses all denominations that follow the teachings of Jesus Christ. By this definition, even Pentecostals are part of the Christian church. But if the Reformation movement is anything to go by, achieving unity in doctrine has been elusive throughout the history of the church. So, even though there are many Christian denominations, they also have some unique characteristics. Pentecostalism, for instance, differs from the Christians in their primary focus on the Holy Spirit.
The main difference between Pentecostalism and Christianity
Pentecostals mostly differ from other Christians due to their emphasis on the Holy Spirit. They believe in the baptism of the Holy Spirit evidenced by the charismatic gifts (speaking in tongues, interpretation of tongues, word of knowledge, word of wisdom, etc).
Emphasis on the holy spirit
The emphasis on the Holy Spirit can be traced back to the Azusa Street revival when the gifts of the holy spirit became common among the believers. From that time, pentecostalism has been characterized by an emphasis on the workings of the holy spirit in the Church. Unlike other denominations that emphasize the baptism of water (also known as the Baptism of John), Pentecostals emphasize the baptism of the Holy Spirit.
All Christian denominations believe in the presence of the Holy Spirit in the church. However, Pentecostals differ in the sense that they believe in encouraging the charismatic expressions of the gifts of the Holy Spirit. This might include praying in tongues and other forms of spontaneous expressions.
Experiencing the Holy Spirit
Another important difference between Pentecostals and other Christians is their emphasis on the experience of the holy spirit. Pentecostal doctrine emphasizes the importance of experiencing the Holy Spirit on a personal level as well as a personal experience of the gifts of the Holy Spirit.
These are the main differences between Pentecostals and other Christians. However, to better understand how they differ from other denominations, it is best to look at their main doctrines. The following section describes the core doctrines and beliefs of Pentecostalism.
Divine Healing and Miracles
Unlike other Christians who believe that the miracles were meant for the dispensation of the New Testament church, Pentecostals believe that healing miracles, as well as other miracles, are still relevant today. Such healings and miracles were common during the Azusa street revival and Pentecostals believe that the same pattern should be replicated in the church today.
Spontaneous and Energetic Worship
Pentecostal worship services are typically spontaneous and energetic in nature. Pentecostals participate in the service through exuberant singing, dancing, clapping, and expressing other forms of Joy and gratitude to God. These worship services are usually charismatic and they are characterized by emotional engagement, expression of praise, and a general sense of freedom.
Emphasis on Prayer and Fasting
Pentecostals emphasize prayer and fasting as important spiritual disciples for each believer to develop in order to grow in faith. They believe prayer is a channel through which they can communicate with God and consequently get empowered. Fasting is not only encouraged as a spiritual disciple but also as a way of seeking the will of God for the individual as well as the community of believers.
Core Beliefs of Pentecostalism
Just like other Christians Pentecostalism believes in the Trinity. The Doctrine of the Trinity teaches that God exists in three distinct persons – God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. Each of the three persons of the Trinity is considered divine and equal.
The Authority of the Bible
Pentecostals uphold the Bible as the authoritative and infallible word of God. They believe that scripture is the primary source of faith and guidance in the church. The scriptures are believed to be infallible and without error (in the original manuscripts).
Salvation through faith
Pentecostal doctrine emphasizes the concept of salvation by faith. Pentecostals believe that salvation can only be attained by believing that Jesus is the son of God and that he came to save mankind from eternal damnation. Salvation by faith means that human effort, including good deeds, cannot earn salvation.
The Power of the Holy Spirit
Pentecostals believe in the power of the holy spirit. Pentecostalism places a lot of emphasis on the demonstration of the power of the Holy Spirit. They believe in baptism in the Holy Spirit with the evidence of speaking in tongues alongside other manifestations of the gifts of the spirit. These gifts include word of knowledge, word of wisdom, speaking in tongues, interpretation of tongues, special faith, working of miracles, and the gift of discernment.
The Azusa street revival played a pivotal role in the emergence as well as the shaping of the Pentecostal doctrine. Because this revival was characterized by the gifts of the Holy Spirit, pentecostalism has largely focused on the same over the years. A Pentecostal worship service will typically have the expression of one or several of the gifts of the Holy Spirit. The spontaneous nature of the services stems from their belief in the Holy Spirit taking leadership in the worship service. This is perhaps why most Pentecostal worship services are not as highly liturgical as other Christian denominations’ services.