10 Top Misconceptions About Pentecostal Christians

by | Jul 2, 2014 | Blogs, Fire in My Bones

If you happen to tune into the Oxygen network’s Preachers of L.A. or National Geographic Channel’s Snake Salvation, you might be tempted to believe all Pentecostals are either money-grubbing charlatans or misguided rural bumpkins. But the truth is never in the media stereotypes.

I’m a Pentecostal. I don’t wear that label on my sleeve, but I’m not ashamed to admit to anyone that I’m a Christian who believes in the power of the Holy Spirit. Yet when I use the word Pentecostal to describe myself I get some funny looks.

Some people think Pentecostals are brainless weirdos who go into uncontrollable fits during religious services. They’re surprised to learn we have advanced degrees, own businesses, hold public office and mobilize a lot of the world’s charitable work.

To set the record straight, here are 10 facts about Pentecostals that might clear up the misconceptions:

1. We do not necessarily 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 huge numbers of Pentecostal Catholics. A recent 2011 Pew Research Center study revealed that Pentecostals and charismatics make up more than a quarter of all Christians today. And last year the leader of all Anglicans, the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, admitted that he speaks in tongues.

2. We are not uneducated. The idea that Pentecostals are theologically ignorant is silly when you consider that 300 of the world’s most well-known Pentecostal scholars gathered in March of this year 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.

3. We do not all live on the “other side of the tracks.” When the Pentecostal revival began in 1906 in Los Angeles, proponents of our 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—who has been in the news this week because the Supreme Court ruled in his company’s favor—is a Pentecostal who is worth about $5 billion.

4. We do not all 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. In fact, one of the nation’s most prominent Pentecostal preachers, T.D. Jakes of Dallas, rebuked the stars of the reality show and told his congregation to “pull the plug” on it.

5. We do not handle snakes. Americans became intrigued with the oddity of religious snake handling because of National Geographic Channel’s Snake Salvation show. But remember that there are only about 125 churches in this country that belong to this strange sect, and the congregations are tiny. Remember, too, that prominent snake-handling pastor Jamie Coots of Middlesboro, Kentucky, died this year from a snake bite. Pentecostal denominations have condemned snake-handling since the practice began around 1910.

6. We do not go into a trance when we speak 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 actually produced a feeling of peace and well-being in people who engaged in the behavior. And 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.”

7. We are not all Republicans. Yes, Sarah Palin has attended a Pentecostal church, and so has former Attorney General John Ashcroft. But it is rudely stereotypical to assume that all Pentecostals are white conservatives. A large percentage of American Pentecostals are African-American and Hispanic, and many of them voted for Barack Obama in the divisive 2008 election. Studies have shown that Pentecostals and evangelical Christians are the largest voting bloc in the nation, and that Obama could not have won without sizeable support from this group.

8. We are not racists. While it is certainly 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 is primarily because the essence of the Pentecostal experience, as described in the Book of Acts, involves the breaking down of racial and cultural walls by the power of the Holy Spirit.

9. We are not prudes. 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. But this doesn’t describe Pentecostals today. We have invaded the arts. And some, like David Cunningham, son of Youth With a Mission founder Loren Cunningham, have become professional filmmakers.

10. We are not going away. Pentecostals only represented 6 percent of all Christians in the year 1980. Today that number has jumped to 26 percent. And the Pulitzer Center reports that 35,000 people join Pentecostal churches every day. Some researchers predict there will be 1 billion Pentecostals in the world by 2025. No matter how you stereotype us, it cannot be said that Pentecostals are on the fringes of society. You might as well get to know us.

J. Lee Grady is the former editor of Charisma. You can follow him on Twitter at leegrady. He is the author of The Holy Spirit Is Not for Sale and other books.

CHARISMA NEWSLETTERS

Stay up-to-date with current issues, Christian teachings, entertainment news, videos & more.

The latest breaking Christian news you need to know about as soon as it happens.

Prophetic messages from respected leaders & news of how God is moving throughout the world. 


MORE FROM CHARISMA

Is He a God of Wrath or a God of Love?

Is He a God of Wrath or a God of Love?

Do you think the God of the Old Testament is a God of wrath, and the God of the New Testament is a God of love? The truth is that God is the same throughout the entire Bible. His wrath and His love are revealed in both the Old and the New Testaments. So why, then, did...

How You Can Have a Perfect Heart

How You Can Have a Perfect Heart

Your heart is the most important part of you. It’s not only a physical organ that keeps your blood pumping, but when the Bible refers to the heart, it’s talking about who you really are. Each person has an inner and an outer life. There’s the person we show to...

How the FBI Raid on Mar-a-Lago Is Spiritual Warfare

How the FBI Raid on Mar-a-Lago Is Spiritual Warfare

It's been a few days since the FBI raided President Donald Trump's home in Mar-a-Lago, and the Biden Administration has yet to explain to the American people why they did what's never been done in American history—the government raiding the home of a former president....

How the Holy Spirit Can Restore Your True Sanity

How the Holy Spirit Can Restore Your True Sanity

Most of my life I tried to avoid one thing—being crazy or insane. When I was growing up my mother had emotional issues and saw a psychiatrist regularly. She was on medication which only seemed to make her mood swings worse. She had high highs, and low lows. When I...

Israel Prophecy: The Enemy is Stirring an Unimaginable Conflict

Israel Prophecy: The Enemy is Stirring an Unimaginable Conflict

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KJFFqAgykmU A cease-fire between Israel and Palestinian militants took effect late Sunday in a bid to end nearly three days of violence that killed dozens of Palestinians and disrupted the lives of hundreds of thousands of Israelis,...

RECENT ARTICLES

Why Partial Obedience to God is Disobedience

My husband had a saying for our children growing up. “Partial obedience is disobedience.” He wanted them to understand that doing half the plan would not get them the full reward. Another reminder...
Kingdom Economics: Why is America Declining Spiritually So Quickly?

Kingdom Economics: Why is America Declining Spiritually So Quickly?

The Bureau of Labor Statistics released a surprisingly strong July Employment Report.  Total nonfarm employment was 528K (398K previously, 250K expected).  Private nonfarm employment was 471K (404K previously, 230K expected). The headline unemployment rate dropped to...

Can You Discern Spiritual Wind?

Can You Discern Spiritual Wind?

The wind is a funny thing. We do not know where it comes from nor where it goes. We cannot see it, but we can see and feel its effects. Wind can be gentle and refreshing, cold or hot, strong, and dangerous, and everything in between. When the wind blows, we must...

Messianic Rabbi: He That Has an Eye, Let Him Hear

Messianic Rabbi: He That Has an Eye, Let Him Hear

It is interesting that, as a Messianic rabbi the question I am asked most often by Christians is if I believe that they as Christians have to celebrate, or observe, the biblical Holy Days. They are usually asking about those days listed in Leviticus 23: Shabbat, Yom...

How the Holy Spirit Is Preparing America

How the Holy Spirit Is Preparing America

As the crackdown against Christianity in America grows, it is a cycle believers have seen before. While no one celebrates their religious freedom coming under attack, God has used this persecution to great effect throughout history. Over the centuries, there have been...

Dealing Effectively with the Dynamics of Change

Dealing Effectively with the Dynamics of Change

Change can be challenging. Some people look forward to change and embrace it. Some people dread change and try to avoid it. Since change is inevitable, so here are some of the dynamics surrounding change and the specific strategies to deal with change more...

God’s Holy Interruption Is Coming Soon

God’s Holy Interruption Is Coming Soon

This past weekend I preached at The Roads Church, a charismatic congregation located in the tiny town of Norris City, Illinois. Located amid cornfields, the population is only 1,325, but almost that many people visit the church on weekends. They come from all over...

Pin It on Pinterest

[class^="wpforms-"]
[class^="wpforms-"]
[class^="wpforms-"]
[class^="wpforms-"]
[class^="wpforms-"]
[class^="wpforms-"]
[class^="wpforms-"]
[class^="wpforms-"]
[class^="wpforms-"]
[class^="wpforms-"]
[class^="wpforms-"]
[class^="wpforms-"]
[class^="wpforms-"]
[class^="wpforms-"]
[class^="wpforms-"]
[class^="wpforms-"]