According to a 2006 poll, a 10 nation survey found that Pentecostal and charismatic Christians are considered to be the fastest-growing stream of Christianity worldwide.
The poll released Thursday by the Washington-based Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life found that “spirit-filled” Christians, who speak in tongues and believe in healing through prayer, comprise at least 10 percent of the population in nine of the 10 surveyed countries.
As a Baptist, and one that does not believe that the gift of tongues is no longer present, how should this news impact me?
A Desire for Experiencing God
First, I think that this is showing that people are no longer satisfied with doing things for God—or a God that is a bunch of rules and not someone that they can feel and interact with. A good deal of the charismatic movement is attached to feeling, and emotions are strong things.
I believe that Baptists tend to push away from any kind of feeling or experiencing God because its association both with Pentecostalism, and with basing one’s faith on feelings rather than on what Christ did.
The problem with this is that the logical result of a course that ignores seeking God’s presence and replaces the knowledge of Him on a personal level with the knowledge of doctrine is legalism, religion, and ends up becoming a Pharisee.
The Baptist should realize that people want to see God work—not humans doing things for God. They’re no longer impressed when what happens among believers is entirely predictable, and could be organized and carried out without a Divine hand. It should be a call to us to return to our first love and seek the first works.
Many Will Replace Doctrine with Feeling
Second, the growth of Pentecostalism will result in more people “feeling” attached to God, but not truly knowing God. When John says that the test for whether you are in God is that you keep His commandments, and yet the Pentecostals base whether they are in God in how the feel, we have a big disconnect. I would go so far as to say that this belief is a false Gospel.
What I’m not saying is that Pentecostals are not saved, are not Christians or the like. What I am saying is that salvation is not based on how I feel, but in what Christ did on the cross. I am saying that confession and repentance are necessary, but not feeling.
So, there is reason that we need to share the Good News of the freedom in Christ—freedom even from whether I feel like I’m in Christ or not—with Pentecostal Christians.
They are Evangelistic
Lastly, Pentecostals are growing, and that means that they are sharing their faith. Because they are actually seeing something in their services (regardless of whether you believe it to be authentic or staged), they feel compelled to share.
I find that many Baptist Churches are content to minister internally. They take few “risks”—they tend to be more methodical, more buried in committees, and they’re replaced the power of Christ with the power of people and democracy.
Rather than be upset at the growth of Pentecostalism, we should take it as a wake up call to our churches and start living the authentic Christian life.