December 7, 2022

What Should a Baptist Think of Widening Pentecostal Influence?

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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.

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7 thoughts on “What Should a Baptist Think of Widening Pentecostal Influence?

  1. Wow. Where do I begin? First, I’ll say that I was raised in a baptist church and it was lacking SO MUCH!!! I felt the legalist grip of condemnation breathing down my neck all the time and that no one was good enough to them. They were so self-righteous that it made me want to run away from them.

    When I got married and moved away, I began to attend a full gospel church and saw speaking in tongues, raising hands, etc. It was the weirdest thing to me since I had never seen it done before. I will say that I believe that speaking in tongues is real. One of my gifts is discernment and I can tell when what someone is doing if from the Lord or of themselves. I’ve seen people get up and do things to give attention to themselves and thought I was going to vomit.

    I know that the Pentecostals have a bad rap because of some of their showy ways. Although I do believe in speaking in tongues, I believe that it has hindered the pentecostals because it makes them look crazy and odd to outsiders. I do not attend a Pentecostal church now but I am so thankful that I attended one. It enabled me to get away from the condemnation and truly seek God without feeling judged. I was surrounded by people that loved God and loved people. I told my mom that God didn’t have a special room in heaven just for Baptists and we weren’t going to be segregated when we got there.

    We have been attending baptist churches again for several years now and we’re happy there. There are some baptist churches out there that are concerned about people and not about whether a woman wears pants or culottes, which to me is so ridiculous and adds nothing to my salvation.

  2. @Thrifty Karen: That is a big problem with the independent Baptist Church– they can be wildly different. Some can be loving and caring, others can be legalistic and structured, and others can be so liberal that they’ve watered down the Gospel until it’s unrecognizable.

    The hardest thing that I think, for believers, is the whole comparison with other believers. We’re all at different places in our personal relationship with God, and though you cannot dispute “if you love me, keep my commandments” and “he who keeps not my commandments does not love me”, you cannot make the leap that we should be spending our entire time enforcing his commandments.

    That’s the problem the Pharisees had, and I believe those Christians that believe that we need to change America/the World top down have. They believe that we need to constrain the outer man as a way to get to the inner when that’s exactly backwards. We need to pray and watch the Holy Spirit change the inner man and that will change the whole man.

    If a woman feels God is calling her to only wear dresses– praise God! If a woman feels that the Lord is glorified with her slacks– praise God! If a woman feels that she’s praising God wearing a bikini– tell her to do it in her own home and only in the presence of God and her husband!

    Seriously, God is much more concerned about having a relationship with us that grows than He is about our denomination, and though we may sin– the point is that we’re trying to keep His commandments as we grow to know Him more.

  3. Yes, it seems that all denominations can be wildly different. The people in the church, especially the pastor, seem to dictate that. We attended a church for a while that was Church of God of Prophesy. We probably wouldn’t have randomly picked that church, but we had several friends that went there. We found the church to be more Baptist than anything and then I later found out that the people in the church were Baptists. lol We also attended a pentecostal holiness church for a while. Later we heard about some of the stereotypical things that PH churches do, but we did not observe there.

  4. I agree with you on the dresses, slacks, and bikini issue. At one particular Christian school where I taught, I had a girl whose family would only wear dresses because they believed pants were immodest. The sad thing is, I had to talk to her more about her shirts being revealing and immodest than anyone else.

    God is much more concerned about our relationship with Him than anything else. If we’re truly seeking a relationship with Him, then we’ll recognize sin and not want it in our lives.

    Thrifty Karens last blog post..Thrifty Links for 7-8-08

  5. @Thrifty Karen: You’re right. Many people choose a church because of the community rather than the doctrine. I’m positive that a majority of the people that are members of any given church have only paid cursory attention to the church’s doctrinal statement or Constitution (if they’ve even read it). It’s more about who they know that’s there.

    That’s good and bad. Ultimately God is the one that builds His local church– but we as Christians should be aware of who were joining to and what they believe. And if the paperwork and the beliefs don’t match, the paperwork should change.

    As far as the modesty issue, I had a friend where I work that was Apostolic and they attended church practically every night. They were “no cut hair” and “must wear skirt” but the skirts that his wife wore had slits up to– we won’t go there.

    Modesty is so much more of a heart issue than a clothing issue. As is following God. The heart that seeks God will be like yours, Karen, when you were sick with people trying to fake righteousness. It will be a heart that is compassionate and yet desires to please God above all else.

  6. It is hard to find a church with a strong doctrinal statement and good community. Without both, going to church sometimes seems miserable and it shouldn’t be that way at all. Unfortunately, there are plenty of churches out there watering down the truth in an effort to boost numbers (and their ego). Yes, they may reach more people, but somewhere along the way they need to teach the people the truth and how to feed themselves. At the same time, it is important to love the sinner and to show them truth in love, rather than chasing them away. It is a hard balance, but thankfully some churches are realizing their tactics are not working and they are modifying their approach. There’s a lot of people out there that are living wicked lifestyles that could be reached with love. All we can do is show them the truth and love them, but it’s God that does the changing. Enforcing our own man-made self-righteous rules on others is just going to drive people away. If I remember correctly, in Mark 4 it says that we are to cast the seed generously and go to bed and forget about it. It is God that does the rest.

  7. @Thrifty Karen: I think that the basic problem here is what church was and is. I don’t think that New Testament believers invited people to come to their church to hear the Gospel, I believe that they witnessed and as people were saved they started attending.

    We live in a country that still nominally respects church, and will go on “high holidays” or as a social outlet, when this is not what it was meant to be. You also have Christians that don’t witness, and live out lives that look much like their unsaved peers.

    If you look at the Great Commission, we were to Go, Tell, Baptize and then Teach. American Christianity has trouble with getting this order correct. We want to teach, and hope that they “pray a prayer”. If things were in the right order, you wouldn’t find a lot of the problems that plague our church.

    One more thought– I think that if you looked at places that Christianity is really growing in persecution, you would see a lot more people witnessing one on one, seeing souls saved, and then they come to the church. It’d be too much to risk it any other way. This is how the church grew and remained pure– every time the church has not had opposition, it decayed.

    Just something to think about.

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