By J. Lee Grady
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.
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.
By Jennifer LeClaire
1. Pentecostalism isn’t all about the goose bumps. Many people believe that Pentecostals are just after so-called “Holy Ghost goose bumps” and seeking supernatural experiences like a thrill ride at a theme park. Although you will find expressions of the supernatural in healthy Pentecostal churches that believe in the gifts of the Spirit, solid Spirit-filled Christians are also students of the Word (2 Tim. 2:15). Pentecostal universities like Evangel, Lee and Jack Hayford’s King’s University are equipping the next generation of Spirit-empowered Christians with the Word of God. It’s not all about being slain in the Spirit. No, not by a long shot.
2. Pentecostals think they are better than other Christians. Nothing could be further from the truth. Mature Pentecostals and charismatics don’t think more highly of ourselves than we ought (Rom. 12:3). Being filled with the Spirit does and praying in tongues does not give us special status in the kingdom of God and any Pentecostal who believes that is not demonstrating the fruit of the Spirit. Oh, and I’ve met proud Christians from many denominations.
3. Pentecostals believe they have a corner on hearing from God. Although I’ve never met a prophet who claims to be a Presbyterian or Episcopalian, any believer has the ability to hear from God for themselves. And I’ve never met a Pentecostal who claimed that other Christians can’t hear the voice of God. Rather, I hear most Pentecostal preachers quoting Jesus’ words on this topic: “My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me” (John 10:27).
4. Pentecostals are a bunch of fruits, flakes and nuts. Mature Pentecostals are rooted and grounded in the Word and don’t fly off into super-spiritual Hookey-Bookey Land where preachers claim the Holy Spirit told them to punch someone in the stomach or lay around pretending to “smoke the Holy Ghost” while they meow like cats. There are extremes in every movement and the Pentecostals are not immune but mainstream Pentecostals don’t mock the Holy Spirit.
6. Pentecostals are so heavenly-minded that we’re no earthly good. Although Paul clearly instructs us to set our minds on things above and not on earthly things (see Col. 3:2) and although evangelicals have historically been on the front lines of the culture wars, I am witnessing a generation of Spirit-empowered believers rise up with social justice in mind.
Maybe you can think of some other myths, misconceptions and lies about Pentecostals and charismatics that I’ve missed. But I’ll leave you with this thought, which comes right from Grady’s mouth: We’re 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,” Grady writes. “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.” Amen.