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Belief in brief: Pentecostalism

Sunday, November 5, 2006 | 12:00 a.m. CST; updated 10:01 a.m. CDT, Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Pentecostalism’s enthusiastic approach to religious services, such as the occasional speaking in tongues, sets it apart from other Christian denominations. Typically characterized as an evangelical faith, Pentecostalism celebrated its centennial in April. Pentecostalism is estimated to make up nearly a quarter of the world’s Christian population, according to religionlink.org.

History

The roots of Pentecostalism reach back further than its 1906 official birth year; previous centuries have produced testimonies of speaking in tongues, or glossolalia, and other languages previously unknown to the person. At the close of the 19th century, members of several Christian sects worldwide had become fascinated with glossolalia and divine healing, two key aspects of the modern-day Pentecostal faith. In April 1906, however, the fascination spread to thousands on a day known as the Azusa Street Revival. Pentecostals and Charismatic believers of the world recognize it as the day that ushered in new beliefs in Jesus Christ. Individuals who were sent to revive Azusa Street after a devastating Los Angeles earthquake were struck with a “renewed passion” for Christ and were inspired to spread the word.

Traditions

A century later, the religion has grown beyond Azusa Street. Pentecostalism is most known for its tradition of speaking in tongues. Pastor Marcus Sage of the Wayfarer Pentecostal Church of God in Jefferson City said speaking in tongues is more commonly a personal prayer between an individual and God. Sage said, however, that when speaking tongues does occur in public services, it is most often followed by an interpretation by anyone in the congregation. Although separated by their prayer practices and enthusiastic services, members of Pentecostalism share most of their beliefs with Christianity.

“What makes us different is the gifts of the spirit that we believe in,” Sage said. “Our worship is more charismatic, and I think people enjoy the excitement.”

Sources: Religionlink.org; American Pentecost; The Azusa Street Centennial Web site; New York Times.


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