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Pentecostal/Charismatic Movement - Timeline Movement


Charles Fox Parham, William J. Seymour

Time Period



The modern classical Pentecostal movement began after 1901 in the United States through the preaching and teaching of Charles Fox Parham (1873-1929) and William J. Seymour (1870-1922). Parham and Seymour both emphasized Holy Spirit baptism, whereby, the believer suddenly becomes filled with the Holy Spirit and starts speaking in tongues. By 1914, the Pentecostal movement spread throughout the country and in more than 50 countries around the world.

In the 1960s and 1970s, Neo-Charismatics emerged out of classical Pentecostal bodies, and left to create their own churches and denominations. Among these, groups, less emphasis was placed on speaking in tongues and publicly practicing the spiritual gifts.

Today, there is a lot of diversity among those labeled as Pentecostal or Charismatic, but there are approximately 600 million members and more than 23,000 Pentecostal/Charismatic/Neo-Charismatic denominations globally.

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The modern classical Pentecostal movement began after 1901 and today numbers more than 600 million people around the world. Most trace its roots to the United States through the preaching and teaching of Charles Fox Parham (1873-1929) and William J. Seymour (1870-1922), and the latter’s Azusa Street Revival in Los Angeles. Seymour sent out hundreds of veteran and newly commissioned missionaries, evangelists, and Christian workers and he is, along with other proto-Pentecostal revivals taking place in various parts of the world, credited with the origins of the global classical Pentecostal/Charismatic movement. By 1914, the Pentecostal movement could be found most towns and in more than 50 countries around the world. In addition to sending out countless missionaries, Seymour also spread it around the world through the publication of 405,000 copies of his Apostolic Faith newspaper. The newspaper promoted Seymour’s vision and version of Pentecostalism by publishing his sermons, doctrinal teachings, teachings by other early leaders, and countless testimonies of spiritual renewal, evangelism, missions, divine healing and the spiritual gifts. For all of these reasons, English Anglican Vicar Alexander A. Boddy wrote in 1911 that Seymour’s Azusa Street Mission was sort of like a "Mecca" for Pentecostal travelers world over who liked to kneel where the fire of the Holy Spirit fell. Although Seymour and the Azusa Street Revival were the single most important catalysts in the origins of classical Pentecostalism in places like the United States, England, Norway, Sweden, Liberia, South Africa, India, China, and Japan, there were other leaders and centers in these countries and others who also helped originate and spread the movement around the world.

The Pentecostal movement rapidly indigenized and as a result fragmented into what is today over 23,000 Pentecostal/Charismatic/Neo-Charismatic denominations globally. It can be divided into three main groupings: Denominational Pentecostals (Classical Pentecostals/Pentecostals: 16 percent), Charismatics (Protestant, Catholic, Orthodox: 39 percent), and Neo-Charismatics (Independents/Postindependents/Nondenominationals: 45 percent). Although there are numerous tributaries and combinative theological traditions that feed into Pentecostal/Charismatic movements, there are nonetheless two key beliefs and experiences that often unite them”having a personal, born-again relationship with Jesus Christ and a desire to be baptized and filled with the Holy Spirit. Tongue-speaking is not a requirement to be a Pentecostal or Charismatic Christian. However, even if one never does so, there is normally a genuine desire and openness to be baptized and filled with the Holy Spirit and to speak in tongues and practice the spiritual gifts.

The roots of the Pentecostal experience go back to the New Testament, wherein Jesus instructed his followers to go to the upper room and pray for the outpouring of the Holy Spirit. In Acts 2:4, the Holy Spirit reportedly fell on the disciples in the upper room on the Day of Pentecost (thus the name "Pentecostal") and began to speak in unknown tongues and manifest other spiritual gifts listed in I Corinthians 12 and 14. The purpose of tongues and the spiritual gifts was to give the Christ’s disciples and other followers the power and ability to preach the Christian message across cultures and nationalities.

Classical Pentecostals affirm all of the spiritual gifts listed in the Bible, including speaking in tongues, interpretation of tongues, prophecy, service, pastoring, teaching, evangelism, wisdom, knowledge, exhortation, faith, healing, working miracles, distinguishing/discerning spirits, casting out evil spirits, contributing, giving aid, mercy, administration, and apostleship (I Cor. 12:8-10, 28-30; Eph. 4:11; Rom. 12:6-8; 1 Pet. 4:11; Mark 16:17). Most believe that all of these gifts are available today with the exception of apostleship, which was reserved for the original 12 apostles. However, a small but growing segment of the movement believes that even apostleship is available today for those either sent to an unreached people group like the original disciples, or to a large denomination or ministry that needs a spiritual overseer.

Classical Pentecostals have historically believed that the Holy Spirit baptism is usually evidenced by speaking in unknown tongues. Most believe tongues are a supernatural manifestation of the Spirit (Acts 2:4, 10:46, 19:6; I Cor. 12:10) that is open to all born-again Christians (John 3:3) regardless of their gender, race, class, nationality, or Christian tradition. As a result, the movement has spread into almost every major Christian denomination around the world, often as a renewal movement within the larger movement.

Pentecostals believe there are two types of tongues: a divinely given human language one has never studied (xenolalia -- Acts 2) and a divinely given language known only to God (glossolalia -- in Acts 8:17-19, 10:44-46, 19:1-6). The modern classical Pentecostal movement in the United States traces its roots to 19th-century Protestant evangelicalism, the Keswick and Holiness movements, revival and divine healing movements, and black spirituality. Parham and Seymour initially believed that the baptism with the Holy Spirit must always be evidenced by speaking in unknown tongues - a divinely given human language one had never previously studied. This view was later crystallize into what is now called the "initial evidence theory" of the baptism with the Holy Spirit and has been embraced by some but not all classical Pentecostal denominations like the Assemblies of God, Church of God (Cleveland), Foursquare, Pentecostal Assemblies of the World, and others.

However, during the Azusa Street Revival, Seymour and later Frank Bosworth, Charles Harrison Mason, Glenn Cook, and most Pentecostals globally did not embrace the initial evidence theory and instead taught that tongues was just one of many possible evidences of the Spirit baptism. Pentecostals believed that tongues could manifest itself as glossolalia or xenolalia, though by 1912 most believed that xenolalia was given in only rare instances. However, unlike Seymour, Charles Parham never modified his view that speaking in tongues was the initial evidence of the baptism with the Holy Spirit and that it must always be evidenced by speaking a real human language one had never studied (xenolalia).

Pentecostals taught that the key purposes of tongues were to enable Christians to perform cross-cultural missionary work, to speak a divinely given message for the church or Christian community, and to serve as a private prayer language. Most classical Pentecostals believe that tongues should only be spoken in a public setting if someone is present to interpret them for the building up of the congregation. Often cited are the verses by the Apostle Paul: "Do not forbid speaking in tongues," but practice them "decently and in order" (I Cor. 14:4, 12, 33, 39-40).

However, some Protestants like Benjamin B. Warfield, Cyrus Scofield, and more recently Hank Hanegraaff and John MacArthur, teach that the spiritual "sign" gifts (i.e., tongues, healing, exorcism, and prophecy) noted in Mark 16:17-18 and elsewhere were only for the apostles and should not be practiced today. Any practices of these gifts today are nothing more than "counterfeit miracles." This "cessationist" (gifts ceased to be practiced with the death of the apostles) belief led some Baptists, Episcopalians, Presbyterians, and others to cut off fellowship with Pentecostals. However, after careful reflection on the Bible’s teaching, some later modified their views and worked with white Pentecostals to create the National Association of Evangelicals (NAE) in 1942 to exercise a national voice in American politics.

Classical Pentecostals in the United States trace their roots back to Parham, Seymour, Ambrose Tomlinson, Charles Mason, G. T. Haywood, F. M. Britton, J. H. King, and others before 1950 and most attend classical Pentecostal denominations like the Assemblies of God, Church of God in Christ, United Pentecostal Church, Church of God (Cleveland), International Pentecostal Holiness Church, Foursquare Church, and other denominations and independent churches.

Pentecostals generally come in two theological varieties: Trinitarian and Oneness. Most affirm the Trinity (God as one essence in three distinct persons) and the fundamentals of the Protestant evangelical faith: biblical inerrancy, the virgin birth, the deity of Christ, Jesus’s bodily resurrection from the dead, salvation through Christ alone, and Jesus’s second coming. Oneness Pentecostals affirm these doctrines except the traditional Christian view of the Trinity, which are deemed tritheistic or the belief in three separate gods. Instead, Pentecostals argue the Trinity is three modes of the same one-person Jesus, and argue that Matthew 28:19-20 teaches people to baptize in the "name" of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. That "name," it is reasoned from the context, is Jesus, and also teach that Acts 2:38 demonstrates that the apostles baptized people in the name of Jesus only. Therefore, all Trinitarians should be rebaptized in only Jesus’s name. The largest U.S. Oneness denominations are the United Pentecostal Church (white), Pentecostal Assemblies of the World (black), and Apostolic Assembly of the Faith in Christ Jesus (Latino).

Historically speaking in the United States (though not overseas where many are Charismatic), most Mainline and non-Pentecostal evangelicals do not speak in tongues or affirm the practice of the spiritual sign gifts. The defining mark of the Evangelical movement is having a born-again conversion experience with Jesus Christ, something Pentecostals heartily affirm. Although almost all Pentecostals are “born-again” and thus “evangelical,” not all evangelicals are Pentecostal or Charismatic because they don’t affirm the spiritual sign gifts should be practiced today in the church.

"Fundamentalist" Protestants reject Pentecostal practices as unbiblical, and affirm a cessationist view on tongues and the spiritual gifts. In the early twentieth century, the World Christian Fundamentalist Association called Pentecostalism “fanatical” and a “menace” because it was divisive and promoted tongues, divine healing, the ordination of women, and the sign gifts. Because of these distinctions, most scholars argue that Pentecostals should not be strictly classified as fundamentalists.

Charismatics are normally Christians (Protestant, Catholic, Orthodox) in non-classical Pentecostal denominations that affirm tongues and most of the spiritual gifts -- except apostleship which they believed was a spiritual office and grace reserved for Jesus’ 12 Apostles. Charismatic affirm having a born-again, Spirit-filled life but usually require that a person speak in tongues after conversion. Instead, many believe that a Christian receives all of the Holy Spirit upon conversion or confirmed in the Christian faith. Charismatics can be found in almost every Christian denominations and a majority of nondenominational and interdenominational churches.

Most claim that the roots of the modern Charismatic movement traces its origins back to the 1960s when Episcopalian Dennis Bennett; Catholics Kilian McDonnell, Francis McNutt, Edward O’Connor; Lutheran Larry Christenson; and others began teaching about the spiritual gifts in their churches and denominations. It spread quickly and now one can find Charismatics in Presbyterian, Baptist, Episcopalian, Methodist, Catholic, Anglican, Orthodox, and other Christian churches globally.

Neo-Charismatics emerged out of classical Pentecostal bodies, and left to create their own churches and denominations in the latter half of the 1960s and 1970s. Pentecostals often affirm the classical Pentecostal beliefs, but tend to place less emphasis on speaking in tongues, publicly practicing the spiritual gifts, strict holiness dress codes, and social stigmas against cosmetics, dancing, and other nonessentials.

Most do not affirm the initial evidence theory. Many of these leaders were raised in classical Pentecostal or evangelical churches and then broke away to create their own innovative ministries to hippies, youths, and others in the 1960s and 1970s. Neo-Charismatics stress evangelism, Bible teaching, worship team-led worship services, and an informal approach and atmosphere. The most famous Neo-Charismatic pastors and denominations include Chuck Smith and Calvary Chapel (Costa Mesa, California), John Wimber and the Vineyard Christian Fellowship, and Sonny Arguinzoni and Victory Outreach International (La Puente, California). In addition to the U.S. Charismatic movement, indigenous Neo-Charismatic movements have also emerged globally with no structural ties to the United States. They have witnessed tremendous growth over the past 40 years. Although they are theologically conservative, they also stress social action.

Neo-Charismatics have influenced the rise of Christian music groups like Hillsong and Jesus Culture and have attracted a large numbers of urban minorities via events like Greg Laurie’s "Harvest Crusades" in southern California.

The tie that binds Pentecostals, Charismatics, and Neo-Charismatics together is their affirmation of a born-again and Spirit-filled life. For this reason, scholars have called it the Pentecostal/Charismatic movement.

Religious Groups

Timeline Entries for the same religious group: Pentecostal Family
Pentecostal Family: Other ARDA Links
Pentecostal Family: Religious Family Tree


McPherson, Aimee Semple


William Seymour and Azusa Street Revival
Assemblies of God Founded

Related Dictionary Terms

Assemblies of God, Azusa Street Revival (1906-1915), Born-Again, Charismatics, Christianity, Evangelism, Exorcism, Grace, Jesus Christ, Miracle, Mission/Missionary Movements, Prophecy, Religious Group, Spirit, Trinity, Worship (Christianity)


Laying on of Hands ceremony in the Pentecostal Church of God, Lejunior, KY- National Archives and Records Administration
Laying on of Hands ceremony in the Pentecostal Church of God, Lejunior, KY- National Archives and Records Administration

Apostolic Faith Mission on Azusa Street- Wikimedia Commons
Apostolic Faith Mission on Azusa Street- Wikimedia Commons

Charles Parham portrait- Wikimedia Commons
Charles Parham portrait- Wikimedia Commons

Young Pentecostals praying- Wikimedia Commons- photo by Rayttc (CC BY-SA 3.0)
Young Pentecostals praying- Wikimedia Commons- photo by Rayttc (CC BY-SA 3.0)

IPHC Global Ministry Center- Flickr- photo by HappyWorldTravel (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)
IPHC Global Ministry Center- Flickr- photo by HappyWorldTravel (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

Book/Journal Source(s)

Kurian, George Thomas, and Mark Lamport (Eds.), 2016. The Encyclopedia of Christianity in the United States Rowman & Littlefield Publishers.

Web Source(s)
If you enjoyed reading this entry, please buy the Encyclopedia of Christianity in the United States at the link above.

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Gaston Espinosa

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