Volume III - Church History

Twentieth Century

The Pentecostal/Charismatic Movement

The most dramatic development within Protestantism in the early years of the twentieth century was the rise of Pentecostalism. This movement placed great emphasis on the nine gifts of the Holy Spirit (1 Cor 12.8–10), especially including speaking in unknown languages (tongues).

Pentecostalism arose most directly out of the Holiness Movement within American Methodism, with the emphasis by America’s first major female evangelist and theologian Phoebe Palmer (1807–1874) upon the spiritual experience of “entire sanctification” which she called the “Baptism in the Spirit” (but without speaking in tongues). This experience was also emphasized among Methodists by the National Campmeeting Association for the Promotion of Christian Holiness, founded in 1867.

William E. Boardman (1810–1886), a Presbyterian minister, published The Higher Christian Life in 1859, thus spreading to non-Methodists the idea of sanctification as a second work of grace, subsequent to the experience of justification by faith.

The early Pentecostal leaders, such as Benjamin Hardin Irwin (1854- ? ); founder of the Fire Baptized Holiness Association in 1898 in Anderson, South Carolina); Charles Harrison Mason (1866–1961; co-founder of the Church of God in Christ); Charles Fox Parham (1873–1929; founder of the Bethel Bible School near Topeka, Kansas); and William J. Seymour (1870–1922; initiator of the world famous, bi-racial Azusa Street Revival in Los Angeles from 1906 to 1909), all emphasized a third distinct experience, after justification and sanctification—that of being “baptized with the Holy Spirit and with fire,” accompanied by speaking in unknown tongues.

The largest Pentecostal body in America was the Assemblies of God, formed in Hot Springs, Arkansas, in 1914. This group claimed nearly three million members in the U.S. in 2013, and some sixty million worldwide. Most Pentecostals in the U.S., however, were scattered among over three hundred denominations, or are members of innumerable completely independent congregations.

Beginning in 1959, the Charismatic Movement took a more modernized, more sophisticated, more middle-class based, and less legalistic form of Pentecostalism into nearly all of the major Protestant denominations. This movement began with Reverend Dennis ­Bennett (1917–1991), an Episcopalian priest in California, who received the “Baptism in the Spirit” in a private home meeting, and who was dismissed from his parish after preaching about his experience. He then took over a dying parish in Seattle, Washington, which he rejuvenated through his emphasis on the “Baptism of the Spirit” and the operation of the nine gifts of the Spirit. The movement quickly spread to other mainline denominations, including the Roman Catholic Church, which it suddenly swept into in 1967 beginning at Duquesne University in Pittsburgh, and very shortly thereafter at Notre Dame University in South Bend, Indiana.

Oral Roberts (1918–2009), raised in the Pentecostal Holiness denomination, greatly broadened his base of support and his scope of ministry when he became an ordained United Methodist preacher in 1970. Oral Roberts University in Tulsa, Oklahoma, founded by Oral Roberts in 1963, was the world’s first Charismatic Christian college. A Graduate School of Theology was added in 1976.

Demos Shakarian (1913–1993), a wealthy Armenian-American dairyman from California, together with Oral Roberts, founded in 1951 the Full Gospel Businessmen’s Fellowship International, which spread quickly among classic Pentecostals and later among Charismatic Christian businessmen. Beginning in the 1960s, this group, with its monthly meetings of businessmen and the Voice magazine published monthly, has served to a large extent as “the organizational cohesion for the Charismatic Movement.” In 2013 it had about 7,000 local chapters in 142 countries around the world. Since 1993, its international president has been Richard Shakarian, son of Demos Shakarian.