Pentecostalism has had a profound influence on American Christianity in several key ways:
- Charismatic Movement: One of the most significant impacts of Pentecostalism has been the rise of the Charismatic Movement in the 1960s and 1970s. This movement shares a focus on the gifts of the Spirit with Pentecostalism, including speaking in tongues, prophecy, and divine healing, but it occurs within existing denominations, including mainline Protestant and Catholic churches. In effect, this has spread Pentecostal beliefs and practices far beyond the boundaries of the Pentecostal denominations themselves.
- Emphasis on Personal Experience: Pentecostalism has helped to popularize a more experiential and emotional style of Christianity, characterized by vibrant worship, speaking in tongues, and personal encounters with the Holy Spirit. This emphasis has influenced many non-Pentecostal churches and has contributed to a broader trend towards more informal and contemporary styles of worship in many churches.
- Church Growth and Evangelism: Pentecostal churches have often been at the forefront of efforts to evangelize and plant new churches, both in the United States and abroad. The emphasis on the power of the Holy Spirit and spiritual gifts has often been a compelling aspect of their message.
- Social Engagement: While early Pentecostalism was often characterized by a separation from the world, many Pentecostal churches today are actively involved in social issues. For instance, they may run food banks, participate in disaster relief, and advocate for issues like racial reconciliation or anti-human trafficking efforts. This has helped to shape the social engagement of American Christianity more broadly.
- Media and Broadcasting: Many Pentecostal preachers and ministries have been pioneers in the use of media for evangelism and teaching. From early use of radio, to televangelism, to the use of the internet and social media, these efforts have had a significant impact on the way Christianity is practiced and perceived.
- Theological Innovation: While often seen as a conservative movement in terms of theology, Pentecostalism has also been a source of theological innovation. For example, it has developed distinctive teachings on topics like spiritual warfare, prosperity theology, and the fivefold ministry. These ideas have influenced broader American Christianity, for better or worse, depending on one’s perspective.
In sum, while Pentecostalism started as a marginal movement in the early 20th century, it has grown to become a major force within American Christianity.