Thursday, January 10, 2008

Charismatic Growth in America

Some recent surveys done by pollster George Barna indicate that the influence of Pentecostal and Charismatic Christianity is growing. Pentecostalism is similar to other streams of evangelical Christianity in that there is an emphasis on the need to receive Christ as personal Savior and a belief in the authority of the Scriptures. What distinguishes Pentecostals from other fundamentalist, mainline or evangelical Christians is their emphasis on the gifts of the Holy Spirit (particularly speaking in tongues) and Holy Spirit Baptism as a subsequent experience to one's initial salvation.

The Charismatic movement is very similar to Pentecostalism, although many individuals who consider themselves Charismatics may remain members of mainline, Catholic or evangelical denominations. Also, some Charismatics may not place quite the emphasis on speaking in tongues that other Pentecostals may, although there is an importance placed on the more miraculous gifts of the Spirit such as healing or prophecy.

The modern-day Pentecostal movement traces its roots a century ago to the Azusa Street Revival, which took place in Los Angeles. This movement has spawned a number of denominations and influenced many existing denominations as well. Some interesting points from Barna's findings are as follows:

  • Many people believe that charismatic Christianity is almost exclusively a Protestant phenomenon. However, the research showed that one-third of all U.S. Catholics (36%) fit the charismatic classification. Framed differently, almost one-quarter of all charismatics in the U.S. (22%) are Catholic.
  • Charismatic churches are generally thought to belong to a rather strictly defined group of denominations. The growth of Pentecostalism, however, has crossed denominational boundaries in recent years. For instance, 7% of Southern Baptist churches and 6% of mainline churches are charismatic, according to their Senior Pastors.
  • One widespread view is that charismatic Christianity is found mostly in small, relatively unsophisticated congregations. The research suggests something different. Charismatic congregations are about the same size as those of non-charismatic Protestant churches. Most surprisingly, charismatic ministries are more likely than other Protestant churches to use five of the seven technological applications evaluated. Those included the use of large-screen projection systems, showing movie clips in worship services or congregational events, using blogs, and web-based social networking by the church.
  • In the past, many have observed that the female pastors were more likely to be welcomed into the Pentecostal community. However, 9% of both charismatic and non-charismatic Protestant churches are currently led by a female Senior Pastor.
  • It is assumed faith trends in America are dictated by white churches, which represent about 77% of the nation's Protestant congregations. However, only 16% of the country's white Protestant congregations are Pentecostal, compared to 65% of the Protestant churches dominated by African-Americans.
To read the complete Barna report, you can visit here.


JF said...

You might also be interested in JP Moreland's comments about this Barna report. Moreland is a philosopher and charismatic of sorts at Biola University.

scottmcrocker said...

Thanks for the link, Joseff.