Sunday, August 24, 2008

Baptists vs. Pentecostals? What's the Deal?

So, what's the deal between Baptists and Pentecostals/Charismatics? Why is it that these two groups allow the non-essentials (non-essentials to salvation, that is) to divide them?

I grew up in a conservative, Baptist church. Certain "things" that Pentecostals did, were basically mocked and considered "evil/of the devil." Raising hands during worship? Forget it. Praying in tongues? ABsolutely NOT.

As a kid, I remember watching African-American church services on TV, and being mesmerized by their enthusiasm in worshipping God. I wanted to worship like that - to fully express my emotion and love toward the Lord with other believers. After all, I LOVED Him! He was my closest Friend since I was about four years old. I WANTED to express my love to Him. Frankly, I found my church growing up to be very BORING. Grab a hymnal. Stand up. Sing a song. Sit down. Yawn....

When I turned 18, I was invited by Joe's mom, to attend a Foursquare church where I lived. Now, having been indoctrinated my entire childhood that charismatic expression and theology was "bad," I was somewhat fearful, yet I had this deep excitement that I was going to find what I had been yearning for. It was explained to me that people raised their hands during worship, and they believed in "speaking in tongues," or a "prayer language." Prayer language? What the heck?! I was cautious, yet oh, so curious. So, my mother-in-law bought me a couple of books on the subject, and I devoured them, while looking up scriptures to compare and see for myself.

Anyway, I went to the Foursquare church service for the first time. It was PACKED. Plus, there were lots of young people. The worship music was personal - words to direct me to God in an intimate expression, with others who felt the same. I watched. I sang. My heart and my spirit were FILLED and MOVED. I loved it. Nobody was "rolling in the aisles," as I had been told. The pastor talked about raising of hands, and that it is Biblical. He made a little joke, and said that it's not a gauge as to how spiritual you are. Meaning, if you raise your hands all of the way up, it's SUPER spiritual, or if you only have you hands down at your hips, you're a little bit spiritual. He just encouraged us to use this expression of worship as a point of surrender to God, and do it as we were comfortable. OK! I liked that!

Well, in the meantime, I read my books. I learned a lot about what the Bible said about "tongues," and realized that this particular subject, while clearly in the Bible, had been glossed over and pretty much ignored in my church growing up. This was interesting to me. Here I grew up with people who loved the Lord and thought this was bad, and now I'm attending a church with people who love the Lord and they don't think this is bad.

I said to the Lord, "Lord, if this is real and there is a way that I can pray that will enhance my prayer life, then I want it. If it's not real, then, You will not have me receive it." I prayed in my bedroom privately. All I can say is, as I focused on Him, surrendered myself to the Lord, and opened my mouth - another language came out. It's something I do as a private prayer time with the Lord - not all the time, but often. From what I know, the private prayer language is something different from the tongues with an interpretation (required) in a corporate setting. Go read Jack Hayford's, "The Beauty of Spiritual Language," or "The Holy Spirit and You" and "Nine O'Clock In The Morning," by Dennis Bennett if you are at all interested in this subject. And, of course, research what the BIBLE says.

I also tried the raising of the hands thing. I started out with my hands at my hips, just turned up a little. I made a decision that I would close my eyes to focus totally on God, and raise my hands to Him as I felt led to. I wanted to make sure that my heart was sincere, and not just going with the flow, and following what other people did. I am still like that to this day. I never want to express myself to him, just because others are doing it, or because of a feeling. I try to focus on the words and my hands raised to Him are like a bodily form of an "Amen!" or an affirming, "Yes, Lord, I believe THAT!" to Him. I am quite focused with it, and I attribute that to my conservative upbringing.

Now, back to my original question: what's the Deal? Here's the thing for me. If people aren't interested in speaking in tongues or raising their hands (I pick those, because they seem to be the biggest dividers), then JUST DON'T DO IT! It makes no difference to your salvation. And, if you interpret the scriptures differently, so that you don't believe these things are of God, you can absolutely believe that!! You are not less of a Christian, and don't let anyone make you feel like that. Like I said, there are some things interpreted in Scripture that are NON-ESSENTIALS. Things that make no difference to your salvation. I have heard that some Pentecostal denominations DO believe that if you don't speak in tongues, you're not saved. But, just like all Baptists churches are not alike, neither are Pentecostal churches. The one I attend does NOT believe that you have to speak in tongues to be saved. Don't lump all Baptists together, and don't lump all Pentecostals together!

That said, I would like some Baptists to stop looking down their noses at some Pentecostals for interpreting Scripture this way, and saying that speaking in tongues and raising hands is bad. I would hope that they're not just saying that because they've been indoctrinated to believe that, but rather, they have actually researched the scriptures for themselves.

I would also like some Pentecostals/Charismatics to stop looking down their noses at some Baptists, who made a decision to reject this thinking. Pentecostals are not "better" or more superior Christians for speaking in tongues or raising their hands during worship. They have interpreted the Bible regarding this subject in a certain way, and choose to have their own style of worship in a church service. If you don't like that style, then find a church with a style that fits yours and let Baptists love the Lord while you love the Lord at the same time.

I would also love it of Baptists and Pentecostals would stop letting these non-essentials divide them, and come together to change their communities for the glory of God. Set aside their interpretive differences (everybody has them on a variety of subjects, anyway), and on occasion, morph into this big force to change the hearts and lives of an entire city where they live.

All of us, whether Baptist or Pentecostal, should STOP the divisive talk between the denominations. I hear it all the time - the subtle little ways one will put down the other. I've heard Baptists say with a condescending tone in their voice, "Oh, you DO realize that they have some different theology, don't you?" Or, Pentecostals will make some inuendo about the local Baptist church's worship style. It really needs to STOP. I've spent years and years in both settings, and I know for a fact that people genuinely love the Lord in each one. Each group cares immensely for the eternal lives of people in their communities. Each group wants to see people in their cities, come into a relationship with God. Each group has awesome youth that are excited about their relationship with God and want to grow. So, just THINK of the potential of joining youth groups on occasion, for a concert or a mission trip or some Christian FUN. Just THINK of the spiritual FORCE of joining together as churches to fight poverty and hunger, or change the climate of a school, or improve living conditions of the poor in their city.

We just need to get over ourselves and stop allowing these things to divide us, so that we can make a difference in our communities. Something to think about: I believe that these divisions are the very things that are turn-offs to the world. Our own behavior might very well be keeping people from coming into a relationship with God.

Finally, I believe there is a ton of false teaching out there. A TON. All you have to do is turn on the TV. We should ALWAYS stand against false teaching, but, just because you see a Pentecostal, false teacher on TV, does not mean that all Pentecostals/Charismatics are like that. And, vice versa. I look at whether or not the church is Bible-believing, and that all of the fundamentals (essentials) to salvation, God, the Trinity, the Bible, etc., are present. The rest is interpretation (and don't we know there are certain things that are left to interpretation in the Bible!), and style. We must take a balanced approach, be conscientious followers of Christ, guard our hearts and minds and test everything against the Word of God and not just rely on what other people say. We shouldn't be so afraid of the differences in the interpretation of scripture on the non-essentials to salvation between Baptists and Pentecostals. I think we should stop freaking out so much about those things, and letting them divide us. Rather, I think we can accept the differences of interpretation the non-essentials, as well as the differences of worship styles.


Chelle said...

Hence the reason we are to have faith like a child...there is no "my way is better," there's only God, a very wonderful, incredible God. If only we focused on Him rather than the traditions used to teach about Him.

Amen girl.

LPDraper said...

I love this post because you have clearly thought this out and show such a respect and appreciation for both sides of this unfortunate, church dividing, argument.
Years ago, my family was deeply involved in a church that went through a yucky split over these very issues. I remember seeing hearts break as "godly" people acted completely ungodly. It was ugly. Let's focus on salvation-- and leave the rest up to the Lord.

Praise God for grace. We all need it!

Lightbearer said...


Thanks for the word about unity in the Spirit. The church has been in disunity for a very long time.

It's a shame when believers have their eyes on doctrine more than on Jesus.


Anonymous said...

Thank you so much. I really needed to hear everything you put in this post. I have only been saved for 4 years and there is so much I don't know yet, but you have enlightened me so much with this post.

Heather said...

Thank you sooo much for this! I am thinking about visiting a petecostal church and grew up in a baptist church. I have all of these fears and you encouraged me to not worry about the non-essential things!

TragicallyaHero said...

Amazing :)
I found this post while looking for reasons as to why Baptists and Pentecostals show such animosity to one another. My brothers best friend is a baptist, and while I'm non-denominational, I do attend a pentecostal church, and for this he put down my beliefs and could only preach that baptists have "the right way" to preach about God. I am currently praying for our churches here to unite, and to shed the identity of their denominations and take on the identity we have in our Father. This, as Christians, I feel is our biggest stumbling block to others.
Thank you for such an unabashed and true word on this subject :)

Arthur said...

Thank you for your post. I could not agree more, and would love to see more these feelings from Christians of all denomninations.
Your brother in Christ,

Robb said...

Great post! I was researching this today b/c my girlfriend and I have these discussions all the time - - she grew up Fundy Baptist, and I grew up Wacky Pentecostal (hehe). I actually believe speaking in tongues is a great, but not "the sign" of being "full" of the spirit. Regardless, my question is more to the fundamental baptist side: what scripture do you use to say that speaking in tongues and gifts of the spirit are catagorically wrong? I understand if you believe is was a dispensation just for a specific period and time (for the days following Jesus ascension), and is no longer for today. But I'm curious as to the scripture verses that say such. And more so, the scripture verses that say it's "bad" or "of the devil" or whatever. Cause I don't mind if people don't believe it's for them. I do mind when people demonize it though! Anyway, just curious if anyone can speak to that? Thanks! And again, great great great post, cuz in the end, it's all about Jesus. In essentials we have unity, in non-essentials we have liberty, and in all things we have charity!

Anonymous said...

Wow...I and my whole family have grown up in a n Independent Fundamental King James only church and now I am facing the whole "what's the difference with the Pentecostal religion". My daughter has met a guy, whom we all love his family too, who is Pentecostal and am wondering about it because like you stated how we as Baptist have had the Pentecostals portrayed. Bottom line is do they believe in faith in Jesus for salvation and nothing else??? Because no matter what that's what matters nothing added to it just the faith in the shed blood of Jesus to get us to heaven when we die.

Anonymous said...

Very insightful young lady. I am sure the most important thing is that you love the Lord with all your heart, soul and mind, as you do. There is only one bride of Christ. I look forward to the day when it won't matter that I am a Bapticostal. I am a Baptist by doctrine, yet I pray in tongues and believe in the gifts of the Spirit. I am married to a Lutheran. We belong to a nondenominational church, but the curriculum there is Baptist. I keep my pentacostal beliefs to myself, although my husband does not mind my praying in tongues, he prefers not to hear it. I am happy to pray in the closet. I know whether in tongues or English, Jesus is the main focus of all my prayers. God bless you dear, you are a precious young person.

Anonymous said...

Cool explanation, thanks.

Mark said...

Very objective and honest non-theological treatment of your experience.


Anonymous said...

Thank you all....

mwbjjohnson said...

I was raised Assembly of God, in the Navy I fellowshipped with many different denominations and fell in love with the base chapel at Naval Station San Diego. I have a baptist missionary friend who ran the christian servicemen's center in alongapo, subic bay, philippines who I still am in contact with and even support. There will be Baptists, Catholics, Pentecostals and many others in heaven, we all love Jesus. I agree that when we all stop fighting the world will see that we are fulfilling what Jesus said, they will see our love and come to God. So let's forget the things that don't matter, focus on Jesus and his love and get along. We have a lot of soul winning to do. Amen

NTC said...

Hi. I grew up "Oneness" Pentecostal, and later left that church and married a woman who was raised Baptist. Today we attend an Assemblies of God (AG) church but I've never seen them roll in the aisles or "shout" like people did in the church I grew up in.

I wish we all could just get along, but unfortunately, different "Christians" have different agendas, and not everyone is truly yielding themselves to the Lord, let alone the Holy Spirit, sad to say. You'd think if we were all truly following one Head of the body, Jesus Christ, we should all get along.

1 Cor 14:39 - "Forbid not to speak in tongues" seems pretty clear. On the other hand, when "there is no interpreter, keep silent." When people pick and choose what scriptures apply to the church today and which scriptures are no longer relevant, it's dangerous. We lose accountability of church leadership to adhere to the bible when they pick what applies and what does not. They make it sound like we are in a different dispensation than the church itself. I've heard some preachers claim that not even the Gospels are for the church - - only the epistles of Paul. What is up with this? Its like they are taking the place of the apostles and they can tell us God's will for the church.

Its kind of funny, on the other hand, some churches have dress codes like "no sandals" that make you wonder if Jesus would be allowed to visit?

NTC said...

Unfortunately we can't just "focus on salvation and leave the rest to the Lord." Issues like these have been swept under the rug for too long, no different than racism. The reason speaking in tongues, like other issues, is divisive is because people would rather be stuck in their ways than hear the truth.

Jesus said, "Woe unto the Pharisees! You have made the Word of God of no effect, by your tradition." What traditions do we have today, that stand in the way of the Lord's work? In every generation, the Holy Spirit calls out to hearts to follow Him. There were divisions and divisiveness when Luther said, no one is being edified by having church services in Latin. Tyndale said, Christians don't know anything about the Bible because its not in their language.

We honor the memories of the leaders of Protestantism for their heroics, but do we deny their Spirit by taking the easy way out in our choices today? What of Martin Luther King? He stood for what he believed in. It cost him his life. But he said, and I quote, "It's not worth living for, if it's not worth dying for."

Granted, there is a way to present doctrine that can be done in a loving and kind way. Paul says, don't let your eating of meat offend. Apostle Paul wrote, to the Jew, I became as the Jew, that I might win them.

One more thing - - Godly people do not act ungodly. Our Lord said, you'll know the tree by its fruit.

Grace be with you all-

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the article. I am 16 and been attending a Pentecostal church all my life. I dont particpate in the speaking of tongues. My church looks down on other religions ( mostly polythestic ones). This articles makes me re think of Baptists

Anonymous said...

you don't look 40 to me! you're so pretty! :)

Anonymous said...

I am so ecstatic that I ran across this post. I just put a question out there to my friends if one can be Baptist & COGIC (Pentecostal) because I regular a COGIC church, I live the "loudness (freedom of expression)but I also like visiting my in- laws Baptist church. both p a stored have very similar ways of getting God's message out & they too have varying degrees of "loudness" neither are strict on the handbook at all so why must I choose one over the other?

Shalini said...

Very well articulated post Jodi. How it must break our Father's heart when we who sing about our desire to see every tongue and tribe and nation worship Jesus can't even bear to work alongside our brothers and sisters from other denominations. How easily do we get sidetracked over petty/minor issues, instead of remembering the words of Jesus on unity: “My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one— I in them and you in me—so that they may be brought to complete unity. Then the world will know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me."

We have a long way to go! God help us. And thank God He will as we stand in the gap and pray for His body to be strong in purpose and unity. God bless you for your honest voice!

nicholas potgieter said...

Oh THANK YOU for this post! I am from South Africa and from what I have seen, churches seem to be more united there. Sadly,in SAfrica church denominations such as the Dutch Reformed, Aglican and even some Methodists are becoming dead and ''just a sunday thing'' chuches, The active churches are mainly non denminational Pentecostal, Charismatic and Baptist. And I find that they are quite united. I never noticed any arguing and fighting between the churches even though they have a few non-essential belief differences.....but....I have moved to Mexico and I am working in a Christian school run by a Fundamental Baptist church. I have had the most difficult time as they really attack the Pentecostal Churches as being ''doctrinally wrong and misled''. Any church that raises hands or do not sing hymns with only a piano is ''wrong''. If it is contemporary music with drums they label them as ''emotionally led'' churches. It makes me SICK! I am really not used to it as in SAfrica there is no such thing as Fundamental Baptist ''formal dressed, hymns only churches''. The Baptists in SAfrica have bands and are so casual and laid back. Lovely actually. I really love how everyone there just shows Christs love and there is so much more unity. Here in North America they seem to just fight and disagree over EVERY little thing. I find that the Baptists (and probably pentecostals) here JUDGE every single thing they can, it saddens me because I ask the question...''what witness for Christianity and Jesus do the churches here give to non-believers when all they do is disagree''. People will think its a joke! . I am a non-denominational Christian but I have been in Baptist churches and Pentecostals and to me they are almost the same. They raise hands and express their love to God and actually respect eachother so much as not to attack every difference between eachother that they have. The churches here seem to be quite different in North America. They could be uniting and moving forward in evangilising this nation and continent. To me, as long as a church believes in Salvation by Faith alone'' I am happy.

I have really struggled with this issue as it seems they are more focused on judging and exposing others little differences that really dont matter at all instead of uniting as witnesses for Christ.It is just SUCH a religious thing and I feel this Baptist church really are so closed and people are so scared to express themselves and open up to what God has for them because they just care about what others think. They think they are so Biblical but I just dont see that at all. I see a restrictive ''what will the pastor say if i raise my hand'' bunch of people. I pray for them as many don't even have characters and many seem almost sad. Sometimes I just want to cry haha! The staff members who are Pentecostal seem so happy every day and I really believe it is because they can express and have a relationship with God NOT based upon what others say or think but on what God says and what the Bible says.
Anyway! We just need to stop all this fighting!
It is time to stand unoted in Christ and show non-believers the Jesus in Us.

Anonymous said...

Wow! This is exactly what I was looking for! I am 18 years old, and all of my life I have been in a Southern Baptist setting. Recently I have started dating a girl who has been raised up a Pentecostal. Last night we went to a youth revival type service at a Pentecostal church. As I listened to the speaker I began to feel convicted because I hadn't felt like I had truly opened my heart to the Holy Spirit. I prayed at the alter for the Spirit to move in me and all of the sudden, all of these crazy, incredible things began to happen as a result! Things that I have never even heard of or felt in a Baptist church! I am still active in my home church, but after this event it sparked a curiosity inside of me as well. What do I believe? Which doctrine does my heart line up with? So thank you for giving your story and helping me find my way to where God wants me! God Bless!