By Ginny Tallent
History and Origins.The Pentecostal Church was founded by the Reverend Charles Fox Parham (1873 - 1929). William Joseph Seymour (1870 - 1922) was also credited as a founding father of the modern Pentecostal Movement, and also with bringing the Pentecostal experience to world - wide attention.
One of the most celebrated places of origin was Topeka, Kansas in 1901.
The first Pentecostals appeared on the scene in 1901 in the city of Topeka, Kansas, in a Bible school conducted by Charles Fox Parham, a holiness teacher, and a former Methodist Pastor. The movement began in the first few days of the 20th Century. The first person to be baptized in the Holy Spirit accompanied by speaking in tongues was one of Parham's Bible School students. As a result of this Topeka Pentecost, Parham formulated the doctrine that tongues was the "Bible evidence" of the Baptism of the Holy Spirit. He also taught that tongues was a supernatural impartation of human languages for the purpose of world evangelization.
It wasn't until 1906 that Pentecostalism achieved worldwide attention. This was achieved by African-American preacher William Joseph Seymour, in the Azusa Street revival in Los Angeles. He opened the historic meeting in a former African Methodist Episcopal (AME) church building.
However, this wasn't the very beginning of Pentecostalism. In around 1831 in London, Edward Erving, the pastor of the Church of Scotland, led parishioners in a prayer which ultimately resulted in them receiving the gift of tongues and prophecy. During the 1970's, at what was known as the Keswick Conventions, and in various other locations, the notion of the baptism being more of an anointing rather than a cleansing (which was the Holiness definition) was developed, which ultimately, would guide some Holiness people in a direction that would EVENTUALLY lead to the emergence of Pentecostalism.
At the beginning of the 20th century, more Christians throughout the world began to give more attention to understanding the Spirit.
Eventually, there evolved three main Pentecostal divisions, and a number of similar splinter groups:
Organization and structure of the church.
The Pentecostal Church of God concluded its 2005 General Convention in Addison, Texas. The denomination approved a structural change, establishing a General Council, replacing the previous executive committee. The convention placed a renewed emphasis on multi - cultural ministries, discipleship ministries, and stewardship ministries. Some denominations are congregational in structure; the individual congregations are self governing. Others have a connectional structure, in which regional and national organizations decide matters of doctrine and organization.
The International Pentecostal Church of Christ is a blend of the Congregational and Presbyterian systems. Churches operate under their own structures, electing their own pastors and officers. Districts and the National structures are overseen by various boards elected from the body;
General Conference Meetings - There is an Annual Conference where business is conducted annually. There is to be a District Quarterly Conference in each district.
Policy Making Bodies - The General Conference of the International Pentecostal Church of Christ is made up of all Ordained Ministers, Licensed Ministers, Licensed Evangelists, local Church Delegates, and Ordained Deacons. Usually, the General Conference elects officers and amends the Constitution and By-Laws.
General Board - The General Board of the International Pentecostal Church of Christ is made up of the members of the General Executive Committee and each District Overseer. There is a pending Constitutional Amendment which would add the National Youth and Christian Education Director as a member of the General Board. The General Board is the final body for appeals. District Overseers are elected in the odd numbered years in their respective districts.
General Executive Committee - The General Executive Committee is made up of the General Overseer, the Assistant General Overseer, the General Secretary, the General Treasurer, and the Director of Global Missions. The General Overseer is an ex-officio member of every board and committee. The General Overseer is elected to two-year terms, bi-annually, in the even numbered years in the January and April Quarterly Conferences, respectively. The remaining members of the General Executive Committee are elected in the even numbered years at Annual Conference.
District Conferences - District Conferences are made up of all General Conference members residing within the boundaries of the respective district with the exception of retired members who maintain membership in another district. Christian Lay Ministers are also members of the District.
District Board - There is a District Board for each district made up of the District Overseer who is the chairman of the board, the Secretary-Treasurer, District Sunday School Director, and two other members of the district. The District Overseer is an ex-officio member of each board or committee in the district.
Church Congregations - Local church members make up the policy-making body for the local church. Voting members must be active members in good standing, faithful in tithing and attending on a weekly basis.
Church Boards - The pastor, deacons, and trustees compose the official board of the local church with the pastor always serving as the chairman of the board. Churches may elect additional members to the board. The pastor is elected by the local church with the approval of the Credentials Committee of the International Pentecostal Church of Christ. He or she may be elected for a stated or indefinite term.
Church Delegate - Churches in good standing may appoint a delegate to District and General Conferences. One delegate is allowed for each local member who is actively attending and tithing. Delegates have no authority outside of the business setting to which they have been sent as a delegate. Churches may choose to instruct the delegate in how to represent them in a prearranged vote. In the event the church opts not to instruct them in how to vote, delegates are free to vote their conscience.
Church Member - Church membership signifies a personís commitment to the ministry and goals of the local church. Applicants are screened by the church board as to their spiritual commitment and loyalty. Members must commit to abiding by certain standards set forth by the IPCC Constitution and By-laws.
Conference/Church Relations - The International Pentecostal Church of Christ has a good blend of local/national control. Churches are free to manage their own affairs within the parameters of the Constitution and By-Laws of the IPCC. The IPCC usually chooses not to involve itself in local affairs unless: requested by either the pastor, board, or a substantial group of members through a petition; in the event of a moral crisis in the leadership of the church; in the event of a schism which threatens the stability and spiritual life of the church.
Central beliefs and worship.
Pentecostals believe that you must be saved by believing in Jesus as Lord and Saviour for the forgiveness of sins and to be made acceptable to God. Pentecostals believe in water baptism as an outward sign of conversion, and that the baptism in the Holy Spirit is a distinct spiritual experience that all who have believed in Jesus should receive. Some Pentecostals believe that the baptism in the Holy Spirit is always accompanied initially by the outward evidence of speaking in tongues. This is a major difference between Pentecostal and Charismatic Christians who believe that a Christian who is baptized in the Holy Spirit may exhibit other physical signs instead of speaking in tongues. However, the idea that one is not saved unless one speaks in tongues is rejected by most major Pentecostal denominations. Pentecostals also believe that the Bible has the final authority in matters of faith.
It is the doctrine of "speaking in tongues" that separates Pentecostals from the Holiness (and even Methodist) groups it splintered off from, as well as from other mainline Christian denominations. After 1875, a branch of the Holiness movement (that would soon become Pentecostal) began to stress aspects of the "second blessing" which focused on an endowment of powerful anointing for those who tarried at the altars. Eventually they simply added to this established Holiness doctrine of the "second blessing", the baptism in the Holy Spirit, as initial evidence of a "third blessing." Many conventional Holiness churches named this new baptism "The Fire" and labeled it as fanaticism and heresy.
Similar to the other mainline, evangelical Christian denominations, Pentecostalism tends to adhere to most all of the other fundamental doctrines of the Christian faith. However, their inconsistency with Fundamentalists groups (such as Baptists and the Reformed) is in their understanding of the Holy Spirit baptism and gifts (tongues, miracles, etc.). Fundamentalists believe that the Holy Spirit baptism occurs at the onset of salvation, and that the gifts were given only to the Apostles and gradually ceased as the New Testament Scriptures were completed.
Another distinguishing mark of Pentecostalism is the worship of its believers which is often characterized by speaking/praying in tongues aloud, prophesying, healings, exorcism, hand-clapping, shouting and being "slain in the Spirit," which are all observed with great zeal and fervency. Since its beginnings, these practices have been subjected to rules that have dictated when such worship was appropriate, but still persist as the typical worship style. These differences in worship style also divide Pentecostals from other mainline Christian denominations.