Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Something Nice about Pentecostalism

As current events would have it, the last year has found me posting a great deal about my profound differences with the movement that originated with Charles Fox Parham and continues in various daughter movements to this day. I've written plenty about the weaknesses of Pentecostalism, but my appraisal of the movement is not entirely negative. Thus, I give you my list of good things about Pentecostalism:

  1. Twila Paris. She alone makes the whole movement worthwhile.
  2. Discussions of Pneumatology. The rise of Pentecostalism has provoked significant formal discussion about the nature and work of the Holy Spirit.
  3. The Use of Media. Frankly, the Pentecostal ministries do a much better job in the successful use of broadcast media than anyone else in American religion (except, perhaps, for the Mormons). Watching the average Sunday worship service on TV is like standing outside the church and looking in through the window. You see and hear what is going on, but you aren't a part of it. All of their obvious blemishes notwithstanding, the Robert Tiltons of this world have correctly understood that good Christian TV programming must be designed for TV, must engage the viewer directly, and must have more content than just the pastor's talking head. Among Baptists, I think that Jack Graham's PowerPoint does a nice job of mixing other elements with the sermonic exposition of the Bible. Sure, there are some Pentecostal types who just broadcast their unadorned worship service, but in general the Pentecostals outdo us on this point.
  4. The Furthering of Several Baptist Distinctives. As far as I know, not many Pentecostal types sprinkle infants. Many Pentecostalish congregations enjoy a good measure of congregational autonomy from supercongregational structures.
  5. The Humbling of Intellecutal Elites. Like Baptists, Pentecostal types usually have erected no artificial barriers to professional ministerial service. Pentecostalism has not been cowed by constant derogation with regard to the educational and social attainments of its adherents, but instead has marched on to statistical success. They often remind me of what we used to be.
  6. Culture Warfare. Even if some of their highest-profile leaders have demonstrated grave personal moral problems, Pentecostals have generally concurred with Southern Baptists regarding the tremendous moral decay that confronts the USA at this hour. Indeed, even if they have taken ridicule for it, some varieties of Pentecostalism retain an emphasis upon modesty in dress and comportment that is conspicuously absent from much of Southern Baptist life (as well as from some other varieties of Pentecostalism).
  7. Occasions for Levity. In their excesses, followers of the Pentecostal movement have been fun to poke fun at. The only funny thing about Presbyterians is how far from funny they are—Nobody ever made a flatulence video of D. James Kennedy. But I have had the occasional chuckle at seeing Rod Parsley on TV.
  8. Missionary Zeal. Certainly the various Pentecostal type para-church missionary organizations are too numerous for me to count. I don't think that they have called all the right plays, but the adherents of the various Pentecostal movements (including daughter movements) have not sat on the sidelines regarding the Great Commission.
  9. Fraternal Collegiality. Even those Pentecostals who probably suspect that I am going to Hell have generally been cordial to me. Of course, I can also say the same thing about those Baptists who might hold the same opinion of me.


R. L. Vaughn said...

Bart, your post has aroused my curiosity as to what Pentecostal type churches might practice paedobaptism. Anyone know, offhand?

Tim Guthrie said...

One of the best friends Heidi and I have ever had in ministry was the Pastor and his wife of the 1ST Pentacostal Church in Westlake LA. We would go out to eat together. Laugh together. Argue Theology together and yes pray together (not in tongues - he would not do it when i was present out of respect). In fact, when he suddely died of a Heart Attack, Heidi and I were the only 2 Baptist present at his funeral (the family sat us down front) out of over 1800 present.

Thanks for reminding me of this special friendship I once had.

Bob Cleveland said...

So .. Bart .. can you get at least SOME idea how much fun it is to be a Pentecostal, Calvinistic Southern Baptist? Why, I can laugh at Rev. Parsley AND Dr. Kennedy!

Bart Barber said...


Just me using understatement as a literary device. None of these churches practice paedobaptism.

Bart Barber said...


You bet.

Bart Barber said...


You absolutely MUST post about whatever in D. James Kennedy makes you laugh!

Geoff Baggett said...


"Good Christian TV?" RU serious? I get a bit nauseated every time I run across those stations with the gold spray-painted furniture, non-stop "telethons," men with Ace Ventura hairdos, and women who really need to re-think their wardrobes.

To be honest, I haven't seen a lot of "good Christian TV."


OKpreacher said...


I always knew you weren't a real Baptist and that you were a pew jumper. This post smells of your love for Pentecostalism and for this you are banned from any discussion on Baptist Identity. Part of being a Baptist is hating the Pentecostals. Woe to you our fallen brother. Repent and become Baptist again. Because of this article you will need to be rebaptized before you can be received back into a Baptist church.


Bart Barber said...


The phrase "good Christian TV" applies to that list of attributes that follow. The kind of TV that you are talking about, IMHO, has better production value than much of what we Baptists put on the air, even if it is lacking sorely in the area of content.

Bart Barber said...

OK Preacher,

Your comment lived up to your screen name. :-)

John Killian said...

Great words!
Can I list one more good point of Pentecostalism? Teen Challenge Ministries was founded by David Wilkerson, an Assembly of God minister. They have an 86% success rate with drug addicts. They train their students in scripture memory and do not teach the excesses of Pentecostalism. I preach at the local Teen Challenge and see God at work in a mighty way.
I wish Baptists had some work like Teen Challenge. In spite of my disagreements, I support Teen Challenge.

volfan007 said...

i bumped my head on the car door the other day, and i nearly became a pentecostal. :)


Dwight McKissic said...

Dear Bro. Bart:

It is so great to see you light a candle on this issue. I share your concerns about excesses, extremism and unbiblical practices, but we have to acknowledge there are strong positives that are worthy of applause and commendation. Thank you for pointing those out. I am also concerned about extremism in Baptist life but we'll save that discussion for another time.

Your friend and brother, Dwight

joerstewart said...

My in-laws were Pentecostal so I'm certain of one really great thing they've produced <: