A BRIEF HISTORY OF PENTECOSTALISM

(The Three Waves)*


From the second century to the nineteenth century, there is no historical evidence that godly, orthodox believers spoke in tongues. We do have instances of tongues speaking in these centuries, but in every case the people speaking in tongues belonged to heretical groups. (See #15 in the report "The Charismatic Movement: 35 Doctrinal Issues.") From Montanus (2nd Century) to Edward Irving (19th century), instances of "tongues" within the church were never considered to be part of genuine Christianity. Also, we should note that these "heretics" who spoke in tongues were speaking some kind of emotional, nonsense gibberish and not real languages as was the case in Acts chapter 2.

Wave #1
Old Pentecostalism or Classic Pentecostalism

In 1901 at Bethel Bible College, Topeka, Kansas, Agnes Ozman received what she called the baptism of the Spirit and spoke in "tongues." The practice then became part of the Holiness movement of the church in the United States. In 1906, tongues were spoken on Azusa Street in Los Angeles, California, and out of these two events in 1901 and 1906 grew the mainline Pentecostal denominations which are still with us today (Assemblies of God, etc.).


Wave #2
New Pentecostalism or Charismatic Renewal

This is sometimes referred to as the New Charismatic Movement. It was like the old charismatic, Pentecostal movement in that it gave special emphasis to certain gifts, most notably the gift of tongues. It was a new movement in the sense that it crossed denominational lines and barriers.

In 1960, in Van Nuys, California, the modern Charismatic movement began in an Episcopalian Church (St. Mark's, with Dennis Bennett as rector). There was an outburst of tongues speaking in this church. This event was so significant that both Time and Newsweek covered the story. After that, the movement spread like wildfire in the Episcopalian Church and then among Lutherans and Presbyterians as well.

The movement soon entered the universities. This began in New England. In October of 1962, the glossolalia phenomenon broke out at Yale University, among members of the Evangelical Inter-Varsity Christian Fellowship. Included in this new-Pentecostal revival were Episcopalians, Lutherans, Presbyterians, Methodists, and even one Roman Catholic. Five were members of Phi Beta Kappa, and some were religious leaders on campus (they were soon called "GLOSSO YALIES"). Thereafter, the movement spread to Dartmouth College, Stanford University, and Princeton Theological Seminary.

Even more significant than these events is what happened in 1967. All roads lead to Rome. At the time of Spring vacation in 1967, there were in the Notre Dame area about 30 zealous Catholics who had received the "baptism of the Holy Spirit." In 1968, about 100 to 150 met for a Catholic Pentecostal conference. In 1969, there were about 450 Catholic Charismatics who met including about 25 or 30 priests. In 1970, the increase was more spectacular. Almost 1,300 attended the conference, including Catholics from Canada. In 1973, 22,000 Catholic Charismatics met together at Notre Dame, including Catholic participants from at least 10 foreign countries. In 1974, the Notre Dame conference was attended by 30,000 people. And finally, the 1975 international conference held in Rome attracted 10,000 pilgrims from 50 countries to hear Pope Paul VI express his warm appreciation for the movement. The movement was mushrooming not only in the Roman Catholic Church, but in all of the major Protestant denominations.

The Kansas City Charismatic Conference was held in the summer of 1977. All three wings of the Pentecostal movement were present: (1) Old Pentecostals (sometimes called "classical Pentecostals"); (2) Protestant Charismatics; and (3) Catholic Charismatics. This was the biggest and most inclusive gathering of "baptized in the Spirit believers" in modern history. There were nearly 50,000 participants in this 5-day conference. One speaker proudly hailed this conference as "the largest and most inclusive ecumenical assembly in the history of American Christianity." Almost half of the participants were Roman Catholics.

A newspaper article published in 1977 (AP), reported that there were 10 million charismatics in America (5 million Classical Pentecostals and 5 Million New Pentecostals). Thus, the new charismatic movement grew to 5 million in only 17 years (1960 to 1977)! Today, the movement is still very much alive and growing, although we probably will not see the same kind of mushrooming growth as we saw in the '60s and early '70s. The 1/7/83 Christianity Today reported that the Assembly of God denomination (Pentecostal) is the fastest growing American denomination. At that time there were 1.6 million Assembly of God adherents and the number was growing fast.

The New Charismatics are not separatist but rather reformist in character. They are not interested in separating from old ecclesiastical structures. Rather, they are told to stay in these churches and to renew them by their continued presence within. This is what is meant by Charismatic Renewal.


Wave #3
The Signs and Wonders Movement

The term "third wave" was first coined by C. Peter Wagner in 1983:

"I see historically that we're now in the third wave. The first wave of the moving of the Holy Spirit began at the beginning of the century with the Pentecostal movement. The second wave was the charismatic movement which began in the fifties in the major denominations. Both of those waves continue today.

"I see the third wave of the eighties as an opening of the straight-line evangelicals and other Christians to the supernatural work of the Holy Spirit that the Pentecostals and charismatics have experienced, but without becoming either charismatic or Pentecostal. I think we are in a new wave of something that now has lasted almost through our whole century" (Peter Wagner, "The Third Wave?" Pastoral Renewal, July-August 1983, pp. 1-5).

This movement is also called the Signs and Wonders Movement and the Vineyard Movement. It has been a rapidly growing movement, drawing adherents from both charismatic and non-charismatic churches. The movement stresses "power evangelism" whereby the gospel is explained and demonstrated by way of supernatural signs and wonders.

There are three key leaders of this movement: (1) John Wimber, probably the central figure of the movement. He was the founder of the Vineyard church movement upon coming out of Chuck Smith's Calvary Chapel movement, and he taught with C. Peter Wagner at Fuller Seminary. The course was entitled "Signs, Wonders and Church Growth." (2) C. Peter Wagner, professor at Fuller Seminary School of World Missions, where he co-taught with John Wimber. (3) Paul Cain, an influential "modern day prophet," a disciple of William Branham whom Cain called "the greatest faith healer of our time" and the "greatest prophet of all time." Branham was a heretical false prophet who held erroneous view on the Godhead and on the Trinity.

In the Signs and Wonders movement, tongues speaking can be found, but the gift of tongues is not stressed as much as it is in the Pentecostal and Charismatic movements. The Signs and Wonders movement (Vineyard movement) does stress the gift of prophecy (insisting on the importance of modern day prophets) and the gift of healing.


* This report has been adapted from the Appendix of a paper ("The Charismatic Movement: 35 Doctrinal Issues") by Pastor George Zeller, The Middletown Bible Church, 349 East Street, Middletown, CT 06457 [(860) 346-0907].


Biblical Discernment Ministries - 12/97

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