Pentecostalism (Pt.2)
Pentecostalism (Pt.4)

Pentecostalism (Pt.3)

I also see a number of weaknesses in some of the Pentecostal movement. Obviously, not all of these weaknesses are limited to Pentecostals nor do all Pentecostal churches necessarily exhibit them.

1. Extreme Prosperity Teaching. Many Pentecostal churches have embraced the prosperity gospel which promises riches for those who love and obey God. One of the main problems with this teaching is the ‘give to get’ mentality which is so opposite to the nature of God. He loves and he gives unconditionally - with no strings attached. If we choose to give to God or to the poor in order to gain our own personal prosperity, something is wrong with our motives.

I believe that we should live generous lives, giving to the work of God and to those in need - simply because we love God and we love people. We should not give in order to get back for ourselves. Yes, there is often a by-product of personal blessing that comes with generosity but that should not be our motive or our goal.

If you define ‘prosperity’ as ‘having your own needs (not ‘greeds’) met and enough extra to give away,’ then I believe that it is God's will for everyone. We should all work towards that. However, there are much more important things than money and possessions. The kingdom of God has a different value system. It is made up of love, peace, and joy ... and these things are found in the Holy Spirit, not in material possessions. In fact, Paul tells us that the love of money is at the root of all evil (not money itself, but the love of it). The issue isn't whether we have stuff but whether our stuff has a hold on us. Of course, poverty is not better or more spiritual than prosperity. There is nothing pretty or desirable about poverty. That's why so many people are working around the globe today to make poverty history.

2. Autocratic Leadership Style. Some Pentecostal pastors, due to the honor and the freedom given to them, can develop an authoritarian and hierarchical leadership style. Although it is without doubt that strong leadership ability is a key factor in the growth and effectiveness of many Pentecostal congregations, sometimes this can also lead to a lack of appropriate accountability. Governance structures tend to be more relational than formal, and boards and teams of elders are usually led by senior ministers who see the board or eldership as their team and as working for them. Some even have staff and family members as board members, potentially blurring the accountability lines and not providing adequate separation between proposal creation and proposal review. In addition, if Pentecostal pastors see themselves as above criticism and see people who question various matters as rebellious, then dysfunction usually develops and there is an eventual drift out of the church of hurt and disillusioned people. When authority is abused, much damage can be done.

I believe that it is essential to embrace a servant and empowering leadership style. Appropriate accountability at all levels of leadership is also very important and should influence the way leadership and governance policies and practices are shaped. There needs to be a culture of openness to feedback and constructive criticism in church communities. Also, team ministry should be taught and practiced.

3. Shallow Bible Teaching. In the early days of Pentecostalism, academic or theological training often was frowned upon. Seminaries were seen as “cemeteries” due to their lack of emphasis on the person and ministry of the Holy Spirit. Even today, many Pentecostal pastors do not have more than a basic theological training. Unfortunately, this can lead to sermons that are high on inspiration but low on biblical content. Teaching can tend to be somewhat shallow and at times allegorical. Also, 'proof texting' is a common occurrence.

I believe that there needs to be a good balance between the Spirit and the Word. We need both the passion and energy of the Spirit and the safety and security of the Scriptures. We also should be committed to ensuring that teaching team members are well-trained in interpreting the original meaning of the Scriptures and then applying them appropriately to our contemporary context.

4. Elevation of Personal Experience. Some Pentecostal churches and preachers rely heavily on personal revelation (“God told me ...”). Personally, I believe that no personalexperience orrevelation is to be taken as more important or authoritative than the inspired Scriptures. All of these subjective matters need to be tested by the Word of God and considered in the light of how God has moved in and among his people throughout church history.

5. Elevation of Charisma over Character. Some Pentecostal churches are overly enamoured with charismatic personalities and spectacular spiritual gifts. I believe that all gifts are given for the purpose of serving for the benefit of the wider church and that the foundation of all ministry is to be a person’s character. Jesus said that we should test ministry by the fruit of their life not by the gifts or talents they exhibit.

6. An Unhealthy Elevation of Speaking in Tongues (or spiritual language). Some Pentecostal churches elevate speaking in tongues to such a level that those who have not experienced this gift are made to feel like second-class Christians. Other groups go to an even further extreme by saying that a person is not saved unless they speak in tongues. I believe that all Christians receive the indwelling of the Holy Spirit at conversion. Subsequent to this, I think that we should encourage all believers to ask for the baptism or infilling of the Spirit accompanied by a spiritual language, as I see this as an important aspect of the Christian life. However, we should not seek to pressure people nor look down on those who have not had this experience. I also believe that in church gatherings where unbelievers are present, appropriate discretion needs to be used in the public exercise of speaking in tongues (see 1 Cor.14:22-25).

7. An Instantaneous ‘Zap’ Mentality. Many Pentecostal churches place a strong emphasison church meetings and on receiving a special touch from the Holy Spirit. I too believe in the importance of church gatherings and the special things God can do when we gather together. However, I believe that God’s presence is with us all the time and that we shouldn't buy into a separation of the sacred and secular. God is interested in all of our lives. I also believe in the change that can occur when a person encounters God in a powerful way (an ‘encounter’) but I acknowledge that even this is part of a continual process of change and growth that occurs throughout all of life.

8. End Time Hysteria. Some sections of the Pentecostal church go to extremes when it comes to end time teaching, emphasising the imminent return of Christ and getting ready for the rapture. I believe that all followers of Christ should live in such a way that they are always ready for his return but also with the wisdom and foresight that Jesus may not come back in our generation. We are to occupy, or be busy, until Jesus returns. This includes being about the work of the kingdom, which includes matters such as creation care and social justice.

9. Faith Healing. Some Pentecostal churches teach that all people should be healed and when healing does not take place it is an indication of sin or lack of faith in the life of the sick person. This heretical teaching can cause great damage in people’s lives. I believe that God does heal today and we pray for people to be healed. However, we recognise that sometimes people aren’t healed. This does not mean that a person lacks faith or has sin in their life. We live in a fallen world and we are caught between the ‘now’ and the ‘not yet’ of the kingdom of God. Sin, sickness, and death were conquered by Christ but not yet do we see them eradicated from the world. We all await his return when the kingdom will come in its fullness and there will be no more crying, pain or death. Until then, we live in faith but we also recognise the reality of suffering in this present world, knowing that God’s grace and comfort are more than enough for us.

10. Extreme Focus on the Demonic. Some sectors ofthe Pentecostal churchhavea strong emphasis on the devil, demons, deliverance, and spiritual warfare. Without wanting to neglect an appropriate awareness of the spiritual battle that we are in, I think churches should seek to adopt a more balanced approach where the major focus is on glorifying God, living in the Spirit, doing good, and spreading the good news of Jesus Christ.

These observations about the strengths and weakness of Pentecostalism are generalizations. However, they do have a common occurrence within the broader Pentecostal movements of churches. I think that more and more Pentecostal church should more intentionally maximizing the strengths while seeking to avoid the weaknesses of this movement.

Part 4.


Excellent analysis of Pentacostilism. How true. I'm in agreement with you. Very well balanced view right across the board and very encouraging. Thanks Mark, really am enjoying reading through these series.

Really enjoyed parts 2 & 3 or this series Mark. Very balanced and you really cover both the positives and negatices of the Pentacostal church. We done!

PS. I have linked to it from my blog

Thanks Mark.

This is the first time a Senior Pastor has been been open and honest with the issues that need to change. (ps 78:72, 1 Tim 3:2).

I am thankful for my exposure to pentecostals for a number of reasons you outlined yesterday (in fact experiencing the HS came through understanding and encouragement of Pentecostals).

I have also been hurt by Church when it failed to recoginse these issues expecially after the Business Review Weekly published its 'God's millionaires' article (June 2005) and the way that the major Churches named in the article responded (denial, cover-up, "the media is of the devil" inferences etc).

Thansk mate.

Hey Mark,

Inline with Marija & Dave Q, ditto from me. I did ask a question under Part 1 of this series which you may have not had an opportunity to read. Please do not feel you need to add further comment to my question under Part 1 as your explanation in point 6 both clarifies and encourages. Many thanks!

Hi Mark,

It take great courage and intellect to see both sides of the coin. And yet able to point us to the strengths we could maximised.

Some Pentecostal theological error and abuse of its power structure had greatly hurt and damaged me. Thanks for addressing these.

Well done, Mark.

Thanks for giving a balanced and unbiased view of the realities of "Pentecostalism". You have articulated the issues well and I hope any intelectually honest christian would agree with your balance analysis of the issues. Ones with personal agendas and or something to lose will not agree with your take. Thanks again for you thoughts.

Hi Mark,

Your theological training is shining thru here. These perspectives on Pentacostalism are informative and reassuring about some of these issues.I believe all christians should be open to discuss christian beliefs and why we hold certain views etc in a transparent way, that unites rather than divides, because we all love the Lord and are learning together.

I wonder what you think about the raging debate about tithing. I recently read an extremely detailed study of scripture in an essay by Dr Russ Kelly an American PHD theologian entitled 'Tithing is not a Christian Doctrine'at: http:///

I think this is an issue requiring attention by Pentecostal churches. There seems to be a mounting backlash as people become aware that this teaching could be more of an Old Testament tradition than a New Testament requirement.

All the best,

Hi Anne. Good to hear from you. Yes, tithing is a controversial topic. Dr. Kelly is ruthless against it and anyone who teaches it. Personally, I see a gradual shift taking place in many churches towards a stronger emphasis on 'generous giving' rather than the 'law of tithing', which I think is good, as it reflects the New Testament data better. I see giving a 10th of all income as a good spiritual practice and a way for us to practically remind ourselves that all (100%) of what we have as Christ-followers belongs to God. However, all giving is to be done from joyful, willing hearts not from a legalistic or legislative stance.

I disagree with some of what you say because not all churches that are Pentecostal teach or preach like that. Tithing is a commandment of the Lord and if we obey His commandment to tithes He will bless our lives but not always with wealth but with healing, provision, Blessings. So please don't put all Pentecostal churches in that category.

Can I ask your opinion about faith teaching churches. There are several good faith churches today in the world such as Victory Christian Center in Tulsa, Joel Osteen´s church in Houston, Livets Ord in Sweden. We can regard even Oral Roberts partly as a faith teaching proponent. According to faith teaching (which I admit can become too narrow at times if it is preached as the only point of departure for the whole Christian theology) Jesus really didn´t heal everyone. However, all who came to Him got healed. I find your suggestion good and balancing and I would really like to give it a fair hearing. But aren´t there some dangers? First of all, if God has a higher goal for not healing someone, will it not open up for some hesitation? At every rate in practice people might question God´s will even for their lives and healing. After couple of unsuccessful prayers, instead of encouraging to continue in faith, helping them to build up their faith, people simply start thinking of some higher goal of God.
I can basically agree that there are some ”loveless” extreme faith teaching churches who would blame recipent for every failed prayer of faith. But can we watch at the bright side of F.F.Bosworth´s contribution who taught people until they felt they were ready to receive their healing!
So, I would basically like you to confine your argument that at first sight seems to be very mature but leaves some further questions.

With great blessings

Hi Mart. Yes, there are always qualifications to be made in any teaching or belief. Paul prayed 3 times for his 'thorn in the flesh' to go away but after that stopped praying - once God told him it would not go away but that he would have grace to endure it. I believe we should always pray in faith for healing and continue to do so. But if we are not healed, we should trust in God's sovereignty and not come under inappropriate guilt or condemnation that maybe there is sin in our life or we have no faith. Hope that helps.

I basically agree that there´s God´s sovereignty, our faith and somewhere in between co-work between infinite and finite being that most commonly takes place in prayer.
However, I have slight difficulties accepting your example that Paul´s `thorn in the flesh´ could be some sort of sickness. I am open for other opinions regarding the matter but I have been taught in the bible school that the figure of the thorn in the flesh is not used in the Bible as a figure of sickness. In the OT God was only illustrating to show that the thorns were personalities, nations that were constantly annoying Israel. In the NT the same is applied but in more spiritual way: they were persecutions and resistances Paul experienced on a regular basis.
I would gladly hear your comment on that.

Yes, you are right, Mart. No one knows what Paul's thorn was. It could have been a person, a group (Judaizers?), a weakness or a sickness (some think it was an eye condition). So we can only draw principles from it. Either way, it was something painful, irritating, uncomfortable and something Paul wanted to be free from.

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