Methodism vs Pentecostalism: What the Difference?


Methodism is a prominent branch of Protestant Christianity that dates to the mid 18th century. Pentecostalism is a movement within Protestantism that originated in the early 20th century. What’s the difference between Methodism and Pentecostalism? Are any Methodists Pentecostals?

Methodism is a tradition within Protestant Christianity that is made up of different denominations, like the United Methodist Church. Pentecostalism is a movement with Protestantism whose convictions, especially about the Holy Spirit, characterize the beliefs and practices of entire denominations like the Assemblies of God.

Do Methodists speak in tongues like most Pentecostals do? Do they believe in healing and prophecy like Pentecostals? How does Methodism compare with Pentecostalism on the doctrine of the Trinity, the deity of Christ, the inspiration of Scripture, and the end times? Keep reading to learn more.

Pentecostal church
Do Methodists believe in speaking in tongues? (See below)

Methodist vs Pentecostal: Speaking in Tongues

Historians, sociologists, and theologians generally agree that Methodism is a historic denomination within the framework of Protestant Christianity. In the 20th century, Methodist denominations split multiple times over various disagreements. Therefore, Methodism can correctly be called a “denomination” and simultaneously its made up of several “denominations.” (Also see Do Methodists Drink Alcohol?)

Pentecostalism isn’t a denomination in the same way Methodism is, or the Baptist, Lutheran, or Presbyterian traditions are. Pentecostalism is a characteristic of various Protestant denominations.

No Methodist denomination of significant size has adopted the distinct beliefs and practices that characterize Pentecostalism in their entirety. However, some Methodists believe and practice the unique convictions of Pentecostalism. (Also see Do Methodists Dance?)

In Christian theology, Pentecostal theology has three distinguishing beliefs:

  • baptism in the Holy Spirit occurs after conversion, as opposed to simultaneously with conversion
  • speaking in tongues is the sign of Spirit baptism
  • all spiritual gifts are in operation today, including speaking in tongues, healing, and prophecy
Pentecostal BeliefsMethodismPentecostalism
Baptism of the Holy Spirit occurs sometime after conversiona fewall
Speaking in tongues is the sign of Spirit baptisma fewall
All spiritual gifts are in operation today, including tongues, healing, and prophecysomeall

Most non-Pentecostal Protestant denominations believe that baptism in the Holy Spirit occurs at conversion and is not a second, subsequent act that occurs some time later. Historically, the Methodist tradition has taught that baptism in the Holy Spirit occurs at conversion. (Also see Do Methodists Have Female Pastors?)

Most non-Pentecostal Protestant denominations believe that speaking in tongues isn’t the sole sign of baptism in the Holy Spirit. Some Christians believe that speaking in tongues is a real and permissible practice, yet not believe that it’s the only sign of baptism in the Holy Spirit. Methodists, who are continuationists, believe that speaking in tongues is a gift available today, but that doesn’t mean they believe it’s the only sign of Spirit baptism.

  • Some Methodists are cessationists (from the word “cease”), which means that they believe that the so-called miraculous gifts like speaking in tongues, healing, and prophecy are no longer operational, but were only for the first-century church.
  • Other Methodists are continuationists (from the word “continue”), which means that they believe that the so-called miraculous gifts are operational and are available to all generations of the church.

Methodist and Pentecostal origins, denominations and more

Methodism and Pentecostalism have many similarities because they are both under the umbrella of Protestant Christianity. Yet their respective origins, organizations, and beliefs reflect important differences. (Also see Why Do Methodists Change Pastors?)

OVERVIEWMethodismPentecostalism
FounderJohn Wesley (1703-1791)there is no single founder
Origin18th-century EnglandAzusa Street Revival in Los Angeles, California, 1906
Early influencer(s)Other than John Wesley, Charles Wesley (1707-1788) and George Whitefield (1714-1770) played key roles in the denomination’s formationCharles Fox Parham, William J. Seymour, Agnes Ozman
Significant writing outside the BibleThe Apostles’ Creed, The Nicene Creed; Wesley edited the 39 Articles of Religion, removing the Calvinist teachings in it; he also edited the Book of Common Prayer after the Revolutionary War; the United Methodist HymnalThe Apostles’ Creed, The Nicene Creed; various denominational belief statements such as The 16 Fundamental Truths of the Assemblies of God
OrganizationThe term “connectionalism” describes the network of relationships among Methodist churches. “Bishops” lead churches within the framework of Episcopalian polity.Pentecostalism isn’t a denomination. The largest Pentecostal denomination is the Assemblies of God, which practices congregational church government.
DivisionsThere are many denominations in the Methodist tradition. The United Methodist Church (UMC) is the largest. The African Methodist Episcopal Church (AMEC) is the second largest.There are many Pentecostal denominations. Assemblies of God is the largest. The Church of God is the second largest.
Theological and social worldviewIt depends on the denomination. Many churches in the UMC denomination have adopted liberal perspectives on many social and theological issues in recent decades. Other smaller denominations maintain conservative positions, such as the Evangelical Methodist Church (EMC).Pentecostal denominations and churches tend to be conservative theologically and in relation to social issues.
Methodist worship
Do Pentecostals practice infant baptism like Methodists? See below.

Beliefs and Doctrine: Methodism vs Pentecostalism

Methodist and Pentecostal beliefs about God and Christ are similar. Their disagreements are about the Holy Spirit and matters related to the church. (Also see Methodist vs Anglican: What’s the Difference?)

BELIEFSMethodismPentecostalism
Theology (general)Methodists are Protestant. They believe salvation is by grace through faith in Christ, and not according to works.Pentecostals are Protestant. They believe salvation is by grace through faith, not according to works.
Theology (specific)Methodists are Arminian. Within the framework of Arminianism, their doctrine is sometimes called “Wesleyan theology” or “Wesleyan-Arminian theology.”Pentecostals are Arminian. Their theological system is conventionally referred to as “Pentecostal theology.”
GodMethodists believe in the Trinity. There is one God who exists in three persons.Pentecostals believe in the Trinity. There is one God who exists in three persons.
Is Jesus God?YesYes
Is the Holy Spirit God?YesYes
The BibleThe Bible is inspired, according to traditional Methodist teaching. Some conservative Methodist denominations in America accept and use the term “inerrancy,” which means that Scripture is without error.The Bible is inspired. Most Pentecostals believe the Bible is inerrant. Pentecostals tend to have a high view of Scripture.
View of the atonementModerate-liberal denominations view Christ as a martyr and his death as a form of activism for marginalized people. Conservatives believe Christ died in the place of sinners and as a punishment for their sins.Pentecostals generally believe that Christ’s death was an atonement for sin.
SalvationMethodists are Arminian, as opposed to Calvinists or Reformed.Pentecostal denominations, like the Assemblies of God, are Arminian.
Spiritual giftsSome Methodists are cessationists, others are continuationists. Pentecostal expressions have been associated with revivalism in the Methodist tradition, which has historically been a topic of internal debate and tension.Pentecostals are continuationists, as it’s a distinguishing feature of the movement.
BaptismPastors baptize infants as a sign of regeneration. Adult converts can be baptized, often by sprinkling.Pentecostal churches practice baby “dedications,” but not infant baptism. Adult baptism, i.e. “believer’s baptism,” is the norm.
CommunionMethodists believe in the real presence of Christ, making it more than a mere memorial like in some Protestant traditions, but they don’t believe in transubstantiation like Catholicism teaches.Most Pentecostal churches teaches that the bread and cup are memorials of the death of Christ. They reject transubstantiation.
EschatologyThe Second Coming of Christ is a primary doctrine; the millennium is understood according to amillennial theology; meaning, it interprets the 1,000-year period described in Revelation 20:1-6 figuratively and defines it as the time between Christ’s first and second coming (i.e. the Church Age)Pentecostals are strong dispensational, pretribulation, premillennialists.

References:
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