Pentecostal vs. Church of God: What’s the Difference?

The terms “Pentecostal” and “Church of God” commonly describe certain kinds of Christian churches. Many people know that the terms describe Protestant churches, but they aren’t sure how Pentecostal and Church of God churches overlap in their beliefs and practices or where they disagree.

The Church of God is the name of a Pentecostal denomination in belief and practice. However, not all Pentecostal churches belong to the Church of God denomination. One of the primary ways the Church of God is different than other Pentecostal churches is that it believes in the doctrine of perfectionism.

How many different Church of God denominations are there? Why are there so many? What is the difference between the largest Pentecostal denomination, the Assemblies of God, and the Church of God? Keep reading to learn the answers to these questions and others.

Also, see Pentecostal vs Charismatic: What’s the Difference? to learn more.

Pentecostalism and the Church of God
How many “Church of God” denominations are there? See below

Pentecostalism and the Church of God: Comparison

There are dozens of Christian denominations called the “Church of God.” There are “Church of God” denominations in the Baptist and Wesleyan traditions, but most are found in the Pentecostal tradition. The largest Church of God denomination is the “Church of God (Cleveland, Tennessee).” (Also see Pentecostal vs. New Apostolic Pentecostal: What’s the Difference?)

OVERVIEWPentecostalismChurch of God
FoundedThe modern expression was born in early 20th-century America at the Azusa Street Revival in Los Angeles, California, in 1906.The Church of God (Cleveland, Tennessee) was founded in 1886 in Monroe County Tennessee.
Meaning of the nameFormer Baptist Richard Spurling (1810-1891) established the Christian Union in 1886. Spurling was Baptist and sought a cure to the indifference he observed in churches of all denominationsAfter using different names, the movement was renamed “Church of God” in 1907 when headquarters were moved to Cleveland, Tennessee.
FounderWilliam F. Bryant was influential (1863-1949), as was Ambrose J. Tomlinson (1865-1943)Former Baptist, Richard Spurling (1810-1891) established the Christian Union in 1886. Spurling was Baptist and sought a cure to the indifference he observed in churches of all denominations
Branch of ChristianityPentecostalism is Protestant. Many of the ideas it embraces are rooted in the Protestant Reformation, led by Martin Luther of Germany, Ulrich Zwingli of Switzerland, and John Calvin of France.The Church of God (Cleveland, Tennessee) is also a part of the Protestant Christian tradition.
Early influencer(s)William J. Seymour (1870-1922), Agnes Ozman (1870-1937), Charles Parham (1873-1939)William F. Bryant was influential (1863-1949) as was Ambrose J. Tomlinson (1865-1943)
Significant writing outside the BiblePentecostalism doesn’t have any literature that is unique to its tradition that is of great significance to the establishment and definition of the movement. It generally values the classic literary works of Protestantism.The Church of God Evangel newsletter
OrganizationHistorically, Pentecostalism isn’t a denomination per se but a belief system that certain denominations hold.The Church of God denomination has a General Assembly comprised of elected leaders. Individual churches are self-governing.
DivisionsDisagreements between Pentecostals often include the doctrine of perfectionism. For example, the Assemblies of God disagrees with the Church of God (Cleveland, Tennessee) about perfectionism.*A leadership crisis in the 1920s eventually led to F.J. Lee establishing the “Church of God of Prophecy” denomination.
Theological and Social worldviewPentecostal denominations and churches tend to be conservative theologically and concerning social issues.Protestant, evangelical, Pentecostal theology; conservative doctrine and worldview. The denomination ordains women to be pastors.

The doctrine of perfectionism states that Christians can become sinless in this lifetime. However, historic Christianity teaches that all Christians can and should grow in holiness throughout their life, but sinless perfection is only finalized at death.

Also, see Pentecostal vs Catholicism: What’s the Difference? to learn more.

Pentecostal Christianity
What do Pentecostal churches believe about the Trinity? See below

Pentecostalism and Church of God Beliefs: Similarities and Differences

As Protestant Pentecostal denominations, Pentecostal churches and Church of God churches have much more in common than differences.

However, historically, some people believed their differences were important enough to divide over and start new churches to emphasize certain beliefs and practices, even if they were secondary in importance. (Also see the full article Do Pentecostals Believe Jesus Is God?)

BELIEFSPentecostalismChurch of God
TheologyPentecostals are Protestant Christians. They believe that the Bible is authoritative for belief and practice and that sinners are saved by grace through faith and in Christ alone.Like other Pentecostals, the Church of God (Cleveland, Tennessee) (CGCT) is Protestant. CGCT is Arminian, not Calvinist, as all Pentecostal denominations are.
GodCGCT believes in the Trinity as all Protestant denominations do.CGCT believes in the Trinity, as all Protestant denominations do.
Is Jesus God?YesYes
Is the Holy Spirit God?YesYes
The BiblePentecostals believe God inspired the biblical authors. Many conservatives use the term “inerrancy” to describe the nature of the text.CGCT affirms the inspiration, inerrancy, and authority of Scripture.
View of the atonementPentecostals believe that Jesus is the second person of the Trinity; they hold to “penal-substitutionary atonement,” which means Jesus’ death paid the price for sin, and on the cross, he took the place of sinners.CGCT holds to “the atoning sacrifice of Christ’s death for the sins of the world.”
SalvationPentecostals are mostly Arminian, although there are some Calvinist or Reformed Christians who believe in the miraculous gifts of the Spirit.CGCT “stands firmly for justification by faith”; the denomination is Arminian.
SanctificationSome Pentecostals reject the doctrine of perfectionism; others affirm it.CGCT believes that a Christian can mature in holiness and Christ-likeness to the extent that they are perfected in this life.
Spiritual giftsPentecostals believe that all the spiritual gifts mentioned in the New Testament are operational and available for Christians today. This includes speaking in tongues, divine healing, and other miraculous gifts.CGCT believes “the gifts of power are faith, miracles, and gifts of healing. The gifts of utterance and inspiration are prophecy, tongues, and interpretation. The Holy Spirit bestows these gifts and those who accept the validity of these gifts are called charismatic.”
Water BaptismPentecostals practice “Believer’s Baptism” as opposed to infant baptism. Baptism isn’t necessary for salvation.CGCT holds to “Believer’s Baptism.” Baptism isn’t necessary for salvation.
CommunionPentecostals believe the bread and the cup are memorials of Christ’s death. They don’t believe Christ is present in the elements in any way.CGCT regularly practices the Lord’s Supper, understanding the bread and cup as memorials.
EschatologyPentecostalism is premillennial, meaning it interprets the 1,000-year period described in Revelation 20:1-6 literally. The millennium occurs after the rapture, the seven-year tribulation, and the Second Coming.CGCT is premillennial, holding to a rapture, seven-year tribulation, and a literal 1,000-year reign of Christ on the earth

* The so-called “Oneness Pentecostalism” denomination, also called the “Jesus Only Movement,” isn’t Trinitarian. However, orthodox Pentecostals, like the Assemblies of God and the Church of God (Cleveland, Tennessee), don’t fellowship with Oneness Pentecostal churches. (Also see Pentecostal vs. Evangelical: What’s the Difference?)

Please see the related articles below.

Christian church
Pentecostal Christian Church

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Daniel Isaiah Joseph

Daniel's seminary degree is in Exegetical Theology. He was a pastor for 10 years. As a professor, he has taught Bible and theology courses at two Christian universities. Please see his About page for details.

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