Many people know that the terms “Pentecostal” and “evangelical” are associated with Christianity, but they aren’t sure exactly how or what the difference is between them. The words may refer to a set of beliefs, a local church, or a person depending on the context. There is also a significant amount of overlap between the terms. So how do they compare?
Pentecostalism and evangelicalism are traditions within Protestant Christianity. Pentecostalism emphasizes doctrines like baptism in the Holy Spirit, speaking in tongues, and miraculous gifts. Evangelicalism is a gospel-focused movement. Most Pentecostals are evangelicals, but not all evangelicals are Pentecostals.
What are the largest Pentecostal and evangelical denominations today? What are each one’s origins, early influencers, and social worldview? What does each believe about the Bible, God, salvation, and other theological topics? 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 Evangelicalism: Comparison
|Origin||Historians conventionally date the origin of the modern Pentecostal movement to the Azusa Street Revival in Los Angeles, California, in 1906. Many Pentecostals date their origin to the second chapter of Acts in the New Testament.||The modern use of the term originated in the 20th century. It’s distinguished from liberalism and fundamentalist movements. Fundamentalism has similar theology to evangelicalism because both movements have a high view of Scripture.|
|Meaning of the name||The word “Pentecostal” comes from the word “Pentecost,” which describes the unique and powerful outpouring of the Holy Spirit upon the early church, as recorded in Acts 2.||The word “evangelical” comes from the Greek word euangelion meaning “gospel” or “good news.” The term describes a gospel-centered or cross-centered worldview.|
|Branch of Christianity||Pentecostalism 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.||Evangelical is also Protestant and traces its roots to the New Testament via the Protestant Reformation. (See Why Did Protestants Leave Catholicism?)|
|Early influencers||William J. Seymour (1870-1922), Agnes Ozman (1870-1937), Charles Parham (1873-1939)||English preacher Charles Spurgeon (1834-1892), American preacher Dwight L. Moody (1837-1899), and many others|
|Significant writing outside the Bible||Pentecostalism 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.||Evangelicalism values the same writing important to Protestantism in general, including the numerous works from a variety of denominations that emphasize a gospel-centered approach to evangelism, missions, biblical interpretation, and more.|
|Organization||Pentecostalism isn’t a denomination but a belief system that certain denominations hold.||Evangelicalism isn’t a denomination but a movement consisting of numerous denominations and even non-denominational churches. Evangelical churches can have congregational, presbyterian, or Episcopalian church government.|
|What are the largest denominations in the tradition today?||The largest Pentecostal denomination is the Assemblies of God. Pentecostal churches tend to be congregational in their church government.||Churches in any denomination can be called “evangelical” if they centralize the gospel and emphasize other characteristics of the movement, such as valuing conversions and applying their faith through social causes like caring for the poor, widows, and orphans. The Southern Baptist Convention is the largest conservative denomination in Protestantism today.|
|Divisions||The Assemblies of God has many similarities with other Pentecostal denominations, like the Church of God (Cleveland, Tennessee). Disagreements between Pentecostals often include the doctrine of perfectionism.||There is significant diversity within evangelical Christianity. Evangelical churches can have different theologies (though they are mostly Protestant), organizational models, and convictions on social issues.|
|Theological and Social worldview||Pentecostal denominations and churches tend to be conservative theologically and in relation to social issues.||Historically, evangelical churches are conservative theologically and socially; in recent years, some self-identifying evangelical churches have drifted from conservative theology and adopted modern social values on a variety of issues.|
Pentecostalism and Evangelicalism: Comparison
|Bible||Pentecostals believe God inspired the biblical authors. Many conservatives use the term “inerrancy” to describe the nature of the text.||Historically, all evangelical churches have a high view of Scripture, even if they don’t always use the terms “inerrancy” and “infallibility.”|
|God||Pentecostals are devout Trinitarians. They believe there is one God and that the Father, Son and Holy Spirit are each fully God.||Evangelicals are also committed Trinitarians.|
|Christ||Pentecostals 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.||Evangelicals also believe that Jesus is the second person of the Trinity; evangelical theologians often hold to “penal-substitutionary atonement.”|
|Salvation||Pentecostals are mostly Arminian, although there are some Calvinist or Reformed Christians who believe in the miraculous gifts of the Spirit.||Evangelical churches believe that salvation is by grace through faith in Christ alone. They can be Arminian, Calvinist, or something else.|
|Holy Spirit||Pentecostals are continuationists.*||Evangelicals have the same core beliefs as Protestants about the Holy Spirit; some evangelical churches practice speaking in tongues, and some don’t.|
|Ordinances||Baptism and the Lord’s Supper||Baptism and the Lord’s Supper|
|Lord’s Supper||Pentecostals 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.||Evangelical churches have a variety of views on the Lord’s Supper; for example, Lutherans believe in consubstantiation, Presbyterians believe in the real presence of Christ, and Baptists believe the bread and cup are memorials.|
|Baptism||Pentecostals practice “Believer’s Baptism” as opposed to infant baptism. Baptism isn’t required for salvation.||Evangelical churches may practice “Believer’s Baptism,” which means they only baptize adults or paedo-baptist (paedo = “child”), which means they baptize children.|
|The End Times||Pentecostalism 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.||Evangelical churches may be Premillennial, Amillennial, Post-millennial, or something else. All believe in the Second Coming of Christ.|
*What is the difference between continuationism and cessationism? Continuationists (from the word “continue”) believe all spiritual gifts are operational today.
Cessationists (from the word “cease”) believe that only some spiritual gifts are operational today because the purpose of the so-called “miraculous gifts” was to establish the church and accredit the Apostles, which has been done. Also, see Protestantism vs. Pentecostalism: What’s the Difference?
Also, see What Do Pentecostals Believe? to learn more.
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