Pentecostalism is one of the fastest-growing movements, not just in the Protestant tradition, but in the history of Christianity. The movement started over 100 years ago in America but has quickly circled the globe. Though many people have had a good experience with Pentecostalism, not everyone has.
An Ex-Pentecostal is someone who used to be a Pentecostal but has left the tradition. Former Pentecostals may still be professing Christians who are committed to a new denomination or church, or they may have left Christianity altogether. There are different reasons why people leave Pentecostalism.
Why do some Pentecostals leave their churches to attend non-Pentecostal churches? Why do some Pentecostals leave Christianity altogether? Keep reading to learn the answers to these questions and others.
Some ex-Pentecostals leave to attend other churches
The term “Pentecostalism,” in general use, doesn’t describe a denomination per se, but a belief system that certain denominations hold. The largest Pentecostal denominations — i.e., those that embrace Pentecostal theology — are the Assemblies of God and the Church of God (Cleveland, Tennessee). Some individual churches may include the word Pentecostal in their title to inform people of what they believe.
Also, some Christians who embrace Pentecostal theology may attend churches that are non-denominational or that being to a denomination that permits, but doesn’t embrace, Pentecostal theology.
Why do people leave Pentecostal churches? People leave Pentecostal churches for a variety of reasons, some of which are related to the tradition’s doctrines and practices (see more directly below). However, some people leave Pentecostal churches for reasons unrelated to the tradition’s doctrine and practices (see last section below).
Is Pentecostalism Christian? Yes. Pentecostals affirm and defend the core doctrines of the Christian faith, such as the Trinity, the inspiration of Scripture, original sin, the atonement and resurrection of Jesus Christ, and the Second Coming. They are generally conservative in their theological and social views. Their unique doctrine and practical emphasis regard baptism in the Holy Spirit and speaking in tongues.
What do Pentecostals believe about baptism in the Holy Spirit? Most non-Pentecostal Christians believe that baptism in the Holy Spirit occurs at conversion. Pentecostals believe it occurs subsequent to conversion, i.e., after a person has repented of sin and decided to follow Christ. When exactly baptism of the Holy Spirit occurs is different for each person, although Pentecostals theologians and pastors believe that everyone should seek it and anticipate it.
What do Pentecostals believe about speaking in tongues? Pentecostalism argues that speaking in tongues is the initial evidence of baptism in the Holy Spirit. Therefore, after a person converts to Christ, they should seek and anticipate speaking in tongues for the purpose of increasing their devotion to God, overcoming sin in their life, and being empowered for service and ministry.
Why do people leave Pentecostalism because of its doctrine and practice? Baptism in the Holy Spirit and speaking in tongues are the tradition’s unique emphases, but as such, they can be a source of division and controversy. Some people leave because they feel pressured to have experiences that are outside of their control. Others leave because they don’t think a denomination or church stresses its unique doctrines and practices enough.
Do Christians leave Pentecostal churches for other reasons?
People sometimes leave Pentecostal churches for reasons that have nothing to do with the tradition’s doctrines and practices.
People may leave a Pentecostal church for the same reason a person would leave any church. Some people get their feelings hurt. Some people dislike change with regard to leadership, musical style, or service time. And some people stop going to church altogether.
Where do ex-Pentecostals go? Those who leave may go to a variety of other churches, including Baptist, Methodist, Presbyterian, Lutheran, or Episcopalian. Some may also attend non-denominational churches. Those who experience significant change in their theological beliefs may attend a Roman Catholic or Eastern Orthodox church.
Are departures from Pentecostal churches higher than non-Pentecostal churches? No. In fact, statistically, people leave the Assemblies of God denomination less than others leave so-called “mainline” churches, like Methodist, Lutheran, Presbyterian, and Episcopalian.
Did David Wilkerson, Hillsong Church, and Bethel Church leave Pentecostalism? Sometimes people cite these examples as people who have left Pentecostalism, but that isn’t true. Wilkerson, Hillsong, and Bethel left the Assemblies of God denomination, but they each still embraced Pentecostal theology when they departed. For more, see,
Some ex-Pentecostals leave Christianity altogether
The reason some people leave Pentecostal churches isn’t because of Pentecostalism, but because of Christianity in general. Some who leave don’t end up going to church anywhere because their faith has eroded. Reasons people leave the Christian faith are numerous, but here are a few common examples.
- They changed their mind about God: Some argue that any change of faith is foremost about an individual’s relationship with God. The person may cite other reasons (see below), but fundamentally their departure is due to anger, confusion, or something similar, about God.
- They changed their mind about church: No church is perfect, and sometimes when people encounter its flaws for the first time, it’s difficult for them to reconcile with what they read in the Bible about loving other people. Some people develop the opinion that they don’t need church to grow in their faith, even though the Bible teaches otherwise (Heb. 10:25).
- They changed their mind about a social issue: The majority opinion on certain social issues often changes over time. Some Pentecostals, like people in any other Christian church, grow to share society’s opinion as opposed to the Bible’s teaching. For some, this is reason enough to leave Christianity altogether.
- They get hurt: Sometimes people leave Christianity completely because other people hurt them. To these people, it feels safer not to attend any church than to attend a different one and make themselves vulnerable to more hurt.
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