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Minding Your ‘P’s and ‘C’s: The Definitions of Pentecostal and Charismatic

June 3rd, 2015 | 20 Comments | Posted in Miscellaneous

doveIn our books on the New Apostolic Reformation (NAR), my co-author and I took pains to show how this controversial movement of present-day apostles and prophets deviates from classical Pentecostal and charismatic teachings. Yet in talking with people, I’ve realized that many also don’t know the difference between a Pentecostal and a charismatic. Even some who identify as Pentecostal or charismatic may have difficulty explaining the differences if pressed.

I thought it may be helpful to provide some definitions.

Defining Terms

Pentecostal: (denominational; strong emphasis on the doctrine of the “baptism in the Holy Spirit” as witnessed by speaking in tongues). “Pentecostal” Christians, as defined by the World Christian Database, are church members affiliated with a classical Pentecostal denomination, such as the Assemblies of God or the Foursquare Church. Pentecostal denominations teach that “baptism in the Holy Spirit” is a separate experience that follows salvation and “is witnessed by the initial physical sign of speaking with other tongues.

Charismatic: (there is no charismatic denomination and no formal list of beliefs that all charismatics adhere to).”Charismatic” Christians emphasize the miraculous gifts of the Holy Spirit listed in 1 Corinthians 12, such as speaking in tongues, prophesying, and the working of miracles–though they do not necessarily believe that speaking in tongues will always be the initial physical sign of the “baptism in the Holy Spirit.” Charismatics can be found within mainline, non-Pentecostal denominations, which do not generally emphasize the miraculous gifts (such as Methodist, Lutheran, or Baptist churches). They can also be found in independent charismatic churches (i.e., churches that do not hold formal membership in any denomination). Some researchers have opted to use an uppercase “C” (as in Charismatics) when referring specifically to those found in mainline, non-Pentecostal denominations, and to use the term “neo-charismatic” when referring to those found in independent charismatic churches.

Notice that some researchers use the term “Pentecostalism” as an umbrella term encompassing all those who identify as Pentecostal, charismatic, or NAR. But I find the above definitions to be helpful, particularly when explaining what sets the NAR apart from these other groups.

Do you identify with any of these labels?

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20 Responses to “Minding Your ‘P’s and ‘C’s: The Definitions of Pentecostal and Charismatic”

  1. kadri liisa Says:

    Thanx Holly for posting it. Your book helped me to understand better differences between nar and pentecostalism as at that time i was wondering also what geberally pentecostalism beliefs are when i was bit related with church here in tallinn called Christ Embassy church which is said to be extreme wof or african pentecostal church.
    I personally are known always that i started as  charismatic or – even neocharismatic- as i started my spiritual journey when ingot born again in independant full gospel free church which promoted baptism with holy spirit with evitence of speaking in tongues and miracles and kenneth hagin and kenneth copeland and other wof teachings and was on the way to join with weird malasyan apostolic network ISAAC founded by Apostle Johathan David. I heard some years ago that they got out from there. But already at that time in that church was hiddenly in teaching we are only right, other who do not believe like this is not right. At least i got ages to get rid of this understanding when i was forced to leave from there in 2007 because of my theological studies in seminary and rebellion towards pastor personal advices to me.

  2. D. Says:

    So the biggest substantial difference is the denominational affiliation of Pentecostals *as* Pentecostals, whereas Charismatics might be found almost anywhere…but as far as their views on sign gifts, they’re more or less the same?

  3. John Says:

    Based on this I guess I’d identify as charismatic.

    Personally I tend to dislike labels simply because they have a nasty habit of lumping people into groups based on some similarities and then assuming that those groups share all attributes rather than just some.

    I’d identify as charismatic, as would the way-out groups who seem to think that if your hands aren’t in the air within the first few bars of music you might want to check your salvation. But I probably share very few attributes with those churches, other than accepting the “charismatic” label.

    I imagine followers of people like Bill Johnson would also consider themselves “charismatic” but I don’t see a whole lot in common there either.

  4. Arnold Smith Says:


    I have a progression in my walk with the Lord. From Catholic in my upbringing, then truly receiving Jesus in a baptist church, then moving on to pentecostal and then charismatic churches. Individuals can’t be labeled because labels require a strict definition. I don’t even like calling myself Christian anymore because of the all too numerous false Christians, and they outnumber the true ones. (At least where I live) When the bible is clear about homosexuality being sin and a so called Christian church accepts homosexual ministers and even marriage, then it is not Christian. But the term is still used of those churches and those churches may have once been true Christian churches. So my point is labels are general and our judgment of individuals who may go by those labels needs to be taken carefully. Even though I was in all those churches mentioned above I never fully agreed on all their doctrines and agreed with some. Personally, I have moved on to house church. I’m tired of denominational churches and their institutions. Jesus did not make the church an institution, he made it his body and we are all of one another reguardless of our denominational label; if we truly are born of his spirit.


  5. Woody Says:

    Ive been to a Charismatic and to a pentecostal church, I thought it was all basically the same. Pentecostals always told me the Charismatic are bad, the Charismatics always told me the Pentecostals are bad….same thing….I’m a follower in Christ. 🙂

  6. Shane Says:

    i know some Pentecostals believe that speaking in tongues is the sign of receiving The Holy Spirit. But (if I can start a sentence with but) isn’t it the United Penticostals (UPC) who are dogmatic about this? The United Penticostal Church says they are the true church and all (including Penticostals who are different than UPC) are in error and going to hell who don’t teach the teachings of the UPC.

  7. kadri liisa Says:

    UPCI have doctrine that those who are not repented, baptised into Jesus name and do not speak in tongues are not born again. They deny teaching of trinity and only Jesus teaching. Yes they believe that they are only true church who are following traditions found in the book of Acts. It is very big church with many missioners around the world and some of them are good ppl too. 
    Here in my country my friend got converted into it and then started to convert me….first i visited their youth mtgs and asked what is their church name in english- english is not my mother language- and then i googled about it. 
    They are called in other name oneness pentecostalism or “Jesus-only”.
    One weird things are in their churches too that female have to follow holiness stuff like not cut their hair and carry lomg skirt.
    In the web at carm.org are teached how to discuss with upci ppl theologically.

  8. Arnold Smith Says:

    In response to Shane: I don’t know much about United Petecostals but I’ve been in Fourquare and Assembly of God Pentecostal churches and they both believe that speaking in tongues is the sign of receiving the Holy Spirit. I disagree with them but that is what they teach. I also have heard many Church of God people say the same. Now there are many Church of God’s, I am talking about the one that has it’s headquarters in Cleveland, TN.

    God’s Spirit isn’t given so we can speak in tongues but so that we can be powerful witnesses. If we speak in tongues we should do it privately unless someone can interpret. BUT (starting a sentence with but) all those Pentecostals speak in tongues without interpretation all the time.

  9. Marlene Says:

    Hi Holly.  This is my first time writing to you, but not my first time reading on your site.  I have a granddaughter with the same name (adorable, too, if I may say).

    I would like to add my “two cents” here, if possible.

    I am a born again Pentecostal, being one for 43 years now.  Yes, there is a difference between being a Pentecostal and a Charismatic, at least from when I received Christ into my life and also received the baptism of the Holy Ghost as well. 

    Here is how it was explained to us way back then:  A Pentecostal is one that takes their teachings directly from the Bible, specifically from the Book of Acts AND I Cor. 12 (the “gifts” chapter).  We are 100% Full Gospel, “straight and narrow,” in our ways, our behavior, our lifestyle, etc. and we endeavor to live the way God intended us to, as defined in the entire Bible.  We believe that the Holy Ghost speaks in tongues through us IF we allow Him to.

    Sometime after the “Jesus Freak revival”, of which was the time that I was saved, there came the Charismatic baptism, experienced by other denominations: Catholics, Methodists, Presbyterians, etc.  however the big difference is that they did not adhere to the same lifestyles, behaviors, etc. nor did they leave their churches (“Come ye out from among them and be ye separate,”) to bond with the Pentecostals, so in effect they created their own “organization” so to speak…they were their own and we were our own.  They went one way and we went the other.  They allowed things in their lives that we didn’t\don’t and so it is even until today.  They are more liberal than we are\were and over time they have allowed a lot more into church than we did. Now, it seems that both beliefs do, which tells me that the end times are getting closer.

    As far as the UPC is concerned, unfortunately our son is involved with them.  If you Google that title, you will find that it is a heresy…a cult and should be avoided at all costs.  I cannot get into everything that they practice or promote, but suffice it to say, they are NOT anywhere near the truth; I will tell you they deny Jesus’ eternality, His Deity, and they are well known for their “Oneness” doctrine, meaning they only believe that God is ONE…not Three Persons in One, but One as in a single, solitary Being.  He is some sort of actor who is on a stage, wearing different masks, depending on which character He is portraying…a very nasty spirit from hell–quite honestly–that promotes this damnable heresy that has been around since the third century.  Also Google “Sabellius and Noetus or even Patripatassianism (not sure of spelling).  All these terms are from them.

    I hope this answers the difference.  It’s not easy to break down the definitions.

    Thank you for your time…

  10. Austin Hellier Says:

    Hi Holly – I hope it’s not too late to buy into this one.

    I was brought up Catholic and at age 18 got born again in a Uniting Church youth group. The minister at that time supported what he called “neo Pentecostals” (actually charismatics as it turned out to be later on) but the older people in the church did not like the emphasis on youth or the gifts of the Holy Spirit. They were very stayed in their traditional setting.

    I was there for some 18 months, but eventually moved on to join a house church in the inner city of Newcastle, where I was to stay for the next six years. This small ‘church’ of some 25 people were more Pentecostal than anything, but some of them had come out of a very staid Anglican (Episcopalian) background, but had not found Christ there – it was a dead church, apparently. The main emphasis was evangelism interspersed with regular fellowship several nights a week.

    There were many ‘Catholic charismatics’ in that city, and many other charismatics spread amongst the mainline churches, who used to gather several times throughout the year for conferences, or for a monthly fellowship style meeting called Unity Fellowship – and yes, there were many who raised their hands and spoke in tongues, etcetera.

    I’m not wanting to throw any spanners in the works of other people’s theology, but I would point out this one scripture, which most of us seem to miss:

    “And I fell at his feet to worship him. And he said unto me, See thou do it not: I am thy fellow servant, and of thy brethren that have the testimony of Jesus: worship God: for the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy.” Rev 19:10

    The apostle John, during his vision of the Revelation had met with a heavenly messenger and had started to worship him, but the messenger stated that he was “thy fellow servant, and of thy brethren”. So this person was a saved human being who had made it to heaven, or so it would seem. People often make the mistake of worshiping a man and not the God whom the man claims to represent and this is typical of many “holy roller” fellowships. They are very immature.

    My point is that, as stated in the verse “the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy…” we all hear from time to time, some really whacked out “prophecy” from God’s latest gift to humanity (brother so and so or sister such and such) and it is all mostly rubbish, based on self promotion. There’s no scripture backing it, no credible ministries endorsing it and certainly no Jesus centred statement or acknowledgement shown by it – so it cannot be “the testimony of Jesus” and is therefore not of the spirit of prophecy – the Holy Spirit.

    Regardless of whether people identify as charismatic, or Pentecostal or just mainline church folks who allow for spiritual gifts, if their “giftings” do not lead back to Jesus and glorify him as the most central figure in human history, the Savior of the world, then their ‘gifts’ cannot come from the Holy Spirit. It is as simple as that.

    If they,like John, start to bow down and worship a man as if he/she were a heavenly messenger, then Jesus is demoted and man is promoted and that is clearly not of God. Hope this all helps… 

    Austin Hellier
    Pentecostal believer for 35 years

  11. Bill Fawcett Says:

    Marlene offers a usable definition.  Notably, Pentecostals are the branch that takes the bible seriously. How we live matters- not to earn salvation but to demonstrate our salvation.  Prophecy is not typically directive or predictive (manipulative), but often exhorts us to live holy lives. The bible is that authoritative word of God – God breathed – and the canon is closed. At least for the AG (assemblies of God) there is no present day office of Apostle or Prophet.
    I was Charismatic for 25 years or so, and never really content. As the Charsimatic church morphed into the hyper-charismatic (NAR), and most have, I really was not happy. We left 12 years ago. When I discovered an old school AG church, I knew I had found a home – a church with bible based beliefs that I had held since a teenager.
    Please note that within the churches termed Pentecostal (AG, for example) there are individual churches that are more charismatic in nature – embracing Toronto, IHOP, and Bethel. 
    For a more academic take on the distinctions, Margaret Poloma had addressed the subject in one of her books, the name of which presently escapes me.

  12. Leonard Says:

    Hope you don’t mind my tossing in my two cents, I met the Saviour forty years ago. He gave me His precious Holy Spirit shortly afterwards. I will speak and pray in tongues till we meet in the air. I’ve called myself Pentecostal always, but there will be no denominations in heaven,only the redeemed. Sounds simple? It is.

  13. Austin Hellier Says:

    For the record, I don’t believe that ‘tongues’ is a sign of salvation as such. I spent a lot of time 12 years ago with UPCI people down in NSW, and came to know some of them rather well. I found that while many were legalistic in their lifestyles (same thing – women didn’t cut their hair, wore long skirts and were basically 2nd class citizens…) there were definitely ones there who were genuine in their faith and life. Those ones were genuinely seeking God and the things of God.

    I strongly disagree with their takes on the Trinity, legalistic Christianity and ‘working for God’, which seems to be their focus – brownie points are scored by those who perform more works than others…

    This is controversial in some circles, but for what it’s worth:

    In John 20:22:

    “And when he had said this, he breathed on them, and saith unto them, Receive ye the Holy Ghost…”

    This is where Jesus appeared in the upper room to the disciples gathered there. It is not a made up story, it happened. Then in Acts 2:4 we see the disciples gathered again (120 of them) but this time, the Holy Spirit “falls” on them and they begin to speak in other tongues, and are understood by the Gentiles outside in the street, each one hearing the wonders of God in their own native tongue. These two references are not about the same event, as some have supposed. So it is possible to ‘receive the Holy Spirit’ in terms of salvation, quite apart from the “Pentecost” experience.

    While the Acts 2:4 event appears to be unique in all of church history, many groups have laid claim that this has been repeated down through the centuries, although I as an individual am yet to be satisfied from witness accounts that it is true. Your average (non NAR) Pentecostal Christian would not make such claims. Tongues as such, are for public use and also private use, and also during worship time, as a form of praise to God. Disorderly use of this and other gifts is not allowed by scripture, and was never condoned by old timer Pentecostal ministers or congregants.

    Although the majority of ‘Pentecost’ has been subsumed into the NAR and other forms of extremism, their manifestations are 99% unbiblical, but the crowd tends to follow where the ‘action’ is nowadays, and that is wrong. The Biblical injunction, as per Mark 16, is that the word is preached, and signs follow “those who believe” – those who follow the word of God, in balance.

    What we have today is a whole bunch of people, on a global scale, who wear the Pentecostal name tag, but deny its very stable and time honoured essence by their actions – and actions always speak louder than words.

    Whether a person exercises their gifts publicly or not, all should be done to edify the church and to bring glory to God and not man. Antics by these NAR churches are anything but glorifying to God in the majority of cases. and these things I’ve shared with you, are to try and highlight the distinctives.

    In short – Pentecostals who follow their time honoured ways, do not engage in extremism or heterodox doctrines. “Charismatics” on the other hand, who seem to have no stable platform of doctrine or practice, tend towards extremism, due to their not being anchored in a steady, stable study of God’s word, held in balance against other significant topics apart from ‘gifts’ and/or ‘manifestations’ some of which cannot be found by way of example from Genesis to Revelation.

  14. Marlene Says:

    I think that mostly all of us here seem to know pretty much what the differences are,  however two important things I wanted to point out that Bro. Bill Fawcett mentions: 

    “As the Charismatic church morphed into the hyper-charismatic (NAR), and most have…”
    “…that are more charismatic in nature–embracing Toronto, IHOP, and Bethel.”

    Just to clarify something here–I may gain enemies by writing this–but these particular “churches” are NOT Charismatic or Pentecostal in any sense of either word. They are a disgrace to all of us and especially to Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.  They have done more damage to the true Church than almost anything else.  Their goal is to take souls away from salvation, not lead people to it.  They do not sing hymns, they do not read the Bible, they do not even dress appropriately for going to church.  Everything they do is “casual”, which means they have no respect for God or the things of God. 

    ALL of these aforementioned “churches” are counterfeits; they are false, fake, demonic, anti-God and blasphemous in everything they do and say.  They are not “churches” at all.  They call themselves “emerging,” meaning that the Gospel of Jesus Christ is no longer relevant to the present world and they have a better way of dealing with society; they boldly state that they do NOT need the Bible or Him anymore; they can do it better their way.  They preach a humanistic “gospel” and have poisoned millions of people’s minds.  One of their most famous people is Rick Warren, who is very heavily promoting the New World Order and the One World Religion.

    Two books to read about  these so-called “preachers” are: “Faith Undone” by Roger Oakland and “The New Evangelicalism” by Paul Smith. 

    You can also watch a You Tube of them produced by a young man named Elliott Nesch (his parents had a sense of humor with his name).  If you type in his name, you are sure to come up with his video.  It is excellent in its content about all the NAR, Rick Warren, Doug Pagitt, Leonard Sweet, Mark Driscoll, Brian McLaren, Mike Bickle, Todd Bentley, Rodney Howard Browne, and so on.

    The Bible tells us that we are sheep in the midst of wolves: we are to be wise as serpents, and harmless as doves (Mat. 10:16).  Be careful who you follow.

  15. arnold smith Says:


    I would agree with everything you’ve said except the dressing casually part. Dressing modestly is important but if someone wants to dress casually (wearing jeans for example) there is nothing wrong with that. The admonitions in the bible about dress were to be modest and to make sure men didn’t look like women and vice versa.


  16. Marlene Rafferty Says:

    Well, now that I think everyone on this board has a fairly good idea of the difference between a person that is Charismatic and a person that is Pentecostal and in addition, a person that is involved in the heretic cult named the UPCI, or “Jesus Only\Oneness Pentecostal,” we should be aware of what Bible study group we attend, and what church we attend.

    The problem today that we all face is that these are scary times indeed–there is an incredible amount of deception out there.  The false teachers-preachers-“prophets” mix some of the Scriptures with their own brand of the “Bible” and what you get is half-truths mixed with lies. 

    Our Savior said that a little leaven leaventh the whole lump–Add a little yeast to the flour mixture when you’re making bread dough, and in a short while it will rise, changing the entire mixture to something different than what you started out with. 

    I have sat at my computer watching these so-called “preachers” on YouTube, shocked that they have the nerve to say what they say and have absolutely no conviction about it at all. 

    Rob Bell is one of them.  He once filmed in a downtown area and coincidentally there was a street preacher with a megaphone, preaching the Gospel.  He looked into the camera following him and said to this effect, “Mr. megaphone man, we really don’t appreciate your preaching with that.  It’s very offensive and it’s also very loud.  No one wants to hear what you have to say,” or words similar to that. 

    I have also seen, on the same video, others proclaim their anti-God beliefs.  Imagine how many millions of people (mainly young adults) not only listen to these men, but believe what they say.  While it angers me that they are leading them directly to hell fire, I feel sad for them, too, because they are deceived and we should pray for them, even though it goes against everything inside us to do so.

    We must be in the end times.  The deception is strong.  The best defense against deception is staying in God’s Word.

  17. austin hellier Says:

    @ Marlene – The UPCI ‘church’ (which many view as a Bible based cult) had its beginnings in 1914. Certain leaders within the then newly formed AOG had a meeting with the fledgling eldership, and tried to persuade them that their Monarchian doctrine was right and that Trinitarian doctrine was wrong. Their false teaching (known today as “Oneness” or “Jesus Only”) was rejected and since that time, UPCI has developed into its own world wide organisation.

    “Bishop” TD Jakes has recently been accepted as a credible speaker and pastor, who does the rounds of international conferences and leader’s meetings, even though he holds dearly to his many UPCI heresies. Even Hillsong here in Australia has welcomed him to their platform as a speaker, which goes to show their spiritual ineptitude, flying in the face of Jakes’ track record.

    No self respecting Pentecostal from yesteryear would embrace Jakes or his heretical doctrines, but the NAR set and the Hyperfaith set (Copeland, Dollar et al) have also welcomed Jakes to their side of the divide, and now he has a truly global entry point in which he can promote the UPCI teaching and legalism, once he has become accepted.

    Yes Marlene, we do need to pray for these people. The testimony of the Reformers, was that the love of God was enough to bring sinners to repentance, and to also bring heretics to see the error of their ways, without any lengthy doctrinal arguments…

    Austin Hellier

  18. jeanne hale Says:

    Dear Holly,
          Should I throw away the personal prophesies that I received at  an NAR church. They did not know me personally.
                          God bless you for what you are doing,

  19. Holly Says:

    Jeanne, can you tell me what exactly you mean by “personal prophecies”? What type of content did they contain?

  20. Jeanne Says:

    Dear Holly,
         You were picked out of the crowd  by a person on the team. They were words of what you had been through,what you would do for God in the future,always positive and hopeful. Seemed to be pretty accurate, but now I’m not sure. The church is under Bill Harmon. God bless you for your website!  I had no one else I knew to ask, and It is really upsetting to me. I didn’t see this until today, It is an answer to prayer.

                                                Much blessing!

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