The modern Pentecostal movement is characterized by belief in the possibility of receiving the same experience and spiritual ‘gifts’ as did the first Christians ‘on the day of Pentecost’ (Acts 2: 1–4). Its adherents emphasize the corporate element in worship (often marked by great spontaneity) and lay stress on the practice of the gifts listed in 1 Cor. 12 and 14 and recorded in Acts (e.g. speaking in tongues or glossolalia, divine [spiritual] healing, and exorcism), and on possession of these gifts by all true believers. Most claim that the ‘power’ to exercise these gifts is given initially in an experience known as ‘baptism in the Holy Spirit’ (q.v.).
In the early 20th cent. experiences of ‘Spirit baptism’ were reported among various revivalist or Holiness groups in America; those occurring in Los Angeles in 1906 attracted attention. The largest Pentecostal body in the USA is the ‘Assemblies of God’, an affiliation of Churches formed in 1914. Pentecostalism in Britain is dated from a visit in 1907 by a Methodist minister who claimed to have received ‘Spirit baptism’; it was reinforced by immigrants from Jamaica who established the ‘New Testament Church of God’ in 1953. It also spread early to other W. European countries and is expanding in Latin America, Indonesia, and among the African Independent Churches. Since c.1960 the Pentecostal movement has come to be widely represented within the main Christian denominations, where it is sometimes called ‘Neo-Pentecostalism’ (see Charismatic Renewal Movement).