Thursday, April 08, 2010

Charismatic and Pentecostal Christianity

New survey results from Barna Research show that a quarter of American Christians identify themselves as charismatic or Pentecostal. Those fitting Pentecostal/charismatic criteria stated that they considered themselves to "have been filled with the Holy Spirit," and that God has given them at least one of the charismatic gifts, such as tongues, prophecy or healing. Overall, that group represents 21 percent of all American adults and 25 percent of those who describe themselves as Christian.

Baby Busters (ages 26 to 44) were the generation of self-identified Christians most likely to claim a charismatic or Pentecostal connection (29%), slightly higher than the 26 percent among the Mosaics (ages 18 to 25) and the 25 percent among the eldest of Americans (25% among those 64 and older). Surprisingly, the generation that introduced America to "Jesus freaks" and other marks of spiritual intensity — i.e., Baby Boomers (now 45 to 63) — is the generation currently least likely to identify as charismatic or Pentecostal (20%).

In terms of beliefs and attitudes, there are marked differences between the generations. The two youngest generations — the Mosaics (56%) and Busters (49%) — were more likely than were Boomers (44%) or Elders (30%) to believe that "the charismatic gifts, such as tongues and healing, are active and valid today." However, age was a less consistent indicator of people's awareness of spiritual gifts. Mosaic Christians were the most likely to be aware of such gifts, while Buster Christians were the least aware.

Regarding the best-known and most controversial of the charismatic gifts, the spiritual prayer language known as speaking in tongues, younger Christians were more likely to believe that tongues are "valid and active today." In total, 43 percent of Mosaics and Busters believe either that God provides every Christian with the ability to speak in tongues or that God gives the gift to some, but not to others. This compares to 37 percent among Boomers and Elders combined. However, among young believers, just seven percent of Mosaic Christians and nine percent of Buster Christians had ever spoken in tongues, compared to 13 percent of Boomer believers and nine percent of Elder Christians.

The generations also demonstrated contrasting perspectives about the Holy Spirit. Even though they have skepticism about the charismatic and Pentecostal expressions of Christianity, older believers stood out from younger Christians for their likelihood of saying that they "consistently allow their lives to be guided by the Holy Spirit." And, in spite of their openness to the charismatic and Pentecostal elements of the faith, 68 percent of Mosaic Christians said they believe that the third person of the trinity is just a "symbol of God's power or presence, but is not a living entity."

Click here to view the full report at Barna Research.

(from FotF's Pastor's Weekly Briefing)

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