25% of US evangelicals say they spoke in tongues, poll finds

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Worship
Parishioners of Lakewood Church led by Pastor Joel Osteen pray together during a church service in Houston, Texas. |

According to a new study, about a quarter of American evangelicals say they have spoken in tongues at some point in their lives, although a majority do not identify as Pentecostal or Charismatic Christians.

These and other findings were revealed in a study of more than 1,000 American evangelicals titled “The Renewalists: Pentecostal and Charismatic Evangelicals,” published last week by Infinity Concepts and Gray Matter Research.

While six in 10 respondents who say they have spoken in tongues do not identify themselves as Pentecostal or Charismatic, more than half (53%) of those who identify as Pentecostal or Charismatic do not attend a clearly Pentecostal church or denomination, such as the Assemblies of God or Foursquare, depending on the study.

For the purposes of the study, Mark Dreistadt, founder and president of Infinity Concepts, said it was essential to first define what he calls an “evangelical revival (Pentecostal or Charismatic)”.

“People who consider themselves Pentecostal or Charismatic, attend a Pentecostal or Charismatic church, or speak in tongues, traditionally have three main ways of defining revivals,” says Mark Dreistadt, founder and president of Infinity Concepts. “The challenge is that there is relatively little overlap between these three definitions.”

The study found that while 36% of American evangelical Protestants qualify as revivalists by at least one of these definitions, only 6% qualify for all three.

But it’s not a one-size-fits-all solution: Of those who attend a clearly Pentecostal church, 45 percent have never personally spoken in tongues, according to the study.

Revivals tend to be somewhat younger than other Evangelicals, more likely to raise children, more ethnically diverse, and more likely to live in less traditionally Christian areas of the country, such as the Northeast and west, according to the study.

They also tend to have a higher level of spiritual commitment than other evangelical groups: Revivals show higher levels of Bible reading, small group participation, and church attendance.

Although the study did not offer a definition of the naming of revivals, noting that “there is no real standard for what these beliefs and practices are or should be”, it outlined the central tenet of revival Christianity such as baptism or the empowerment of the Holy Spirit. .

According to the study, at least 13% of evangelicals attend a clearly Pentecostal or charismatic church or denomination, which includes Apostolics, Assemblies of God, Church of God in Christ, Foursquare Gospel and Vineyard, as well as people who identify their church as “Pentecostal, Charismatic, Word or Full Gospel.

But even then, the researchers recognized differences between these individual movements.

“A challenge in examining revival beliefs and practices is that there is no real standard for what these beliefs and practices are or should be,” the study said. “A person’s experience in a Foursquare church will likely be very different from their experience in a United Pentecostal church.”

Finally, the study found that revivalists are as likely as other evangelicals to give to church or charity, but the proportion of their household income that is donated tends to be lower.

On average, Renewalists give about 20% less than other evangelicals, while for charities and ministries outside of the church, it’s 28% less.

Despite these giving habits, the researchers said members of revivalist churches, while giving less, have higher expectations for their churches to focus on community outreach and social issues.

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