Is Pentecostalism a Denomination?

Religions, Cults & Worldviews: Valuable Answers for Valid Questions.

Is Pentecostalism A Denomination? Is It The Oldest Denomination?

Todd asks if Pentecostalism is the oldest “religion” (denomination) within Christianity. I explain in detail what the difference is between a religion, sect, and denomination, tell him what the oldest denomination actually is and then where Pentecostalism fits in the Christian family tree of denominations.

Todd emailed with the following question:
I am in an interesting dialogue with a gentlemen claiming Penecostal is the oldest of all Christian religions. He claims it began the day of Pentecost.
I am read many different accounts but cannot find a definitive answer. It is not so much proving right or wrong buy in having the wisdom to speak intelligently
Do you have an answer with, back up?

Hello Todd

Thank you for your email. I will try to give a quick 2-bit answer for your very good question.

First of all, to define our terms, Christianity is a religion but all the orthodox iterations within would be called denominations. This term did not come into wide use until about the 18-19th centuries when denominationalism within Christianity reached its zenith.

Prior to the German reformation of 1515, we had what might have been defined as either movements: as in the Waldensian movement c. 1182, The Hussite movement c. 1430 or schisms as we had with the Great Schism of 1054 whereby the Eastern Orthodox church and the Roman Catholic church split into to “sects” of sorts, each referring to the other as “schismatic” and “departed from the true Christian faith”. The earliest schisms date back to the 3rd and 4th centuries regarding a difference in Christology (study of the person of Christ). Some were called Monophysites (Christ is one person – combined God and man) and the others were called Nestorians who followed Nestorius’ teachings regarding the person of Christ. Variants of these groups still exist today in Egypt and Iraq despite thousands of years of persecutions by Jewish, and Muslim religions.

All groups above: movements, sects, schisms, etc of the Christian religion are now lumped under the term “denominations” today. So technically, the “oldest denomination” would probably have to be the coptic Christian or Coptic Orthodox Christian church in Egypt, dating back to the 4th century.

Now, on to your question – where are the pentecostals? Pentecostalism is not a denomination per se but rather a vein or stream of theological belief knows as “pneumatology” whereby different groups hold to different beliefs regarding the person and work of the Holy Spirit (the third person of the Trinity). One group holds to the belief of “non-cessation” of the spiritual gifts mentioned in 1 Corinthians 12 i.e. the spiritual gifts are available to all those who have put their trust in Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of their sins – that is, “true believers”.

This group is the emergence from a line that began with the Catholic mystics of the 15th and 16th centuries which then gave rise to the Quakers and Shakers of the 17th century who then gave rise to the Pietists of the 18th century who then gave rise to Methodism of the 18th-19th century which then gave rise to the Holiness Movement of the 19th century which then birthed Pentecostalism in the early 20th century.

Because Pentecostals are believers in the continuation or “perpetuity” of the spiritual gifts we might have several denominations that are “pentecostal” in belief but are different denominations from each other. Some examples are: Assemblies of God, Foursquare International, Church of God, Church of God in Christ, Church of the Nazarene, Vineyard, Potter’s House, Calvary Chapel etc.

So, if you look back at my chart, you will see pentecostalism represented but not under the pneumatological name “pentecostal” as you’ve referred to it. My chart is the result of original research beginning in 2004 revised up through 2014. I’ve had about 3 versions of the chart that is there on my site now. All three versions are still floating around online at various sites.

Hope this clears things up

All the best


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