Survey shows deep generational differences among Pentecostals

A survey released by The Barna Group shows distinct differences between generations of charismatic and Pentecostal-affiliated Christians.

According to the data, about 25 percent of self-identified Christians labeled themselves as Pentecostal or charismatic. This puts their numbers on par with the numbers of self-identified Catholics and individual mainline Protestant denominations such as Baptists, Methodists, Presbyterians, Lutherans, Episcopalians and non-denominational churches.

The most controversial of spiritual gifts associated with charismatic Christians is the ability to speak in tongues. Forty-three percent of the two youngest age groups surveyed believed speaking tongues is valid and a legitimate expression of faith. However, among those younger groups, only about 8 percent report having actually spoken in tongues.

Similar to counterparts in other denominations, young charismatics are less tied to doctrine than older members and a majority report difficulty over how to weave their faith into their daily lives.

Reflecting on the findings, David Kinnaman, president of the Barna Group, suggests that “the charismatic and Pentecostal community in the U.S. has reached a conflicting social status – its numbers have established the group as a significant social and spiritual force, yet generational changes and the diffusion of Pentecostalism across many denominations have made its beliefs, behaviors and identities much less focused. For millions of the youngest Christians, the charismatic, Pentecostal and Spirit-filled labels are not as divisive as they were to their parents’ generation.

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