March 17, 2015 · updated February 15, 2022

Neo-Pentecostalism is a movement that has crossed denominational boundaries and can be found in Protestantism and Roman Catholicism alike. The movement is characterized by the manifestations in non-Pentecostal churches of what have been traditionally categorized as Pentecostal experiences.

Pentecostalism began in the American Midwest in the early 1900s, namely Kansas. It spread west and triggered a movement called the Azusa Street Revival in Los Angeles, California in 1906, which lasted three years and served as a launching pad to the Pentecostal movement in the United States.

With a strong and established presence in the Midwest and Southern California, the Pentecostal movement eventually spread to all corners of the United States. In the next decade, several Pentecostal churches were founded and even a few Pentecostal denominations were formed before 1920.

History of Neo-Pentecostalism

For the next several decades if a person had an spiritual experience characterized by Pentecostal manifestations, they would most often eventually leave their church and join one that taught, supported, and encouraged people to seek Pentecostal experiences. (Note: Some people chose to keep their experiences private so they would have to leave their church and join others.)

Pentecostal churches and denominations grew during these decades. Some of the growth can be attributed to “new growth”; that is, people who formerly weren’t Christians and didn’t go to church. Yet a lot of the numbers can be attributed to “transfer growth”; that is, people who were already Christians and attending elsewhere who chose to leave and join a Pentecostal church.

Pentecostalism in the 1960s

A change occurred in the 1960s. The trend became that when a person had Pentecostal experiences, instead of leaving their church to join another (or keeping their experiences private), they stayed in their church and sought to duplicate their experiences in the lives of their fellow churchgoers.

So the definition of “Neo-Pentecostalism” is the trend that saw a significant number of people who had Pentecostal experiences choose to stay in their churches, which were often mainline denominations such as Methodist churches, Baptist churches, Nazarene churches, and Reformed churches, instead of joining traditionally Pentecostal fellowships.

Neo-Pentecostalism in Catholic churches existed in significant numbers as well.

This trend became known by a new label - The Charismatic Movement - although distinctions could still be made between the as early on. For example, adherents to the Charismatic Movement were generally more liberal on issues like dancing and alcohol than traditional Pentecostals. Today these distinctions aren't as prominent.