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CHAPTER 1-section 5

Much has changed since the early days of Pentecostalism. The early movement was marked by the low educational level of its converts. It generally consisted of those who did not feel at home in main-line churches, partly because of class distinction found there.

One student of Pentecostalism wrote:

"The appeal of Pentecostalism is limited quite clearly to the naive and gullible mind which will accept things without investigation. The great majority of the followers of the healers are old people, shallow people—people cast aside by society and forgotten by the proud ‘established churches,’ to our eternal discredit."—Carroll Stegall, Jr., The Modern Tongues and Healing Movement.

Not only were all class barriers absent in the Pentecostal circles, but racial barriers were also almost nonexistent. Today the social and organizational structure of the early pioneer Pentecostal churches has changed. The semi-educated and unskilled are still welcome, but a new breed, the intellectuals, have taken control of its once loosely knit congregations. Their full gospel emphasis, however, has remained.

While there is little basic difference between the old-time Pentecostals and the charismatics, the latter prefer this new name. It distinguishes them from a movement which was once believed to consist of the ignorant and the emotionally unstable. As a rule, the charismatics try to involve themselves in the phenomenon of speaking in tongues and spiritual healing practices without entering into the other kinds of ecstatic behavior so characteristic of some of the Pentecostal churches. Another difference is in the social makeup of most of their groups. In marked contrast to their heritage builders, the charismatic groups appeal mainly to the educated, and this thrust, together with their rather sophisticated use of tongues, has gained them thousands of converts in the upper stratum of society. Today doctors, lawyers, educators, and businessmen find that they can combine their desire for a "new birth" with a tongues experience—without becoming the topic of ridicule from their friends and neighbors.

Mrs. Jeane Stone, board member of the Blessed Trinity Society, a group formed by Harold Bredesen, a Dutch Reformed minister and avid tongues enthusiast, says of these tongues:

"Their private use is more important than public, more oriented to clergy and professional classes, more Bible-centered as against experience, not separatist, more orderly meetings with strict adherence to Pauline directives, less emphasis on tongues."—As quoted by Frank Farrell, "Outburst of Tongues: The New Penetration," Christianity Today, September 13, 1963, p. 6.

The question as to whether the charismatic movement is strictly a spontaneous outlet for emotional ecstasy, leading to a sense of spiritual fulfillment, can be answered in the negative. There are undoubtedly those who feel themselves attracted to the movement and join on their own initiative, but the majority of converts are sought out through a conscientious missionary endeavor. Converts are won by individual church members, and also by organizations such as the Full Gospel Business Men’s Fellowship International, a California-based enterprise led by Demos Shakarian. A wealthy businessman, he formed his organization after having been encouraged in the idea by the spiritual activist, Oral Roberts. Members of the Shakarian family are no newcomer to the Pentecostal experience. They proudly point out that one of the first Pentecostal churches in North America was established in their California home in 1905 as a result of their interest in the Azusa Street Mission. However, their experience with the supernatural was evident long before this. The Shakarian Story, by Thomas Nickel, reveals that members of the family have been involved in direct revelations, visions, speaking in tongues, and miraculous healings for over 100 years, predating by many years their first arrival in America.

The chief purpose of the Full Gospel Business Men’s Fellowship International (FGBMFI) is to implant within the narrow boundaries of the traditional churches the manifestations of Pentecostalism. To accomplish this, the organization sponsors banquets, conventions, and breakfasts on a local, national, and international level. Being both astute businessmen and Full Gospel Pentecostalists, the Shakarians do not leave a stone unturned to attain their goal. Says Russel T. Hitt, "The most polished of public relations techniques have been enrolled to advance the movement. While there is certainly nothing wrong with using modern techniques, the neo-Pentecostalism cannot claim complete spontaneity."—Russel T. Hitt, "The New Pentecostalism, an Appraisal," Eternity, July, 1963, p. 16. (Italics supplied.)

An important instrument in this all-out effort is their monthly publication, VOICE, which enthusiastically publicizes such happenings as testimonies, "baptisms in the spirit," and other related topics. One of the most recent thrusts (Jan. 1973) of the FGBMFI concerns the Seventh-day Adventist Church. Regarding the church as spiritually impoverished because of its reluctance to join or endorse the charismatic movement, they have decided to "enrich" it with the "gift of tongues" by mailing a copy of their monthly VOICE to those Adventists that have been placed on their mailing list, hoping to repeat the impact a similar effort had on another major denomination in the United States.

Read Chapter 2 — Tongues in History

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