A photo capturing a diverse group of people in prayer, hands raised in fervent worship, symbolizing the vibrant energy and spiritual fervor often associated with charismatic churches.

What Does The Bible Say About Charismatic Churches?

Pentecostal and charismatic churches have been growing rapidly in recent decades, raising questions about what the Bible says regarding practices like speaking in tongues, faith healing, and lively worship services.

This comprehensive article will examine key Bible passages to understand the biblical basis for charismatic expression in Christian worship and ministry.

If you’re short on time, here’s the quick answer: While the Bible does not explicitly endorse or condemn charismatic practices, passages in Acts, 1 Corinthians, and elsewhere describe occurrences of speaking in tongues, prophecy, healing, and exuberant praise in the early church.

Most charismatics see these as biblical precedents for similar expressions of the Spirit’s work today.

What Are Charismatic Churches?

Charismatic churches are Christian congregations that emphasize the work of the Holy Spirit. There is a focus on having a personal encounter with God through the Spirit that leads to spiritual gifts like speaking in tongues, prophecy, healing, and miracles.

Charismatic practices cut across denominational lines and can be found in Catholic, Protestant and independent churches.

Emphasis on the Holy Spirit

Charismatics believe that all Christians should seek the baptism of the Holy Spirit. This is an experience distinct from water baptism where the Spirit fills the believer with power from above. There is an expectation of supernatural signs and spiritual gifts as a norm for Christian living, not just a historical biblical account.

Common charismatic worship practices include raising hands in praise, spontaneous prayer, dancing, visions, laying on of hands, and bold proclamation of the word.

Diverse Denominations and Practices

The charismatic movement has influenced many denominations. Some examples include:

  • Catholic Charismatic Renewal – Emphasizes baptism in the Spirit, using spiritual gifts, and powerful worship within the Catholic church.
  • Charismatic Episcopal Church – Anglican churches with a charismatic expression, blending liturgical worship and sacramental theology with Pentecostal spirituality.
  • Vineyard Churches – An association of over 500 theologically conservative evangelical charismatic churches worldwide.
  • The Potter’s House – A non-denominational American mega-church founded by Bishop T.D Jakes, that blends charismatic belief with electronic media technology.

While beliefs about Spirit baptism and spiritual gifts are shared, charismatic worship styles can vary widely from structured liturgical services to informal exuberant praise. Practices range from large lively congregations to small groups emphasizing community.

There is unity amidst diversity under the banner of embracing the Spirit’s dynamic work.

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Speaking in Tongues

Glossolalia in Acts

The book of Acts records several occurrences of speaking in tongues, starting with the outpouring of the Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost. The apostles spoke in tongues that day and drew attention from many who were visiting Jerusalem (Acts 2:1-13).

Later, the Holy Spirit fell upon Cornelius and his household, causing them to speak in tongues as well (Acts 10:44-46). In Acts 19, a group of John the Baptist’s disciples received the Holy Spirit and spoke in tongues when the apostle Paul laid his hands on them.

These passages showcase speaking in tongues as an evidence of the Holy Spirit’s work.

Guidelines in 1 Corinthians

The apostle Paul provided important guidelines in 1 Corinthians 14 about the gift of tongues and its use in the church. He encouraged believers to eagerly desire spiritual gifts, especially prophecy, which strengthens the church (1 Corinthians 14:1).

Although Paul spoke in tongues more than others, he valued intelligible speech in church gatherings unless someone could interpret the tongues (1 Corinthians 14:18-19). He instructed that only two or three should speak in tongues during a service, one at a time.

And they should remain silent if no interpreter was present (1 Corinthians 14:27-28). Paul wanted everything to be done in a fitting and orderly way (1 Corinthians 14:40).

Cessation vs. Continuation

Some Christians point to 1 Corinthians 13:8-10 to argue that speaking in tongues and other miraculous gifts ceased after the apostolic age and completion of the New Testament. However, others maintain that these gifts continue today.

They cite examples of modern tongues speech and evidence that not every believer in Corinth could interpret tongues (1 Corinthians 12:10,30). Both sides make reasonable biblical cases. Contemporary practice varies, with Pentecostal and charismatic churches encouraging tongues, while cessationist churches do not.

Regardless of one’s view, Paul’s emphasis on doing everything “in a fitting and orderly way” (1 Corinthians 14:40) remains timeless advice.

Prophecy and Healing

Gifts of the Spirit

The Bible speaks of spiritual gifts that believers can receive from the Holy Spirit. These include gifts of prophecy, speaking in tongues, interpretation of tongues, healing, and more (1 Corinthians 12:8-10). In charismatic churches, the gifts of prophecy and healing are often emphasized.

Prophecy in the New Testament refers to messages from God that build up, encourage, and comfort believers (1 Corinthians 14:3). It is not equal to the prophets of the Old Testament who spoke God’s direct revelation.

Prophecy must be tested against Scripture to ensure it aligns with biblical truth (1 Thessalonians 5:19-22).

Gift of healing refers to supernatural recovery from illness or injury by the power of the Holy Spirit. While all healing ultimately comes from God, He may choose to heal directly and instantly or through natural means like medicine and time.

Faith, prayer, laying on of hands, and anointing oil can accompany healing (James 5:14-15).

Charismatic churches emphasize God’s desire to actively speak into people’s lives today through spiritual gifts like prophecy. They believe the miraculous gifts like healing are still available to believers. However, all gifts must be exercised in love, order, and alignment with Scripture.

Faith and Discernment

Along with spiritual gifts comes the need for discernment and caution. Charismatics believe God can still work miracles, but caution against giving every miraculous claim or prophetic word uncritical acceptance.

1 John 4:1 says to test every spirit because false prophets have gone out. 1 Corinthians 14:29 says prophecy must be weighed and judged. Any teaching must align with Scripture or should be rejected as false, even if miracles accompany it (Matthew 24:24).

While God can and does still miraculously heal according to His will today, not every illness or infirmity will be healed in this life despite prayers of faith (2 Corinthians 12:7-10). Part of faith is trusting God’s timing and purposes even in suffering and acknowledging He doesn’t always heal immediately for reasons known only to Him.

In charismatic churches, there should be order in the use of spiritual gifts, not chaos (1 Corinthians 14:40). Pastors and leaders must exercise discernment, provide guidance, and nurture an atmosphere of faith while avoiding extremism and fanaticism.

Worship Style

Musical and Exuberant Praise

Charismatic churches are known for their enthusiastic, spirited worship services. The music is usually contemporary in nature, with guitars, drums, and uplifting praise songs. Congregants may lift their hands, clap, dance, shout “hallelujah!”

or speak in tongues during the musical worship (glossolalia). There is an emphasis on personally connecting with God through the Holy Spirit.

According to a 2022 survey by the Pew Research Center, over 60% of Pentecostal churchgoers say they feel “spiritually enthused” during worship services at least once a month. This ecstatic worship flows from their belief that the Holy Spirit actively moves among believers.

Concerns About Emotionalism

Some critics argue charismatic styles of worship are too emotionally driven. They caution that subjective spiritual experiences should be balanced with scriptural truth. However, most Pentecostals would counter that their worship lifestyle is biblically based and the Holy Spirit prompts genuine reactions.

Additionally, some careful discernment may be prudent since hype and peer pressure could potentially produce copycat behavior. As Paul wrote, “Let all things be done decently and in order” (1 Cor 14:40). So while exuberance is characteristic, wisdom and maturity are also needed.

Key Theological Debates

Baptism of the Spirit

The baptism of the Holy Spirit is a controversial topic in some charismatic churches. Some believe it is a separate experience that happens after conversion, accompanied by speaking in tongues or other supernatural manifestations.

Others see it as part of conversion itself, with no requirement for visible signs.

Those who promote a subsequent baptism of the Spirit argue that passages like Acts 2 and Acts 8 show believers receiving the Spirit and speaking in tongues some time after they first believed. They see tongues and prophecy as evidence of having received this empowering for ministry that comes after regeneration.

Critics, however, point to verses like Romans 8:9 which seem to equate having the Holy Spirit with belonging to Christ. They see conversion as always and immediately involving an inward baptism of the Spirit, with outward supernatural gifts following optionally whenever the Spirit sovereignly chooses to distribute them.

Prosperity Gospel Controversies

The prosperity gospel is the teaching that God wants all Christians to be materially wealthy and physically healthy. This is proclaimed in some pentecostal and charismatic churches.

Advocates point to Bible verses that speak of God’s blessing and promises of prosperity for those who obey and follow Him. They teach that through faith, positive speech, and generous giving to ministry, Christians can access divine healing from sickness and experience financial abundance.

However, critics argue that the prosperity gospel twists Scripture and fosters greed. They point out that the Bible often portrays saints as going through poverty, persecution and sickness, which God uses to sanctify them.

Critics say the focus should be on storing up eternal treasure rather than earthly wealth. There are warnings against greed and calls to be content in all circumstances and give sacrificially to meet others’ needs.


In conclusion, while the Bible does not provide definitive instruction on every charismatic practice, it describes a living Christian faith empowered by the Holy Spirit. As with any church, charismatics should emphasize theological soundness and spiritual fruits above all.

Whether traditional or charismatic in style, our worship should ultimately bring glory to God.

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