Pentecostalism is what some might call the forgotten legacy of John Wesley. In nearly 100 years the movement has become the fastest growing body of Christians on the face of the planet. Pentecostalism is growing at a rate of 13 million a year, 35,000 a day, and has nearly a half billion followers. It is the second largest Christian group after Roman Catholicism. There are Pentecostals in almost every denomination and every part of the world. The largest Protestant church in the world is a Pentecostal church in Korea, the Yoido Full Gospel Church, which has over 240,000 in weekly attendance. All of this would not have been possible without their theological and ministerial connection to John Wesley. This article will attempt to briefly discuss the historical development of Pentecostalism by making a special application of John Wesley’s contribution.
There has been a lot of research that has shown the connection between the Wesleyan-holiness movement and Pentecostalism. 1 Much of this research has attempted to show that John Wesley is the grandfather of Pentecostalism.2 Wesley placed a strong emphasis on the person and work of the Holy Spirit. He believed that the Spirit played a unique role in entire sanctification. Wesley’s doctrine of Christian perfection was crucial to the theological roots of Pentecostalism. It was the idea of a second work of grace (sanctification) that opened the door for theological discussion about the possibilities of a third work of grace: the Baptism of the Holy Spirit.
Pentecostalism is the forgotten legacy of John Wesley.
Shortly after his memorial sermon, “On the Death of George Whitefield,” preached on November 18, 1770, Wesley entered into a unique alliance with John Fletcher that shifted the direction of Methodist history.3 Fletcher worked closely with Wesley and soon became one of the most influential leaders in early Methodism. Fletcher is perhaps best noted for his Checks to Antinomianism (1771), which defended the theological views of John Wesley and the early Methodism. Wesley was so impressed by Fletcher’s piety and theological prowess, that Fletcher became his “authorized interpreter and designated successor.”4 In Fletcher’s writings we begin to see a paradigm shift take place. Fletcher placed a strong emphasis on the role of the Holy Spirit in Christian perfection. He used Pentecostal language to describe the Spirit’s work with phrases such as “baptized with the Spirit” and “filled with the Spirit.”