(Ministry Today) One quarter of all Christian adults identify themselves as charismatic or Pentecostal, yet many differences exist between the various age groups, according to a recent Barna Group poll.
The number of charismatic/Pentecostals in America is one of the highest in any Christian category and crosses denominational and geographic lines. Twenty percent of all Protestants and 26 percent of all Catholics state that they have been filled with the Holy Spirit and participate in at least one spiritual gift, such as prophecy, healing or speaking in tongues.
The study found that younger Christians are more likely than older ones to believe that gifts of the Spirit exist, yet they are less likely to practice these gifts. For instance, 43 percent of Christians under the age of 45 believe that tongues are “valid and active today,” yet less than 9 percent have ever spoken in tongues. In contrast, 37 percent of Christians age 45 and older believe that tongues are active, and as many as 13 percent have spoken in tongues.
Despite their more skeptical view of the charismatic/Pentecostal group, older Christians place a higher value on being led by the Holy Spirit. Among believers age 64 and older, 64 percent say they “consistently allow their lives to be guided by the Holy Spirit.” Only 38 percent of Christians under the age of 26 share this viewpoint.
Younger Christians—particularly those under age 26—also share a more symbolic view of the Holy Spirit. Some 68 percent said they believe the third person of the Trinity is just “a symbol of God’s power or presence but is not a living entity,” compared with 55 percent to 59 percent of all other age groups.
For younger Christians, the charismatic, Pentecostal and Spirit-filled labels are not as divisive as they were to their parents’ generation, said David Kinnaman, president of the Barna Group. However, he cautioned that they seem much less certain about what they do believe and how to put their faith into action.
“It raises the question of what will define the next generation of young charismatics and Pentecostal believers in the U.S.,” Kinnaman said. “Facing less criticism from within the ranks of Christians, they must focus on being grounded theologically and finding a way to live faithfully within the broader culture of arts, media, technology, science and business.”