Theorizing Pentecostal Experiences Among Church of God (Cleveland, TN) Adolescents


spiritual formation
religious experience


This article describes and theorizes the liturgical contexts in which adolescents have Pentecostal experiences such as “speaking in tongues” and being “slain in the Spirit.” It is based on ethnographic research done at a Pentecostal church affiliated with the Church of God (Cleveland, TN).  I begin by offering a snapshot of modern Pentecostalism in order to demonstrate the framework that informed the context of the current study. Then I describe six factors of the liturgy that facilitate Pentecostal experience in adolescents: the language of encounter with God, the use of music to build emotional intensity, the prominent role of the body, the participatory nature of worship, the call for salvation, and the alter call as culmination of the liturgy.  My analysis reveals that adolescents are more likely to have positive experiences if they have been educated in a Christian environment, had a prayer partner, have experienced a sense of distance from God, have accepted a biblicist approach to Scripture, and have a common bodily experience. I argue that Pentecostal experiences are ultimately beneficial and that a thorough analysis of their underlying factors is essential towards the construction of healthier forms of religious experience.
Creative Commons License

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

Copyright (c) 2020 Christopher D Fraley