Holiness, Pentecostalism and music

Via the ever-alert NG, a new book about about the Holiness and Pentecostalism movements that includes exploration of their influence on American music. Christianity Today has excerpts:

The “writhing on the floor, the moaning, the trembling, and the jerks” left a deep impression, and the fire and brimstone sermons and surrounding frenzy terrorized [a young Johnny] Cash. “My knuckles would be white as I held onto the seat in front of me,” he remembered. Still, Cash loved the uninhibited music, the improvisation, and the variety of instruments played. It was a powerful experience.

So it was, too, for Tammy Wynette, a future country music celebrity, who as a youth frequented the Oak Grove Church of God in northeastern Mississippi. She attended a Baptist church as well, but it could not compete with exciting Pentecostal services. She would bang away on the piano, playing hymns and spirituals. Unlike the stodgy Baptist ministers, Wynette wrote in her autobiography, the Church of God preacher “would let you bring in guitars and play rockin’ gospel more like black gospel music,” as worshipers shouted in the Spirit and hollered in unknown tongues.

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  1. jj1807 wrote:

    None of these descriptions fit the holiness churches which I have visited and attended all across the country. I agree that this music style is typical in the Pentecostal segment of churches but there are other large segments of holiness churches that would never allow it, much like Wynette’s stodgy Baptist ministers.

  2. RF wrote:


    I agree that many of the Pentacostal churches are changing. As I commented earlier, younger people are flocking to them because of the music and lively services. But, two churches in my town make the Methodist church I attend seem lively. Times and worship styles change.

  3. John wrote:

    Being Holiness and being Penticostal are not the same thing, at least not where I come from.

    I have never seen, nor do I care to see, The “writhing on the floor, the moaning, the trembling, and the jerks.”

    I have been “Holiness” all my life, and we do not, nor will we ever speak in tounges.

    Holiness, as we define it, is the infilling of the Holy Spirit that enables one to live above sin.

    The Nazarenes and the Wesleans would be considered Holiness.

  4. Tom wrote:

    Randy Stephens teaches at Eastern Nazarene College and is a top-notch historian (note that the book is publised by Harvard UP). He has studied in great detail both the holiness tradition and the pentecostal tradition in the south, and this book explores both where there are similarities and where there are differences between the two. Stephens is also deeply interested in the relationship between Christianity and music. He’s a member of the quasi-Christian indie-pop band Jetenderpaul, which has received a great deal of attention in the “Christian” indie-rock scene for over a decade now. I don’t know for sure how well-versed he is in southern gospel, though.

  5. Cindy wrote:

    Well what everyone is saying here is that they are holy. There is a lot of differences in any of the above mentioned. I am personally. UPC (AKA) United Pentecostal Church. We speak in tongues and I have seen some tremble and jerk as you call it. Not to much telling what will happen when God gets hold of you. So why do we say we wont do something. If God does it we will do most anything. I know if God leads me to something I will partake. Dont do it because some man says to do it only for God. Where the spirit leads we shall go.

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