In 1896, many members of the Church of God experienced a spiritual outpouring they identified as the baptism of the Holy Spirit. Because it was so similar to the experience of the early Christians on the day of Pentecost, it came to be called a Pentecostal experience, an enrichment of the Christian life through the power of the Holy Spirit that empowered believers to be effective witnesses of Christ. The principle distinctive of the Church of God as a Pentecostal organization is its belief in speaking with other tongues as the Spirit gives the utterance and that this is the initial evidence of the baptism in the Holy Spirit.
The charismata (Gk.) or gifts of the Spirit appeared early in the life and ministry of the Church of God. The gifts can be divided into three categories: the gifts of revelation, the gifts of power and the gifts of utterance or inspiration. The gifts of revelation are the gifts of the word of wisdom, the word of knowledge and the discerning of spirits. The gifts of power are faith, miracles, and gifts of healing. The gifts of utterance and inspiration are prophecy, tongues and interpretation. The Holy Spirit bestows these gifts and those who accept the validity of these gifts are called charismatic.
From its inception the Church of God has been a revival movement. Evangelism has been in the forefront of all its activities. The church has maintained an aggressive effort to take the message of Christ throughout the world by all means and methods. Every program of the church reflects an evangelistic attitude: revivalism, conferences, worship services, teaching, preaching and its missionary efforts.
The magnitude of the Great Commission requires a united effort. This united endeavor is efficiently served by guidance, support, resources and leadership from a common center. The Church of God is centrally organized. Centralized church government is administration from the international, state or territorial and local levels. It helps facilitate the fulfillment of the mission of the church.
The control of the Church of God rests with the laity and ministers, who jointly form a governing body called the General Assembly which meets biennially. Benefits of centralized government include the following: uniformity of doctrine and practice; principles that bind together local churches in the same manner; membership commitments in all churches; expansion and extension of fellowship; accountability; cooperative decision-making; and united efforts in evangelism and world outreach.