I just finished taking Church History V through Școala Biblică here and I was so stirred up by the amazing people we read about and the revivals we learned about that I want to encourage everyone to really look into the amazing history of the church! We had to pick a revival or a person we learned about that greatly impacted us and write a paper about them, so here is my paper (it was supposed to be 5-7 pages, so i’m sorry for the length, but I think you’ll enjoy it):
The Azusa Street Revival was the Pentecost that changed the course of the modern day church forever in 1906. This revival began the pentecostal movement that has shaken the world in the last 100 years. God poured out His Spirit in such a miraculous way that many came to know Jesus and be radically transformed by Him as they were baptised in the Spirit. The Baptism of the Holy Spirit as we know it today had been very inconsistently taught in the history of the Church before Azusa Street. Charles Parham, William Seymour, and later William Durham are the three most influential men in this world revival, there’s much to learn from these men and from the revival that sprung up from their lives seeking after the fullness of what God has for His people, so let’s dive in.
Coming out of the 19th century, the church had just experienced the holiness movement of Jonathan Edwards, pockets of people were hungry to see divine healing and small groups had been seeking out the Holy Spirit. They believed sanctification, was the second blessing after salvation and some were searching for the third blessing of the Baptism of the Holy Spirit. As the 20th century began, Agnes Ozman ushered in the beginning of the great Pentecost. Ozman, a student of Charles Parham was celebrating with the rest of her class about what they found in the bible about the Baptism of the Holy Spirit. They discovered that clearly speaking in tongues was to be the initial evidence of the Baptism of the Holy Spirit. Ozman wanted this so she went up to Parham for prayer very hungry for this power and as Parham prayed the glory of God invaded and Ozman spoke in Chinese for three days. This began the outpouring in Kansas where many spoke in over 21 languages as they were filled with the Holy Spirit; Parham soon felt the need to bring this elsewhere and started traveling, about four years after, he settled in Houston, Texas establishing a faith-work bible school where many were influenced.
Soon William J. Seymour, a black, one-eyed, holiness church pastor heard about Parham’s school and went to attend the classes. Because of racial segregation at the time Parham and Seymour worked out a plan for him to attend the school while sitting outside the windows, he learned everything he could from Parham while waiting in expectation for the baptism of the Holy Spirit. Meanwhile in Los Angeles there was a stirring amongst the holiness churches to receive the power of God; specifically, Frank Bartleman and Joseph Smale had been hearing about what was happening in Kansas and in Wales where there was an outpouring. Smale was a Baptist holiness pastor who had went to Wales to experience the outpouring and bring it back to his congregation where he began holding revival meetings seeking this same outpouring of the power of God, but soon his church board ejected him from leadership. Bartleman was a holiness preacher who had wrote back and forth with Evan Roberts (who had been leading the Wales revival) to see how he could bring this move of God to LA. With these two praying and fervently believing for revival, LA was ready to receive.
Seymour soon received an opportunity to go and preach in California so he packed up and went preaching Acts 2:4, ‘And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit gave them utterance.’ The message of tongues wasn’t well received, but this didn’t discourage him, he interceded and sought God for what to do next, soon the home of the Asburys on Bonnie Brae Street invited him to speak and pray there and a group came that were interested in learning more. At this point Seymour himself wasn’t baptised in the Holy Spirit, but he was still earnestly seeking it.
On April 9th, 1906 Seymour was walking with Mr. Lee, a man who opened up his home for Seymour to stay at, to the meetings and as they walked Lee asked Seymour to pray for him, Lee was baptized and spoke in tongues and the two of them rejoiced greatly and went to the meeting to testify of what had happened. As the faith increased and hunger increased eight more people were baptised that evening including Seymour himself and a woman named Jennie Moore, who began to play beautiful music on the piano and sing in Hebrew, she had never played the piano before, but was able to for the rest of her life. This began the Pentecost in Los Angeles, God’s presence and glory would come and invade these meetings full of whites and blacks and they would see miraculous healings, as well as prophesies, and tongues interpreted.
From these small beginnings erupted a mass revival, they had to find a bigger place to meet, so they moved to an old horse stable on Azusa Street cleaning it up where Seymour could stay and where the Apostolic Faith Mission would have it’s main headquarters. As the community began to see what was happening, newspapers began writing articles about what was happening and by the end of 1906 the news had spread as far as London! As many crowded in to see what God was doing, the community surrounding the building kept reporting them for different things, such as blocking the streets, fire coming from the top of the building, unsupervised children and because of the cramped quarters there were supposed health and sanitary risks, but none of these things could stop what was happening. People from different churches, whom were losing members, came to try and bring order and correction to Seymour and these meetings, but as they contended with Seymour, his Godly meek character would always settle or win the challenge.
Seymour had a dream of an interracial Pentecostal movement that would serve as a positive witness to a racially segregated America. It was beginning to look possible, people from all different backgrounds would continue to pour in and get filled with the Holy Spirit. The educated, uneducated, rich, poor, black, whites, Asians, Hispanics, men, women, native born, immigrant and foreign visitor all came together; as Bartlemen said, “the color line was washed away in the blood.’ This was one of the most controversial aspects of it and held many back from what God wanted to do in their lives, but if some would come despite this hesitation, they would be consumed by the presence of God and the color lines would disappear at least for a little while.
Meetings would begin with prayer, praise and testimony punctuated by messages in tongues, and a cappella singing in both english and tongues. The meetings weren’t so structured, Seymour felt that when God wanted to speak, He could use anyone, so people sang and when the anointing was on them, they could stand up and preach. Some people would stand up and preach who were not anointed and were acting out of the flesh and they would be rebuked and told to sit back down. Seymour, himself would keep his head in a shoebox sized crate communing with God and as he felt lead he would share; many meetings he would have very little to say and when he did speak, he was very simple and slow, not very charismatic with his preaching. He would always emphasise the need to renounce sin and accept Jesus Christ as personal Savior. Frank Bartleman wrote, ‘This is the pulpit from which is sounded forth what the leader, Brother Seymour, calls old-time repentance, old-time pardon, old-time sanctification, old-time power over devils and diseases, and the old-time “Baptism with the Holy Ghost and fire.”’ Teaching on the five-fold gospel: salvation, sanctification as the second blessing, the baptism of the Holy Spirit as the third blessing, instant divine healing, and the premillennial Second Coming of Christ to rapture the church at the end of the age.
There were many different manifestations that took place as God poured out His Spirit, prophecies were declared, people would sing both in english and tongues, people would have interpretations, casting out of devils, miraculous healing and there was other strange manifestations that definitely made people’s boxes that they held God in fall off. Seymour was concerned with the unusual manifestations and had wrote to Parham for counsel; he wanted help discerning spirits. Parham finally came to Azusa Street in October of 1906, when he arrived he was in shock of how mixed the church was with black and white, male and female leadership; he felt this was definitely not appropriate for the times. Seymour let him preach and Parham began to criticise what all had been going on. Seymour had been expecting mentorship and Godly discernment, while Parham may have had some, he didn’t relay it with the character of God so Seymour decided Parham was no longer welcome there after just a few meetings.
By this point the mission had received letters from around the world stating that the Baptism of the Holy Spirit had made it’s way to them, the letters would often be read at the meetings and visitors would testify that it was all true. There were many testimonies of how God would draw people to the meetings through visions, and dream and other unusual circumstances. The news and testimonies would be spread by Seymour’s own paper, “Apostolic Faith”.
After what seemed like three amazing glorious years the revival had started to end. Around 1909 many who were not associated with the revival refused to believe the revival was genuine. People refused it because Pentecostals had seemed to become spiritually elite. The Pentecostals were sure they now knew everything regarding the Baptism of the Holy Spirit, the gifts of the spirit and the correct method for worship. Also the equality between whites and blacks in these meetings started greatly offending people. The controversy with egalitarianism combined with different theologies and practices arising made the controversy too big to skip over and created big divisions. Namely, two white woman, Clara Lum and Florence Crawford, who had been working with the mission decided to leave and take the mailing lists with to Oregon. This cut off the revival from the worldwide platform of support and they lost resources and influence.
By this time many Wesleyan Pentecostal Churches had sprung up all over America. There were the Church of God in Christ, the Pentecostal Holiness Church, the Church of God of Prophecy, the Church of God (Cleveland, Tennessee) and the United Holy Church. The Church of God in Christ became pentecostal after C. H. Mason who was hungry for the Holy Spirit went to Azusa Street and brought it back, his partner C.P. Jones didn’t accept the new theology, which caused the split between The Church of Christ (Holiness) U.S.A., and the The Church of God in Christ, both African American churches. C.H. Mason influenced many whites and would train up many who would later form the Assemblies of God. The difference in church growth between Jones and Mason’s churches proves the amazing fruit of the Pentecostal movement, with The Church of Christ having 25,000 members in 146 churches in 2000, compared to over 5 million members in more than 15,000 congregations in the Church of God in Christ. The Pentecostal Holiness church and much of the south was greatly influenced by a man named Gaston Barnabas Cashwell, who is now known as the southern apostle of Pentecost. He had traveled to Azusa street for what he had been praying for and expecting for years, after some initial racial shock, he received the Baptism of the Holy Spirit and spoke in German. He soon returned to North Carolina and rented a tobacco warehouse that became essentially the East Coast Azusa street. Spreading the message across the Pentecostal Holiness Church, the Fire-Baptised Holiness Church and the Holiness Free-Will Baptist Church, also influencing the Church of God in Cleveland, Tennessee and the Assemblies of God.
From 1909 to 1911 the revival had been struggling mostly with racial issues in the movement, Seymour traveled while his wife managed the home base, which had become a small congregation meeting regularly. William Durham, who came to the mission in 1907 and was baptised and prophesied over that wherever Durham would preach there would be an outpouring of the Holy Spirit, brought the Pentecostal message to Chicago and spread it throughout the midwest. He began to have problems with the board of his church and decided to move to the birthplace of the Pentecostal outpouring, Los Angeles bringing with him the Finished Work doctrine. Durham believed that salvation, sanctification, divine healing and the baptism of the Holy Spirit were all finished works of the cross and all that was needed was to receive them. Durham would soon come to the Azusa Street mission and bring back some more of the awe of God pouring out His Spirit in the midst which would kindle the revival fires for another year. During his time at Azusa street Durham preached the Finished Work and many filled the house to hear, but when Seymour heard about it he made his way back to confront what he believed to be heresy and he banned Durham from continuing there, which ended the Azusa Street Revival for good. The Apostolic Faith mission remained for a few more years.
Over the years there had been a few more church plants from people coming out of Azusa Street, including: two Apostolic Faith missions in Los Angeles, a Pentecostal Assembly, a Spanish Apostolic Faith mission, the Apostolic Faith Rescue mission, the Carr Street Pentecostal Mission, an Italian Pentecostal mission, The Upper Room Mission, the Eight and Maple Mission, the Florence Avenue Pentecostal Mission, Full Gospel Assembly, the Seventh Street Mission and the Glad Tidings Tabernacle of New York City. The message of Pentecost could not be contained, it spread all over America and throughout the world with many missionaries being sent out, many foreigners coming and hearing and bringing it back, it kept expanding the Pentecostal movement. It even spread into the bible schools.
Durham’s theology was also on the move, Durham and many other like minded people cofounded the Assemblies of God in 1914, which has become the largest and best-known church denomination in the world. Other churches termed the ‘Finished-Work’ Pentecostal churches began as a result of Azusa, including: The international Church of the Foursquare Gospel, the Pentecostal Church of God, the Open Bible Standard Church, the Oneness Pentecostal movement, and the United Pentecostal Church.
The Azusa Street Revival amazes me, God definitely likes to come break down cultural norms when He moves. I think I really admire the way God chose to use a one-eyed African American to facilitate and usher in this revival. William Seymour was always said to be the meekest man in the room, he very sincerely want God to be the center of attention and let his hunger for more of God determine his path in life. Despite racial segregation Seymour sought out Parham to learn more about God, he was courageous and humble, he knew whites and blacks weren’t able to go to the same school, yet he knew that Parham had something that Seymour was looking for so he went after it. Thankfully Parham knew the Christian thing to do and let Seymour sit in and learn, albeit from the outside of the class room. This was the tiny sneak peak of what God was really about to do in America in this time with the races.
I believe division in the church can be the biggest hurdle for revival being spread, but when people come together there’s such grace for more to come. When Seymour began holding meetings on Bonnie Brae Street at first it was a handful of black woman who would come, but as the Asbury’s and the Lee’s caught the vision and the hunger, they began to invite more people and the meeting grew full of both white and black people, going completely against cultural norms, which I’m sure ushered in the unity of the Spirit and grace to see this outpouring come to pass. I believe this unity was the beginning and sadly later the racial division was the end of the Azusa Street Revival. I think we can definitely grab on to this need for unity amongst the church here in Romania and around the world as we wait for another revival to sweep the nations.
Another thing that was true of this revival that draws God’s attention was the hunger for His scriptures and truth to be manifested in His churches. Leading up to this revival there had been countless people all over the world reading about divine healing, reading about the day of Pentecost, reading about the Gifts of the Holy Spirit, and seeing all of them played out in Jesus life and His flowers as they read the Bible and began sincerely earnestly seeking these things. It had been a while since Wesley brought about holiness and they were hungry for more, they wanted their lives to look like the Bible said they should. This hunger was found in Kansas, in Wales, in Los Angeles and in multiple other pockets of the world where believers were interceding and seeking God for a new Pentecost. I believe as we hunger to live life full of the Holy Spirit and keep revival fire and passion in our own hearts with great faith and expectancy as was then, I know God will pour out and send another big wave of revival.
I also have to note this because I find it interesting in almost every revival I read about the people were concerned about the fact that they were in the end days. This case is true of the Azusa Street Revival, I think that this truth creates and produces fruit, but many times the fruit doesn’t get discipled and built up as needed because of the short term focus ‘the end-times’ focus can create. I think the revival that is to come will have the end-times in mind while also having the need to create a legacy for future generations. I think we will be concerned with purifying the character of the Bride of Christ and we will be concerned with the victory and final fight as Jesus comes back and brings us to the wedding supper as we will have glorified Him in every area. I would say that the Azusa Street mission (the revival too) dwindled too early, I think if there might have been more of a focus turned to future generations with building character, building unity and reaching the lost, the Azusa Street Mission might have lasted and grown bigger. the Azusa Street Revival produced many stream of Pentecostals who each separately now had the responsibility of growing.
Seymour being the amazing man of God that he was, made a few mistakes along the way which cost the revival. His first mistake may have been shutting Parham completely out of the revival; although I agree that Parham probably created a lot of racial tension being there, I do wish they would have been able to gracefully work together, instead of Parham criticising the movement. I think Parham could have had some insight into the spiritual manifestations that were talking place that Seymour an insider could not see, I also think the unity between the two of them would have brought more grace in the racial unity area of the movement, possibly preventing it from ending. I think Seymour should not have shut Parham out for fear of losing his temper and sinning. The Holiness teaching was a problem, they believed that once you had come to the second blessing if you sinned you would lose salvation. This thinking is very human works based and isn’t right, I believe if Seymour hadn’t held on to this theology I think he would have been able to receive from Parham again things would have ended differently. As Christians we need counsel in our lives from fellow Christians and mentors, I believe wisdom is found in an abundance of counsellors, so I think Seymour should have humbled himself more to seek further counsel in this case. I think future revivals will have great honor for those that have gone before and people will continue in their abundance of counsellors, hearing the criticism with the direction of the Holy Spirit and learning and being encouraged by what they have to say.
Again this Holiness theology I think is one of the strongholds that helped Seymour make the second big mistake of calling Durham’s theology as heresy. I think that if Seymour would have sought the Lord and spoke more with Durham discussing the issues he had, I think God may have taught Seymour some and set him free. The revival wouldn’t have ended and who knows what could have continued to happen in their church. I believe the ‘Finished-work’ theology was a wonderful addition to the revival bringing about freedom. In future revivals, I think that sound doctrine will be key and I think being open as the Spirit gives discernment and leads to what might seem new may help the revivals be sustained long term. I think open-mindedness within reason is good, especially for most of the church today that doesn’t believe in half the things God does today, they need a bit more open mindedness for this next revival..
The 20th Century would be no where near the same if this revival wouldn’t have happened. The Pentecostal movement wouldn’t be where it is today, the Charismatic movement wouldn’t be where it is today and who knows we might not even know about the third wave movement. The world wouldn’t be as evangelised as it is and who knows where I would be. God had perfect timing and He knew what he was doing, He used the Azusa Street Revival to make a grand impact in the world7 today and I’m thankful He did it. All the individual lives that were transformed, many coming to know Jesus, many being miraculously healed, many being empower by the Holy Spirit to continue in the work God had called them to, it’s amazing what God has done and the fruit this revival is still producing through the lineages that came from it! Praise God for all His marvellous works, especially the Azusa Street Revival.
Please do look up more on this revival you surely be stirred up by it.