History of Revivals

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The Pentecostal Century: an Overview
Vinson Synan

The Century of the Holy Spirit: 100 Years of Pentecostal and Charismatic Renewal

On January 1, 1901, a young woman named Agnes Ozman was baptized in the Holy Spirit at a small Bible school in Topeka, Kansas. A student of former Methodist pastor and holiness teacher Charles Fox Parham, Ozman received a startling manifestation of the gift of tongues and became, in effect, the first Pentecostal of the 20th century.

“I laid my hands upon her and prayed,” Parham later recalled of the event. “I had scarcely completed three dozen sentences when a glory fell upon her, a halo seemed to surround her head and face, and she began speaking the Chinese language and was unable to speak English for three days.”

According to J.Roswell Flower, the founding secretary of the Assemblies of God, Ozman’s experience was the “touch felt ‘round the world.” As Topeka and the rest of the nation celebrated the new century, few people could have imagined that this humble event would trigger the worldwide Pentecostal charismatic movement, one of the mightiest revivals and missionary movements in the history of the church.

Beginning with only a handful of people in 1901, the number of Pentecostals increased steadily to become the largest family of Protestants in the world by the beginning of the 21st century. With more than two hundred million members designated as “denominational Pentecostals,” this group had surpassed the Orthodox churches to become the second largest denomination family of Christians, exceeded in number by only the Roman Catholics.

In addition to these classical denominational Pentecostals, there were millions of charismatics in the mainline denominations and nondenominational churches, both Roman Catholic and Protestant. The combined number now stands at more than five hundred million people. This growth has caused some historians to refer to the 20th century as the “Pentecostal century.”

Although the Pentecostal movement had its beginnings in the United States, much of its basic theology was rooted in earlier British perfectionistic and charismatic movements. At least three of these – the Methodist holiness movement, the Catholic Apostolic movement of Edward Irving, and the British Keswick “Higher Life” movement-prepared the way for what appeared to be spontaneous outpouring of the Holy Spirit in America. Perhaps the most important immediate precursor to Pentecostalism was the holiness movement that issued from the heart of Methodism during the 18th century.

John Wesley, an Anglican priest, experienced his evangelical conversion in a meeting at Aldersgate Street in 1738 where, as he said, “my heart was strangely warmed.” This he called his “new birth.”

From Wesley, Pentecostals also inherited the idea of a crisis “second blessing” subsequent to salvation. This experience he variously called “entire sanctification,” “perfect love”, “Christian perfection,” or “heart purity.” Wesley’s colleague John Fletcher was the first to call this a “baptism in the Holy Spirit,” an experience that brought spiritual power to the recipient as well as inner cleansing.

In the 19th century, Edward Irving and his friends in London suggested the possibility of a restoration of the gifts of the Spirit in the modern church. This popular Presbyterian pastor led the first attempt at “charismatic renewal” in his Regents Square Presbyterian Church in 1831 and later formed the Catholic Apostolic Church. Although tongues and prophecies were experienced in his church, Irving was not successful in his quest for a restoration of New Testament Christianity.

Another predecessor to Pentecostalism was the Keswick Higher Life movement, which flourished in England after 1875. Led at first by American holiness teachers such as Hannah Whitall Smith and William E. Boardman, the Keswick teachers soon changed the goal and content of the “second blessing” from the Wesleyan emphasis on “heart purity” to that of an “enduement of spiritual power for service.” D.L. Moody was a leading evangelist associated with the Keswick movement.

Thus, by the time of the Pentecostal outbreak in America in 1901, there had been at least a century of movements emphasizing a second blessing called the baptism in the Holy Spirit. In America, such Keswick teachers as A.B. Simpson and A.J. Gordon also added an emphasis on divine healing.

The first Pentecostal churches in the world originated in the holiness movement before 1901: the United Holy Church (1886), led by W. H. Fulford; the Fire-Baptized Holiness Church (1895), led by B. H. Irwin and J. H. King; the Church of God of Cleveland, Tennesse (1896), led by A.J. Tomlinson; the Church of God in Christ (1897), led by C. H. Mason; and the Pentecostal Holiness Church (1898), led by A.B. Crumpler. After becoming Pentecostal, these churches, which had been formed as second-blessing holiness denominations, retained their perfectionistic teachings. They simply added the baptism in the H Spirit with tongues as initial evidence of a “third blessing.” It would not be an overstatement to say that 20th-century Pentecostalism, at least in America, was born in holiness cradle.

The first Pentecostals, in the modern sense of the word, can be traced to Parham’s Bible school in Topeka, Kansas, in 1901. In spite of controversy over the origins and timing of Parham’s emphasis on tongues, all historians agree the movement began early in 1901 just as the world entered the 20th century. As a result of this Topeka Pentecost, Parham formulated the doctrine that tongues were the “Bible evidence” of the baptism in the Holy Spirit.

Teaching that tongues were a supernatural impartation of human languages for the purpose of world evangelization, Parham also advocated that missionaries need not study foreign languages, since they would be able to preach in miraculous tongues all over the world. Armed with this new theology, Parham founded a church movement called the “Apostolic Faith” and began a whirlwind revival tour of the Midwest to promote this new experience. The origins of the movement are elaborated on in chapter 2, “Pentecostal Roots.”

It was not until 1906, however, that Pentecostalism achieved worldwide attention. This came through the Azusa Street revival in Los Angeles, led by William Joseph Seymour. Seymour first learned about the baptism in the Holy Spirit with tongues in 1905 at Bible school Parham led in Houston, Texas.

In 1906, Seymour was invited to pastor a black holiness church in Los Angeles. The historic Azusa meetings began in April 1906 in a former African Methodist Episcopal church building at 312 Azusa Street in downtown Los Angeles.

What happened because of the Azusa Street revival has fascinated church historians for decades and has yet to be fully understood and explained. The Azusa Street Apostolic Faith Mission conducted three services a day, seven days a week, for three and one-half years. Thousands of seeks received the baptism in the Holy Spirit with tongues.

The Apostolic Faith, a newspaper Seymour sent free of charge to some fifty thousand readers, spread word of the revival. From Azusa Street, Pentecostalism spread rapidly around the world and moved on to become a major force in Christendom. Chapter 3 provides a detailed account of the Azusa Street revival.

William J. Seymour led the Azusa Street revival in 1906, which spread Pentecostalism around the world. The Azusa Street meetings were notable for interracial harmony.

The Azusa Street movement seems to have been a merger of white American holiness religion with worship styles derived from the African-American Christian tradition, which had developed since the day of chattel slavery in the South. The expressive worship and praise at Azusa Street, which included shouting and dancing, had been common among Appalachian whites as well as southern blacks.

The admixture of tongues and other charisms with southern black and white music and worship styles created a new and indigenous form of Pentecostalism. This new expression of Christian life would prove extremely attractive to disinherited and deprived people in both America and other nations.

The interracial aspects of Azusa Street were a striking exception to the racism and segregation of the times. The phenomenon of blacks and whites worshiping together under a black pastor seemed incredible to many observers.

William Seymour’s place as an important religious figure in the 20th century now seems assured. In his 1972 classic, A Religious History of the American People, Sidney Ahlstrom, the noted church historian from Yale University, placed Seymour at the head of the list of American black religious leaders when he said Seymour’s black piety “exerted it’s greatest on American religious history.” Seymour and Parham could well be called the “cofounders” of world Pentecostalism. The role and development of the African-American dimension are surveyed in chapter 11.

The first wave of Azusa pilgrims journeyed throughout the United States spreading the Pentecostal fire primarily in holiness churches, missions, and camp meeting.

Many American Pentecostal pioneers who received tongues at Azusa Street in 1906 went back to their homes to spread the movement among their own people. One of the first was Gaston Barnabas Cashwell of North Carolina.

Under his ministry Cashwell saw several holiness denominations swept into new movement, including the Church of God (Cleveland, Tenn.), the Pentecostal Holiness Church, the Fire-Baptized Holiness Church, and the Pentecostal Free-Will Baptist Church.

Charles Harrison Mason journeyed to Azusa Street in 1906 and returned to Memphis, Tennessee, to spread the Pentecostal fire in the Church of God in Christ (COGIC). Vason and the church he founded were made up of African-Americans only one generation removed from slavery. Both Seymour’s and Mason’s parents had been born as southern slaves.

Although the church split over the question of tongues in 1907, COGIC experienced such explosive growth that today it is by far the largest Pentecostal denomination in North America, claiming almost six million members in more than fifteen thousand local churches.

Another Azusa pilgrim was William H. Durham of Chicago. After receiving tongues at Azusa Street in 1907, he returned to Chicago where he led thousand of Midwesterners and Canadians into Pentecostal movement. His “finished work” theology of gradual progressive sanctification, which he announced in 1910, led to the formation of the Assemblies of God (AG) in 1914.

E. N. Bell and Joseph Flower led the AG. Because many white pastors had been part of Mason’s church, when they left to join the AG the departure was seen partly as a racial separation. In time, the AG was destined to become the largest Pentecostal denomination in the world, claiming by the year 2000 more than two million U.S. members and some forty-four million adherents in 150 countries.

In 1916, a major controversy within the Assemblies of God led to the non-Trinitarian “oneness” Pentecostal movement. This belief taught that Jesus was the only Person in the godhead and that the terms “Father,” “Son,” and “Holy Spirit” were merely “titles” create by the Roman Catholic Church.

Movement leaders Frank Ewart and Glenn Cook taught that the only valid water baptism was immersion “in Jesus’ name” and that speaking in tongues was necessary for salvation. Churches that issued from this movement included the Pentecostal Assemblies of the World and the United Pentecostal Church. Chapters 5 and 6 examine the origin and growth of the holiness Pentecostal and “finished work” churches.

In addition to who received their Pentecostal experience at Azusa Street, thousands of others were indirectly influenced by the revival in Los Angeles. Among them was Thomas Ball Barratt of Norway, a Methodist pastor who became known as the Pentecostal apostle to northern and Western Europe.

After being baptized in the Holy Spirit and receiving the experience of speaking in tongues in New York City in 1906, Barratt returned to Oslo where, in December 1906, he conducted the first Pentecostal services in Europe. From Norway, Barratt traveled to Sweden, England, France, and Germany, where he sparked other national Pentecostal movement. Under Barratt, such leaders as Lewi Pethrus in Sweden, Jonathan Paul in Germany, and Alexander Boddy in England were brought into the movement.

From Chicago, through the influence of William Durham the movement spread quickly to Canada, Italy, and South America. Thriving Italian Pentecostal movements were founded after 1908 in the United States, Brazil, Argentina, and Italy by two Italian immigrants from Chicago, Luigi Francescon and Giacomo Lombardy.

In South Bend, Indiana, near Chicago, two Swedish Baptist immigrants, Daniel Berg and Gunnar Vingren, received the Pentecostal experience. Believing they were called prophetically to Brazil, they embarked on a missionary tip in 1910 that resulted in the formation of the Brazilian Assemblies of God. The Brazilian Assemblies developed into the largest national Pentecostal movement in the world and, with other Brazilian Pentecostals, claimed some thirty million members by 2000.

Also hailing from Chicago was Willis C. Hoover, the Methodist missionary to Chile, who in 1909 led a Pentecostal revival in the Chilean Methodist Episcopal Church. After being excommunicated from the Chilean Methodist Church, Hover and thirty-seven of his followers organized the Pentecostal Methodist Church, which now has some 1.5. million adherents in Chile.

African Pentecostalism owes its origins to the work of John Graham Lake (1870-1935), who began his ministry as a Methodist preacher but later prospered in business as an insurance executive. In 1898, his wife was miraculously healed of tuberculosis under the ministry of Alexander Dowie, founder of a religious community called Zion City near Chicago.

In 1907 Lake was baptized in the Holy Spirit and spoke in tongues. Zion City produced some five hundred preachers and teachers who entered the ranks of the Pentecostal movement. After his Pentecostal experience, Lake abandoned the insurance business to answer a long-standing call to minister in South Africa. In April 1908, he led a large missionary party to Johannesburg where he began to spread the Pentecostal message throughout the nation.

Lake succeeded in founding two large and influential Pentecostal churches in southern Africa. The white branch took the title Apostolic Faith Mission in 1910, borrowing from the name of the famous mission on Azusa Street (David du Plessis, know to the world as “Mr. Pentecost,” came from this church). The black branch eventually developed into the Zion Christian Church, which had six million members by 2000.

Soon after Lake returned to the United States in 1912, the movement reached the Slavic world through the ministry of a Russian-born Baptist pastor, Ivan Voronaev, who received the Pentecostal experience in New York in 1919. Trough prophecies, he was led to take his family with him to Odessa, Ukraine, in 1922. There he established the first Pentecostal church in the Soviet Union. Voronaev was arrested, imprisoned, and martyred in a communist prison in 1943. The churches he founded survived extreme persecution and have become a major religious force in Russia and the former Soviet Union.

Pentecostalism reached Korea through the ministry of Mary Rumsey, an American missionary who had been baptized in the Holy Spirit at Azusa Street in 1907.At that time, Rumsey believed she was called to bring the Pentecostal message to Japan and Korea. It was not until 1928, however, that she landed in Korea. Prior to World War 2, she had planted eight Pentecostal churches there before forced out of the country by the Japanese.

In 1952 those eight churches were turned over to the Assemblies of God, whose missionaries immediately opened a Bible school in Seoul. One of the first students to enroll was a young convert by the name of Paul Yonggi Cho. After he graduated from Bible College, Cho pioneered a Korean church that became the Yoido Full Gospel Church. The church today claims some 730.000 members, the largest single Christian congregation in the world. Chapter 4, “To the Regions Beyond: The Global Expansion of Pentecostalism,” is devoted to the missionary activity of the Pentecostals.

This first wave of Pentecostal pioneer missionaries produced what has become known as the classical Pentecostal movement, with more than fourteen thousand Pentecostal denominations throughout the world. This phase was followed by organized Pentecostal denominational efforts that produced fast-growing missions and indigenous churches. Some of the most explosive growth coming from these efforts occurred among Hispanics in both the United States and Latin America. Some of the greatest growth also occurred among American blacks as well as in the nations of Africa.

A further was the penetration of Pentecostalism into the mainline Protestant and Catholic churches as “charismatic renewal” movements with the aim of renewing the churches. It is worth noting that these newer “waves” also originated primarily in the United States. They include the Protestant Neo-Pentecostal movement, which began in 1960 in Van Nuys, California, under the ministry of Dennis Bennett, rector of St. Mark’s Episcopal (Anglican) church. Within a decade, this movement had spread to all the 150major Protestant families of the world, reaching a total of 55 million people by 1990.

Mainline Protestant leaders included: Tommy Tyson and Ross Whetstone (Methodist); Brick Bradford, Rodman Williams, and Brad Long (Presbyterian); Pat Robertson, Howard Conatser, Ken Pagard, and Gary Clark (Baptist); Everett Terry Fullam and Charles Fulton (Episcopal); Gerald Derstine and Nelson Letwiller (Mennonite); and Vernon Stoop (United Church of Christ). Chapters 7 and 8 provide a full treatment of the renewal movement in mainline and major Protestant churches.

The Catholic charismatic renewal movement had its beginnings in Pittsburgh in 1967 among students and faculty at Duquesne University. After spreading rapidly among student at Notre Dame and the University of Michigan, the movement spread worldwide.

Its early leaders were Kevin Ranaghan, Ralph Martin, Steve Clark, and Nancy Kellar. Careful theological leadership was given by Kilian McDonnell and Leon Joseph Cardinal Suenens.

In the 32 years since its inception, the Catholic movement not only has gained the approval of the church but also has touched the lives of over 100 million Catholics in 120 countries. Chapter 9 recounts the major events and people associated with the Catholic renewal movement.
Added to these is the newest category that some called the “third wave” of the Holy Spirit. It originated at Fuller Theological Seminary in 1981 under the classroom ministry of John Wimber, founder of the Association of Vineyard Churches. This “wave” was comprised of mainline evangelicals who experienced sings and wonders but who disdained labels such as “Pentecostal” or “charismatic.” The Vineyard was the most visible movement of this category. By 2000 the third wavers, also called “neo-charismatics,” were credited with some 295 million members worldwide.

In all these movements, women played leading roles as teachers, evangelists, missionaries, and pastors from earliest days of the century. Many became effective and even famous for healing ministries that attracted multitudes of followers. Among these outstanding women were Agnes Ozman, Maria Woodworth-Etter, Aimee Semple McPherson, Kathryn Kuhlman, and in more recent times, Marilyn Hickey and Joyce Meyer. Because of the spiritual freedom that abounded in holiness and Pentecostal circles, these women were able to break age-old stereotypes that had hindered women in ministry for centuries. The prominent role of women is treated in chapter 10.

The one area of the world where Pentecostalism spread the faster from the earliest days was in Latin America. With early beginnings in Chile and Brazil, the Pentecostals grew by leaps and bounds after World War. By the end of the century, in several Latin American nations the Pentecostals numbered up to 90 percent of all non-Catholics. In some countries Pentecostal growth rates indicated that in a few decades the Pentecostals might have an absolute majority of the population. This was especially true in such countries as Guatemala and Chile. This rapid growth was also seen among Hispanics in the United States and Puerto Rico as well as the countries of Central America. Chapter 12 presents the phenomenal growth within the Hispanic populations of North and South America.

Throughout this century, Pentecostals produced many evangelists who were known for their mass healing crusades. These included Maria Woodworth-Etter, Aimee Semple McPherson (founder of the International Church of the Foursquare Gospel in 1927), Oral Roberts, Kathryn Kuhlman, Reinhard Bonnke, and Benny Hinn. Beginning in the 1950s with Oral Roberts, the “televangelist” genre appeared, bringing healing, tongues, prophecies, and other spiritual gifts into living rooms across the nation. Some of the most successful include Pat Robertson’s Christian Broadcast Network (CBN) and Paul Crouch’s Trinity Broadcasting Network (TBN). Two notable television evangelists, Jimmy Swaggart and Jim Bakker, fell into disrepute in the televangelist scandals of the 1980s. Chapter 13 presents a lively account of the major healers and televangelists.
Despite these failures, news of the renewal continued to be carried by most of the religious and secular press. This was paralleled by the publication of millions of books and tapes sold in conferences and crusades internationally. New periodicals spawned by the movement included Dan Malachuk’s Logos magazine and Stephen Strang’s Charisma and Ministries Today magazines.

In the late 1970s newer movement of “faith” teachers drew national attention. These included Kenneth Hagin Sr., Kenneth Copeland, and Fred Price. In the 1990s, millions of people tuned in to the teachings of Copeland and Price, while others enrolled in Hagin’s Rhema Bible College in Broken Arrow, Oklahoma, and a host of other Spirit-filled Bible schools. Overseas, the crusades of the German Pentecostal evangelist Reinhard Bonnke regularly drew crowds of up one million in cities throughout Africa. The same was true of other evangelistic crusades throughout India.
Major educational institutions arose during the 20th century as well. Healing evangelist Oral Roberts founded a university under his name in Tulsa, Oklahoma, in 1965, and Pat Roberson founded Regent University in Virginia Beach, Virginia, in 1978. In addition, literally hundreds of Pentecostal universities, liberal arts colleges, and Bible colleges were planted worldwide.

In a sense, the charismatic movement in the United States reached a peak in 1977 when fifty thousand people from all denominations gathered in Arrowhead Stadium in Kansas City, Missouri, for the General Charismatic Conference led by Kevin Ranaghan. Planners for this conference were confronted by the major controversy of the era, which involved the “shepherding” teaching of five charismatic leaders from Fort Lauderdale, Florida: Derek Prince, Bob Mumford, Charles Simpson, Don Basham, and Ern Baxter.

The shepherding-discipleship movement, which taught that every Christian should be under the “covering” authority of a “spiritual leader,” fell apart after the five separated in 1986. Other “congresses” in New Orleans (1987), Indianapolis (1990), Orlando (1995), and St.Louis (2000), kept the many streams of Pentecostals and charismatics flowing together.

By 1990, Pentecostals and their charismatic brothers and sisters in the mainline Protestant and Catholic churches were turning their attention toward world evangelization. During the following decade, Pentecostals and charismatics were reinvigorated by new waves of revival that featured such Pentecostal spiritual manifestations as “holy laughter,” being “slain in the Spirit,” and other “exotic” manifestations. Leading in this new wave was the South African Pentecostal evangelist Rodney Howard-Browne.

Beginning in 1993, many of these manifestations appeared at the Toronto Airport Vineyard Church led by pastor John Arnott. Although Arnott’s church was disfellowshipped by John Wimber and the Vineyard movement, the force of the revival continued throughout the decade.
Another wave came in 1995 when a notable revival began at the Brownsville Assembly of God in Pensacola, Florida. Led by pastor John Kilpatrick and evangelist Steve Hill, the Brownsville meeting attracted more than two million visitors and recorded in excess of two hundred thousand conversions.

Revival fires also are sweeping Latin America, particularly Argentina and Brazil, under the leadership of Claudio Freidzon and Carlos Annacondia. Chapter 14, “Streams of Renewal at the End of the Century,” updates the growing renewal movement.

All of these movements, both Pentecostal and charismatic, have resulted in a major force in Christianity throughout the world with explosive growth rates not seen before in modern times, as meticulously detailed by David B. Barrett in chapter 15, “The Worldwide Holy Spirit Renewal.” These “times of refreshing” show that at the end of the Pentecostal century the movement was far from dead and entered the new millennium with undiminished power. Though renewal and revival have always been a part of Christianity (see “Appendix: A Chronology of Renewal in the Holy Spirit,” prepared by David B. Barrett), the 20th century has indeed been the “century of the Holy Spirit.”

The major source for anyone who wants to know more about leading Pentecostal and charismatic persons and movements is the 20th century is Stanley M. Burgess, ed., and Eduard van der Maas, assoc. ed., New International Dictionary of Pentecostal and Charismatic Movements (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2001). An easy to read but scholarly treatment of the entire century is Vinson Synan’s The Holiness-Pentecostal Tradition: Charismatic Movements in the Twentieth Century (Grand Rapids: Eardmans, 1997). A worldwide perspective of Pentecostal growth can be found in Walter Hollenweger’s Pentecostalism: Origins and Developments Worldwide (Peabody, Mass.: Hendrickson Press, 1997).

A good sociological study of Pentecostal beginnings is Robert Mapes Anderson’s Vision of the Disinherited: The Making of American Pentecostalism (New York: Oxford Univ. Press, 1997). A valuable biographical source for early Pentecostalism is James R. Goff Jr. and Grant Wacker, eds., Portraits of a Generation: Early Pentecostal Leaders (Fayettville, Ark.: Univ. of Arkansas Press, 2001).

The story of the charismatic movement in the mainline churches is given in Kilian McDonell’s excellent Charismatic Renewal and the Churches (New York: Seabury Press, 1976). A good book on more recent developments among Protestants is Pentecostal Currents in American Protestantism (Chicago: Univ. of Illinois Press, 1999), ed. Edith L. Blumhofer, Russell P. Spittler, and Grant A. Wacker. An engaging account of Pentecostal growth and influence the century is Harvey Cox’s Fire from Heaven: The Rise of Pentecostal Spirituality and the Reshaping of Religion in the Twenty-First Century (New York: Addison-Wesley, 1994).

The story of the early Catholic charismatic movement is given in Kevin and Dorothy Ranagha’s Catholic Pentecostals (New York: Paulist Press, 1969). An intriguing historical-theological study of charisms in the early church is Kilian McDonnell and George Montague’s Christian Initiation and Baptism in the Holy Spirit: Evidence from the First Eight Centuries (Collegeville, Minn.: Liturgical Press, 1991).

Those who wish to delve deeper into sources should consult the library guides written by Charles E. Jones and published by the Scarecrow Press in Metuchen, New Jersey. They are: A guide to the Study of the Holiness Movement (1974 😉 A guide to the Study of the Pentecostal Movement, 2 vols. (1983); Black Holiness: A guide to the Study of Black Participation in Wesleyan Perfectionistic and Glossolalic Pentecostal Movements (1987); and The Charismatic Movement: A Guide to the Study of Neo-Pentecostalism with an Emphasis on Anglo-American Sources, (1995). For official church documents relating to the renewal see Kilian McDonell’s monumental Presence, Power, Praise, 3 vols. (New York: Paulist Press, 1980).

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