This week’s musings are centred on the Day of Pentecost and in particular, where we have come from and where we are as Pentecostals today. As a result of the outpouring of the Holy Spirit over 2000 years ago upon a small group of believers that at its core included the disciples, the gospel of Jesus Christ spread from its epicentre in Jerusalem and the Galilean countryside to the surrounding cities, nations and world. The church was established and grew at an amazing rate in spite of persecution and opposition which often resulted in beatings, imprisonment, torture and death. The evidence of the resurrection of Jesus was testified to with power and conviction as the Holy Spirit enabled the early church to effect transformation and change everywhere it went, with miracles, physical healings, and signs and wonders accompanying the proclamation of the gospel.
As time went on the church became less and less of a Holy Spirit empowered movement of living stones being built into a spiritual house that brought salvation, freedom and joy to people, and more of a man-made political organization that resulted in corruption, darkness, and a powerless gospel. Pockets of revival and life would appear over the years, and many would have profound effects on the church and the world around it.
Men like Jonathon Edwards, George Whitfield, and John Wesley were principal leaders of the First Great Awakening in the 1700’s. The height of Whitefield's ministry was at the famed Cambuslang Awakening in 1742, when 20,000 and 30,000 people gathered to hear him preach, followed by mass weeping and repentance one and a half hours. During Whitefield's ministry he preached in almost every town of England, Scotland and Wales, crossing the Atlantic seven times; winning countless souls in Boston, New York and Philadelphia. He publicly preached an estimated 18,000 power-packed messages.
Wesley was an itinerant preacher for 65 years. He traveled an estimated 250,000 miles on horseback to preach 40,000 sermons! He wrote 233 books, including his voluminous journals and a complete commentary on the whole bible. He left behind him 750 preachers in England, 350 in America; 76,968 Methodists in England and 57,621 in America. With Charles, his brother, he penned 9,000 hymns. Wesley's influence has far outrun his long life. His practices and theology has affected Holiness, Revivalist, Pentecostal and Charismatic groups right down to the present day.
Evan Roberts received an anointing of the Holy Spirit with great power, in a meeting conducted by Seth Joshua. Here the Welsh Revival began. It was Sept 22nd 1904.
Soon the revival spread to other places in South Wales. Teams of young people assisted preachers like Roberts, Sydney Evans, Seth Joshua, Joseph Jenkins and R. B. Jones. The revival then took hold in North Wales. Within six months 100,000 had come to Christ! The Welsh Revival was soon the main topic of conversation throughout the Christian world.
In 1906 the modern Pentecostal Movement was born in Azusa Street, in Los Angeles, after a succession of local revivals through 1905. News of the Welsh Revival encouraged more prayer and suddenly the Holy Spirit descended. Daily meetings were held for the next three years. Visitors flocked there to catch the power of the Spirit and they were not disappointed.
In the beginning, the meetings ran seven days a week almost around the clock. William J. Seymour, an African-American led the great revival. Multitudes gathered at Azusa Street. One attendee said more than a thousand at a time would crowd onto the property. Hundreds would fill the little building; others would watch from the boardwalk; and, more would overflow into the dirt street.
Services at the mission were conducted three times each day at 10 AM, noon and 7 PM. They often ran together until the entire day became one worship service. This schedule was continued seven days a week for more than three years.
It was common for the lost to be saved, sick healed, demonized delivered, and seekers to be baptized in the Spirit in almost every meeting. Many of the early leaders of the Pentecostal movement received their Holy Ghost baptism or worshipped at the Azusa "plank" altar.
No one could have imagined that this was the beginning of the greatest and most effective missionary movement that the world had ever seen. It marked the birth of what was once called 'the third force in Christendom.' Some would argue that, 100 years later, it has grown into the largest and most powerful force.
Almost no country in the world was excluded from the effects of this incredible revival. Almost every nation, on each continent, received new power from heaven, a new passion for prayer and for the lost. Hundreds of thousands came to the Lord.
So here we are today, over 2000 years after the first Pentecost, and over 100 years after the outpouring at Azusa. Revivals that changed countless hundreds of thousands of lives, birthed colleges and universities, hospitals and missions, many of which are still in existence today, albeit in different contexts. Yale, Harvard, Princeton, Oxford and Cambridge Universities, just to name a few, all have Christian heritages. The YMCA began as an organization that wanted to “put Christian principles into practice.”
But today the influence of Christianity in our society is waning. Even in the context of those who have an affiliation with the church, there are problems. We have been seeing a drift away from core beliefs and practices, a devaluing of the moral and spiritual foundation of our faith, and an increase in nominal believers. Attendance in churches have dropped across the denominational spectrum, and there are fewer people coming to Christ, fewer being baptized, and as a result, dwindling influence in our society.
So again, we are in need of revival. We are in need of a fresh wind of the Holy Spirit to breathe new life into the church and to revive and ignite a passion for the ministry of the gospel. We are in need of a move of God that takes us beyond dependance upon our own efforts, abilities and talents, and once again relies upon the presence and power of the Holy Spirit to bring people to Christ.
The revivals of the past occurred in the context of constant prayer, a commitment to holiness, and a belief that the experiences of the early church in the New Testament are still possible today.
The call to the church today is to remember where we have come from, to recognize what we have lost or how far we have fallen, to repent and return to doing the things we did at first. A return to prayer, a return to Biblical truth as the guide for how we live, and a return to depending on God.
In closing this article, I’m including parts of an article I read some time ago that fits well with Pentecost Sunday.
As members of the Pentecostal World Fellowship met for the 25th global gathering in Calgary, Alberta, Canada, in August 2019, with the purpose being to hear what the Spirit is saying to His church, they (representatives from 75 nations) affirmed the centrality of Jesus, the prominence of Scripture, the foundation of prayer, and the empowering presence of the Spirit in our movement.
Attached below is the resulting call of the Spirit that was affirmed:
THE SPIRIT’S CALL
WE HEARD THE CALL to greater unity as an intergenerational and culturally diverse family. We value everyone. Our shared Pentecostal experience brings together all generations and cultures. We are committed to respond to the prayer of Jesus to be brought to complete unity so that the world will know that the Father has sent Him.
WE CALL THE GLOBAL PENTECOSTAL FAMILY TO acknowledge and celebrate our oneness in Christ. In humility of spirit and submission to God’s leading, we recognize our divisions must be acknowledged and dealt with. Our unity in diversity helps us represent Christ to all. Therefore, we call for a new season of collaboration and partnership within Pentecostal churches and ministries worldwide.
WE HEARD THE CALL to anticipate and engage with the fresh ways the Spirit is working in our world. We cannot allow past experiences to restrict the work of the Spirit. We hunger for a refreshing wave of the Spirit which will reveal Jesus to the world.
WE CALL THE GLOBAL PENTECOSTAL FAMILY TO experience the fullness of the Spirit. We must be Pentecostal in both theology and practice, living in ways that are naturally supernatural. Therefore, we call church leaders to model Spirit-filled living and equip believers to experience His power and presence.
WE HEARD THE CALL for greater engagement with and obedience to God’s Word, and commitment to a life of prayer. It will shape our spiritual character and safeguard our integrity. We have been reminded that character is of greater value than charisma.
WE CALL THE GLOBAL PENTECOSTAL FAMILY TO be committed to biblical truth. A life of being doers of the Word and not hearers only is essential to fulfil our mandate to make disciples. Therefore, we call for a renewed commitment to the spiritual disciplines and practices of Bible reading, prayer and Spirit baptism.
WE HEARD THE CALL to intentionally participate together in the mission of God in power and love. We trust the gospel of Christ to powerfully transform individuals, families and communities in every nation.
We call the global Pentecostal family to renew our commitment to share the good news of Jesus, to do justice, love mercy and walk humbly with God. Therefore, every nation must be both a sending and a receiving nation.
WE HEARD THE CALL to a greater commitment to one another as brothers and sisters in Christ. We recognize that times of trial and persecution are being experienced by many within the global Pentecostal family. Though tested by fire, we are confident the Lord stands with His people.
We call the global Pentecostal family to stand with our brothers and sisters around the globe who are facing discrimination and persecution. Therefore, with increased awareness, we call for seasons of prayer and expressions of love in action.
WE HAVE HEARD what the Spirit is saying to the global Pentecostal Church. We commit to being faithful to what we have heard, and to intentionally move forward together until Jesus returns.