TULSA, Okla. -- One hundred and four years ago this month, the Azusa Street Revival began what church historians call the amazing spread of Pentecostalism in the 20th century.
Some Christian leaders believe a new Spirit-filled revival has already begun in the 21st century -- in April of this year. This time it came from middle America.
The Next 100 Years
"God, we pray for the great awakening in America," Lou Engle, co-founder of The Call, cried out to God in prayer.
Engle was one of thousands who converged on the Oklahoma campus of Oral Roberts University to pray for a fresh outpouring of the Holy Spirit.
"No matter what your faith is, the greatest religious story of the last 100 years is the growth of Pentecostal religion," said Mark Rutland, president of Oral Roberts University. "From a handful of people in downtown Los Angeles to 640 million Pentecostals worldwide in a hundred years. There's never been anything like it, and now, the question is, what about the next 100 years?"
That was the question facing those who gathered for "Empowered 21: The Global Congress on Holy Spirit Empowerment in the 21st Century." Organizers believe it will lead to a new era of ministry.
"There are world changers in this room that will do something significant beyond what any generation has done," Pastor Billy Wilson, the chair of Empowered 21, told attendees.
Wilson said it will take divine power to accomplish the goal.
"It's critical for us, if we're going to evangelize the world in the 21st century, that we have the power of the Holy Spirit residing in us, flowing through us, bringing the character of Jesus in us," Wilson told CBN News.
"Day of Pentecost" Experience
It was Jesus who told His first century disciples they needed to wait for the Holy Spirit before evangelizing their world.
Wayne Hilsden, the senior pastor of King of Kings Community Church in Jerusalem, says today's Christians also need that "Day of Pentecost" experience.
"The baptism in the Holy Spirit is for power, and Jesus promised that in Acts 1:8: 'And you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you to be my witnesses.' Where? Jerusalem. Judea, Samaria, to the uttermost parts of the earth," Hilsden explained.
Nigerian Minister E.A. Adeboye -- the general overseer of the Redeemed Christian Church of God -- agreed, saying Africa is already seeing a tremendous move of God. He has witnessed many miracles, healings and deliverances.
"In the 21st century, we have all kinds of fake religion, new age movements, all kinds of demonic operations, and I think there's only one way to confront this," Adeboye said. "And that's by the demonstration of the real power of the Almighty God, and that can only be done through the baptism in the Holy Spirit."
Almost 100 Countries Represented at Conference
Empowered 21 was a global congress and lived up to that name. Representatives from nearly 100 countries attended the conference to witness the passing of the torch of Holy Spirit empowerment from one generation to the next.
"I've never seen so many of the older generation, I'm talking about pastors, denominational leaders, engage, focus on, listen to, care about the younger generation," Ron Luce, president of Teen Mania Ministries, told CBN News. "It's very refreshing."
"They're stepping into the gap and saying, 'It's not about me anymore. It's about legacy. I'm not what I do. I'm what I leave behind,'" explained Lisa Bevere of Messenger International.
Jack Hayford, chancellor of The King's College and Seminary, has been a leader in four decades of charismatic renewal and revival. He brought his grandson, who is also a pastor, to Empowered 21.
"The most exciting thing to me is to be a part of this at my time of life, to be welcomed into it, and to be working with young leaders, who have so much to bring to the table, and to see their passion, and their quest for purity as well as the power of the Spirit," Hayford told CBN News.
Making sure this next generation is commissioned properly can turn around the waning of the movement in some circles. Ulf Eckman, the pastor of Word of Life Church in Sweden, has witnessed a decline.
"Maybe not so much in the United States, but in many other places, it's almost like the Pentecostal Charismatics forgot the baptism of the Holy Spirit and moved into so many other things," Eckman said.
A Disconnect Among Non-Ethnic Pentecostals
Samuel Rodriguez, president of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference, is also concerned that non-ethnic Pentecostals in the U.S. are getting away from their heritage.
"There has been a disconnect for a number of reasons," Rodriguez said. "One of them has been relativism -- moral relativism, spiritual apathy."
Rodriguez added that believers need to reconnect with the Holy Spirit so the apathy doesn't spread to the next generation.
"Can we be spirit friendly before we are seeker friendly?," Rodriguez asked. "We need to be friendly to the Spirit of God above all things and then the seekers who are seeking Christ will see the reality of a powerful Christ," he added.
Power for Living
The baptism in the Holy Spirit has been described as "power for living." That's one reason Christian leaders at Empowered 21 want to see that focus expanded to other areas like education, media and business.
"To me that's the most important aspect, that the Holy Spirit is welcome to touch a life, a student's life, staff member, faculty, at any time," Regent University president Carlos Campo said.
"The Spirit-filled life answers questions that I was just not getting answered," explained Phil Cooke of Cooke Pictures. "It allows me a certain discernment, a certain foresight, the ability to maybe see things other people don't see."
"The Holy Spirit's been my Guide," said Mart Green, the CEO of Mardel Christian and Education and the board chair of the board of trustees at ORU. "I look to Him to help me. Obviously, Christ is our Savior and Lord, but the Holy Spirit gives us that power to go forward."
The generations represented at Empowered 21 believe that power can help them change their world.
*Originally published April 30, 2010.