CBN.com -- CRAIG VON BUSECK: You've written a book called The Century
of the Holy Spirit: 100 Years of Pentecostal and Charismatic
Renewal. Can you tell us about the earliest days of
the Pentecostal renewal? How did it begin and what caused it
DR. VINSON SYNAN: The background of it was
the Holiness Movement that had been around for the whole 19th
century -- mainly from Methodist roots. The Methodists had
sort of read these people out of the church by 1894 and there
were a lot of people, maybe 100,000 in America, who were seeking
a deeper walk with God in what they called the second blessing
of sanctification, which they also called the Baptism in the
And so as the new century came on the world, there were people who
believed there would be a new outpouring of the Holy Spirit to usher
in a new century -- a century of world evangelization.
This movement started in Topeka, Kan., in a Bible school led by a
former Methodist pastor, Charles Fox Parham. In a watch night service,
December 31, 1900, going over into the very first day of the century,
a young lady by the name of Agnes Ozman asked the teacher and the
students to lay hands on her and to pray that she would be baptized
in the Holy Spirit. She expected to speak with tongues in what they
call the Bible evidence.
Well, she did speak with tongues. They said she spoke the Chinese
language. She was unable to speak English for three days. When they
tied speaking with tongues to the Baptism in the Holy Spirit, that's
what created the Pentecostal Movement. Then not only tongues, but
healing, casting out of demons, prophecy and many other gifts of the
Spirit began to be manifested there in Topeka.
It spread from there down to Houston, Texas, where a black man, William
Joseph Seymour, was brought into the movement by Parham. Then he went
to Los Angeles in 1906 in the famous Azusa Street Meeting. From there
that movement spread all over the earth -- overnight almost. It was
a tremendous beginning for a movement.
VON BUSECK: Church historians have given
evidence of times of "tongues speaking" occurring in different
areas and in different times since the birth of the church
on the day of Pentecost. Though speaking in tongues was manifested
at times, no one was taught to seek for the experience as
they were taught to seek for justification, sanctification
and so forth. What was it that inspired Charles Parham to
encourage his Bible students to seek the "Baptism of the Holy
SYNAN: Well, he had studied the teachings
of the Holiness Movement, including salvation, sanctification,
healing, and the Second Coming. And he noticed that there
was no standard evidence of receiving the second blessing
-- Baptism in the Holy Spirit. Some people said you would
shout or weep or fall on the floor. The way he tells it, he
was teaching his students the major doctrines of the Holiness
Movement at that time, and when he got to Baptism in the Holy
Spirit, he told his students there are many different ideas
of how you know you've received this. He said, "I'm going
on a weekend preaching revival at a Free Methodist church
in Kansas City." And he gave a homework assignment to the
students. He said, "Study the Scriptures and when I get back
report on what is the Bible evidence. How do you know you
received the Holy Spirit?"
Well, when he got back, the students said, to tell the truth, when
we study the Scriptures, we see that they spoke with tongues in almost
every case. If you want to know what the Bible evidence is, it has
to be tongues. He said he was astonished at the answer. There are
other people who believe that he already knew what the answer was
and that he was trying to get the students to confirm it.
J. Roswell Flower, the founding secretary of the Assemblies of God,
said, "Agnes Ozman's experience [being baptized in the Holy Spirit]
made the 20th century Pentecostal Movement." After this, millions
of people sought to receive an instantaneous Baptism in the Spirit,
expecting to speak with tongues. That's what made it different from
the Holiness Movement and other movements of the day.
VON BUSECK: As you said, six years after
Agnes Ozman was baptized in the Holy Spirit, the Pentecostal
Movement was launched to the world at the Azusa Street Revival
in Los Angeles. What happened at those meetings that caused
such a tremendous outpouring?
SYNAN: I've studied this for most of my
life and there are people writing books and doing research
on Azusa Street. There's nothing, humanly-speaking, that we
can come up with that explains everything about Azusa Street.
It has to be, in my view, a supernatural work of God. Here
is a black pastor born in Louisiana to parents who had been
slaves. He had been to Indianapolis and worked at a railroad
station and as a waiter in restaurants. He had gotten into
the Holiness Movement and had learned about tongues from Parham.
He was invited to California to preach in a little black holiness
church. They locked the door on him. He had not spoken in
tongues yet, but he preached that it was the evidence.
Then he started holding prayer meetings in the home of a friend by
the name of Asbury. For maybe two weeks they prayed and fasted. And
then they began to speak in tongues in that prayer meeting in the
home. And the crowds grew so large until he would speak on the front
porch to hundreds of people on the streets.
They had to find a place to meet. They looked around downtown Los
Angeles and found an old AME (African Methodist Episcopal) Church,
which is now the First AME Church of Los Angeles. It was the first
black church building in Los Angeles. But it had been sold and used
as a stable and a lumber warehouse and all kinds of stuff. It was
a broken-down shambles of a building. It had been burned and it looked
terrible. But Seymour and his followers, made up mainly of black porters,
washer women, maids -- just very poor people -- started a meeting
in April of 1906. The central attraction was speaking in tongues and
healing. People came from all over Los Angeles and then it got into
the religious press. Stories were printed all over the country that
people were speaking in tongues just like the apostles did.
And so there was a lot of curiosity. People came from all over the
country, and even from Europe. That meeting went on for three-and-a-half
years -- three services a day, seven days a week. The pastor was a
black man, but soon the majority of the people were white. And so
it was Azusa Street with Seymour that made this a worldwide movement
through Frank Bartleman, who wrote articles that went all over the
world. Soon people were speaking in tongues in Jerusalem, in Stockholm,
in London and Rome -- all over the world, it just spread like an explosion.
VON BUSECK: Who were some of the most important
leaders in the Pentecostal movement in the first half of the
20th century? Who were the key leaders, and can you tell us
SYNAN: Well, the leadership changed. Nobody
stayed in charge for very long. In fact, they often say it
is a movement without a man. There's no Luther, there's no
Calvin, there's no Wesley who molded the movement into one
church. It exploded and there were many churches starting
all over, everywhere.
The first leader, of course, was Parham. Now he's the leader for
about five years. Then Seymour, for three-and-a-half or four years,
becomes the national leader. Then he drops out of sight because the
mailing list for his paper called "Apostolic Faith" was moved to Portland,
Then the leadership moves to Chicago -- I call it the Chicago connection.
William H. Durham was the pastor of the First Pentecostal Church in
Chicago. From his church came all kinds of leaders. Italians spread
Pentecostalism all over the world in Italian communities. From Chicago
came Willis Hoover in Chile. He started the first Pentecostal movement
in South America. From the Chicago area came Daniel Bergan Goonivingren,
who went to Brazil and started a mass movement there. Durham was the
founding theologian of the Assemblies of God was in the Chicago area.
In Memphis you have Charles Harrison Mason, who goes to Azusa Street,
is baptized in the Spirit, comes back and turns his church, Church
of God in Christ, into a Pentecostal church. And so Memphis becomes
a great center. That has become the largest Pentecostal church in
America with six million members.
And there were others here and there. In my church, I come from the
Pentecostal Holiness Church, a man from Dunn, N.c., G. B. Cashwell
went to Azusa Street and spoke in tongues. They said he spoke in German.
He came back to Dunn and held a Pentecostal meeting, which they called
Azusa Street east. And there, leaders of four or five different Holiness
denominations came, spoke with tongues, and the Pentecostal Holiness
churches became Pentecostal; through his ministry the Church of God
in Cleveland, Tenn., became Pentecostal. So you see it spreading.
And then it breaks out in Europe with Thomas Ball Berritt; Louise
Patros in Sweden; it goes into Russia with J. A. Voreniov; into Korea
-- it spreads all over the earth in a very short time.
VON BUSECK: Some of the strongest churches
and denominations that we have today grew out of the Pentecostal
Movement -- denominations like the Pentecostal Holiness Church,
The Assemblies of God, The International Church of the Foursquare
Gospel, The Church of God in Christ and others were birthed
at that time. Why have these denominations prospered around
the world in light of the fact that many started with very
SYNAN: The only thing I can say is that
they released a tremendous power -- the power of the Holy
Spirit -- and not just tongues, but all the gifts were released
into the church. These people were excited. They believed
Jesus was coming any moment. They had to win the world before
Christ returned. That gave them a big motivation.
I think it was the joy of worship -- the power of praising God, singing
in the Spirit, clapping their hands, dancing before the Lord. It was
a very expressive kind of worship. It attracted poor people, mainly.
But in time, by the middle of the 20th century, it was going into
Episcopal churches, Lutheran, Presbyterian, and even the Catholic
Church. But I think the growth came because very simple people believed
In the religious world there were a lot of people who said
we see the power of God working. It was noisy and it was messy.
These people shouted, they danced, but the common people heard
this message gladly. The movement spread like wildfire all
over this nation and all over the world.
the Book: The Century of the Holy Spirit: 100 Years
of Pentecostal and Charismatic Renewal.
Also by Dr. Synan: In the Latter Days: The Outpouring of the Holy Spirit in the Twentieth Century
The Holiness-Pentecostal Tradition
More on the Azusa Street Revival
more about Revival and Church History
More from Spiritual Life
Dr. Vinson Synan is Dean Emeritus of the Regent University School of Divinity. He is author of several books, including In the Latter Days: The Outpouring of the Holy Spirit in the Twentieth Century; The Century of the Holy Spirit: 100 Years
of Pentecostal and Charismatic Renewal; and The Holiness-Pentecostal Tradition: Charismatic Movements in the Twentieth Century.
Craig von Buseck is Ministries Director for CBN.com. Read more of his articles and interviews on CBN.com.
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