Posts Tagged ‘tongues’

Azusa Street Revival

April 17, 2010

Azusa Street Revival

On April 9, 1906, at a prayer meeting in a modest home on Bonnie Brae Street in Los Angeles, a few men and women spoke in tongues. They had been meeting to pray for “an outpouring” of the Holy Spirit. The tongues speech convinced them that they had “broken through.”

News of the event spread rapidly among blacks, Latinos and whites, the prosperous and the poor, immigrants and natives. Those who yearned for revival, as well as the curious, thronged the house. The need for space prompted a move to an abandoned Methodist church on Azusa Street. For the next two years, waves of religious enthusiasm waxed and waned at Azusa Street, attracting visitors from across the nation and missionaries from around the globe. The faithful announced that this was a reenactment of the New Testament Day of Pentecost: “All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other languages as the Spirit gave them ability” (Acts 2:4). God was restoring New Testament experiences of the Holy Spirit — or, as devotees of the movement put it, restoring the apostolic faith.

At Azusa Street, one could see and hear the “utterance gifts” listed in 1 Corinthians 12:8-10. Seekers spent hours praying to be baptized with the Holy Spirit, an experience they expected would be attested by speaking in tongues. People interpreted tongues and prophesied — phenomena with which few Christians had any direct experience. The sick came for healing.

Why were such things happening on an out-of-the-way city street? The faithful had a simple answer: the end of the world loomed, and God was sending the Holy Spirit to equip his chosen people for one last burst of evangelism before it was too late. The baptism with the Holy Spirit was an end-times “enduement with power for service” that went hand in hand with personal holiness. The visible gifts of the Holy Spirit testified to the Spirit’s immediate presence in and among believers.

A century later, Pentecostal denominations boast over 10 million members in the U.S. If one adds those in other churches who embrace Pentecostal-like beliefs and practices, the number more than doubles. Estimates in 2005 of the worldwide number of Pentecostals suggest that there are over 580 million adherents, making Pentecostals the second largest group of Christians in the world, trailing only Roman Catholics. Even those who challenge these numbers agree that by any measure Pentecostal Christianity has experienced dramatic growth. Directly and indirectly, the Azusa Street revival influenced this expansion.

Azusa Street stands at the core of the Pentecostal myth of origins. In recent years scholars have stressed that global Pentecostalism has multiple origins, and that the Azusa Street revival was one of several impulses that birthed a distinctly Pentecostal form of Christianity. In some places the Welsh Revival of 1904-1905 played the role that Azusa Street filled in North America. The Korean revival of 1907, the Indian revivals reaching back into the 19th century and some indigenous African movements are watersheds in non-Western Pentecostal narratives. Yet, for a variety of reasons, Azusa Street has gained the most visibility, especially in Western renderings of Pentecostal history. And perhaps justifiably so: its immediate global impact, its widely circulated publications, and its networking role kept people aware of its message. Even if Azusa Street was not the only source of the global Pentecostal impulse. it had a vital role in shaping the contours of worldwide Pentecostalism.

What happened at Azusa Street? At the center of this “new thing” stood an African-American preacher named William Seymour. The son of slaves, Seymour had traveled to Los Angeles from Texas to share what he had learned from a self-made preacher named Charles Fox Parham.

During the 1890s, Parham had heard much talk about the baptism with the Holy Spirit, but he observed a lack of consensus on the evidence for this baptism. In 1901, Parham began to preach that the “Bible evidence” of the baptism with the Holy Spirit was speaking in tongues. He called his message the Apostolic Faith. In 1903, thanks to a healing and local revival in eastern Kansas, Parharm’s Apostolic Faith began attracting followers. By 1905 his work had reached the Houston area, where he met Seymour. Parham encouraged Seymour to accept an invitation to preach in Los Angeles.

The Azusa Street mission, then, had direct antecedents in Parham’s modest midwestern efforts. The core of Parham’s message prospered briefly in Seymour’s hands. For a few years, the Azusa Street mission became the best-known hub of a movement framed by premillennialist views, influenced by a Wesleyan fervor for holiness and committed to the practice of the spiritual gifts enumerated in 1 Corinthians 12. For a time at least, whites, blacks, Latinos and Native Americans mingled at the mission, though interracial acceptance was at best imperfect and soon broken.

In the fall of 1906, Seymour and an associate, a white woman named Clara Lum, began chronicling the revival in a periodical called Apostolic Faith. It quickly became evident that the Azusa Street revival resonated with widely scattered people in part because it seemed hauntingly familiar. Azusa Street gave them context for their own religious experiences and networked them with those who shared their radical evangelical instincts.

In time new denominations influenced by Azusa Street blended the distinctive Apostolic Faith focus on the experience of the Holy Spirit with traditional evangelical tenets. Before World War I, the Church of God in Christ, the Assemblies of God, the Church of God (Cleveland, Tennessee), the Pentecostal Holiness Church and a host of smaller associations — English-speaking and immigrant — had woven the message associated with Azusa Street into a fabric of belief and practice. In the 1920s, Aimee Semple McPherson’s new International Church of the Foursquare Gospel was poised to reinvigorate Los Angeles Pentecostalisin. By then, internal disunity had prompted the formation of a cluster of Pentecostal denominations (Anglo, African American and Latino) that denied the Trinity — for example, the Pentecostal Assemblies of the World, the forerunner of the United Pentecostal Church, and many Apostolic movements — while sharing the Apostolic Faith heritage. A host of more recent independent associations, charismatic fellowships and nondenominational megachurches also draw inspiration from versions of the Azusa Street narrative.

The Azusa Street revival had global reach through Apostolic Faith, the popular religious press, missionary correspondence and personal ambassadors who, emboldened by their religious experiences, traveled the globe to announce firsthand the revival’s urgent message of spiritual empowerment in the last days. In time, career missionaries supported by Pentecostal denominations planted the revival’s message in remote places around the globe.

The centrality of Azusa Street in the story of Pentecostalism is due in large part to the work of the revivals tireless promoter Frank Bartleman. A restless maverick driven from place to place by his determination to be part of whatever God was doing in the world, Bartleman singlehandedly turned the Azusa Street revival into a literary event of global magnitude by chronicling his impressions and assigning them meaning in a widely circulated book, How Pentecost Came to Los Angeles. In this 1925 publication, Bartleman made a case for the centrality of “old Azusa” for Pentecostal identity: “Wales was but intended as the cradle for this worldwide restoration of the power of God. India but the Nazareth where he was ‘brought up.”’ What really mattered was Azusa Street. American Pentecostals and many scholars have since often been content to take his word for it, glimpsing Azusa Street through Bartleman’s eyes instead of rigorously examining the revival’s extent and limits.

Azusa Street has had a profound place in collective Pentecostal memory. Its imaginative power shapes not only narrative but also practice and makes the historiography of Pentecostalism surprisingly contentious because adherents generally embrace a particular version of the revival’s story and often engage parts of its legacy rather the whole. The Apostolic Faith Mission no longer stands on Azusa Street, but a century after the mission opened its doors (and in some ways now more than ever) the Azusa Street revival in one way or another frames the identities of millions of Pentecostal Christians.


The History of the Charismatic Movement

April 17, 2010

The History of the Charismatic Movement

What began on a corner at the turn of the twentieth century is now barreling down Main Street. What was once known as the Pentecostal movement has now splintered into numerous diverse, yet overlapping movements: Pentecostal, Charismatic, Vineyard, Word-Faith, and Holy Laughter.

While the Charismatic Movement has taken on wings during the twentieth century, similar views and manifestations can be found on occasion throughout history:

“In ancient times the practice of speaking in unintelligible languages during religious ecstasy was not unknown. From eleventh-century B.C. Egypt come reports of ecstatic speech, and later in the Greek world the prophetess of Delphi and the Sibylline priestess spoke in unknown tongues. Amongst the Roman mystery religions, the Dionysian Cult was known for this practice.

“Several of the early church fathers mention glossolalia in the church. Irenaeus (d.c. 200) and Tertullian (d. 200) speak favorably of it, Chrysostom (d. 407) disapproved, and Augustine (d. 430) declared that the gift was only for New Testament times. The Montanist movement of the late second century included prophetesses, claims of new revelation, speaking in tongues, and an ascetical and legalistic outlook; the movement was declared heretical by the official church and speaking in tongues seems to have been rare in the church after this time.

“During the middle ages speaking in tongues were reported in monasteries of the Orthodox church. In the seventeenth century it seems to have been practiced in France amongst the Huguenots (Protestants) and the Jansenists (pietistic Catholics). In the nineteenth century glossolalia was practiced in America amongst the Shakers and Mormons, and in Scotland and London amongst the followers of Edward Irving, who saw this as the latter-rain outpouring of the Holy Spirit prior to the pre-millennial return of the Lord.” (Quote taken form Millard Erickson’s Christian Theology and Walter Elwell’s Evangelical Dictionary of Theology, s.v. “Montanists,” “Pentecostalism,” and “Tongues, Speaking in.”)

Two different things can come to mind when one hears the term “charismatic.” Some think of a group of people hungry for the Lord, walking in the power of the Spirit, spiritual in worship, aggressive in evangelism, and abounding in love. Others see individuals who are experience-oriented, imperialistic in outlook (only they have the full gospel), elitist in stance, uncontrolled in worship, and devoid of any real grasp of the Bible that goes beyond mere proof-texting. The Charismatic movement has grown rapidly and has become more diversified; therefore, it would be misleading to place all under an identical banner.

Nevertheless, the majority of professing Christians who are viewed as “charismatic,” i.e., Oral Roberts, Larry Lea, Earl Paulk, Dick Iverson, Kenneth Copeland, Kenneth Hagin, Bob Tilton, etc., are proclaiming today that the “charismatic movement” is over and God’s “new move” is underway. Bill Hammon, a revered “modern prophet” in the charismatic community, says:

“The ‘Joshua Generation’ is leading forth, and the priestly pastors are carrying the ark of God’s restorational presence across Jordan. The journey of the charismatic movement has fulfilled its purpose of bringing the church to its Jordan River. Now the cloud by day and the fire by night have been taken away, and the prophets and prophetic ministers have arisen to provide protection, direction and timing for the church’s moving. … The prophets, however, are seeing on the horizon of God’s purpose for His church, a restorational wave of such incomprehensibly gigantic proportions — like a thousand-foot tidal wave — that it staggers the imagination and faith of both those who have prophetically seen it and those who have heard of it. It will be greater than all previous restoration movements combined.”

This new restorational movement advocated by most current charismatics has generated a groundswell of charismatic leaders to open themselves up to “new spiritual revelations” and “deeper doctrinal truths.” The theological menu served in most charismatic churches today is filled with novel ideas, new doctrinal teachings, and unusual practices.

While there are some basic differences existing between new movements arising among charismatics, their overall theological outlook (e.g., the restoration of modern apostles and prophets) and eschatological direction is the same. The New Charismatics are proclaiming that a new supernatural move of God’s Spirit is sweeping the entire globe. This new move will be so revolutionary that the entire course of human history will soon be changed. But in order for this glorious dream to work, the majority of the Christian churches must unite in philosophy and purpose. Therefore, one of the goals of the New Charismatics is to make charismatics and non-charismatics (and non-Christians as well), “New Charismatics.” In other words, charismatics subscribing to new restoration ideas deeply desire that all believers will taste this “new move” of the Holy Spirit and unite with them in their efforts to supernaturally transform the world.

Most refer to this thriving new development expanding throughout the world as “restorationism” or “Latter-Rain restorationism.” They believe that history is moving toward a spiritual climax where God’s power will be poured out on the church like never before. Restoration promoters believe that this new move could be the Lord’s final move where the church will be endued with new power to Christianize the world before Jesus returns. In order for this dominion pursuit to be realized, the five-fold ministry expounded in Eph. 4:11 (apostle, prophets, evangelists, pastors, and teachers) needs to be recognized by the Church at large and given room to exercise their supernatural gifts and God-ordained authority.

Some contemporary restoration movements that fall under the umbrella term “The New Charismatics” are: Kingdom Theology, popularized by the nebulous Bishop/prophet, Earl Paulk; the Word-Faith/Positive Confession Movement led by faith teachers like Kenneth Hagin and Kenneth Copeland; and the Third Wave or Signs and Wonders movement, popularized by controversial Vineyard pastor, John Wimber. These groups have a common bond that promotes God’s moving in a new supernatural way through signs and wonders, that the church must be restored to first century apostolic Christianity before Jesus returns, and that modern apostles and prophets will play a key role in this process. To understand new developments and teachings spreading through the charismatic world, it is necessary to go back in history to briefly examine some of the influential “higher life” movements of the twentieth century, beginning with Pentecostalism. Tracing the origins of these movements will give a better insight into how certain teachings originated and developed over the years and why certain charismatics doctrines are emphasized so strongly today.


The Azuza Street revival of 1906-13 was the launching pad for a worldwide Pentecostal renewal. The main feature of this Pentecostal outpouring was the “baptism with the Holy Spirit,” an experience subsequent to salvation, which is evidenced by speaking in other tongues. This was the crown jewel restored by what many called the “second Pentecost.” There were, however, spiritual flashes that preceded Azuza, which prepared the way for its inauguration. On January 1, 1901, in Topeka, Kansas, Agnes Ozman, a student at Charles Parham’s Bethel Bible School, spoke in tongues. Sometime later, Parham himself had the same experience and from then on preached that all believers who sought the tongues experience diligently would be recipients of the blessing. Most recognize Parham as the founder of the Pentecostal movement.

Parham, an avid holiness preacher, was nurtured in the culture of religious experience. In his search for something more, tongues became the celebrated encounter filling that void. In 1905, a zealous black holiness preacher by the name of William J. Seymour came under the tutelage of Parham in Alvin, Texas, a few miles south of Houston. It wasn’t long before Seymour received the tongues experience and took the Pentecostal message to Azuza Street in Los Angeles. While there were spiritual ignitings before the flame reached Azuza, it was there that the flame turned white hot and began to spread all over the world. After Parham and Seymour received tongues experiences, they began an ambitious effort to spread what they believed to be the restoration of a glorious apostolic doctrine: the baptism of the Holy Spirit with the evidence of speaking in tongues. Parham taught that Christ’s return would occur on the heels of a worldwide Latter-Rain revival in which the Holy Spirit would restore miraculous gifts generating a great end time harvest. This Latter-Rain expectation died out in the early-1920s as Pentecostalism adopted certain tenets of dispensationalism.

Nevertheless, Pentecostalism stands as a classic restoration movement spawning several new sister movements that view the church as returning to her New Testament glory. The classic restoration motif of Pentecostalism that allegedly brought a greater hunger for spiritual reality was the “baptism with the Holy Spirit” evidenced by speaking in tongues.


One of the notably significant, yet controversial, phenomena to powerfully emerge with Pentecostalism is the doctrine and ministry of divine healing. Since the latter half of the nineteenth century, the practice of healing existed in America. But energizing Pentecostalism nourished independent evangelists who brought a “new” emphasis to the healing arena that attracted a popular following. The significance of the deliverance (healing) revival, reaching its zenith between 1947 and 1958, lies in its uniqueness to popularize a concept of salvation that includes health and healing as an essential part of deliverance for the believer.

Pentecostal religion continued to span the globe through the 1930s, but by the mid-1940s, as the careers of many independent evangelists peaked, there was a “new” emphasis — the miraculous! “Spirit Baptism” was still preached, but it was no longer the focus of the revival meeting. The shared heartbeat of “every service was the miracle — the hypnotic moment when the Spirit moved to heal the sick and raise the dead.”

Pentecostal denominations, such as the Assemblies of God, did not favor the revival and viewed the deliverance evangelists as “independent extremists.” Pentecostal leaders were disgusted by the lack of integrity among the revivalists, who often made claims marked by absurd exaggeration. The display of alleged miracles had become so outlandish that revival meetings had turned into “personality cults.” Historian David Harrell quotes one Pentecostal leader who reported:

“The healing evangelists live in constant dialogue with angels and demons, the Holy Spirit and the spirits of diseases from the abyss; some experience electric currents through their hands when they pray with the sick, others have a halo around their heads when they are photographed, and others again have oil appearing on their hands when they pray.”

Many of today’s “televangelists” have adopted the melodramatic preaching styles of the deliverance revivalists of the mid-twentieth-century.


Three pioneers at the forefront of the Deliverance Revival were William Branham, Oral Roberts, and Gordon Lindsey. These men bore remarkably different personalities, but were unquestionably the fuel that kept the revival running. Branham ignited the revival, stirring crowds with apparent miracles and prophetic abilities. Roberts was the popularizer with his heart-tugging message that God is good and wills that His people prosper and be healed. He was the first to bring healing crusades inside the homes of millions who had never been exposed to the healing message by initiating a national weekly television program. Lindsey was the organizer, bringing cohesion with superb administrative skills.

Branham’s teachings profoundly influenced a new sect springing from the neo-Pentecostal deliverance revival known as the “New Order of the Latter-Rain.” Branham also shaped the thoughts and practices of many key Pentecostal figures.

The Latter-Rain movement was a loosely directed and enthusiastic union of cobelligerents united by their fierce opposition to mainline denominations. This meteoric movement created quite a stir among Pentecostal denominations, like the Assemblies of God, and boasted of being a fresh revival displacing the “apostatized” Pentecostals. While its impact was on a small scale, its effects were nevertheless felt world-wide, and it became one of the several catalysts for the Charismatic Movement of the 1960s, the Independent Charismatic Movement (Word-Faith/Positive Confession charismatics) of the 1970s and the New Charismatics surfacing in the 1980s and 1990s. In reaction to the spiritual dryness existing in Pentecostal circles, the “New Order of the Latter-Rain” viewed itself as a refreshing oasis returning to the “full gospel” of the first-century church.

The doctrinal system of the Latter-Rain included Pentecostalism’s baptism of the Spirit with the evidence of speaking in tongues and the New Pentecostal deliverance revivals miraculous healing thrust. But the fiery movement had its own distinctives as well. There were primarily seven new teachings that shaped the Latter-Rain:

Restorationism — This further development of restoration theology viewed God as progressively restoring truths to the church since the Reformation.

Fivefold Ministry — The teaching that God is restoring apostles and prophets to the church to function with the three other gifted offices: evangelists, pastors, and teachers (Eph. 4:11). Apostles and prophets provided direction with new revelations that would play a major role in paving the way for Christ’s second coming.

Laying on of the Hands — A ritual performed by modern apostles and prophets to impart the Holy Spirit and other spiritual blessings and gifts.

Prophecy — Views the practice of “personal prophecy” as being restored to the church. Prophecy would no longer be restricted to general words of exhortation, but would include personal detailed revelations for guidance and instruction.

Recovery of True Worship — The belief that God’s manifested presence is dependent upon a certain order of worship involving singing in tongues, clapping, shouting, singing prophecies, and a new order of praise dancing.

Immortalization of the Saints — The belief that those believers moving in the truth of Latter-Rain restoration, not necessarily all in the church, will attain an immortal state before Jesus returns.

Unity of the Faith — The doctrine that the church, usually perceived to be a band of overcomers in neo-Pentecostal ranks, will attain unity in the faith before Christ returns.


Most historians date the beginning of the charismatic movement as April 3, 1960. On this day, “Father” Dennis Bennett of St. Mark’s Episcopal parish in Van Nuys, California, announced to his congregation that he had received the fullness and power of the Holy Spirit, and how this accompanied “speaking in unknown tongues.” After receiving much opposition, Bennett resigned from his position at St. Mark’s and accepted an invitation to become vicar of St. Luke’s Episcopal Church in Seattle, Washington, which grew to be one of the strongest charismatic churches in the Northwest. For a decade, it was one of the major centers from which speaking in tongues would spread worldwide, especially in the mainline denominations.

The significance of the Charismatic Movement resides in the penetration of the Pentecostal tongues practice into mainline denominations. This created a new openness to the full range of spiritual gifts listed in I Corinthians 12:8-10 (wisdom, knowledge, faith, healing, miracles, prophecy, discerning of spirits, tongues, and interpretation of tongues) that had never been there before. Certainly not all mainline churches supported this new movement, but thousands of people inside mainline churches were experiencing “speaking in tongues” and other spiritual manifestations. This bred a strong conviction that all of the supernatural “sign gifts” (e.g. tongues, healing, miracles, and in some cases, prophecy) were for today.

Although charismatic outpourings continued to spread through mainline churches, many denominational leaders left traditional churches to start independent churches. Before long, these mushrooming churches came under the influence of Word-Faith/Positive Confession teaching propagated by independent charismatics, such as Hagin, Copeland, Charles Capps, and others. Their main emphasis was faith teaching, divine healing, and financial prosperity. Believers who consistently made a positive confession about their physical and spiritual situation and demonstrated great faith would receive abundant blessings from God.

The most militant movement to rise up alongside of the charismatic movement was the “Manifested Sons of God.” This aberration gleaned many of its doctrinal distinctives from the Latter-Rain Movement and thrived during the 1960s and 1970s. Following the teachings of William Branham, the Manifested Sons claimed that denominations were pagan organizations with a Babylonian foundation. Many who broke their denominational ties and joined the Manifest Sons of God believed they were entering the only arena where salvation was possible. The more militant Manifested Sons spiritualized the second coming by teaching that Jesus and His church would become one in nature and in essence. Being one with Christ would corporately result in a Body of “little Christ’s in the flesh” manifesting Jesus Christ on earth as His ongoing incarnation.

Another movement to rise up during the Charismatic Movement became known as the “Shepherding” or “discipleship” movement. This movement grew out of the Latter-Rain/Charismatic tradition and attained its greatest impetus during the mid-1970s. Shepherding arose out of a concern for effective discipleship and put great emphasis on the need for submission to spiritual leaders. Shepherdship is an oppressive system in which a person who often perceives himself as an immature Christian submits himself to the leading of an “elder.” The elders (shepherds) are appointed in much the same way as in other hierarchies, with one submitting to the next higher in a chain of command.

Total discipline is imposed on those who submit themselves to an elder. His leadership is total, even extending over the person’s family life. Failure to obey the shepherd can lead to disapproval, verbal condemnation, and ultimately being put out of the fellowship. The most significant aspect of the unbiblical shepherding system is that one person submits his will completely to another individual, the shepherd or elder.

The movement originated from the ministry of five teachers out of Ft. Lauderdale, Florida — Bob Mumford, Charles Simpson, Derek Prince, Don Basham, and Ern Baxter (a Branham disciple). By the late-1970s the Shepherding movement caused a deep split within charismatic circles because of the strict control many shepherds exercised over their members. By the mid-1980s, the term “shepherding” was dropped since the movement gained a bad reputation for its cultic authoritarian abuses. Nevertheless, the “shepherding” concept still thrives in various circles today (e.g., Promise Keepers) under labels such as “mentoring” and “covering” or “covenant relationships.”

In 1970, Basham along with Bible teachers Derek Prince, Bob Mumford, Ern Baxter and Charles Simpson were asked to take on the leadership of Holy Spirit Teaching Mission (HSTM) an interdenominational charismatic teaching organisation based in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. In 1972, HSTM changed its name to Christian Growth Ministries (CGM).[citation needed]

The four Bible teachers taught a controversial doctrine of so-called ‘spiritual covering’ that required individual Christians to be submitted and accountable to a leader. They became the leaders of the Shepherding Movement. Basham submitted himself to Derek Prince as his personal shepherd [4].

Together with Prince and Mumford, Basham established Good News Church in Fort Lauderdale, Florida in 1974 [6]. Basham later relocated with the CGM to Mobile, Alabama in 1982 when it adopted the name Integrity Communications [7].

Some Good Books on Tongues

Monday, August 27th, 2007

While doing some research on the history of speaking in tongues I came across some good books. A few are old favourites of mine, while others are reissues of classics and some more recent works. Check them out:

Basham wrote sixteen books and numerous articles for Christian magazines.

  • A Handbook on Holy Spirit Baptism

A handbook on tongues, interpretation and prophecy