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On January 1, 1901, the first day of the new century, from the Vatican, Pope Leo XIII invoked the Holy Spirit by singing the hymn "Veni Creator Spiritus" (Come Holy Spirit, Creator Blest) dedicating the twentieth century to the Holy Spirit. That same day on the other side of the world, a group of students in Charles Parham's tiny Topeka, Kansas, Bible school, experienced a Pentecostal outpouring when a young woman was filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke "in tongues."
What made this so unique was not that she spoke in tongues. Others had done that. The uniqueness was for her, and those who soon experienced the same thing, that it served as evidence of a renewal of the New Testament "baptism in the Holy Spirit." When she spoke "in tongues" (to supernaturally speak in a language never learned), she did so believing that it was a biblically based, empowering experience that is distinct and subsequent to conversion. Parham and his followers saw their experience just like that of the apostles on the day of Pentecost as described in Acts 2. This, they were convinced, was a restoration of New Testament power for ministry in the latter days.The Charismatic Century had begun.
Five years later, another outpouring occurred in Los Angeles when William J. Seymour, influenced by Parham, moved to California and preached the Pentecostal baptism with the Holy Spirit. There, through Seymour's preaching, a small group of believers, mostly African-Americans, were filled with the Holy Spirit and as in Topeka, they spoke with tongues as a biblical evidence of that experience. Under Seymour's leadership, it became a full-fledged revival.
Within weeks people were flocking to hear Seymour at the tiny old mission building in the heart of the city. Within months "Azusa Pilgrims" were coming from all across the country to experience "their Pentecost."
Early Pentecostals often likened the Los Angeles revival to the birth of Jesus Christ. He was born in a humble stable in Bethlehem to common people, and Pentecostalism was born among common folk in a building once used as a stable. And so the story became part of Pentecostal folklore, as 312 Azusa Street became an immortalized address in their collective history.
This amazing revival was one of many Holy Spirit awakenings around the world at about the same time, and though scholars debate whether the Azusa Street revival was the beginning, it was and is, at the very least, the popular beginning point. Pentecostalism, with its emphasis on the presence and power of the Holy Spirit, was erupting.
Though the crowds were never huge, they defied the racial taboos of their day as Blacks, Whites, Latinos, and a smattering of Asians worshipped together. Daily meetings continued for three years. The Apostolic Faith Mission, as it was known, became the catalytic birthplace of the modern Pentecostal movement.
From these commonplace beginnings just a century ago, the Pentecostal/Charismatic Renewal began changing the landscape of global Christianity. Marginalized and dismissed by the larger church and the secular media for much of the twentieth century, the sheer size and dynamic vitality of the movement have brought growing recognition and appreciation. No longer ignored, it is often spoken of with sweeping superlatives. In 1998, the evangelical publication Christian History called Pentecostalism "the most explosive Christian movement of the twentieth century." In 2000 it ranked Azusa Street founder William Seymour as one of the most influential leaders of the twentieth century and called the Azusa Street Revival "the most phenomenal event of twentieth century Christianity."
GROWTH EXAMINED, TERMS DEFINED
Not only the fastest-growing segment of the Christian faith, the Pentecostal and Charismatic movements are far and away the most widespread and diverse expressions of the church, comprising roughly twenty-five percent of all Christians in the world. The numbers are astounding by any measure. With estimates as high as 600 million adherents in 2005, the Renewal is the second largest distinct grouping of Christians in the world; only the Roman Catholic Church is larger. The movement is expanding by 9 million new participants a year (twenty-five thousand per day) and Pentecostals and Charismatics are found in large numbers on every continent and in 236 nations.
The Renewal's makeup reflects its global character with 71 percent non-white with women outnumbering men and children outnumbering adults. While in the West, Pentecostals and Charismatics are now a part of the middle class, a majority of its members in the developing world are poor and cluster in the mega-cities of the world. And although growth of the Renewal has slowed in North America, it continues unabated outside the West. The grassroots and egalitarian character of the Renewal is deeply appealing to the disenfranchised. It is here that the message of the dynamic power and presence of the Holy Spirit heralds hope for the marginalized and downtrodden.
Pentecostalism is far from being a monolithic movement. It is extremely diverse and cannot easily be defined theologically. Some believe the baptism of the Holy Spirit follows conversion and that speaking with tongues is the "initial physical evidence" of that experience. Others see the baptism of the Spirit as part of conversion or confirmation. Still others think tongues is an important gift but not essential as evidence.
The fact is Pentecostals come in all shapes and sizes that reach across the broad spectrum of the larger church. Some embrace the name "Pentecostal" and others refuse it. Some are in Pentecostal denominations while others are spread throughout all denominations. The largest group by far is the independent Pentecostals who span the globe. In the Pentecostal potpourri only one thing is the same for all: the passion they share to experience the presence and power of the Holy Spirit. This is the common denominator.
This emphasis on the Holy Spirit, the third person of the Trinity, is what defines the "charismatic century." Neglected in theological reflection over the centuries, as other doctrinal issues took center stage, the twentieth century became the "century of the Holy Spirit." From theologians to pastors, from denominational leaders to the people in the pews, there has been an unprecedented new focus on the person and work of the Holy Spirit in the last 100 years. It continues into this new millennium.
For the purposes of our study, and given the rich diversity among Pentecostals, several terms need to be clarified. Generally, when unmodified, we use Pentecostal(s), Pentecostalism, the Pentecostal/Charismatic movements, and simply the Renewal, as broadly inclusive terms referring to all Pentecostals irrespective of their differences. Whenever we use any of these or similar terms to name groups or movements we capitalize them, as in the Charismatic Renewal or Classical Pentecostals. Sometimes when they are used as modifiers, as in the charismatic gifts, we do not capitalize them.
We also use the terms baptism in the Holy Spirit, filled with the Spirit, Spirit filled, and Spirit baptism synonymously in reference to receiving an empowering fullness of the Holy Spirit. We acknowledge and respect the differing perspectives on the particular nature of this experience and seek to engender as much mutuality as possible.
THREE "WAVES" OF THE RENEWAL
As is common now in the study of Pentecostalism, we follow the approach that delineates three distinct categories within the Renewal. First, there are the Classical Pentecostals or denominational Pentecostals. This is the first wave of Pentecostals whose origins are found in the first decades of the twentieth century. Most acknowledge the Azusa Street revival-though not exclusively-as an essential part of their history.
Classical Pentecostals frequently identify speaking with tongues as evidence of the baptism of the Holy Spirit (sometimes referred to simply as "initial evidence"). This group is quite diverse on other points of doctrine and while the majority believe in initial evidence even here there are those who believe tongues is only "a sign" of Spirit baptism and not the only sign.
These first Pentecostals were primarily from the working class and a number were poor and on the margins of society. People outside the movement saw them as uneducated and given to emotionalism and excess. It was a stereotype that would take decades to overcome. Drawing on an epithet that dates back to the nineteenth-century Holiness movement, Pentecostals were frequently called "holy rollers" because of their enthusiastic meetings where worshippers joyfully and full-heartedly sang, clapped, shouted, danced, and celebrated "before the Lord." In the midst of progressivism's heyday, these ordinary folk found identity and purpose in the "end times" revival. Casting off the "threat" of the modern age they were seeing a restoration of the New Testament Christian experience.
As Duke University historian Grant Wacker points out, these early Pentecostals could not be dismissed in hopes that they would simply fade away. On the one hand, while they were passionate about getting back to the New Testament patterns, these folk were not a "head in the cloud" group. Rather, they were sensitive, discerning, and flexible leaders with an ability to adapt and adjust their message to their cultural contexts, traits that have contributed to the success and longevity they have achieved.
The second wave of Pentecostals emerged after the Second World War. Although its earliest origins are in the 1940s and 1950s with the healing movement associated with Oral Roberts, and the latter rain movement of the 1940s and 1950s that started in Canada, it was an event in 1960 that marked the popular beginning of this second wave of the Charismatic Renewal. Neo-Pentecostalism, as it is also called, is usually associated with Episcopalian priest Dennis Bennett. While pastoring St. Mark's Episcopal parish in Van Nuys, California, a large, affluent congregation, Bennett was filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke in tongues. After telling his congregation of his Pentecostal experience in April of 1960, the uproar that followed drew national attention. Here was a respectable, highly educated Episcopalian acting like a Pentecostal. What was most striking is that Bennett chose to remain an Episcopalian and he believed his Holy Spirit baptism would serve to renew his denomination.
This is what marked the Charismatic Renewal. Where in the early decades of the century people almost always left non-Pentecostal churches after experiencing a Pentecostal-like Spirit baptism to join Pentecostal churches, the emphasis in this second wave was renewal of existing structures rather than creating new ones. Characteristic of the Charismatics was that they stayed in the denominations and became a breath of Holy Spirit refreshing. The Charismatic Renewal of the 1960s and 1970s touched almost every denomination in America and many of the historic denominations of Western Europe.
The "third wave" of renewal has been popularized by church growth specialist and missiologist C. Peter Wagner. He has used the term to describe those Christians outside the first two waves who experience the Spirit's power and presence yet prefer not to be called either Pentecostal or Charismatic. In this volume we join with others in broadening the term. Along with Stanley Burgess, editor of The New International Dictionary of the Pentecostal and Charismatic Movements, we identify the third wave with the huge throng of independent, indigenous churches that do not carry direct connections with Classical Pentecostalism or the Charismatic Renewal. These churches and believers have Pentecostal-like experiences yet do not identify themselves as Pentecostal/Charismatic. They simply believe they are practicing biblical Christianity and acknowledge the place and power of the Holy Spirit in ways of which many were unaware. They accept the gifts and workings of the Holy Spirit and see them as normal to the church today as in the first century.
"Neo-Charismatics" are found in their greatest numbers in the developing world and are far and away the largest expression of the modern work of the Holy Spirit. Together, the twentieth-century composite of these three surges of renewal is changing the shape of the Christian faith.
CHRISTIANITY'S CHANGING SHAPE
Consider that at the beginning of the twentieth century, notwithstanding even then its broader character, Christianity was primarily seen as an Anglo, Western phenomenon centered in Europe and North America. Largely because of the explosive growth of Pentecostals and Charismatics, Christianity has experienced a dramatic seismic shift to the East and South in the last 100 years. Growing centers of the Christian church are burgeoning in Africa, Latin America, and in regions of Asia.
This reach and impact of the Pentecostal/Charismatic Renewal is in many ways a recovery of the shape of the Church over much of Christian history. The tendency to tell the Church's story with the focus on its European and North American dimensions often ignores or overlooks the vigorous and dynamic Christian history in the East. In fact, it was the Greek-speaking Orthodox Church in Asia Minor and Palestine that had the more robust theology of the Holy Spirit and saw the exercise of the supernatural gifts of the Spirit from the New Testament period all the way through the medieval centuries.
The worldviews and interpretive frameworks (ways of perceiving and deciding what is real) of people in the developing world are far more akin to biblical realities than those of people living in the West. Perhaps one of the most significant contributions of the Renewal is the confrontation it makes to the edifice of western rationalism which, despite Post-Modernity's growing influence, still dominates the educational and political structures of Europe and North America. The assumption that religion is just a private matter, so embedded in western thought, makes little sense to those outside the West, who regularly cry out for supernatural intervention in their affairs in the face of often corrupt, civil authorities. Modern man's arrogant dismissal of the supernatural world has little resonance with people who assume that the invisible world offers gods, spirits, and supernatural activities.
A story told by a Pentecostal missionary who worked churches on the island nation of Papua New Guinea illustrates this reality well. A young evangelist was sent into a remote area to plant a church. After arriving, he was asked to go to a nearby village to pray for the family of a woman who had died and was being readied for burial. When he got there he found family and friends still in deep grief over the woman's death. As he began to comfort the mourners he heard God speak and say, "do not bury her but raise her up." He prayed over the corpse and the woman woke up. The people were in awe of the power of God and a church was started as many in the village turned to Christ. On the very site that was to be her grave, a church building was erected to house a congregation that was named "Resurrection Foursquare Church."
This amazing account is not unusual or unbelievable to Christians in Asia, Africa, and Latin America. These believers heartily affirm this kind of supernatural intervention as part and parcel to the message Jesus proclaimed in the New Testament. Matthew writes in his Gospel:
And Jesus went about all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the gospel of the kingdom, and healing all kinds of sickness and all kinds of disease among the people. Then His fame went throughout all Syria; and they brought to Him all sick people who were afflicted with various diseases and torments, and those who were demon-possessed, epileptics, and paralytics; and He healed them. Great multitudes followed Him-from Galilee, and [from] Decapolis, Jerusalem, Judea, and beyond the Jordan. (Matthew 4:23-25 nkjv)
The offer of hope, healing, and spiritual liberation is a significant reason for the great attraction to Christianity and its explosive growth around the world. All the more remarkable considering that much of the twentieth century pronouncements were made about the demise of Christianity.
Excerpted from The Charismatic Century by John W. Hayford S. David Moore Copyright © 2006 by Jack W. Hayford. Excerpted by permission.
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