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Many of us have heard of the great Pentecostal revivals of centuries past, such as what happened on Azusa Street. Today, I'd like to focus on another man who, at the turn of the twentieth century, led the way to the rediscovery of real power in the Church.

Charles Fox Parham:
(Pentecost in Topeka, Kansas)
In 1898, Charles Fox Parham (1873-1929) was determined to see if Jesus truly was the same "yesterday, today, and forever" (Heb. 13:8 KJV).

Because of his recovery from a severe bout of rheumatic fever with which he had been plagued since childhood, Parham developed a firm belief in divine healing. With his wife, he founded a "healing home" in Topeka, Kansas, in 1898. Some say it was patterned after John Alexander Dowie's "homes" around Chicago.

In the summer of 1900, Parham made a tour of Holiness religious centers. He visited works such as Dowie's in Chicago, A. B. Simpson's Holiness training institute in New York, and Frank W. Sandford's Holiness commune in Shiloh, Maine, where he heard reports of people being baptized with the Holy Spirit and speaking in other tongues.

Parham returned home to Topeka convinced that there remained a great outpouring of power to come for Christians who were willing to receive it.

He immediately went into fasting and prayer. Then, in October of 1900, he rented an old mansion which he converted into a Bible school.

The prayer room at Beth-El Bible School became a vital link in what happened.

Focused On Prayer
Students prayed around the clock for the outpouring of God's presence. Parham was convinced that at Christ's second coming the Church would be found operating in the same power that the apostles and the early church possessed. Parham wrote about his search this way:
In December of 1900, we had our examination upon the subjects of repentance, conversion, consecration, sanctification, healing and the soon coming of the Lord. We had reached in our studies a problem. What about the second chapter of Acts? I set the students at work studying out diligently what was the Bible evidence of the baptism of the Holy Ghost.
To his astonishment, they all reached the same conclusion: not only was the experience for today but the initial evidence was speaking with other tongues.

At a watchnight service on New Year's Eve, 1901, Parham's students set out to seek God's restoration of His divine pattern. As the midnight hour drew near and the twentieth century was about to begin, one of the students, Agnes Ozman (1870-1917) asked that hands be laid on her that she might be baptized in the Holy Spirit.

Parham at first refused, not having had the experience himself. However, as she insisted, he laid his hands "humbly" on her head and prayed.

In his own words he described the experience:
The glory fell on her, a halo seemed to surround her head and face, and she began to speak Chinese. Also, for three days she could not speak English, and even when she tried to write, she wrote in Chinese. Newspapers reproduced her Chinese-language pieces.
A few days later, Parham and about half his 34 students also received the baptism with the Holy Spirit.

In Gordon Lindsay's "They Saw It Happen," one person is quoted as saying, "At one time they spontaneously began to sing Jesus, "Lover of My Soul," in at least six different languages, carrying different parts, but with more angelic voices than I ever listened to."

Professors of languages and government interpreters put this phenomenon to a critical test. One interpreter reported finding twenty different Chinese dialects in one night.

Newspaper accounts of the events at Parham's school caused the owners of the mansion to ask the school to leave the building promptly. Parham warned the owners that they were opposing the move of God and, if they persisted in this action, to expect judgment.

Shortly thereafter, a mysterious fire broke out, totally destroying the facility.

The Power Followed
Along with the great gift of speaking in tongues came an outburst of the incredible power of God. Parham saw more than a thousand people healed in a three-month period.

The adverse publicity and opposition by town and religious folk almost wiped out his Apostolic Faith movement, which included Bible schools and churches. All that was left was a small core of people who had truly accepted what essentially became the Pentecostal doctrine.

Parham moved to Galena, Kansas, where, in 1903, his ministry reignited because of the combination of the baptism with the Holy Spirit and the teaching of divine healing.

Then later, in 1905, Parham began a ten-week Bible training school in a suburb of Houston, Texas. There a black Baptist minister, who had lost one eye from smallpox, heard about Parham and hungered to learn more about the power of God.

Because segregation laws of the time decreed that blacks could not sit in the same classrooms with whites, William Seymour (1870-1922) was allowed to enroll but had to sit in the doorway outside of Parham's class and listen.

William Seymour:
(Azusa Street Revival)
Seymour was convinced that the teachings were from God, but he did not receive the baptism of the Holy Spirit in Houston nor even when he first began to preach it.

Many were filled with the Spirit and were speaking in tongues before this humble black man, the instrument of their blessing, was himself filled.

At the encouragement of a young woman from the Holiness Movement, Seymour moved to Los Angeles to seek God for the coveted experience. Other men such as Frank Bartleman (1871-1936), a Holiness evangelist, and Joseph Smale (1867-1926), pastor of the First Baptist Church in Los Angeles, joined in the quest for a new move of God.

Hearing of the revival in Wales, Bartleman and Smale corresponded with Evan Roberts, hoping to gain more insight for God's move in America. Suddenly, in 1906, their hunger was fulfilled in the greatest modern-day outpouring of the Holy Spirit.

Early in 1906, Seymour was invited to visit a church in Los Angeles with the possibility of becoming its pastor. Convinced that the baptism with the Holy Spirit was for modern times, he preached that message—and was promptly locked out of the church.

Then Seymour held meetings in a private home. Those front-porch services quickly grew too large and another location became necessary. At the 312 Azusa Street building that had once been an African Methodist Episcopal church, and after that, a livery stable and a warehouse for a department store, God poured out His Spirit.

People were filled with the Holy Spirit, every imaginable need was met, and God's healing power was prevalent. There were no racial barriers as there had been in Houston. When the power of God fell, it drew blacks and whites alike. All races flocked to be in the presence of God.

People from all over the world came to this modest facility to see the new thing God was doing.

The pews at Azusa Street were wooden planks, and the pulpit was an overturned chicken crate. Yet from this humble facility a major move of God began. For three years, day and night, God's miracle power did not stop.

There were meetings three times a day, seven days a week. Some meetings ran continuously with no beginning or end. The curious, the unbelieving, and hungry believers flocked to the place.

The atmosphere was unbearable to the carnal person. Unbelievers fell to the floor in repentance. No one was honored because of his means or education but for God-given gifts.

There was little form to the meetings. People prayed or sang in the Spirit and worshipped God until the Holy Spirit would give someone a prophecy, a tongue and interpretation, or a message.

Seymour oversaw the meetings, but truly the Holy Spirit was in charge. Often Seymour would sit behind two empty shoe-box crates, one on top of another. He would place his head inside the top of one during prayer, and the power of God would fall.

He always remained humble, never wanting any of the attention for himself or seeking any of the credit or glory for the happenings.

Divinely Orchestrated
No sermons were announced ahead of time; no special speakers were advertised; no human leader was depended on exclusively. Whomever God moved upon was the leader of the movement, and anyone who moved in the flesh quickly sat down in embarrassment.

Many times haughty, self-appointed men came to "make their mark" at Azusa, only to find themselves on the floor repenting. Bartleman wrote, "The preachers died the hardest, they had so much to die to: so much reputation and good words." He also wrote, "I would rather live six months at that time than fifty years of ordinary life."

Once a preacher came from Chicago to expose the meetings as a fraud. When he walked into the mission, a 13-year-old girl approached him, and said, "Thus saith the Lord, 'You have come to expose the people. Yet I have brought you here for another purpose...'" The man fell to his knees in humble repentance.

The overall results of these meetings were as remarkable as the individual occurrences. According to church historian Vinson Synan, from this one single revival, by 1980 more than fifty million people had been affected by the Pentecostal Movement.

It also became the foundation for the Charismatic-Pentecostal outpouring. The latest statistics reveal that, by 1990, more than three hundred and seventy-two million people had been affected by this one outpouring of the Spirit.

The simple humility of Azusa Street gives us the greatest hope for God doing it again in our time.

Source: The Quest For Revival by Ron McIntosh
Excerpt permission granted by Harrison House Publishers

Author Biography

Ron McIntosh
Web site: Ron McIntosh Ministries
Ron McIntosh has dedicated his life to helping people find the life they were born to live. His unique brand of insight and practical application inspires people to unlock the door to their potential and maximum productivity. A noted speaker, writer, teacher and life coach, Ron travels the world sharing God’s principles of leadership, productivity, revival and grace through services, seminars and conferences. His books and resources have helped countless thousands find their dreams and maximize their potential.

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