Defining Moments in Church History…(9)

Well, we’ve come to the end of our list, the last of the eight moments in Church history that have given us the world we dwell in today.

Now some may not want to include this final moment, either their doctrinal ideals are not truly affected by the moment or they find it unnecessary to recognize its impact, but there can be little debate that the so-called Pentecostal century has radically changed the Church worldwide.

When Charles Parham left his Bible school students with the assignment to study the baptism in the Holy Spirit described in the book of Acts, an amazing journey was underway. On January 1, 1901, a young woman in the group, Agnes Ozman, was the first to experience what their study had revealed–that speaking with other tongues is the initial sign of receiving this baptism. Soon this teaching and the experience it brought swept down the southeast side of Kansas, into Oklahoma, and all the way to Houston, Texas.

In Houston, at another Bible school established by Parham, William Seymour embraced the teaching. Even though he had yet to experience this phenomenon, he traveled to California to accept a ministry position, he quickly lost because of this teaching. Relocating his teaching effort to an abandoned building on Azusa Street, this humble African-American man and a circle of friends began to experience an “outpouring” of God’s Spirit unlike anything since, perhaps, the Day of Pentecost.

Day and night for more than three years, the Azusa Street revival burned brightly, impacting thousands–both those who would travel to this Los Angeles miracle and those who would hear the Gospel because of the missionary spirit the revival would produce.

Throughout the 20th century, the Pentecostals spread at an amazing rate around the globe. one group, the Assemblies of God, grew from around 300 in their first meeting in 1914 to more than 66 million by their 100th birthday. At one of their earliest meetings, these few hundred folks determined to accomplish “the greatest work of evangelism the world has ever seen.” Given their rapid growth and ongoing spread around the world, they may have achieved just that.

But they are far from the only Pentecostal group. The Church of God in Christ, Pentecostal Holiness Church, Church of God (Cleveland, TN) and dozens of others turned the final 100 years of the millennium into the Pentecostal Century. Today, in many parts of the world, the Church is a “full-Gospel” or “Spirit-empowered” Church, where people live with the expectation that the miraculous moments of Scripture can and should be a part of the Church’s reality today.

While many denominational groups continue to resist this teaching, one cannot deny that the Pentecostal message and experience has reshaped the Church in just about every corner of the globe.

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