Early Twentieth Century Revivals:
Revival in the twentieth century had its roots in the eighteenth century Wesleyan concept of sanctification and the subsequent nineteenth century holiness churches emphasising an experience of ‘entire sanctification’. From within these movements with their promotion of a ‘second blessing’ grew acceptance and promotion of a specific, empowering work of God’s grace.
1901 – January: Topeka, Kansas, North America (Charles Parham)
1904 – October: Loughor, Wales (Evan Roberts)
1905 – June: Mukti, India (Pandita Ramabai)
1905 – October: Dohnavur, South India (Amy Carmichael)
1906 – March: Assam, North East India
1906 – April: Los Angeles, North America (William Seymour)
1907 – January: Pyongyang, Korea
1908 – China (Jonathan Goforth)
1909 – July: Valparaiso, Chile (Willis Hoover)
1914 – Belgian Congo, Africa (Charles T Studd)
1915 – October: Gazaland, South Africa (Rees Howells)
1921 – March: Lowestroft, England (Douglas Brown)
1927 – February: Shanghai, China (John Sung)
1936 – June: Gahini, Rwanda
1901 – January: Topeka, Kansas, North America (Charles Parham)
Holiness preacher Charles Fox Parham (1873-1929), established Bethel Bible College as a missionary training school at Topeka, Kansas, from October 1900 in an old stone mansion rented from the American Bible Society on the outskirts of town. After prolonged periods of prayer and study the 34 students would meet in plenary sessions to discuss their findings. The final topic for discussion that year was the question: What is the Bible evidence whereby a person may know that he or she has been baptized in the Holy Spirit? On 31 December, after three days of personal study the students agreed unanimously that speaking in tongues was that evidence. Parham concurred.
The school emphasized personal and communal prayer, with staff and students continually using an upper room for prayer. They met there for their New Year’s Eve watchnight service which continued into the early hours of the new year. On the next evening of 1 January, 1901, Agnes Ozman (1870-1937), a Holiness preacher and inner city missioner studying at the school asked for prayer with laying on hands to receive the baptism in the Spirit with the gift of tongues. Parham and the leaders prayed for her and she experienced a strong encounter of the Spirit with tongues. Parham and half of the students also spoke in tongues during the next three days in which there was constant prayer, praise and worship. Initially they believed that these tongues were gifts of other languages (xenolalia ) to be used in missionary evangelism. Those events have been seen as the beginning of Pentecostalism in America, being the first recorded time that the doctrine of speaking in tongues as the initial evidence of the baptism in the Holy Spirit was articulated, taught and experienced.
Parham established his Apostolic Faith movement among holiness groups, itinerated widely and ran various Bible Schools including a short term Bible School in Houston, Texas, in 1905-1906 where William Seymour, a Negro holiness preacher and son of Baptist slaves, attended. Seymour accepted Parham’s teaching on tongues as the initial evidence of baptism in the Spirit and adopted the Apostolic Faith title for his independent mission at Azusa Street in Los Angeles from April 1906.
Seymour invited Parham to speak at Azusa Street in October 1906, but Parham objected to the style and freedom of the meetings, so Seymour broke fellowship with him. Parham promoted the theological foundations of Pentecostalism from his experience of the Spirit at Topeka, but Seymour became the apostle of Pentecostalism through the Azusa Street revival.
Back to top
1904 – October: Loughor, Wales (Evan Roberts)
Beginning with thousands of small prayer groups worldwide, the first years of the twentieth century saw revival break out in unprecedented measure. An Australian example was the preparation for the evangelistic meetings of Reuben A. Torrey with Charles M. Alexander in Australia in 1902. In preparation for their visit to Melbourne, 1,700 home prayer groups met to pray for the mission and revival. The Australian campaign registered over 20,000 enquirers, 8,642 in Melbourne, and many churches were filled early this century. Torrey reported on the large numbers of Melbourne home ‘prayer circles’ when he spoke at the annual Keswick Convention in England in July 1902. The 5,000 people attending Keswick responded with enthusiasm, committing themselves to pray for worldwide revival in ever increasing ‘prayer circles’. Volunteers gathered names of additional thousands committed to join in united, constant prayer for revival.
The Welsh Revival of 1904-1905 became the most powerful expression of that revival, and it, in turn, impacted the world. As news of the revival spread in print and as missionaries sailed from Great Britain, fervent prayer for revival increased across the world. Powerful revivals touched India, Korea, and China, and stirred revivals in South Africa and Japan, along with fresh awakenings in Africa, Latin America, and the Pacific.
From November 1904 in Wales thousands were converted in a few months and 100,000 within a year. That number did not include nominal members converted in the Anglican and Free Churches. Five years later 80,000 converts remained active in the churches. During the revival, crime dropped dramatically, with some judges left without any cases to try. Convictions for drunkenness were halved in the Principality, and many taverns went bankrupt. At times so many miners were converted that it caused slowdowns in the mines because the pit ponies hauling coal stopped, confused, not understanding instructions without profanity.
Early in 1904 touches of revival stirred New Quay, Cardiganshire, on the west coast of Wales where Joseph Jenkins was minister. At a testimony meeting at Jenkin’s Methodist Church, a recent teenage convert, Florrie Evans, announced, “If no one else will, I must say that I do love my Lord Jesus with all my heart.” The Holy Spirit instantly moved powerfully on the meeting with strong conviction. Many wept. One after another stood and acknowledged their submission God. Jenkins led teams of revived young people conducting testimony meetings throughout the area.
The evangelist, Seth Joshua, arrived at New Quay in September 1904 to find remarkable moves of the Spirit in his meetings. On Sunday 18, he reported that he had “never seen the power of the Holy Spirit so powerfully manifested among the people as at this place just now.” His meetings lasted far into the night. His diary continued:
Monday 19. Revival is breaking out here in greater power … the young people receiving the greatest measure of blessing. They break out into prayer, praise, testimony and exhortation.
Tuesday 20. I cannot leave the building until 12 and even 1 o’clock in the morning I closed the service several times and yet it would break out again quite beyond control of human power.
Wednesday 21. Yes, several souls … they are not drunkards or open sinners, but are members of the visible church not grafted into the true Vine … the joy is intense.
Thursday 22. We held another remarkable meeting tonight. Group after group came out to the front, seeking the “full assurance of faith.”
Friday 23. I am of the opinion that forty conversions took place this week. I also think that those seeking assurance may be fairly counted as converts, for they had never received Jesus as personal Saviour before.”
Seth Joshua, alarmed by the inroads of liberalism in the churches, had prayed that God would use a zealous young Christian to bring revival to Wales. One such young man, converted through his own ministry was Evan Roberts (1978-1951).
Born in Loughor in Glamorgan, between Swansea and Llanelly, Evan Roberts (1878-1951) was an exemplary school pupil. At twelve he began working in the mine with his father. He founded a Sunday school for the children of miners, and decided to become a preacher. Constantly he read the Bible, even in the mine. He published poems in the Cardiff Times under the pseudonym of Bwlchydd, learned shorthand, and taught himself to be a blacksmith. He describes his encounters with the Spirit as follows:
For thirteen years I prayed that I might receive the Spirit. I had been led to pray by a remark of William Davies, one of the deacons: ‘Be faithful! Supposing the Spirit were to come down and you were not there. Remember Thomas, and how much he lost from not being present on the evening of the Resurrection.’
So I said to myself: ‘I want to receive the Spirit at any price.’ And I continually went to meetings despite all difficulties. Often, as I saw the other boys putting out to sea in their boats, I was tempted to turn round and join them. But no. I said to myself, ‘Remember your resolution to be faithful’, and I would go to the meeting. Prayer meeting on Monday evening at the chapel, prayer meeting for the Sunday school on Tuesday evening at ‘Pisgah’, meeting at the church on Wednesday evening, and of Hope meeting on Thursday evening. I supported all these faithfully for years. For ten or eleven years I prayed for revival. I spent whole nights reading accounts of revivals or talking about them. It was the Spirit who in this way was driving me to think about revival.
One Friday evening that spring (1904), as I was praying at my bedside before going to bed, I was taken up into a great expanse – without time or space. It was communion with God. Up to that time I had only had a God who was far off. That evening I was afraid, but that fear has never come back. I trembled so violently that the bed shook, and my brother was awakened and took hold of me, thinking I was ill.
After this experience I woke each night about one o’clock in the morning. It was the more strange, as usually I slept like a log and no noise in my room was enough to wake me. From one o’clock I was taken up into communion with God for about four hours. What it was I cannot tell you, except that it was of God. About five o’clock I was again allowed to sleep until about nine o’clock. I was then taken up again and carried away in the same experience as in the early hours of the morning, until about midday or one o’clock.
At home they questioned me, and asked why I got up so late … but these things are too holy to speak of. This experience went on for about three months.
He entered the Calvanistic Methodist Academy at Newcasle Emlyn in mid September 1904. He was convinced revival would touch all Wales and eventually he led a small band all over the country praying and preaching.
Seth Joshua held meetings at Newcastle Emlyn, following his meetings at New Quay. Students from the Methodist Academy attended. Among them was Sidney Evans a room mate of Evan Roberts. The students, including Evan Roberts, attended the next Joshua meetings in Blaenannerch.
There on Thursday 29 September, Seth Joshua closed the 7 a.m. meeting before breakfast crying out in Welsh, “Lord … bend us.” Evan Roberts remembered, “It was the Spirit that put the emphasis for me on ‘Bend us.’ ‘That is what you need,’ said the Spirit to me. And as I went out I prayed, O Lord, bend me” (Evans 1969, 70). During the 9 a.m. meeting, Evan Roberts eventually prayed aloud after others had prayed. He knelt with his arms over the seat in front, bathed in perspiration as he agonised in prayer. He regarded that encounter with the Spirit as crucial in launching him into his revival ministry which began one month later.
A motto of the revival became “Bend the church and save the world.” Soon after the impact of the Spirit on him at Seth Joshua’s meetings, he took leave from the Academy to return home to challenge his friends, especially the young people.
Arriving home by train at his village of Loughor on the south coast of Wales on Monday, 31 October, Evan Roberts obtained permission to speak at meetings from Daniel Jones, minister at Moriah Church in Loughor and its chapel Pisgah, and from Thomas Francis minister at Moriah’s daughter church in Gorseinon. Roberts spoke after the usual Monday night prayer meeting at Moriah to 17 young people. The Holy Spirit moved on them all in that two hour session, and they all publicly confessed Christ as their personal Saviour, including Evan Roberts’ three sisters and his brother Dan, all of whom later a took leading part in many revival meetings. Meetings followed at Pisgah and Gorseinon. He then spoke every night to increasing crowds at Moriah Church where he began emphasising four points which became his constant theme. People were convicted as Evan Roberts repeatedly emphasised four requirements, that they must:
1. put away any unconfessed sin,
2. forsake any doubtful habit,
3. obey the Spirit promptly,
4. confess Christ publicly.
He believed that a baptism in the Spirit was the essence of revival and that the primary condition of revival is that individuals should experience such a baptism in the Spirit. By the weekend the church was packed. Roberts spoke to a crowded church on Saturday night on ‘Be filled with the Spirit’. An after meeting with Roberts followed Sunday night service at Libanus Chapel, Gorseinon. Evan Roberts described the response on the Sunday evening, 6 November, when by midnight the congregation was overwhelmed with tears.
Then the people came down from the gallery, and sat close to one another. “Now,” said I, “we must believe that the Spirit will come; not think He will come; not hope He will come; but firmly believe that He will come.” Then I read the promises of God, and pointed out how definite they were. (Remember, I a.m. doing all under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, and praise be to Him.) After this, the Spirit said that everyone was to pray. Pray now, not confess, not sing, not give experience, but pray and believe, and wait. And this is the prayer, “Send the Spirit now, for Jesus Christ’s sake.”
The people were sitting, and only closed their eyes. The prayer began with me. Then it went from seat to seat boys and girls young men and maidens. Some asking in silence, some aloud, some coldly, some with warmth, some formally, some in tears, some with difficulty, some adding to it, boys and girls, strong voices, then tender voices. Oh, wonderful! I never thought of such an effect. I felt the place beginning to be filled, and before the prayer had gone half way through the chapel, I could hear some brother weeping, sobbing, and saying, “Oh, dear! dear! well! well! Oh, dear! dear!” On went the prayer, the feeling becoming more intense; the place being filled more and more (with the Spirit’s presence).”
The crowded Monday evening meeting went till 3 a.m. Meetings continued every night. The Cardiff newspaper The Western Mail published this report on Thursday 10 November, the first of many daily reports on the progress of the revival:
GREAT CROWDS OF PEOPLE DRAWN TO LOUGHOR
Congregation Stays till 2.30 in the Morning
“A remarkable religious revival is now taking place in Loughor. For some days a young man named Evan Roberts, a native of Loughor, has been causing great surprise at Moriah Chapel. The place has been besieged by dense crowds of people unable to obtain admission. Such excitement has prevailed that the road on which the chapel is situated has been lined with people from end to end. Roberts, who speaks in Welsh, opens his discourse by saying that he does not know what he is going to say but that when he is in communion with the Holy Spirit, the Holy Spirit will speak, and he will simply be the medium of His wisdom. The preacher soon after launches into a fervent and at times impassioned oration. His statements have had the most stirring effects upon his listeners. Many who have disbelieved Christianity for years are returning to the fold of their younger days. One night, so great was the enthusiasm invoked by the young revivalist that, after his sermon which lasted two hours, the vast congregation remained praying and singing until two-thirty in the morning. Shopkeepers are closing early in order to get a place in the chapel, and tin and steel workers throng the place in working clothes.”
Revival meetings began to multiply rapidly, the early ones in South Wales being led by Evan Roberts, Sydney Evans, Seth Joshua and Joseph Jenkins with teams of young people. Rev. R. B. Jones began a ten day mission on Tuesday, 8 November in Rhos in North Wales during which revival broke out and rapidly spread through the north as well as the south.
Many of the 800 attending the Moriah meeting on Friday, 11 November were on their knees repenting for a long time. The Western Mail report of that meeting circulated widely in Wales and throughout the rest of Britain:
Instead of the set order of proceedings … everything was left to the spontaneous impulse of the moment … at 4.25 a.m., the gathering dispersed. But even at that hour, the people did not make their way home. When I left to walk back to Llanelly, I left dozens of them about the road discussing the chief subject of their lives. … I felt that this was no ordinary gathering.
Newspaper reports generated intense interest in the meetings. Crowds arrived in Loughor on Saturday 12 November filling the streets with wagons and carts. Shops emptied of food supplies. Roberts’ college room mate preached at one chapel and Roberts at the other on Saturday, both meetings lasting till after dawn Sunday. Hundreds of coalminers and tin plate workers were converted, filled with the Spirit, and radically transformed. Swearing, drunkenness, immorality and crime began to diminish.
From Sunday 13 November Evan Roberts and his teams conducted meetings by invitation, first at Aberdare and then throughout the towns and hamlets of Wales. He usually took a small team with him to pray, witness and sing. November 1904 saw revival spread throughout Wales. Newspapers described the crowded meetings. Churches and chapels sent statistics of conversions to the papers. By the end of January 1905 the papers had reported 70,000 converted in three months.
As with other evangelists and ministers, Evan Roberts travelled the Welsh valleys, often never preaching but earnestly praying. In Neath he spent a week in prayer without leaving his rooms while the revival continued to pack the churches. Characteristics of the meetings were singing Welsh hymns in harmony for over an hour, the decline of the sermon, emphasis on baptism in the Spirit and the guidance of the Spirit, public repentance and the hywl, a half sung, half spoken harmony ending in a hymn, or a cry of thanksgiving or repentance.
Churches filled. The revival spread. Meetings continued all day as well as each night, often late into the night or through to morning. Crowds were getting right with God and with one another in confession, repentance and restitution of wrongs done. People prayed fervently and worshipped God with great joy. Police had so little to do they joined the crowds in the churches, sometimes forming singing groups. The impact of the Spirit across the churches produced new levels of unity, joy, boldness, power to witness, changed lives, and enthusiasm explained as being “fervent in spirit”(Romans 12:11).
Roberts, prophetically gifted, was unusually sensitive to the responses in the congregation. Public criticism of Evan Roberts and some revival phenomena included the usual objections to enthusiasm or fanaticism, emotionalism and confusion. At age 27 he lacked maturity and theological balance and fell too easily into nervous exhaustion, as did other young leaders in the revival. More experienced ministers avoided these errors and contributed significantly to revival leadership. Defenders of revival phenomena pointed to thousands of changed lives and the spiritual zeal generated.
Roberts believed his unusual prophetic and intuitive charismatic abilities came from his ‘baptism in the Spirit’ and urged everyone to actively seek such a baptism. Revival historians trace a direct link from the Welsh revival to increased worldwide fervent prayer, increased expectation of revival, increased evangelism and the emergence of Pentecostalism, even though many evangelicals regarded Pentecostalism as an aberration of revival.
On Sunday, 20 November 1904, the brothers Stephen and George Jeffreys were converted in Siloh Chapel in Maesteg, their home church in the Welsh Independent (Congregational) church. Although initially opposed to Pentecostalism which emerged in Wales in 1908, they became involved from 1911. Both were powerful evangelists in Great Britain and abroad, preaching to huge crowds and seeing hundreds healed and thousands converted. They often travelled and ministered together and established many churches. George Jeffreys’ campaigns included a crusade in Birmingham with 10,000 converted and powerful ministry in Europe such as 14,000 converted in Switzerland in 1934-1936, and he became the founder and leader of the Elim Foursquare Alliance (Elim Pentecostal Church). Stephen Jeffreys also pioneered many Elim churches and worked actively with the newly formed Assemblies of God of Britain and Ireland as an independent evangelist.
The Pentecostal movement in Great Britain has direct personal and theological roots in the Welsh Revival. The Jeffrey brothers were converted in the revival. Donald Gee, the leading Pentecostal apologist, was converted through Seth Joshua. Anglican priest, Alexander A. Boddy, ‘the father of the British Pentecostal movement’ participated in the revival, worked with Evan Roberts, and was convinced that the Pentecostal movement was a direct continuation of the revival. Smith Wigglesworth, a leading healing evangelist, and Stanley Frodsham, prolific writer and leader, were baptised in the Spirit, including glossolalia, at Boddy’s Anglican Church in Sunderland.
Welsh revival phenomena, including the emphasis on being baptized in the Spirit, being led by the Spirit, discerning spiritual influences, receiving prophetic insights, and encouraging spontaneous participation in the meetings and well as involving lay people including women, men and children in personal and public ministry, became widely characteristic of Pentecostalism.
The Welsh Revival emphasized the importance of a baptism in the Spirit. Specific impacts of the Spirit in New Quay, Newcastle Emlyn, Blaenannerch and Moriah both prepared the way for revival in those involved and set the pattern of seeking and responding to the Spirit in the revival. Reports of the ‘influx’ of the Spirit, and the testimony of thousands involved, generated new interest in Spirit movements, in revival, and eventually in the emerging Pentecostal and charismatic movements.
Back to top
1905 – June: Mukti, India (Pandita Ramabai)
Honoured with the title Pandita by the Sanskrit scholars of Calcutta University, Ramabai (1858-1922), became a Christian by the turn of the century, mastered seven languages, translated the Bible into Marathi and published books including A Life of Christ. The Indian government issued a postage stamp in her honour in 1989, recognising her social impact on the nation, especially in rescuing young widows from death or degradation.
She established a compound for widows and orphan girls during severe famine in her area near Pune (Poona) just south of Bombay, and called it Mukti (salvation). By 1901 she had 2,000 girls and women and from January 1905 she began teaching about the need for revival. Soon over 500 people met twice daily to pray for revival, mostly women and girls.
Ramabai heard about early moves of the Spirit in north east India and challenged her women to leave secular studies for a time to go into the villages to preach in teams. Thirty volunteered. They met daily to pray for the endowment of the Holy Spirit. Then on Thursday, 29 June the Spirit moved on many of the girls. The girls saw flames engulfing one of the girls, so another girl raced to get a bucket of water, only to discover she was not being burned.
Then on Friday, 30 June while Ramabai taught from John 8, the Holy Spirit fell on them all suddenly with great power. Everyone there began to weep and pray aloud, crying out to be baptised with the Holy Spirit and fire. One twelve year old girl, though very plain, became radiantly beautiful and laughed constantly. Others had visions of Jesus.
Revival spread through their mission, and into many surrounding areas. Regular school activities gave way to confession, repentance, and great joy with much praise and dancing. Many were baptised in the Spirit, spoke in tongues, and were filled with zeal for evangelism and social care. A missionary, Albert Norton, visited the mission where Minnie Abrams, a teacher, invited him to observe a revival prayer group in the school. He reported,
One week ago I visited the Mukti Mission. Miss Abrams asked me if I should like to go into a room where about twenty girls were praying. After entering, I knelt with closed eyes by a table on one side. Presently I heard someone praying near me very distinctly in English. Among the petitions were, “O Lord, open the mouth; O Lord, open the mouth; O Lord, open the heart; O Lord, open the eyes! O Lord, open the eyes! Oh, the blood of Jesus, the blood of Jesus! Oh, give complete victory! Oh, such a blessing! Oh, such glory!”
I was struck with astonishment, as I knew that there was no one in the room who could speak English, beside Miss Abrams. I opened my eyes and within three feet of me, on her knees, with closed eyes and raised hands was a woman, whom I had baptised at Kedgaon in 1899, and whom my wife and I had known intimately since as a devoted Christian worker. Her mother tongue was Marathi, and she could speak a little Hindustani. But she was unable to speak or understand English such as she was using. But when I heard her speak English idiomatically, distinctly, and fluently, I was impressed as I should have been had I seen one, whom I knew to be dead, raised to life. A few other illiterate Marathi women and girls were speaking in English and some were speaking in other languages with none at Kedagaon understood. This was not gibberish, but it closely resembled the speaking of foreign languages to which I had listened but did not understand. …
I have an idea that it is in mercy to us poor missionaries from Europe and America who, as a class, seem to be Doubting Thomases, in regard to gifts and workings of the Spirit, and not receiving the power of the Spirit as we ought.
That powerful revival spread throughout many areas of India, with Christians and unbelievers repenting in large numbers and being filled with the Holy Spirit and the fire of God. It provides another example of the poor and despised discovering propagating the immeasurable grace of God especially among the ‘common people’.
Back to top
1905 – October: Dohnavur, South India (Amy Carmichael)
Revival spread to south India where Amy Carmichael (1867-1951) at Dohnavur among the Tamils had been praying and longing for a visitation of the Spirit of God. In October the Spirit moved upon them so powerfully they could neither preach nor pray aloud. They broke down weeping.
It was so startling and so awful. I can use no other word … It was at the close of the morning service that the break came. The one who was speaking was obliged to stop, overwhelmed by the sudden realisation of the inner force of things. It was impossible even to pray. One of the older lads in the boys’ school began to try to pray, but he broke down, then another, then all together, the older lads chiefly at first. Soon many among the younger ones began to cry bitterly, and pray for forgiveness. It spread to the women … Soon the whole upper half of the church was on its face on the floor crying to God, each boy and girl, man and woman, oblivious of all others. The sound was like the sound of waves of strong wind in the trees. No separate voice could be heard. I had never heard of such a thing as this among Tamil people. Up in the north, of course, one knew that it had happened, but our Tamils are so stolid, so unemotional I had never imagined such a thing as this occurring. Nothing disturbed those who were praying, and that hurricane of prayer continued with one short break of a few minutes for over four hours.
Effects during the next seven months in particular included the professed conversion of all the school pupils, revival among the Christians, restoration among the lapsed, successful evangelism in the surrounding areas, and a remarkable spirit of unity among everyone. That unity transcended personal and doctrinal differences among Christians, another sign of the Spirit’s transforming presence.
Back to top
1906 – March: Assam, North East India
Revival stirred in Assam before the Mukti revival, but took much longer to ignite and did not spread with the intensity of the western fires. From the beginning of 1905 the Khasi hill tribe Christians met every night to pray for revival for over eighteen months. Their Welsh Presbyterian missionaries brought news of revival in Wales which stirred them to earnest prayer. Those nightly meetings often went past 10 p.m.
The Bible teaching on Sunday 4 March 1906 concerning the baptism of the Spirit stirred the prayers deeply. The Christians felt an unusual sense of the Spirit’s presence which produced prolonged prayer, weeping and praise. Gradually revival spread through the presbytery with powerful messages from Khasi preachers and widespread repentance.
The Baptists also reported remarkable awakenings along the wide Brahmaputra River valley. Revival spread throughout 1907 into all the churches of the Brahmaputra, then south into the Naga hills and then on to the Mizo people further south. A pagan anti revival movement flared in 1911 12, but when a plague of rats invaded the area demolishing their food, the people suffered terribly. Refugees poured down into the plains where Christians shared their food and cared for them. So the pagan revival died out and in 1913 and then again in 1919 greater revivals of Christianity ignited the hills again.
The Spirit’s movement in revival and the teaching on baptism in the Spirit had transcended denominational, national and racial boundaries, and continued to spread rapidly among the humble and spiritually hungry.
Back to top
1906 – April: Los Angeles, North America (William Seymour)
Early in 1906 William J. Seymour (1870-1922), the Negro Holiness pastor, studied briefly at Charles Parham’s short term Bible School in Houston, Texas. Segregation laws in that state prohibited Negoes from joining the classes. Most reports indicate that he sat in the hall and listened through the doorway.
Julia Hutchins, the pastor of a small holiness church in Los Angeles, heard of Seymour from a friend, Luci Farrow, who had visited Houston. Hutchins invited William Seymour to preach in her church with the possibility of becoming pastor of the church. His first sermon there, from Acts 2:4, emphasized being filled with the Spirit and speaking in tongues. He soon found himself locked out of the building.
Seymour then began cottage meetings in the home of Richard Asbery at 214 Bonnie Brae Street, which still exists as a Pentecostal landmark. Many there, including Seymour, fell to the floor and began speaking in tongues at the prayer meeting on Monday, April 9. Numbers grew until the weight of the crowd broke the front verandah, so they had to move. They found an old two storey weatherboard stable and warehouse at 312 Azusa Street which had previously been an African Episcopal Methodist church.
So Seymour, now leader of The Apostolic Faith Mission, began meetings there on Easter Saturday, April 14, 1906. About 100 attended including blacks and whites. The Spirit of God moved powerfully on that little mission. Many were baptized in the Spirit with speaking in tongues and prophecies. Four days later on Wednesday, April 18, the day of the San Fanscisco earthquake, the Los Angeles Times began carrying articles about the weird babble of tongues and wild scenes at Azusa Street.
Not only was the racial mixture unusual, but the newspaper reports, usually critical of those noisy Pentecostal meetings, drew both Christians and unbelievers, poor and rich, to investigate. Soon crowds crammed into the building to investigate or mock. Hundreds were saved, baptized in the Spirit and ignited for apostolic style mission which included prayers for healing and outreach in evangelism and overseas mission.
Frank Bartleman, an independent holiness preacher, reported regularly on ‘Azusa Street’ for holiness periodicals. He gathered his autobiographical accounts into his 1925 book How Pentecost Came to Los Angeles: How it was in the Beginning, reprinted in 1980. He wrote:
In the beginning in “Azusa” we had no musical instruments. In fact we felt no need of them. There was no place for them in our worship. All was spontaneous. We did not even sing from hymn books. All the old well known hymns were sung from memory, quickened by the Spirit of God. …But the “new song” was altogether different, not of human composition. It cannot be successfully counterfeited. The crow cannot imitate the dove. But they finally began to despise this “gift,” when the human spirit asserted itself again. They drove it out by hymn books and selected songs by leaders. It was like murdering the Spirit … The spirit of song given from God in the beginning was like the Aeolian harp, in its spontaneity and sweetness. In fact it was the very breath of God, playing on human heart strings, or human vocal chords. The notes were wonderful in sweetness, volume and duration. If fact they were oftentimes humanly impossible. It was “singing in the Spirit.”
Brother Seymour was recognized as the nominal leader in charge. But we had no pope or hierarchy. We were “brethren.” We had no human programme. The Lord Himself was leading. We had no priest class, nor priest craft. These things have come in later, with the apostatizing of the movement. We did not even have a platform or pulpit in the beginning. All were on a level. The ministers were servants, according to the true meaning of the word. We did not honor men for their advantage, in means or education, but rather for their God-given “gifts.” He set the members in the “body.” …
Brother Seymour generally sat behind two empty shoe boxes, one on top of the other. He usually kept his head inside the top one during the meeting, in prayer. There was no pride there. The services ran almost continuously. Seeking souls could be found under the power almost any hour, night and day. The place was never closed nor empty. The people came to meet God. He was always there. Hence a continuous meeting. The meeting did not depend on the human leader. God’s presence became more and more wonderful. In that old building, with its low rafters and bare floors, God took strong men and women to pieces, and put them together again, for His glory. It was a tremendous overhauling process. Pride and self-assertion, self-importance and self-esteem, could not survive there. The religious ego preached its own funeral sermon quickly.
No subjects or sermons were announced ahead of time, and no special speakers for such an hour. No one knew what might be coming, what God would do. All was spontaneous, ordered of the Spirit. We wanted to hear from God, through whoever he might speak. We had no “respect of persons.” The rich and educated were the same as the poor and ignorant, and found a much harder death to die. We only recognized God. All were equal. No flesh might glory in His presence. He could not use the self-opinionated. Those were Holy Ghost meetings, led of the Lord. It had to start in poor surroundings, to keep out the selfish, human element. All came down in humility together, at His feet. They all looked alike, and had all things in common in that sense at least. The rafters were low, the tall must come down. By the time they got to “Azusa” they were humbled, ready for the blessing. The fodder was thus placed for the lambs, not for giraffes. All could reach it.
We were delivered right there from ecclesiastical hierarchism and abuse. We wanted God. When we first reached the meeting we avoided as much as possible human contact and greeting. We wanted to meet God first. We got our head under some bench in the corner in prayer, and met men only in the Spirit, knowing them “after the flesh” no more. The meetings started themselves, spontaneously, in testimony, praise and worship. The testimonies were never hurried by a call for “popcorn.” We had no prearranged programme to be jammed through on time. Our time was the Lord’s. We had real testimonies, from fresh heart-experience. Otherwise, the shorter the testimonies, the better. A dozen might be on their feet at one time, trembling under the mighty power of God. We did not have to get our cue from some leader. And we were free from lawlessness. We were shut up to God in prayer in the meetings, our minds on Him. All obeyed God, in meekness and humility. In honor we “preferred one another.” The Lord was liable to burst through any one. We prayed for this continually. Some one would finally get up anointed for the message. All seemed to recognize this and gave way. It might be a child, a woman, or a man. It might be from the back seat, or from the front. It made no difference. We rejoiced that God was working. No one wished to show himself. We thought only of obeying God. In fact there was an atmosphere of God there that forbade any one but a fool attempting to put himself forward without the real anointing. And such did not last long. The meetings were controlled by the Spirit, from the throne. Those were truly wonderful days. I often said that I would rather live six months at that time than fifty years of ordinary life. But God is just the same today. Only we have changed.
Some one might be speaking. Suddenly the Spirit would fall upon the congregation. God himself would give the altar call. Men would fall all over the house, like the slain in battle, or rush for the altar en masse, to seek God. The scene often resembled a forest of fallen trees. Such a scene cannot be imitated. I never saw an altar call given in those early days. God himself would call them. And the preacher knew when to quit. When He spoke we all obeyed. It seemed a fearful thing to hinder or grieve the Spirit. The whole place was steeped in prayer. God was in His holy temple. It was for man to keep silent. The Shekinah glory rested there. In fact some claim to have seen the glory by night over the building. I do not doubt it. I have stopped more than once within two blocks of the place and prayed for strength before I dared go on. The presence of the Lord was so real.
Presumptuous men would sometimes come among us. Especially preachers who would try to spread themselves, in self-opinionation. But their effort was short lived. The breath would be taken from them. Their minds would wander, their brains reel. Things would turn black before their eyes. They could not go on. I never saw one get by with it in those days. They were up against God. No one cut them off. We simply prayed. The Holy Spirit did the rest. We wanted the Spirit to control. He wound them up in short order. They were carried out dead, spiritually speaking. They generally bit the dust in humility, going through the process we had all gone through. In other words they died out, came to see themselves in all their weakness, then in childlike humility and confession were taken up of God, transformed through the mighty “baptism” in the Spirit. The “old man” died with all his pride, arrogancy and good works. In my own case I came to abhor myself. I begged the Lord to drop a curtain so close behind me on my past that it would hit my heels. He told me to forget every good deed as though it had never occurred, as soon as it was accomplished, and go forward again as though I had never accomplished anything for Him, lest my good works become a snare to me. We saw some wonderful things in those days. Even very good men came to abhor themselves in the clearer light of God. The preachers died the hardest. They had so much to die to. So much reputation and good works. But when God got through with them they gladly turned a new page and chapter. That was one reason they fought so hard. Death is not at all a pleasant experience. And strong men die hard.
Bartleman’s account, before the benefit of hindsight through the twentieth century, identified many of the key elements of strong impacts of the Spirit. These included spontaneous Spirit inspired worship mingled with prayer and current testimony; acknowledged leadership which facilitated response to the Spirit; repentance and humility in the awesome present of God; mutual honour and respect for everyone whether poor or rich, black or white, female or male, unknown or known; constant use of spiritual gifts including the controversial glossolalia, prayer for the sick and testimonies of answered prayer; large numbers of locals and visitors ‘baptized in the Spirit’ and taking that blessing across America and the globe with a strong, humbling anointing.
The exploding Pentecostal movement around the world traces its origins to Azusa Street, from which fire spread across the globe. For example, John G. Lake had visited the mission at Azusa Street. In 1908 he pioneered Pentecostal missions in South Africa where, after five years he had established 500 black and 125 white congregations. Later he established healing rooms where thousands were healed through medicine and prayer at Spokane, Washington, which soon became known as the healthiest city in America at that time.
Cox, quoting Bartleman, begins his chapter on Azusa Street announcing, “Pentecost has come to Los Angeles, the American Jerusalem. Every sect, creed and doctrine under heaven … as well as every nation is represented.” He argues that Los Angeles provided a place of new hopes and dreams, and for Seymour in segregated Jim Crow America, God was assembling and pouring his inclusive Spirit on a radically inclusive people. A southern white preacher, at first offended, then inspired, noted that at Azusa Street “the colour line was washed away by the blood.”
Press hostility to this radical, racial mixture and its ‘wild scenes’ drew crowds, many of whom “came to scorn and stayed to pray.” The San Franscisco earthquake and fire, in which 10,000 died, sent geological and spiritual tremors through Los Angeles, provoking many apocalyptic interpretations and warnings.
Perhaps the most significant reason the impact of the Spirit in Azusa Street ignited such powerful global mission was its literal fulfilment of the messianic charter announced in Nazareth. These despised and rejected people were also powerfully anointed by the Spirit as the beneficiaries and heralds of the new era of the Spirit.
Bartleman prophetically concluded his book on Azusa Street with his final chapter being “A Plea for Unity.” Looking beyond the fragmenting Holiness and Pentecostal churches a decade after the Azusa Street revival, and sensing that doctrinal unity is neither possible nor desirable, he wrote:
The Spirit is labouring for the unity of believers today, for the “one body” that the prayer of Jesus may be answered, “that they may all be one, that the world may believe.” But the saints are ever too ready to serve a system or party, to contend for religious, selfish, party interests. … “Error always leads to militant exclusion. Truth evermore stoops to wash the saints’ feet.” One feels even in visiting many Pentecostal missions today that they do not belong there, simply because they have not lined up officially with that particular brand or variety. These things ought not to be. “In one Spirit are we all baptized, into one body.” – 1 Cor. 12:13. We should be as one family, which we are, at home in God’s house anywhere.
We belong to the whole body of Christ, both in Heaven and on earth. God’s church is one.
Cox concludes his chapter on Azusa Street noting the absence of a physical memorial to Seymour’s mission in Azusa Street today, he declares that, “the Azusa Street memorial is something they could never have foreseen. It is a spiritual hurricane that has already touched nearly half a billion people, and an alternative vision of the human future whose impact may only be in its earliest stages today.”
Back to top
1907 – January: Pyongyang, Korea
Revival in Korea broke in the nation in 1907. Presbyterian missionaries, hearing of revival in Wales, and of a similar revival among Welsh Presbyterian work in Assam, prayed earnestly for the same in Korea. From Wednesday 2 January church representatives gathered for ten days at the annual New Year Bible study course at Pyongyang, then the capital of Korea. A spirit of prayer broke out. The meetings carried on day after day, with confessions of sins, weeping and trembling.
Then on Monday night 7 January so many wanted to pray that the leaders called all 1500 of them to pray aloud together. Their prayers mingled with public confession, much weeping, and many dropping prostrate on the floor in agonies of repentance.
It astounded observers. The delegates of the New Year gathering returned to their churches taking with them this spirit of prayer which strongly impacted the churches of the nation with revival. That pattern of simultaneous prayer became a feature of Korean church life. Everywhere conviction of sin, confession and restitution were common. Within two months 2,000 were converted, and 30,000 had become Christians by the middle of 1907.
Persecution at the hands of the Japanese and then the Russian and Chinese communists saw thousands killed, but still the church grew in fervent prayer. Prior to the Russian invasion thousands of North Koreans gathered every morning at 5 am. Sometimes 10,000 were gathered in one place for prayer each morning.
Early morning daily prayer meetings became common, as did nights of prayer throughout Korea. Now over a million gather every morning around 5 a.m. for prayer in the churches. Prayer and fasting is normal. Churches have over 100 prayer retreats in the hills called Prayer Mountains to which thousands go to pray, often with fasting. Healings and supernatural manifestations continue. Koreans have sent over 10,000 missionaries into other Asian countries. Korea now has the largest Presbyterian and Methodist churches in the world, and has four of the world’s seven largest Sunday church attendances.
David Yonggi Cho has amazing growth in Seoul where he is senior pastor of a Full Gospel church of 800,000 with over 25,000 home cell groups, and sustained church growth. During the week over 3,000 a day and over 5,000 at weekends pray at their prayer mountain.
Back to top
1908 – February: China (Jonathan Goforth)
“You must go forward on your knees,” Hudson Taylor advised a young Canadian missionary named Jonathan Goforth (1859-1936). While a student at Knox College in Toronto, Canada, Goforth was profoundly moved during three days of meetings with D L Moody in 1988 just before he and his wife Rosalyn left for north Henan province in China that year. Yet, after thirteen years of faithful praying and preaching, and what most would consider a very successful ministry, Goforth became restless and dissatisfied.
In 1900, the Goforths had to excape across China during the Boxer Rebellion. Jonathan was attacked and injured with a sword, but they both survived and escaped to the safety a “Treaty Port” and went back to Canada for a year. After returning to Henan in 1901, Jonathan Goforth felt increasingly restless. In 1904 and 1905 he was inspired by news of the great Welsh Revival and read Finney’s “Lectures on Revivals”. People from England began sending him pamphlets on the Welsh revival of 1904. Goforth was deeply stirred as he read these accounts. “A new thought, a new conception seemed to come to him of God the Holy Spirit.” He then gave himself to much more prayer and Bible study. Goforth now found himself being driven by a fresh vision, a vision for a mighty outpouring of the Holy Spirit.
Soon he began to meet daily with other missionaries to pray for revival. These men vowed to God and to one another that they would pray until revival came to China. In 1907 he witnessed revival in Korea. As he returned to China through Manchuria from February 1908, the Manchurian Revival broke out. In 1908 Jonathan Goforth’s prayers and dreams began to be realized.
Goforth began going to different missionary stations and simply led his fellow missionaries in prayer. Then suddenly earnest prayer gave way to the open confession of sin. As the Christians confessed and forsook their secret sin the Holy Spirit rushed in like a mighty wind. This open and honest confession of sin was the most striking feature of the revival. Everywhere Goforth went revival would spread, and almost always in the same way.
First prayer was encouraged among the Christians, which then spontaneously led to heart- breaking confessions of sin. And then like a flood, the lost were brought into the kingdom by the thousands. One after another broken-hearted believers emptied themselves through the uncovering of all secret sin. Goforth clearly identified unconfessed sin among Christians as a major hindrance to God-sent revival.
Walter Phillips describes one of Goforth’s revival meetings:
“At once, on entering the church one was conscious of something unusual. The place was crowded to the door and tense, reverent attention sat on every face. The people knelt for prayer, silent at first, but soon one here and another there began to pray aloud. The voices grew and gathered volume and blended into a great wave of united supplication that swelled until it was almost a roar. Now I understood why the floor was so wet – the very air was electric and strange thrills coursed up and down ones body.”
When Goforth preached, “The cross burned like a living fire in the heart of every address.” The person of Jesus Christ was exalted throughout the entire revival as a King and Saviour who must be reckoned with. In this great revival Jonathan Goforth clearly saw that all of his previous sweating and striving had reaped only frustration. He came to the firm conviction that revival is only born through humility, faith, prayer and the power of the Holy Spirit. Goforth writes,
“If revival is being withheld from us it is because some idol remains still enthroned; because we still insist in placing our reliance in human schemes; because we still refuse to face the unchangeable truth that ‘It is not by might, but by My Spirit.’”
Back to top
1909 – July: Valparaiso, Chile (Willis Hoover)
Minnie Abrams, who worked at Mukti in India during the 1905 revival there, sent an account of it in 1907 to her friend Mary Hoover, wife of Willis Hoover (1856-1936), Methodist missionaries in Chile. They began praying with their congregation for a similar revival in Chile. Often groups prayed all night. Many confessed sins openly and made restitution for wrongs done. That prepared the way for the revival which burst on them on Sunday July 4. Willis Hoover wrote:
Saturday night was an all night of prayer, during which four vain young ladies (three of them were in the choir) fell to the floor under the power of the Spirit. One of them, after praying a long time, began to exhort saying, “The Lord is coming soon and commands us to get ready.” The effect produced was indescribable. The following morning in Sunday School, at ten o’clock, a daze seemed to rest upon the people. Some were unable to rise after the opening prayer which had been like ‘the sound of many waters,’ and all were filled with wonder. From that time on the atmosphere seemed charged by the Holy Spirit, and people fell on the floor, or broke out in other tongues, or singing in the Spirit, in a way impossible in their natural condition. On one occasion a woman, a young lady, and a girl of twelve were lying on the floor in different parts of the prayer room, with eyes closed and silent. Suddenly, as with one voice, they burst forth into a song in a familiar tune but in unknown tongues, all speaking the same words. After a verse or two they became silent; then again suddenly, another tune, a verse or two, and silence. This was repeated until they had sung ten tunes, always using the same words and keeping in perfect time together as if led by some invisible chorister.
Within two months the congregation grew from 300 to 1,000 and the revival spread to other cities. Willis Hoover had to leave the denomination, but established the Pentecostal Methodist Church which now has over 600,000 members in Chile.
Back to top
1914: Belgian Congo, Africa (Charles T Studd)
Africa has seen many powerful revivals, such as the Belgian Congo outpouring with C T Studd (1860-1931) in 1914. Charles T Studd played cricket for England in the famous 1882 match won by Australia which was the beginning of the Ashes. He was one of the famous “Cambridge Seven” who served God in pioneering mission work in China from 1885 in Hudson Taylor’s China Inland Mission. He wrote,
Some want to live within the sound of church or chapel bell;
I want to run a rescue shop within a yard of hell.”
He was a pastor in India (1900-1906) and then from 1910 pioneered mission in Africa, founding the Heart of Africa Mission which later became the Worldwide Evangelical Crusade (WEC). His daughter married Norman Grubb who led WEC after Studd died in Africa. He saw revival in the Congo in 1914.
“The whole place was charged as if with an electric current. Men were falling, jumping, laughing, crying, singing, confessing and some shaking terribly,” he reported. “As I led in prayer the Spirit came down in mighty power sweeping the congregation. My whole body trembled with the power. We saw a marvellous sight, people literally filled and drunk with the Spirit.”
Accounts like that are typical of the continuing moves of God’s Spirit in Africa this century. Early this century an estimated 10% of the population was Christian. The Christian population reached 50% of Africa south of the Sahara. By the end of the twentieth century the number of African Christians exceeded 400 million. The majority of this growth is with the African independent churches characterised by strong Spirit movements
Local revivals are a continuing characteristic of revivals in Africa and of the worldwide growth of the church this century.
Back to top
1915 – October: Gazaland, South Africa (Rees Howells)
A further example of strong Spirit movements spreading in revival from Wales is told by Rees Howells (1879-1950) who founded the Bible College of Wales following his return from missionary work in South Africa. Converted while working in America in 1904 for three years, he returned to Wales and participated actively in the revival. In 1906 at the Llandrindod Convention he made a total surrender of his life to God and was filled with the Spirit. This led him to offer for missionary work in Africa.
In 1915 he joined the South Africa General Mission founded by Andrew Murray, which then had 170 European and African worker in 25 stations, north as far as Belgian Congo. He was sent to Rusity Mission Station in Gazaland near the border of Portugese East Africa. There he reported on the Welsh Revival.
Within six weeks the Spirit began to move upon the Christians. On a Friday evening the Spirit moved on the group meeting in the Howell’s home as they sang, and they continued the singing the next days in their gardens and elsewhere. Howells recognized a sound he had heard in the Welsh Revival. “You know it when you hear it,” he said, “but you can’t make it; and by the following Thursday, I was singing it too. There was something about it which changed you, and brought you into the stillness of God.” The following Sunday revival broke out as the Spirit moved on them all. Rees Howells reported:
The Sunday was October 10 – my birthday – and as I preached in the morning, you could feel the Spirit coming on the congregation. In the evening, down He came. I shall never forget it. He came upon a young girl, Kufase by name, who had fasted for three days under conviction that she was not ready for the Lord’s coming. As she prayed she broke down crying, and within five minutes the whole congregation were on their faces crying to God. Like lightning and thunder the power came down. I had never seen this, even in the Welsh Revival. I had only heard about it with Finney and others. Heaven had opened, and there was no room to contain the blessing.
I lost myself in the Spirit and prayed as much as they did. All I could say was, “He has come!” We went on until late in the night; we couldn’t stop the meeting. What He told me before I went to Africa was actually taking place, and that within six weeks. You can never describe those meetings when the Holy Spirit comes down. I shall never forget the sound in the district that night – praying in every kraal.
The next day He came again, and people were on their knees till 6 p.m. This went on for six days and people began to confess their sins and come free as the Holy Spirit brought them through. They had forgiveness of sins, and met the Savior as only the Holy Spirit can reveal Him. Everyone who came near would go under the power of the Spirit. People stood up to give their testimonies, and it was nothing to see twenty-five on their feet at the same time.
At the end of one week nearly all were through. We had two revival meetings every day for fifteen months without a single break, and meetings all day on Fridays. Hundreds were converted – but we were looking for more – for the ten thousand, upon whom He had told us we had a claim.
The revival spread through all the mission stations within a year. The Howells visited many of the stations and spoke at the annual conference. The mission reported over 10,000 converts during the three year revival, which included a lot of public confession and great joy.
Back to top
1921 – March: Lowestoft, England (Douglas Brown)
Douglas Brown, a Baptist minister in South London, saw conversions in his church every Sunday until he began he began itinerant evangelism in 1921. Within eighteen months he then addressed over 1700 meetings, and saw revival in his evangelistic ministry. The Lord had convicted him about leaving his pastorate for mission work. Although reluctant, he finally surrendered. He described it this way:
God laid hold of me in the midst of a Sunday evening service, and he nearly broke my heart while I was preaching. I went back to my vestry and locked the door, and threw myself down on the hearthrug in front of the vestry fireplace broken hearted. Why? I do not know. My church was filled. I loved my people, and I believe my people loved me. I do not say they ought to, but they did. I was as happy there as I could be. I had never known a Sunday there for fifteen years without conversions. That night I went home and went straight up to my study. … I had no supper that night. Christ laid his hand on a proud minister, and told him that he had not gone far enough, that there were reservations in his surrender, and he wanted him to do a piece of work that he had been trying to evade. I knew what he meant. All November that struggle went on, but I would not give way; I knew God was right, and I knew I was wrong. I knew what it would mean for me, and I was not prepared to pay the price. …
All through January God wrestled with me. There is a love that will not let us go. Glory be to God! …
It was in February 1921, after four months of struggle that there came the crisis. Oh, how patient God is! On the Saturday night I wrote out my resignation to my church, and it was marked with my own tears. I loved the church, but I felt that if I could not be holy I would be honest; I felt that I could not go on preaching while I had a contention with God. That night the resignation lay on my blotter, and I went to bed but not to sleep. As I went out of my bedroom door in the early hours of the morning I stumbled over my dog. If ever I thanked God for my dog I did that night. As I knelt at my study table, the dog licked his masters face; he thought I was ill; when Mike was doing that I felt I did not deserve anybody to love me; I felt an outcast.
Then something happened. I found myself in the loving embrace of Christ for ever and ever; and all power and joy and blessedness rolled in like a deluge. How did it come? I cannot tell you. Perhaps I may when I get to heaven. All explanations are there, but the experience is here. That was two oclock in the morning. God had waited four months for a man like me; and I said, “Lord Jesus, I know what you want; You want me to go into mission work. I love Thee more than I dislike that.” I did not hear any rustling of angels’ wings. I did not see any sudden light.
Hugh Ferguson, the Baptist minister at London Road Baptist Church in Lowestoft on the East Anglia coast had invited Douglas Brown to preach at a mission there from Monday 7th to Friday 11th March. The missioner arrived by train, ill. However, he spoke on Monday night and at meetings on Tuesday morning, afternoon and night. The power of the Holy Spirit moved among the people from the beginning. On Wednesday night ‘inquirers’ packed the adjacent schoolroom for counselling and prayer. Sixty to seventy young people were converted that night, along with older people. Each night more packed the ‘inquiry room’ after the service. So the mission was extended indefinitely. Douglas Brown returned to his church for the weekend and continued with the mission the next Monday. By the end of March the meetings were moved from the 700 seating Baptist Church and other nearby churches to the 1100 seating capacity of St John’s Anglican Church.
March saw the beginning of revival in the area. Although Douglas Brown was the main speaker in many places, ministers of most denominations found they too were evangelizing. Revival meetings multiplied in the fishing centre of Yarmouth as well in Ipswich, Norwich, Cambridge and elsewhere. Scottish fishermen working out of Yarmouth in the winter were strongly impacted, and took revival fire to Scottish fishing towns and villages in the summer. Jock Troup, a Scottish evangelist, has visited East Anglia during the revival and ministered powerfully in Scotland.
At the same time, the spirit of God moved strongly in Ireland, especially in Ulster in 1921 through the work of W. P. (William Patteson) Nicholson a fiery Irish evangelist. This was at the time when Northern Ireland received parliamentary autonomy accompanied by tension and bloodshed. Edwin Orr was converted then, although not through W. P. Nicholson. Orr reported that “Nicholson’s missions were the evangelistic focus of the movement: 12,409 people were counselled in the inquiry rooms; many churches gained additions, some a hundred, some double; … prayer meetings, Bible classes and missionary meetings all increased in strength. … Ministerial candidates doubled.”
Back to top
1927 – February: Shanghai, China (John Sung)
John Sung (1901-1944), from Hinghwa of the Fukien province in southeast China, son of a Methodist minister, was converted at nine and studied in America from 1920 at Wesleyan University of Ohio, Ohio State University where he gained his Doctor of Philisophy degree in chemistry, and at Union Theological Seminary.
On 10 February, 1927 when a decade of revival was starting to break out in China, John Sung recommitted himself to Christ after a period of scepticism and was suddenly filled with the Holy Spirit and an inexpressible joy. Seminary authorities, concerned at his sudden fanaticism had him committed to an asylum where he had only his Bible and a fountain pen for six months. During that time he read the Bible forty times.
He returned to China in October, 1927, married, and soon became the field evangelist of the Bethel Bible School of Shanghai. He allied himself with Andrew Gih and other graduates from the school to form the Bethel Evangelistic Band. This apostolic team spread revival all over China. Although reserved, when preaching Sung was fervent with and intense emotion, denouncing sin and emphasising repentance and restitution. His prophetic gifting often revealed specific sins or obstructions to faith. He laid hands on the sick and hundreds were healed in his meetings. Like other revivalists he prayed long and earnestly.
God used this apostolic team mightily to spread the fires of revival all over China as they went out preaching and singing the gospel. When John Sung was not behind the pulpit, he was reserved and even subdued. However, when preaching he was a man of fervency and intense emotions.
He always emphasized repentance and the need for complete restitution where it was at all possible. He fearlessly denounced all sin and hypocrisy wherever he found it, especially among hardened ministers. Yet he also moved audiences with the message of Christ’s tender and unfailing love, like few others could. Sung’s meetings were always accompanied by a tremendous amount of conviction and brokenness over sin. It was not uncommon for hundreds of people to be seen with tears streaming down their faces and crying out for mercy. Convicted sinners frequently would rush forward to openly confess their sins before the whole congregation. On several occasions he pointed out the sins of some backslidden pastor with an incredible and fearful accuracy.
When John Sung was not actively preaching or organizing a new evangelistic team, he usually could be found writing in his diary or adding to his ever growing prayer list. He carefully prayed over an extensive list of people’s needs, with dozens of small photographs. John Sung was a faithful intercessor and always requested a small picture of those desiring prayer in order to help him intercede with a deeper burden. Everywhere he went, he urged the people to give themselves to prayer.
John Sung made it his regular habit to be up every morning at 5 a.m. to pray for two or three hours. He believed that prayer was the most important work of the believer. He defined faith as watching God work while on your knees.
Because it was evident that John Sung was a man of great power in prayer, the sick and crippled increasingly came to him to receive prayer for their bodies. John Sung always made time to tenderly pray for their needs. Sometimes he would personally lay hands on and pray for as many as 500-600 people at one time. In spite of the fact that so many marvellous healings followed his ministry, he suffered for years from intestinal tuberculosis. This disease consistently plagued him with painful and infected bleeding ulcers in his colon. Nevertheless he still continued to fervently preach, sometimes in a kneeling position to lesson the terrible pain. Finally after years of suffering with this affliction, he died at only 43, on August 18, 1944.
Estimates of conversions in that decade of revival run to hundreds of thousands in China and South East Asia, with thousands of churches established throughout the whole region.
Back to top
1936 – June: Gahini, Rwanda (East African Revival)
Evangelical Anglican missionaries of the Church Missionary Society working in the east central Africa countries of Rwanda, Burundi and Uganda, emphasized the Keswick teaching of new birth, being filled with the Holy Spirit and living in victory. This teaching undergirded the East African Revival which continued for fifty years from the 1930s. Roy Hession’s famous book, The Calvary Road, came out of his experience of the East African Revival.
The Rwanda mission, founded in 1920, experienced local revivals in the late 1920s and early 1930s. Increasingly people prayed. By 1936 thousands were praying.
Then powerful revival broke out at the mission station at Ghini in Rwanda on Wednesday 24 June 1936. “It seemed as though the Holy Spirit with His unseen hand gathered together the hospital staff, men from the nearby village, and others in a room with the hospital. They prayed and sang, and some were smitten down under a tremendous conviction of sin. Revival swept into the girl’s school, and similar manifestations came from five different centers across the mission. Everywhere the mysterious power of the Holy Spirit was at work.”
The revival spread to the theological college where 50 students caught fire. During the mid year holiday period 70 evangelists travelled in revival teams of two or three into the villages.
The African Rwanda Mission had 20,000 converts by 1942 in 700 village congregations with 1,400 trained workers including five ordained priests.
The famous East African revival which began in Rwanda in June 1936 rapidly spread to the neighbouring countries of Burundi, Uganda and the Congo, then further around. The Holy Spirit moved upon mission schools, spread to churches and to whole communities, producing deep repentance and changed lives. Anglican Archdeacon Arthur Pitt Pitts wrote in September, “I have been to all the stations where this Revival is going on, and they all have the same story to tell. The fire was alight in all of them before the middle of June, but during the last week in June, it burst into a wild flame which, like the African grass fire before the wind, cannot be put out.”
That East African revival continued for forty to fifty years and helped to establish a new zeal for enthusiastic holiness in African Christianity. It confronted demonic strongholds, and began to prepare churches to cope with the horrors of massacres and warfare of later years.
Now revival is again transforming whole communities in East Africa.
Back to top