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Article Info:
published: 3/31/13
updated: 2/27/14

The Azusa St. Revival



What was the Asuza Street Revival?

azusa street revival building
Location of the Azusa St. revival

The Asuza Street Revival, while not the exact moment that modern Pentecostalism began, was arguable the most significant early event of the movement, which undoubtedly catapulted this particular expression of Christianity around the United States and eventually around the world.

Several Pentecostal Christian denominations today trace their roots in the Asuza Street Revival, including the Assemblies of God and the Church of God in Christ (Cleveland, Tennessee).

Christian history in 20th century America shows that the Azusa Street Revival lived on in the teaching and preaching of ministers and laypersons who visited the meetings and then took their experience home with them. Visitors traveled back to all corners of the United States, taking the Pentecostal message and experience with them, influencing scores of Christians.


The Revivals

William Seymour

On April 14, 1906, an African-American preacher named William J. ("W.J.") Seymour, held a church service in an old warehouse on 312 Azusa Street in Los Angeles, California. That service was the beginning of a three-year revival at that location, which was characterized by the Pentecostal message of baptism in the Holy Spirit and the Pentecostal experience of speaking in tongues.

"The Azusa St. Revival" ignited a worldwide movement, the growth of which has seldom been seen in the history of Christianity.

Seymour arrived in Los Angeles in February 1906, with the intention of staying one month, at the invitation of Neely Terry, a member of a local Holiness Church who had met the preacher while visiting his church in Texas. Seymour's message of baptism in the Holy Spirit being evidenced by speaking in tongues was mostly rejected at Terry's church because Seymour himself hadn't experience it. There was, however, a small group of people that sought more teaching from him on the subject.

Bonnie Brae Street

Seymour's small group met in a house-church on Bonnie Brae Street, the home of Richard and Ruth Asberry. On April 12, 1906, after praying all night, Seymour reports to have spoken in tongues for the first time. When word got out that unusual expressions of the Holy Spirit were occurring at the small house church, crowds flocked to the residence, eventually forcing the group to another location.

The church found an available building, an old 4,800-square-foot warehouse, at 312 Azusa St for $8 a month. The group’s first meeting there was on April 14, 1906. By the next month, services contained a minimum of 300 people and as many as 1,500. Attendees were racially and economically diverse. People came from different Christian denominations as well. Baptists, Quakers, and Presbyterians were among those who participated. The gatherings at Azusa Street were unlike other church service in that there were no instruments, no choirs, and no offerings taken.

Skepticism

Criticism was sharp from The Los Angeles Times newspaper, which described the meetings as hyper-emotionalism. Criticism also came from Bethel Bible College-founder, and former Seymour supporter, Charles Parham, who was disgusted at the intermingling of different races, among other things.

By 1915 the crowds had dwindled significantly, yet Seymour continued to minister there to a small congregation until he died from a heart attack in 1922. The old warehouse was demolished in 1938.

 

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