Are We Really Experiencing “Pentecost Restored?” – Derek Schneider
“Don’t focus on what’s going on in this building, go out and get people saved!” – early Azusa leader
One great example in church history of the goal of the Great Commission is the Azusa Street Revival in Los Angeles beginning 1906. In fact, we just recently had a marvelous celebration of this revival. Many filled the stadium to celebrate;while others watched LIVE online. Lou Engle recently shared at Bethel, in Redding, California, that the testimonies around the world of what has been taking place since have been amazing. The original Azusa Street Revival was spectacular for many reasons, but one in particular was the fact that this revival became a worldwide movement.
At the heart of this revival we can see a few things that are very amazing and can be traced back to that wonderful day of Pentecost when the Holy Spirit was poured out in Acts 2. The three main characteristics of this revival were:
1. Testimonies of what God was doing in people’s lives were at the heart of this revival;
2. The focus was on people coming and receiving an experience from God and then testifying about it in the revival meeting and going out and telling others. Witnessing was at the very core of this move of God, just like it was in the Book of Acts. In fact, the Azusa Street Revival workers would often say, “Don’t focus on what’s going on in this building, go out and get people saved!”
3. What might have been the most impressive fact is that the gospel was sent out to the world in a missional and strategic way to accomplish the mandate of Jesus.
To make this happen, they organized witnessing teams that would actually get on the subway and go in different directions, then get off and hold meetings. Sometimes, some of these workers would actually get arrested for “disturbing the peace.” Nevertheless, other workers would just get on the subway and take their place. This was essentially what early Christianity was about. It was not limited to just a good service or upper room experience, it was about encountering God and then doing something with that encounter.
In actuality, you could describe Azusa Street as the main central location where people were being transformed and then being sent out to bring God to their communities. Those experiencing this revival were strategic with how they showed it to the world. They had incredible life-changing corporate meetings in the presence of the Lord, but also a highly organized network of witnessing teams that were even sending people oversees.
Hence, the high point of their Christianity was not just the experience, but rather the going out and reaching the world for Jesus. Everything was directed towards reaching the lost. This is true Pentecost and true missionary or apostolic work. I believe that there is a lot we can learn from such revivals and it is a worthwhile endeavour to look back at where we have come from and truly evaluate whether we are accomplishing the vision of Jesus.
Today, as the church is beginning to make the shift to an emphasis of taking the Kingdom of God beyond the four walls, people are beginning to call this the “age of the Kingdom.” A person can call it whatever they want, but in actuality the concept of going beyond the four walls of the church is really what the entire Pentecostal movement was about.
Acts 2 is about those who received the baptism of the Holy Spirit and had such a profound spiritual experience that many believed them to be drunk (Acts 2:15). This baptism that was received by those in the upper room was altogether incredible. “Tongues of fire” rested on each person, and a “noise like a violent rushing wind…filled the whole house where they were sitting.” But it did not just stop at the upper room experience; it led to Peter’s famous sermon in verses 14–39 that brought about the salvation of at least 3000 people. Essentially, what took place in a small room spilled out into the streets and began to transform lives. The day of Pentecost, and what took place in the Azusa Street revival, was about an encounter with a living God that goes beyond the four walls of the church. It was later on that various charismatic groups began to abuse the outpourings of the Spirit to some degree. The emphasis of meetings and “experiences” began to take precedence over the goal of evangelism and the Great Commission. Just like the saying goes, “When the purpose of something is not understood, the abuse of it is inevitable.” The wonderful baptism of the Holy Spirit is for more than just speaking in tongues and edifying ourselves; it is so that we can walk in true supernatural power for the purpose of expanding God’s Kingdom.
Indeed we know that outpourings of the Spirit are always wonderful and necessary, but if these experiences do not translate into the transformation of society, you are basically irrelevant in the earthly realm. It is all about your continued growth for the purpose of discipling nations. Our ministry with History Makers Society, is to provide a Spirit-filled and strategic equipping experience over a period of 3 days. From there we strategically send attendees into the world to do nothing less than fulfill the Great Commission. Although our members attend their own local congregations, we believe we are the church “beyond the four walls.” This emphasis has allowed us to see an influence of close to 200,000 people globally in less than 2 years. All spheres of society being impacted – and we should not expect anything less than this kind of Kingdom Advancement.
Those fathers and mothers of Pentecost who went and brought the gospel to various nations deserve to be honoured for not pursuing extremes or mere experiences, but for bringing the gospel to the nations. It does not matter whether you call it a Pentecostal movement or a denominational name, the Kingdom of God can never be monopolized by one denomination or movement. The Kingdom of God is absolute and the church is to be its platform, no matter what name you give it. This was when I finally understood the prophecies made by certain revivalists so many years ago when they described a restoration of the Pentecostal movement that would be many times more powerful than in previous generations. I believe we have entered that era. If God is “restoring Pentecost” (as some have said) then it should look like an outpouring of the Spirit, that translates into societal impact and transformation. This advancement of the Kingdom of God cannot be anything less!