The Azusa Street revival was brought about by a hunger to restore the church back to the church model shown in the book of Acts. Leaders such as Parham and Seymore searched the book of Acts looking for applicable methods to glean from Luke’s writings. As a result there are numerous parallels between the book of Acts and Azusa Street. Some of these parallels include: the outpouring of the Spirit of God, the miraculous healing power that touched the lives of those that sought after it, the dispersion of the revival around the world, and the persecution brought about by those attempting to inhibit the revivals. The Azusa Street revival is one of the closest events to a modern day book of Acts revival known today.
From Acts to Azusa
The book of Acts begins with a unified gathering of the disciples in an upper room seeking the promise that Jesus had given them. The gathering was in perfect unity seeking the face of God as Acts 2:1 tells us, “And when the day of Pentecost was fully come, they were all with one accord in one place” (The Holy Bible: King James Version, 2009). This unified hunger gave way to the first outpouring of the Holy Ghost in an upper room. The fire that was poured out ignited a flame within the hearts of every individual. This gave way to a revival that was destine to shake the world. Acts 1:8 sets the stage of anticipation that will be manifested throughout the rest of the book of Acts, “But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth” (The Holy Bible: King James Version, 2009).
The Azusa Street Mission much like what is found in the book of Acts was brought about by a desperate hunger for more of God. William Seymore had been taught about the Holy Ghost by Charles F. Parham and made it his mission to effect the world through this revelational teaching. Out of this longing, Seymore and a small group of individuals began a house prayer meeting after being locked out of the church Seymore was to assume the pastorate (Robeck Jr., 2006, p.64). Seymore’s teaching of the Holy Ghost had initially ostracized him and those who shared his belief. This is a very similar occurrence to that of Acts 2:12-13 where those who did not understand the Holy Ghost misinterpreted it. Yet, Seymore refused to allow the persecution he was receiving, as a result of his teachings, inhibit his humble desire for God. Although it was not immediately obvious, this humble prayer meeting would give way to a revival that would effect the world for years to come.
The outpouring in the book of Acts is the textbook example of what one should anticipate when seeking for an outpouring of the Holy Ghost. It is documented in Acts 1:15 that there were about one hundred and twenty individuals gathered together in the upper room (The Holy Bible: King James Version, 2009). Acts 1:14 gives the key to how the presence of God is manifested when it says, “These all continued with one accord in prayer and supplication…” Unified prayer places a pull on heaven and draws down the Spirit of God. Several verses later the sound of a rushing mighty wind permeated the atmosphere of those in earnest prayer filling them with the gift of the Holy Ghost. From that moment forward a continual outpour of the Holy Ghost is found throughout the book of Acts.
When observing the revival at Azusa Street much of the same actions that are found in the book of Acts can be located here. Bartleman gives an account of the early days of the Azusa Street revival, “They had been tarrying very earnestly for some time for an outpouring” (1982, p.39). Much like what is found in the upper room of the book of Acts; the Azusa Street Mission was founded upon a very real hunger for an outpouring of God. This hunger was readily met.
From 1906-1909 there was a continuous flow of the Spirit of God on the revival. Robeck Jr. records in his book the account of someone who participated in the meetings, “Meetings continued every day with seekers at every service” (2006, p.136). Once the revival was established spiritual anticipation seems to have fueled the revival. There are multiple accounts of people traveling across the world just to participate in the meetings. The Azusa Street revival had received an authentic outpouring of the Spirit of God, just like that on the day of Pentecost.
A common theme throughout the book of Acts is a demonstration of the power of the Holy Ghost through those that had received it. Luke records in Acts 1:8, “But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you…” (The Holy Bible: King James Version, 2009). Luke uses the book of Acts to show a demonstration of this power. Also right away Luke introduces this, Acts 3:4-7 says, “And Peter, fastening his eyes upon him with John, said, Look on us. 5 And he gave heed unto them, expecting to receive something of them. 6 Then Peter said, Silver and gold have I none; but such as I have give I thee: In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth rise up and walk. 7 And he took him by the right hand, and lifted him up: and immediately his feet and ancle bones received strength.” Acts 6:8 says, “And Stephen, full of faith and power, did great wonders and miracles among the people.” Acts 16:18 says, “And this did she many days. But Paul, being grieved, turned and said to the spirit, I command thee in the name of Jesus Christ to come out of her” (The Holy Bible: King James Version, 2006). These are only a few of the plethora of accounts Luke records a demonstration of the power of the Holy Ghost.
While miracles and deliverance were not the certain theme of the Azusa Street Mission they often did take place. In his book Robeck Jr. says, “Deliverance and exorcism became regular features of the mission’s ministry” (2006, p.171). Healing homes and crusades were already a popular fad even before the birth of the Azusa Street Mission, but during the revival numerous accounts of miraculous healing took place. Aside from deliverance and miracles taking place at Azusa the services themselves at the mission were examples of the power of God. There was a free flowing presence of God during the services held in the mission that was tapped into almost immediately every service.
Almost from the beginning of the book of Acts there is an obvious pattern of dispersion. Acts 1:8 yet again gives a picture of what to anticipate, “…and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth” (The Holy Bible: King James Version, 2009). The key to understanding the spread of the gospel is that once one has received the Holy Ghost they are now witnesses of the power of God. This stirs up a desire with to share and spread the word of God. Acts 8:1 gives a record of the church spreading aboard due to persecution, “…and they were all scattered abroad throughout the regions of Judaea and Samaria, except the apostles” (The Holy Bible: King James Version, 2009). The dispersion that begins during this time does not stop. Soon, the apostles where spreading the gospel to the Gentiles throughout Troas, Ephesus, Philippi, Macedonia, and various other regions.
The spread of the gospel from Azusa is one of the easiest parallels to the book of Acts to identify. Those who witnessed the power of the Azusa Street revival immediately believed this in fact the revival of the last days. This understanding compelled many to disperse and share the gospel with anyone and everyone (Robeck Jr., 2006, p.235). Another element that aided in the dispersion to the mission field from Azusa was the belief that the gift of the Holy Ghost enabled one to speak in another earthly language. This belief is traced back to Frank Sandford and Charles Parham (Robeck Jr., 2006, p.41). Individuals left Azusa within weeks to become missionaries, traveling to: Africa, India, Asia, Angola, and South America. The enablement of immediately becoming fluently bilingual in another earthly language made it the duty of those who received the Holy Ghost at the Azusa Street Mission to travel abroad.
On the flip side of a powerful, well known, ministry comes persecution from those on the outside or those who fell threaten. This is also a common pattern in the book of Acts. In Acts 7:57-58, following Stephen’s speech before the high council, Luke records his stoning, “Then they cried out with a loud voice, and stopped their ears, and ran upon him with one accord, 58 And cast him out of the city, and stoned him…” Acts 9:16 says, “For I will shew him how great things he must suffer for my name’s sake” (The Holy Bible: King James Version, 2009). Wherever there is a great move of God there will also be persecution.
The theme of persecution is very evident at the Azusa Street revival. The revival caught the city by surprise and quickly became the talk of the town, within no time local newspapers had a reporter at almost every service to cover the spectacle (Robeck Jr., 2006, p.75). There were also times when the police would be called on the Azusa Mission for disturbance of the peace, as Robeck Jr. quotes a reporter in his book, “As such exhibitions are not allowed even in the tough resorts in the city, the police were forced to call a halt to the of the ‘holy kickers’ rites” (2006, p.176). The Azusa Street Mission experienced much persecution throughout the duration of the revival.
There are numerous parallels between both the book of Acts and the Azusa Street Mission, but what can without a doubt be contributed to both outpourings is prayer. Prayer in an upper room and prayer in a small house ignited the spark of global revival. There is nothing more powerful that fervent prayer. Because of the prayer lives those involved at the Azusa Street Mission; Azusa has become a parallel picture today of a modern day book of Acts revival.
Bartleman, F. (1982). Azusa Street. (3rd ed.). New Kensington, Pennsylvania: Whitaker House.
Robeck, Jr., C. (2006). The Azusa Street Mission and Revival: The Birth of the Global Pentecostal Movement. Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.
The Holy Bible: King James Version. (2009) (Electronic Edition of the 1900 Authorized Version.). Bellingham, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc.