Posted July 4th, 2013 at 12:07 amNo Comments Yet
100 Years After Azusa Street:
Where Are We Going?
Let’s resist nostalgia. As we approach the 100th anniversary of the Azusa Street Revival, we must shift into the new things God is doing.
In April 1906 the Holy Spirit fell on a ragtag group of black, white, and Hispanic Christians who had gathered in the rundown Azusa Street Mission in Los Angeles. They sang with fervor, testified of God’s sanctifying power and spoke in tongues—in a day when such behavior was considered fanatical. This now-famous revival, led by an unknown black preacher named William Seymour, was a defining moment in the history of Christianity.
Pentecostalism has now spread to every continent and in some cases is fueling the most staggering church growth on the planet. Yet at the same time many sectors of the movement have become musty, stale and painfully irrelevant. Some of us are stuck in a time warp.
The cloud of God’s presence does not stay in one place too long. He is always moving forward. He wants to reach every generation—and He loves to open a bottle of new wine when it’s time for a new season. Meanwhile those who prefer the altars of old-fashioned Pentecostalism have rejected the new wine—and sometimes have persecuted those who drink it.
Last week I addressed a group of Pentecostal scholars who had gathered at Lee University in Cleveland, Tenn., to celebrate the miracle of Azusa and to envision the future of our movement. I told them bluntly: It is time for us to move on. We must kill our sacred cows, tear down the old monuments and have some funerals. As wonderful as the past was, we can’t live there. God says to us: “‘Behold, I will do a new thing'” (Is. 43:19, ASV).
Here are just a few of the “new things” God is doing:
1. He’s shifting us from buildings to the organic church. Almost all ministry encounters in the book of Acts took place outside of religious buildings. Yet we still hang on to the outdated idea that God wants to live inside a brick-and-mortar temple. He wants to dwell among His people! Many of the people we are called to reach will never go near our buildings (which, by the way, sit empty most of the week). We must take Christ to the marketplace through home churches, workplace Bible studies, campus ministries, street meetings—and into cyberspace.
2. He’s shifting us from pulpits to people. The believers at Azusa Street celebrated the fact that God can use anybody—regardless of class or religious pedigree. But we quickly fell back into the old mind-set that requires a vast chasm between clergy and laity. Every member of the church is a minister. We must equip the saints for the work.
3. He’s shifting us from racism to reconciliation. As much as we talk about our heritage of racial integration, the truth is painful: We are still too separated. (And it’s not just white folks who harbor racist attitudes.) Jesus is serious about having a church that reflects the rainbow colors of heaven. We must think multiculturally. And we must sit at the feet of ethnically diverse leaders—including those from the developing world—and adjust our outdated Western paradigms.
4. He’s shifting us from male-dominated to egalitarian. We must allow full participation of women in ministry, and make room for their leadership gifts. We will never reach modern American culture if we keep our chauvinistic mind-sets. And we will never fulfill the Great Commission if we don’t empower and equip the female half of the church that has been marginalized and neglected.
5. He’s shifting us from hidden sin to healthy holiness. We have congregations full of people who are not whole. A large percentage of Christians struggle continually with addictions, bitterness, life-crippling beliefs systems, wounds from dysfunctional families and even occultism. We must become bondage breakers. We need another holiness movement—but this time it must focus on the heart rather than on a dress code, and it must lead people to an encounter with the Father’s love rather than into paralyzing legalism.
6. He’s shifting us from human ability to supernatural power. We Pentecostals claim to believe in miracles, but we have little to show for it. Has our faith dried up?God wants us to rediscover New Testament, book of Acts-style Christianity. And that won’t happen until we rediscover book of Acts-style prayer.
7. He’s shifting us from poverty to prosperity. I’m not talking about a message that tells every Christian to expect a Lexus in his garage, or that causes preachers to chase after watches, yachts and Botox injections. We must dispense with that foolishness. But we must also reject the Pentecostal poverty mentality of the past so that we can have the faith to fund world evangelism. God wants to give us billions of dollars to feed the poor, plant churches, build hospitals and transform nations.
8. He’s shifting us from escapism to conquest. So many of us have viewed the future with pessimism. We’ve been wimps rather than warriors. We thought everything was getting worse, as if Jesus simply wants us to “hold on” until the rapture. God is calling us to adapt a triumphant view of history. The Bible says we win. We need to start acting like it.
J. Lee Grady is editor of Charisma and an award-winning journalist. He writes his Fire In My Bones column for Charisma Online twice a week