The Genesis of the Pentecostal Movement
On May 22, 1955, Mrs. Flower and I attended services in the Bethel Pentecostal Church of Newark, New Jersey, and were handed a copy of the current issue of the Pentecostal Evangel. We observed on page 15 a notice of the death of a pioneer Pentecostal minister, Howard D. Stanley, at the age of 79.
The passing of Howard D. Stanley would have been without particular significance if it were not for the fact he was one of the students at Bethel Bible College in Topeka, Kansas, who experienced a glorious baptism in the Holy Ghost on January 3, 1901. At Bethel Bible College, the momentous decision was made by the student body, from its study of the Book of the Acts, that the scriptural evidence of the baptism in the Holy Ghost is speaking in tongues as the Holy Spirit gives the utterance.
This was not the first time since Apostolic days the Holy Spirit had been outpoured, accompanied by spiritual manifestations including prophecy and speaking in tongues, as has been noted in With Signs Following, by Stanley H. Frodsham.1
In the United States there were movings of the Holy Spirit as early as 1854 in New England, among those who were known as The Gift People. At Moorhead, Minnesota, in 1903, under the ministry of John Thompson, a minister of the Swedish Mission, the Holy Spirit was outpoured and those receiving the Spirit spoke in new tongues. The influence of that revival remains with us to this day. Then we learn from the Church of God that the Holy Spirit was outpoured in the early days of that church at the Shearer School House in Cherokee County, North Carolina, and those who were baptized in the Holy Spirit spoke in tongues, others prophesied, and miracles of healing occurred.
While there were notable movings of the Holy Spirit in which speaking in other tongues, prophecy, and the healing of the sick were experienced, none of these revivals grew into a Pentecostal movement, such as resulted from the outpouring of the Holy Spirit that took place at the turn of the century at Charles F. Parham's Bethel Bible College. When the students at Bethel Bible College decided from their study of the Scriptures that the scriptural evidence of the baptism in the Holy Ghost is speaking in tongues, and then tarried and expected that experience, the time had arrived for the inauguration of a Movement which was to encircle the world and become entrenched in every continent and in almost every nation on the face of the globe.
We are living in the age in which science has succeeded in smashing the atom, and we hear about nuclear fission and chain reaction. It would seem there is a parallel between the discovery of the secrets of the atom and the outpouring of the Holy Spirit. On January 1, 1901, a young woman [Agnes N. Ozman], a student at Bethel Bible College in Topeka, Kansas, requested that hands be laid on her that she might receive the Holy Ghost, according to the pattern set forth in the Book of Acts. Although the leaders of the college had misgivings as to the authority they possessed, they responded to the request and laid hands on her, and God honored her faith by baptizing her in the Holy Ghost, and she spoke in tongues and glorified the Lord. It was as though a spiritual atom had been exploded, and produced a spiritual mushroom effect. The activated particles spread throughout Kansas, into Missouri, then to Texas, and finally Los Angeles, California. From there it spread to all parts of the earth, for (with the possible exception of the Church of God and the Girls' Home in India operated by Pandita Ramabai) every Pentecostal unit in existence today can be traced back to that obscure beginning in the State of Kansas.
The newly baptized students were inspired to launch out first in the vicinity of the school, then to neighboring towns including Lawrence; Kansas City; Galena, Kansas; and Joplin, Missouri. The story of the Pentecostal revivals in Galena in 1903, in Orchard and Houston, Texas, in 1904 and 1905, is recorded in With Signs Following and is worth reading.2
The outpouring of the Holy Spirit in Los Angeles, and the revival at the Azusa Street Mission was in fact one link in the chain and one effect of chain reaction. William J. Seymour, a black holiness preacher, came under the influence of the Apostolic Faith Movement (as the Pentecostal movement was first known) in Houston, Texas. Although admonished by the brethren in Houston not to go to Los Angeles until he had received the Pentecostal baptism, Seymour nevertheless felt impelled to accept the invitation that had been given him. The result of his going to Los Angeles is well known, for in Los Angeles, California, on April 9, 1906, when the first persons in that city received the Holy Spirit according to the pattern, another spiritual atom was exploded, which scattered the Pentecostal message to the ends of the earth.
The brilliance of that Pentecostal explosion was so great, that many were unaware of the links in the chain. It can be traced back to Houston, where a great Pentecostal revival was still in progress, and still farther back to the Bethel Bible College.
1. Stanley H. Frodsham, With Signs Following, (Springfield, Mo.: Gospel Publishing House, 1941), 253262.
2. Ibid., 1929.