When The Spirit Pours Out

Posted by Craig Borlase on 7 August 2017

With Pentecost Sunday – June 4th – just around the corner, we look back at one of the greatest revivals of all.

Take a look and a listen and you’ll see that there’s something powerful embedded within this worship encounter from Darlene Zschech. 

In many ways, moments like the final minute – where the air grows heavy and the praise lifts off – they’re nothing new. There are millions of Christians worldwide today who worship in churches where scenes like these are familiar.

But if we turn the clock back 111 years and head to Azusa Street, Los Angeles, we can witness the birth of a remarkable new move of God that nobody had seen before.

Enter William Seymour, the Louisiana-born son of ex-slaves, blind in one eye, quietly spoken, prayerful, radical African American preacher.

In 1906 he had been invited to pastor a small, mainly black church in Los Angeles. He was still new to preaching, and his first few sermons had not gone so well. He had given a simple message – telling people that unless they had been baptized in the Holy Spirit they’d not fully encountered God – and the church leaders had given a simple response. They padlocked him out of the chapel where he was both preaching and living.

Unemployed and homeless, Seymour did the only thing he could. He prayed. Others joined him to pray too. Within weeks the crowds gathered around him were too big to fit into the house. And then the truly remarkable thing happened: the Holy Spirit turned up the power.

Within four weeks of getting locked out of the chapel, Seymour was leading meetings with over 1,000 people in attendance at the small wooden building on Azusa Street. The services rolled on and on, with all races attending and many getting flattened in the power of the Holy Spirit. People were talking in tongues, getting saved, healed and set free all over the place. It was the most beautiful kind of holy chaos with God at the center.

Something else remarkable happened: people didn’t stay in LA to take up residence at the meetings. They left, travelling across the state, the country and world. They moved out beyond the comfort of exciting church services, becoming missionaries, evangelists, preachers, pastors and everyday people living their faith out loud.

Seymour and the others at Azusa Street had their enemies. The sight of all races praying and praising together was too much for some. Yet Seymour remained determined to pursue what he knew to be right: that the experience of God was for the masses, not just the few.

At his death, his once-famous church contained just one or two-dozen believers. His influence scattered and his reputation forgotten, the opponents had finally got the better of him. Yet William Seymour’s final words said it all, summing up his integrity and passion in spite of a lifetime of struggle and service. As the breath escaped his body he said this: “I love my Jesus so.”

We face a challenge today that William Seymour would have understood. The church has plenty of pockets of popularity, but around us are injustices and open wounds that are in desperate need of attention. What will we do about it? Will we take the passion of our meetings and allow it to fuel us as we go? Will we put aside our obsession with numbers and popularity, choosing instead to hold on to God with all that we have, dedicating ourselves to prayer and devotion?

Will we go?

Beloved (When I Survey) features on Darlene’s latest album, Here I Am Send Me (available now smarturl.it/hereiamsendmedeluxe).

Craig Borlase is the author of William Seymour, A Biography published by Charisma House.

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