A Brief History of the Pentecostal Movement
To appreciate the history of the Pentecostal Movement it is necessary to track back to John Wesley, an eighteenth century Anglican minister. Wesley, with others were at the forefront of what became known as the Evangelical Awakening when thousands of people were brought to faith in Christ and Wesley himself formed the Methodist Movement to disciple the new converts. One of Wesley’s distinctive doctrines was that of holiness or sanctification. He believed it was imperative for Christians to live lives free of sin.
His doctrine of holiness was overshadowed by other events for a time but resurfaced in the mid-Nineteenth century both inside and outside Methodism. A number of Evangelical churches in both America and Britain adopted holiness teaching and this led to the emergence of defined Holiness churches. Such churches came to stress that holiness was a second and subsequent blessing to salvation and that it was related to the Pentecost experience of the Apostolic church in Jerusalem. However, some groups took this further and looked for a restoration of the experience of Pentecost together with the gifts associated with it, such as speaking in tongues. Those who visited found that they took the experience of the Baptism in the Spirit away with them. As they prayed for others, so more people were effected by the Pentecostal experience. A number of Holiness Churches adopted the new Pentecostal experience and others left their churches to found dedicated Pentecostal assemblies.
In 1906 a negro Holiness preacher named William Seymour visited Los Angeles and began encouraging people to expect a ‘baptism in the Spirit’. People at his meetings began to speak in tongues, miracles were recorded and the surge in interest forced the group to move from a private house to an old barn in Azusa Street. Meetings took place in Azusa Street for three years, virtually non-stop, and attracted visitors from all over America and from other countries.
The Pentecostal experience was brought to Britain in 1908 when T.B. Barratt, who had been affected by Azusa Street, was invited to Britain by A.A. Boddy, an Anglican minister in Sunderland. The resultant meetings saw numerous people baptised in the Spirit and the experience spread throughout the British Isles. Two of those affected were brothers from Wales named Stephen and George Jeffries, both had been converted in the Welsh Revival in 1904. It was George Jeffries who was responsible for founding the Elim Pentecostal Church—for a brief history click here.
Elim is just one of the many Pentecostal denominations that exist today. Indeed the Pentecostal experience is now a world wide phenomenon and is especially strong in Africa, South America and Asia. Pentecostal adherents worldwide are numbered in their millions and account for around one quarter of all Christians. Pentecostals are defined by their experience of the Holy Spirit and by their Evangelical experience of conversion.