It happened in a small, dingy warehouse on Azusa Street in Los Angeles between the years 1906 and 1909. A revival seldom witnessed since the time of Christ’s walk on earth settled on the U.S. western coast. Azusa Street is its recognized nucleus.
A revival is a move of God upon the lives of people in a manner far above the norm. Revivals have occured intermittently throughout the centuries. Some could be termed minor, others major. The Azusa Street revival was major.
For three and a half years services were held three times a day, morning, afternoon and night. The Spirit of God came and many found a new life through Jesus Christ. The world would never again be the same. Scores and scores of millions of people, from that day to this, have secured their eternal salvation through the lingering repercussions of that great revival.
From Azusa the flame was fanned to other parts of the world. Today in our own city a number of Pentecostal assemblies, fruit of the Azusa Revival, testify to the impact it has made on Canada, and most nations have been likewise spiritually affected.
God demonstrated His love and power in various tangible ways. Few men of our day have tasted the power of God in such a dynamic way as those Azusa Street saints. When the power of God fell in their meetings they wanted nothing more than to bathe in the presence of the living God, to linger in that grand and glorious presence which words cannot describe. Such power! Such might! Such glory! Such joy! Such peace!
Azusa was birthed in prayer. God raised up certain prayer warriors to do spiritual battle, a prerequisite to any move of the Lord, great or small. One such warrior was Frank Bartleman, a true soldier of God. One of Bartleman’s compatriots wrote of him, “The pressure of the Divine presence is sometimes so great upon him that food has no attraction for him, and sometimes he possibly errs on the line of abstinence. Hence his appearance frequently indicates weakness, if not emaciation. God has committed to him, in large degree, the ministry of intercession.”
Bartleman describes in his writings his urgency to pray: “By this time the spirit of intercession had so possessed me that I prayed almost day and night. I fasted much also, until my wife almost despaired of my life at times. The sorrow of the Lord had gripped me. I was in the Garden with Him. The ‘travail of His soul’ had fallen in a measure on me.”
“I determined not to eat or sleep until victory came, so I fasted and prayed all one day. That night the Lord broke forth in power….. I could not preach for the presence of God. The glory played on my face like a hot sun bath. God spoke that night. The altar was full until after midnight with earnest seekers.”
The great San Francisco earthquake helped turn men’s attention toward God. Sinners were struck with such conviction that they had to either flee or repent. At times it seemed there was a definite invisible line whereby if one crossed over he immediately entered into the conviction of the Holy Spirit. Many penetrated the kingdom of God under this conviction of sin and received the new life promised by Jesus to any who would come to Him.
Azusa was considered the center of the revival, but the Spirit of God manifested His power in different locations. Bartleman writes of meetings at Eighth and Maple: “The Spirit was mightily manifest from the very first meeting. He was given complete control. The atmosphere was terrible for sinners and backsliders. One had to get right in order to remain….. For some days we could do little but lay before the Lord in prayer….. The atmosphere was almost too sacred and holy to attempt to minister in….. God came so wonderfully near us the very atmosphere of heaven seemed to surround us. Such a divine ‘height of glory” was upon us we could only lie on our faces. For a long time we could hardly remain seated even. All would be on their faces on the floor, sometimes during the whole service. I was seldom able to keep from lying full length on the floor on my face….. Every night the power of God was powerfully with us. It was glorious. The Lord seemed almost visible, He was so real.”
When God moved, as always, He came “with healing in his wings.” Bent bodies were straightened. Cancerous tumors disappeared. Bartleman writes, “The walls were soon covered with crutches and canes of those who were miraculously healed.” The mighty works of the early church were witnessed again as the Lord Jesus Christ manifested His power and love through obedient servants.
The gifts of the Holy Spirit were manifested in a way strange to the Christian community of that time, but not unlike what the early church experienced soon after the death and resurrection of Christ. Let’s go back to that time:
Christ gave His disciples a commission that, in fact, they were unable to carry out. The commission was to bring the good news of Jesus Christ to their generation. But how could they? Had not their Master just been crucified by the powerful Roman government? And was it not their own religious leaders who instigated the crucifixion? The disciples were just plain scared. They had no heart or courage to preach Christ.
But Jesus had promised He Himself would baptize them in the “fire and power” of the Holy Spirit, thus endowing them with the power to do the job, to preach the gospel to the world. The Holy Spirit descended upon 120 saints in an upper room somewhere in Jerusalem on the feast day of Pentecost. These disciples began to speak in other languages, languages they were not familiar with. They received other gifts as well, as did other believers who were likewise baptized in the Holy Spirit. And most important, they received power to give witness to Christ.
Immediately they preached to crowds with great boldness. Imprisonments and beatings didn’t slow them. Conviction of sin was heavy upon those hearing the gospel. Healings from all sorts of sickness and infirmities were daily happenings. Multitudes were saved from the penalty of their sins, rescued from satan’s realm.
But eventually the church, through carelessness or disobedience or deception or whatever, came to lose the gifts and power of the Holy Spirit and entered into what is referred to as the Dark Ages. For the most part, these unique gifts of the Holy Spirit remained lost through the centuries. Until Azusa.
At Azusa, saints again were baptized in the Holy Spirit, just like early church saints, and received the mysterious gift of tongues and other gifts that lay dormant, for the most part, over the centuries. (These saints often met opposition, even hostility, from the Christian community.) Most important came the enthusiasm and power of the Holy Spirit to preach Christ and to take authority over sickness and disease.
Sadly, much of Azusa street fervor and power has dissipated, just as the early church had come to lose its fervor and power. Even so, however, it still remains that most of the work accomplished for the kingdom of God is done so by saints who have been baptized, by Jesus Christ, in the Holy Spirit.
The wonder of the Azusa Street Revival is perhaps best described by Bartleman himself: “I would rather live six months at that time – than fifty years of ordinary life.”