The 20th-century Charismatic movement: the revival of Topeka

On January 1st, 1990, in the city of Topeka, Kansas, the Pentecostal movement started by Charles Fox Parham happened. Although 106 years has passed, the church is still with the same earnestness as the last century. The enthusiasm for missionary work and the motivation to establish churches are constantly expanding. In 1986, William J. Seymour, who was influenced by Charlie Parham, also brought this spiritual experience to Azusa Street in Los Angeles, and later became the Pentecostal movement that drew the world’s attention. Many brothers and sisters around the world who have longed for the power of the Holy Spirit had come here to receive it. Then they brought this experience back to their own church, and thus many Pentecostal churches started.

The most special feature of the Pentecostal movement of the 20th century is that when a person is filled with the Holy Spirit, there is an external manifestation of “speaking in tongues”. This emphasis was evolved from the evangelism and the holiness movement. The evangelical’s pursuit of “full sanctification”, the holiness movement’s pursuit of “the baptism of the Holy Spirit and fire”, why the later movements ended up not as “full sanctification” as two previous revival movements? It is not because they do not value holiness, but because holiness comes from the power of the Holy Spirit, not from the inner will of oneself. From this we can understand that the pursuit of holiness or sanctification cannot satisfy one’s innermost needs. Later, it was the Pentecostal movement consider the pursuit of the “Infilling of the Holy Spirit” as the most important.

Pentecostal Movement

Peter Wagner, professor of the Fuller Theological Seminary, divides the 20th century Charismatic movement into three waves. The first wave is the Traditional Pentecostal Movement that started at Topeka, Kansas. The second wave is the Charismatic Movement, which was popular in the major sects and Catholics of the Christian era in the 1960s, also named “New-pentecostalism”. The third wave is the “Vineyard Movement” initiated by Wigner himself and John Wimber, also known as the “Spiritual Movement” or “Power Evangelism”.

On December 31, 1900, in an overnight gathering in Topeka, Kansas State, Charles F. Parham (1873-1929) laid his hands on his student Ozman’s head. She began to speak Mandarin Chinese and was surrounded by brilliant lights around her head and face. Within three days, she was only able to write with a pen and could not speak in her mother tongue (English). She often wrote Mandarin Chinese characters. This event marked the beginning of the Pentecostal movement. This experience was then quickly imparted to the people in the meetings. In the following gatherings, they were able to speak 21 languages that could be confirmed by the locals: French, German, Swedish, Bohemian, Mandarin Chinese, Japanese, Hungarian, Bulgarian, Russian, Italian, Spanish, Norwegian, etc. (The experience of this Pentecost will be explained in the next section).

Charles F. Parham (1873-1929), the father of the Pentecostal movement, was born in Muscatine, Iowa on June 4, 1873. At the age of thirteen, he accepted Jesus as his personal savior in the Anglican Church. At the age of 19, he became the acting pastor of the Methodist Church. He was influenced by the second blessings of sanctification by grace and also had personal experience. During his time as a pastor, the number of members increased and the church had to build a larger hall to accommodate all the people.

In 1985, Benjamin Hardin lrwin, a Baptist pastor, announced the establishment of the “Baptism of Fire Holiness”. He taught that after the second blessing (sanctification), there will be the third experience which he called “the Holy Spirit and the baptism of fire”. This third blessing is the infilling of the Holy Spirit, but “the baptism of fire” does not teach that speaking in tongue is the evidence of baptism of the Holy Spirit but this phenomenon is quite common among those who are baptized.” Charlie Bhahan had met with Irwin several times before the 1990s. Scholars believe that Parham may have adopted the basic idea of ​​Irwin, and was greatly influenced by him. In 1985, Parham separated himself from the evangelism (second blessing) and accepted the theological position of the Holiness (three blessings).

In 1987, the eldest son of Parham, Claude, was sick. Parham himself also was suffering from heart disease and was getting weaker and weaker. The medicine could not help him. At that time, someone asked Charlie Parham to go to pray for the sick; although he was very weak, he went to the home. As he was praying, the words in the Bible: “physician, heal yourself!” (Luke 4:23 ) suddenly appeared in Parham’s heart. The power of God touched Charlie Praham and he was healed instantly. Because of this experience, he began to preach on divine healing. A woman with edema, and the doctor originally announced that she had only three days to live. Because of Praham’s prayer, she was healed on the spot, and even the miracle of blind eyes seeing again was happening.

In order to serve more sick people seeking healing from God, in August 1998, Praham officially began the Divine healing evangelical work in Topeka, Kansas, and established the” Praham Healing Room” to heal the old and the weak. There were many testimonies, but Parham often asked the congregation to not call him a “healer.” He reminded everyone that he had no ability to heal, just like he had no ability to save, there is only one Healer and Savior and that is the Lord Jesus Christ. In addition, he also accommodated orphans and provided jobs for the unemployed. Later, in October 1900, he established the “Bethel Bible School” (in a stone building). There were forty students in the school and a room called the “Prayer Tower”. Students often gathered and prayed. Each time there was a three-hour prayer watch. Praham’s seminary was open to every pastor and believer. The only condition was they had to be willing to “abandon all things” and study the Word of God with diligence and sincerity. The students had to live by faith for their tuition, and trust the Lord to supply all their needs.

From the beginning, students were taught that every person who accepts the Lord Jesus must understand the importance of purity, the  holy life of victory and power, honoring the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, obeying the Word and the commandments of the Lord Jesus Christ, repentance and forgiveness of sins, and to be set apart to live a life dedicated to God through the dwelling power of Christ (the law of the Holy Spirit) to overcome sin.

In December 2000, Praham led students to study the main teachings of the Holy Movement, including sanctification and Divine Healing. They read the second chapter of the book of Acts and the events that took place during the Pentecost in Jerusalem, including the phenomenon of speaking in tongues. At this time, Praham had to leave the school to attend a three-day preaching engagement. Before he left, he instructed the students to study the Bible and try to find Bible evidence of being filled with the Holy Spirit. When he came back, he asked the students what their results were. He was shocked by the unanimous answer. The evidence of being filled by the Holy Spirit was speaking in tongues, which was confirmed from several events in Acts. All accompanied by the baptism of the Holy Spirit and speaking in tongue.

The following is a personal testimony of Ms. Agnes Ozman (1870-1937):

“In October 1900, I went to Topeka Bible College. During the day, we studied the Bible and at night we ministered in the city. Every day we spent a lot of time praying. Just like most people, I thought I had received the baptism of the Holy Spirit when I dedicated myself. When I learned that the Holy Spirit could be poured out more abundantly, my heart became extremely hungry and thirsty.

I often came before God hunger for the coming of the Holy Spirit. This longing was far more than the needs of the flesh. We were taught to honor the blood of Jesus Christ and to let it work in our hearts – this result gave us great peace and victory. On New Year’s Eve, we had a blessed meeting. Before the New Year come, we prayed that God’s blessings will come to us.

On the first day of 1901, God demonstrated His presence with us in a remarkable way, and spoke to our hearts: To wait on Him for greater things. In the evening, the spirit of intercession came upon us, a thought rose up in me to ask God to lay hand on my head so that I could receive the gift of the Holy Spirit, it was the 11th hour in the evening of January 1st. Soon, God’s hand covered my head, the Holy Spirit poured out and my mouth spoke in “Tongue” to praise God – God gave me multiple languages, as if the river of living water was constantly Gushing out from the depth of my heart.

Some of these students continued to pray before God because they were very eager to be filled by the Holy Spirit. On January 3rd some of the students went out to minister, and the rest remained gathered at the school to pray. God answered their prayers – His spirit was greatly poured out! One by one They started to speak in tongue and some tongue was interpreted”

In the Bible, there are several expressions of tongues. First, it may be the language of other countries, and others can understand them. Just like the second chapter of Acts, on the day of Pentecost, Holy Spirit poured out languages of at least fifteen regions (Acts 2:8-11). Second, in the meeting, tongues need to be interpreted by someone to edify the people that were present (1 Cor. 14-27-28). Third, when praying alone, the purpose of speaking in tongues is to edify oneself and strengthens one’s own faith. “For anyone who speaks in a tongue[ does not speak to people but to God. Indeed, no one understands them; they utter mysteries by the Spirit” (1 Cor. 14:2), Paul said, “I thank God, I speak more tongues than all of you” (1 Cor. 14:18)

This “Pentecost returning” news quickly caught the eye of Topeka’s newspaper (Topeka Report) published an editorial to ridicule this “speaking in tongues” event, titled: “A strange belief, strange action, believers say strange words”; Other newspapers were also been informed of this news (Kansas City World News, Cincinnati News) and were competing to report. God’s work was being advertised, and some people came to see what God was doing.

A few weeks after the blessing of the Bethel Bible School, God sent twenty students to Lawrence, Kansas, to continue the missionary work. This evangelistic enthusiasm is characterizes Pentecostal church. They rented an old theater as the meeting place. Then they went to the city to visit the family door to-door; two by two they went out to pray for the sick in people’s homes; as a result, people came to these gatherings in groups, and many people repented and were healed. Many Christians also received the baptism of the Holy Spirit—they spoke in tongues to praise God.

Praham continued to preach the baptism of the Holy Spirit throughout the country by demonstrating the power of the Holy Spirit. There were times in the meeting when he suddenly spoke in tongues. After he finished, one person in the congregation stood up and said, “My sin of rebellion has been forgiven. I just heard you recite psalm 23  in my native language. This was what my mother taught me when I was a child.” This was just one of the fascinating story of Praham’s speaking in tongues. Soon, hundreds of people began to receive this phenomenon. But at the same time, unbelievers also began to launch a lot of persecution and defamation.

A year later, Praham closed the school in Topeka and began a four-year revival whirlwind traveling. During that time, Pentecostal teachings spread throughout Kansas and Missouri. In the fall of 1855, he moved his headquarters to Houston, Texas. At the request of friends, he started a short-term Bible school to share his knowledge. Students who came to study did not have to pay tuition fees, but they must learn to live the life of faith and rely on the supply of God. They lived in a three-story mansion. The institution was called the Bible Training School. A total of 25 students received a few months of study. This was also the school where WJ Seymour, the revival movement of Assua Street, received his theological training.

When Praham was 50 years old, he suffered from severe rheumatism and almost lost his life. He died on January 29, 1929, at the age of 57. [Although there was some history, saying he later became a racist, he had a tendency to discriminate, even in 1907 when Praham was swept into several sexual scandals, led to the loss of his reputation and leadership (he did not participate in the establishment of the Assembly of God Church in 1914), but finally after the judgement of the court, he was not prosecuted. Afterwards, it was learned he was maliciously rumored and slandered by some people. The power of God continued to confirm his ministry. Thousands of people repented and accepted the baptism of the Holy Spirit and received healing in the meetings he led. Before he passed away, he heard that his two sons were willing to dedicate themselves to serve the Lord. His spirit was greatly excited. “When I face the Lord, I can’t boast what I have done, but I dare say, I have Keep the Word that the Lord has given me, and live a pure, holy life.”