An Eyewitness History of Early Pentecostalism

the phemomenon of pentecostIt was 10₵.

And it was history.

Pentecostal history.

I didn’t stand a chance; the dime flew out of my pocket on its own.

Sadly enough the sparks stopped right there until years later when I rediscovered this small paperback sitting on my shelf. I was looking for a book to take backpacking and this book was the perfect size and weight (yeah, I’m odd…I will cut down on other things to carry a book ten miles into the backcountry…craziness).

There is something therapeutically about reading about the move of the Holy Spirit while listening to the wind blow through the trees miles from civilization…there is a sense of adventure, rawness and, well, wildness. He’s not a tame lion after all – but a Wild Goose.

The book itself, The Phenomenon of Pentecost, was written in 1947 by an early Pentecostal pastor. The author, Frank J. Ewart, was an Australian who moved to Canada in 1903 to pastor a small Baptist church. A few years later in 1908, Ewart attended a camp meeting in Portland, Oregon, that was connected to the 1906 Azusa Street Revival in Los Angeles. This is what happened:

“Then the great miracle happened. I got an uncontrollable hunger for this experience, and began to tarry. I prayed almost constantly night and day for twenty-one straight days. Finally, at midnight on the twenty-first day, I received the wonderful experienced of the baptism of the Holy Ghost. God left no room for doubt in my mind, as I fluently spoke in in several languages of which I was not familiar. Some of them were interpreted that very night. Earlier, I had asked the Loved to completely heal my body when I received the Holy Ghost. He took me at my word, and fully answered my prayer as His Spirit entered in. The glasses that I had been forced to wear for years were no longer necessary. New blood pulsated through my veins like a fresh and vibrant mountain stream. Like the Psalmist, I felt that I could run through a troop, and leap over a wall. I left the camp full of the Holy Ghost, completely rejuvenated, and confident that I could conquer every opposing force.”

The Baptist church Ewart pastored wasn’t as happy with this change as he was, causing him to leave that church and drift down to Los Angeles. In 1911 he became William Durham’s assistant pastor at the Seventh Street Mission church, where he became the senior pastor after Durham’s death in 1912. Later on he also started and edited the national periodical Meat in Due Season. All of these experiences make for a really cool book as Ewart details out the spread of Pentecostalism (then called The Apostolic Faith) across the United States and Canada and then around the world. More than anything, The Phenomenon of Pentecost is history written by an eyewitness rather than history written by a third-party scholar.

Granted, this eyewitness viewpoint does mean that Ewart is bias towards his sub-strand of Pentecostalism. You see, Ewart was one of the founding members of the Oneness Pentecostalism movement that came out of R. E. McAlister’s sermon at the 1913 World Wide Apostolic Faith Camp Meeting hosted by Maria Woodworth-Etter in Arroyo Seco, California. This group, as explained by Ewart, believes that folks are to be baptized in Jesus’ name only and not in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. However even though Ewart is bias towards the Oneness folks, I thought that he did a good job of telling the history of Pentecostalism in general.

One cool comment before I end this post. In his chapter about the spread of Pentecostalism in China, Ewart tells about a “Brother and Sister Baker” whose ministry leads to a revival among the Ka Do tribes. While he never mentions his first names, I happened to know that this Brother and Sister Baker is none other than Harold and Josephine Baker whose grandson is Rolland Baker of IRIS Ministries fame. Fun stuff. =D

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