The focus on experiential spirituality dramatically increased within Protestantism at the beginning of the 20th century with the start of Pentecostalism through William J. Seymour. The son of former slaves freed at the end of the Civil War within the United States of America, Seymour (1870-1922) passionately pursued God at an early age and “found his identity in Jesus Christ” [Liardon 1996, 141] in such a way that he oozed the Spirit of God. John G. Lake, an early Pentecostal leader, said that Seymour had “more of God in his life than any man I had ever met up to that time” [Liardon 1996, 154].
This passion for experiencing the Living God captured the hearts of thousands of people as Seymour lead the Azusa Street Revival (1906-1915). Early Pentecostal historian Frank J. Ewart, who was also an eyewitness to the revival in its later years, later wrote that Seymour’s ministry was “not built on a new system of doctrine, but on an eminent scriptural experience” [1975, 69]. The inmate ongoing relationship promoted by St. Thérèse and other mystics within the Roman Catholic Church had finally found a home within Protestantism.
The tenth travel guide along our experiential spirituality journey is Don Williams (1937-Present). Williams was a Presbyterian pastor who had a personal encounter with the Living God through the ministry of John Wimber, the leader of the Vineyard Movement, which challenged his Calvinist education that had taught him “not to expect any powerful work of the Holy Spirit after conversion” [Williams 2011, 5].
Building upon this experience, Williams went on to influence the direction of Christian worship and church practice towards experiential spirituality through his writings and leadership within the Vineyard Movement [Geraty 2014]. His message of “intimate communion” with Jesus [Williams 2004, 116] would help blend together the spiritual experience of the Pentecostal world started by William Seymour with the personal transformation Christianity of John Calvin to create a new paradigm Protestantism that has come to shape 21st century Christianity [Luhrmann 2012, xx].
To be continued….
Ewart, Frank J. 1975. The Phenomenon of Pentecost. Hazelwood, Missouri: Word Aflame Press.
Geraty, Luke. 2014. Don Williams: Shaping the Theology, Praxis, and Culture of Worship in the Vineyard and Beyond. Master’s essay, University of Birmingham.
Liardon, Roberts. 1996. God’s Generals: Why They Succeeded and Why Some Failed. Tulsa, Oklahoma: Albury Publishing.
Luhrmann, Tanya M. 2012. When God Talks Back: Understanding the American Evangelical Relationship with God. New York: Alfred A. Knopf.
Williams, Don. 2011. Signs, Wonders, and the Kingdom of God: A Biblical Guide for the Reluctant Skeptic. Woodinville, Washington: Sunrise Reprints.
…………… 2004. 12 Steps with Jesus. How Filling the Spiritual Emptiness in Your Life Can Help You Break Free from Addiction. Ventura, California: Regal.