The Charismatic thread helps us understand and delve into how the Holy Spirit works. In this sermon, Greg talks about the life of William Seymour and how the gifts of the Spirit are to be used today, in addition to counter-cultural Charismatic perspectives on race and gender that were a part of the movement from the beginning.
The Charismatic tradition can easily be misunderstood. But, here at WHC, we believe there are some really good things in the Charismatic tradition. William Seymour was a driving force within the Charismatic movement, and it was his leading in the Azuza Street Revival that we draw some similarities with the Charismatic movement.
William Seymour studied in Texas in the early 1900’s before being invited to speak in Los Angeles. However, after his first message there, he was “uninvited”. He did stay and continue to preach there because he didn’t feel like he was being called back to Houston. After holding bible studies and prayers for days on end, a crowd began to gather and a revival broke out. The movement began to gain momentum, and he moved the movement to a dilapidated church building in the ghetto district of LA on Azuza street. For the next three years, there was non-stop church. Three services a day, usually flowing into each other, seven days a week.
This revival was the birth of the Pentecostal movement and was how Pentecostalism spread. This movement was defined by its understanding of the Holy Spirit. The early Pentecostals believed that the baptism of the Holy Spirit always brought a person to speak in tongues, and that this was the sign of the indwelling of the Holy Spirit in that person. This movement sparked a lot of debate, and it made churches like Woodland Hills Church define what we believe the Holy Spirit to be doing at our church. In the 1960’s, this increased understanding of the Holy Spirit began what is now known as the Charismatic movement in other denominations, such as Episcopalians, Lutherans, and Catholics.
The Azuza revival overlaps with our thinking in two important areas. The Azuza revival was racially integrated, and it was integrated at a time when segregation was at its peak. In the early 1900’s, it was scandalous to even sit in the same room as people of color or different ethnicity. However, this movement had leadership and worship with people from every different background. Also, the Azuza revival believed that women could be empowered by the Holy Spirit and serve in any aspect of ministry. This was 15 years before the constitutional amendment gave women the right to vote.
The Azuza revival led to the Charismatic movement, and there are two main ways in which it influenced our identity here at WHC. First, we believe the Charismatic gifts are for today. There are different thoughts about spiritual gifts, and one of the main ones is that the Charismatic gifts were only for the early church and are no longer given today. However, we believe that the gifts are for today just as much as they were used during the early church. We’ve seen the Spirit move throughout history, not just the first few years of the Church, and we believe the Spirit continues to move today. We also believe that these gifts are for use on a smaller scale, and not for the corporate gatherings on the weekend.
The second way in which the Charismatic movement influenced our identity is how we’re filled with the Holy Spirit. In traditional Christianity, it was assumed that you’re filled with the Spirit the moment you believe. The Pentecostals noticed this wasn’t true. WHC think “having” the Holy Spirit and “being filled” with the Holy Spirit are two different things. Everyone has the Holy Spirit when they believe; however, the filling of us by the Holy Spirit is a life-long process, and not a one-time phenomenon.
We should continually seek to be filled with the Holy Spirit, to let the Spirit fill us until all of our actions are guided by the Holy Spirit. We don’t believe that speaking in tongues is evidence of being filled by the Spirit. Being filled by the Spirit can take many different forms and has many different gifts associated with it, not just speaking in tongues. The truth is that when you’re full of the Spirit you’re simply full of the sorts of things that you would have little of when you weren’t filled by the Spirit. There isn’t proof or special evidence like speaking in tongues; rather, it is the manifestation of the Spirit’s work in your life, to bring love, joy and peace to this world through your actions and thoughts.
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