In 1906 the Azusa Street revival which launched the modern pentecostal renewal began. It was led by a black preacher, William Seymour. Seymour wrote very little so we rely on the eyewitness journalist and evangelist, Frank Bartleman, for first-hand stories.
Azusa Street is valuable for these stories as well as the practical insight Bartleman demonstrated concerning the moving of the Spirit. He notes, for example, how the revival brought imposters and disrupters out of the woodwork. His response?
We found early in the “Azusa” work that when we attempted to steady the Ark the Lord stopped working. We dared not call the attention of the people too much to the working of the evil. Fear would follow. We could only pray. Then God gave victory. (48)
Consider also his thoughts on church unity and his fear of a Pentecostal party:
Surely a “party spirit” cannot be “Pentecostal.” There can be no divisions in a true Pentecost. To formulate a separate body is but to advertise our failure, as people of God. (68)
Unfortunately, the insight of Bartleman is difficult to read because of the self-centredness of his narrative. Despite Seymour’s leadership of Azusa Street, Bartleman’s book is focused solely on his own exploits.
Bartleman also has an unfailing certainty that trumps any introspection. Consider the account of his family’s move from Long Beach to Pasadena:
We should have moved one month earlier, but a party occupied the house and would not move, though God called them to Sacramento. Refusing to obey God they kept us out, and caused much suffering all around. They confessed their wrong later. Thus they missed the mind of the Lord for themselves, got out of divine order, and suffered much, besides causing great suffering to others. (152)
Every time there is conflict in the book, the other party is in the wrong and Bartleman writes himself into the right. Azusa Street is a gripping first-hand account of the early pentecostal renewal, so long as you can stomach the author’s bias!
—Frank Bartleman, Azusa Street: The Roots of Modern-day Pentecost (S. Plainfield, NJ: Bridge Publishing, Inc., 1980).