What comes to mind when you hear the word “Pentecost”? You might think, “Pentecostal”. Pentecostal churches are a Protestant branch which emphasise personal experience of the Holy Spirit. Its origins are from the Los Angeles, Azusa Street Revival in 1906 as people had similar experiences to that seen in Acts 2 when the day of Pentecost came. They spoke in tongues, experienced God’s presence in worship, and saw miracles happen. The Acts 2 association became the name for the new movement.
As wonderful as the Azusa Street Revival was, the “Pentecost” experience is not owned “Pentecostals”. Nor to my mind are tongues, worship or even miracles the most powerful part of what happened in Acts 2 or Azusa Street. The birth of the church in Acts 2 occurred in the time of Israel harvest festival, Shavout. Acts 2:5-11 says there were pilgrim Jews from “every nation under heaven”. The Holy Spirit filled the first followers of Jesus and they spilled into the street praising God, speaking in the tongues of the visiting nations. It was this that gathered the crowd, raised questions, and gave Peter opportunity to call people to faith in Jesus. 3000 people from “every nation under heaven” responded to that call.
What is powerful about Pentecost is the good news of Jesus goes to every nation. Jesus says to his followers,
“you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” (Acts 1:8).
By Acts 2 this movement began. When the Azusa Street Revival occurred, already the Gospel had travelled across nations and sea. What is powerful about the 1906 Revival is it started with African Americans and then moved into Latino and white communities and beyond. The work of the Spirit crossed racial, social, and economic divides.
Pentecost is more than an experience; it is a call to be mobilised. If the Holy Spirit is fully at work in us then we will share the good news of Jesus to every nation, to every tongue, to everyone.
- Why did the first followers have to wait for the Holy Spirit first?
- “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you, and you will be my witnesses…” How do we obey Jesus?
- What is the Spirit doing through us, for our time and place?
- Who will we share this with?