We Need Another Pentecost
Please pray for our country; please pray for our city; and please pray for Antioch Church. All of the scenes in this video occurred downtown near our campus, some as close as two blocks away. Saturday nights where we are located in the West End of Dallas are sometimes tense anyway and last night’s events hold the potential of taking things to a completely different level tonight.
It is hard for me to imagine that any reasonable person would countenance the destruction recorded in this video. Yet, it is also urgently incumbent upon all of us to recognize the underlying racial realities that afforded the opportunity for extreme elements to hijack a peaceful protest and perpetuate such senseless violence. Racism is real and racism is wrong, but racism is sadly both alive and well. Racism has been called America’s original sin. It is heartbreaking to recognize that this country that I love so much and that has done so much good in the world, including sending missionaries around the world for the evangelization of the world, was partly built through genocidal aggression against some of its indigenous peoples and the brutal enslavement of other peoples brought here in chains from Africa. That is the cold, hard truth.
I sometimes ask myself, “How could a country who counted among its first settlers such committed Christians that they would sail across a storm-tossed ocean in three leaky little boats in the hope of finding religious freedom, deprive others for so long of the most basic of human freedoms? How could the men who risked their lives by declaring so poetically that ‘all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness,’ later lay the foundation for their new nation through a governmental document that is unequaled in its many of its expressions of civil wisdom, but that deemed people three-fifths human simply by the color of their skin?” I suppose the only answer to such questions is found in the depths of every human heart where good and evil sometimes coexist.
I am convinced that the only real hope for overcoming human depravity and the only antidote for this kind of societal sin is the blood of Jesus, the grace of God, and the power of the Holy Spirit. The church is called to work towards making these things as right as they can ever be in this world. Racial reconciliation is in fact at the very heart of God’s redemptive work throughout human history and thus should always be dear to every Christian. The Apostle John recorded in the Book of Revelation that trans-ethnic unity was why Jesus the Lamb is worshiped in the throne room of God: “And they sang a new song, saying: ‘You are worthy to take the scroll and to open its seals, because you were slain, and with your blood you purchased for God persons from every tribe and language and people and nation.’” (Rev. 5:9)
I am deeply stirred by the fact that as I write these words we are on the eve of celebrating what happened in a prayer meeting in an upper room in Jerusalem nearly two thousand years ago. On the Day of Pentecost, as God’s Spirit filled the disciples they began to speak in many different human languages. This drew a large, multi-ethnic crowd together which heard the Gospel preached. People from many different nationalities believed what they heard and became followers of Jesus. As a result, the first local congregation in the history of the world was multi-ethnic from the beginning.
Deep moves of God’s Spirit continue to effect this kind of racial healing, as witnessed by what happened in 1906 at the Azusa Street Mission in Los Angeles, California. One of the most singular features of that revival from its earliest moments was the amazing degree of racial harmony and integration that characterized both its services and its leadership. A Los Angeles newspaper reporter noted that there “were all ages, sexes, colors, nationalities and previous conditions of servitude’” among those in attendance.  The pastor, William Seymour, was a black man who had often tasted the bitterness of racial prejudice and mistreatment. When he first became interested in the Baptism of the Holy Spirit in revival meetings led by Charles Fox Parham, Seymour was not even allowed to seek for the experience at the same altar as the white people in attendance.  During Seymour’s Bible school studies at Parham’s Bible Institute in Houston, Parham made him listen from out in the hallway instead of permitting him to be seated in the classroom with the white students. In spite of these kinds of experiences, Seymour faithfully pastored the Azusa Street Mission and warmly welcomed people of every nationality and skin color as brothers and sisters in Christ and as co-workers equal to himself.
Although the degree of racial harmony which marked the Pentecostal movement’s earliest years did not continue beyond its initial decades, the Azusa outpouring nevertheless serves as an example of what the Holy Spirit will do when we truly open our hearts to Him. The cry of my heart is that all of my fellow Christian leaders would join me in praying for God to pour out His convicting presence upon every Holy-Spirit-friendly church in America tomorrow. May He help us repent for not doing more to address the racial injustice that is still so prevalent in our nation. May He use our congregations to lead the way in showing that in Christ we are one body, under one Lord, with one faith and one purpose. Could it be that this is the “sign” and the “wonder” that America most needs to see?
Jeremiah 29:7, 11-13 (NIV) — 7 Also, seek the peace and prosperity of the city to which I have carried you into exile. Pray to the Lord for it, because if it prospers, you too will prosper.” […] 11 For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. 12 Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. 13 You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.
Robeck, Cecil M. The Azusa Street Mission and Revival : The Birth of the Global Pentecostal Movement. Nashville: Nelson Reference & Electronic, 2006. Kindle.
 Cecil M. Robeck, The Azusa Street Mission and revival : the birth of the global Pentecostal movement (Nashville: Nelson Reference & Electronic, 2006), 1, Kindle.
 Robeck, 46.
 Robeck, 47.