My time in Wales was significant in that it gave me an opportunity to visit the location of one of the largest Christian revivals of the 20th century, and to observe firsthand the sad condition of the Church in Wales nearly one hundred years after the revival had broken out. At the time of my visit the only outward evidence of that a spiritual awakening had occurred was the empty churches that had been built to house that revival.
During my lifetime I have seen the church in America experience a similar spiritual awakening, it was called the “Charismatic Renewal” and it occurred from the early 1950’s through the 1980’s. It was at the beginning of the “Charismatic Renewal” in 1952 that Demos Shakarian was moved by God to start the Full Gospel Business Men’s Fellowship in Los Angeles, California. But what is lost in most of the books and articles about the early days of the Full Gospel Business Men’s Fellowship is that when Demos first started the Fellowship he and Rose envisioned it as an organization where “Pentecostal Businessmen” could fellowship together. In the late 1940s and early 1950s, Demos belonged to a Christian Business Men’s Organization but he and his wife Rose noticed that the Pentecostal men were never promoted to leadership positions, because of the prejudices of other denominations against speaking in tongues and the demonstrations of the Spirit. Neither Demos nor the other early Full Gospel Business Men had any idea that God would ever use the Fellowship to baptize men from the mainline denominations in the Holy Spirit. I remember hearing Demos Shakarian and Earl Pricket (one of the early Fellowship men) discussing how surprised they were when Roman Catholic Priests and other denominational ministers began attending the early Fellowship meetings to receive the infilling of the Holy Spirit. But when God begins to pour out his Spirit in a spiritual awakening He doesn’t have to ask the churches permission as to whom He may fill with His Holy Spirit.
Several years after Demos started the Fellowship in Los Angeles Fr. Dennis Bennet the pastor of a Saint Mark’s Episcopal Church in Van Nuys California experienced the baptism in the Holy Spirit and began a small Pentecostal meeting in St. Marks. Some of the members in Fr. Bennet’s Episcopal congregation were unsure of the direction that he was taking, and he was transferred from St. Marks in California to the floundering St. Luke’s mission church in Seattle. Subsequent to Dennis Bennet’s transfer to St. Luke’s in Seattle, it experienced considerable growth and Fr. Dennis Bennet rose to a place of National influence – a charismatic training ground of sorts among the mainline churches. Both Demos Shakarian and Dennis Bennet were early charismatic leaders that God used to bring a spiritual awakening to His church in America.
The emphasis on the Baptism (or Infilling) of the Holy Spirit began to spread rapidly though the Mainline denominations throughout the 1960’s and 70s. Though much of the belief and practice of the Charismatic Movement came directly from the Pentecostal’s who had been around since the Azusa Street awakening of 1906, the mainline churches who embraced the “Pentecostal” experience avoided the “Pentecostal” label. Instead these churches adopted the descriptor “charismatic” which had been popularized by Harald Bredesen, a Lutheran minister who was influential in the Charismatic movement. The term came from the Greek word charismata, which means “a gift of grace,” and refers to the gifts that the “Charismatic Movement” emphasized.
Interestingly, the roots of both the “Full Gospel Business Men’s Fellowship” which was birthed in Downey CA, and the “Charismatic outbreak in the St. Mark’s Episcopal Church” in Van Nuys CA both began within twenty miles of the Azusa Street Mission where Pentecostalism was birthed almost sixty years before.
But now in 2015, less a quarter of a century later it is becoming increasingly hard to find a church that preaches the uncompromised word of God, and where the congregation flows fluently in the charismatic gifts of the Spirit…
Several years ago while reading R.T. Kendall’s book “Holy Fire” I discovered a prophetic word that was spoken in 1947 by one of my “heroes of faith”, Smith Wigglesworth (1859-1947). That prophetic word concerned what may be the last great awakening before Jesus returns, came just three months before Smith died. While Wigglesworth was speaking to an audience in Great Britain, this prophecy applies equally to the same period in America.
During the next few decades there will be two distinct moves of the Holy Spirit across the church in Great Britain. The first move will affect every church that is open to receive it and will be characterized by a restoration of the baptism and gifts of the Holy Spirit. (This was what we now call the Charismatic Movement) The second move of the Holy Spirit will result in people leaving historic churches and planting new churches. (This move took place roughly between 1980 and 2005) In the duration of each of these moves, the people who are involved will say, “This is the great revival.” But the Lord says, “No, neither is the great revival but both are steps towards it.” When the new church phase is on the wane, (Which is the time in which we now live) there will be evidenced in the churches something that has not been seen before: a coming together of those with an emphasis on the Word and those with an emphasis on the Spirit. When the Word and the Spirit come together, there will be the biggest movement of the Holy Spirit that the nation, and indeed the world, has ever seen. It will mark the beginning of a revival that will eclipse anything that has been witnessed within these shores, even the Wesleyan and the Welsh revivals of former years. The outpouring of God’s Spirit will flow over from the UK to the mainland of Europe and from there will begin a missionary move to the ends of the earth.
When will this last spiritual awakening happen? I believe very soon. This is the reason that I have taken the time to explain to you men of the Joshua Generation both the Welsh revival in 1903, and the Charismatic revival in 1950’s through the 1980’s. Very soon the final spiritual awakening prophesied by Smith Wigglesworth in 1947 will begin, perhaps it is already happening!
Robert W. Bignold
Full Gospel Business Men’s Fellowship in America