The Pentecostal movement came to Cleveland, Ohio, in 1906 in a spiritual outpouring sparked by the Azusa Street Revival in Los Angeles. This revival did not occur in a vacuum. The ground in Cleveland had been watered for six years by the tears and prayers of a small group of people who experienced dissatisfaction with their own spiritual lives and who hungered for more of God.
Cleveland Pentecostals affiliated with the Assemblies of God and organized as The Pentecostal Church (now First Assembly of God, Lyndhurst, Ohio). B. F. Lawrence, an Assemblies of God pastor and historian, documented the congregation’s history in the May 13, 1916, issue of the Weekly Evangel.
The Cleveland revival was preceded by a protracted period of intense prayer and waiting upon God that began in the fall of 1900. One church member recalled that the pastor and people “became conscious of the fact that we were impotent, powerless, and in a large measure were in our own souls dried up spiritually.”
They began meeting nightly for months, “to wait at the feet of Jesus for power, for some outpouring from Him that would satisfy our hearts and make us more nearly the witnesses that we felt we ought to be.” The church member recounted that it took almost six years for God to answer their prayer.
When members heard in 1906 about an outpouring of God’s Spirit in Akron, Ohio, they went to investigate. Ivey Campbell, a female evangelist from the Azusa Street Revival in Los Angeles, was leading the services in Akron. They became convinced that these Pentecostal meetings were scriptural — that what they read about in the Book of Acts was being repeated in Ohio. The revival spread to Cleveland. Numerous people accepted Christ, experienced bodily healings, and received the baptism in the Holy Spirit.
In addition to documenting the miracles and other exciting occurrences in the congregation’s first decade, the article also spent three paragraphs reporting on the church’s governmental structure. Lawrence suspected that some readers would not be interested in these details about church polity.
However, Lawrence noted that there was a growing conviction among early Pentecostals that the God who ordered the stars, moons, and all things in nature also wanted a well-ordered church. According to Lawrence, “That if there be no order in the church, it is the only place in all God’s creation where it is absent. And we have remarked that those churches which had enough system to prevent senseless disputes and preventable divisions were the churches which were doing something for God and His truth.”
The Pentecostal Church’s pastor, D. W. Kerr, also took great care to feed his flock from the Word of God. Kerr, an Assemblies of God executive presbyter, was the primary author of the Statement of Fundamental Truths, adopted in the 1916 General Council. With emphases on deep spirituality, solid doctrine, and well-ordered church government, by 1916 the Cleveland congregation had become one of the strongest churches in the Assemblies of God.
Read the article by B. F. Lawrence, “How and When Pentecost Came to Cleveland,” on pages 4 and 5 of the May 13, 1916, issue of the Weekly Evangel (later renamed Pentecostal Evangel).
Also featured in this issue:
• “The Times of the Gentiles,” by W. E. Blackstone
• “Word from Mukti,” by Pandita Ramabai
And many more!
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Pentecostal Evangel archived editions courtesy of the Flower Pentecostal Heritage Center.