"There are many wells today, but they are dry. There are many hungry souls today that are empty. But let us come to Jesus and take Him at His Word, and we will find wells of salvation, and be able to draw waters out of the well of salvation, for Jesus is that well." William Seymour
I was listening to one of my favorite spiritual leaders Dutch Sheets give his daily, "Give Him 15" devotion on YouTube when I first heard his name. William Seymour.
Have you heard of him?
Dutch was highlighting three American pioneers in honor of black history month. Although the stories of the first two African American politicians were fascinating, the story of William Seymour peaked my curiosity most and inspired me to do a little more digging.
I believe you will see many treasures in his story, as all our stories contain.
William J. Seymour was born in 1870, the second of eight children, to emancipated slaves. He was raised in extreme poverty in Louisiana.
Seymour went on to become a minister. On April 9, 1906, three days into Seymour's ten-day fast in Los Angeles, California, revival broke out. (Revival: restore, strengthen, awaken.) It became known as the Azusa Street Revival, one of the biggest spiritual revivals to ever occur in the United States. It lasted for three years.
Listening to testimonies, there was an increase in healing, spiritual gifting and increased ability to share Jesus Christ. Many came to know Christ, his salvation, power and his love.
The revival drew large crowds and media coverage. For one, the racially-integrated worship services drew attention because they violated the racial norms of the time. Some also called Seymour a heretic, while others accepted his teachings and shared them with their congregations.
Both Seymour's leadership in the revival and his publication The Apostolic Faith newspaper grew his popularity.
Seymour also became known for rejecting existing racial barriers in favor of "unity in Christ" as well as barriers to women in any form of church leadership.
The revival's influence extended beyond Los Angeles through evangelism and missionary work.
On September 28, 1922, Seymour experienced chest pains and shortness of breath and went to meet his Savior. Although his influence had dwindled greatly in his later years, his faith remained steadfast. His last words were, "I love my Jesus so."
William Seymour's story has impact on so many levels.
I love learning about another African American influencer in America. Too many have had impact without enough hearing of it. This is an area that is thankfully changing.
It is sad that racial division ever occurred, especially in the church. But what a great picture this revival was of how worship broke through all prejudice and racial division and brought unity. This is as it should be.
Another reason we may not be aware of Seymour is the unfortunate truth of the disunity there is in the church that comes from interpreting certain Scripture differently; we let minor disagreements become major, dividing us, which only hurts the life-changing power of the gospel. How this must grieve God's heart. May we continue to pray and work toward unity while not watering down truth.
Seymour's revival story also intrigued me as it may be mirroring what is to come. The past several months many Christian leaders worldwide have been saying they believe the church is on the edge of another great revival; they see an increasing renewal of our love for God, repentance and humility. They share of gatherings seeing increased numbers of those coming to know Jesus. As someone said recently, "Growing chaos or Christ." It rings true. Our world needs a fresh outpouring of God's spirit as evil swirls around us, and sometimes even within us.
Although there is so much to glean from Seymour's story, his last words, "I love my Jesus so" touched my heart most. They reflect that his love for Jesus was full and foremost. Hist last earthly heart cry. I desire this. I believe you do to. This is the crux of the matter. This fullness of God's love in each our hearts will be a growing light, a spreading fire that will be the impetus of true revival as we become more like Christ and partake in healing our world.
Jesus said: "Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength. The second is this: Love your neighbor as yourself. There is no commandment greater than these." Mark 12:30-31
"Let us honor the blood of Jesus Christ every moment of our lives, and we will be sweet in our souls." William Seymour