Ye men of Judaea, and all ye that dwell at Jerusalem, be this known unto you, and hearken to my words: for these are not drunken, as ye suppose, seeing it is but the third hour of the day. But this is that which was spoken by the prophet Joel; and it shall come to pass in the last days, saith God, I will pour out of my Spirit upon all flesh: and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams: and on my servants and on my handmaidens I will pour out in those days of my Spirit; and they shall prophesy. Acts 2:14b-18
This year marks the 120th anniversary of the organizational beginnings of what has become the International Pentecostal Holiness Church. B. H. Irwin’s Fire-Baptized Holiness Association formed in 1898. That same year, A. B. Crumpler set in order the first Pentecostal Holiness Church in Goldsboro, North Carolina, and N. J. Holmes launched the Altamont Bible and Missionary Institute (now Holmes Bible College). Their early years were marked by a common evangelistic zeal for souls, commitment to living holy, and hunger for supernatural power to witness in the “eleventh hour” they believed was upon them.
Out of this mix of passions came some courageously counter-cultural actions. They ministered to African-Americans in the small-town South, Native Americans in rural Oklahoma, Italian and Jewish immigrants in Appalachian coal towns, and even settlements of transients and “mixed race” people scattered across the nation. They took a courageous stand against abortion (“child murder”), corrupt partisan politics, and the emerging consumer culture that defined happiness by possessions. They built orphanages and homes for “unwed mothers” in state after state. They often celebrated the right of women, children, and the uneducated to preach the gospel when anointed by the Lord. And they gave sacrificially of their scarce resources to send the love of Jesus to lost and destitute people both at home and abroad.
Preachers like G. B. Cashwell, who we now know as the “Apostle of Pentecost to the South,” were attracted to these radically evangelistic groups at the turn of the 20th century. As early as 1903, Cashwell hungered for a fresh outpouring of purity that would keep believers free from the distractions of “the world” and of “spiritual gifts” that would empower them to turn that world upside down for Jesus. Like many others, Cashwell was looking for a coming end-time pentecostal revival to accelerate the evangelization of the world—a revival they could point to and say, “This is that!”
In the Fall of 1906, Cashwell read about the Azusa Outpouring in Los Angeles, a revival led by an African-American preacher, William J. Seymour. In September 1906, Seymour began publicizing the revival with headlines like “Los Angeles Being Visited by a Revival of Bible Salvation and Pentecost as Recorded in the Book of Acts.” His Apostolic Faith ran powerful testimonies of sanctified people receiving a subsequent Holy Ghost baptism initially evidenced by speaking in tongues. This experience was often followed by a miraculous physical healing or the instantaneous ability to preach or play instruments with an ability not previously possessed. Determined to find out if this is that, Cashwell fasted and prayed for six days on a train from North Carolina to California.
Cashwell does not tell us what he was expecting the Asuza Revival to look like once he arrived, but we have one compelling hint. The article that drew Cashwell to Los Angeles was penned by a “Dr. W. C. Dumble,” who had just traveled from Toronto to visit the Azusa Mission. The entire article is now lost, but a suggestive fragment preserved by G. F. Taylor tells the remarkable story of what happened to a California man after he received his Spirit baptism and spoke in tongues. His exuberant praise during family worship so disturbed the neighbors that the local magistrate sentenced him to “thirty days at hard labor on a chain-gang with twelve Mexicans.” Though the man knew no Spanish, “God gave him the tongue, so that he could pray for them and speak in their own language.” Surely Cashwell discerned in Dumble’s account the potential glossolalia held for realizing his passion to see ordinary but devout believers suddenly and supernaturally equipped to evangelize in unprecedented unity across social, cultural, and religious divisions.
Yet, Cashwell experienced some initial disillusionment once in Los Angeles. This was not due to the loud chorus of “unknown tongues” or the ecstatic dances and joyful shouting that disoriented many pastors and reporters who visited the Asuza Mission. It was not what the revival sounded like that bothered Cashwell initially—but what it looked like. He had a clear desire to see the poor, children, women, transients, immigrants, and the uneducated brought into the kingdom before Christ returned, but the limits of his radicalism were clearly exposed when he saw those same people leading the outpouring.
After five days of more fasting and praying upstairs in the Asuza Mission, Cashwell “died to many things” and was then able to receive his Pentecost when several black youths laid their hands on him in a service lead by a white woman. In Los Angeles, Cashwell discovered that Pentecost has both an infilling power and a dissolving power—the latter challenging traditional social barriers that made the church virtually indistinguishable from the world around it.
The Pentecostal Revival G. B. Cashwell spread across the South in 1907 featured both the spiritual and the social empowerment he had come to embrace while in California. Those without money or education were mightily used by God to shake their communities and even the world. Public ministry was more readily opened to women. Young people, including children, were baptized in the Holy Ghost and operated in supernatural gifts. Old people were encouraged to take up preaching or go to the mission field. And, at least for a while, barriers erected by generations of racial and ethnic prejudice were challenged.
Many of these counter-cultural tendencies existed in fledgling form in the three groups that organized in 1898. But when Cashwell returned to declare that he had found a this is that revival at the Asuza Mission, he brought them more than a new doctrine concerning Holy Ghost baptism; he also brought the acceleration of the radical idea that God wanted to pour out His Spirit “upon all flesh” without regard to class, ethnicity, gender, educational attainment, or age. And Cashwell’s almost immediate impact on the Fire-Baptized Holiness Association, the Pentecostal Holiness Church of North Carolina, and Altamont Bible and Missionary Institute leaves no doubt that we have inherited a legacy that values ALL GENERATIONS as essential and equally valuable in carrying out our mission.
By Daniel Woods
Daniel lives in Falcon, NC, where he serves as the lead pastor of the Culbreth Memorial Pentecostal Holiness Church and director of the North Carolina Conference School of Ministries. He holds the position of Faculty Emeritus at Ferrum College, where he taught history from 1982 to 2014. Before coming to Falcon, Dan served as the Cornerstone Conference WIN Director and pastored the Collinsville Pentecostal Holiness Church. He studied at Emmanuel College, Roanoke College, the University of Georgia, the University of Mississippi, and Yale University. Dan has been married to Gwendolyn for 32 years. They have five children and five grandchildren.