Heart of a founder: William Seymour

Craig Borlase is William Seymour's latest biographer. Recently Craig attended the Centenary of the Azusa Street Revival. The Azusa Street Revival launched Pentecostalism as a world wide movement. Seymour was the key figure in that revival.

Here are his reflections on Seymour as a founder and on how far modern Pentecostalism has come from it's humble beginnings.


It’s a question that’s on my mind as I wander among the crowds pressed together at the Azusa Street Centennial. Just what would William Seymour do here?

Seymour was known for his less-than-glamorous style. Blind in one eye, sparsely educated, he was not a particularly charismatic preacher. He rarely took an offering and simply placed a collection box by the door, choosing to leave it up to the people to settle with God as they felt fit. As for putting on a good show, he spent much of his time during the numerous daily services with his head in a packing crate – his makeshift pulpit. He even played down what were to some the most exciting elements of the meetings, telling people “don’t go out of here talking about tongues, talk about Jesus.”

Today’s 600 million Pentecostals and Charismatics may find themselves orbiting around a different set of values. From slick presentations to high-value collections and spiritual spectacles, much of what we have today differs from the infancy of the most significant movement in Christianity of the last century.

Much of the change has been for the better, yet there is one central element which was at the core of William Seymour’s work which is missing today: mission.

The distinctive of the Azusa Street revival was not so much the chaos caused by the Holy Spirit in the meetings, but the great force with which people were sent out. Much of the spread of the Pentecostal church was due simply to the fact that believers left their homes, put aside their careers and headed off to where they were needed, whether that was the other side of the world, the state or the street. Sacrifice and obedience were high on the list of desirables, and coupled with a desire to take the gospel out to those without prior knowledge, the army of inspired Spiritual footmen was a formidable force.

Craig was interviewed at the Centenary by Ministry Today. It's good. Here's the podcast link.

“William Seymour: A Biography” (Craig Borlase)