Bethel Bible College

Charles Parham Ignites Revival Fire in Kansas!

REVIVAL AT THE TURN OF THE CENTURY  On January 1, 1901, the very first Pentecostal revival to take place on American soil happened just on the outskirts of Topeka, Kansas. It spread much farther than this,

REVIVAL AT THE TURN OF THE CENTURY 

On January 1, 1901, the very first Pentecostal revival to take place on American soil happened just on the outskirts of Topeka, Kansas. It spread much farther than this, however, as God gave the increase.

Charles’ Early Life

Charles Parham

Charles Parham was born in Iowa in June of 1843, and by 1878, his father had moved the family and settled in Kansas. They became situated on a large farm near Anness, Kansas where Charles seemed to constantly have bouts of poor health. When he was nine years old, rheumatic fever left him with a weakened heart that led to lengthy periods of inactivity. A recurrence a few years later left him nearly dead.

Charles’ mother had always taught him how important Godly devotion was, although they were not a particularly religious family. His actual conversion took place in 1886 while he was attending a local church service. He had an experience that changed his whole life, which he described as a Damascus Road experience, much like Paul experienced. Not long after this, Charles began to teach Sunday school at the Methodist church where he had started attending with regularity.

Called To Preach

Then, at fifteen years old, Charles took to conducting revival services by himself. In 1890, with a desire to officially enter the ministry, he enrolled himself in the Southwest Kansas College, which was located in Winfield.

During his time as a student there, Charles backslid from his faith and turned his attentions instead to becoming a doctor. However, it was shortly after this decision that he came down with yet another round of rheumatic fever, and he fully committed himself again to his call to ministry.

Later he received a license of ministry from Southwest Kansas Conference, from the Methodist Church. Then, at twenty years old, he was temporarily appointed as the pastor of Eudora Methodist Church, which was close to Lawrence, Kansas.

Lack of Faith in Denominations

Charles had a wonderful and successful ministry with the people of the locality. However, his dealings with the superiors in the Methodist church were tense, at best. He was not at all given to denominational boundaries, and this did not please them at all. He had taken on the theology of Wesleyan holiness and sanctification, for which he received the label of a troublemaker by those in places of authority in the Methodist Church.

In 1895, the annual Southwest Kansas district conference was held and it was during this time that Charles gave up his ministry license and completely gave up on denominationalism. After he denounced Methodism and denounced being confined to any particular denomination, he did have a certain level of success with his “world-wide parish”.

More Health Issues

It wasn’t long before his preaching schedule left him not only exhausted, but suffering from another heart ailment. He was married, in 1886, to a Ms. Sarah Thistlewaite and later they had a son who quickly became ill, nearly to the point of death. Charles pled with God to heal their son and later gave a testimony of complete restoration.

It was after this that healing prayer became an integral part of his ministry and he often even challenged the profession of medicine itself. He was often heard saying that there was no ministry of pills or of powders to be found within the Holy Bible.

The Parham Family In Topeka

Charles’ ministry continued to gain attention and he eventually moved it and his family, in 1898, to Topeka, Kansas. There he founded Bethel Healing Home shortly after, and he took on many other activities of outreach as well. There were rescue missions for the homeless and for prostitutes, an employment office was opened, as was an orphanage and later, a Bible institute. He also started publishing a periodical known as the Apostolic Faith, in which he highlighted these enterprises of his.

At this point in time, he began teaching such things as divine healing, sanctification and the return of Jesus Christ, but he found something else that caught his attention. It was the baptism of the Holy Spirit. Until this time, he and various other preachers and ministers believed that sanctification, a higher degree of living as a Christian, was the baptism of the Spirit and offered a cleansing that allowed the Master to use them. However, they came to a dilemma of wondering how one could separate baptism of the Spirit and sanctification fruit.

In Need of a New Vision

By 1900, Charles had become disillusioned and badly in need of a new vision from God. This led him all the way to Shiloh, Maine. After the Civil War, many Christians were looking at the state of world affairs, of wars, military tension and political unrest, and came to the belief that Jesus Christ would be returning by the turn of the century.

Radical strategies began to arise, with many evangelicals believing that the signs and wonders spoken of in Acts 5:12 should go along with the gospel message. Most of the people thought that a mighty move of the Spirit was the only way to ensure that everyone had had a chance to hear the gospel before it was too late.

Some of those who expected to see those miracles come to pass were A.J. Gordon, who founded the Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary; A.B. Simpson, Christian and Missionary Alliance president; John Alexander Dowie, faith healer; and Frank W. Sandford, who founded the Holy Ghost and Us Bible School in Maine.

Charles Travels To Learn

Charles left in June on a quest that would take 12 weeks in total. He visited several holiness centers before sitting under the teaching of Sandford where his beliefs about the power of the baptism of the Holy Spirit were reinforced.

The Bethel Bible School was opened in October of 1900. By the end of December, after leading students through Bible studies teaching repentance, faith justification, healing and sanctification, he went on to teach them about the baptism of the Holy Spirit. December of that year brought them to a place of readiness to encounter the Spirit in a brand new way.

Revival Amidst Discouragement

Revival started on that following New Year’s Day, with Charles’ announcement that he and his students had received the baptism and that interpretations had been made was well. However, area publications and residents alike criticized the revival.

Making matters even harder to deal with, Charles’ one year old son died and his mansion was sold right from underneath him. Soon, he began to travel again and focused his teachings and preaching on the divine healing message.

In 1903, however, things made a spectacular turn, with a revival that took place in Galena, Kansas. The services went on every single day for many months, with an estimated 800 people saves and over a thousand testimonies of healings and baptisms by the Holy Spirit, evidenced by the speaking of other tongues.

Far Reaching Revival

Because of this revival, Charles devoted himself to furthering his ministry again, this time moving to Houston, Texas in 1905. He started a brand new Bible school and along with his students there, evangelized the entire area. This revival was not only successful but went on to spread throughout Texas,

Because of the Texas revival, an African American student and fellow coworker named William J. Seymour, took his message to Los Angeles, California, later to spur the famed Azusa Street Revival.

Not to us, O Lord, not to us,
But to Your name be the glory
Because of Your love and your faithfulness!

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