Most religious historians chart the genesis of the pentecostal movement from a revival on the campus of a small bible college in Topeka, Kansas in 1900. This led directly to the major revival services held on Azusa Street in Los Angeles beginning in 1906. Evidence exists that the belief, under different names and labels, has periodically emerged throughout the course of Christianity. For ease of discussion, the early 1900's dates will serve as starting places.

"Pentecostalism" can be defined using a variety of theological terms and doctrinal distinctive, depending on the branch of the movement referenced. In short, however, it is safe to define the movement by two basic beliefs: 1) the miracles of the New Testament still occur, and 2) the believer can have a special experience marked by speaking in a unknown language. As a result, the movement has been associated with fervency of worship, evangelistic emphasis, and a focus on personal holiness of life and action (reflecting the holiness roots of many of its adherents).

Emerging in opposition to the staid, ordered, formality of the Victorian era, the Pentecostal movement of the late 1890's and early 1900's was marked by the use of load music, preaching, and praying (often accompanied by sobbing and wailing as the seeker sought redemption and blessing). The label "holy rollers" emerged as a term of ridicule for the members of what were first termed "cults", "sects" and other less polite terms. Some were extremists who taught and followed a corrupted scripture, yet many were simply people seeking to find more of the God they worshipped and to leave out their understanding of the potential and promise of that relationship.

In the common understanding of many in the general public, however, the unique theological distinctive or historical legacy was totally lost. Newspapers labeled any extreme preacher with derogatory titles and people created jokes or decried them from pulpits.

Like their cousins in the Holiness movement, out of which many came to join pentecostalism, early adherents withdrew to create communities, schools, and training centers that supported their unique beliefs and worship styles.

Emmanuel Bible College was located in Beckham County near a small community named Beulah and began as a holiness institution in 1906 but soon was connected to the new Pentecostal movement. The school closed in 1910. (One Night Club and a Mule Barn). Various other schools, mostly for elementary and secondary children, emerged across the state: Stafford (1913-1915), Checotah, Kingfisher (1927-1935), and Wagoner (1915-1916). In 1946 the first Pentecostal higher education institution in Oklahoma opened, Southwestern Pentecostal Holiness Bible College (now Southwestern Christian University in Bethany). The second, Oral Roberts University, opened in 1963 in Tulsa.

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