How Azusa Street Exposed – and Overturned – Racism In the Church

A mother and her children stand among an overflow crowd as they watch and listen outside city council chambers in Charlotte. (REUTERS/Mike Blake)
A mother and her children stand among an overflow crowd as they watch and listen outside city council chambers in Charlotte. (REUTERS/Mike Blake)

It was the fall of 1906 when G.B. Cashwell, a holiness preacher from Dunn, North Carolina, boarded a train to make a six-day, cross-country trip to Los Angeles, California.

For months he had been reading accounts of how the baptism of the Holy Spirit was being poured out at a little mission on Azusa Street. The stories stirred a hunger in the preacher for his own personal Pentecost. He began seeking the Lord for the baptism of the spirit but could not receive. The frustrated pastor finally decided his only choice was to go to the revival itself.

Cashwell arrived in Los Angeles on a Sunday and immediately went to Azusa with great expectation. However when he entered the mission the scene was not what he expected. Being a white preacher from the south, he found the mixing of the races to be too much for his own personal prejudice. He left offended. He could not bring himself to allow a black man to lay hands on him in prayer.

Cashwell felt he had a wasted the trip. That night he wrestled with the Lord in prayer. He came to the conclusion that if he wanted to experience Pentecost, he would have to crucify his own prejudice. He went back to the mission and straight to the altar. There he prostrated himself in the dirt and sawdust and repented before the Lord. As Cashwell wept and prayed, William Seymour, the black pastor leading the revival, came and laid hands on the white preacher. Cashwell was immediately baptized in the Holy Spirit.

This man’s life was forever changed because he took down the wall that stood between him and the blessing. Cashwell spent the next six days at the mission before making his way back to the Carolinas where he would eventually rent a warehouse and begin holding his own services. These meetings became known as Azusa East.

Today hundreds of spirit-filled churches on the east coast trace their roots directly back to G.B. Cashwell and his meetings in Dunn, North Carolina. Oh, how things could have turned out differently had Cashwell not humbled himself that first night at Azusa. So many have been blessed because of the willingness of a man to surrender his own prejudice and find the reconciliation afforded by revival.

I was in Charlotte, North Carolina last week hours after the protests had turned violent. Unfortunately this has become an all too familiar scene: neighborhoods destroyed, stores looted, property burned and people terrorized, all while a militarized police force swarms the streets.

This is not the America we knew a decade ago.

I wept over the city as I prayed for the healing of our land. This is the most divided I’ve ever seen our nation and that divide widens with each passing day. We are literally tearing ourselves apart from the inside. If it is true, united we stand, divided we fall then, my friend, we are falling rapidly. The answer for America is not political, it is spiritual. No political leader has the solution for what ails us. We need divine intervention. We need revival!

Sound too simplistic?

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SOURCE: Charisma News
Daniel K. Norris