Welsh Revival Spreads Pentecostalism Summary

  • Last updated on November 10, 2022

In October 1904, Evan Roberts began preaching a message of revival that quickly spread throughout Wales, leading to mass conversions. Its effects soon went beyond Welsh borders and became the context from which Pentecostalism emerged.

Summary of Event

On Sunday, February 14, 1904, Florrie Evans, Evans, Florrie a young Welsh girl from New Quay, Cardigan, publicly declared at a church meeting that she loved Jesus with all her heart. That testimony had an unusually powerful effect that led others immediately to dedicate their lives to Christ, and news of that event spread throughout western Wales. On September 29, 1904, evangelist Seth Joshua—one of several preachers already actively working for revival—held a meeting in Blaenanerch, five miles north of Cardigan, that changed the life of a young man named Evan Roberts. Joshua’s long-standing prayer that God would call a young working-class man to revive the churches in Wales seemed to be answered that Thursday morning when Roberts, a twenty-six-year-old coal miner from Loughor in western Glamorgan, prayed, “Bend me, Lord,” and experienced a deeper commitment to God. Roberts had just arrived at Newcastle Emlyn School on September 13 to prepare for ministry training. His experience at Joshua’s meeting, however, inspired him to leave school and preach a message of revival throughout Wales. Welsh Revival Pentecostalism Religious movements;Pentecostalism [kw]Welsh Revival Spreads Pentecostalism (Oct. 31, 1904-1906) [kw]Pentecostalism, Welsh Revival Spreads (Oct. 31, 1904-1906) Welsh Revival Pentecostalism Religious movements;Pentecostalism [g]Wales;Oct. 31, 1904-1906: Welsh Revival Spreads Pentecostalism[01080] [c]Religion, theology, and ethics;Oct. 31, 1904-1906: Welsh Revival Spreads Pentecostalism[01080] Roberts, Evan Penn-Lewis, Jessie Joshua, Seth

The Welsh Revival is generally acknowledged to have begun on October 31, 1904, when Roberts held his first meeting at Moriah Calvinist Methodist Church, his home church in Loughor. Only sixteen young people were in attendance, but they were all deeply moved, and word spread quickly. On November 2, Roberts first preached his famous four-point message, which became the basis of the message for the whole revival: People should confess known sin, avoid doubtful habits, obey the Holy Spirit immediately, and confess Christ publicly. Such an intense response followed that the chapel was soon kept open twenty-fours hours a day for prayer. Within two weeks, the revival became national news and was followed daily by newspapers in Wales and England.

Roberts soon began a preaching tour of southern Wales and, in the following eighteen months, held more than two hundred meetings throughout the country. Although he became an instant celebrity through newspaper reports and word of mouth, the movement was led primarily by young, unknown, untrained, and unlicensed preachers. His brother, Dan Roberts, joined the movement after being healed of an eye condition; Roberts’s friend and former classmate at Newcastle, Sidney Evans, also conducted meetings throughout the country; Florrie Evans and her pastor, Joseph Jenkins, Jenkins, Joseph continued their visits to other churches. People who attended meetings returned home to hold their own meetings, and revival broke out even in places that were not visited by the main preachers.

Welsh Revival meetings, like their young leaders, were unconventional, breaking traditional patterns of church services. The loosely structured meetings included spontaneous prayer, Bible reading, hymn singing, confessions of sin, and personal testimonies of newfound joy, healing, and transformation. Sermons were unscripted, and preachers delivered whatever messages they felt they had been given by the Holy Spirit—sometimes forgoing preaching entirely, depending on the atmosphere of a meeting. Contrary to the church custom of that time, teenage girls also led worship or preached as they felt inspired. Participants would stand, kneel, or sit, praying, singing, or sharing in meetings that lasted eight or nine hours, into the early hours of the morning. With no official leaders or central coordination, these revival services crossed denominational lines and occurred in Congregational, Baptist, and Methodist churches.

In less than two years, more than one hundred thousand people experienced spiritual renewal throughout Wales, leading to immediate changes in Welsh society. The crime rate dropped, leaving judges and police with little work to do. Many reformed alcoholics now spent their money on their families, paying their bills, and contributing to charity rather than in pubs. The incidence of domestic abuse declined. Workers became more ethical and productive, and Bible studies and prayer meetings were held in coal mines and other places of work. Reconciliations took place between estranged spouses and among individuals and groups who had been involved in long-standing feuds. Even the use of foul language decreased dramatically. Life was transformed in Welsh homes, factories, schools, and public places, and more churches needed to be built to accommodate the new converts.

The Welsh Revival gave prominence to teachings about the Holy Spirit and thus gave impetus to the movement that became known as Pentecostalism. Pointing to the New Testament account of Pentecost in Acts 2, believers held that the Holy Spirit actively guided them and bestowed supernatural gifts on them to accomplish their mission. Roberts and others preached that a second experience after water baptism, known as the “baptism in the Holy Spirit,” empowered believers with the gifts and power of the Holy Spirit to preach the gospel with signs and wonders. Roberts identified his experience during Joshua’s meeting at Blaenanerch as being “baptized in the Spirit.” Along with healings, one of the supernatural phenomena that occurred during the Welsh Revival was glossolalia, or speaking in tongues. Although Roberts downplayed instances of glossolalia because he feared they would be misunderstood, scholars documented reports of cases of farmers and uneducated youths singing and praying in ancient classical Welsh.

News of the Welsh Revival and the Pentecostal experience of the “baptism of the Spirit” and the gifts of the Spirit soon spread throughout the world. People from all ranks of life and from many nations traveled to Wales to witness and experience the spiritual phenomena for themselves. Visitors from France, Turkey, Korea, India, Africa, Japan, and the Americas returned home with revival fire, and people began to experience revival in these other places as well.

After two years, revival fervor began to wane. By the spring of 1906, the intensity of the Welsh Revival had taken its toll on Roberts, who experienced a serious physical collapse for the second time. He lived for the next few years in England under the care of the noted Christian writer Jessie Penn-Lewis and her husband. Together with Mrs. Penn-Lewis, Roberts coauthored a manual for Christians in ministry, War on the Saints (1912), and coedited a magazine titled The Overcomer from 1907 to 1914. He returned to Wales in 1928, but he rarely ever preached in public again. He devoted the remaining years of his life to prayer.

Significance

Although short-lived, the Welsh Revival had widespread effects. Despite the decline of mass conversions after 1906, the revival’s power and long-range influence remained. In addition to changes in Welsh life, the revival’s legacy included ongoing work by converts such as the formation of the Apostolic Pentecostal Church and the Elim movement. The revival was also a major influence on a number of prominent individuals, including David Lloyd George, a future prime minister of England.

Some critics of the revival, both during and after its active years, dismissed it as promoting emotional excess. Some objected to the lack of theological and biblical training of the young people who led the meetings, and some blamed ongoing media coverage for fueling fanaticism. However, the lives of many people who had been affected remained transformed, and all aspects of public and private life in Wales had visibly improved.

The Welsh Revival’s most long-lasting legacy, however, is the Pentecostal, or charismatic, movement, which became an established worldwide phenomenon. Through the revival, people became familiar with Pentecostal terminology and experience. Leaders of the Azusa Street Revival Azusa Street Revival in California in 1906 and of revivals in other countries had visited Wales, corresponded with Evan Roberts, or were inspired by revival accounts. Although Roberts never preached outside Britain, he is acknowledged by many as the first charismatic or Pentecostal leader of the twentieth century. From its small beginning in Wales, the spiritual tradition he began took up a permanent place in Pentecostal and traditional denominational churches around the world. Welsh Revival Pentecostalism Religious movements;Pentecostalism

Further Reading
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Anderson, Allan. An Introduction to Pentecostalism: Global Charismatic Christianity. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2004. Historical account and analysis of the theological development of Pentecostalism from its beginnings to the early twenty-first century. Covers both Western and non-Western nations. Includes bibliography and index.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Duewel, Wesley. Revival Fire. Grand Rapids, Mich.: Zondervan, 1995. Chronological overview of revivals in various nations from Old Testament times to the late twentieth century. Chapters 24-26 address the Welsh Revival. Includes index.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Matthews, David. I Saw the Welsh Revival. 1905. Reprint. Chicago: Moody Press, 1951. The most famous eyewitness account by one of the revival’s participants.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Synan, Vinson. The Holiness-Pentecostal Tradition: Charismatic Movements in the Twentieth Century. Rev. ed. Grand Rapids, Mich.: Wm. B. Eerdmans, 1997. Expanded version of the 1971 edition long considered the standard scholarly reference on the history of Pentecostalism, with a primary focus on the United States. Includes extensive bibliography and index.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Towns, Elmer, and Douglas Porter. The Ten Greatest Revivals Ever. Ann Arbor, Mich.: Servant, 2000. Lists and discusses revivals in order of their intensity and long-range effects; the Welsh Revival leads the list. Includes brief bibliography and index.

Azusa Street Revival

International Bible Students Association Becomes Jehovah’s Witnesses

Categories: History Content