William Seymour went to Indianapolis to work as a waiter because there was no hope for him in Lousiana. However, while in the northern United States; he found more than just hope, he found the Hope of the Nations.
At some point during this time, he was converted to Christianity. The details of where and when are not totally clear but we do know he was born again in Indianapolis. From research, I do not think it was some radical conversion but he did come to to faith in Christ there.
I do find it interesting that he was led to Christ in the North and not the South. The southern states were far more religious in those days (and still are). A retional mind would think he would have been led to the Savior in deeply Christian Louisana, not the emerging liberal states north of Mason–Dixon line.
William Seymour meets Hope of the Nations
In 1914, William Seymour told Dr. Charles Shumway that he was glorious saved in a colored Methodist Episcopal Church. We do not know which one but we do know that there was only two in the area. One was by his work and one by his apartment. It could have been either one.
Later, he did become a member of Simpson Chapel Methodist Episcopal Church but it is not believed that this is where he was born again. The church was located at Eleventh and Missouri. There is something very interesting that led William to this church (we will talk about in a minute)
It is interesting that he was part of a movement in Christianity that starting in 1876 has been sending black leaders as ministers and church planters. This was not common in the late 1800’s. They rose above culture and answered the call to Heaven. I question if they had not; Azusa Street Revival would have ever happened.
Seymour loved the Word from early on. He was always studing the Word and trying to get deeper revelation. It was here that he read Matthew 12:21, “In his name the nations will put their hope.” The call to humanity came early. He never wanted to locked into a niche; he wanted the every person to come into saving knowledge of Jesus Christ.
I am sure that he had no idea that his ministry would end up with a move of the Holy Spirit that spread to every nation in the world and what would someday become known as Megachurches would be part of it. There is no way he had that on his grid. All he knew is Jesus was the hope of the nations and that he wanted to see the gospel preached to everyone everywhere.
He was also deeply impacted by the teaching of slavery by John Wesley. It was not just something that he read about. His parents were born into slavery! It was real to him. He knew people who knew what it meant to be slaves. Here is the text of Wesley’s position.
Seymour found unity of races
The Methodist Episcopal Church has already changed their position before William become a Christian on race. They was one of the first, if not the first, movement to openly have inter-racial churches and open embrace black members. This was very uncommon in the late 1800’s and to be honest, is still very uncommon in the twenty first century. It was a window of opportunity for William Seymour.
I believe it was here that God revealed to him that a move of the Lord must be about every race, every tongue, every age, etc. It would become real during the Azusa Street because it was very multi-racial and multi-generational.
This was not an easy position for churches to make then. Churches were being burned to the ground by members of white supremacy grounds like the Ku Klux Klan and a few smaller ones. Preachers were burned alive for welcoming “them niggers.” This is why white churches remained white and black churches remained black.
I believe because Seymour saw a church of different races and what he saw in the New Testament; he openly embrace people of many backgrounds in the move of the Holy Spirit. It was here that dividing walls of racism was shattered in the heart of William.
This does not go to say that everything was easy for him in a very racist America. I am sure he had many challenges as a black believer in a white movement. While it the walls had come down officially, I am sure many still have personal issues they was working through at the time.
What have we learned from Methodist Episcopal Church?
Not much. America is still very racial divided in terms of religions. Black Pentecostals go to Church of God in Christ and white Pentecostals go to Assemblies of God. Our churches are still very much made up by race. It is rare to see a multi-racial fellowship today.
I was like William Seymour in the sense that I was raised in a church that is about forty percent black, forty percent white and the rest are Latinos, Asians and other nationalities. However, growing up at Sheffield Family Life Center in Kansas City, Missouri is not your common church. Thank you, Dr. George Westlake.
I have preached in all white churches in the middle of the all black ghetto. I am not sure who they are reaching out to because there is not many white people in the neighborhood. I believe these churches are not biblical. In fact, they are a complete embarrassment to the Pentecostal Church at large. They should not be as racist as they are.
The sooner we open our hearts and the doors of our churches to people of every tongue, race, and generation; the sooner we will see pure revival in America. A revival that reaches to every group and every sector of life. We are not there yet but I believe we can get there in our lifetime.