Azusa Street Prophecy – Certainty or Warning?

The Azusa Street Prophecy.

In the last days three things will befall the Great Pentecostal Movement:
1.     An overemphasis on power rather than righteousness;
2.     An overemphasis on praise to a God they no longer pray to;
3.     An overemphasis on the gifts of the Spirit, rather than the Lordship of Christ.

This is a very famous prophecy, it was given during the Azusa Street Revival from which it gets its name.  I am going to use it as an example of how we should view prophecy, as it is well-known and generally accepted.

The question is this.  Is what is talked of in this prophecy an absolute certainty, or is a warning of what we need to avoid, and deal with if it occurs?

Now in the Bible there are prophecies that are certain to happen, such as those about Jesus’ First and Second Comings, although these have been misunderstood by many Jews (about Jesus’ First Coming) and many Christians (about Jesus’ Second Coming). But many prophecies in Scripture are conditional, and outcomes can be delayed or changed due to how people live before God.  An example about this is how God delayed the exile of the nation of Judah until after Josiah’s lifetime because he had humbled himself before God (for the whole story see 2 Chronicles 34-35).

So what of extra biblical prophecies?

Firstly, the simple fact that they are not in Scripture means that they are not inerrant.  Part of the prophecy may be spot on, another part may not be.  The emphasis may not be exactly right.  If a prophecy involved a definite date or year it is false if it does not happen then it is a false prophecy, or that part concerning the date is false is it happens either later or earlier. (All the predictive words I have given which included years or referred to specific occurrences have happened.) Secondly, if we say that a prophecy is inevitable then we are misunderstanding how Christian prophecy works.  To say something is inevitable is fatalism, we see this in other religions, but not in Christianity.  God is not a divine watchmaker setting things off in creation then just sitting back and not interfering with it any more.  He is actively involved, and when ever we pray into something we are inviting him to fulfil on earth what he already done in heaven, as we pray in The Lord’s Prayer.  In most cases we need to both pray and act in faith to see God move and fulfil a prophetic word that he has given, God can and does act sovereignly but in most cases he works with and through US. Thirdly, warning prophecies in particular will either happen if certain things are either done (or not done), or they contain within them how to either avoid it happening, or how to deal with the situation if it does happen.

Azusa Street Prophecy – Certainty or Warning?

So how should we consider the Azusa Street Prophecy? It is an extra Biblical prophecy so it is not inerrant, however it has been well-tested over the years, and is generally accepted as a word given by God. It is actually a prophetic warning not an inevitability.  To see it as inevitable is to misunderstand the reason why God shared this.  The prophecy includes with in it how it can be avoided or dealt with if it happens.  It does not say that each of the things are overemphasized are not important, but that too much stress is put on them, and so things that are equally important are neglected. The church needs to focus on BOTH the power of God AND the righteousness of God and how that should impact our own lives.  We should never deny God’s power, and seeing him move in power should always happen in the church, but we should not overemphasize it – it should just be a supernaturally natural part of church life.  God is righteous so we should seek to live rightly before God and with our fellow people, not to gain God’s favour, but because of God’s favour in Jesus dying for us.  In both the Old and New Testaments righteousness has both vertical (with God) and horizontal (with men) components, we should never forget that! The church needs to focus on BOTH praise AND prayer.  This is one focus that has definitely slipped, but that God has been seeking to redress.  Jarrod Cooper from New Life Church in Kingston-upon-Hull wrote an excellent post a while back The Greatest Mountain? The Greatest Battle!, and the statistic that 60% of churches no longer have a corporate prayer meeting is easily believable from my experience in churches in suburbia.  Over the years I have had contact with various churches as I have worked in Christian bookshops.  Growing prayer in churches is very dear to my heart and God has given me a vision to help grow prayer in churches even before I became aware of this statistic. This might surprise you from looking at this part of the prophecy is that praise and worship is not the main thing that has displaced the place prayer should have in the church.  The main thing that has displaced prayer is actually the focus on small groups, and this has been future exacerbated by churches following Rick Warren’s Purpose Driven Church model which marginalises prayer by NOT making it one of the purposes of the model (the five purposes are Fellowship, Discipleship, Worship, Ministry and Evangelism).  This could be addressed by adding Prayer as one main focus to this model. In fact to grow prayer in churches you really need to reconnect it back with praise.  We see the two linked in the Psalms and in The Lord’s Prayer, and elsewhere in Scripture.  Again it should not be a case of either/or but both/and, let’s get the balance right! The church needs to focus on BOTH the gifts of the Spirit AND the Lordship of Christ.  In fact the gifts of the Spirit should just be an expression of the Lordship of Christ in our lives.  That is what they were in the early church, but even then things got out of focus at times.  That is why we have a whole section on public worship in 1 Corinthians 11-14.  Again this is part of the church being naturally supernatural. Spiritual gifts functioning correctly is the greatest expression of the Lordship of Christ in the church that there is!

So where do we go from here?

Pentecostal and charismatic churches are no longer just denominations, we now see the baptism and gifts of the spirit recognised across all denominations to one extent or the other.  Where the church is growing the most locally, nationally and internationally these are considered normal.  This would not have been foreseen when this prophecy was given. Now in different sectors of the church we do see different problems, we do see the different problems in different churches, in some churches all are problems, yet in others we see none of these problems. Let’s get things in balance, if things are out of balance we are given in this prophecy how to redress the balance, by focusing for a while on the thing underemphasized until the balance is restored.  Let’s re-focus on righteousness (which is a gift from God), prayer (through which he chooses to act on earth) and the Lordship of Christ! What do you think about the Asuza Street Prophecy?  Have you looked at it fantastically?  Will you now look at it differently?  I’d love to hear you thoughts.

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8 responses to “Azusa Street Prophecy – Certainty or Warning?

  1. Challenging stuff. I’d not heard this Asuza prophecy before I read it here. Definitely agree that it is a warning prophecy rather than a fatalistic fact. All prophecy must be weighed against the heart and character of God: what does He want to be the outcome? Really interesting point that purpose driven model excludes prayer.

    • Hi John,

      Thanks for commenting, after I rather cheekily asked you to! Knowing the warnings we can do something about them! I never was intrested in the Purpose Driven life or Church when they came out, I know why now. That is not to say that the five purpposes are not good, but it does sideline corporate prayer which infact should be central to all we do as churches!

      Thanks again and God bless,
      Theresa

  2. Apostle Okechukwu

    The write-up was insightful. But I need more time to study it so I can make a very valid comment. And I need help as I feel so much burden to see another revival in my country and time. The church’s so much drifted! Thanks

    • Apostle Okechukwu,

      I pray that the Lord Jesus gives you all the wisdom, insight and help you need as you seek him. And as you seek his face and work with the Lord to see the revival you long for in your land. I am also longing to see revival in the UK where I live, and rejoice as I see God on the move in ever increasing ways.

      Be blessed and encouraged,
      Theresa.

  3. Rev. Charles Ross

    I enjoyed your article. It is truly sad to see the Church’s attention distracted by many things from prayer. The Azusa prophecy seems to be right on in many cases and it is disturbing that such a popular book (“Purpose Driven Life”) neglects prayer (especially coorporate). I would have to respectfully disagree with your conclusion that “the focus on small groups” is what has replaced prayer. My experience is that the lack of relationships within the local church and the emphasis on contempory worship/praise has not only lessoned the time spent in prayer but the depth of our prayers. We have lost the meaning to “fellowship” which I believe that the small group setting has the ability to restore. This is a perfect example of the early church setting when they met daily in their homes (not the temple).

    It should be able to go without saying, but, balance is everything as you stated.

    Respectfully,

    Rev. Charles Ross

  4. Apostle Okechukwu

    Did the believers not lose out on this due to the near absence of the teaching ‘Priests?’ In my country as it may be in others too, God’s people only want ‘prophcies’ Nobody wants to be taught

  5. I agree with Okechukwu, sadly to many have itching ears! Emotational messages seem to trump teaching messages. No wonder the Church is so ignorant

  6. While I agree with you 100%, I think it is also people not spending intimate time alone with God (or here in the USA). When they come together to worship corporately, there is really nothing there. I see some people at the alter that can only pray for a minute or two and that’s it. No true relationship with Jesus at all. There is also another part of the Azusa St. Prophecies that say…in the last days Christians will serve a God they will not pray to and will not fast before (not exact wording). Also fasting is something almost extinct in the body of Christ today. Per Jesus’ examples, and in the old and new covenant it is something we need to do to keep our flesh under subjection, and afflict our soul as the word teaches. Thanks for your wonderful post I stumbled upon today.

    May God Richly Bless and Keep You!!
    Sam

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