Thousands Celebrate 'Fastest Growing Womb of Christianity'

BALTIMORE – The ''Holy Ghost'' filled the Baltimore Convention Center last night as thousands of Pentecostals worshipped, praised and thanked God for guiding the ''fastest growing womb of Christianity'' through the last century.

"We've come together to celebrate what God unleashed on us 100 years ago," Bishop T.D. Jakes told the excited crowd.

"Hallelujah," they answered. "The Lord is here."

The Friday evening power worship was part of a weeklong celebration commemorating the 100th year anniversary of the Azusa Street revival.

Often called the "cradle of modern-day Pentecostalism," the Azusa Street Revival of 1906 is credited with sparking the international missions force for the now 600-million-member movement. That year, thousands came to experience what they believed to be the modern-day fulfillment of Acts 2:4 – a biblical passage in which the Holy Spirit descends on the disciples after Jesus Christ’s ascension – and thousands left to spread the Spirit to others.

The worship service featured video clips of children in Africa praying in tongues and crying aloud – signs, speakers said, of the Holy Ghost’s power to break all barriers.

“The Spirit transcends all philosophical ideologies and all manmade barriers,” said Jakes, one of Time Magazine’s 25 most influential evangelicals. “It will fill you in the car, right out into the parking lot.”

This power is still falling, Jakes said, but believers are often unable to realize its presence because they are blinded by their own arrogance.

“It is a dangerous thing to be accustomed to the Lord,” Jakes said. “It is a danger to become more important than the One you worship.”

Therefore, Jakes urged participants to continue seeking God with the same spirit that filled leaders at the revival 100 years ago.

“[The Rev William J.] Seymour and Edward Lee escaped the boundaries of religion to experience the Spirit,” Jakes said, referring to the half-blind African-American pastor and his church congregant who began the movement. “We are in danger of being in bondage of what they escaped … we are often too religious, self-righteous and pious.”

Azusa East is a follow-up to the Azusa Street Centennial Celebration held last month in Los Angeles, where Jakes also spoke. More than 30,000 people from 120 countries culminated in the city that time to commemorate their past and envision the future.

The Baltimore event, which “provides Pentecostals another opportunity to celebrate the centennial,” was more local, with a largely African-American makeup. It will continue through this weekend with a Grand Pentecostal Celebration today and the Azusa East Centennial Celebration Concert Sunday evening.