68 Pentacostalism Catches Fire 1906 THE FLAME of Pentecostalism was first lighted when Charles Fox Parham declared in 1901 that speaking in tongues was a sign of baptism in the Holy Spirit. It might have sputtered if not for William Joseph Seymour, a black preacher who listened to Parham through an open door in his Houston Bible school. Soon, Seymour set out for Los Angeles, where his own baptism in the Spirit in 1906 brought him an enthusiastic following. Within two years of founding a mission in an abandoned church on Azusa Street, his multicultural ministry sent missionaries to 25 countries.
Pentecostalism is a religion of the heart. Since a personal experience of God is as important as doctrine, it is an adaptable faith; by the end of the 1960s, Protestants and Catholics had both begun to embrace the gifts of the Spirit in Charismatic renewal movements. Worship services may feature speaking in tongues, shouting and swaying, and spiritual healing. Today about a half billion people call themselves Pentecostal or Charismatic, and Pentecostals alone outnumber Anglicans, Baptists, Lutherans and Presbyterians combined. The Yoido Full Gospel Church in Seoul, South Korea, is now, at 700,000 strong, the largest Christian congregation on earth.