The Legacy of Pentecostalism in Topeka
Topeka is the founding location of the belief that speaking in tongues is evidence of the baptism of the Holy Spirit. An obscure preacher from Kansas with humble beginnings, no formal religious education, a strong work ethic, and less than ten years in the spotlight established the roots of Pentecostalism -- today the largest protestant denomination worldwide.
Parham connected speaking in tongues with the baptism of the Holy Spirit, and he oversaw the Apostolic Faith organization that produced subsequent Pentecostal missions, and denominations. He also pushed for mission work, work he believed would be xenoglossia missions.
"The themes expressed in Pentecostal meetings - radical conversion, sanctification of holiness in daily living, divine healing from all sickness, and the premillennial rapture of the "Bride of Christ" - all contained a release within the individual's religious psyche which portrayed a future release from the problems faced in the here and now. More importantly, they provided comfort in this life in dealing with disappointments and fears. (Goff 11-12)."
Pentecostalism's roots were possible through an early 1900s socio-economic lens. Struggling residents of Kansas, and struggling residents around the country, latched onto Parham's message. Parham's ministry that emphasised both divine healing, speaking in tongues, and world-wide missions created something tangible for suffering people. Divine healing and speaking in tongues gave people a sign of divine favour, and world-wide missions gave people a purpose in life in a world of broken dreams.
Soon after Parham's life and ministry, Pentecostalism formed denominations to legitimize themselves within the larger Protestant corpus. In Parham's absence, the faith organizations that stemmed from Parham had to organize into denominations, much like those that Parham denounced earlier in his ministry. Though Parham's teaching on eschatology and mission work are defunct, his memory as the founder of the movement is being recognized again. The history of Pentecostalism should credit Parham as the founder of its defining doctrine, and the spark that produced the Azusa Revival and subsequent Pentecostal affiliations.