Early 20th Century Revivals 1904

October 31 – Loughor, Wales – Evan Roberts

Evan Roberts

Evan Roberts

The early years of the twentieth century ushered in unprecedented revival.

Beginning with thousands of small prayer groups all over the world, the first years of the twentieth century saw revival break out in unprecedented measure. The amazing Welsh Revival of 1904–1905 became the most powerful expression of that revival, and it, in turn, impacted the world. As news of the revival spread, and as missionaries sailed from Great Britian, fervent prayer for revival increased across the world. Powerful revivals touched India, Korea, and China—and stirred revivals in South Africa and Japan, along with fresh awakenings to Africa, Latin America, and the Pacific.

From November 1904 in Wales thousands were converted in a few months—and 100,000 within a year. Five years later 80,000 remained true to God, serving Him in the churches and the community. During the revival, crime dropped dramatically, with some judges left without any cases to try. Drunkness was halved, and many taverns went bankrupt. So many miners were converted that the pit ponies hauling coal from the mines could no longer understand their clean language and stopped, confused.

Touches of revival had stirred New Quay, Cardiganshire, on the west coast of Wales where Joseph Jenkins was minister of a Methodist church from which he led teams of revived young people in conducting testimony meetings throughout the area.

The Presbyterian evangelist, Seth Joshua, arrived there in September 1904 to find remarkable moves of the Spirit in his meetings. On Sunday, September 18, he reported that he had “never seen the power of the Holy Spirit so powerfully manifested among the people as at this place just now.” His meetings lasted far into the night. His diary continued:

Monday, September 19: Revival is breaking out here in greater power…the young people receiving the greatest measure of blessing. They break out into prayer, praise, testimony and exhortation.

Tuesday, September 20: I cannot leave the building until 12 and even 1 o’clock in the morning—I closed the service several times and yet it would break out again quite beyond control of human power.

Wednesday, September 21: Yes, several souls…they are not drunkards or open sinners, but are members of the visible church not grafted into the true Vine…the joy is intense.

Thursday, September 22: We held another remarkable meeting tonight. Group after group came out to the front, seeking the “full assurance of faith.”

Friday, September 23: I am of the opinion that forty conversions took place this week. I also think that those seeking assurance may be fairly counted as converts, for they had never received Jesus as personal Saviour before (Orr 1973, 3).

Seth Joshua then held meetings at Newcastle Emlyn, at which students from the Methodist Academy attended. Among them was Sidney Evans, a roommate of Evan Roberts. The students, including Evan Roberts, attended the next Joshua meetings in Blaenannerch.

There on Thursday, September 29, Seth Joshua closed the 7 a.m. meeting before breakfast, as he cried out in Welsh, “Lord…bend us.”

Evan Roberts remembered, “It was the Spirit that put the emphasis for me on ‘Bend us.’ ‘That is what you need’ said the Spirit to me. And as I went out I prayed, ‘O Lord, bend me.’“ During the 9 a.m. meeting, Evan Roberts eventually prayed aloud after others had prayed. He knelt with his arms over the seat in front of him, bathed in perspiration as he agonized. He recalled, “I cried out, ‘Bend me! Bend me! Bend us! Oh! Oh! Oh! Oh!’“ (Evans 1969, 70). Soon a motto of the revival became: “Bend the church and save the world.”

Evan Roberts, in his twenties, was one of God’s agents in that national revival. “For ten or eleven years I have prayed for revival,” he wrote to a friend. “I could sit up all night to read or talk about revivals…. It was the Spirit that moved me to think about a revival” (Orr 1973, 4).

The young miner who later became a blacksmith had attended church as a teenager on Sunday, prayer meeting.

Monday, youth meeting Tuesday, congregational meeting Wednesday, temperance meeting Thursday, and class meeting Friday. Saturday night was free, probably as bath night in preparation for Sunday!

He entered the Methodist Academy in mid-September 1904. Before then, he had experienced deep encounters with God and had a vision of all Wales being lifted up to Heaven. After this he regularly slept lightly until 1 a.m., woke for hours of communion with God, and then returned to sleep. He was convinced revival would touch all Wales, and eventually he led a small band all over the country praying and preaching.

Soon after the impact of the Spirit on him at Seth Joshua’s meetings, he took leave to return home to challenge his friends, especially the young people. Arriving home by train at his small village of Loughor on the south coast of Wales on October 31, 1904, Evan Roberts spoke after the usual Monday night prayer meeting to 17 young people. The Holy Spirit moved on them all in that two-hour session, and they all publicly confessed Christ as their personal Savior. He then spoke every night to increasing crowds. By the weekend, the church was packed.

Evan Roberts described the response on that Sunday evening, when by midnight the congregation was overwhelmed with tears:

Then the people came down from the gallery, and sat close to one another. “Now,” said I, “we must believe that the Spirit will come; not think He will come; not hope He will come; but firmly believe that He will come.” Then I read the promises of God, and pointed out how definite they were. (Remember, I am doing all under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, and praise be to Him.) After this, the Spirit said that everyone was to pray. Pray now, not confess, not sing, not give experience, but pray and believe, and wait. And this is the prayer, “Send the Spirit now, for Jesus Christ’s sake.”

The people were sitting, and only closed their eyes. The prayer began with me. Then it went from seat to seat— boys and girls—young men and maidens. Some asking in silence, some aloud, some coldly, some with warmth, some formally, some in tears, some with difficulty, some adding to it, boys and girls, strong voices, then tender voices. Oh, wonderful! I never thought of such an effect. I felt the place beginning to be filled, and before the prayer had gone half way through the chapel, I could hear some brother weeping, sobbing, and saying, “Oh, dear! dear! well! well! Oh, dear! dear!” On went the prayer, the feeling becoming more intense; the place being filled more and more (with the Spirit’s presence) (Duewel 1995, 190).

Invitations came for him to speak in other churches and chapels. He usually took a small team with him to pray, witness, and sing. In November 1904 the fires of revival spread throughout Wales. Newspapers began describing the crowded meetings. By the end of January 1905, the papers had reported 70,000 converted in three months.

The Spirit of God convicted people as Evan Roberts insisted:

  1. You must put away any unconfessed sin.
  2. You must put away any doubtful habit.
  3. You must obey the Spirit promptly.
  4. You must confess Christ publicly.

He believed that a baptism in the Spirit was the essence of revival and that the primary condition of revival is that individuals should experience such a baptism in the Spirit.

As with other evangelists and ministers, Evan Roberts traversed the Welsh valleys, often never preaching but sitting head-in-hands, earnestly praying. In Neath he spent a week in prayer without leaving his rooms while the revival continued to pack the churches.

Churches filled. The revival spread. Meetings continued all day as well as each night, often late into the night or through until morning. Crowds were getting right with God and with one another in confession, repentance, and restitution of wrongs done. People prayed fervently and worshiped God with great joy. Police had so little to do they joined the crowds in the churches, sometimes forming singing groups.

The impact of the Spirit across the churches produced new levels of unity, joy, boldness, power to witness, changed lives, and a fire from God causing people to be “fervent in spirit” (Rom. 12:11).

At the height of the revival, on November 20, 1904, two brothers, Stephen and George Jeffreys, were converted in Siloh Chapel in Maesteg, their home church in the Welsh Independent (Congregational) Church. Although initially opposed to the Pentecostalism that emerged in Wales in 1908, they became involved in 1911.

Both were powerful evangelists in Great Britain and abroad, preaching to huge crowds and seeing hundreds healed and thousands converted. They often traveled and ministered together, and they established many churches. George’s campaigns included a crusade in Birmingham with 10,000 converted and powerful ministry in Europe with 14,000 converted in Switzerland in 1934–1936. He became the founder and leader of the Elim Foursquare Alliance (Elim Pentecostal Church). Stephen also pioneered many Elim churches and worked actively with the newly formed Assemblies of God of Britain and Ireland as an independent evangelist.

© Geoff Waugh. Used by permission.

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