Many church leaders and theologians say that the 21st century is the period of spirituality for the Christianity. Although most believers know the necessity and urgency of being empowered by the Spirit, they don't seem to know how, or what it looks like. Though there are many talks on spirituality, people are still wanting to know how to experience and live out evangelical spirituality.
However, many early missionaries to Korea reported that the Pyongyang Great Revival in 1907 was the most powerful manifestation of the Holy Spirit since the era of the Acts of Apostles. The Korea Mission Field offers a lot of fundamental resources on the early Korean Christianity. In these reports, many missionaries testified the priceless value of the Revival (Hereafter The Korea Mission Field will be written as KMF).
As Korean Christians await the centennial anniversary of the Great Revival 1907, it seems natural that they would be excited with the aspiration for true revival. This article will briefly introduce the Pyongyang Great Revival with its background and process, and examine what Spiritual power enabled them to raise such a great revival. (For a deeper understanding of the Pyongyang Great Revival, refer to Pyeg-Yang Dai-Bu-Gung-Un-Dong (Pyongyang Great Revival) (Seoul: Life-Book Press, 2000) written by Yong-Gyu Park, and Myeng-Soo Park; Seing-Gyel-Un-Dong-Gwa Han-Guk-Kyo-Hoe-Ei Cho-Gi Dae-Bu-Hung (Holiness Movement and Early Korean Great Revival); Han-Guk Gi-Dok-Gyo-Wa Yek-Sa (Korean Christianity and History), No. 14 (2001), pp. 47-77.)
I will especially touch upon the subject of Baptism with the Holy Spirit (Spirit Baptism), which was the terminology frequently used by missionaries and Korean church leaders during the revival period. If the Spirit Baptism really existed then, and if spiritual power could truly awaken and raise the Korean Church, it must be a real hope for the suffering churches even today.
Background of the Pyongyang Revival
1) Revival in Wales and in India
Revival in Wales and in India were much related to the Korean Revival which took place in 1907. When Dr. Howard Agnew Johnson visited Wales to see a revival meeting taking place, there he met Evan Roberts, who was the contemporary representative revivalist of the area, and asked him about the secret of the revival in detail. And after that, Dr. Johnson went to India and witnessed the revival of the region Kasia, which rose under the influence of the revival in Wales.
Afterward, Dr. Johnson travelled to various places in China, sharing about the revivals in Wales and in Kasia, India. He then arrived in Seoul in Sep. 1906. That was the period of Presbyterian union meeting, and there, he shared testimonies about the revivals he witnessed. Many missionaries were very much impressed with his message, and as a result, they began to aspire to see the revival among the Korean churches (W. D. Roynolds, “YengGuk Wales, InDo, Chosen SeGosUi BuHung YenGyel” (Connecting the Revivals among three places; Wales, India and Chosen) SinHagJiNam (March, 1935), p. 12).
The revival fire from Wales and India thus stimulated Korean churches. Sein Ju Kil, who afterward became a representative revivalist of Korean churches, was also so much impressed with the report that he felt the urgency for church revival, and that he had the burning fire for souls in his heart (Roynolds, p. 8). After he experienced the awakening, Mr. Kil began to lead a revival movement which focused on repentance and Bible study, centering around the Jang Dai Hyen Church.
2) The National Reality
Japan began to expand her force throughout all regions of Korea. Japan began to make Korea her reservation militarily and diplomatically, and in 1905, used brute political force through the protectorate treaty. Economically, Japanese demanded the right of cultivation on the waste land of Korea and plundered many parts of the land in June 1904, although this measure was withdrawn when it was met with opposition from the people. But in 1907, the Japanese fulfilled their ambition by making the Utilization Law of Non-reclaimed Government Land under the supervision of the Residency.
In 1910, the annexation of Korea into Japan took place. The dark situation the inside and outside of the country motivated Korean Church prepare for a new faith movement. The Church began to experience the Great Revival in the midst of agony and fears such racial crises as the following: The queen of Korea was murdered by Japanese assassins in 1895. The Korean peninsula was sandwiched in danger during China-Japan War, 1894-95. Moreover, the Korean emperor Ko Jong was ultimately abdicated from the throne by the oppression of Japanese force in 1907.
Before the Great Revival in 1907 occurred, Korean Christianity had a strange consciousness of conflict. "The Korean Church before the Great Revival in 1907 was in serious conflict between two major streams; the nationalistic movement and the faith movement" (KunHwan Kang, “HanGug Protestant SeinGyoJeingChaigEi KiChin Nevius Plan Ei YeingHyang”, (Nevius Plan's effect on the Mission Policy of the Korean Protestantism) SinHagKwa SeinGyo (Theology and Mission) (1974), p. 99).
While Korean Christians attempted to recover Korea’s national rights through the Church, many foreign missionaries regarded the anti-Japanese political movement of the Church as a dangerous activity. Since the missionaries tried to separate the Korean Church under their control from political activity, many Korean Church leaders wanted to fulfill the nation’s hope for independence from Japan through the faith movement, and not through the initial nationalistic political movement.
Rev. Dr. Bonjour Bay (BonChul Bae) has been a professor of Historical Theology at SungKyul University, Korea since 1989. He also serves as Researcher on Spiritual Movement and as English Ministry Director. He studied at Canadian Thelogical Seminary (M. Div.) and Seoul Theological University (Th. M., Ph. D.). He wrote more than 20 books on Church History and on Pneumatology including History of Pneumatological Perspective.