Some revivalists are groomed by God to lead revivals that directly shake up the world. Others, like A. B. Crumpler, act as a John the Baptist, preparing the way for those revivalists who come after him. A. B. Crumpler was born near Clinton, North Carolina, in 1864, just 150 mile due east of Charlotte. As a kid, he grew up in a Christian home as a member of the local Clinton Methodist-Episcopal church. His spiritual life catapulted forward when he responded to a call for salvation during the 1885 Keener revival led by Rev. Kendall. Crumpler graduated from Trinity College in Randolph, North Carolina, a few years later with a degree in law. That year, at 24 years of age, he also began serving as an ordained minister with the Methodists. 

A key turning point in his life was in 1890, in Bismark, Missouri, when he heard Beverly Carradine preach about sanctification. This set Crumpler on a mission to introduce and expand the Holiness movement in the Carolinas. The heart of this movement called Christians to experience the Holy Spirit in a mighty way, igniting a fresh yearning to be set apart from worldly values and to forge a character of holiness. Crumpler began to journey from one town to another throughout the eastern portion of North Carolina in the 1890’s. His voice rang out for folks to embrace the Holy Spirit afresh and to see their lives radically transformed. 

Crumpler was not a man that was easy to ignore. He carried a powerful anointing as he preached the Gospel, and it is said that his loud booming voice could be heard for several miles. As soon as he started preaching, the power of God would fall upon those near the stage and even those hearing him from a distance. One distinctive of his revival gatherings was the deliberate inclusion of all races, despite the oppression of Jim Crow laws in the south. During his travels, he was utilized by God to kick up revival sparks everywhere he went and to provoke tens of thousands of people to saving faith and into the Kingdom of God. 

On May 15, 1897, Crumpler organized a meeting at the Magnolia North Carolina Methodist church. Many other ministers attended with keen interest. This gathering birthed the North Carolina Holiness Association and the modern Holiness movement in the Carolinas. As Crumpler trumpeted God’s call for personal holiness, he unflinchingly condemned the popular backsliding behaviors of Christians of that time. Of course, some were offended, but many hearts heard this call and responded gladly, both preachers and lay people alike. The hunger for the Holy Spirit’s touch ramped up to new levels. 

In 1898, Crumpler separated from the Methodists, risking their ire and retaliation, and formed a new group: the Pentecostal Holiness church. It was a sad but necessary move: the religious courts had found him guilty of “holding a revival not of church laws.” This new movement would birth churches in Antioch, Magnolia, and Goldsboro, North Carolina. Various preachers and revivalists joined Crumpler’s group in 1903, bonded together by a firm belief in the Holy Spirit’s work of practical holiness. One of these revivalists was a man named G. B. Cashwell, who was already a good friend and fellow preacher with Crumpler. 

1906 was the year God would set ablaze historic revival fire in Los Angeles, at a building on Asuza Street, led by an unknown preacher named William Seymour. This significant Holy Spirit blaze would leap east across the continent to North Carolina through the Holiness revivalist G. B. Cashwell and take the southern states by storm. But, A. B. Crumpler was the one whom God employed to set the scene, to prepare people’s hearts, to instill a burning longing for God’s holiness BEFORE this revival arrived. Just like John the Baptist, Crumpler faithfully delivered a God-given message to that generation to make straight the paths for God’s future Kingdom plans. 

QUESTIONS TO DISCUSS:

  1. What has been a turning point in your Christian walk? Why was that so important to you?
  2. What is the definition of holiness? How do you reconcile the dangers of legalism with God’s calling to holiness? Why was it so important a message during Crumpler’s time?
  3. What was Crumpler’s relationship to Cashwell? How was Crumpler used to prepare the way for an even greater revival? Who do you identify with more: Crumpler or Cashwell?

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