Alfred Garr, the 20th century revivalist who travelled the world proclaiming the Gospel and the power of the Holy Spirit, grew up in a relatively normal family and in an average American town. The one peculiar thing, however, that marked his life from childhood onwards was a deep abiding hunger for more of God. 

After many turbulent years wrestling with his practical faith as a teenager, Alfred turned the corner in his spiritual life. This happened when he decided to radically pursue Christ and live in full surrender to God’s will. God led him to Asbury College in 1898, where he plunged himself into learning as much as he could about God’s Word and living in holiness. That year, he met his future wife Lillian, who was just as passionate about God as he was. They married in 1899, and they were soon ordained as leaders within the Methodist church and the International Apostolic Prayer Union. 

A few years later, in 1901, they were introduced to leaders in the Burning Bush movement. This movement had its roots in a group of passionate and creative young leaders who took the Gospel to the immigrant communities in Chicago in 1894, with amazing success. The Burning Bush leaders were initially known for their zeal and bold confidence in God’s power to change lives, even though later on they would slide into legalism and harsh criticism of others. Their unconventional methods and intense pursuit of God resonated strongly with Alfred and Lillian Garr. The Garrs soon moved to Chicago where they were immersed in ground-breaking evangelism and uncompromising approaches to discipleship. 

After several years of fruitful ministry in Illinois and Virginia, teaching about radical surrender to God and seeing divine healing, the Garrs were sent to California in February 1906. Alfred was tasked with overseeing the west coast growth of the Burning Bush. He immediately rented a 1000 seat facility to spark the new work. But, he soon lost his heart for this ministry as he was drawn to what God was doing at the nearby Asuza Street Revival. 

The Holy Spirit’s powerful manifestation at Asuza Street had a profound impact upon Alfred and Lillian Garr. In June of 1906, he strongly encouraged his own church to simply join the body of believers at Asuza Street. This broke his relationship with the Burning Bush movement. But the Lord soon gave Alfred a vision that he was supposed to take the Gospel and the teachings of the Holy Spirit to India. The leaders of Asuza Street affirmed this calling from God. The Garrs immediately went to Virginia to share about the power of the Holy Spirit, then to India in early 1907. By October 1907, God opened doors for them to serve in China. Wherever they went, they witnessed God bringing conviction of sin, a turning to Jesus for salvation, and the release of the Holy Spirit, oftentimes in miraculous ways. 

The Garrs would travel extensively for years, doing this ministry back and forth in China and in the United States. When Alfred’s wife Lillian passed away in 1916, he continued the work of evangelism and also investing into many significant leaders within the Pentecostal movement. While in Los Angeles, he partnered with others to hold open air meetings that highlighted divine healing and started many new churches. He had gained quite a reputation as a minister through whom God worked mightily. But, the Lord still had more plans for Alfred and his family, and God would lead them in their final season to the city of Charlotte, North Carolina in 1930. God would not disappoint them…

QUESTIONS TO DISCUSS:

  1. Who were the most influential persons or groups in your early spiritual life? What is the legacy of their time in your life? 
  2. When have you or someone you know shifted the direction they were going simply to follow hard after God? What caused this shift? What sacrifices were required to do this, and what were the repercussions? 
  3. How has your style and emphasis in ministry changed over the years? What has God shown you through all this? What is God’s calling right now for your life?

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