Category Archives: Church

Second AG General Council Marks 100th Anniversary

Pages from 1914_12_05
By Darrin Rodgers
Originally published in AG-News, Thu, 13 Nov 2014 – 8:41 AM CST

One hundred years ago, hundreds of Assemblies of God pastors, evangelists and missionaries traveled to Chicago to attend the second General Council. Held November 15-29, 1914, at the Stone Church, this meeting’s explicit purpose was “to lay a firm foundation upon which to build the Assemblies of God.”

The Assemblies of God had been organized just seven months earlier in Hot Springs, Arkansas. The young Fellowship grew quickly as existing independent ministers joined its ranks. They appreciated the vision for fellowship, accountability and structure, while maintaining the autonomy of the local congregation. This growth caused founding chairman E. N. Bell to call for a second meeting, in order to make urgent decisions about the future of the new organization.

The Stone Church, one of the largest Pentecostal congregations in America, could easily accommodate the expected 1,000 participants. Delegates to the meeting made several important structural changes. They decided to move the headquarters from Findlay, Ohio, to St. Louis, Missouri, which would provide a more central location in a larger city. Delegates voted to expand the number of executive presbyters from 12 to 16, making the leadership more representative of the constituency. New leadership was also elected and Gospel Publishing House was authorized to expand its operations.

But the most far-reaching decision at the second General Council was one that was not on the original agenda. Assemblies of God leaders planned to take a missionary offering at the conclusion of the General Council. They had written articles encouraging people to bring money to give to missions. But the pastor of the Stone Church decided that the final offering should instead go to his own church, to help defray expenses related to hosting the council. Assemblies of God leaders, although frustrated with this turn of events, did not oppose the pastor’s request. Instead, they decided to issue a strongly-worded resolution in which they committed the Assemblies of God, from that point forward, to the cause of world evangelization. L. C. Hall drafted the resolution, which read:

“As a Council, we hereby express our gratitude to God for His great blessing upon the movement in the past. We are grateful to Him for the results attending this forward movement and we commit ourselves and the movement to Him for the greatest evangelism that the world has ever seen. We pledge our hearty cooperation, prayers and help to this end.”

This iconic resolution, unanimously adopted by the delegates, has been widely quoted as illustrating how support for missions is part of the DNA of the Assemblies of God.

There is more to the story. In the spring of 1915, something shocking was discovered about the Stone Church pastor, R. L. Erickson, who had refused to let the offering go to missions. The May 29, 1915, issue of the “Weekly Evangel” alerted readers that Erickson had been removed from the ministerial list due to moral failure. In a lengthy article, E. N. Bell detailed how Erickson’s “greed” was evidence of poor moral character, which also manifested itself in other harmful ways in his life and ministry. What Satan meant for harm, Bell wrote, God could turn into good. And one hundred years later, the Assemblies of God remains committed to “the greatest evangelism that the world has ever seen.”

Read E. N. Bell’s article, “The Great Outlook,” in which he details the events surrounding the adoption of the resolution regarding missions, on pages 3 and 4 of the May 29, 1915, issue of the Weekly Evangel.

Click here to read this issue now.

Pentecostal Evangel archived editions courtesy of the Flower Pentecostal Heritage Center. For current editions of the Evangel, click here.

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Speaking in Tongues: The Proliferation of Assemblies of God Language Branches Among Immigrants in the 1940s and 1950s


This Week in AG History–November 10, 1957
By Darrin Rodgers

Also published in AG-News, Mon, 10 Nov 2014 – 9:01 PM CST

The Assemblies of God, during the 1940s and 1950s, formed eight language “branches” for immigrants to the United States. These branches functioned much like geographic districts, allowing Pentecostals whose mother tongues was not English to organize themselves and to better coordinate their ministries.

Most of these new language branches were for immigrants from southern and eastern Europe: Ukrainian (1943), Hungarian (1944), Polish (1944), Russian (1945), Yugoslavian (1945), Italian (1948), and Greek (1953). The German Branch (established 1922) was the first language branch. The Philippine Branch (formed circa 1940) was the only language branch for non-Europeans formed during these early decades. All branches became known as districts in 1973.

Hispanics have always been the largest non-English speaking group in the Assemblies of God in the United States. However, Hispanics had their own structure within the Assemblies of God and never identified using the term “branch.” The first Hispanic administrative structure was organized in 1918 as the Latin Conference of the Texas District. It was renamed the Latin American District in 1925.

The last language branch to form, the Greek Branch, was actually a pre-existing network of Greek Pentecostal churches called the Hellenic Protogonos Apostolic Ecclesia (Greek Original Apostolic Church). The group was recognized as the Greek Branch by the Assemblies of God General Secretary on August 14, 1953. The Greek Branch disbanded in 1968.

Most language branches served as a temporary cultural bridge for new immigrants to America. As their children Americanized and learned English, the churches founded by immigrants joined geographic districts and most language branches dissolved.

The Pentecostal Evangel published numerous reports of the language branches over the years. The November 10, 1957, issue was no exception and carried news of the Greek District’s annual convention held in Oakland, California.

Read the article, “Greek Branch Holds Convention,” by Gust Harbas, on page 30 of the November 10, 1957, issue of the Pentecostal Evangel.

Also featured in this issue:

* “The Call of the Spirit,” by James Van Meter

* “Springfield’s New Central Assembly”

* “Lead Me to the Rock,” by Elva Johnson

And many more!

Click here to read this issue now.

Pentecostal Evangel archived editions courtesy of the Flower Pentecostal Heritage Center. For current editions of the Evangel, click here.

Do you have Pentecostal historical materials that should be preserved? Please consider depositing these materials at the Flower Pentecostal Heritage Center (FPHC). The FPHC, located in the Assemblies of God national offices, is the largest Pentecostal archive in the world. We would like to preserve and make your treasures accessible to those who write the history books.

Flower Pentecostal Heritage Center
1445 North Boonville Avenue
Springfield, Missouri 65802 USA
Phone: 417.862.1447 ext. 4400
Toll Free: 877.840.5200
Email: Archives@ag.org

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Welsh Revival Leader: America Must Do These Four Things to Prepare for Revival

Evan Roberts, leader of the Welsh Revival

This Week in AG History–November 3, 1945
By Darrin Rodgers

Also published in AG-News, Mon, 03 Nov 2014 – 5:22 PM CST

The Pentecostal movement emerged at the turn of the twentieth century, resulting from a series of overlapping revivals that occurred around the world. One of those revivals, the Welsh Revival of 1904-1905, witnessed the transformation of the small nation of Wales. In less than one year, over 100,000 people had accepted Christ. Saloons, dance halls, and other places of entertainment emptied out, and churches were filled with people seeking God.

An American journalist, George T. B. Davis, traveled to Wales and wrote a firsthand account of this remarkable revival. An abridgement of his story, titled “Memories of the Welsh Revival,” was published in the November 3, 1945, issue of the Pentecostal Evangel.

Evan Roberts was the most prominent leader of the Welsh Revival. At 26 years old, Roberts was an unlikely leader of a national movement. He was a coal miner by trade and had just completed three months of ministerial training. Davis recounted that Roberts had an encounter with God that changed the trajectory of his life: “the Spirit came upon [Roberts] in such power that he felt impelled to return to his native village of Loughor and tell the people about God’s love for them.”

Roberts followed God’s leading, and revival broke out. Davis described what happened next: “as [Roberts] spoke, the fire fell from heaven upon the community. The people were so stirred that they crowded into church after church, and remained until four o’clock in the morning. The flame spread from district to district throughout South Wales with almost incredible swiftness, and soon scores of towns were being shaken by the power of God.”

Davis had the opportunity to meet Roberts and asked him if he had a message for America. Roberts grasped Davis’ hand and told him the following: “The prophecy of Joel is being fulfilled. There the Lord says, ‘I will pour out my Spirit upon all flesh.’ If that is so, all flesh must be prepared to receive.”

Roberts told Davis that four conditions must be met in order for Americans to be prepared for revival: “(1) The past must be clear; every sin confessed to God, any wrong to man must be put right. (2) Everything doubtful must be removed once for all out of our lives. (3) Obedience prompt and implicit to the Spirit of God. (4) Public confession of Christ.”

News of the remarkable Welsh Revival spread across the Atlantic Ocean and helped to spark the Azusa Street Revival in Los Angeles in 1906. The Azusa Street Revival became one of the focal points of the emerging Pentecostal movement, which gave birth to the Assemblies of God. And it all began because a 26-year-old coal miner listened to the voice of God and told people in his small village about Jesus.

Read the entire article, “Memories of the Welsh Revival” by George T. B. Davis, on pages 8 and 9 of the November 3, 1945, issue of the Pentecostal Evangel.

Also featured in this issue:

* “Shall We Surrender the Fort?” by P. C. Nelson

* “Upspringing Health,” by Carrie Judd Montgomery

* “The Rescue of a White Slave,” by Cora L. Vinal

And many more!

Click here to read this issue now.

Pentecostal Evangel archived editions courtesy of the Flower Pentecostal Heritage Center. For current editions of the Evangel, click here.

Do you have Pentecostal historical materials that should be preserved? Please consider depositing these materials at the Flower Pentecostal Heritage Center (FPHC). The FPHC, located in the Assemblies of God national offices, is the largest Pentecostal archive in the world. We would like to preserve and make your treasures accessible to those who write the history books.

Flower Pentecostal Heritage Center
1445 North Boonville Avenue
Springfield, Missouri 65802 USA
Phone: 417.862.1447 ext. 4400
Toll Free: 877.840.5200
Email: Archives@ag.org

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How to Tell if a Revival Movement is in Decline


This Week in AG History–September 29, 1957
By Darrin Rodgers

Also published in AG-News, Mon, 29 Sep 2014 – 4:30 PM CST

“Has the twentieth century Pentecostal revival reached the zenith of its spirituality and usefulness, and is it now doomed to fade as a potent force from the modern spiritual scene; or do greater glories still lie ahead?”

This question was posed by Assemblies of God missions leader Melvin Hodges in a 1957 Pentecostal Evangel article. At the time, the modern Pentecostal movement was about 50 years old. Pioneers of the movement were passing from the scene, and memories of the early revivals were fading.

Hodges noted that previous Protestant revival movements originated in “deep spirituality, holiness and a sense of destiny.” However, they each “lost their fervor and one by one settled down to take their places in the ecclesiastical world as yet another denomination.”

He looked further back into church history, drawing parallels between the early church and Pentecostalism. “The New Testament Church,” he wrote, “gradually lost the purity and power that characterized her apostolic beginnings, and became adulterated by worldliness, greed and paganism as she increased in numbers and influence.” Would the Pentecostal church likewise stray from its biblical ideals and become corrupted by the world?

“We dare not ignore the lessons of history,” Hodges warned. He identified three characteristics of a declining revival movement: 1) a diminishing hunger for God; 2) a lack of concern for holiness; and 3) the loss of the sense of mission and destiny.

While spiritual decline over time is likely, Hodges suggested that it is not inevitable. He admonished readers to rediscover the deep spirituality common among early Pentecostals: “Let hunger for God to be reawakened in our hearts. May a walk in holiness, worthy of our vocation, be our goal, and let us consecrate ourselves anew to the fulfilling of our world destiny in the plan of God.”

If Pentecostals draw close to God and commit themselves to His mission, according to Hodges, they “can face the future with confident expectancy that the future holds still greater revelations of the glory of God.”

Read the entire article, “Danger Signals” by Melvin Hodges, on pages 4 and 5 of the September 29, 1957, issue of the Pentecostal Evangel.

Also featured in this issue:

* “Taking Christ to the People,” by R. J. Carlson

* “The Silence of the Trinity,” by P. T. Walker

* “The Living Dead,” by Oswald J. Smith

And many more!

Click here to read this issue now.

Pentecostal Evangel archived editions courtesy of the Flower Pentecostal Heritage Center. For current editions of the Evangel, click here.

Do you have Pentecostal historical materials that should be preserved? Please consider depositing these materials at the Flower Pentecostal Heritage Center (FPHC). The FPHC, located in the Assemblies of God national offices, is the largest Pentecostal archive in the world. We would like to preserve and make your treasures accessible to those who write the history books.

Flower Pentecostal Heritage Center
1445 North Boonville Avenue
Springfield, Missouri 65802 USA
Phone: 417.862.1447 ext. 4400
Toll Free: 877.840.5200
Email: Archives@ag.org

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AG Superintendent to be Keynote Speaker at COGIC Symposium Honoring Bishop Mason’s 150th Birthday

Charles H. Mason (1864-1961), founding bishop of the Church of God in Christ.

Charles H. Mason (1864-1961), founding bishop of the Church of God in Christ.

Dr. George O. Wood, General Superintendent of the Assemblies of God USA, is slated to be keynote speaker at a symposium honoring Church of God in Christ founder Bishop Charles H. Mason on his 150th birthday.

In an official press release, Presiding Bishop Charles E. Blake is quoted as stating, “The Church of God in Christ is honored and elated to have Dr. George Wood as the keynote speaker during the C.H. Mason Heritage Symposium & Celebration. The Church of God in Christ and the Assemblies of God have a long history together that dates back to the late 1800s. I am personally looking forward to this time of sharing and fellowship.”

Dr. Wood will speak at the C.H. Mason Heritage Symposium & Celebration on Monday, September 8, 2014, 7 p.m., to be held at Mason Temple in Memphis, Tennessee. The event will be held September 8-10, 2014. The public is invited to attend.

The invitation to Dr. Wood to speak comes on the heels of another important milestone in the history of the relationship between the Assemblies of God and Church of God in Christ. Executive leaders from both denominations came together for two days of meetings in November 2013, during which they forged personal relationships, prayed, and discussed how the two churches might cooperate. Bishop Blake spoke at the Assemblies of God National Office chapel service on November 26, 2013.

AG General Superintendent George O. Wood and COGIC Presiding Bishop Charles E. Blake, November 26, 2013, at the Assemblies of God National Office chapel.

AG General Superintendent George O. Wood and COGIC Presiding Bishop Charles E. Blake, November 26, 2013, at the Assemblies of God National Office chapel.

The November 2013 meeting was preceded by a symposium in honor of the 100th birthday of former Presiding Bishop J. O. Patterson, Sr. The symposium, held in Springfield, Missouri, drew 1,000 people to events over September 17-18, 2012. The highlight of the symposium was the dedication of the Bishop J. O. Patterson Collection, consisting of the former presiding bishop’s personal papers, which his widow, Mother Mary P. Patterson, deposited at the Flower Pentecostal Heritage Center, which is located in the Assemblies of God National Office.

According to the Mason symposium press release, the Church of God in Christ has nearly 6.5 million adherents in 63 countries. While the number of adherents in the U.S. is not provided, it is widely believed to be the largest Pentecostal denomination in the nation. The Church of God in Christ is historically black, although from its earliest years it has included ministers and members of other races. The Assemblies of God USA is a multi-ethnic fellowship of over 3.1 million adherents, 41 percent of whom are non-white. In 2013, 9.6 percent of Assemblies of God USA adherents were black. The Assemblies of God USA is a constituent member of the World Assemblies of God Fellowship, which claims over 67 million adherents.

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Black Pentecostal Church in Harlem Started in 1917 by Single German Woman

Bethel Gospel Assembly, purchased the former James Fennimore Cooper Junior High School in Harlem in 1982.

Bethel Gospel Assembly purchased the former James Fennimore Cooper Junior High School in Harlem in 1982.

This Week in AG History–August 26, 1933
By Darrin Rodgers

Also published in AG-News, Mon, 25 Aug 2014 – 4:15 PM CST

Lillian Kraeger (1884-1964), a young single German woman, demonstrated incredible courage and character when confronted with racism within her church in downtown New York City. Two young African-American girls, Mae Allison and another whose name is now lost to history, had accepted Christ in 1915 and applied for membership in Lillian’s church. They were rejected on account of their skin color.

This broke Lillian’s heart. She did not want the young girls to fall away from the Lord. In January 1916, Lillian began traveling to Harlem, where the girls lived, and held “cottage meetings.” These home Bible studies blossomed and grew into a small congregation.

Lillian’s commitment to her African-American congregation came at great personal cost. Her own family rejected her, as they did not approve of her crossing the racial barrier. Lillian had been engaged to a young man, but he called off the engagement because of her leadership of the mission. Lillian’s love for African-Americans caused her to be forsaken by her own people.

Lillian was an unlikely missionary to African-Americans in Harlem. She did not have ministerial credentials, she was a single female in her early thirties, and she had accepted Christ just nine years earlier. In addition, her German heritage may have put her under suspicion because the United States was at war with Germany. The United States government carefully watched (and sometimes imprisoned) other white ministers who ministered among African-Americans during the First World War, suspecting them of crossing the racial lines in an effort to create an alliance with Germany or the Bolsheviks in Russia.

In the Spring of 1917, a Pentecostal evangelist remembered as “Brother Jamison” shared the Pentecostal message with this small group of believers. Kraeger and several others in the congregation were baptized in the Holy Spirit. In November 1917, the congregation organized as Bethel Mission.

Lillian felt a call to serve as a missionary to Africa. The Assemblies of God confirmed this calling and issued her credentials as a missionary in 1918. Lillian did not go to Africa, however, and remained as pastor of Bethel Mission. Her heart for missions became part of the DNA of the congregation. In 1924, Lillian established Bethel Missionary Home, a ministry that provided room and board for missionaries who had returned from overseas.

In 1924 or 1925, James Barzey, one of the members of the church, was chosen to be succeed Lillian as pastor. Lillian retained her title as “Founder” of the church and put her energies into the development of the missionary home. The name of the home was changed in 1930 to Mizpah Missionary Home.

The August 26, 1933, issue of the Pentecostal Evangel published a report by Lillian about the Mizpah Missionary Home. She wrote, “When God spoke and showed us He wanted a missionary home in New York City, it seemed like a great impossibility in the light of the recent stock crash in Wall Street.” However, Lillian recounted that God faithfully provided: “He reminded us that He still had riches in glory which were inexhaustible and that when he speaks the word all that we have to do is to be obedient and He will bring to pass what He has said. And so we stepped into the Jordan and it has been rolling back ever since.”

Several years later Lillian married Assemblies of God missionary Alfred Blakeney, whose first wife had died.

What happened to the small congregation founded by Lillian Kraeger? Bethel Mission, now known as Bethel Gospel Assembly, is led by Bishop Carlton Brown and ministers to over 1,500 people each week in Harlem. Bethel Gospel Assembly is one of the most prominent congregations in the United Pentecostal Council of the Assemblies of God (UPCAG). The UPCAG, a historic black Pentecostal fellowship organized in 1919, united with the Assemblies of God as a cooperative fellowship in February 2014. In a fitting turn of events, Bethel Gospel Assembly is honoring its roots and developing a deeper relationship with the Assemblies of God.

It would have been easy for Lillian Kraeger to listen to her family and her fiancée and to forget about the two little African-American girls who had accepted Christ. But the courageous young German woman, despite great cost, followed God’s call. Almost 100 years later, Bethel Gospel Assembly has emerged to become a powerful voice within the African-American community in Harlem.

Read Lillian Kraeger’s report published on page 8 in the August 26, 1933, issue of the Pentecostal Evangel.

Also featured in this issue:

* “Paul’s Ideal for a Gospel Assembly,” by P. C. Nelson

* “Discouragement of Elijah,” by Ernest S. Williams

And many more!

Click here to read this issue now.

Pentecostal Evangel archived editions courtesy of the Flower Pentecostal Heritage Center. For current editions of the Evangel, click here.

Do you have Pentecostal historical materials that should be preserved? Please consider depositing these materials at the Flower Pentecostal Heritage Center (FPHC). The FPHC, located in the Assemblies of God national offices, is the largest Pentecostal archive in the world. We would like to preserve and make your treasures accessible to those who write the history books.

Flower Pentecostal Heritage Center
1445 North Boonville Avenue
Springfield, Missouri 65802 USA
Phone: 417.862.1447 ext. 4400
Toll Free: 877.840.5200
Email: Archives@ag.org

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Persecution of Pentecostals in Iran 100 Years Ago


This Week in AG History–August 19, 1916
By Darrin Rodgers

Also published in AG-News, Mon, 18 Aug 2014 – 8:49 PM CST.

Andrew D. Urshan (1884-1967), the son of a Presbyterian pastor in Persia (now Iran), immigrated to the United States in 1901. He was baptized in the Holy Spirit in 1908 in Chicago, where he started a Persian Pentecostal mission. He returned to his homeland in 1914 as an Assemblies of God missionary and, amidst much persecution, helped to establish an enduring Pentecostal church.

Urshan shared his testimony in a series of three articles published in 1916 in the Pentecostal Evangel. Persia was a melting pot of numerous people groups, including Arabs, Jews, and Armenians. But Urshan felt a call to minister to his own people, the Assyrians. The Assyrians, who mostly belonged to various Christian churches, had a long history of suffering as a persecuted religious and ethnic minority.

Interestingly, most of the persecution experienced by Urshan and other Pentecostals came from other Christians. Urshan recounted that Muslim leaders treated him with respect, because the Pentecostals and the Muslims shared similar moral values. When Urshan was placed in jail for preaching the gospel, Muslim leaders stated, “He says people shouldn’t get drunk, and that is why they have imprisoned him.”

Pentecostal revival spread in the Assyrian community. Urshan related the stories of the birth of Pentecostal churches in five towns. In each new church, miracles and changed lives were accompanied by suffering. In the town of Urmia, a mob of Eastern Orthodox Christians attacked a group of Pentecostal girls who were headed to church. The mob shot their rifles at the young converts, hitting three and killing one of the girls. The grief and violence did not deter the Pentecostals from meeting. Ultimately, about fifty people accepted Christ and were baptized in the Holy Spirit in Urmia. Similar stories happened in each town touched by Pentecostal revival.

Urshan pleaded for readers in America to learn from the deep spirituality of Persian believers. He wrote, “I have seen young girls like some of you interceding and agonizing for the salvation of souls in the whole world.” These young Persians, he explained, “walked carefully, with their eyes and hearts filled with God, singing praises unto Jesus, and pleading tearfully with souls, before their persecutors.”

When Urshan returned to America, he was troubled by the lack of consecration he found in churches. Many Christians he met seemed to live “careless” lives and seemed most interested in “fashions of dress” and “the pleasures of this world.” Urshan wrote that he “suffered in the spirit” for American Christians. People who are “in danger of death,” he surmised, may actually be better off spiritually. Americans, he believed, should seek to cultivate spiritual depth by learning from the suffering church.

Read the series of three articles by Andrew D. Urshan, “Pentecost in Persia,” in the following issues of the Pentecostal Evangel:

Click here for the August 19, 1916, issue.

Click here for the August 26, 1916, issue.

Click here for the September 2, 1916, issue.

Also featured in the August 19, 1916, issue:

* “The Unity of the Spirit,” by W. Jethro Walthall

* “Daily Portion from the King’s Bounty,” by Alice Reynolds Flower

And many more!

Click here to read the August 19, 1916, issue now.

Pentecostal Evangel archived editions courtesy of the Flower Pentecostal Heritage Center. For current editions of the Evangel, click here.

Do you have Pentecostal historical materials that should be preserved? Please consider depositing these materials at the Flower Pentecostal Heritage Center (FPHC). The FPHC, located in the Assemblies of God national offices, is the largest Pentecostal archive in the world. We would like to preserve and make your treasures accessible to those who write the history books.

Flower Pentecostal Heritage Center
1445 North Boonville Avenue
Springfield, Missouri 65802 USA
Phone: 417.862.1447 ext. 4400
Toll Free: 877.840.5200
Email: Archives@ag.org

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