Category Archives: Church

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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Gustav H. Schmidt Describes the Horror of Soviet Persecution of Pentecostals in the 1930s


This Week in AG History–August 4, 1934
By Darrin Rodgers

Also published in AG-News, Mon, 04 Aug 2014 – 4:26 PM CST.

Following the Russian Revolution of 1917, the newly-formed Soviet Union launched a campaign to eradicate Christianity within its borders. It relentlessly pursued a policy of militant atheism. Clergy were imprisoned or murdered, churches were demolished or converted to other uses, and an intensive propaganda campaign sought to convince people that Christianity was a harmful superstition. It was in this context of persecution that the Pentecostal movement among Slavs formed its identity.

The Pentecostal movement found fertile soil in Russia. Early evangelists, impacted by the Welsh Revival (1904-1905) and the Azusa Street Revival (1906-1909), first brought the Pentecostal movement to Russia a decade before the 1917 revolution. Prior to the revolution, the Orthodox church occupied a favored place in society and cooperated with the czarist government to persecute both political insurgents and religious minorities, including Pentecostals.

Following the revolution, communist government officials began persecuting their former persecutors, seeking to stamp out the Orthodox church. The government soon targeted other churches, including Baptists, Mennonites, Seventh Day Adventists and Pentecostals.

While the Soviet Union ostensibly guaranteed its citizens the “freedom of religion,” this freedom only allowed individuals the right to believe and not the right to practice their faith. If Christians practiced their faith, they became lawbreakers and were subject to fines, imprisonment or exile to Siberia.

Laws forbade Christians to hold church services, to provide religious instruction to their children, or to share the gospel. The government further marginalized Christians by excluding them from professional and government positions.

Gustav H. Schmidt, a pioneer Assemblies of God missionary to Poland, wrote a series of three articles, published in the Pentecostal Evangel in 1934, which described the suffering endured by Pentecostals in the Soviet Union.

Slavic Pentecostals developed a deep faith burnished by persecution. Schmidt wrote, “In those prisons and places of exile matured that heroism for Christ which shrinks from no difficulties.” The communists mistakenly believed they could quash the Christian faith by destroying church buildings and imprisoning pastors.

Prisons became the proving grounds for Christian leaders. According to Schmidt, “there were many thousands of true believers who had been trained in the school of suffering and persecution.”

These Pentecostals, Schmidt wrote, became “a valiant army of gospel workers through whose testimony and preaching a mighty revival soon swept over the vast plains of Russia.” By 1930, approximately 500 Pentecostal churches had been organized in Russia and the Ukraine. Each convert to Christ knew that their decision would cost them dearly.

One of the most insidious Soviet plans, according to Schmidt, was the insistence that the government, and not the parents, be in charge of the education of the youth. Government schools, hostile to Christianity, attempted to undermine the faith of the parents.

Schmidt wrote, “A mother who sends her children to school knows that they will be taught to hate God, and Christianity will be presented to them in such a way as to make it appear ridiculous to them and this in an endeavor to cause them to despise the very idea of religion.”

Laws prohibited parents from providing religious teaching to their own children. But many Christian parents obeyed a higher law. Schmidt suggested that “a mother in Russia who loves Jesus Christ will, in spite of such rules, teach her child to pray and to live a life of respect and godliness.”

Teachers would ask young students, who were likely to tell the truth, whether their parents taught them about religion. In this way, many students unwittingly let the government know that their parents were committing treason.

Another attempt to destroy families and the freedom of conscience, according to Schmidt, was the collectivization of agriculture. Eighty percent of Russians lived on farms, so when the government took over all farms, it made farmers into slaves of the state. This was an attempt to “destroy the (peasant’s) home and rob him of his privacy.” Agricultural workers were forced to live in communal buildings, their children were taken away, and it was difficult for people to practice their faith without being noticed.

“In Russia the follower of Christ is constantly beset with trouble and is always in danger,” Schmidt recounted. “He has to be ready to be torn away from his loved ones any time, Bolshevik police will break into a home during the night, after twelve o’clock maybe and bid the husband, father, or son to accompany them, and with a bleeding and broken heart they bid their loved ones a hurried last good-by.”

Prison sentences, consisting of hard labor, frequently lasted 10 or 20 years. Many died within several years due to malnutrition and disease.

Persecution separated consecrated believers from nominal Christians. Schmidt wrote, “Anyone who is zealous for Jesus in Russia is marked for arrest and this makes Christian activity hazardous. Therefore we find no half-hearted Christians in Russia…Such who are not fully consecrated will not be able to stand the strain for any length of time but will step over into the enemy’s camp.”

Despite great dangers confronting Christians, the Slavic church saw no shortage of leaders. Unpaid elders led the congregations, which met in homes. Elders took turns preaching and, when one was arrested, another took his place. Congregational leaders did not receive qualification from a Bible college (there were none), but from their willingness to suffer and die for Christ.

Soviet authorities predicted that every church would be destroyed by May 1, 1937. But Schmidt responded that the true church does not consist of buildings. There are “real Christians in Russia,” he wrote, and they “are dying for their faith…We know that the Bolshevists will never be able to destroy Christianity.”

Communist persecution not only failed to destroy Christianity; it helped to create a very strong and vibrant Pentecostal movement in the former Soviet Union. Today, there are over one million Pentecostals in the former Soviet Union in churches that are in a fraternal relationship with Assemblies of God World Missions.

Beginning in the late 1980s, when Mikhail Gorbachev began to allow persecuted religious minorities to emigrate, many put down roots in America. An estimated 300,000 Slavic Pentecostals from this recent wave of immigration now live in the United States. While most are in congregations that are either independent or loosely affiliated with one of several Slavic Pentecostal unions, many are deciding to join the Assemblies of God.

In 2002, several Slavic Pentecostal churches in California joined the Assemblies of God and formed the Slavic Fellowship, which provided both a structure for Slavs to organize themselves within the Assemblies of God and also representation on the Fellowship’s General Presbytery. In September 2008, the leaders of the Slavic Fellowship, in addition to other Slavic Pentecostals interested in affiliating with the Assemblies of God, came together in Renton, Washington, and organized the National Slavic District. The district gives greater strength and visibility to Slavic Pentecostals, both within the Assemblies of God and within the broader society.

The Slavs, with deep faith burnished by decades of persecution, are poised to provide leadership to the broader church. And their leadership could not have come at a better time, as they have already proven their mettle in a culture that is hostile to biblical values.

Read the series of three articles by Gustav H. Schmidt, “Bolshevism Battling Against Christianity,” in the following issues of the Pentecostal Evangel:

Click here now for the July 21, 1934, issue.

Click here for the July 28, 1934, issue.

Click here for the August 4, 1934, issue.

Also featured in the August 4, 1934, issue:

* “The Merry Heart,” by Donald Gee

*  “The Secret of an Abiding Pentecost,” by Leonard Gittings

*  “Spoiled Christians,” by E. F. M. Staudt

And many more!

Click here to read the August 4, 1934, 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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Global, Diverse, and Growing: The Assemblies of God at 100

Several of the 40+ Papua New Guinea guests at the Assemblies of God Centennial meet Hispanics from the East Coast. Assemblies of God National Offices, Springfield, MO, August 4, 2014.

Several of the 40+ Papua New Guinea guests at the Assemblies of God Centennial meet Hispanics from the East Coast. Assemblies of God National Offices, Springfield, MO, August 4, 2014.

The Assemblies of God is global, diverse, and growing!

This diversity will be on full display this week when 2,000 registered foreign guests join thousands of American church members for the triennial World Assemblies of God Congress and to celebrate the centennial of the Assemblies of God USA.

Worldwide, 95% of Assemblies of God adherents lived outside the United States in 2013. In the U.S., over 41% of Assemblies of God adherents were non-white. In the U.S., the white constituency has decreased by 34,922 over the past ten years, while the number of non-white constituents has increased by 433,217.

The editorial in the 2014 edition of Assemblies of God Heritage magazine, reproduced below, addresses this significant demographic shift in the Assemblies of God. This seachange carries enormous implications.

The Assemblies of God has a significant future because of the Fellowship’s historic vision to be a global church. In November 1914, delegates to the second general council committed themselves to “the greatest evangelism that the world has ever seen.” In 1921 the Assemblies of God adopted the indigenous church principle as its official missions strategy, in order to better carry out world evangelism. The implementation of this strategy — which recognizes that each national church is autonomous and not controlled by Western interests — resulted in the development of strong national churches and leaders. And now, in a fitting turn of events, those churches may be bringing renewal to America.

Immigrants are sparking growth and renewal in the American church. Carl Brumback, in his 1961 history of the Assemblies of God, anticipated this moment. He lamented the decline in spirituality that he witnessed among American Pentecostals over fifty years ago. He wrote that “it would be easy to become defeatists.” However, he foresaw a coming revival, which he believed would fulfill prophecy in Joel 2:28 and Acts 2:17: “In the last days … I will pour out my Spirit upon all flesh.”

Brumback’s prediction is coming true before our eyes. He identified two trends, then in their infancy, which gave him great optimism about the future of the Assemblies of God. First, he saw a Pentecostal outpouring on “representatives of practically every branch of Christendom in these United States.” Second, he believed that “The Revival That Is” in foreign lands will bring “The Revival That Is to Come” in America. “The simplicity, zeal, and spiritual power of our brethren around the world,” he forecast, will ultimately lead to “a new visitation upon the homeland.”

The coming revival is unfolding. Are you ready for it? What are you doing to build bridges with the next generation of Pentecostals who do not look or sound like you?

The centennial celebration of the Assemblies of God promises to be an important mile marker, not only because of its chronological distance from its founding, but because it will make visible to the world that the Assemblies of God is a global church. And this realization should change the way we view ourselves, and the way others view us.

Enjoy my editorial below!

Darrin Rodgers
drodgers@ag.org
______________________________________________

Global, Diverse, and Growing

The Assemblies of God is 100 years young!

When approximately 300 ministers came together in Hot Springs, Arkansas, in April 1914 and organized the Assemblies of God, they could not have envisioned what the next 100 years would bring.

The Assemblies of God (AG) was formed by a broad coalition of ministers who desired to work together to fulfill common objectives, such as sending missionaries, establishing schools, and providing fellowship and accountability. Formed in the midst of the emerging worldwide Pentecostal revival, the AG quickly took root in other countries and formed indigenous national organizations.

A Global Body

The Assemblies of God USA is a constituent member of the World Assemblies of God Fellowship (WAGF) — one of the largest families of Christian churches in the world. However, an international headquarters for the AG does not exist. The WAGF is not a legislative body. The 140-plus member bodies from across the world are all equal and relate to each other fraternally.[1] This year also marks the twenty-fifth anniversary of the WAGF, which was formed just days after the 1989 General Council in Indianapolis.

In 1989, the AG counted 2,137,890 adherents in 11,192 U.S. churches and 18,552,282 adherents in 128,307 churches around the world. These numbers have increased significantly. In 2013, the AG counted 3,127,857 adherents in 12,792 U.S. churches and 67,512,302 adherents in over 366,000 churches worldwide. Since 1989, that is a 46% increase in the number of U.S. adherents and a 264% increase in the number of adherents worldwide.

The AG is a global body of believers because, from its beginning, deep spirituality and missions have been central to its DNA. In 1964, on the fiftieth anniversary of the AG, then-general superintendent Thomas F. Zimmerman wrote that two common concerns united participants at the first general council: “matters of spiritual interest and a desire to reach the world with the gospel.”[2]

People and programs come and go. But attention to these dual transcendent concerns — a deep spirituality anchored in the Word of God and a consecration to carry out the mission of God — will keep the AG from straying from its founding ideals.

Assembling the Numbers

The AG has shown growth in the number of U.S. adherents each year since 1990. That’s twenty-four straight years of growth, at a time when most major denominations in the United States are declining.

In 2013, the AG grew by 1.0%, while the U.S. population only increased by 0.7%. The number of U.S. adherents has been increasing at a relatively steady pace — at an average of 1.525% per year from 1989 to 2000, and 1.515% per year since 2001.

Heritage_2014p3image

Assemblies of God growth is in marked contrast to the decline of many other denominations. In recent decades, most mainline Protestant denominations in the U.S. have witnessed significant numerical declines. From 1960 to 2011, the United Church of Christ lost 48% of adherents; The Episcopal Church lost 43%; the Presbyterian Church (USA) lost 35%; the United Methodist Church lost 29%; and the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America lost 19%. Others showed increases, including the Southern Baptist Convention (66%) and the Roman Catholic Church (62%). During the same period, the AG grew by 498%, from 508,602 members in 1960.

While mainline denominations have been declining for decades, in the past few years some evangelical groups, such as the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC), have also begun to decline. SBC leaders recently have shown alarm over deceasing numbers of baptisms and conversions. The number of SBC baptisms has declined for seven straight years. This demographic decline has caused some pundits to predict the slow death of evangelicalism.[3]

Robust growth of Pentecostal churches, including the AG, shows a different story. AG statistics increased last year for water baptisms, Spirit baptisms, membership, attendance, conversions, and numbers of adherents, churches, and ministers. Other categories, including attendance at Sunday evening and midweek services, declined. An AG press release attributed much of the growth to increases in ethnic minority churches and young people: “The impact is especially evident among Latino adherents, who now make up 20 percent of the Fellowship (more than 40 percent of total adherents are ethnic minorities), and Millennials (ages 18-34), who contributed 21 percent of the growth from 2001-2013.”[4]

Ethnic Diversity

The 2013 statistics reveal significant ethnic diversity in the AG: Asian/Pacific Islander (4.4%); Black (9.6%); Hispanic (21.7%); Native American (1.5%); White (58.7%); and Other/Mixed (4.0%). These numbers suggest that the AG closely mirrors the ethnic makeup of the U.S. population as a whole. The 2010 U.S. census revealed the following racial breakdown of the U.S. population: Asian/Pacific Islander (5%); Black (12.6%); Hispanic (16.3%); Native American (0.9%); White (63.7%); and Other/Mixed (6.2%).

Much of the numerical growth in the AG in recent decades has been among ethnic minorities. From 2003 to 2013, the number of U.S. adherents increased by 14.6%, from 2,729,562 to 3,127,857. During this period, the number of white adherents decreased by 1.9% (-34,922) and the number of non-white adherents increased by 50.5% (+433,217).

The AG’s growth in America is partly due to immigration. The AG is a global church. About 1% of the world’s population identifies with the AG. Only 4.6% of AG adherents worldwide live in the U.S. Pentecostals who move to America from other regions of the world often bring with them a faith, burnished by persecution and deprivation, that is an important part of their identity. Pentecostals who move to America are often like pollen scattered by a strong wind — they plant churches wherever they happen to land. Strong African, Slavic, Asian, Pacific Islander, and Hispanic AG churches are taking root in American soil, and their congregations sing, preach, and testify in the tongues of their native countries.

Interestingly, this demographic shift is also helping to usher in a global re-alignment of Christianity. Anglican, Presbyterian, and Methodist Christians in Africa, Asia, and Latin America are generally evangelical in belief, if not Pentecostal in worship, and often have much more in common with their brothers and sisters in the AG than they do with liberal members of their own denominations in the West.

The Coming Revival

This demographic shift carries enormous implications for the future of the church. Certain segments of the AG are in spiritual and numerical decline, mirroring the general decline of Western culture and its rejection of biblical values. Non-whites and immigrants, often embracing a strong Pentecostal identity, are on the ascendancy.

Carl Brumback, in his 1961 history of the AG, anticipated this moment. He lamented the decline in spirituality that he witnessed among American Pentecostals over fifty years ago. He wrote that “it would be easy to become defeatists.” However, he foresaw a coming revival, which he believed would fulfill prophecy in Joel 2:28 and Acts 2:17: “In the last days … I will pour out my Spirit upon all flesh.”[5]

Brumback’s prediction is coming true before our eyes. He identified two trends, then in their infancy, which gave him great optimism about the future of the AG. First, he saw a Pentecostal outpouring on “representatives of practically every branch of Christendom in these United States.” Second, he believed that “The Revival That Is” in foreign lands will bring “The Revival That Is to Come” in America. “The simplicity, zeal, and spiritual power of our brethren around the world,” he forecast, will ultimately lead to “a new visitation upon the homeland.”[6]

The Assemblies of God is growing in America. But the real story is the ethnic transformation of the AG. It is becoming less white and more reflective of the ethnic, linguistic and social diversity that exists in the global church. The founding fathers and mothers of the AG laid the foundation for this ethnic shift when they committed the Fellowship in November 1914 to “the greatest evangelism that the world has ever seen.” In 1921 the AG adopted the indigenous church principle as its official missions strategy, in order to better carry out world evangelism. The implementation of this strategy — which recognizes that each national church is autonomous and not controlled by Western interests — resulted in the development of strong national churches and leaders. And now, in a fitting turn of events, those churches may be bringing renewal to America.

–Darrin J. Rodgers, M.A., J.D., is director of the Flower Pentecostal Heritage Center and editor of Assemblies of God Heritage magazine.

NOTES

[1] George O. Wood, “The World Assemblies of God Fellowship: Uniting to Finish the Task,” in Together in One Mission: Pentecostal Cooperation in World Evangelization, ed. by Arto Hämäläinen and Grant McClung (Cleveland, TN: Pathway Press, 2012), 123-130. See also: William Molenaar, “The World Assemblies of God Fellowship: United in the Missionary Spirit,” Assemblies of God Heritage 31 (2011): 40-47.

[2] Thomas F. Zimmerman, “Anniversary Reflections,” Pentecostal Evangel, April 5, 1964, 2.

[3] Kate Tracy, “Five Reasons Why Most Southern Baptist Churches Baptize Almost No Millennials,” Christianity Today, May 29, 2014, http://www.christianitytoday.com/gleanings/2014/may/five-reasons-why-southern-baptist-baptize-millennials-sbc.html (accessed 21 June 2014).

[4] “The Assemblies of God (U.S.A.) Celebrates 24 Years of Growth; World Growth Tops 67.5 Million,” AG News, June 16, 2014.

[5] Carl Brumback, Suddenly from Heaven: A History of the Assemblies of God (Springfield, MO: Gospel Publishing House, 1961), 350-351.

[6] Ibid., 352-354.

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Adolph Gustav Etterman and the Church of God of the Firstborn

A. G. Etterman in Fessenden, North Dakota, circa 1922-1923.

A. G. Etterman in Fessenden, North Dakota, circa 1922-1923.

Adolph Gustav Etterman (1887-1983), an ethnic German born in Russia, immigrated to North Dakota in 1912. He became involved in the Pentecostal movement in Minot in the 1920s and, accompanied by his large musical family, became a traveling evangelist. He built an 8 by 14 foot motor home on the back of a 1928 Chevrolet truck, into which the family packed all their belongings, including a piano. He formulated his theological beliefs, which he published in his 1933 book, Book on Bible Facts: A Life Full of Faith.

A. G. and Annie Etterman and ten children. Taken  1950s.

A. G. and Annie Etterman and ten children. Taken 1950s.

In 1936 he incorporated his own denomination, Church of God of the Firstborn, to provide structure and oversight for his growing band of churches. A.G. Etterman died in 1983. His son, Jim, is the current president of the fellowship, which is headquartered in Newton, Kansas. Today, most of its congregations are Hispanic.

FPHC Director Darrin Rodgers wrote a short history of the group in his book, Northern Harvest (2003), and ever since has wanted to meet the Etterman family. A couple weeks ago they finally met in Branson, where Jim’s son, Pete, a gospel musician, was playing. The Ettermans deposited several publications related to their church and their family at the Heritage Center. When A.G. Etterman accepted Christ almost 90 years ago, it changed the trajectory not just of his family, but of the thousands impacted by his ministry.

Flower Pentecostal Heritage Center Director Darrin Rodgers (left) meets Jim Etterman (back row, center), Pete Etterman (back row, right) and their families.

Flower Pentecostal Heritage Center Director Darrin Rodgers (left) meets Jim Etterman (back row, center), Pete Etterman (back row, right) and their families.

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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Like a River: Assemblies of God 50th Anniversary Film

River

The Assemblies of God celebrated its 50th anniversary in 1964. Many of the founding leaders were still alive, and thousands who were touched by the early twentieth century Pentecostal revivals could still recount their testimonies.

The earliest-known documentary film about the history of the Assemblies of God, Like a River, was recorded in celebration of the Fellowship’s golden anniversary. This 30-minute film, directed by Paul Crouch, may now be viewed online for the first time! Watch four Assemblies of God leaders who lived the history – Thomas F. Zimmerman, J. Roswell Flower, Noel Perkin, and Ernest S. Williams – recount the development of the Assemblies of God.

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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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William Fetler, the Welsh Revival, and Early Russian Pentecostalism

William Fetler
This Week in AG History–July 22, 1916
By Darrin Rodgers

Also published in AG-News, Mon, 21 Jul 2014 – 4:28 PM CST.

St. Petersburg, the capital of the Russian Empire, was in the midst of social turmoil 100 years ago. A decade of civil unrest and strikes, heightened by an emerging Marxist political movement, threatened to undermine the ruling czar. Political assassinations and mass uprisings became commonplace. Compounding these problems, the advent of the First World War led to high prices and a scarcity of food and other consumer goods. It was into this chaotic situation that William Fetler, a Latvian Baptist pastor, became a Pentecostal pioneer in the Russian capital city.

William Fetler (1883-1957), born in Latvia, was the son of a Baptist pastor. As a young man he worked as an interpreter and bookkeeper in the Latvian capital of Riga. He was quite sharp and had mastered seven languages, four of which he could speak fluently. He felt a call to the ministry and enrolled at Spurgeon’s College, the ministerial training school in London founded by noted Baptist Calvinist Charles H. Spurgeon.

Fetler was profoundly touched by the Welsh Revival (1904-1905) during his time at Spurgeon’s College. The Welsh Revival, which lasted only for about a year, resulted in over 100,000 converts to Christ. The revival, which included enthusiastic worship and miracles, left a lasting imprint on the religious landscape of Wales. Evan Roberts, the primary leader in the Welsh Revival, was asked by the Spurgeon’s College principal if he had a message for the students. Roberts replied, “Tell them to live near to God. That is the best life — near to God.”

William Fetler took that message to heart and was never the same. He felt a great burden to see revival in Russia and Latvia. He would spend the rest of his life working to see Latvians and Russians come to Christ. After graduating with honors in 1907, he moved to St. Petersburg. He found a ready audience with nobility who were already believers, including Princess Lieven, Baron Nicolay, Madam Tchertkoff, and others. His impassioned preaching in multiple languages attracted large audiences. He raised money for the construction of a large “Gospel House” in St. Petersburg.

The Welsh Revival fed into the Azusa Street Revival (1906-1909), which was a focal point of the emerging Pentecostal movement. Fetler rejoiced at the news of this latest spiritual outpouring. What had been somewhat localized in the Welsh Revival became a worldwide movement in Pentecostalism. Fetler maintained his Baptist identity and also worked within the Pentecostal movement and became a regular speaker at Pentecostal conferences across Europe.

Events in Russia overtook Fetler’s St. Petersburg ministry. Government officials viewed him with suspicion and kicked him out of Russia in 1912. Fetler recounted persecution in Russia, as well as healings, visions and miracles he witnessed, in an article published in 1916 in the Weekly Evangel. Fetler, possibly the best-known Latvian pastor in the West, wrote a book about his life experiences under the pen name Basil Malof. He moved back to his native Latvia, where he led a thriving congregation.

Read Fetler’s article, “Pentecostal Power in Russia,” on pages 4 and 5 of the June 22, 1916, issue of the Weekly Evangel.

Also featured in this issue:

* “Tithing,” by E. L. Banta

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

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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