Category Archives: Missions

Oren Munger: One of God’s Firebrands


This Week in AG History–September 15, 1945
By Darrin Rodgers

Also published in AG-News, Mon, 15 Sep 2014 – 4:27 PM CST

Oren Munger, an Assemblies of God missionary, died in Nicaragua at the young age of 25. The September 15, 1945, issue of the “Pentecostal Evangel” alerted readers of his passing, which his colleague Harold McKinney, Jr. called a “great personal shock.”

Oren and his wife, Florence, graduated from Central Bible Institute in 1941 and had been in Nicaragua for three years. They had committed themselves fully to spreading the gospel. Oren was known for his powerful prayers and his musical abilities. He taught at the Bible school in Leon, Nicaragua, and often spent both days and nights interceding for revival.

Oren’s name, appropriately enough, was the imperative form of the Spanish verb meaning “to pray.” When he rode on muleback into rural areas in Nicaragua, people would ask, “What is your name?” He would respond, “Oren.” Because “oren” was a command in Spanish to pray, the inquirers would go away and start praying. After a while, they would come back and ask his name again, only to receive the same answer.

Oren lived up to his name. He regularly prayed until he was exhausted. His body weakened due to his strenuous ministry schedule and lack of sleep.

While ministering in a remote location in March 1945, Oren was stricken with typhoid. He died five months later, but not before he made a significant impact on the Assemblies of God in Nicaragua.

Oren’s passion for missions overflowed onto the pages of the letters he sent from Nicaragua. In one of his letters he wrote the following:

“The challenge of untouched regions is indeed great. God grant us in reality the purpose and power that motivated the apostle Paul. It is not in the great numbers of missionaries that the evangelism of the world lies, but in the intense glow with which the firebrands burn.”

Oren Munger was one of God’s firebrands.

Read the tributes to Oren Munger on page 11 of the September 15, 1945, issue of the “Pentecostal Evangel.”

Also featured in this issue:

* “Our Pastors in Uniform: Assemblies of God Chaplains,” by Harry A. Jaeger

* “Things Which Make Revivals Possible,” by Arthur H. Graves

* “Touching Our Lord Jesus,” by W. W. Simpson

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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L. M. Anglin and Assemblies of God Indigenous Missions in China

P14151
This Week in AG History–September 2, 1922
By Darrin Rodgers

Also published in AG-News, Wed, 03 Sep 2014 – 4:01 PM CST

Christianization does not equal Westernization. The success of Pentecostals in world missions has been due, in large part, to their reliance on spiritual transformation, rather than on Western cultural education, in spreading the gospel of Jesus Christ.

The Assemblies of God committed itself in 1921 to a missions strategy of establishing self-governing, self-supporting and self-sustaining churches in missions lands. Alice E. Luce, a Spirit-baptized Anglican missionary to India who transferred to the Assemblies of God in 1915, influenced the Assemblies of God to adopt this indigenous church principle long before it was embraced by most mainline Protestant groups. The policy was not uniformly implemented, and some Assemblies of God missionaries continued to follow the paternalistic practices of other Western churches during the early decades of the twentieth century.

L. M. and Eva Anglin, early Assemblies of God missionaries to China, were quick to grasp the importance of establishing indigenous churches. In 1916, they established the Home of Onesiphorus — an outreach in the city of Taian for orphans who had been abandoned by their families.

L. M. Anglin described the work carried on by the Home of Onesiphorus in the September 2, 1922, issue of the “Pentecostal Evangel.” One of the first things the Anglins did was to open a school for poor boys and girls, many of whom were beggars. The school provided both academic and technical training. Children were taught reading, writing and arithmetic, as well as trades such as weaving and making furniture. Anglin’s goal was not “to create an American out of [the Chinese man],” but “to take in the outcast, clothe him, house him and feed him in Chinese fashion.”

Read the entire article by L. M. Anglin, ” The Home of Onesiphorus,” on pages 12 and 13 of the September 2, 1922, issue of the Pentecostal Evangel.

Also featured in this issue:

* “How Can We Know that We Have Received the Baptism?” by Bert Williams

* “The Basis for our Distinctive Testimony,” by D. W. Kerr

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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When Locusts are a Blessing in Disguise

Locusts

This Week in AG History–August 11, 1923
By Darrin Rodgers

Also published in AG-News, Wed, 13 Aug 2014 – 4:22 PM CST

Many missionaries tell stories about seemingly bad circumstances that God turned into a blessing. Hannah A. James, a single female who served as an Assemblies of God missionary to South Africa from 1917 to 1933, recounted such a story in a letter published in the August 11, 1923, issue of the Pentecostal Evangel.

Hannah wrote that a swarm of locusts had descended upon their South African mission station. The locusts devoured a small wheat crop that she and her missionary colleagues had planted. Most readers probably would have seen the destruction of the missionaries’ food supply as a bad thing. However, Hannah related that the native South Africans “shouted for joy” when they heard the locust swarm approaching.

The locusts, it turned out, were a delicacy to the local palate. Local residents spent all night scooping the locusts into large sacks. They then scalded the locusts and dried them in the sun, a process which allowed them to be stored for months. Preparation of the dried locusts into edible food merely required them to be fried in fat or butter.

The missionaries made careful plans to provide for their dietary needs. But they discovered that God could upset those plans, and what they viewed as a calamity was viewed by others as a blessing. The missionaries probably would have preferred eating wheat rather than locusts, but the life of faith often stretches people beyond their cultural preferences.

Read the article by Hannah A. James, “A Plague of Locusts,” published on page 13 of the August 11, 1923, issue of the Pentecostal Evangel.

Also featured in this issue:

* “The Bible Evidence of the Baptism with the Holy Ghost,” by D. W. Kerr

* “From Prize Ring to Pulpit,” by Eddie Young

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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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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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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