The Assemblies of God and Evangelism: A Priority Since 1914

Gospel carThis Week in AG History — October 18, 1964

By Glenn W. Gohr
Originally published on AG News, 18 October 2019

How important is evangelism? It is absolutely essential to fulfilling the Great Commission to “go and make disciples of all nations.” Evangelism has always been at the forefront of the Assemblies of God and its mission.

At the second General Council in November 1914, the Assemblies of God delegates approved a resolution to achieve “the greatest evangelism that the world has ever seen.” This was quite a goal to set for such a small group. Yet, we could argue that together we have succeeded in reaching that target now with over 69 million people worldwide belonging to an AG church.

What are some of the creative ways that people have done evangelism work? People have used tent meetings, gospel rallies, street witnessing, gospel wagons and cars, tracts dropped from airplanes, gospel ships, various Speed the Light vehicles, Sunday School, Vacation Bible School, chalk drawings, ventriloquism puppets, Buddy Barrel, hand puppets, railroad evangelism, motorcycle ministry, rodeo evangelism, etc.

As the AG became more established, it adopted a constitution and bylaws and outlined its purposes as an organization. The first mandate of the four-fold reason for being of the AG is “to seek and to save that which is lost.” Again we see evangelism as paramount to the AG and its mission.

The Assemblies of God has always had ministers, evangelists, missionaries, and lay people actively sharing the gospel. In 1953, a resolution was adopted to create a Department of Evangelism “to emphasize, encourage, and coordinate all phases of evangelism.” This led to the establishment in 1963 of a Spiritual Life Evangelism Commission to help facilitate evangelistic efforts in all areas of the AG. This helped to ensure that individual departments or ministries would have the advancement of evangelism as a main part of their stated purpose.

Today we see evangelistic efforts maintained in every ministry of the AG, especially in such areas as Chi Alpha, Sunday School, church planting, church multiplication efforts, prison ministry, military and institutional chaplaincy, and AG World Missions and U.S. Missions efforts.

Fifty-five years ago, D. V. Hurst, who was coordinator of the Spiritual Life Evangelism Commission, wrote an article called, “It’s Time For Action,” which encouraged everyone to practice personal evangelism. He emphasized that the Early Church was known for action. “In fact,” he said, “the record of its accomplishments is called ‘The Acts.’”

Just as Jesus challenged the disciples to “look to the field,” Hurst admonished Christians to also find a place of harvest, a place of action, to share the gospel.

Hurst said, “The promise of Jesus to the Spirit-filled was not restrictive.” The mandate of “Ye shall be witnesses” was directed to all who experience the baptism in the Holy Spirit.

Hurst exhorted the whole Fellowship: “Use everyone you can enlist. The main business of the church is evangelism.” Calling everyone to action, he declared: “All should be totally involved in reaching others with His gospel.”

Read the article, “It’s Time For Action” on pages 24, 25, and 27 of the Oct. 18, 1964, issue of the Pentecostal Evangel.

Also featured in this issue:

• “Great Things He Hath Done,” by Ralph W. Harris

• “Speeding the Light in Latin America,” by Melvin Hodges

• “NAE Now 22 Years Old,” by Jared F. Gerig

And many more!

Click here to read this issue now.

Pentecostal Evangel
archived editions courtesy of the Flower Pentecostal Heritage Center.

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
Website: www.iFPHC.org

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Joseph Smale and the Lost Sermons that Prepared Los Angeles for the Azusa Street Revival

Pentecostal BlessingThis Week in AG History — October 7, 1962

By Darrin J. Rodgers
Originally published on AG News, 10 October 2019

The Azusa Street Revival (1906-1909) in Los Angeles and the African-American pastor of the Azusa Street Mission, William Seymour, have become iconic symbols of the Pentecostal movement. However, historians and participants in the revival point to a lesser-known Baptist pastor and graduate of Spurgeon’s College, Joseph Smale, who helped prepare Los Angeles for the revival.

The immediate catalyst for the Azusa Street Revival came in the summer of 1905 when Smale, pastor of First Baptist Church of Los Angeles, returned from a visit to Wales. He had attended meetings during the great Welsh Revival, during which entire towns experienced an outpouring of the Holy Spirit. Smale witnessed countless people repent of sin and turn toward God, and he prayed for God to do a similar work in Los Angeles.

Smale opened up his church for daily intercessory prayer meetings. Spiritually hungry people came from across Los Angeles and cried out to God for revival — praying specifically for a new “Pentecost.”

The prayer meetings attracted large numbers of people. However, some Baptist leaders opposed the spontaneous character of the prayer. They forced Smale to resign as pastor. He formed a new congregation, The New Testament Church of Los Angeles, which became a hub for people who committed themselves to pray for revival.

In the fall of 1905, Smale preached a series of sermons titled “The Pentecostal Blessing.” He encouraged believers to seek a restoration of the spiritual blessings described in the New Testament. Under Smale’s ministry, countless people developed a great hunger for God and engaged in deep prayer and Bible study.

Joseph Smale - FBCLAWhen William Seymour came to Los Angeles in the spring of 1906 and began encouraging believers to seek biblical spiritual gifts, he found fertile ground for his message. People from varied backgrounds and from numerous churches — including Smale’s church — crowded into the Azusa Street Mission to experience the modern-day Pentecost for which they had been praying.

Historians have long known that Smale’s sermon series, “The Pentecostal Blessing,” played a pivotal role leading up to the Azusa Street Revival. The sermons were a manifesto on the importance of recovering the spiritual life of the early church. They convicted and persuaded many to seek for a greater outpouring of the Holy Spirit. However, it appeared that Smale’s sermons had been lost to history. No copies apparently survived.

Then the unexpected happened. Several years ago, someone bought a copy of Smale’s sermons at a garage sale in Oklahoma. He was not aware of their significance and showed them to Flower Pentecostal Heritage Center director Darrin Rodgers, who immediately discerned their importance. The sermons were deposited at the Heritage Center, where they are safely preserved for posterity.

Importantly, Gospel Publishing House has republished The Pentecostal Blessing, which was officially released as part of its “Spirit-Empowered Classics” series in 2017. The book includes a series foreword by noted Azusa Street Revival historian Cecil M. Robeck Jr. and a biographical sketch of Smale by his biographer, British Baptist educator Tim Welch.

The sermons that prepared Los Angeles for the Azusa Street Revival – long thought to be lost – are now available to 21st century readers.

The Oct. 7, 1962, issue of the Pentecostal Evangel includes an article by Stanley Horton about the Azusa Street Revival, which begins by describing Smale’s role in the revival.

Read Stanley Horton’s article, “Pentecostal Explosion: Once the Spirit Fell at Azusa Street the Waves of Pentecostal Power Quickly Spread throughout the Religious World,” on pages 8-9 of the Oct. 7, 1962, issue of the Pentecostal Evangel.

Also featured in this issue:

• “Ecumenicity: False and True,” by Frank M. Boyd

• “Tribes, Tongues, and Triumphs,” by Marion E. Craig

And many more!

Click here to read this issue now.

Pentecostal Evangel archived editions courtesy of the Flower Pentecostal Heritage Center.

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
Website: www.iFPHC.org

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97 Years Ago: Central Bible Institute Opened in Springfield, Missouri

CBC

Faculty and students of Central Bible Institute, second class, 1923-1924, in front of Central Assembly of God, Springfield, Missouri; spring 1924

This Week in AG History — September 30, 1922

By Ruthie Edgerly Oberg
Originally published on AG News, 03 October 2019

The founding of the Assemblies of God in 1914 was marked by an emphasis upon the need for the training of ministers and missionaries. Eight years later, the Sept. 30, 1922, issue of the Pentecostal Evangel announced the opening of Central Bible Institute (CBI, later Central Bible College) in Springfield, Missouri, to address that need.

Local efforts to establish ministerial training schools had been undertaken in various parts of the country. However, it was soon determined that individual effort could never hope to achieve the results possible through united endeavors.

The first ministerial training school owned and operated by the General Council of the Assemblies of God opened its doors in 1920 in the small town of Auburn, Nebraska. Midwest Bible School remained open for only one year. The school’s remote location made it difficult to attract faculty or to provide jobs for students.

Assemblies of God leaders sought a more suitable location to establish a new school. In the summer of 1922, they decided to locate the school in Springfield. D. W. Kerr and his son-in-law, Willard Peirce, offered themselves for this work. Just six years earlier, Kerr served as the primary drafter of the Statement of Fundamental Truths. Kerr and Peirce had a track record of stabilizing educational institutions and had set Assemblies of God schools in Los Angeles and San Francisco on sure footing. They moved to Springfield to form the nucleus of the faculty and management of CBI.

It was felt that the move to Springfield, the new headquarters city of the General Council, afforded this new school several advantages. Close proximity to the executive leadership would provide counsel and oversight. The Fellowship’s paper, the Pentecostal Evangel, would offer information and publicity. Ministers and missionaries traveling to the area would be available for encouragement and example for the student body.

Outside of those advantages there were few other expedient assets to offer to the fledgling school. There were no buildings or dormitories available. The Fellowship had followed a “pay as you go” policy and there was little willingness to shoulder debt for new buildings. All there was to offer to Kerr was the basement of a local church, Central Assembly of God on the corner of Campbell and Calhoun Streets, and the homes of church members who were willing to house students.

Kerr and his team set about plastering and painting the basement rooms to prepare for the influx of the first class of students, numbering about 50. They fitted out one classroom, a kitchen, a dining area, and office. Kerr admitted in the Evangel’s announcement, “While we are necessarily crowded and handicapped in our limited temporary quarters, yet we are sure of the continued blessings of God on these humble beginnings … great oaks from little acorns grow.” Kerr encouraged contributions for the young people studying for ministry as “two hundred and fifty dollars will support a student for one school year, meeting all expenses.”

Two years later, 15 acres on the northern outskirts of the city had been secured through the generous donations of local businessmen. Three of the leaders, Kerr, J. W. Welch, and E. N. Bell, knelt in prayer on this tract of land at North Grant Avenue, consecrating it to God for the “training of ministers and missionaries.”

With the funds in hand and further offerings received in response to appeals made through the Pentecostal Evangel, the first building was erected in 1924 and a student body of 106 moved onto the new campus. Adding to its growth was the merging of other smaller schools, such as Bethel Bible Training Institute of Newark, New Jersey, in 1929, with the Springfield school.

Kerr later testified that he had some misgivings whether the project would be successful, given its meager beginnings in 1922, but he felt the Lord ask him as He did Moses, “What has thou in thine hand?” He responded, “Just a basement, Lord!” He felt the assurance that the same Lord who wrought wonders with Moses’ staff would be faithful to do great things with that tiny basement school at Central Assembly of God.

The history of the Pentecostal movement can testify to God’s faithfulness as the graduates of Central Bible Institute and Central Bible College (now consolidated with Evangel University and Assemblies of God Theological Seminary) continue to provide the Assemblies of God with thousands of pastors, evangelists, missionaries, and teachers impacting the world with the Pentecostal message they were taught in the classrooms of the basement at Central Assembly, the campus at 3000 North Grant, and the current university on North Glenstone.

Read Kerr’s announcement about CBI on page 4 of the Sept. 30, 1922, issue of the Pentecostal Evangel.

Also featured in this issue:

• “Be Filled with the Spirit” by W.T. Gaston

• “Questions and Answers” by E.N. Bell

• “A New Heavens and A New Earth” by S.A. Jamieson

And many more!

Click here to read this issue now.

Pentecostal Evangel
archived editions courtesy of the Flower Pentecostal Heritage Center.

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
Website: iFPHC.org

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Verna Linzey Collection Deposited at Flower Pentecostal Heritage Center

Linzey

Verna Linzey, keynote speaker at the Singaporean Pastors’ Convention, June 29, 2014

Dr. Verna May Hall Linzey (1919-2016), an Assemblies of God minister who served as a pastor, crusade evangelist, television evangelist, songwriter, and author, spent over eighty years in active ministry.

Dr. Linzey’s son, Chaplain (MAJOR) James F. Linzey, USA (Ret.), deposited at the Flower Pentecostal Heritage Center a collection of books, audio/video footage, photographs, and other materials documenting his mother’s life and ministry. Chaplain Linzey served as her road manager and is currently having her autobiography edited for publication.

Verna was one of six children born to Carey F. Hall and Alice M. Hall in the southeast Kansas town of Coffeyville. After her father passed away, her mother married Rev. Francis L. Doyle, who served in 1928 as pastor of Coffeyville First Assembly of God.

The early Pentecostal movement, with its dual emphases on the Word of God and spiritual renewal, made a significant impact on young Verna. She recalled that, as a young girl, prominent Assemblies of God educator and theologian P.C. Nelson routinely stopped at her family’s home with his ministry team. She received permission from her mother to get out of bed and sit at the kitchen table with other family members who were listening to Nelson and his team share about the meetings they had conducted.

Yielding to a call to the ministry, Linzey matriculated at the school founded by Nelson, Southwestern Bible School (now Southwestern Assemblies of God University), where she studied from 1937 to 1939.

Verna Hall Leads a Hallelujah Parade in San Diego. CA about 1940 Verna is front center with clarinet

Verna Hall leading a Hallelujah Parade in San Diego, California, circa 1940

Linzey participated in evangelism, pastoral ministry, and crusades with her eldest brother, Franklin Hall, in the 1930s and early 1940s in Kansas, Missouri, Oklahoma, and California. She eventually conducted her own crusades and ministry. She married Stanford E. Linzey (1920-2010) in 1941. They affiliated with the Assemblies of God and in 1946 planted and co-pastored a church, El Cajon Evangelistic Tabernacle, in El Cajon, California.

Linzey influenced her husband, Captain Stanford E. Linzey, Jr., CHC, USN (Ret.), to become a U.S. Navy chaplain. During his ministry as a Navy chaplain from 1955 to 1974, Verna Linzey continued to preach and teach in churches and at conferences, including at Women’s Aglow. She frequently taught on the Holy Spirit. Stanford sometimes accompanied her in ministry. It is estimated that Verna and Stanford Linzey laid hands on and prayed for 20,000 people to receive the baptism in the Holy Spirit with the evidence of speaking in tongues.

Linzey was given the title “Mother of the Fleet” by Admiral Frederick C. Johnson, USN (Ret.) for her building the Sunday school program at Naval Air Station Moffett Field, which was the largest Sunday school program in the U.S. Navy from 1968 to 1970. She was also made an honorary U.S. military chaplain by the Coalition of Spirit-Filled Churches.

In addition to her ministry, Linzey had a very active family life. She and Stanford had ten children—five boys and five girls.

Linzey 1958 El Cajon, CA

Verna and Stanford E. Linzey with their children, 1958

Linzey had a deep love for the Word of God. She mastered biblical languages at Southwestern Assemblies of God University. When her husband earned his his Doctor of Ministry degree at Fuller Seminary (1980), Verna Linzey audited and completed the coursework as well. She received an honorary Doctor of Divinity from Kingsway University and Theological Seminary (2001). She served as chief editor of the New Tyndale Version Bible translation (2009) and as one of the translators of the Modern English Version Bible translation (2014).

In her later years, Linzey wrote extensively on the theology of the Holy Spirit, including articles published in various religious periodicals. In 2004, she authored The Baptism with the Holy Spirit, for which she received the Best Non-Fiction of the Year Award (2006) from the San Diego Christian Writers’ Guild. It is a classic restatement of Classical Pentecostal doctrine and was later republished in the Philippines by ICI Ministries and used as a textbook in 100 Bible colleges.

In 2004, following the publication of her book, Linzey received opportunities to preach on television. Her television ministry began when she preached on the baptism with the Holy Spirit on God’s Learning Channel, a satellite network founded by Al and Tommie Cooper. This paved the way for two television series which would later be filmed: “The Holy Spirit Today with Dr. Verna Linzey” and “The Word with Dr. Verna Linzey.”

In 2007, Linzey wrote another book, Spirit Baptism, and recorded a set of teaching CDs and videos titled, The Baptism with the Holy Spirit and The Light of the World.

Linzey continued to be remarkably active in ministry until the age of 97, when she passed away. In November 2010, she had a role in a major feature movie, Iniquity, which is an updated version of the story of David and Bathsheba. She sang “The Rose” by Bette Middler for the soundtrack. Linzey was one of the keynote speakers for the 2011 Leadership Summit at the Heritage Foundation, where she received the 2011 Leader of the Year Award. She also received the “National Bible Teacher of the Year Award” at Westminster Theological Seminary in California during National Bible Week in 2011. Her album “Oh Blessed Jesus” went Gold for Best Vocals in Southern Gospel Music, featuring Grammy Award Nominee Triumphant Quartet and the group Sisters as her backup vocals the year after she passed away.

Dr. Linzey’s remarkable life spanned the history of the Pentecostal movement, to which she made significant contributions. She touched countless thousands of people through her pastoral and evangelistic ministry and writings.  Now, with the Verna Linzey Collection accessible at the Flower Pentecostal Heritage Center, future generations will be able to study her life, ministry, and legacy.

_________________

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 archives and research center 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
Website: http://www.iFPHC.org

 

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Melvin Hodges: A Pentecostal Response to War and Racism

HodgesThis Week in AG History — September 23, 1944

By Darrin J. Rodgers
Originally published on AG News, 26 September 2019

“Is it possible to maintain calm and serenity in the midst of the world-shaking storms that are raging today?”

Melvin Hodges (1909-1988), an Assemblies of God missionary to Central America, posed this question in 1944 in the Pentecostal Evangel. The Second World War was on everyone’s mind, and Hodges described the seemingly intractable conflicts around the world. “Nations are locked in a struggle for their very existence,” he wrote, and countless people are killed “as opposing systems of government struggle [to maintain] their way of life.”

How should the Christian respond to such conflict? Hodges encouraged believers to exhibit “calmness and steadfastness.” Believers will stay “on a true course regardless of the storms that rage,” according to Hodges, if they have faith in the promises of God and submit to God’s will.

Significantly, Hodges also admonished readers to reject the racism that had permeated vast segments of the world. Hodges wrote, “We must not be moved from the love of God in our hearts toward all men by the spirit of racial hatred being fostered today. Some hold the Jew responsible for all the ills of the world. Others are moved to intense hatred of the enemy nations. Again, some manifest bitterness toward certain racial groups in America.”

According to Hodges, blaming people groups or nations “is a false diagnosis of the ills of this sick world.” Instead, he identified the world’s woes as being rooted in “the evil nature of all unregenerate mankind.”

Hodges is perhaps best known for his promotion of indigenous church missions theory — the belief that churches should be self-governing, self-supporting, and self-propagating, rather than controlled by outside missionaries. Hodges’ article, though, pertains to what are usually regarded as missionary-sending nations, offering a critique of racism in America and Europe, as well as in non-Western nations.

It would have been easier for Hodges to remain silent when confronted by racial hatred in his own culture. By speaking out, he risked marginalization. But Hodges believed that racial hatred and God’s love were incompatible, and that Christians must not assign blame for social problems to racial or cultural groups. This wise counsel continues to be true today.

Read “Call to Calmness and Steadfastness” by Melvin Hodges on page 8 of the Sept. 23, 1944, issue of the Pentecostal Evangel.

Also featured in this issue:

• “Why I Came to Egypt Thirty-Four Years Ago,” by Lillian Trasher

• “V Day,” by Lester Sumrall

• “Family Worship,” by Walter Scott

And many more!

Click here to read this issue now.

Pentecostal Evangel archived editions courtesy of the Flower Pentecostal Heritage Center.

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
Website: iFPHC.org

 

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Clarence and Orvia Strom: Assemblies of God Church Planters in Alaska

Clarence_Strom_1400This Week in AG History — September 20, 1964

By Glenn W. Gohr
Originally published on AG News, 19 September 2019

Clarence L. Strom (1911-2001) and his wife, Orvia (1915-2009), were pioneer Assemblies of God church planters. Practically every place they went, they started a church or helped a struggling one to grow. Their big start in the ministry together began in the backwoods of the Kentucky mountains, a place that came to be a testing ground for a number of missionaries in the early days. From there they worked in various small towns in North Dakota, Montana, Alaska, and elsewhere.

The Stroms were, perhaps, best known for their service as missionaries in Alaska, where they spent 18 years. They went to Alaska in 1959 to become the supervisors at the AG Boys Farm in Palmer. They went on to plant and/or pastor churches in Petersburg, Nenana, Yakutat, Gustavus, and Valdez, Alaska.

Fifty-five years ago, Strom authored an article published in the Pentecostal Evangel that documented his travel across Alaska. His article provided a bird’s-eye view of Assemblies of God work in some of Alaska’s key cities. At that time, the AG divided Alaska into four sections: Arctic Coast, Northern, Central, and Southeastern. He toured the Southeastern section, stopping first in Ketchikan.

To get there, Clarence Strom had to board a boat which took him over the Alaska Marine Highway on the inside channel. He then drove to Prince Rupert, British Columbia, Canada, to board a ferry. This was followed by a six-hour ride by automobile. This gives an idea of how difficult travel in Alaska could be. In Ketchikan he visited Pastor and Mrs. Alver Loftdahl, who reported a thriving congregation which was experiencing revival in the Ketchikan Assembly.

Next he traveled to Wrangell, an old Indian village which was known for its lumber and fishing industries. He visited with the George Downses who had been able to build a new church, which was also thriving.

In Petersburg, on Mitkof Island, a town made up of several nationalities, including Tlinget Indians, Filipinos, and Japanese, Strom (who was the former pastor) visited the new pastors, the Bernard Tewells, and reported this was a growing assembly.

In Juneau, he visited Roy and Pauline Davidson, who were pastoring the largest church in the Southeastern section. He also visited Lyle and Helen Johnson who had been supervising the AG Children’s Home in Juneau for over 30 years. At that time about 40 children were staying in the children’s home.

Strom next visited the Leonard Olsons who were pastors at Haines. About 11 miles out of Haines he visited the village of Klukwan where Charles and Florence Personeus had established the Pentecostal work in Alaska in 1918. That church later became an outstation of the Haines Assembly.

Another stopping point was Skagway, a gold-mining town. The Gil Meroneys were serving there as pastors and had plans to construct a new building which could better serve their needs.

Next he visited the John Phillipses, who were pastoring the Sitka Assembly with plans for a building program to provide more room for services. In addition to the local population, they were also able to minister to people who came to Sitka for medical assistance and schooling at Mount Edgecomb Hospital and School.

In Yakutat he visited Donald Von Wald, who was pioneering a small church there. The last stop was Angoon, a little Indian village of 400, located on Admiralty Island. Missionary Eva Wright was doing a remarkable work there among the native population.

The trip gave Clarence Strom “a new appreciation of our faithful missionaries in Alaska who work often under great difficulties.” The work of faithful pastors and missionaries in Alaska has not been in vain. Today, Alaska is home to 89 Assemblies of God churches and over 10,000 adherents.

Read more about “An Armchair Tour of Southeastern Alaska Assemblies” on pages 16 and 17 of the Sept. 20, 1964, issue of the Pentecostal Evangel.

Also featured in this issue:

• “A Hidden Life,” by Violet Schoonmaker

• “Prayer, an Indispensable Part of Our Education Program,” by Charles W. H. Scott

• “The Church and Its Colleges,” by Philip A. Crouch

And many more!

Click here to read this issue now.

Pentecostal Evangel archived editions courtesy of the Flower Pentecostal Heritage Center.

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
Website: www.iFPHC.org

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The Great Depression and the Expansion of the Assemblies of God

Stewart auto revival

Assemblies of God evangelist (T. Lloyd?) Stewart, Pennsylvania, Fall 1935

This Week in AG History — September 14, 1935

By Darrin J. Rodgers
Originally published on AG News, 12 September 2019

How do economic troubles affect churches? According to common wisdom, economic downturns bring spiritual upturns. As the theory goes, when people discover they cannot be self-sufficient, they look for spiritual solutions to their problems.

But is this really the case? History reveals that the Assemblies of God grew significantly during the Great Depression of the 1930s, but its growth was a deviation from the norm. Most churches suffered great setbacks. What really happened during the Great Depression? What lessons can this history provide for the Assemblies of God of the 21st century?

The Great Depression of the 1930s devastated many segments of American Christianity. Historian Mark Noll noted that mainline Protestants not only faced economic uncertainties, but also theological uncertainties as liberal theology had begun to replace historic Christian beliefs. Many mainline congregations, schools, and ministries had to close or drastically cut back. Their institutions, funded by endowments that disappeared with the Wall Street crash, were running off the fumes of the past.

However, there was a noticeable exception to the decline of religious institutions in the 1930s: evangelical and Pentecostal churches made significant gains. According to Noll, these “sectarian” churches “knew better how to redeem the times.”

Assemblies of God evangelist Christine Kerr Peirce, writing at the height of the Great Depression, warned that churches are not guaranteed to grow during bad times.

In the Sept. 14, 1935, issue of the Pentecostal Evangel, Peirce wrote, “Instead of the depression driving people to God, there has developed an apathy and indifference which has not characterized previous periods of distress, when men have turned to God for help.”

Peirce’s lament for the church in 1935 could easily describe the condition of many segments of the American church in 2019: “Our modern methods are fast wearing out. That which a few years ago attracted the great crowds, attracts them no more. We have worn out every spectacular appeal we could make and while a few are reached here and there, yet the truth stares us plainly in the face that nowhere are we doing more than just scratching the surface, in comparison with the great number of unchurched and unsaved that should be reached.”

Why was the church in such a state of spiritual stupor? According to Peirce, “The backslidden, apathetic, lethargic condition of the pew today is due largely to the fact that this work [evangelism] has been left in the hands of the pulpit.” Instead, she contended, every Christian is called to be a witness.

How can the church remedy this problem? Peirce dismissed the idea that the church needs methods that are even “more spectacular.” Instead, she declared, “The need of the present moment is men and women of vision!” By this she meant that Christians first “must see God himself,” and then must have a “vision of others.” She elaborated, “A true vision of the lost world will prostrate us on our face with a burden of intercession.”

According to Peirce, then, the visionary church must be worshipful and missional. While Peirce’s critique was aimed at the American church in general, she recognized that Assemblies of God members could very easily lose their vision and replace their passion for God and for souls with a reliance on modern methods.

However, visionary Assemblies of God leaders viewed the economic crisis as an opportunity, leading the Fellowship to engage in ardent prayer and great personal sacrifice to advance a cause that was much bigger than any one person. What was the result?

In September 1929, the Assemblies of God reported 1,612 churches with 91,981 members in the U.S. By 1944, this tally increased to 5,055 churches with 227,349 members. During that 15-year period, the number of Assemblies of God churches tripled and membership almost tripled.

This growth didn’t happen by accident. Men and women laid a foundation for the expansion of the Assemblies of God during the Great Depression, often at a tremendous cost. Of today’s seven largest Assemblies of God colleges and universities, four were started during the Great Depression: North Central University (1930); Northwest University (1934); Southeastern University (1935); and Valley Forge Christian College (1939).

It was during these hard times that Assemblies of God scholarship blossomed. Myer Pearlman (1898-1943), P. C. Nelson (1868-1942), and E. S. Williams (1885-1981) wrote many of their influential theological books in the midst of the Great Depression. Pearlman and Nelson literally worked themselves to death, their health breaking under the strain of constant writing, teaching, and preaching.

The Assemblies of God’s foreign missions enterprise was centralized and strengthened during the Depression. This change encouraged coordination of efforts and accountability. The Assemblies of God published its first Missionary Manual in 1931 and in 1933 the Assemblies of God began providing funding for a missions staff at the national office. While the Great Depression made finances tight, in 1933 the Foreign Missions Department trumpeted that it did not have to recall any missionaries because of shortage of funds. When other denominations were retreating, the Assemblies of God was making significant advances in missions.

The history of the Assemblies of God during the Great Depression shows that church growth is possible during economic drought – if believers draw close to God and consecrate themselves to reach the lost.

Read Peirce’s admonition to be worshipful and missional in her article, “Men of Vision,” in the Sept. 14, 1935, issue of the Pentecostal Evangel.

Also featured in this issue:

• “Looking up in the Struggle,” by Ernest S. Williams

• “Training Children,” by Mrs. J. C. Miller

• “Secrets of a Spirit-Filled Sunday School”

And many more!

Click here to read this issue now.

Pentecostal Evangel archived editions courtesy of the Flower Pentecostal Heritage Center.

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
Website: iFPHC.org

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