Mildred Whitney: The Housewife Who Started Assemblies of God Ministries for the Blind

WhitneyThis Week in AG History — December 8, 1957

By Glenn W. Gohr
Originally published on PE-News, 07 December 2017

Mildred Whitney (1910-1994) almost single-handedly founded ministries for the blind in the Assemblies of God (AG). Her legacy is seen today in the AG Center for the Blind, under the leadership of Paul Weingartner.

Whitney’s life-long dream was to make Pentecostal literature available to the blind and visually impaired. The beginning of Whitney’s work goes back to a Sunday in October 1949 when she was praying in her morning devotions in East Jordan, Michigan, and felt God speaking to her to start up a braille ministry. That same Sunday she read an article in the Gospel Gleaners, the predecessor of the AG’s weekly Live magazine, which told about Gladys Carrington, a housewife, who had been transcribing Christian literature into braille. Whitney contacted Carrington who sent her a copy of the braille alphabet and other materials to get her started.

Whitney began learning the braille alphabet, and by 1951 she had mastered the art of writing braille and had started transcribing and producing Pentecostal literature for the blind in her home. The official start of her ministry to the blind began in 1952. On Nov. 16, the AG Center for the Blind, located in Springfield, Missouri, held an open house to celebrate 65 years of ministry.

In the beginning years, Mildred Whitney and her husband improvised to make their own type press, assembled their own drying racks, and used other equipment as needed. In 1954 she began using a braille typewriter to better carry out this vital ministry. This led to her taking select articles from the Pentecostal Evangel and other publications to produce the Pentecostal Digest in braille. Soon afterwards she began producing Sunday School quarterlies in braille.

Sixty years ago, in the Dec. 8, 1957, issue of the Pentecostal Evangel, Elva Hoover wrote an article called “Quarterlies for the Blind.” She described how Whitney worked for a number of years using “makeshift equipment with limited funds” in her own home to provide braille literature for the blind. “Although she does most of the work herself,” said Hoover, “various members of her family are pressed into service from time to time.” Because of the time-consuming process in producing braille literature (one page of quarterly materials requires almost five pages of braille), Whitney printed the Sunday School lessons on a monthly basis rather than quarterly.

The AG Center for the Blind still produces the Adult Student Guide in braille and digital audio files for other age levels of Sunday School materials, as well as God’s Word for Today, Live, PrimeLine, and selected books.

Read “Quarterlies for the Blind,” on pages 24 and 25 of the Dec. 8, 1957, issue of the Pentecostal Evangel.

Also featured in this issue:

• “A Sure Formula for Revival,” by E. R. Foster

• “Under the Blood,” by Donald Gee

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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December 7, 2017 · 3:08 pm

Secret Police Dossier on Persecuted Bulgarian Pentecostal Leader Deposited at Flower Pentecostal Heritage Center

StefanovStefan Stefanov (1948-1988), a deacon in the Assemblies of God church in Shumen, Bulgaria, was persecuted by the communist government in the 1970s and 1980s. Stefan’s father, Nikola, had started the Shumen congregation in the late 1940s and was imprisoned following the infamous Pastoral Trial of 1948-1949. The communist government, aiming to stamp out Christianity, labeled his son, Stefan, a “fanatic” because he refused to compromise his faith.  The secret police told Stefan that he must not allow children to attend church services, which were held in his house.  He refused to obey, was beaten numerous times, and was placed under house arrest and exiled to surrounding villages for three years (1975-1978). Shortly before he died in 1988, Stefan received a prophecy that he would not leave Bulgaria, but that his testimony would travel around the world through his sons, Borislav and Nikolai.

After the Bulgarian communist government fell, Borislav went to the archives of the secret police and was allowed to photocopy his father’s dossier. The dossier includes confiscated personal correspondence, transcripts of intercepted phone conversations, and reports from informants. Nikolai and his wife, Michelle, today deposited a copy of the dossier at the Flower Pentecostal Heritage Center. The Flower Pentecostal Heritage Center is committed to preserving and sharing the testimonies of Pentecostals from the persecuted church!

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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William F. P. Burton: Pioneer Pentecostal Missionary, Author, and Artist in the Congo

BurtonThis Week in AG History — December 1, 1968

By Darrin J. Rodgers
Originally published on PE-News, 30 November 2017

William Frederick Padwick Burton (1886-1971) was an unlikely pioneer Pentecostal missionary. Willie, as he was known, enjoyed a privileged childhood. His mother was from English aristocracy, and his father was a ship captain. As a youth, Burton was not interested in spiritual things. He attended good schools in England and traveled around the world, developing a broadly-informed worldview. He excelled at cricket and tennis, and he became an accomplished artist. Realizing that art probably would not pay the bills, Burton focused on a more practical career path and studied electrical engineering at St. Lawrence College, Ramsgate.

In 1905, while in college, Burton attended an evangelistic service with a visiting American evangelist, Reuben A. Torrey. After hearing Torrey’s message, Burton became convinced that he was not a true Christian. Despite being a member of the Church of England, Burton came to realize that he had a very superficial faith. One night, Burton knelt by his bed, confessed his sins, placed his faith in God, and peace flooded his soul. Change was immediate in Burton’s life. He joyfully shared his newfound faith, he made restitution to those he had wronged, and he began what became lifelong disciplines of studying the Bible and praying.

Burton’s commitment to live wholly for God led him to identify with the Pentecostal movement. He heard about the Pentecostal revival in America and Scandinavia, so he and a friend decided to investigate the Pentecostal claims that Biblical spiritual gifts, such as speaking in tongues, healing, and prophecy, were still available to believers. They formed a group that met almost every night for the entire year of 1910, studying the Bible and praying for God’s power in their lives. Before the year was out, Burton and many others had been baptized in the Holy Spirit.

Burton felt God’s call to full-time ministry. He stepped out in faith and, in 1911, quit his engineering job and became known as a “tramp preacher.” For three years he walked across the English countryside, preaching in homes and on village greens. During this formative period, he led numerous people to the Lord, witnessed miracles, developed his ministry gifts, and helped the young English Pentecostal movement to grow.

Ultimately, Burton felt called to serve as a missionary to Africa, where he would spend the rest of his life. He left England in 1914, just as World War I was breaking out, and spent a year preaching at various mission stations in South Africa. He was joined in 1915 by James Salter (the brother-in-law of noted healing evangelist Smith Wigglesworth), and together they journeyed to the Congo. He married Hettie Trollip in 1918. When the Congo Evangelistic Mission (later called the Zaire Evangelistic Mission) was formed in 1919, Burton became its first field director. Importantly, he was an early advocate for indigenous leadership of churches.

Burton art

An ink drawing by Burton

Burton employed his significant giftings as a builder, engineer, teacher, and artist to advance the gospel. He authored 28 books, including an important collection of Congo fables and proverbs. Burton’s engaging stories about African missions were widely read on both sides of the Atlantic Ocean. The Pentecostal Evangel introduced Burton to American readers in 1916 and, over the course of his life, published over 90 articles by him. Burton also raised money by selling his critically-acclaimed paintings and ink drawings of Congolese landscapes and life.

When Burton went to be with the Lord in 1971, the Congo Evangelistic Mission had grown to almost 2,000 churches. He had spent the majority of his life in Africa, far from the life of privilege he knew in England. While Willie Burton initially sacrificed a certain level of social status to become a Pentecostal preacher, he ultimately became a larger-than-life figure in the history of African Pentecostalism.

Read one of William F. P. Burton’s articles, “Receiving Power from on High,” on pages 6-7 of the Dec. 1, 1968, issue of the Pentecostal Evangel.

Also featured in this issue:

• “Eternal Security: Is It Conditional?” by Henry H. Ness

• “God’s Interruptions,” by Kenneth D. Barney

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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Ruth Garlock, Unsung Hero: A Female Missionary’s Forgotten Call and Legacy

GarlockThis Week in AG History — November 24, 1945

By Ruthie Edgerly Oberg
Originally published on PE-News, 20 November 2017

Ruth Trotter Garlock (1897-1997) and her husband, Henry B. Garlock, were Assemblies of God missionary pioneers in Liberia, Ghana, and Malawi. Several generations of Assemblies of God members grew up reading Henry’s colorful stories about their lives and ministry among African cannibals and witch doctors. However, Ruth’s story often seemed overshadowed by her husband’s big personality. A careful reading of their writings reveals a remarkable woman who endured great sacrifice to follow God’s call.

Ruth received the baptism in the Holy Spirit as a teenager in an Assembly of God church in Newark, New Jersey, under Pastor E. S. Williams. After this experience, she believed that total consecration to God was her life’s calling. One evening in prayer, God showed her a triangle with Himself at the apex and her at one corner. There was a strong line connecting Him to her. At the other corner was the continent of Africa with a strong line connecting God to Africa. What was missing in the triangle was a line connecting Ruth to Africa. She felt God telling her He was already connected to Africa but so many there did not know it yet. She heard the call, “Will you be the connection to go tell them, and complete the triangle?”

Her mother strongly resisted the idea. Ruth was her only daughter and Africa was a terribly dangerous place even for strong young men. Ruth’s parents had divorced recently and her income was needed to help support the family. However, after hearing the passionate stories from a missionary to India, Ruth’s mother tearfully but willingly gave her total support to her daughter’s call to African missions.

After receiving the baptism in the Holy Spirit, Ruth determined that she would never marry a man unless he was a committed Christian. After her missions commitment, she added the requirement of a sincere call to Africa for any man she would consider. Her friends predicted she would die an old maid, but she was steadfast.

She took a job teaching school while her brother, Alfred, went to Beulah Heights Missionary Training School in North Bergen, New Jersey. She would often visit, bringing home-cooked goodies for him and his friends. One particular friend, Henry, was very friendly and attentive and Ruth found herself drawn to him. When she discovered the depth of his Christian character and his steadfast focus on African missions, she knew her requirements were met and gave herself permission to fall deeply in love with the dashing Henry Garlock.

Upon Henry’s graduation from Beulah Heights in 1920, they became engaged and Henry received Assemblies of God missionary appointment to Liberia, West Africa. Ruth saw him off at the pier in New York on Oct. 23, knowing that he was going to prepare a place for her to come as soon as her teaching contract was up in the spring of 1921.

Meanwhile, Henry found an abandoned missionary station in the Gropaka area of Liberia. The crudely erected gravestones in the yard testified why the building was empty. When Henry climbed the steps into the house they crumbled underneath him due to the damage caused by termites. Inside he found a rendezvous of rats, snakes, scorpions, and huge lizards. White ants had long ago eaten the bamboo shades on the windows.

Henry asked himself if it was the right thing to bring his young bride to such a place. After praying, he felt assurance from God that Ruth’s call was just as real as his, and her commitment to the mission was just as solid. He went to work, trusting that he could have it ready for her by her arrival sometime in June.

On June 26, 1921, Henry arose at daybreak and went to the coast to meet Ruth’s ship. Ruth had traveled thousands of miles to join him and the reunion was sweet after eight months apart.

The next day they engaged a boat to carry them deeper into the interior, and two days later they were wed with another missionary couple serving as witnesses and the hammock bearers and porters as the audience. For a ring, Henry hired a native blacksmith to melt down the gold from an English coin.

The day after the wedding they arose at 2 a.m. to begin the two-day trek to their home, riding in a dug-out canoe through crocodile-infested waters, walking miles on jungle trails in the rain, and wading through waist-high waters. When they arrived, Henry and Ruth were blessed to find that a neighboring chief had heard of their marriage and greeted them with a young steer and a goat for a wedding feast. That night they held their first church service together in Africa. The adventure of a lifetime had begun.

Together, Henry and Ruth spent more than 60 years in ministry, pioneering fields that now have strong Pentecostal churches.

When Henry passed away in 1985, his 86-year-old widow wanted to address the crowd gathered to honor the great missionary. In a strong voice she shared some of their story of love and adventure, ending with, “Well, folks, this is how Henry always did it. Every place we ever moved to, he went there first” to get things ready.

At age 89, Ruth’s daughter-in-law was leading a missions trip to Haiti. Ruth said to her, “Please take me with you. I want to be a missionary one more time.” Her assignment on the trip was to sit in a big rocker in the orphanage to cuddle and rock the dozens of infants, praying over each one, trusting that God would call some of them to finish the unfinished task of the missionary harvest.

When it comes to missionary couples, we often hear more of the adventurous exploits of the husband. Henry Garlock’s activities made him a legend and his book, Before We Kill and Eat You, is a standard missionary biography; however, the faithful bravery of Ruth Trotter Garlock made contributions to missions on the African continent that only heaven will reveal.

Read about one of Henry and Ruth Garlock’s treks in Africa on page 13 of the Nov. 24, 1945,  issue of the Pentecostal Evangel.

Also featured in this issue:

• “The Life of Thanksgiving,” by Anna C. Berg

• “Giving Thanks Always,” by Grant Barber

• “Victory Through Praise,” by Hattie Pitts

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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C. H. Austin: From the Saloons to Assemblies of God Railroad Evangelist

chaustin

This Week in AG History — November 16, 1929

By Darrin J. Rodgers
Originally published on PE-News, 16 November 2017

Clement Henderson Austin (1889-1973) knew railroads almost as well as he knew the gospel. He spent decades working as a train engineer, but he became mired in a lifestyle of drunkenness, gambling, violence, and addictions to alcohol and tobacco.

After a dramatic conversion, Austin became an Assemblies of God evangelist. He spent the rest of his life sharing the gospel and his testimony. Austin’s story was published in a tract, which was republished in the Nov. 16, 1929, issue of the Pentecostal Evangel.

Austin’s life started to unravel when he was 8 years old, when his mother died. For years he carried this sorrow deep inside his soul, crying himself to sleep at night. He wondered why he could not have a mother, like all the other boys.

As a young teenager, Austin ventured onto the streets of Fort Worth, Texas, where he quickly adapted to the ways of the world. He started firing train engines at age 16, soon becoming a train engineer. A large young man, he learned how to fend for himself.

Saloons became a second home to young Austin. He started drinking and smoking, then gambling and stealing. He prided himself on his coarse speech, later calling himself “one of the ringleaders in oaths and smutty jokes.”

Austin recalled that he was “young and tender” when he started living on the streets. But as the years progressed, he noted, “my heart became more cold and hard.” He could feel “the enemy’s fangs” as they “sank into my soul and body.”

The coarse engineer married a young woman and they had a son. Austin tried to cover up his drunken and thieving ways by lying to his wife. But he knew that his life was spinning out of control, and he felt incredible guilt over the injustice he was committing against his family. He did not want his son to follow in his footsteps.

Austin had not been to church in 12 years. While Austin had tried to ignore God, he realized he needed to turn his life around, and he knew he could not do it alone. One night, while looking into the stars, he said aloud, “O God, help me to quit gambling.” Starting at that moment, Austin’s faith — birthed out of desperation — took root.

God seemed to chase after Austin. Two weeks before his conversion, Austin was running through a dark tunnel and heard a voice say, “Throw away your tobacco.” He did, and he never tasted it again.

In the meantime, Austin’s wife began attending revival services at a Pentecostal church in San Diego, California. At first, she did not tell Austin, afraid that he might mock her. But she could not keep quiet, and she told him about the miracles she witnessed. Cripples were leaving their crutches, and deaf people could hear again. He agreed to go hear the evangelist.

The revival services were being held in a small hall, which was packed with people. Austin recalled that “people sang as if they meant it,” and he could tell they had something that he was missing. A young sailor sat next to Austin, and when the evangelist called people to the altar, he tried to pull Austin forward for prayer. Austin knew that he needed to go forward, but he did not want to publicly admit that he needed God.

An intense battle ensued between Austin’s ears. He recalled hearing a voice tell him that he was “too big a sinner” to be on his knees in church. This voice, who Austin recognized as the devil, taunted him, telling him that his drinking buddies would laugh at him. But Austin looked past his suffering, had faith in God, and cried out, “O Lord, have mercy on me.”

After an emotional spiritual battle, Austin found himself laying on the floor. He felt spiritual oppression flee, and he felt a sweet peace sweep through his soul. Austin set his heart on Christ and never looked back.

Austin told his family, friends, and coworkers about his conversion. He returned money he had stolen and asked for forgiveness from those he had offended. “There is now no more drinking, no more gambling, no more taking the name of our Lord in vain, no more tobacco,” he wrote. Instead, “old things have passed away and all things have become new.”

Austin studied for the ministry at Berean Bible Institute, an Assemblies of God school in San Diego. He graduated in 1925 and was ordained as an Assemblies of God evangelist in 1926. He continued working as an engineer on the Rock Island, Southern Pacific, and San Diego and Arizona railroads, but he viewed his secular employment as a vehicle for his higher calling – to preach the gospel across the American Southwest. During the next half century, this large, gentle, earnest railroad engineer, armed with his testimony and a Bible, touched countless lives.

Read Clement H. Austin’s testimony, “Saved and Called to Preach,” on pages 12-13 of the Nov. 16, 1929, issue of the Pentecostal Evangel.

Also featured in this issue:

• “Ten Reasons Why I Believe in Divine Healing,” by Thomas G. Atteberry

• “The Extra Portion,” by Mrs. Robert (Marie) Brown

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 Story Behind Boys and Girls Missionary Challenge (BGMC)

BGMC Buddy BarrelThis Week in AG History — November 12, 1967

By Glenn W. Gohr
Originally published on PE-News, 09 November 2017

BGMC is a vibrant Assemblies of God missions program for kids that has a rich history. Originally called Boys and Girls Missionary Crusade, but now known as Boys and Girls Missionary Challenge, BGMC was first introduced at the National Sunday School Convention in Springfield, Missouri, in March 1949. Before that time there was a missions program in place for adults, and a missions program for youth called “Speed the Light,” but nothing for the kids. The concept was developed by Hart Armstrong (1912-2001), a former missionary and editor of Gospel Publishing House Sunday School materials.

BGMC is a program used to promote missions among kids and also raise funds for various missionary projects. It especially focuses on sending out Sunday School and training literature for missionaries to distribute. The first BGMC offering was received in October 1949, and BGMC giving that first year reached $1,290.39.

Barrel banks were chosen as the collection containers because at that time anything sent to a foreign field was packed in sturdy wooden barrels. This evolved into Buddy Barrel becoming the mascot or symbol for BGMC.

The program started with small wooden barrel banks that kids took to their homes in order to collect coins for missions. After collecting coins throughout the month, on a designated Sunday, each Sunday School child would return his or her barrel to give that money in an offering for BGMC. The method has changed from small wooden barrels to larger plastic barrels. The current Buddy Barrel bank is made of transparent plastic. The concept of Buddy Barrel has also evolved into a life-like puppet mascot (a large barrel with a face) that helps to encourage kids to give to BGMC.

The money for BGMC comes from kids giving in Buddy Barrels and adults receiving special offerings. The money is used to support various Assemblies of God missionary projects and ministries. Since 2001, BGMC has been the official children’s missions education program for the Assemblies of God.

In 1950, Frances Foster was appointed to oversee the BGMC program. She remained in this position for 21 years. In 1952, BGMC began to emphasize a specific mission field every year. Throughout the year, emphasis is placed on one field and its missionaries, with a special offering taken up on BGMC Day, which includes the adults in the church.

Fifty years ago, Foster, the BGMC coordinator, wrote an article, “BGMC Comes of Age” in the Nov. 12, 1967, issue of the Pentecostal Evangel. She mentioned that it had been 18 years since the start of BGMC. She said, “Two considerations prompted this missionary program for Assemblies of God children 12 years and under.” One was the “urgent need of a children’s missionary program.” The other consideration was a great need for gospel literature overseas.

According to Foster, “Missionaries needed literature to strengthen their teaching ministry,” as well as for evangelizing. Overseas Bible schools had meager libraries or none at all. Foster asserted, “One of the biggest areas of need was for translating and printing Sunday School literature in foreign languages and dialects.” This is important. Literature sometimes goes where a missionary cannot go and it can remain even after a missionary must leave. Now missionaries can use BGMC funds for anything they need to help them spread the gospel. Only the lack of funds can curtail the impact and effectiveness of BGMC.

At the time of Foster’s article, BGMC giving had reached almost $2 million in 18 years. Since it was started 68 years ago, BGMC has raised more than $145 million for missions. 

Read “BGMC Comes of Age,” on pages 26 and 27 of the Nov. 12, 1967, issue of the Pentecostal Evangel.

Also featured in this issue:

• “Keep Thyself Pure,” by Wilson A. Katter

• “Evangelistic Center Dedicated in Pretoria, South Africa” by Vernon Pettenger

And many more!

Click here to read this issue now.

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

Portions of this article adapted from the BGMC website.

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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Yoido Full Gospel Church: How Women Ministers Fueled the Growth of the World’s Largest Church

Yoido

Deaconesses who helped pioneer Yoido Full Gospel Church, 1960s.

This Week in AG History — November 4, 1979

By Darrin J. Rodgers
Originally published on PE-News, 02 November 2017

Yoido Full Gospel Church (YFGC), with 830,000 members, is well-known for being the largest church in the world. The Assemblies of God congregation, located in Seoul, South Korea, was started by Yonggi Cho in 1958. However, some readers may be surprised to learn that the congregation’s growth is due in large part to the ministry of women. In a 1979 Pentecostal Evangel article, Yonggi Cho shared how the Holy Spirit prompted him to train and empower women ministers — despite the negative view of Korean culture toward women leaders. These women became the backbone of the church’s cell group structure.

Yonggi Cho’s ministry in Seoul began with dreams and visions. As a newly minted Bible college graduate, he had a dream that he was going to someday pastor the largest church in Korea. People scoffed at this dream, which he believed God had given to him. He worked very hard, and after six months he had used all of his sermons and wore himself out.

The young pastor became depressed and grew uncertain of his calling. Up to that point, Yonggi Cho had believed that he had already “graduated” from the “school of the Holy Spirit.” He believed that he could build the church through his own efforts. In desperation, Yonggi Cho cried out to God, seeking guidance for his life and ministry. He sensed God respond, “The Holy Spirit is the senior partner in your ministry. You are the junior partner. Every minute you must recognize Him, welcome Him, and the Holy Spirit will flow through you and bring sinners to your church.”

This realization of the importance of depending on the Holy Spirit was a turning point in Yonggi Cho’s ministry. As he drew close to God, he could sense God’s leading. Doors opened up, countless thousands of people came to faith in Christ, and the church grew.

However, Yonggi Cho began to grow prideful. He was in his 20s and already had 2,500 church members. But with this pride came a fall. He again wore himself out, unable to keep up with the demands of a large and growing congregation. He sensed the Lord direct him to delegate some of his pastoral duties to laypersons, who would establish cell groups that would meet in homes across Seoul.

At first, Yonggi Cho approached various men in the congregation to become leaders of cell groups. The men declined, responding that they lacked proper training and that they did not want to invade the privacy of their homes. They additionally noted, “We pay you to do that kind of work.”

Again discouraged, Yonggi Cho turned to the Lord in prayer. He sensed the Holy Spirit tell him, “Why don’t you try a woman?” He argued with the Lord, replying, “Try a woman! This is not America: this is Korea. In Korea women cannot have leadership.” God began to work in Yonggi Cho’s heart to overcome his cultural prejudice regarding women.

From that moment, Yonggi Cho began to take notice of the numerous examples of women ministers in Scripture. Previously he allowed his culture’s prohibition of women leaders to blind him to the biblical warrant for women in ministry.

Yonggi Cho shared his vision for cell group ministry with some women in the church, and they eagerly asked how they could assist. He began training women how to preach and lead, and women became the backbone of YFGC’s cell groups. The cell groups multiplied rapidly, fueling the congregation’s growth.

Outsiders who marvel at Yoido Full Gospel Church’s size often ask about the senior pastor or the church building, wondering what caused such growth. But Yonggi Cho, in his 1979 Pentecostal Evangel article, instead pointed to the cell groups, led largely by women, which he identified as vital to the church’s growth.

Read Yonggi Cho’s article, “God Gave Me a Dream,” on pages 8 to 11 of the Nov. 4, 1979, issue of the Pentecostal Evangel.

Also featured in this issue:

• “How to Tell False Prophets” by C. M. Ward

• “Standing True in Perilous Times” by Kenneth D. Barney

• “Sinning by Mistake,” by Stanley M. Horton

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

Leave a comment

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