John W. Welch: From Sunday School Organizer to Assemblies of God Chairman


This Week in AG History–July 29, 1939
By Darrin Rodgers

Also published in AG-News, Tue, 29 Jul 2014 – 3:17 PM CST.

John W. Welch (1858-1939), a senior statesman in the Assemblies of God during its first quarter century, went to be with the Lord 75 years ago. He served as chairman (1915-1920 and 1923-1925) and secretary (1920-1923) of the young Fellowship.

Welch accepted Christ at about age 25 and almost immediately launched out into full-time ministry. He worked with the American Sunday School Union, a non-denominational organization dedicated to establishing Sunday Schools in every community. Many of these Sunday Schools worked with the destitute and taught young people without formal educations how to read and write by studying the Bible. Welch proved to be a good organizer and was recognized for opening a large number of Sunday Schools in Virginia.

Despite this success, Welch did not feel worthy to be in the ministry. He left the American Sunday School Union to take a job with General Electric in Schenectady, New York. Welch could not shake God’s call on his life, however. He led numerous people to the Lord during his day job at General Electric, and during the evenings and weekends he and his wife found themselves drawn to the slums and the street corners, where they preached the gospel and helped the needy.

Welch’s call to the ministry did not go unnoticed. When he was 41 years old, Welch was surprised by Christian and Missionary Alliance leaders, who insisted upon ordaining him. They told him, “Brother Welch, you are fully qualified for ordination, and we are going to ordain you.” He consented and, in 1910, he was named superintendent of the Christian and Missionary Alliance churches in Oklahoma. Since there were not yet any in that state, it was up to him to start them. He crisscrossed Oklahoma, holding tent meetings, revival services, and organizing churches.

Welch still felt that he lacked something for the ministry. He had encountered Pentecostals who testified to an experience of baptism in the Holy Spirit which gave them power for ministry. Welch studied scriptures and became convinced that he too needed this Pentecostal baptism. In 1911, he received the experience and became a prominent Pentecostal preacher. Welch became a founding member of the Assemblies of God in 1914.

Upon Welch’s death in 1939, General Superintendent E. S. Williams offered the following eulogy: “In the promotion of Brother Welch we have lost a foundation stone upon which the General Council was founded, a father in the Lord, one blessed with keen judicial sense, a man of clear cut experience and conviction, a proved pillar in times of crisis.”

Read tributes to Welch published in the July 29, 1939, issue of the Pentecostal Evangel.

Also featured in this issue:

* “The Inner Spirit of the Cross,” by George D. Watson

* “Now’s Your Chance, Lord,” by Mrs. Howard Taylor

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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