This Week in AG History–September 8, 1928
By Darrin Rodgers
Also published in AG-News, Mon, 08 Sep 2014 – 4:31 PM CST
Martin Gensichen (1879-1965) came from a long line of German Lutheran ministers. For three centuries, men in his family served Lutheran pulpits in Germany. After Martin accepted Christ in 1900 and sensed a call to the ministry, it was quite natural that he would serve in his ancestral church.
After graduation from seminary, Martin became pastor of a small Lutheran congregation in Germany. Martin was excited to be able to share what he called “simple faith.” Martin preached about sin, repentance, and being born again.
But things did not go well for the earnest young preacher. Martin’s parishioners became angry and stopped attending services after he preached about sin. He preached to empty benches week after week. He felt humiliated.
Martin was not a typical German Lutheran preacher. He had been influenced by the Holiness movement and had experienced a profound work of the Holy Spirit in his life in 1905. His father and grandfather also each had a personal encounter with God and identified with revival movements in their earlier generations. By 1908, Martin had cast his lot with the Pentecostal church, which he deemed to be the revival movement of his generation.
Martin shared his testimony in an article published in the September 8, 1928, issue of the Pentecostal Evangel.
In the article, Martin emphasized the importance of humility in the life of faith. He viewed his earlier humiliation in the Lutheran church, when the members left because he preached against sin, as a spiritual blessing.
God “wanted to break my heart,” Martin wrote. “No one can soar into the heights of faith unless they have first had a broken and a contrite heart. Humility is the soil in which faith can grow.”
When Martin joined the Pentecostal church, he realized that it would cost him dearly in his social circles. He recounted that in the early twentieth century Pentecostals were “much despised,” even by many evangelicals in Germany. Instead of resenting the fact that his faith marginalized him from broader society, he embraced his low social position. He wrote, “We must learn to rejoice when we suffer or are despised.”
Humility, Martin believed, is not just necessary for individuals. It is necessary for nations, too. Before the outbreak of the First World War in 1914, Germany was flexing its military and economic might around the world. German leaders oversaw colonies and envisioned themselves as rivaling the British Empire. Martin was troubled by Germany’s imperial ambitions. Martin’s primary interest was in building God’s kingdom, rather than the German Empire. Furthermore, he believed that revival would not come to Germany unless it had been humbled.
Martin’s theology of humility caused him to reject movements that placed excessive pride in one’s own nation. He wrote, “God set me free from nationalism. I am neither German, nor American, nor English — I belong to heaven.”
Martin also applied this theology of humility to education. He identified himself as a “German theologian,” noting that he had studied for 20 years to master Greek and Hebrew. While affirming the value of education, he also noted that “Our intellect is much too small to comprehend the vastness of His love.”
The young Lutheran pastor who experienced humiliation because he wanted to preach “simple faith” became a prominent Pentecostal leader in Germany. His testimony continues to remind new generations that faith and humility go hand in hand.
Read the article by Martin Gensichen, “Honoring God by Simple Faith,” on pages 1, 8 and 9 of the September 8, 1928, issue of the Pentecostal Evangel.
Also featured in this issue:
* “God’s Conditional Covenant to Heal His People,” by John Roach Straton
* “Standing for the Pentecostal Testimony,” by Jacob Miller
* “Report of Assemblies in Russia,” by Ivan Voronaev
And many more!
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