Elmer F. Muir: A Baptist Pastor Discovers the Power of the Holy Spirit

Elmer F. Muir

Elmer F. Muir

This Week in AG History–April 25, 1925

By Darrin Rodgers

Also published in PE News, 23 April 2015

A Pentecostal revival in the 1920s touched numerous Baptist ministers and churches, resulting in the cross-pollination of the two traditions. High-profile Baptists who became Pentecostal included Mae Eleanor Frey, an evangelist and author ordained by the National Baptist Convention in 1905, and William Keeney Towner, pastor of First Baptist Church in San Jose, California.

Many lesser-known Baptist ministers also embraced the Pentecostal movement, but their stories have been largely forgotten. Among these was Elmer F. Muir, a pastor who had experienced great discouragement in his ministry. He was spiritually refreshed by the winds of Pentecostal revival. He received the baptism in the Holy Spirit and testified that he experienced “the deep things of God.” Muir’s testimony was published in the April 25, 1925, issue of the Pentecostal Evangel.

Elmer Ferguson Muir (1890-1947), the son of Scottish immigrants, was born in Dubuque, Iowa. He received a call to the ministry at age 21 while attending a revival campaign held by legendary evangelist Billy Sunday. Muir quickly discovered that the road to the ministry would be challenging. Muir had dropped out of high school, but his Presbyterian denomination required that ministers have a college degree. He enrolled at Coe College, a Presbyterian school in Iowa, where he recalled “burning the candle at both ends” both day and night for five years. He graduated from Coe College in 1917 and became a Baptist pastor.

Muir served as pastor of the Baptist church in Arkansas City, Kansas, in the early 1920s. He sometimes found the work of the ministry overwhelming. He described a revival campaign at his church: “It was one that was worked up instead of prayed down.” The experience wore him out. He wrote, “I never want to go through one again, it was dental work from beginning to end.”

Muir received a fine theological education. However, he came to realize that he needed more than mere knowledge “to bring about this great, wonderful program of God.” What did he need? He was uncertain. He recalled, “But how [the program of God] was to be brought about I had no conception.”

To add to his problems, a lady in Muir’s congregation kept asking him if he had been baptized in the Holy Spirit. He was not sure how to answer. At first, he responded that the experience was only for the early church. She kept pestering Muir for over two years until he relented. Finally, he agreed to preach one Wednesday night on the subject of the baptism in the Holy Spirit. He titled the sermon, “Has the Church Lost Its Power?” But as Muir studied the Word of God, he came to realize that the lady in his congregation had been right – the baptism in the Holy Spirit was for him, and it could empower him in ministry.

Muir and his wife both sought and received the baptism in the Holy Spirit and spoke in tongues. At first, Muir was hesitant to tell his congregation. What would people say? Ultimately, he shared his Pentecostal testimony and was forced to resign from the church. He transferred his ministerial credentials to the Assemblies of God in 1925 and started a small congregation (now known as First Assembly of God, Arkansas City, Kansas). In 1927 he moved to San Diego, California, where he pastored Full Gospel Tabernacle. He also edited a book of articles by Pentecostal missionary Cornelia Nuzum, The Life of Faith. The book, originally published by Gospel Published House in 1928, remains in print 87 years later.

Elmer F. Muir decided to transfer his credentials back to the Baptist church in 1929. He resigned from the Assemblies of God in good standing and spent the rest of his ministry in Baptist churches. Muir’s ministry in the Assemblies of God lasted only four years, but it demonstrates the porous borders between the Assemblies of God and other evangelical denominations. The Pentecostal movement has helped to refresh many ministers and laypersons from other denominations, some of whom ultimately returned to their former churches. This cross-pollination between the Assemblies of God and other churches helped to build bridges across the denominational divides, laying the foundation for future generations who would be more concerned with building the kingdom of God rather than a particular denomination.

Read Elmer F. Muir’s powerful testimony, “Why I Am No Longer a Baptist Preacher,” on pages 2 and 3 of the April 25, 1925, issue of the Pentecostal Evangel.

Also featured in this issue:

• “Our Great Equipment,” by A. H. Argue

• “A Notable Miracle,” by Amelia De Franchi

• “Healed of Paralysis,” by G. E. Wolfe

And many more!

Click here to read this issue now.

Click here to order a copy of Cornelia Nuzum’s classic book, The Life of Faith, which was edited by Elmer F. Muir.

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

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