Category Archives: Biography

T. B. Barratt: Norwegian Pentecostal Pioneer

Barratt

T. B. Barratt with his wife, Laura; circa 1928.

This Week in AG History — October 20, 1957

By Darrin J. Rodgers
Originally published on PE-News, 19 October 2017

Thomas Ball Barratt (1862-1940), born to a Methodist family in England, became the most prominent Pentecostal pioneer in Norway. Barratt was recognized at a young age for being a gifted writer, artist, and composer of music. He could have succeeded in numerous professions. But following a life-changing encounter with God, the young Barratt dedicated his life to sharing the gospel.

When Barratt was four years old, his parents immigrated to Norway, where his father worked as a miner. At age 11, Barratt’s parents sent him back to England to attend a Methodist school, where he committed his life to God during a revival. After he moved back to Norway at age 16, he became a member of Stavanger Temperance Society and became a joyful advocate of heartfelt faith and godly living.

When Barratt returned to Norway, he initially began working as his father’s assistant. However, Barratt’s artistic abilities opened other doors. He studied under Norway’s greatest composer, Edvard Grieg, and under noted artist Olaf Dahl. By age 17, he began preaching in Methodist churches. He became an ordained Methodist deacon (1889) and elder (1891) and pastored several churches.

With a deep interest in spiritual things, Barratt became a prominent proponent of revival in Norway. Through the Oslo City Mission, which he founded in 1902, and its periodical, Byposten, Barratt encouraged people to draw close to God.

In 1906, Barratt traveled to America to raise funds for the Oslo City Mission. Although he failed to raise much money, he returned to Norway with something else that would change the trajectory of his ministry. Barratt had heard testimonies about the emerging Pentecostal revival at the interracial Azusa Street Mission in Los Angeles, and his heart grew hungry for a deeper experience of God. Just before going back to Norway, he stopped at the Holiness Mission in New York City, where some of the gospel workers had been baptized in the Holy Spirit. These newly-baptized Pentecostals, Robert A. Brown and Marie Burgess, prayed with Barratt. He spent an extended period of time seeking God at the altar. After he “emptied” his soul of self, he received the Pentecostal experience with the evidence of speaking in tongues.

Upon his return to Norway, Barratt began promoting the Pentecostal message. He endured criticism by those who mocked the reported emotionalism of the Azusa Street Mission. The Methodist Church revoked his ministerial credentials, and his mission and newspaper were given to his assistant. Barratt had to start over, building up his ministry from scratch. Despite these impediments, Barratt kept his focus on the gospel and not on his critics. Crowds thronged to hear Barratt wherever he went. He founded the Filadelfia Church in Oslo, which grew to about 2,000 members. Pentecostal churches were soon organized across the nation. Under the leadership of Barratt, the Pentecostal movement in Norway became the second largest Protestant church in Norway, second only to the Lutheran church. Barratt’s influence also spread to North America, where he traveled on occasion and preached in English to American and Canadian audiences.

The story of T. B. Barratt is a reminder of the global scope of the Pentecostal movement. Barratt, an Englishman raised in Norway, identified with the Pentecostal revival during a visit to the United States. Barratt’s testimony also demonstrates that early Pentecostals prioritized the spiritual life. Barratt modeled heartful, joyful faith, which he lived out in a godly lifestyle. From his earliest days of ministry as a Methodist to his latter years as a Pentecostal statesman, he consistently emphasized the importance of deep faith. Barratt was willing to take risks to follow God’s will. And because he did, the religious landscape in Norway has never been the same.

The Pentecostal Evangel featured the story of Thomas Ball Barratt in 1957, in celebration of the 50th anniversary of Pentecostalism in Norway. Read the article, “Norway’s Pentecostal Jubilee,” on page 20 of the Oct. 20, 1957, issue of the Pentecostal Evangel.

Also featured in this issue:

* “A Thirst for God,” by A. M. Alber

* “Where is the Lord God of Elijah?” by James A. Stewart

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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New Life in the Spirit: How Two Presbyterian Missionaries Became Assemblies of God Pioneers in India

CummingsThis Week in AG History — October 14, 1962

By Glenn W. Gohr
Originally published on PE-News, 12 October 2017

Robert Cummings (1892-1972) and his wife Mildred (1892-1981) originally were sent out by the United Presbyterian Church of North America as missionaries to India. Through a series of events, the couple received the baptism in the Holy Spirit while on the mission field and then became appointed missionaries with the Assemblies of God. They had a distinguished career as missionaries and Bible instructors. Fifty-five years ago, in the Oct. 14, 1962, issue of the Pentecostal Evangel, Robert Cummings wrote an article, “What God Taught Me,” describing how he came to accept the baptism in the Holy Spirit.

The son of United Presbyterian missionaries, Cummings was born and raised in Punjab, India, and attended school there. At age 15, he attended a preparatory school in the U.S. and latter attained two bachelor’s degrees and two master’s degrees. He was ordained in 1918 with the United Presbyterian Church and served a year as a chaplain in the U.S. Army.

Robert Cummings was appointed as a missionary with the United Presbyterian Church in 1920. While on the mission field, Robert and Mildred worked with various missionary agencies before becoming independent missionaries. Robert became principal of the Landour Language School in India where he rubbed shoulders with a number of Assemblies of God missionaries.

After reading the life of Charles Finney, Robert Cummings was struck by Finney’s description of his own spiritual experience, which felt like “waves and waves of liquid love.” Cummings began praying himself to be filled with the Holy Spirit. His wife was also seeking the Pentecostal blessing. During the Easter holidays of 1924, Mildred Cummings was wonderfully baptized in the Holy Spirit. Robert kept seeking and did not receive the Baptism until after he attended a prayer retreat in January 1925.

As he was walking along a canal bank in India and was praising God, he sensed God saying to him: “You really are not praising Me and praying for My glory because you are anxious for My glory, but because you want your Baptism.” Cummings realized this was true. He felt the Lord put a new prayer in his heart, “O God! Be Thou glorified at any cost to me.” Later that day he continued in prayer and praise, “O God! Be thou exalted and glorified in each of Thy children, in me. Let Thy name be vindicated and magnified at any cost to me.” This prayer brought on a time of weeping followed by an indescribable sense of the majesty and greatness of God. His heart then was filled with joy and even laughter as he felt a strong presence of God’s Spirit.

The next day as he continued praying, the Lord began to speak many things to him. Most of all, Cummings wanted to be yielded completely to God, including his tongue. He revealed, “As I yielded it to Him He spoke through me in a language which I did not know or understand.” He felt God’s power flowing through him in a life-changing way.

After being baptized in the Holy Spirit, Robert Cummings joined the Assemblies of God. During World War II, the Cummings family left India, and Robert was appointed director of missions at Central Bible Institute (now Evangel University). Receiving appointment with the Assemblies of God, he went back to India as a missionary in 1946. He served as field secretary for South Asia from 1946-1948. In this capacity, he and his wife traveled extensively throughout India and Ceylon, representing the Assemblies of God and continued in missionary work through 1961. After retiring from missionary work, he again served on the faculty of Central Bible Institute.

Looking back on his years of missionary service and the time he received the baptism in the Holy Spirit, Cummings declared, “I can testify that this experience back in India has meant to me new life, a new world, a new Saviour, a new Spirit.”

Read Robert Cummings’ testimony, “What God Taught Me,” on pages 4, 5, and 29 of the Oct. 14, 1962, issue of the Pentecostal Evangel.

Also featured in this issue:

• “A Day at Azusa Street” by Stanley M. Horton
• “God’s Thoroughbred” by Jack West
• “Revival on Guam”

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 PE-News, 5 October 2017

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.

Joseph Smale - FBCLA

Photo courtesy of First Baptist Church of Los Angeles Archives

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.

When 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 just republished The Pentecostal Blessing, which was officially released as part of its “Spirit-Empowered Classics” series on Oct. 3, 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.

Click here for more information about the newly-republished edition of The Pentecostal Blessing.

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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From the Cabaret to Musical Evangelist: Meyer Tan-Ditter, Jewish Assemblies of God Pioneer

tan-ditter-p8834

This Week in AG History — September 30, 1962

By Darrin J. Rodgers
Originally published on PE-News, 28 September 2017

Meyer Tan-Ditter (1896-1962) was an unlikely candidate to become an Assemblies of God evangelist and missionary. Born into an Orthodox Jewish home in London, England, Tan-Ditter abandoned his family’s strict religious standards when he reached adulthood. A gifted musician, he spent seven years playing in cabarets. He spent considerable time at race tracks, where he exercised horses. For nearly five years, he traveled the world in the British Naval Service and the American Merchant Marine. Tan-Ditter later described himself as living “the life of a sailor.” He spread his wings and imbibed deeply in the ways of the world.

A friendship with a Christian woman – known to history only as “Sister Wicks” – changed the trajectory of Tan-Ditter’s life. Wicks, knowing that the young man came from an observant Jewish background, began asking him about his childhood faith. At first, he resented her questions. He was not interested in discussing religion. Furthermore, his family had taught him to distrust Christians.

Wicks continued to show esteem for both Tan-Ditter and for Jewish traditions. Over time, he opened up to her. She asked about his thoughts regarding the identity of the Messiah, but she carefully refrained from mentioning the name of Jesus. Her inquiries sparked questions in Tan-Ditter’s mind. He was already very familiar with the Talmud and the Torah, and he began to suspect that it could be possible that the Messiah had already come.

One night while staying at his parents’ home, something jostled Tan-Ditter awake. He was startled to see a glow with a bright lighting shining in his eyes. The longer he stared at the light, the clearer it became. He soon realized that it was the face of Jesus Christ in the light! He jumped out of bed and ran into the kitchen, nervous and shocked.

His mother came into the kitchen and asked what was wrong. He was not sure what to say. His vision seemed to confirm what he already suspected – that Jesus could be the Messiah. He knew that his family would disown him if he confessed this belief. Finally, he told her that he had just seen Jesus in a vision.

Tan-Ditter’s mother began weeping, thinking that her son must be either crazy or apostate. Rumors circulated about his vision. A little while later his father asked, “What is this I hear? I hear you are becoming a Christian.” Tan-Ditter answered, “I am not becoming one, I have been one for three weeks.” His father immediately kicked his son out of the house and asked him to never return. The local Jewish community ostracized him, and people would come up to him on the streets and mockingly ask him to describe what Jesus looked like. Following Jesus would be costly.

Sister Wicks provided a room for the 25-year-old homeless convert and encouraged him to seek God in prayer. For 10 days, Tan-Ditter spent extended times of prayer on his knees. He asked God to show him whether Isaiah chapter 53 does indeed refer to Jesus. His vision of Jesus as Messiah held fast. His father brought him to two rabbis, who cross-examined the young man. But he held his vision of Jesus close to his heart, and the rabbis could not shake his faith.

Tan-Ditter received another vision. This time he saw an angel carrying a large book come into his room. The angel told him to eat the book, which he did. The next morning he awoke with a great hunger to share the message of Jesus Christ with the Jewish people. This vision propelled Tan-Ditter toward a life of ministry to the Jewish people.

To prepare for this calling, Tan-Ditter attended two Assemblies of God schools. He initially enrolled at Beulah Heights Bible Institute in North Bergen, New Jersey (now University of Valley Forge). After one year, he transferred to Bethel Bible Training School in Newark, New Jersey (now Evangel University). He graduated in 1922, was ordained as an Assemblies of God evangelist in 1924, and married Alice Laura French in 1926. Together, they served in pastoral ministry and became well-known musical evangelists and missionaries.

The Tan-Ditters served as missionaries to the Jewish people in the United States until Meyer’s death in 1962. Alice passed away in 1975. The couple did not have children.

Meyer Tan-Ditter’s testimony illustrates several themes in Pentecostal history. Many early Pentecostal converts testified that signs and wonders drew them to faith. Likewise, Tan-Ditter’s vision confirmed, in his mind, that Jesus was the Messiah. Early Pentecostals also often found that serving Jesus was costly. And Tan-Ditter was not the only early Pentecostal whose Jewish background and knowledge of Hebrew scripture proved to be a strong foundation for Pentecostal faith. Myer Pearlman, the noted Assemblies of God systematic theologian from the 1920s through the 1940s, had a similar testimony. The Assemblies of God, mirroring the Book of Acts, proved fertile ground for both Jews and Gentiles.

Read Meyer Tan-Ditter’s obituary on page 23 of the Sept. 30, 1962, issue of the Pentecostal Evangel.

Also featured in this issue:

• “Open Doors in the Congo,” by Gail Winters

• “Dedicated to Sacrifice,” by Anthony Sorbo

• “Pioneering among the Deaf and among the Hearing,” by Maxine Strobridge

And many more!

Click here to read this issue now.

Click here to read Meyer Tan-Ditter’s testimony, “How God Got Hold of a Jew,” published on page 8 of the January 22, 1927, issue of the Pentecostal Evangel.

Pentecostal Evangel archived editions courtesy of 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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Etta Calhoun: Pioneer Pentecostal and Founder of Assemblies of God Women’s Ministries

Etta Calhoun

Etta Calhoun, 1901

This Week in AG History — September 14, 1969

By Ruthie Edgerly Oberg
Originally published on PE-News, 14 September 2017

Etta Gray Fields Calhoun (1870-1940), a wife and mother from Texas, was convinced that women could make a world of difference if they banded together and put their time, money, and prayer into joint efforts rather than separate missions projects. She was the founder of the Assemblies of God Women’s Missionary Council (now Assemblies of God National Women’s Ministries) and is the name behind the Etta Calhoun Fund (now Touch the World Fund) which has supplied indoor equipment for missions institutions since 1957.

Born on September 19, 1870, to devout Methodist parents, Calhoun showed an early interest in community involvement. As a teenager, she began working with the Women’s Christian Temperance Union (WCTU). The WCTU educated the public regarding the social evils of alcohol and gave women the opportunity to develop leadership and public speaking skills. At age 20, she became a speaker for the WCTU and learned valuable lessons about organizing women together for a cause.

During this time, she became an ordained minister for the Methodist church and felt a call to missions. However, her mother became seriously ill and Calhoun moved from Ohio to Orchard, Texas, to help care for her mother. She began teaching school and, in 1899, married Marion Fields, a successful businessman with Houston Electrical Company. Moving to Houston, they worked together to use their financial blessings to reach out to the needy around them.

In 1905, an evangelist named Charles Parham brought the Pentecostal message to Orchard. Calhoun visited the meetings and received the baptism in the Holy Spirit with the evidence of speaking in tongues and shared her experience with her pastor. Their church soon became a part of the fledgling Pentecostal movement.

Mr. Fields’ health began to deteriorate and his wife cared for him until his death in 1921. Etta Fields then married John Calhoun of Houston. They attended the Full Gospel Mission Assembly of God church where, in 1925, Calhoun organized the women into a prayer band for missions. After several weeks of meeting together for prayer, Calhoun began to encourage them to consider ways in which God might want to use them to meet the needs of the missions field. At her encouragement, their first project was to sew clothes for the 300 children at Lillian Trasher’s orphanage in Assiout, Egypt.

Building upon the organizational skills she learned as a young woman in the WCTU, Calhoun began traveling to other Assemblies of God churches and districts to organize Women’s Missionary Councils. In September 1925, the General Council of the Assemblies of God recognized these organizations as extensions of Assemblies of God ministries. In 1951 the Women’s Missionary Council became an official national department in Springfield, Missouri.

Calhoun continued in ministry, teaching at Southern California Bible School (now Vanguard University) and Southern Bible Institute (now Southwestern Assemblies of God University) until her death in 1940. In 1957, the Women’s Missionary Council formed the Etta Calhoun Fund, using her birthday, September 19, as an important day for offerings to be taken for the purpose of supplying missions school and institutions with indoor equipment.

The Etta Calhoun Fund is now known as the Touch the World Fund and is still observed on the Sunday closest to Calhoun’s birthday. One of its many projects for the September 17, 2017, offering is to provide beds and mattresses, couches, tables, chairs, a refrigerator and a stove to Timothy’s Abode, a missionary training school in Catamayo, Ecuador, under the direction of missionaries Ron and Esther Marcotte.

Read an article about the 1969 Etta Calhoun offering on page 14 of the September 14, 1969, Pentecostal Evangel.

Also featured in this issue:

• “On Course for God” by Norman Correll

• “Christ is Our Priest” by T. J. Jones

• “The Great Revival of 1857″ by Harold A. Fischer

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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Wesley Steelberg: The Christ’s Ambassadors and Revivaltime Pioneer who became General Superintendent

SteelbergThis Week in AG History — July 27, 1952

By Ruthie Edgerly Oberg
Originally published on PE-News, 27 July 2017

“With deep regret we announce the passing of our beloved General Superintendent, Wesley R. Steelberg, on July 8, 1952.”  This statement in the July 27, 1952, Pentecostal Evangel informed the constituency of the Assemblies of God of the vacancy in the General Superintendent’s office left by the sudden death of 50-year-old Steelberg (1902-1952).

At the age of 16, Steelberg was known as “The Boy Preacher.”  Born to Methodist parents in 1902, Steelberg was converted at the age of 8 while attending a children’s meeting at the Pentecostal Assembly in Denver, Colorado. While praying at the altar, a mother knelt beside him and encouraged him to begin to ask the Lord to fill him with the Holy Spirit. God answered his prayer that night and a Pentecostal preacher was born.

Steelberg’s young body had been sorely twisted by the effects of spinal meningitis. When God healed him in the Pentecostal church both of his parents joined the movement and encouraged their young son to follow God’s call. Steelberg worked at various trades from carpentry to racecar mechanic but always studied the Bible in his spare time. He began speaking, first in his home assembly, and then branching out into other opportunities as pastors would open their pulpit to the young preacher.

In 1919, an evangelist invited him to join on an evangelistic tour of the Northwest. That same year he was ordained with the 5-year-old Assemblies of God. (Steelberg would later, briefly, turn in his credentials when it was decided that no one could be ordained until he was 21.) During this time, Steelberg struggled with physical ailments and only felt relief when he fully consecrated himself to be willing even to die if that was what the work required.

Later that same year, at age 17, Steelberg became associate pastor at Victoria Hall in Los Angeles where he met Ruth Fisher, the daughter of Elmer Fisher, pastor of the Upper Room Mission. They were married and to this marriage were born four children: Wesley Paul, Juanita, Esther, and Marvel.

The Steelberg’s were soon called to the pastorate of Stockton, California, where he conceived the idea of a great Pentecostal youth movement. He organized many “Pentecostal Ambassadors for Christ” groups throughout the Northern California-Nevada District which later fully developed into a national ministry called “Christ’s Ambassadors.”

Later pastoring in Sacramento and Philadelphia, the young preacher became known as someone who displayed a rare combination of faithfulness to the old paths of Pentecostalism while aggressively meeting the challenges of the days in which he lived. While pastoring in Philadelphia, he saw the value of radio preaching and began to develop this ministry.

It was during this time that Steelberg came to the attention of the larger body of the Assemblies of God and was elected to serve as an Executive Presbyter and then as superintendent of the New York-New Jersey District. At age 43, he was elected one of four assistant general superintendents and was given charge of the Christ’s Ambassador’s ministry at the general headquarters. Upon the retirement of E. S. Williams in 1949, Steelberg was elected general superintendent.

In this capacity, as in every other position he had filled, he gave himself unsparingly to the task. Having struggled throughout his life with a weakness in body, he often worked far beyond his natural strength. Though he was never heard to complain, the travel required for his ministry often took a great toll on him. In March of 1952, he suffered a severe attack which left him confined to his bed for several weeks.

Against the advice of others, Steelberg summoned enough strength to record a few more broadcasts of the new Revivaltime radio program, initiated to replace Williams’ former program, Sermons in Song. Under the conviction that he should act in faith and that God would meet him as he went ahead, Steelberg made the long journey in late May to Great Britain for the World Conference of Pentecostal Churches.

He stopped in Cardiff, Wales, on June 7 for a Revivaltime Radio Rally and literally “preached his heart out.” That night’s effort was the final one for the boy preacher. He never left his bed again until his death a month later. His predecessor, E. S. Williams, said of him, “Even when physical strength was unequal to the demands which his office made upon him, he gladly gave his all. God has seen his fidelity and has now promoted him to the Paradise above.”

Steelberg left behind an old song book that he used as a young teenager. In it he wrote his name, “Wesley Rowland Steelberg” and underneath “All for Jesus.”  He lived for only 50 years, but those years left a legacy to the Assemblies of God: the youth ministry, Christ’s Ambassadors; Revivaltime Radio; and the example of one who gave his last full measure of devotion to the cause of Christ.

Read the full article, “Brother Steelberg Is With the Lord,” on page 5 of the July 27, 1952, issue of the Pentecostal Evangel.

Also featured in this issue:

“An Outstanding End-Time Sign,” by J. Narver Gortner

“Popularity or Adversity,” by Vance Havner

“Caleb, One of the Two,” by Hermes Broadhead

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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Zelma Argue: Pioneer Pentecostal Evangelist and Writer

Argue Zelma

A. H. Argue (right) standing with his son Watson (left) and daughter Zelma (center) in front of a car at the Ohio State Pentecostal Camp Meeting at Findlay, Ohio.

This Week in AG History — July 24, 1937

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

Zelma Argue (1900-1980) was the daughter, sister, sister-in-law, aunt, and cousin of great preachers. When her father, A. H. Argue, was asked on an evangelistic campaign, “Where is (your wife)?” his answer came quickly, “Oh! She’s at home raising the preachers.” As an evangelist with her family, Zelma ably filled the pulpit, but it seems she was even more productive with her pen.

Upon her ordination and embarkment on the evangelistic trail in 1920, her family gave her a writing set and a portable typewriter. Over the next 60 years she put them to good use, penning eight books and writing for at least seven periodicals, including nearly 200 articles for the Pentecostal Evangel. Her first article, “Buying Gold,” appeared in the March 5, 1921, edition and her final article, “Threefold Purpose of the Baptism in the Holy Spirit” was published on March 23, 1980, just two months after her death.

Argue wrote with a passion, challenging readers that the Christian life must carry an ever-increasing surrender to God’s service. While her words were oftentimes hard, she wrote in such a way that the resulting effect did not convey condemnation but conviction. Her common topics were intimacy with God, revival, prayer, worship, and the importance of soul-winning.

In an article in the July 24, 1937, Pentecostal Evangel, “The Next Towns Also: A Plea for Fresh Efforts at Direct Evangelism,” Argue examines the practical application of the words of Jesus in Mark 1:38, “Let us go into the next towns also…” In this passage, Christ is at the beginning of his ministry and has reached a zenith of popularity in Capernaum; so much so that He found the need to search for a solitary place, prompting Peter to remind Him that “all men seek for thee!”

Argue makes the proposition that Jesus was at a crisis point in ministry — one that we often face, as well. If He chose to stay in Capernaum it seemed that all would be going His way. If He chose to move on, He had no idea the reception He would face in another town. In addition, if He focused on others, what would happen to those whom He left behind? Argue states, “but in solitude He had heard from above. His answer was ready: ‘Let us go into the next towns, that I may preach there also, for therefore came I forth.’ These last words seem to suggest that He had been pondering deeply and had only reached His conclusion by recalling what He must never forget: the goal set before Him.”

Argue illustrates the importance of consistently reaching out into new fields by comparing the church to a lively home where there are little children for whom to care. She argues that the home with babies is a much happier spot than a home where all the inhabitants were adults who “had little to do but sit around and disagree” with each other. She plainly states that an assembly with a stream of new blood constantly pouring into it was God’s best for a contented home church: “Fresh kindling catches fire better than burnt over wood!”

The genius of Argue’s writing is that she not only points out the need for reaching beyond current borders but offers practical solutions that can be easily and quickly implemented. She says that in “railroad stations and other public places I never see a box of Christian Science literature that I do not feel that we should have a box of Evangels.” She encourages churches to consider moving evening services into a tent for the summer or renting out a building in another part of town when having a guest speaker so that new ears are exposed to the gospel message.

Fifty years before they were widely popular, she encourages “Branch Sunday Schools” conducted in neighborhoods outside the church building to reach children and their families. Argue also admonishes churches to consider having meetings at different times of the day and week to reach those whose schedules or lifestyle is not conducive to Sunday or evening services. She also suggests that church take advantage of technological advances, like radio programming, to expand to new fields.

She pleads with readers that “not only foreign fields, but our next towns, our neighborhoods, our next-door neighbors, may present fields of opportunity … if someone will leave the well-tilled and well-reaped field, and search out those not yet reached, as Jesus Himself sought so faithfully to do.” His vision includes “the next town,” and ours must, also.

The Argue family continues to bless the Pentecostal movement with great Pentecostal preachers, such as David Argue (former Assemblies of God Executive Presbyter) and Don Argue (the first Pentecostal to serve as president of the National Association of Evangelicals). However, few would contest that some of the best preaching in the Argue family came through the pen of the lifelong spinster aunt, Zelma Argue.

Read the full article, “The Next Towns Also,” on page 2 of the July 24, 1937, issue of the Pentecostal Evangel.

Also featured in this issue:

“Spiritual Promotion,” by W.E. Moody

“Pioneering in Nicaragua, by Melvin Hodges

“Healed of Pneumonia and Tuberculosis,” by Eunice Bailey

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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