Category Archives: Biography

Arvid Ohrnell: Pioneer Assemblies of God Prison Chaplain

Ohrnell

Arvid Ohrnel standing (left) with a man in a prison uniform at a banquet; circa 1955

This Week in AG History —November 9, 1958

By Glenn W. Gohr
Originally published on AG News, 08 November 2018

Arvid Ohrnell (1891-1963), who served as the first National Prison Chaplain for the Assemblies of God in the U.S., was born in Vadstena, Sweden. He was bullied in his youth, so he began lifting weights and exercising in order to defend himself. His plan worked, and he was able to escape further bullying. After seeing how children and grown-ups can be mistreated, he decided to dedicate himself to helping outcasts and the downtrodden. He committed his life to Christ at age 14.

In 1911, Ohrnell entered school at H. S. Enkoping and studied theology, psychology, mathematics, penology, journalism, and languages. He was baptized in water in 1915, and the next year he was baptized in the Holy Spirit.

In 1916, Ohrnell lived in Gothenburg and began preaching the gospel. The fall of 1917 he moved to Uppsala and opened a butcher shop. One day a man from Långholmen Prison in Stockholm came to the door. He had just been released from prison, and he was looking for a job. Ohrnell gave the man food and provisions to help his family and also helped him to find employment. This was his first contact with prisoners. He came to realize that it was very difficult for ex-prisoners to gain people’s confidence and to be accepted back into society.

Ohrnell attended Bible school at the Filadelfia Church, the flagship Pentecostal congregation in Stockholm, and was ordained there on Dec. 2, 1919. Soon after this, he pioneered churches in Gustafs, Borlange, and Palsboda, Sweden.

Next he felt called to pursue opportunities in journalism. He wrote articles for newspapers in Norway, Denmark, Germany, and Austria. He also was instrumental in the creation of a prison division for the Swedish Pentecostal movement. Because of his work in penology, he completed five books on prison work, two of which were used as texts in European universities. He published a number of pamphlets and booklets, including In the Evening of Time and Cell No. 3: A Prisoner’s Life Stories, as well as several Bible study courses. His works have been published in English, Swedish, Norwegian, and Spanish.

His prison work carried him to Germany and eventually to Prague, Czechoslovakia, where he was advised by a friend that he could have a much greater influence among outcasts and prisoners if he were to minister in a democratic society. So in 1925, Ohrnell immigrated to the United States.

He arrived in Chicago and began holding services for a group of Swedish people. Later he served as chairman of the Independent Assemblies of God (a Pentecostal group formed by Scandinavian-Americans) and was assistant editor of their newspaper. While in Chicago, he met Anna Astrid Larson, a Swedish immigrant herself. She was a 1924 graduate of Rochester Bible School. They were married in 1929. In 1933 he moved to Seattle, Washington, where he pastored the Philadelphia Church and also visited the local prisons.

By 1935, he had gained so much respect in the institutions that he visited, that the governor of Washington appointed Ohrnell as the state prison chaplain. This was the opportunity of a lifetime. As state prison chaplain, he was not content just to preach to inmates. He wanted to educate them while in confinement and help with their rehabilitation upon release. He took a personal interest in every inmate he met. He eventually interviewed thousands of prisoners and accompanied 32 men on their “last walk” to the place of execution. Twenty-seven of these had accepted Christ while in prison.

Ohrnell transferred his ordination to the Assemblies of God in 1937. After 16 years as chaplain for Washington State penal institutions in Walla Walla and Monroe, he accepted a position as the first national prison chaplain for the Assemblies of God in 1951. He saw this as an opportunity to extend his work to hundreds of prisons and thousands of inmates. He developed and expanded prison ministry in the Assemblies of God. He wrote extensive letters to inmates and their families, as well as to prison and government officials. He prayed and counseled with inmates in many states, distributed countless Bible study courses, and became a true friend to prisoners everywhere. Refusing to ever retire, he worked tirelessly on behalf of outcasts and prisoners until his death in 1973.

Sixty years ago, in an article titled, “Touring the Prisons,” National Prison Chaplain Arvid Ohrnell gave a report of visiting 11 state prisons, three county jails, and 40 Assemblies of God churches during a four-month period. Ohrnell left Springfield, Missouri, in May 1958 and did not return until the end of September. He preached, gave out hundreds of Bibles, as well as hundreds of Bible study courses, and Freedom leaflets, and a few Bible dictionaries. Glowing testimonies were reported in each place he ministered. Today, Chaplaincy Ministries are a part of AG U.S. Missions.

Read “Touring the Prisons,” by Arvid Ohrnell on pages 16-18 of the Nov. 9, 1948, issue of the Pentecostal Evangel.

Also featured in this issue:

• “Israel’s 10th Anniversary,” by Louis H. Hauff

• “Turning the Wide-Angle Lens on Latin America,” by C. L. Carden

• “The Importance of Prayer,” by J. Bashford Bishop

And many more!

Click here to read this issue now.

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

Further information can be found in “Arvid Ohrnell: The Prisoner’s Friend,” on pages 8-13, 30-31 of the Fall 1997 issue of Assemblies of God Heritage magazine.

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: http://www.iFPHC.org

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George Jeffreys: The Boy Who Overcame a Speech Impediment to Become a Prominent British Pentecostal Evangelist

George JeffreysThis Week in AG History —October 30, 1920

By Glenn W. Gohr
Originally published on AG News, 01 November 2018

George Jeffreys (1889-1962) was possibly the most gifted preacher that the British Pentecostal Movement ever produced. He had a bold resonant voice and a magnetic personality. He had a solid background in the Bible and loved to share the gospel message. But this was not always the case.

George was the son of a miner, Thomas Jeffreys, of Nantyffylon, Maesteg, Wales. His family belonged to the Welsh Independent (Congregational) church. In his youth, George suffered from a speech impediment and showed the beginnings of facial paralysis. His life was about to change. Together with his older brother, Stephen, George was converted in the revival at Shiloh Independent Chapel in Nantyfyllon, Wales on Nov. 20, 1904, under the evangelistic ministry of Glassnant Jones. This was during the Welsh Revival.

When the Pentecostal movement was introduced to Wales early in 1908, George and Stephen were both opposed to the new revival. But after Stephen’s son, Edward, was baptized in the Spirit, the two Jeffreys brothers sought this experience for themselves. In 1911 George was baptized in the Spirit and received healing of his speech.

George was mentored by Cecil Polhill, who helped him to receive specialized Bible training under Thomas Myerscough at the Pentecostal Missionary Union Bible School at Preston, England, and then he went into evangelistic work. He held crusades in Northern Ireland during World War I and started the Elim Evangelistic Band, which later became the Elim Foursquare Gospel Alliance in Great Britain.

George and Stephen began traveling together and were known as the Jeffreys Brothers. Soon they gained the reputation of being England’s greatest evangelists since Wesley and Whitefield. From the 1920s to the 1940s, the Jeffreys Brothers conducted revival meetings throughout England and Europe, with thousands converted and others receiving healing.

As one of England’s premier evangelists, George Jeffreys’ views on revival are worth reading. The Oct. 30, 1920, issue of the Pentecostal Evangel published a message titled, “How to Get a Revival.” Using the story of King Ahaz and his son, King Hezekiah, as background, Jeffreys described a spiritual revival in Israel. He outlined these points when seeking for revival: 1) recognize the need of a revival, 2) pray and ask God for revival, 3) turn from sin and pray for forgiveness, and 4) let Christ be exalted.

According to Jeffreys, repentance and turning from sin are key factors of revival. Jeffreys referred to the Welsh Revival of 1904-1905: He said that when the “mighty power of God began to sweep through the church” that all sin had to leave, for “God cannot live where sin is.”

How long should revival last? Jeffreys responded to this question: “Thank God, a revival started in my heart 30 years ago, and it has never stopped; it will never end.” He continued by saying, “As long as Jesus is kept in the front, and made the center of fellowship and blessing and unity, the revival will never end.”

Jeffreys also pointed out that the revival under King Hezekiah included a missionary spirit as letters were written to neighboring parts of Israel for people to repent and return to the ways of God. Jeffreys closed his address with this statement: “If you want a revival ask God to give you a vision of this old world, with its sin like a troubled sea …” Then after seeing the lost around us, he said we need to pray and ask God for revival, and then confess Jesus as Lord. These simple acts of faith can lay the foundation for revival in our personal lives, in the church, and in our communities.

Read George Jeffreys’ address, “How to Get a Revival,” on pages 6-8 of the Oct. 30, 1920, issue of the Pentecostal Evangel.

Also featured in this issue:

• “Back to Pentecost”

• “Politics from the Pentecostal Perspective,” by Stanley H. Frodsham

• “Greatest Missionary Opportunity in All North Africa”

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: http://www.iFPHC.org

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Dr. Charles S. Price: From Skeptic to Pentecostal Evangelist

Price Charles

This Week in AG History —October 24, 1931

By Darrin J. Rodgers
Originally published on AG News, 25 October 2018

Dr. Charles S. Price (1887-1947), pastor of the theologically liberal First Congregational Church in Lodi, California, ventured into a Pentecostal revival service in 1921. His purpose was to expose the evangelist, Aimee Semple McPherson, as a fraud. He was so confident that he would achieve this mission that he even placed an advertisement in the local newspaper, promoting the title of his next sermon — “Divine Healing Bubble Explodes.”

Some of Price’s church members had attended the revival services in San Jose and reported large numbers of conversions and miracles. He scoffed and replied, “I can explain it all. It is metaphysical, psychological, nothing tangible.” Price arrived at the revival with a pen and paper, ready to take notes. He had difficulty finding a seat, as the revival tent was packed with 6,000 people, but finally was seated in the section reserved for people with infirmities who desired healing.

He was shocked to discover that the revival was being sponsored by Dr. William Keeney Towner, pastor of the prestigious First Baptist Church in Oakland. Price and Towner had been friends when Price had served as a pastor in Oakland. Towner came over to Price and told him, “Charlie, this is real. This little woman is right. This is the real gospel. I have been baptized with the Holy Ghost. It’s genuine, I tell you. It is what you need.”

At the time, McPherson was an Assemblies of God evangelist. She later formed her own denomination, the International Church of the Foursquare Gospel. While Price expected McPherson’s sermon to be rife with fanaticism, he was surprised to discover that her message was thoroughly biblical and compelling. Hundreds responded to an invitation to go to the altar and accept Christ. He returned that evening and, although still skeptical, was seated on the platform with the other ministers. He quickly became a believer, however, once he began witnessing numerous healings, including a blind person regaining sight and a lame person being able to walk.

When McPherson invited people to raise their hands if they wanted to accept Christ, Price raised his hand. A fellow minister leaned over and whispered, “Charlie, don’t you know she is calling for sinners?” Price responded, “I know who she is calling for.” He quickly went down to the altar, recommitted himself to Christ, and later would state that he left that tent “a new man.”

Price continued to go back to the nightly revival meetings. He felt conviction about his pride and ambition and lack of integrity. After four nights praying at the altar, Price was baptized in the Holy Spirit with the evidence of speaking in tongues. Price shared his experience with his congregation, and soon 500 of his church members also were baptized in the Holy Spirit. The once-liberal congregation became a center for revival in the community and began holding evangelistic street meetings in nearby towns. Price ultimately became one of the best-known Pentecostal evangelists of the 20th century. While Price did not join a denomination, he regularly preached at Assemblies of God churches and district and national events. Price went from skeptic to believer because he witnessed the reality of God’s healing power.

Dr. Charles S. Price preached a message, “Meet for the Master’s Use,” at the 1931 General Council of the Assemblies of God. Read his sermon on pages 2, 3, and 16 of the Oct. 24, 1931, issue of the Pentecostal Evangel.

Also featured in this issue:

• “Inspiration and Revelation,” by E. S. Williams

• “How We Built a Church,” by Martha E. Thorkildson

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: http://www.iFPHC.org

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Latino and Latina Pioneers in the Assemblies of God

Temple Beth-El

Templo Beth-el Latin American Assembly of God (Weslaco, Texas), circa 1960

This Week in AG History —October 19, 1929

By Darrin J. Rodgers
Originally published on AG News, 18 October 2018

Hispanic ministers and churches have played an important role in the Assemblies of God (AG) for over 100 years. The Pentecostal message spread rapidly among Spanish-speakers, first along the borderlands in Texas among refugees from the Mexican Revolution and among Puerto Ricans. The AG ordained its first Hispanic minister in 1914 and created a conference for U.S. Hispanic churches (later known as the Latin American District) in 1918.

Eighty-nine years ago this week, the Pentecostal Evangel briefly noted that the Hispanic AG churches in the United States (with the exception of Puerto Rico) had formed the Latin American District. Over the decades, Hispanics forged their own identity, leaders, and churches within the AG. In 2017, over 23 percent of AG adherents in the United States were Hispanic.

The following vignettes offer a glimpse into the lives and ministries of several Hispanic AG pioneers. While Anglo missionaries to Hispanics, such as Henry C. Ball, Alice E. Luce, and Florence Murcutt, also were an important part of the story, the below stories feature Latino(a)s who helped to lay the foundation for the AG. Their testimonies offer a glimpse into the vibrant spiritual lives of our Pentecostal pioneers.

Antonio Rios Morin

Antonio Rios Morin (born ca. 1867), a former Mexican Revolution army officer, in 1914 became the first Hispanic to be ordained as an AG minister. He was converted in 1912 under the ministry of Mexican healing evangelist Enemecio Alaniz in a racially integrated Pentecostal home meeting in Houston. Morin joined with Alaniz and other Hispanic and Anglo Pentecostal ministers, evangelizing among the Mexican refugees in the borderlands of Texas. At the time, many refugees followed Spiritism or other occult practices. Many people were saved, healed, and delivered from demons under Morin’s ministry.

Juan Lugo

LugoJuan Lugo (1890-1984) was born in Puerto Rico and raised on the sugar plantations of Hawaii. In 1913, Lugo’s mother came into contact with Pentecostal missionaries from the interracial Azusa Street Revival who were en route to Japan and China. She accepted Christ and told her son, but he initially rejected her witness. When one of Juan’s co-workers who could not read also became a Christian, he asked Juan to read the Bible to him on breaks. Juan reluctantly agreed, and what he found in the Bible changed his life. He soon accepted Christ, was baptized in the Holy Spirit, and felt called into the ministry. In 1916, he returned to Puerto Rico, where he pioneered the first Pentecostal churches on the island. He established La Iglesia de Dios Pentecostal (Pentecostal Church of God), which was affiliated with the AG. He later moved to New York, where he helped establish Puerto Rican churches on the East Coast, which became the foundation for the Spanish Eastern District.

Dionicia Feliciano

FelicianoDionicia Feliciano (born ca. 1890) was the first Latina ordained by the AG. She and her husband, Salomon, were Puerto Ricans who, like Juan Lugo, were saved and baptized in the Holy Spirit in 1913 while working on sugar plantations in Hawaii. They became ordained Assemblies of God ministers in San Jose, California, in 1916. They returned to Puerto Rico, where they helped Lugo pioneer the young Pentecostal movement. In late 1916, they ventured to the Dominican Republic, where they served as the first Pentecostal missionaries to that nation. Dionicia was very active in church planting and evangelistic work.

Isabel Flores

Isabel Flores (a male Mexican-American pastor) and H. C. Ball co-founded the January 1918 organizational convention of AG churches and ministers, which was held in Kingsville, Texas. Flores was one of the earliest Hispanic AG ministers. Like many Mexican refugees, he faced significant cultural and legal challenges in America. In one such circumstance, Flores was arrested in May 1918 and incarcerated in the Jackson County jail in Edna, Texas. The reason for the arrest is unknown. An account published in 1966 in La Luz Apostolica simply stated, “It was wartime, and the officer did not speak Spanish and Isabel did not speak English.” Ball came to the aid of Flores and traveled to Edna, where he spoke with authorities and secured the prisoner’s release. Flores’ experience demonstrates that it was advantageous for Hispanic Pentecostals to form an alliance with Anglos of like faith.

Demetrio and Nellie Bazan

BazanIt would be difficult to overstate the impact of Demetrio (1900-1976) and Nellie Bazan (1895-1995) on the AG. Both Demetrio and Nellie felt called into the ministry and were ordained together in 1920, less than a month before their wedding. H. C. Ball, the Anglo AG missionary to Hispanics, saw potential in Demetrio for pastoral leadership and mentored him. Demetrio proved to be an effective pastor, evangelist, and administrator, and succeeded Ball in 1939 as the first Hispanic to serve as Latin American district superintendent. Bazan’s far-reaching vision and abilities helped the Hispanic constituency of the AG to grow significantly. Nellie was an important AG leader in her own right. She preached from the pulpit at least 30 times per year, engaged in extensive door-to-door evangelism, was a prolific author, and raised 10 children.

Jose Giron

GironJose Giron (1911-2001) succeeded Demetrio Bazan in 1959 as superintendent of the Latin American district, which grew by 1970 to encompass 403 churches, 827 ministers, and 21,000 members. In 1971, Giron led the district to divide into four smaller districts, laying the foundation for structures that allowed continued growth and better oversight and accountability. Giron had demonstrated strong evangelistic and church planting skills early in his ministry, and his careful yet forward-looking leadership skills proved invaluable to the AG.

Francisca Blaisdell

Francisca Blaisdell (ca 1885-1941) was born in Mexico and started preaching the Pentecostal message in 1915. She married an Anglo AG missionary, George E. Blaisdell. Francisca founded the Concilio Misionero Femenil (Women’s Missionary Council) in 1922 in Agua Prieta, Mexico. The purpose of the council was to encourage missionary work along the U.S.-Mexican borderlands. The Blaisdells moved to Arizona, and H. C. Ball and Juan Lugo ordained her as an AG missionary-evangelist in 1923. Francisca became a prominent Latina AG evangelist, but the council, which claimed 44,600 members by 2005, was perhaps her most significant achievement.

Concepcion (Chonita) Morgan Howard

Concepcion (Chonita) Morgan Howard (1898-1983) was a pioneer Latina Pentecostal evangelist and pastor. She accepted Christ and was baptized in the Holy Spirit in 1913 in the mining town of San Jose de las Playitas in Sonora, Mexico. Her father was Anglo, and her mother was Mexican. In 1919 she married an Anglo preacher, Lloyd Howard, who was pastoring a small Mexican congregation in Arizona. She was ordained by the AG in 1928 as an evangelist to Mexicans living along the Mexican-American border. In addition to her work as an evangelist and pastor, she served as the second president of the Concilio Misionero Femenil (1941-1962).

Roberto Fierro

FierroRobert Fierro (1916-1985) was a prominent Mexican-American AG evangelist who preached fluently in both English and Spanish. Fierro surrendered his life to Christ at 15 years of age, following his mother’s miraculous healing in a Pentecostal church. He soon felt a call to minister and enrolled in Bible college. Throughout the 1940s and 1950s, he preached throughout the United States and in Spanish-speaking countries to crowds that often numbered into the thousands. Countless people were converted and healed under his ministry.

Jesse Miranda

MirandaJesse Miranda (1937-present) is a respected Hispanic AG church leader and educator who in 1995 became the first Latino to be elected as an executive presbyter. Jesse began life in Albuquerque, New Mexico, the son of a lumber mill worker and a mother with a third-grade education. He started preaching at 19 and served as an instructor at Latin American Bible Institute from 1959 to 1978 and as superintendent of the Southern Pacific Latin American district from 1984 to 1992. Jesse became known as a bridge builder, serving as the founding president of the multidenominational Alianza de Ministerios Evangelicos Nacionales (AMEN) and as executive director of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference, the nation’s largest Christian Hispanic organization. Christianity Today dubbed him “the granddaddy of U.S. Latino Protestantism.”

Read about the formation of the Latin American District in the article, “The Thirteenth General Council Meeting,” on page 5 of the Oct. 19, 1929, issue of the Pentecostal Evangel.

Also featured in this issue:

• “A Sound of Rain,” by W. E. Moody

• “The Church’s Greatest Need,” by Charles E. Robinson

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: http://www.iFPHC.org

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Thomas F. Zimmerman: Assemblies of God Statesman

Zimmerman_oct_1400This Week in AG History —October 4, 1959

By Ruthie Edgerly Oberg
Originally published on AG News, 04 October 2018

Over a 50-year period, Thomas F. Zimmerman (1912-1991) served the Assemblies of God as pastor, district official, department leader, assistant general superintendent, and general superintendent. His leadership greatly increased the influence of the Pentecostal movement in the evangelical world, as well as in the broader American religious landscape.

Born in 1912 to devout Methodist parents, Zimmerman’s family was exposed to Pentecostalism the way many were in the early days of that movement: through a miraculous healing. When Zimmerman was 5 years old, his mother was given no more than six weeks to live after a diagnosis of terminal tuberculosis. The diagnosis led the family to seek prayer at the Apostolic Faith Mission in their hometown of Indianapolis. The pastor and several members of the congregation came to the Zimmerman home and prayed for her healing. The next morning she felt well enough to get out of bed and a few weeks later, the doctor declared her completely well. The family began attending the Sunday afternoon meetings at the Pentecostal church after their morning service at the Methodist church. Eventually, their pastor suggested they leave his congregation, and they affiliated with the independent Pentecostal group.

Zimmerman was heavily influenced by the new pastor of the Apostolic Faith Mission, John Price. Price’s own pastoral training was “on the job” and he believed in doing the same for his congregants. After showing capable ministry as the church youth leader and while still in high school, Zimmerman was asked to become Price’s associate pastor. In this capacity he was exposed to the wide ranging needs of a congregation and given much preaching experience. When Mrs. Price lay dying, she asked young Zimmerman to promise two things: to continue to help her husband and to marry their oldest daughter, Elizabeth. Thomas and Elizabeth were already interested in each other and Pastor Price performed the ceremony for his associate pastor and his daughter in 1933.

Due to Zimmerman’s position at the church being voluntary, he worked full-time at the Bemis Brothers Bag Company. His natural leadership ability was recognized, and he made the enviable salary of $30 a week during the depression. However, after the death of their 9-month-old son in 1935, both Thomas and Elizabeth felt that they should devote their full time to the ministry. He was ordained by the Assemblies of God on May 7, 1936. They took a small congregation in Harrodsburg, Indiana, where the average offering was $2.68 a week. The congregation grew to 250 during their two years there, and Zimmerman’s leadership ability came to the attention of other leaders within the growing denomination.

In 1942, while pastoring in Granite City, Illinois, Assemblies of God leaders invited Zimmerman to attend the organizational meeting of the National Association of Evangelicals in nearby St. Louis with them. Zimmerman had made it a practice of working with non-Pentecostals in every city in which he ministered. His passion was evangelism and he found common interest among other evangelical leaders. Through this involvement, Zimmerman was able to provide leadership to the founding of the National Religious Broadcasters in 1944.

That same year, Central Assembly in Springfield, Missouri, called Zimmerman as its pastor. This placed him among denominational leadership, and in 1945 Zimmerman also became head of the Assemblies of God radio department. He then served as secretary-treasurer of the Southern Missouri District from 1949-1951, followed by a brief pastorate in Cleveland, Ohio, when he was elected as an assistant general superintendent at the 1953 General Council, moving him back to Springfield. He served closely alongside Superintendent Ralph Riggs and managed much of the day-to-day operations of the national office.

In 1959, the General Council, held in San Antonio, Texas, elected Thomas F. Zimmerman as its ninth general superintendent. The Oct. 4, 1959, Pentecostal Evangel made this announcement to the larger constituency in a one-page article, “The General Council at a Glance.”

Zimmerman served as general superintendent for 26 years, the longest tenure of anyone in that office. He was regarded as a “Pentecostal statesman,” bringing the Pentecostal movement in general, and the Assemblies of God in particular, more visibility and influence in the religious world. His involvement in extra-denominational associations and civic organizations brought him and the Movement recognition in other areas. He was invited to the White House during each administration from Kennedy to Reagan and received civic awards ranging from “Springfieldian of the Year” to the Silver Beaver award from the national Boy Scouts.

During his tenure, the national offices of the Assemblies of God created several new divisions, the assistant general superintendents were reduced from four to one, a full-scale retirement complex for ministers and missionaries was opened, federal land was received for the new liberal arts college, and the Assemblies of God opened a seminary for the further academic education of its ministers. He also recognized the importance of the oral and written accounts of the place of Pentecostalism in American and world history and so was instrumental in establishing the Assemblies of God archives (now the Flower Pentecostal Heritage Center, the largest repository of Pentecostal archival materials in the world).

When Zimmerman left office in 1985, he left an indelible mark on the Assemblies of God. His willingness to grow and adapt to change and his leadership in the broader evangelical movement helped to prepare the Assemblies of God to be one of the fastest growing denominations during his tenure.

Read more about the report from the 1959 General Council on page 4 of the Oct. 4, 1959, issue of the Pentecostal Evangel.

Also featured in this issue:

• “Enlist Now” by Raymond Brock

• “Our Missionary Advance,” by Noel Perkin

• “The Greeks Had A Word For It,” Raymond Cox

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: http://www.iFPHC.org

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Noel Perkin: Assemblies of God Missions Leader, 1927-1959

Perkin NoelThis Week in AG History —September 20, 1941

By Glenn W. Gohr
Originally published on AG News, 20 September 2018

Noel Perkin (1893-1979), known as “Mr. Missions,” served as missionary secretary (now called executive director of AG World Missions) for the Assemblies of God (AG).

Born in London, England, he moved to Canada at the age of 18 and took a job with the Bank of Montreal in Toronto. He worked there seven years and became head of the savings department. He also joined efforts with a group of Christian businessmen and established a Pentecostal church in Toronto.

In 1918, Perkin was ordained by the AG and then did missionary work in Argentina. After three years of missionary work, he moved to the U.S. and settled in Rochester, New York. He became assistant pastor of Elim Tabernacle and attended Elim Bible School where he met his wife. He married Ora Blanchard in 1922 and pastored small churches in New York over the next four years.

In 1926 the Perkin family moved to Springfield, Missouri, where Noel Perkin started working at the national office of the AG. He became the assistant missionary secretary for a year before accepting the position of AG Missionary Secretary. He served 32 years, from 1927-1959.

Missionary Secretary Noel Perkin gave an address at the 1941 General Council on the topic, “Occupy Till I Come.” He spoke on missions from a global perspective, talking about the current world crisis and the role of missionaries. At that time, World War II was well underway, but the United States would not enter the conflict until later that year after the bombing of Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941.

Although Perkin mentioned that many countries were closed to gospel work at that time, he was encouraged because “even though there is not any opportunity to do much, if any, missionary work through American missionaries, yet multitudes of the people are still being reached through the courageous service of native evangelists and pastors.”

Perkin gave some glowing testimonies of the gospel message being shared underground and on the war front. He shared one example of a nurse who worked both in a supply base and also in tending to and escorting wounded soldiers from the front lines to a hospital. An American saw her helping soldiers and asked, “Are you not already wounded and partly incapacitated?” “Yes,” she replied quietly, “but there is such a need at the front. You know they expect a lot of us who are Christians.”

Perkin mentioned difficulty in getting workers to the mission fields and difficulty in getting funds to certain fields. But he still promoted missions efforts, even if it involved sacrifice. He closed his remarks by saying, “The crisis is, what shall we do with the challenge that is set before us?” His response was, “Not do less but more, for the night settles down upon us when no man may work.”

Missions has always been paramount to the AG. At the second General Council in November 1914, a resolution was adopted which committed the AG to “the greatest evangelism that the world has ever seen.” This has continued to be a primary goal of the Assemblies of God throughout the decades.

Read Noel Perkin’s address, “Occupy Till I Come,” on pages 4-7 of the Sept. 20, 1941, issue of the Pentecostal Evangel.

Also featured in this issue:

• “The Work Whereunto I Have Appointed Them,” by Ernest S. Williams

• “The Diary of a Delegate”

• “Central America Presents a Great Opportunity,” by John L. Franklin

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: http://www.iFPHC.org

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Filed under Biography, History, Missions

J. Roswell Flower: Pentecostal Church Leader, Publisher, Statesman, Educator

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Flower family, circa 1936 (L-R): David, Suzanne, George, Alice R., J. Roswell, Adele, Joseph, Roswell

This Week in AG History —August 16, 1970

By Darrin J. Rodgers
Originally published on AG News, 16 August 2018

J. Roswell Flower (1888-1970) was elected, at age 25, to serve as the first general secretary of the Assemblies of God. He went on to become one of the Fellowship’s most prominent leaders in its first four decades. When he went to be with the Lord, General Superintendent Thomas F. Zimmerman declared, “The name of J. Roswell Flower was synonymous with the Assemblies of God.”

Flower demonstrated remarkable leadership at a young age. He proved adept at writing and publishing, which gave him a platform in the emerging Pentecostal movement. In 1908, just over one year after his conversion, he began publishing a small magazine, The Pentecost. At the time, he was just 20 years old. In 1910, he gave the magazine to ministry colleague A. S. Copley. He married Alice Reynolds in 1911, and together they began another magazine, the Christian Evangel, in 1913. It was the only weekly Pentecostal periodical in existence.

When the Assemblies of God was organized in April 1914, Flower was only 25 years old. There were many people in attendance who were older and more experienced, yet delegates entrusted Flower to serve as the first general secretary. He also served as manager of Gospel Publishing House and, in 1919, he became the first Foreign Missions secretary.

Flower was an early champion of education. In 1922, he encouraged Pentecostals to support the establishment of a school in India in order to secure “greater and more permanent results for God.” He was one of the original faculty members of Central Bible Institute (CBI), which was founded in Springfield, Missouri, in 1922. In 1923, he proposed that all Assemblies of God missionaries be required to spend a term at CBI, which would allow church leaders to train and get to know the character and abilities of prospective missionaries. Flower’s proposal proved unpopular, however, and he was not re-elected at the 1923 General Council. He instead became Foreign Missions treasurer. Two years later, he was not re-elected to that position.

J. Roswell and Alice Flower moved to Pennsylvania, where they spent the next decade in pastoral and district leadership. In 1929, he was elected to serve as superintendent of the Eastern District Council. He was a regular lecturer at Bethel Bible Training School, an Assemblies of God school in New Jersey. Significantly, he helped Alice to establish a summer Bible school, located on the Eastern District campground, which was the forerunner of the University of Valley Forge. Flower emphasized education because he believed that careful study of the Bible would be essential for the growth and maturation of the Assemblies of God.

Delegates to the 1935 General Council elected Flower to again serve as general secretary, a position he would hold until his retirement in 1959. During this period Flower emerged as a leading Pentecostal statesman, encouraging cooperative efforts among believers with similar faith commitments. He labored to make the Assemblies of God a founding member of the National Association of Evangelicals, and he helped form the Pentecostal Fellowship of North America and the Pentecostal World Fellowship. Flower also was involved in civic leadership, serving on the Springfield City Council and on the boards of various organizations.

J. Roswell Flower’s remarkable leadership flowed out of his rich spiritual life. He and Alice modeled a home life that bore witness to the sanctifying power of the Holy Spirit. Alice was a prolific author and preacher, and her sermons, books, and articles on the Christian home were widely read. They practiced what they preached. Five of their six children also entered full-time ministry; the sixth died while in Bible school.

It is appropriate that Flower became the namesake of the archives and museum located in the Assemblies of God national office. The Flower Pentecostal Heritage Center, which is the largest Pentecostal archives in the world, preserves and promotes the heritage of a movement for which Flower helped lay the foundation.

Read the article, “J. R. Flower with Christ,” on page 4 of the Aug. 16, 1970, issue of the Pentecostal Evangel.

Also featured in this issue:

• “What the Holy Spirit Does,” by Harvey McAlister

• “We Preached in Romania” by Joe G. Mazzu Jr.

• “New Arkansas Teen Challenge Reaching Desperate Youth”

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: http://www.iFPHC.org

Leave a comment

Filed under Biography, History