Category Archives: Church

Examining the Wellsprings of the Pentecostal Movement

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This Week in AG History —August 25, 1968

By Glenn W. Gohr
Originally published on AG News, 23 August 2018

Fifty years ago this week the Assemblies of God launched a book called The Wellsprings of the Pentecostal Movement. The author, David Womack, compared the Pentecostal movement to a tree, carefully examining the deep roots of Pentecostalism.

Womack saw the tree today threatened by two grave dangers — people with a limited knowledge of Church history and people who have been overinfluenced by non-Pentecostal concepts. To remedy this, he gave a prescription for having a truly Pentecostal church.

Instead of expounding on the practices of the Pentecostal movement and the Assemblies of God, he focused on New Testament church patterns, the meaning of these patterns, and the need for a resurgence of these patterns in the church today. He outlined some important factors to consider in building a healthy church. He described how world events and current trends in society can influence the church and its mission (sometimes in a negative way). He also mentioned the continuing trend of society to become more urbanized. He declared “The most dangerous problems facing the Pentecostal Movement are not those of external forces … but the slow decay from within.” He stressed that if Jesus and His apostles intended for the New Testament patterns to be the standard for the Church in all ages, then the Pentecostal movement should make every effort to uphold the biblical patterns.

According to Womack, the Day of Pentecost established a number of important precedents, including that “the infilling of the Holy Spirit … was to be for the whole Church, not only for its leaders.” Womack also makes this conclusion: “It also showed that anointed preaching was to be a major method of evangelism, that the Church was to reach large numbers of people with its message, that spiritual experiences may not always be understood by those outside the Church, and that three of the main religious experiences of the normal Christian life would be repentance, water baptism, and the baptism in the Holy Spirit.”

David Womack, a foreign missions editor for the Assemblies of God, had collaborated with the 15-member Committee on Advance to evaluate the life and role of the church. The book was an outgrowth of this study committee.

The study committee also launched a monumental gathering called the Council on Evangelism, held in St. Louis in August 1968. This meeting became a significant turning point for the Assemblies of God as members prayed together, worshiped together, and redefined the goals of the denomination for the last part of the 20th century. At this gathering, The General Council reaffirmed its mission as an agency for the evangelization of the world, a corporate body in which humanity may worship God, and a means for the discipleship of Christians. The Assemblies of God has a long history of compassion ministries, and in more recent years, the fourth reason for being — compassion —was added.

Womack’s book that was launched at the Council on Evangelism and the principles he outlined have continued to shape the mission of the church.

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Read more about The Wellsprings of the Pentecostal Movement on pages 10, 11, and 21 of the Aug. 25, 1968, issue of the Pentecostal Evangel.

Also featured in this issue:

• “Full Redemption is Ours!” by John P. Kolenda

• “The Meaning of Discipleship,” by Melvin L. Hodges

• “This is Our Mission,” by James E. Hamill

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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Oak Cliff Assembly of God and the 1957 Miraculous Healing of I.V. Hill

Oak Cliff

Mr. I. V. Hill and a church bus full of children.

This Week in AG History — June 2, 1963

By Glenn W. Gohr
Originally published on AG News, 31 May 2018 

I. V. Hill (1895-1965) of Dallas, Texas, received a miraculous healing which was reported 55 years ago in the Pentecostal Evangel. Confined to a wheelchair, Hill experienced “smothering” spells which made it necessary for him to be rushed to the hospital several times a week. He was suffering from heart trouble, nervousness, asthma, bladder trouble, and a hip infection that prevented him from walking.

Hill began listening to the Morning Worship Hour, a radio program broadcast by H. C. Noah of Oak Cliff Assembly of God (now Oaks Church). One morning in November 1957, after listening to the program, he felt prompted to call Pastor Noah. He told him about his condition and asked him to pray, which he did.

Later that same morning, he received a call from Mrs. Maymie Faust, who was the minister of visitation for the church. She asked him about his health issues and then told him he needed to come to church. He did not have transportation, so she said she would come for him. After lunch, he heard a knock on the door, and it was Mrs. Faust. In his wheelchair, he went to the door and invited her into the living room to pray for him. Hill reported, “She laid her hands on me and something like an electric shock went through me.” Hill said that “right there” he met the Lord and was saved. Sister Faust promised to come back that evening to take him to church.

When Sister Faust returned that evening, Mr. Hill, his wife, and a daughter, all were dressed to ride with her to church. When the altar call was given, I. V. Hill hobbled forward on his crutches to make a public profession of his faith.

On Friday Sister Faust again took the Hills to church. The Bible study that night, led by Raymond Brock, the associate pastor, was focused on Hebrews 11 and having faith. I. V. Hill was determined to believe God for healing of his many ailments. When the altar call was given, he went forward and began praying that God would take away each affliction as he began naming them. The Lord met him there. When he got up from the altar, no one needed to help him. He left his crutches behind and no longer needed them. He gave up a tobacco habit he had had for 50 years. He no longer needed his medicines. He was healed!

Hill said, “Prior to this time I was taking as many as 25 doses of medicine a day.” He also needed a narcotic in order to sleep, but from that day forward he no longer needed any of the medications. He slept all night and felt great in the morning. When his wife found him in the kitchen, he was “shouting and having a big time.”

Eager to witness for the Lord, Mr. Hill was handicapped because he had never learned to read. Before his conversion and healing, he could only spell out a few simple words like “cat” or “dog.” But within a few years he reported that he was able to read the Bible, all except for a few words in the Old Testament. He credited God for teaching him how to read.

Previously he could only walk a few feet at a time. But after his healing he started going from house to house with gospel tracts, witnessing to others. He promised the Lord he would do all he could to spread the gospel. Hill declared, “For the past five years I have been a new man, I have health, happiness, and heavenly hope, thanks to the Lord who changed my entire life.”

This healing testimony was endorsed by Pastor H. C. Noah who declared, “This is one of the greatest testimonies I have ever witnessed. Brother Hill has been a member of our church for a little over five years. He is a very faithful man of God. People always respond when they hear this radiant man tell what God did for his mind, soul, and body.”

Dr. Raymond T. Brock later made this assessment: “God permitted Brother Hill to live long enough to give a tithe of his lifetime in Christian service.” Hill witnessed to his 14 living children and their families and then went door-to-door witnessing for the Lord and inviting people to church. Often the church bus would pick up dozens of kids, all invited by this man completely sold out to God. He also ministered to the Dallas Rescue Mission, witnessing of the saving and healing power of God, and leading many men and women to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ.

Read the article, “I’m a New Man Now,” on pages 22-23 of the June 2, 1963, issue of the Pentecostal Evangel.

Also featured in this issue:

• “Their Secret — Unbroken Communion,” by Zelma Argue

• “Quench Not the Spirit,” by Geoffrey Duncombe

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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The Evolution of Holiness in the Church of God in Christ: Summit to be Held at Mason Temple, September 8, 2016

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Bishop Charles H. Mason was incarcerated in 1918 in the jail cell in the Holmes County Courthouse, Lexington, Mississippi. He was falsely accused of treason by those opposed to his Holiness message. The jail cell is now a pilgrimage site, open to the public and decorated with hand-painted murals depicting his incarceration.

The Church of God in Christ originated in 1897 in Lexington, Mississippi, among African-American Baptists who had been influenced by the Holiness movement. Over the years, these origins in Lexington and in the Holiness movement have become obscured. Today, the Church of God in Christ is at a crossroads. Will the church founded by Bishop Charles Harrison Mason retain and build upon its heritage of holiness, or will it evolve and become something different?

These questions about the history and future of the Church of God in Christ will be considered at the Holiness Evolution Summit, a first-of-its-kind event to be held at Mason Temple in Memphis on September 8, 2016 (the 152nd anniversary of Mason’s birth).

Mother Mary P. Patterson, organizer of the Holiness Evolution Summit, has spent the past 10 years raising awareness of Lexington’s role in Church of God in Christ history. Through her company, the Pentecostal Heritage Connection, she has organized tour groups of Lexington, and she has built relationships with community leaders, church leaders, and academics. Her efforts culminated on October 16, 2015, with the unveiling of an official State Historical Marker on the grounds of the Holmes County Courthouse in Lexington, honoring the founding of the Church of God in Christ.

The fact that Mason had been imprisoned 97 years earlier in a jail cell in the Holmes County Courthouse basement underscores the significant societal shifts that have occurred. Mason had been persecuted on account of his race and religion, but he is now honored. Indeed, African-Americans have made much progress in American society over the past 100 years. But much work remains to be done.

Now Patterson is bringing this conversation about Church of God in Christ history to Memphis. According to Patterson, the Holiness Evolution Summit aims to uncover forgotten aspects of Church of God in Christ origins, and to also provoke discussion about the implications of this heritage. For instance: What does holiness look like in the 21st century? Would Bishop Mason have anything to say about current challenges in society and church? And what does Lexington teach about religious liberty?

Participants include black and white scholars and church leaders from Church of God in Christ and Assemblies of God backgrounds. The four speakers at the 2015 dedication of the State Historical Marker will also be featured at the Holiness Evolution Summit:

The Holiness Evolution Summit will include formal presentations and ample time for audience participation with questions and answers. Bishop Craig S. Baymon (pastor of Holy Temple Cathedral of Deliverance COGIC, Memphis, Tennessee) will deliver the invocation. Mother Julia Scott Ward (the wife of Bishop Lee Ward, retired pastor of Greater Harvest COGIC, Memphis, Tennessee) will offer the scripture reading. Moderating the event will be Darrin Rodgers, director of the Flower Pentecostal Heritage Center, Springfield, Missouri.

The public is invited to attend the Holiness Evolution Summit, which will occur on September 8, 2016, 9:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m., in the U.E. Miller Conference Room of Mason Temple Church of God in Christ, 930 Mason Street, Memphis, Tennessee. Seating is limited. Registration is $40 and includes lunch. Registration may be purchased online or at the door. For additional information, contact the Pentecostal Heritage Connection at (901) 398-7716.

 

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Gustav Schmidt Describes the Horror of Soviet Persecution of Pentecostals in the 1930s

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Assemblies of God missionary Ivan Voronaev (center) meets with new leaders of the Union on Christians of Evangelical Faith in Odessa, Ukraine (September 1926). Voronaev and countless other Slavic Pentecostals would later be imprisoned and martyred for their faith.


This Week in AG History — August 4, 1934

By Darrin J. Rodgers
Originally published on PE-News, 4 August 2016

Following the Russian Revolution of 1917, the newly formed Soviet Union launched a campaign to eradicate Christianity within its borders. It relentlessly pursued a policy of militant atheism. Clergy were imprisoned or murdered, churches were demolished or converted to other uses, and an intensive propaganda campaign sought to convince people that Christianity was a harmful superstition. It was in this context of persecution that the Pentecostal movement among Slavs (peoples of the former Soviet Union) formed its identity.

The Pentecostal movement found fertile soil in Russia. Early evangelists, impacted by the Welsh Revival (1904-1905) and the Azusa Street Revival (1906-1909), first brought the Pentecostal movement to Russia a decade before the 1917 revolution. Prior to the revolution, the Orthodox church occupied a favored place in society and cooperated with the czarist government to persecute both political insurgents and religious minorities, including Pentecostals.

Following the revolution, communist government officials began persecuting their former persecutors, seeking to stamp out the Orthodox church. The government soon targeted other churches, including Baptists, Mennonites, Seventh Day Adventists, and Pentecostals.

While the Soviet Union ostensibly guaranteed its citizens the “freedom of religion,” this freedom only allowed individuals the right to believe and not the right to practice their faith. If Christians practiced their faith, they became lawbreakers and were subject to fines, imprisonment, or exile to Siberia.

Laws forbade Christians to hold church services, to provide religious instruction to their children, or to share the gospel. The government further marginalized Christians by excluding them from professional and government positions.

Gustav H. Schmidt, a pioneer Assemblies of God missionary to Poland, wrote a series of three articles, published in the Pentecostal Evangel in 1934, which described the suffering endured by Pentecostals in the Soviet Union.

Slavic Pentecostals developed a deep faith burnished by persecution. Schmidt wrote, “In those prisons and places of exile matured that heroism for Christ which shrinks from no difficulties.” The communists mistakenly believed they could quash the Christian faith by destroying church buildings and imprisoning pastors.

Prisons became the proving grounds for Christian leaders. According to Schmidt, “there were many thousands of true believers who had been trained in the school of suffering and persecution.”

These Pentecostals, Schmidt wrote, became “a valiant army of gospel workers through whose testimony and preaching a mighty revival soon swept over the vast plains of Russia.” By 1930, approximately 500 Pentecostal churches had been organized in Russia and Ukraine. Each convert to Christ knew that their decision would cost them dearly.

One of the most insidious Soviet plans, according to Schmidt, was the insistence that the government, and not the parents, be in charge of the education of the youth. Government schools, hostile to Christianity, attempted to undermine the faith of the parents.

Schmidt wrote, “A mother who sends her children to school knows that they will be taught to hate God, and Christianity will be presented to them in such a way as to make it appear ridiculous to them and this in an endeavor to cause them to despise the very idea of religion.”

Laws prohibited parents from providing religious teaching to their own children. But many Christian parents obeyed a higher law. Schmidt suggested that “a mother in Russia who loves Jesus Christ will, in spite of such rules, teach her child to pray and to live a life of respect and godliness.”

Teachers would ask young students, who were likely to tell the truth, whether their parents taught them about religion. In this way, many students unwittingly let the government know that their parents were committing treason.

Another attempt to destroy families and the freedom of conscience, according to Schmidt, was the collectivization of agriculture. Eighty percent of Russians lived on farms, so when the government took over all farms, it made farmers into slaves of the state. This was an attempt to “destroy the (peasant’s) home and rob him of his privacy.” Agricultural workers were forced to live in communal buildings, their children were taken away, and it was difficult for people to practice their faith without being noticed.

“In Russia the follower of Christ is constantly beset with trouble and is always in danger,” Schmidt recounted. “He has to be ready to be torn away from his loved ones any time, Bolshevik police will break into a home during the night, after twelve o’clock maybe and bid the husband, father, or son to accompany them, and with a bleeding and broken heart they bid their loved ones a hurried last good-by.”

Prison sentences, consisting of hard labor, frequently lasted 10 or 20 years. Many died within several years due to malnutrition and disease.

Persecution separated consecrated believers from nominal Christians. Schmidt wrote, “Anyone who is zealous for Jesus in Russia is marked for arrest and this makes Christian activity hazardous. Therefore we find no half-hearted Christians in Russia . . . Such who are not fully consecrated will not be able to stand the strain for any length of time but will step over into the enemy’s camp.”

Despite great dangers confronting Christians, the Slavic church saw no shortage of leaders. Unpaid elders led the congregations, which met in homes. Elders took turns preaching and, when one was arrested, another took his place. Congregational leaders did not receive qualification from a Bible college (there were none), but from their willingness to suffer and die for Christ.

Soviet authorities predicted that every church would be destroyed by May 1, 1937. But Schmidt responded that the true church does not consist of buildings. There are “real Christians in Russia,” he wrote, and they “are dying for their faith . . . We know that the Bolshevists will never be able to destroy Christianity.”

Communist persecution not only failed to destroy Christianity; it helped to create a very strong and vibrant Pentecostal movement in the former Soviet Union. Today, there are over 1.2 million Pentecostals in the former Soviet Union in churches that are in a fraternal relationship with Assemblies of God World Missions.

Beginning in the late 1980s, when Mikhail Gorbachev began to allow persecuted religious minorities to emigrate, many put down roots in America. An estimated 350,000 Slavic Pentecostals from this recent wave of immigration now live in the United States. While most are in congregations that are either independent or loosely affiliated with one of several Slavic Pentecostal unions, many are deciding to join the Assemblies of God.

In 2002, several Slavic Pentecostal churches in California joined the Assemblies of God and formed the Slavic Fellowship, which provided both a structure for Slavs to organize themselves within the Assemblies of God and also representation on the Fellowship’s General Presbytery. In September 2008, the leaders of the Slavic Fellowship, in addition to other Slavic Pentecostals interested in affiliating with the Assemblies of God, came together in Renton, Washington, and organized the National Slavic District. The district gives greater strength and visibility to Slavic Pentecostals, both within the Assemblies of God and within the broader society.

The Slavs, with deep faith burnished by decades of persecution, are poised to provide leadership within the broader church. And their leadership could not have come at a better time, as they have already proven their mettle in a culture that is hostile to biblical values.

Read the series of three articles by Gustav H. Schmidt, “Bolshevism Battling Against Christianity,” in the following issues of the Pentecostal Evangel:

Click here now for the July 21, 1934, issue.

Click here for the July 28, 1934, issue.

Click here for the Aug. 4, 1934, issue.

Also featured in the August 4, 1934, issue:

* “The Merry Heart,” by Donald Gee

*  “The Secret of an Abiding Pentecost,” by Leonard Gittings

*  “Spoiled Christians,” by E. F. M. Staudt

And many more!

Click here to read the August 4, 1934, 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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How Should Christians Respond to Cultural Chaos? Read Myer Pearlman’s 1932 Message About Living in a Transition Period.

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Myer Pearlman (1898-1943), Assemblies of God theologian


This Week in AG History — July 30, 1932

By Darrin J. Rodgers
Originally published on PE-News, 28 July 2016

The year was 1932. The world’s economic and political systems were groaning under the weight of an economic depression. Western culture was shifting as modern education and urbanization challenged traditional notions about family and morality.

Myer Pearlman, a prominent Assemblies of God systematic theologian, writing in a 1932 Pentecostal Evangel article, summed up the cultural moment with this phrase: “we are living in a transition period.”

The Assemblies of God’s view of the end times spoke directly to the cultural chaos of the 1930s. Like many other evangelical groups, the Assemblies of God embraced a premillennial eschatology that predicted a period of rapid social decay, followed by Christ’s return. They believed that much of the American church had abandoned the authority of Scripture. In their view, this would lead to the collapse of families, morality, and the broader culture.

Historians have described premillennialists as pessimistic. One might also describe their views as realistic. Indeed, their views seem to anticipate the current societal shifts and discord.

Pearlman’s 1932 article was titled “At the Dividing Point of Two Ages.” He described the cultural conditions present at the birth of the church two thousand years ago. These cultural conditions, in many ways, strikingly paralleled what was happening in the 1930s.

Pearlman identified the following seven characteristics of the culture during the birth of the church:

1)  It was an age in which popular culture reigned. Superficial forms of religion, art, and philosophy were widely spread among the people.

2)  It was a highly civilized and modern age. International travel and commerce were common, women became prominent in various spheres of life, and there was proliferation of cultural amusements and comforts.

3)  It was an educated age. People were literate, teaching was an honorable profession, and universities and libraries flourished.

4)  It was a cosmopolitan age. The Roman Empire provided a common language and a system of roads that allowed the exchange of goods and ideas.

5)  It was an age of religious universalism. Spiritual and political leaders tried to unite religions and rejected truth claims viewed as divisive.

6)  It was an age that, just before its crisis point, expected a king to emerge who would save and rule the world.

7)  It was an age that witnessed the first earthly coming of Christ.

Christ came into a world, Pearlman noted, that exhibited very similar characteristics to the world that existed in the 1930s. Christ first came to earth during a transition period, and Pearlman expected Christ’s second coming also to be during a transition period. He wrote, “As the Redeemer appeared at the dividing point of the ages of Law and of Grace, so He will appear at the dividing point of the ages of Grace and the Millennium.”

How should today’s church, perched on the edge of the dividing line between the two ages, respond to cultural chaos? Pearlman encouraged believers to rejoice in the hope they have in Christ. Christians should “lift up their heads in joyous expectancy when these things come to pass,” he wrote, “and to watch to keep their lamps lighted and filled with oil, and faithfully to use their talents until he comes.”

The premillennial return of Christ is one of the four cardinal doctrines of the Assemblies of God. The doctrine helps make sense of current events and points believers to the ultimate hope they have in Christ, even as storms swirl around them. The doctrine also underscores the biblical teaching that social conditions will worsen before Christ’s second coming, and that believers should not place their ultimate confidence in earthly kingdoms or leaders. These are important lessons for Christians to remember in the current transition period.

Read Myer Pearlman’s article, “At the Dividing Point of Two Ages,” on pages 8, 9, and 11 of the July 30, 1932, issue of the Pentecostal Evangel.

Also featured in this issue:

* “Elijah, an Example,” by Ernest S. Williams

* “The Kingdom of the Son of Man,” by James S. Hutsell

* “Why Put Them Out?” by Mrs. H. F. Foster

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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Assemblies of God 2015 Statistics Released, Growth Spurred by Ethnic Transformation

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The Assemblies of God is one of the few major denominations in the United States to show continuing growth. But the real story is the ethnic transformation of the Assemblies of God. It is becoming less white and more reflective of the ethnic, linguistic and social diversity that exists in the global church.

When the Assemblies of God (AG) released its 2015 statistical reports this month, the press release noted that the denomination’s number of U.S. adherents had grown for 26 consecutive years. In 2015, the AG showed growth of 1.4% to 3,192,112 U.S. adherents. This was almost double the growth rate of the U.S. population, which increased by 0.77%.

The number of U.S. churches also showed growth (from 12,849 to 12,897, up 0.4%), as did the numbers of members (up 0.3%), ministers (up 0.5%), and major worship service attendance (up 1.7%). Statistics for other key indicators of church health–including conversions, Spirit baptisms, and water baptisms–have not yet been released.

Much of the numerical growth in the Assemblies of God in recent decades has been among ethnic minorities. From 2001 to 2015, the number of AG adherents increased by 21.5%. During this period, the number of white adherents decreased by 1.6% and the number of non-white adherents increased by 76.8%. From 2014 to 2015, the percentage of white adherents dropped from 57.6% to 57.2%. It should be noted that the number of white adherents in the U.S. includes quickly-growing constituencies of immigrants from places such as the former Soviet Union and Romania. Without these new white immigrants, the white constituency in the Assemblies of God would be falling even more quickly.

The growth of the Assemblies of God is in marked contrast to most mainline Protestant denominations in the U.S., which have witnessed significant numerical declines in recent decades. From 1975 to 2015, the Presbyterian Church (USA) lost 56% of members; United Church of Christ lost 48%; The Episcopal Church lost 36%; the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America lost 30%; and the United Methodist Church lost 27%. Others showed increases, including the Southern Baptist Convention (20%) and the Roman Catholic Church (42%). During the same period, the Assemblies of God grew by 158%, from 1,239,197 adherents in 1975.

While mainline denominations have been declining for decades, in recent years some evangelical groups, such as the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC), have also begun to decline. SBC membership has decreased for nine straight years, prompting some pundits to predict the slow death of evangelicalism. Others have pointed out that Pentecostal and non-denominational churches show continuing growth. Faith trends expert Ed Stetzer has argued that American Christianity is undergoing “evangelicalization,” noting that the percentage of Americans who identify as evangelical or born-again is increasing. And much of that growth can be attributed to soaring numbers of ethnic minorities in churches.

In 2015, over 42% of U.S. Assemblies of God adherents were non-white. This is comparable to the ethnic diversity in the U.S. Catholic Church. According to a recent Pew study, 41% of U.S. Catholics are now racial and ethnic minorities (up from 35% in 2007). The study also revealed that 24% of evangelical Protestants (up from 19%) and 14% of mainline Protestants (up from 9%) are also racial and ethnic minorities.

The ethnic breakdown of the AG in 2015 showed significant diversity: Asian/Pacific Islander (4.8%); Black (9.7%); Hispanic (23.0%); Native American (1.5%); White (57.2%); and Other/Mixed (3.9%). These stats suggest that the AG closely mirrors the ethnic makeup of the U.S. population as a whole. The 2010 U.S. census revealed the following racial breakdown of the U.S. population: Asian/Pacific Islander (5%); Black (12.6%); Hispanic (16.3%); Native American (0.9%); White (63.7%); and Other /Mixed (6.2%).

The AG districts with the greatest percentage growth in the number of adherents from 2010 to 2015 are as follows: National Slavic (152%), Midwest Latin American (58%), North Dakota (56%), Minnesota (55%), German (51%), Korean (33%), Texas Louisiana Hispanic (29%), Hawaii (29%), South Texas (26%), and Brazilian (24%). Due to the changing borders of the Hispanic districts, which doubled from seven to fourteen in the past six years, data for most of these districts was unavailable for purposes of comparison.

The AG’s growth in America is partly due to immigration. The Assemblies of God is a global church. The Assemblies of God reported 67,992,330 adherents worldwide in 2015. About 1% of the world’s population is AG. Fewer than 5% of AG adherents worldwide live in the U.S. Pentecostals who move to America from other regions of the world often bring with them a faith, burnished by persecution and deprivation, that is an important part of their identity. Pentecostal refugees who move to America are like pollen scattered by a strong wind — they plant churches wherever they happen to land. Strong African, Slavic, Asian, Pacific Islander, and Hispanic AG churches are taking root in American soil, and their congregations sing, preach, and testify in the tongues of their native countries.

Interestingly, this demographic shift is also helping to usher in a global re-alignment of Christianity. Anglican, Presbyterian, and Methodist Christians in Africa, Asia, and Latin America are generally evangelical in belief, if not Pentecostal in worship, and often have much more in common with their brothers and sisters in the Assemblies of God than they do with liberal members of their own denominations in the West.

The Assemblies of God is growing in America, due largely to a transformative demographic shift that has been underway for decades. The founding fathers and mothers of the Assemblies of God laid the foundation for this ethnic shift when they committed the Assemblies of God in November 1914 to “the greatest evangelism that the world has ever seen.” In 1921 the Assemblies of God adopted the indigenous church principle as its official missions strategy, in order to better carry out world evangelism. The implementation of this strategy — which recognizes that each national church is autonomous and not controlled by Western interests — resulted in the development of strong national churches and leaders. And now, in a fitting turn of events, those churches are sending missionaries to America.

By Darrin J. Rodgers, M.A., J.D.
Director, Flower Pentecostal Heritage Center

Photo: Scott Temple (Director of Ethnic Relations for the Assemblies of God) and Bill Welch (Alaska District Superintendent) pray over elected officials of the newly-formed Samoan District Council, in a meeting at Anchorage, Alaska, September 2013. By 2015, the Samoan District Council, which serves Samoans in the United States, had grown to 54 churches with 5,444 adherents.

Stats 2016 chart1Stats 2016 chart2

Sources for charts:
Assemblies of God
Episcopal Church
Evangelical Lutheran Church in America
Presbyterian Church (USA)
Roman Catholic Church
Southern Baptist Convention
United Church of Christ
United Methodist Church

Notes:
ELCA: Formed in 1987 by a merger of three bodies: American Lutheran Church (1960-1987); Lutheran Church in America (LCA) (1962-1987); and Association of Evangelical Lutheran Churches (AELC) (1976-1987). Tallies for 1975, 1980, and 1985 include stats of predecessor bodies. The AELC was a split from the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod (LCMS) in 1976. The 1975 tally does not include stats for LCMS churches which later formed the AELC, which has the effect of understating the ELCA’s loss from 1975 to the present.
PC(USA): Formed in 1983 by a merger of United Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A. and the Presbyterian Church in the United States. Tallies for 1975 and 1980 include stats of predecessor bodies.

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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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What can Pentecostals learn from John Wesley?

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This Week in AG History — June 3, 1944

By Darrin Rodgers
Originally published on PE-News, 2 June 2016

What can Pentecostals learn from John Wesley (1703-91), the founder of Methodism?

Wesley, an Anglican priest in England, helped to lay the foundation for large segments of the evangelical and Pentecostal movements. Despite living in a nation that identified as Christian, he recognized that most people did not have saving faith. He pioneered new evangelism and discipleship methods, which upset some of the religious leaders of his day. He appointed itinerant, unordained evangelists who traveled and preached the gospel. He also encouraged the formation of small groups of Christians for the purpose of discipleship, accountability, and Bible study.

Wesley encouraged each person to experience God’s love. However, he insisted that if a person was truly saved, an experience with God must yield a transformed life. True Christians, he taught, would live holy lives. When the Holy Spirit transformed a person’s desires, this inner holiness would naturally be manifested in outward holiness.

In many ways, early Pentecostals identified themselves in the tradition of Wesley. The June 6, 1944, issue of the Pentecostal Evangel published an article that shared the “secret” of “Wesley’s power.” Three reasons existed, according to the article, which caused Wesley’s ministry to be so powerful.

First, Wesley believed that the Bible was “the very Word of God.” The Bible was the standard for everything, and he prayerfully consulted it for guidance.

Second, Wesley “preached with a living sense of divine authority.” He believed his sermons were given “by direct communication of the Spirit,” based on the Bible, and “applied logically, earnestly, passionately to the hearts of men.”

Third, Wesley “lived and preached in the presence and power of the Holy Ghost.” His deep spirituality was formed by living daily in the presence of God and by developing daily habits of “prayer and song, fellowship and meditation, study and preaching.”

Wesley taught that changed hearts should ultimately change society. He and his followers (known as Methodists) became leaders in social issues of his day, including the abolition of slavery and prison reform.

In the present era of social and family disintegration, Wesley’s admonitions point Christians back toward holiness and deep spirituality. He understood that humanity’s woes flow from the human heart, and he encouraged people to change society one heart at a time.

Read the entire article by Samuel Chadwick, “Wesley’s Secret of Power,” on page 4 of the June 3, 1944, issue of the Pentecostal Evangel.

Also featured in this issue:

* “Direct Answers to Prayer,” by Frederick M. Bellsmith

* “Following Jesus,” by H. A. Baker

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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