Category Archives: Church

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

Samoan District Council 2013 -2

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.

_________________

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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Mexican Refugees Poured into Texas 100 Years Ago. How Did the Assemblies of God Respond?

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H. C. Ball (front center) with ministers at the 32nd annual Latin American District Council meeting in Los Angeles, California, November 1-3, 1948.

This Week in AG History — May 27, 1916

By Darrin Rodgers
Originally published on PE-News, 26 May 2016

The Mexican Revolution, a decade-long civil war beginning in 1910, changed the North American social landscape. Thousands of displaced people fled the armed conflict and social disruption in Mexico and sought refuge along the borderlands in the United States. It was among these refugees that Henry C. Ball, a young preacher in Ricardo, Texas, planted one of the first Hispanic Assemblies of God congregations.

H. C. Ball (1896-1989) accepted Christ at age 14 and joined the Methodist Church in Kingsville, Texas. Approximately 10 days after his conversion, Ball attended a service held by a missionary to Venezuela. At that service, he felt a tug in his heart to serve as a missionary to Mexican refugees in his area. Encouraged by his Methodist pastor, the very next Sunday Ball held his first evangelistic service.

Ball went from house to house, inviting Mexicans to the Spanish-language service he had planned in a schoolhouse in Ricardo. Bell was undeterred by the fact that he did not even know Spanish. He memorized a one-sentence Spanish-language invitation, and he brought a Spanish hymn and Bible to the service. Two visitors joined Ball in that first service in late 1910. Ball was only 14 years old, he did not know Spanish, he had only accepted Christ weeks earlier, and yet he followed God’s call and pioneered a church among the Mexican refugees in Texas. The young preacher persevered and, in 1912, the Methodist church gave him a license to preach at age 16.

In 1914, Ball was Spirit-baptized under the ministry of Felix Hale, a Pentecostal evangelist affiliated with the newly formed Assemblies of God. This put Ball at odds with his Methodist superiors, who dismissed him from the denomination. Ball’s ordination was recognized by the Assemblies of God in January 1915, and his congregation of Mexicans became the seed from which much of the Hispanic work in the Assemblies of God grew.

The Pentecostal Evangel published frequent reports from Ball. The May 27, 1916, issue featured a photograph of the Asamblea de Dios in Ricardo, Texas, on the cover, and included an article by Ball about the new Mexican believers. He encouraged readers to pray for the immigrants. He wrote, “Here they are on our land, poor, homeless and without Jesus.”

Ball described the situation faced by the Mexicans: “The war in Mexico has driven many Mexicans from their homes in their native land to our side of the river. In the Rio Grande valley are many thousands of these refugees, besides the resident population. They have now been here some time, not able to return and fearful that their own nation may turn against them.” Ball asked Pentecostal Evangel readers to provide financial support and prayers for his efforts to reach the Mexican refugees with the gospel.

A strong Assemblies of God ministry developed among the Mexican refugees, initially led by H. C. Ball and others. This work not only helped to strengthen the Assemblies of God in Mexico when refugees returned home as Pentecostal believers, it also transformed the Assemblies of God in the United States. In 2014, 22.5 percent of Assemblies of God adherents in the United States were Hispanic.

Read the article by H. C. Ball, “The Mission to the Mexicans,” on page 12 of the May 27, 1916, issue of the Pentecostal Evangel.

Also featured in this issue:

• “The Pentecostal Work in Fort Worth, Texas,” by B. F. Lawrence

• “Answered Prayer: Healing When Evangel is Applied,” by Elmer Snyder

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 Azusa Street to Cleveland: How the Book of Acts was Repeated in Ohio in 1906

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First Assembly of God, Cleveland, Ohio, circa 1950s


This Week in AG History — May 13, 1916

By Darrin Rodgers
Originally published on PE-News, 12 May 2016

The Pentecostal movement came to Cleveland, Ohio, in 1906 in a spiritual outpouring sparked by the Azusa Street Revival in Los Angeles. This revival did not occur in a vacuum. The ground in Cleveland had been watered for six years by the tears and prayers of a small group of people who experienced dissatisfaction with their own spiritual lives and who hungered for more of God.

Cleveland Pentecostals affiliated with the Assemblies of God and organized as The Pentecostal Church (now First Assembly of God, Lyndhurst, Ohio). B. F. Lawrence, an Assemblies of God pastor and historian, documented the congregation’s history in the May 13, 1916, issue of the Weekly Evangel.

The Cleveland revival was preceded by a protracted period of intense prayer and waiting upon God that began in the fall of 1900. One church member recalled that the pastor and people “became conscious of the fact that we were impotent, powerless, and in a large measure were in our own souls dried up spiritually.”

They began meeting nightly for months, “to wait at the feet of Jesus for power, for some outpouring from Him that would satisfy our hearts and make us more nearly the witnesses that we felt we ought to be.” The church member recounted that it took almost six years for God to answer their prayer.

When members heard in 1906 about an outpouring of God’s Spirit in Akron, Ohio, they went to investigate. Ivey Campbell, a female evangelist from the Azusa Street Revival in Los Angeles, was leading the services in Akron. They became convinced that these Pentecostal meetings were scriptural — that what they read about in the Book of Acts was being repeated in Ohio. The revival spread to Cleveland. Numerous people accepted Christ, experienced bodily healings, and received the baptism in the Holy Spirit.

In addition to documenting the miracles and other exciting occurrences in the congregation’s first decade, the article also spent three paragraphs reporting on the church’s governmental structure. Lawrence suspected that some readers would not be interested in these details about church polity.

However, Lawrence noted that there was a growing conviction among early Pentecostals that the God who ordered the stars, moons, and all things in nature also wanted a well-ordered church. According to Lawrence, “That if there be no order in the church, it is the only place in all God’s creation where it is absent. And we have remarked that those churches which had enough system to prevent senseless disputes and preventable divisions were the churches which were doing something for God and His truth.”

The Pentecostal Church’s pastor, D. W. Kerr, also took great care to feed his flock from the Word of God. Kerr, an Assemblies of God executive presbyter, was the primary author of the Statement of Fundamental Truths, adopted in the 1916 general council. With emphases on deep spirituality, solid doctrine, and well-ordered church government, by 1916 the Cleveland congregation had become one of the strongest churches in the Assemblies of God.

Read the article by B. F. Lawrence, “How and When Pentecost Came to Cleveland,” on pages 4 and 5 of the May 13, 1916, issue of the Weekly Evangel (later renamed Pentecostal Evangel).

Also featured in this issue:

• “The Times of the Gentiles,” by W. E. Blackstone

• “Word from Mukti,” by Pandita Ramabai

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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How Men’s Ministries Helped Evangel Temple (Kansas City, MO) to Grow in the 1930s

Kansas City

This Week in AG History — February 5, 1938

By Glenn Gohr
Originally published on PE-News, 5 February 2016

A. A. Wilson (1891-1984) was an early pastor and district superintendent in the Assemblies of God who had a burden for reaching men with the gospel. Born in New Madrid County, Missouri, he was ordained in 1922. His first pastorate was in Puxico, Missouri. He later served as superintendent of the Southern Missouri District AG from 1926-1931.

While serving as district superintendent, he helped start a church in 1928 which he claimed was the first Assemblies of God congregation in Kansas City. Two years later the congregation asked him to become their full-time pastor, and he ministered there for the next 31 years. While he was pastor, the church changed locations from its original building at 13th and College streets and changed its name from Assembly of God Tabernacle to First Assembly of God.

Wilson gives a glowing report of growth in his church in the February 5, 1938 issue of the Pentecostal Evangel in an article entitled “Pentecostal Men at Work in Kansas City, MO, Taking Men for Christ!” He credits the increases to reaching out to men, who in turn brought their families into the church.

Wilson reports in the article that when he came to Kansas City in April 1930, “The first Sunday we found only about 100 in Sunday school, but seeing the possibilities, we began to work and pray, and as a result the last four Sundays we had an average of 794 and last Easter Sunday more than 1,000 attended.” Wanting to see men involved in the church and Sunday school, he exclaimed, “Much is said concerning women and children in the Sunday school, but God has burdened my heart for men.” He further interjects: “Our Pentecostal Movement cannot achieve its best without reaching men.”

The congregation continued to grow, and in 1941 they were able to move to an even large structure on East 31st Street and eventually to Swope Parkway where the name became Evangel Temple AG. Wilson retired from Evangel Temple (now Evangel Church) in 1961, but continued preaching revivals. In his retirement years he also helped establish Park Crest AG (now Life360 Church) in Springfield, Missouri.

Read the article, Pentecostal Men at Work in Kansas City, MO.” On pages 12, 13, and 16 of the February 5, 1938, issue of the Pentecostal Evangel.

Also featured in this issue:

• “The Spirit-Refined Life,” by Gayle F. Lewis

• “The Gospel Among the Mossi People,” by E. Chastagner

• “The Place of Men in the Work of the Church,” by Ralph M. Riggs

And many more!

Click here to read this issue now.

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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Revivaltime: How Radio Helped Shape Assemblies of God Identity

Revivaltime

Revivaltime broadcast, circa 1958. Bartlet Peterson announcing for Revivaltime; C.M. Ward (seated at table on left); Cyril McLellan (directing Revivaltime choir); C.T. Beem (standing behind piano)

This Week in AG History — December 11, 1960

By Darrin Rodgers
Originally published on PE-News, 10 December 2015

Revivaltime, the Assemblies of God weekly broadcast heard on the ABC radio network from 1953 to 1995, was one of the Fellowship’s most successful national ministries. Its hosts, C. M. Ward (1953-1978) and Dan Betzer (1979-1995), became two of the best-known Assemblies of God personalities, known to millions of listeners “coast to coast and around the world,” as the program’s familiar introduction intoned.

Ward established the 30-minute program’s format. Each program began with the song, “All Hail the Power of Jesus’ Name,” sung by the Revivaltime choir. The song became so ingrained into the program’s identity that some have called it the “unofficial anthem” of the Assemblies of God. The reading of a biblical text and a sermon came next, followed by an invitation to kneel at the “radio altar” while the choir sang Ira Stanphill’s “There’s Room at the Cross for You.”

The program saw almost immediate success. For decades, over 10,000 letters from listeners poured into the Revivaltime offices each month. By 1960, church officials estimated that Revivaltime’s U.S. radio audience was 12 million people — 12 times as large as the Sunday morning attendance at Assemblies of God churches in America. Add to that the numerous Revivaltime broadcasts in other countries, and the magnitude of the program’s influence quickly becomes obvious.

Ward and Betzer engaged audiences with sermons employing simple, direct language and powerful illustrations and human-interest stories. They also modeled the charismatic gifts on the air, sometimes exercising a “word of knowledge” — communicating messages under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit to specific unknown listeners. Countless thousands of people wrote in and credited Revivaltime for playing a role in a relative’s salvation, a healing, or other divine interventions.

Revivaltime and other national ministries — such as Christ’s Ambassadors (the ministry to youth and young adults), Royal Rangers (the Scout-like boys ministry), and Missionettes (now National Girls Ministries) — helped to give the Assemblies of God a sense of national identity and branding. While the focus in the Assemblies of God remained on the local church, these national ministries provided generations of Assemblies of God members with a sense that they were a part of a larger community of believers.

The December 11, 1960, issue of the Pentecostal Evangel celebrated the seventh anniversary of Revivaltime, featuring C. M. Ward, D. V. Hurst (national secretary of Radio), and Bartlett Peterson (Revivaltime executive director) prominently on the cover. Together, these three men and hundreds of others labored to develop Revivaltime into a ministry that not only helped to evangelize and disciple believers, but also helped shape the identity of the Assemblies of God.

Read articles about Revivaltime’s seventh anniversary on pages 2 and 12 of the December 11, 1960, issue of the Pentecostal Evangel.

Also featured in this issue:

• “The Security of the Believer,” by Myer Pearlman

• “Predestination: What Does the Bible Teach about this Mysterious Subject?” by Ralph M. Riggs

And many more!

Click here to read this issue now.

Listen to classic Revivaltime radio episodes by clicking here.

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 J. W. Tucker’s Blood Became a Seed of the Assemblies of God in Congo

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This Week in AG History — November 21, 1965

By Glenn Gohr
Originally published on PE-News, 19 November 2015

Thanksgiving 1964 was a day of mourning for Angeline Tucker. The previous day, she learned that her husband, J. W. (Jay) Tucker, had been killed by Congolese rebels. The Tuckers had served as Assemblies of God missionaries to Congo since 1939. After a furlough in America, they returned to Congo in August 1964. Less than two weeks later, J. W., Angeline, and their children were captured and placed under house arrest by rebel forces. The drama that unfolded over the next three months captured the attention of Assemblies of God members worldwide.

The tragedy came in the midst of a civil war which broke out in 1960, following the power vacuum that developed after Belgium granted independence to Belgian Congo. One group of rebels, the “Simbas,” eventually took control of the town of Paulis, where the Tucker family ministered. The rebels took Jay into custody and held him, along with other hostages, in a Catholic mission.

Fearing an attack by American and Belgian paratroopers, the insurgents hardened their attitudes toward the prisoners, and several were murdered. After days had passed with no word of her husband, Angeline was able to telephone the mission to inquire about his welfare. “How is my husband?” In guarded words, the Mother Superior hesitated, and then answered in French: “He is in heaven.”Those words became the title of a popular book written in 1965 by his widow. He Is In Heaven shared J. W. Tucker’s story and helped him to become the best-known martyr in Assemblies of God history.

Reflecting back on her husband’s martyrdom, Angeline wrote an article, “Congo: One Year After,” which was published in the November 21, 1965, issue of the Pentecostal Evangel. She described, in painful detail, the events that changed her life forever:

“It was Thanksgiving morning, 1964. The sun was shining beautifully in Paulis, Congo, when I awakened. I looked at the clock; it was 6:10. I lay there a moment wondering what the day might bring forth. I had slept well in spite of the tenseness of the situation…. The previous morning when I had called the Catholic mission to inquire about my husband’s welfare, I had been totally unprepared for the reply of the Mother Superior, ‘He is in heaven.'”

Angeline Tucker was devastated. She knew that she, her three children, her coworkers Gail Winters and Lillian Hogan, and all foreigners were in grave danger. Not knowing what was ahead, she prayed for protection, and God answered. Later that day, a combined Belgian and American rescue operation brought the Tuckers and their coworkers to safety in the town of Leopoldville.

One year later, as she was looking back on the Congo situation, Angeline reported that the national army had regained control of Paulis and other towns in the Congo and that “the political situation seems to be fairly stable.” It was safe for missionaries to return.

One might expect that Angeline, overwhelmed from the loss of her husband, would want nothing to do with Congo. But she worked tirelessly to ensure that her loss would be Congo’s gain. She declared, “If Jesus tarries, there should be a wonderful harvest of souls in all of northeast Congo: for we truly believe that the ‘blood of the martyrs is the seed of the Church.'”

The Tuckers’ efforts, before and after J. W.’s martyrdom, paid off. The Mangbetu tribe had been resistant to the gospel when Jay Tucker ministered in the Congo. However, his death became the catalyst for many of them to accept the gospel. Missionary Derrill Sturgeon later reported that one of Tucker’s converts eventually became the police chief of Nganga, which was the homeland of the Mangbetus.

The police chief told the people about Tucker’s murder and that his body was thrown into “their river.” The Mangbetu culture considered the land and rivers where they lived to be theirs personally. Since Tucker’s blood had flowed through their waters, they believed they must listen to the message that he carried.

As a result of J. W. Tucker’s martyrdom, a great revival swept through the region. Thousands decided to follow Christ, and hundreds experienced divine healing. It was even reported some were raised from the dead. The Assemblies of God reported 4,710 adult members and other believers in 1964 in Congo. Fifty years later, in 2014, this tally had risen to 570,859 adherents. At least part of this incredible growth was due to the sacrifice of J. W. Tucker, who gave his life for the people of the Congo.

Read the entire article, “Congo: One Year After,” on pages 12-13 of the November 21, 1965, issue of the Pentecostal Evangel.

Also featured in this issue:
• “Songs in the Night,” by Emil A. Balliet
• “A Beachhead in Hong Kong,” by A. Walker Hall
• “Are We Loyal Americans?” by Gail P. Winters
• “Moments of Inspiration for Thanksgiving”

And many more!

Click here to read this issue now.

Photo: Missionary J. W. Tucker standing at the airport gate in Little Rock, Arkansas, preparing to leave on his final trip to Belgian Congo, 1964.

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

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