Category Archives: Church

Should the Assemblies of God Change Its Name?

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This Week in AG History — October 8, 1927

By Glenn Gohr
Originally published on PE-News, 8 October 2015

At the 1927 General Council, the Assemblies of God considered a possible name change as one of two hot topics covered on the Council floor. Delegates also considered and adopted the formal constitution and bylaws of the Assemblies of God (which included several minor changes to the Statement of Fundamental Truths).

The Oct. 8, 1927, issue of the Pentecostal Evangel includes lively discussion of the reasons for a name change and, whether the AG is a denomination. Two years earlier, the 1925 General Council had rejected a proposed constitution and bylaws. A Revision Committee was formed to craft changes that would be more acceptable. In the process of making revisions, this committee explored the possibility of a new name.

J. Narver Gortner, the chairman of the committee, reported: “When the Revision Committee was looking for a name, we wanted to find one that would indicate what we are, one in harmony with our real character. And we all agreed that we are Pentecostal people. Then we are evangelical too, we believe in evangelization.”

The committee recommended changing the name “Assemblies of God” to “Pentecostal Evangelical Church.”

“For a long time there has been widespread dissatisfaction concerning the name by which we have been known,” Gortner said. He found precedence for a name change in Scripture, since God changed the name of Abram to Abraham, Sarai to Sarah, Jacob to Israel, and several others.

After continued discussion from a number of delegates, Harold Moss interjected. “We as a people are evangelical, that is, we have a worldwide evangelistic program to get men and women saved through the blood of Jesus Christ,” Moss said. “But the name is not sufficient as there are other evangelical churches, so we need another name to draw a clear line of demarcation — Pentecostal Evangelical church. We are Pentecostal, thank God; and I am not ashamed.”

T. K. Leonard, who had originally suggested the name Assemblies of God in 1914, reminded everyone that “after days of meditation and trying to get an undenominational, nonsectarian name” the founders saw this as the “God-given name” for the Fellowship. “When It was read to the audience, by one standing vote, unanimously, the whole body stood there and sang, ‘Praise God from whom all blessings flow,’ Leonard said. “And the whole house was filled with the power of God.”

The discussion of a possible name change went on for several days. At the close of the discussion, delegates decided to delay the suggested change until the next meeting of the General Council, to allow additional feedback and study on the matter. The constitution was adopted at the 1927 General Council, but not the name change. In the years since its founding, the name Assemblies of God had become familiar to the world at large. So with very little further discussion, when the General Council met two years later in 1929, the name Assemblies of God was retained and continues to be the name of the Fellowship, 101 years after its founding.

More information is available in the article “The Assemblies of God: A Good Name” in the Fall 1994 issue of Assemblies of God Heritage.

The Pentecostal Evangel article, “A Suggested Change of Name,” is on pages 5-7, and 9-10 of the Oct. 8, 1927, edition.

Also featured in the issue:

* “Continuous Revival,” by R. E. McAlister

* “A Fine New Church,” by Mae Eleanor Frey

* “God’s Call to Pentecostal Saints,” by Sara Coxe

Click here to read this issue now.

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

Do you have Pentecostal historical materials that should be preserved? Please consider depositing these materials at the Flower Pentecostal Heritage Center (FPHC). The FPHC, located in the Assemblies of God national offices, is the largest Pentecostal archive in the world. We would like to preserve and make your treasures accessible to those who write the history books.

Flower Pentecostal Heritage Center
1445 North Boonville Avenue
Springfield, Missouri 65802 USA
Phone: 417.862.1447 ext. 4400
Toll Free: 877.840.5200
Email: archives@ag.org

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Christ’s Ambassadors, the Assemblies of God Youth Organization, Originated in California in 1925

This Week in AG History — September 25, 1926

By Darrin Rodgers
Originally published on PE-News, 24 September 2015

One of the most important formative experiences for several generations of Assemblies of God young people was participation in “Christ’s Ambassadors” — the Assemblies of God national youth organization.

Christ’s Ambassadors had its origin in 1925, when Assemblies of God young people in Oakland, California, formed the Pentecostal Ambassadors for Christ. Similar groups existed in Fresno and Los Angeles under the names Christian Crusaders and Christ’s Ambassadors. Ultimately, the three groups merged under the name Christ’s Ambassadors.The idea of organizing Assemblies of God youth into a national organization quickly gained momentum. The September 25, 1926, issue of the Pentecostal Evangel included “an appeal to the young people” to begin new a new national youth organization, patterned after the groups pioneered in California.

Some people feared giving too much power to the younger generation, lest they have a platform to promote agendas that might undermine the church. However, the 1926 article stressed the important role of young people in the Assemblies of God. “It is the natural prerogative of young people to do the aggressive work,” the article noted. “Unless the latent powers and talents [of youth] are harnessed and developed for God’s service they will be used for the world or for the devil.”

Earlier in 1926, the name Christ’s Ambassadors had been adopted as the title of a new weekly Assemblies of God young people’s periodical. When the national organization was formed, it seemed fitting to name the group Christ’s Ambassadors. The name stuck, and Assemblies of God young people’s groups across the United States were known as Christ’s Ambassadors for the next 50 years.

Read the article, “An Appeal to the Young People,” on page 6 of the September 25, 1926, issue of the Pentecostal Evangel.

Also featured in this issue:

• “The Second Coming of Christ,” by D. L. Moody

• “How to Enjoy Your Money Forever,” by J. Narver Gortner

• “Ten Ways to Kill a Church,” by J. Logan Stuart

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

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Confronted by 1960s Racial Tensions, Ohio AG Church Grew by Reaching out to Hispanics and Blacks

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Pictured are pastors of the new churches and the mother church (left to right): S. R . Nodal (Templo Betel); Dana Dickson (Evangel Assembly, Sandusky); Keith Smith (Broadway Assembly); and R. E. Burel (Beulah Assembly).


This Week in AG History — August 8, 1965

By Darrin Rodgers
Published August 6, 2015

Fifty years ago, the community of Lorain, Ohio, was in the midst of a significant demographic shift. Thousands of immigrants from Cuba and Puerto Rico relocated to Lorain to work in the steel mills, and the African-American community was growing. Racial tensions existed in the historically white town of 60,000, as residents grappled with these social changes.

How should the church respond to racial tensions and community strife?  Keith Smith, an Assemblies of God pastor in Lorain, saw the changes in his community as an opportunity to share the Gospel and bring reconciliation. He led his church, Broadway Assembly of God, to seek out the newcomers and minister to their needs.

Members of Broadway Assembly canvassed the community, befriended the immigrants, and began a bus ministry so that those without transportation could come to church. The church began a Spanish-speaking ministry under the leadership of S. Reyes Nodal, an Assemblies of God pastor born in Mexico. Nodal’s ministry grew and became Templo Betel (Bethel Temple), the first Spanish-speaking Assemblies of God church in Ohio.

Broadway Assembly asked a Church of God in Christ pastor, Robert E. Burel, to lead an outreach to African-Americans. Under Burel’s leadership, a new congregation, called Beulah Assembly, formed and met in Broadway Assembly’s building. After about a year and a half, Burel led his congregation to affiliate with the Church of God in Christ.

Broadway Assembly grew significantly even as it was planting new churches in its own community. Sunday school attendance grew from 200 to over 600 in a few years. The church built a new building to accommodate its growing crowds and gave its old building to Templo Betel.

How should today’s church respond to demographic changes and social strife? When confronted by a similar situation fifty years ago, Keith Smith did not retreat into the comfort of his church building. He led his congregation to engage the community and reach out to Spanish-speaking immigrants and African-Americans.

Read the article about Broadway Assembly, “Mother Church Triples,” on page 15 of the August 8, 1965, issue of the Pentecostal Evangel.

Also featured in this issue:

  • “Witness for Christ,” by Fred Smolchuck
  • “Man Overboard!” by Charles T. Crabtree
  • “Be Not Silent,” by Bob Hoskins

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

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A Warning for Pentecostals from 1942: “Is Our Modern Revival Deep Enough?”

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This Week in AG History — August 8, 1942

By Darrin Rodgers
Originally published on PE-News, 30 July 2015

Is our modern revival deep enough?”

Noted British Assemblies of God leader Donald Gee (1891-1966) asked this question in an article in the Aug. 8, 1942, issue of the Pentecostal Evangel.

“Everywhere I go I find indications of shallowness,” Gee wrote. “The modern revival is very bright and happy, but I fear it is also very shallow, and I am deeply concerned about that because I do not believe that which satisfies the heart of God is shallow.”

One of the most prolific early Pentecostal authors, Gee was widely read on both sides of the Atlantic. In many ways, Gee was the conscience of English-speaking Pentecostalism. Known as the “apostle of balance,” he counseled Pentecostals to maintain spiritual vitality and to stay within the bounds of Scripture and wisdom.

Gee praised what he viewed as the positive emphases on miracles and music. The dominant features in many churches, he noted, were divine healing and joyful singing. But he also cautioned readers that spiritual depth requires more than excitement in a church service. He admonished believers to seek a “revival of repentance” — which includes a sense of brokenness over sin and a full commitment to Christ and His mission.

Is your faith deep or superficial? This can be tested, according to Gee, by asking yourself how easily you forget about the things of God and instead get caught up in the things of the world. He encouraged readers to seek a deep baptism in the Holy Spirit — allowing God to transform desires and sanctify the believer. A revival that does not produce holiness and repentance, he insisted, “does not go deep enough.” If you want an anointed ministry, you need to spend time in the presence of God, which cultivates spiritual depth.

Gee challenged readers to pray for a fresh outpouring of the Holy Spirit that would produce a deep revival. Such a deep revival, he wrote, would produce repentance and changed lives and “keep us broken, melted and softened before the Lord.” Gee’s challenge — penned fewer than 30 years after the founding of the Assemblies of God — remains pertinent today.

Read the article, “Is Our Modern Revival Deep Enough?” on pages 2-3 of the August 8, 1942, issue of the Pentecostal Evangel.

Also featured in this issue:

* “When the Japanese Invaded Malaya,” by Lula Ashmore

* “Victory in Lonely Places,” by Carrie Judd Montgomery

* “Revival Among the Apache Indians”

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

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Uncovering the Assemblies of God’s Black Heritage: Ellsworth S. Thomas Ordained 100 Years Ago

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This Week in AG History — July 25, 1936

By Darrin Rodgers
Originally published on PE-News, 23 July 2015

One hundred years ago, the Assemblies of God ordained its first African American minister, Ellsworth S. Thomas of Binghamton, New York. Ellsworth was largely absent from the pages of the Pentecostal Evangel, other than a brief mention of his death, published 79 years ago this week.

Recently uncovered information about Ellsworth sheds new light on this African American pioneer in the Assemblies of God. Ellsworth was part of a flourishing but small community of free blacks that existed in Binghamton in the nineteenth century. Historian Debra Adleman, who wrote about the black community in Binghamton, noted that many had escaped slavery, moved north, and formed a close-knit community. They overcame racism and societal restrictions, developed strong families, and carved out their own religious, economic, and social niche in the region.

Ellsworth S. Thomas was born in 1866 in New York. His father, Samuel, was born in Maryland in 1830 and worked as a laborer. Samuel was also a Civil War veteran, serving for three years as a private in the Massachusetts 54th Infantry. Ellsworth was born about nine months after his father returned home from the war. Ellsworth’s mother, Mahala, was born in 1842 in Pennsylvania and worked as a laundress. Ellsworth was the eldest of two children born to the couple. After Samuel passed away in the early 1890s, Ellsworth lived with his mother and cared for her. Census records show that they owned a modest house and that most of their neighbors were white. He did not attend school, but he could read and write.

Binghamton city directories from the 1890s reveal that Ellsworth was a laundryman. By 1900, though, they listed his occupation as a traveling evangelist. His name first appeared in the Assemblies of God ministers’ directory in October 1915, which stated that he was a “colored” pastor in Binghamton. He remained an active Assemblies of God minister for the remainder of his life.

In 1917, the Assemblies of God asked existing ministers to re-submit applications for credentials, apparently because paperwork had not been kept during the earliest years of the Fellowship. Robert Brown, influential pastor of Glad Tidings Tabernacle in New York City, endorsed Ellsworth’s 1917 application. On the application, Ellsworth stated that he was originally ordained on December 7, 1913, by R. E. Erdman, pastor of a large congregation in Buffalo, New York. Correspondence in his ministerial file from reveals that Ellsworth also pastored a congregation in Beaver Meadows, New York.

The Flower Pentecostal Heritage Center holds a 1936 letter from Paul Westendorf that informed the Pentecostal Evangel of Ellsworth’s death on June 12, 1936. He was 70 years old and passed away in Binghamton after a serious illness. Westendorf wrote, “He has been in the Council Fellowship for many years and so will be remembered throughout the Eastern District. Brother Thomas was faithful and true to the Lord in all kinds of circumstances, serving Him with gladness, therefore we feel that he had an abundant entrance in the presence of the Lord.” Ellsworth S. Thomas’ passing was briefly noted on page 13 of the July 25, 1936, issue of the Pentecostal Evangel.

No photograph of Ellsworth S. Thomas has yet been located. Persons with additional information about the life and ministry of Ellsworth S. Thomas are encouraged to contact the Flower Pentecostal Heritage Center at archives@ag.org.

As the Assemblies of God continues to become more ethnically diverse, it is increasingly important that its history books include stories from the varied backgrounds of believers.

Other articles featured in the July 25, 1936, issue:
• “Reckless for God,” by Beatrice V. Pannabecker
• “Victors and Victims of Faith,” by J. O. Savell
• “How God is working in the Gold Coast,” by Brother and Sister H. B. Garlock

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

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Edith Mae Pennington: The Beauty Queen Who Traded Hollywood for a Pentecostal Pulpit

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This Week in AG History–July 4 and 11, 1931
By Darrin Rodgers

Also published in PE News, 02 July 2015

Edith Mae Pennington (1902-1970) traded the glamour and fame of Hollywood for a Pentecostal pulpit. Her testimony, published in 1931 in the Pentecostal Evangel, shared her journey from small town America to Hollywood and back again.

Reared in Pine Bluff, Arkansas, Edith had accepted Christ at a young age in her family’s evangelical church. By high school, she had become a ravishing young woman and lost interest in spiritual things. She enjoyed popularity and, she wrote, “the love of the world gripped my heart.” She spent her youth going to dances and engaging in the frivolities of the world. She did not intentionally reject God but nonetheless drifted away from her faith.

After high school, Edith attended college. She intended to become a teacher but soon found herself on another path. She entered a beauty pageant in 1921 and beat out 7,000 other young women to capture the title, “The Most Beautiful Girl in the United States.”

Edith’s life would never be the same. Gifts and money were showered upon her, and she received numerous invitations to speak at luncheons and christen buildings and public works projects. “I was dined and feted, flattered and honored,” she recalled. She wore expensive clothing, had a car and chauffeur, and regularly made guest appearances at theaters.

Even though Edith seemed to have everything, she felt empty on the inside. “It was very exciting, alluring, inviting — yet it did not satisfy,” she wrote. During her travels across America, she decided to try the screen rather than the stage. She settled in Hollywood, hoping for a change.

Edith’s mother was her constant companion, helping to protect her and line up events. But her mother’s most important work, perhaps, was accomplished in the prayer closet. Edith noted, “Mother would be behind the curtain praying for me at my request and her desire — for God to help me and not let me make any mistakes.”

These prayers were soon answered, but not before witnessing the depravity of Hollywood. Edith appeared in several motion pictures, but became increasingly “shocked” at the “wicked world” surrounding her. “I was horrified at the immorality and the things I witnessed,” she wrote, noting that she had “several narrow escapes which frightened me.” She realized that her hopes for fame and fortune had been misplaced. “My air castles shattered at my feet,” she cried.

In her despair, Edith turned to God. She began attending church and heard the gospel preached by the power of the Holy Spirit. She felt conviction for her sins and “awakened to the startling realization that I was a sinner, lost and undone.” She began to read the Bible, which seemed to make everything “brighter” and her “soul lighter.” However, she hesitated to make the decision to become a true follower of Christ.

Edith knew that she would have to leave her lifestyle behind if she recommitted herself to Christ. She understood that there would need to be a parting of ways: “One way led to a career, fame, and fortune, but there was sin, the world, and a lost soul at the end. The other way revealed the Cross, and Jesus the Saviour who had died for me that peace, joy, and forgiveness might be mine.”

Initially, Edith tried to have both God and the world. She went to church and also went to theaters and parties where sin abounded and where God was dishonored. She was miserable and ultimately recognized that she needed “deliverance from the bondage of the world.”

She visited churches that she described as “nominal,” and they were unable to help her find victory from her bondage to sin. She knew she wanted to live for the Lord, but she could not seem to separate herself from the destructive paths of the world. She experienced painful cognitive dissonance. She liked dressing like a Hollywood starlet, but deep inside she knew that she could not serve both God and flesh.

Finally, Edith decided to visit a Pentecostal church. She had heard that Pentecostal churches believed in the power of God. And Edith knew that she needed God’s power. She attended several Sunday evening services at a Pentecostal church in Los Angeles in October 1925. One evening, after a message in tongues seemed to be a direct rebuke from God, she ran to the altar and fully surrendered her life to God. She began to weep uncontrollably and then experienced unexplainable peace and quietness. She recalled, “I was happy, and felt so free, so light, so clean.”

The next night Edith returned to church. This time, she decided not to wear her characteristically gaudy jewelry. She received the baptism in the Holy Spirit and felt God call her to preach the gospel. Edith returned to Pine Bluff, Arkansas, where, in 1930, she became the pastor of the Assemblies of God congregation.

Edith Mae Pennington spent the rest of her life in ministry as a pastor and noted evangelist. Throngs of people would come to hear “The Most Beautiful Girl in the United States” share how she left the lights of Hollywood for the light of the cross. Edith’s decision to forsake the world and to follow Christ changed the course of not only her life, but thousands of others.

Read the article by Edith Mae Pennington, “From the Footlights to the Light of the Cross,” published serially in the July 4, 1931, and July 11, 1931, issues of the Pentecostal Evangel.

Also featured in the July 4, 1931, issue:

• “The Overflowing Stream,” by P. C. Nelson

• “Is Life Worth Living?” by Myer Pearlman

And many more!

Click these links to read the July 4th and July 11th issues 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

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How Compassion Ministries and Miracles Fueled Growth in the Assemblies of God in India

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This Week in AG History–June 20, 1925
By Darrin Rodgers

Also published in PE News, 18 June 2015

The Assemblies of God, from its earliest years, has been ministering the gospel in word and deed around the world. The June 20, 1925, issue of the Pentecostal Evangel highlighted the work of an early Assemblies of God mission located in Nawabganj, a city in northern India near the border of Nepal, which operated ministries to help the poverty-stricken and disadvantaged of India.

A boys’ school at the Nawabganj mission rescued street children and nourished their souls, bodies, and minds. The school, equipped with modern living quarters for about seventy boys, provided a safe, healthy environment and “intellectual and practical training.” Technical training included weaving, carpentry and machine work in the school’s “industrial department.”

The mission also ministered to those affected by the contagious, skin-eating disease of leprosy. While the broader society often rejected lepers, the mission attempted to affirm their dignity as humans and provided them with physical comfort and the hope of eternal life with Christ.

The mission’s work among women was termed “zenana” — an Urdu word referring to women. Women missionaries ministered to women, often widows or those who had experienced extreme poverty or suffering. The mission, according to the article, provided a home for society’s “most unfortunate victims.” Many of these women became Christians, and prayer became an important part of their lives.

In addition to these works of compassion, the mission was home to a vibrant evangelistic ministry. Indian Christians went into the surrounding villages and preached the gospel. Persecution against those preachers, according to the article, was “beyond endurance and almost unbelievable.” However, the preaching of the word was not in vain. As these indigenous Christians ministered in the face of incredible opposition, the truth of the gospel was confirmed by acts of compassion and by miracles of deliverance and healing. One by one, people repented of their sins and accepted Christ.

The mission at Nawabganj demonstrates how the Assemblies of God, since its inception, has encouraged holistic ministry to spiritual, intellectual, and physical needs. The Nawabganj mission built its institutions to meet the needs of the community’s most impoverished — those who had been rejected by the broader society. These works of compassion, coupled with miracles and prayer, gave credibility to the gospel, which allowed Indian Christians to successfully plant churches across northern India despite stiff opposition.

Read the entire article, “More about the India Mission Stations,” by William M. Faux, on page 10 of the June 20, 1925, issue of the Pentecostal Evangel.

Also featured in this issue:
• “The Second Coming of Christ,” by Finis J. Dake
• “Mexican Border Work Prospers,” by H. C. Ball
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

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