Category Archives: History

E. S. Williams: The Azusa Street Veteran Who Led the Assemblies of God for 20 Years

ESWilliams

Ernest S. Williams (2nd from left) sitting in a gospel car used for evangelism efforts by his Philadelphia congregation, Highway Mission Tabernacle, circa 1920.

This Week in AG History — June 9, 1957

 

By Glenn W. Gohr
Originally published on PE-News, 8 June 2017

Having just observed Pentecost Sunday, it is fitting to remember the Pentecostal testimony of Ernest S. Williams (1885-1981), who was the only participant in the Azusa Street revival to later become a general superintendent of the Assemblies of God (1929-1949).

Known for his spiritual depth, he led the Fellowship during a period of significant growth in numbers as well as expanding outreach programs. During his watch, the Assemblies of God opened several new Bible schools and developed programs such as the Sunday School Department, Education Department, U.S. Missions, Chaplaincy, Youth Ministries, and Speed the Light. He wrote several books on theology, taught theology courses at Central Bible Institute, and authored a “Question and Answer” column for the Pentecostal Evangel.

Ernest Williams was born in San Bernardino, California, where his family was active in a Holiness church. He testified that he was saved and sanctified in 1904 at age 19.

Two years later, in August 1906, Williams was living in Colorado when he received letters from his mother telling him about the outpouring of the Holy Spirit in Los Angeles. That September, Williams and a friend traveled to Los Angeles to observe for themselves what was happening.

His first visit to the Azusa Street Mission was on a Sunday morning. What touched him the most was the altar service at the end of the meeting. The front of the mission was packed with seekers and altar workers. Christians and unsaved spectators crowded around to see what was going on. Some at the altar were seeking to be filled with the Holy Spirit; others were worshiping God in unknown tongues. Some were prostrate under the power of God. People were worshiping everywhere. In his autobiography, Williams stated this worship was best described in Ephesians 5:19, “Speaking to yourselves in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord.”

Williams looked on, not knowing what to think. His heart was hungry for God. He already had salvation, but he was not satisfied. After much prayer and study of the Word, he returned to the Mission and began to seek the baptism in the Holy Spirit. On Oct. 2, 1906, he received the Pentecostal blessing. Williams recalled, “How rich an experience, and in my private devotions spontaneous speaking in tongues became a large part of the outpouring of my heart in worship of God.”

This was Williams’ introduction into the Pentecostal Movement, and he never regretted his decision. Feeling called into the ministry, Williams was ordained by the Apostolic Faith Mission under the ministry of William J. Seymour in 1907. He went on to lead a Pentecostal mission in San Francisco in August 1907. From there he traveled as an evangelist to Colorado Springs, Portland, and other places in the Northwest. In Portland, he met Laura Jacobsen, and two years later she became his wife in 1911.

Together the Williamses pastored small churches in Kentucky; Conneaut, Ohio; and Seattle, Washington. E. S. Williams read in the Word and Witness, an early Pentecostal newspaper, about the formation of the Assemblies of God, and he decided to join the young fellowship in 1915.

Next the Williamses pastored in Bradford, Pennsylvania, in 1916 and Newark, New Jersey, beginning in 1917, where Bethel Bible Training School had recently opened. In 1920, Williams became the pastor of Highway Mission Tabernacle in Philadelphia, where he served for a little over 10 years. He then was elected general superintendent and served for 20 years in that office (1929-1949) as he guided the Assemblies of God through the Great Depression, World War II, and the post-war era.

Throughout his ministry, Williams pointed back to his baptism in the Holy Spirit as being a defining moment in his life. In an article from 60 years ago titled, “Baptized With the Holy Spirit,” E. S. Williams explained the doctrine of being baptized in the Holy Spirit from a scriptural viewpoint.

Williams wrote, “The Baptism with the Holy Spirit is a definite experience.” He further declared, “It was definite in the time of the early Church; it ought to be definite today.” He called the Holy Spirit “the promise of the Father.” To back this up, he quoted from Luke 24:47-49 where the disciples were instructed to “tarry in the city of Jerusalem” until they would be “endued with power from on high.”

The June 9, 1957, issue of the Pentecostal Evangel emphasized Pentecost Sunday. Read “Baptized With the Holy Spirit” on page 20.

Also featured in this issue:

• “Pentecostal Patience,” by Donald Gee

• “Endued With Power From on High,” by Myer Pearlman

• “Pentecost,” by Louis H. Hauff

And many more!

Click here to read this issue now.

The 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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A Warning from 1929 about Making the Worship Service into a Form of Entertainment

Bethany Temple (Evertt, WA)

The orchestra at Bethany Temple in Everett, Washington, circa 1928-1932, featured musicians such as Myrtle Peterson Robeck on piano (left) and Levi Larson on trombone (right). 

This Week in AG History — June 1, 1929

By Darrin J. Rodgers
Originally published on PE-News, 1 June 2017

What role should music play in the church worship service? A 1929 Pentecostal Evangel article affirmed the value of music, while warning against the tendency to make the worship service into a form of entertainment.

The article observed that, in many quarters, “much of the worship offered to God is governed by what the people want rather than by the divine plan.” What is the “divine plan”? According to the article’s author, Canadian Pentecostal pioneer George A. Chambers, a worship service should include prayer, music, preaching of the Word, and an experience of the “real presence of God.”

Chambers was not opposed to the contemporary worship music of his day. He affirmed the joyful singing accompanied by numerous musical instruments for which early Pentecostals were known. He was concerned that, in some quarters, a certain professionalism was creeping into the church, which emphasized performance over the presence and power of God. He cautioned that musical performances sometimes overshadowed the other elements of the worship service.

According to Chambers, various musical numbers — including solos, duets, and orchestral selections — sometimes receive so much attention “that the Word of God is often relegated to 20 or 30 minutes’ time, and if its discussion is protracted beyond that the people show their disapproval by retiring from the service.” He noted that music often attracts people to church, but added, “Crowds are not always a sign of blessing and of God’s presence.”

Chambers’ concern for the church in 1929 seems quite applicable 88 years later. Noting that the earliest Pentecostals were known for their deeply spiritual services, he encouraged readers to rediscover the deep spirituality that birthed the movement. He lamented the tendency to replace a reliance upon the Holy Spirit with a reliance upon modern methods and advertising, quipping, “It used to be ‘follow the cloud!’ Now in many places it is more or less ‘follow the crowd.’”

Chambers encouraged readers to read 1 Chronicles 13-15, which documented how Israel learned the importance of worshiping according to God’s plan. The church, he believed, could benefit from the lessons provided by Israel’s example. While there are many ways to organize a worship service, Chambers’ article reminds Pentecostals to rely on the Holy Spirit and to keep the necessary elements in balance.

Read Chambers’ article, “Doing a Right Thing in a Wrong Way,” in the June 1, 1929, issue of the Pentecostal Evangel:

Also featured in this issue:

* “Diamond Cut Diamond,” by Harry Steil

* “Scriptural Warnings,” by P. C. Nelson

Click here to view 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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Pioneer Pentecostal Missionary Alice Wood: The Orphan Who Found a New Home in Argentina

Wood Alice

Argentine Christians bid farewell to veteran missionary Alice Wood, July 12, 1960. (L-r): Pastor Ernest Diaz, Mrs. Diaz (seated), Miss Alice Wood, and Evangelist Ruben Ortiz

This Week in AG History — May 25, 1920

By Ruthie Edgerly Oberg
Originally published on PE-News, 25 May 2017

The first Pentecostal missionary to Argentina, Alice Wood (1870-1961), holds another great distinction: she served more than 60 years on the mission field, the last 50 without a furlough. When she finally retired at age 90, she left behind a thriving church pastored by Argentinians whom she raised up for the purpose of impacting a country for Christ through the power of the Holy Spirit.

When the call came in the December 1913 issue of Word and Witness for a gathering of Pentecostal believers in Hot Springs, Arkansas, E.N. Bell published the five reasons for this first General Council of what would become the Assemblies of God. The third reason stated: “We come together for another reason, that we may get a better understanding of the needs of each foreign field, and may know how to place our money … that we may discourage wasting money on those who are running here and there accomplishing nothing, and may concentrate our support on those who mean business for our King.”

Alice Wood received the call but was unable to attend. She was a single, 44-year-old Canadian Pentecostal missionary in Gualeguaychú, Argentina, with no visible means of support. Encouraged by the vision to support missions, Wood sent in an application to be included among the first official missionaries of the fledgling Assemblies of God. She was accepted onto the roster on November 2, 1914.

Wood was an adventurous woman who looked on fearful obstacles as challenges to be overcome. When she was 7 years old, one of the older school girls told her, “Conquer a snake and you will conquer everything you undertake.” The next time she saw a snake, she ran to put her foot on its head while encouraging her sister to pelt it with rocks until it was dead. From childhood, she was a woman who ran toward things from which others ran away.

Orphaned at age 16, Wood lived with a foster family. While she was raised in the Friends (Quaker) church, she also attended Methodist and Holiness conventions and sought the presence of God in her life. At age 25, she enrolled in the Friends’ Training School in Cleveland, Ohio. Upon graduation she began pastoring a church in Beloit, Ohio.

When a young missionary visited her church, she “longed to go where Christ had never been preached.” She resigned her church and became involved with the Christian and Missionary Alliance, which sent her to Venezuela in 1898 and to Puerto Rico in 1902. While there, overwork took its toll on her health and she returned to the United States for rest. During this time she heard of a great revival in Wales and began to pray, “Lord, send a revival and begin it in me.” While in Philadelphia she heard of another outbreak of revival at a small mission on Azusa Street in Los Angeles, only increasing her hunger. Seeking after God, she received the baptism in the Holy Spirit with the evidence of speaking in tongues at a camp meeting in Ohio, along with a re-commissioning from the Lord to return to South America. Upon receiving the news of her Pentecostal experience, the Christian and Missionary Alliance broke ties with her.

In 1910, with no commitment of support, Wood sailed for Argentina as the first Pentecostal missionary to that nation, trusting that God would provide. After a few years working on the field, some health problems returned but, knowing of the power of the Holy Spirit, she turned to God rather than doctors for healing. She later wrote, “Then I learned to take Christ as my life. Jesus healed me of cancer, nervousness, and many other ailments. Let His name be praised.”

When she joined the newly formed Assemblies of God, the 16-year veteran missionary’s experience lent credibility and stability to the organization. However, she never attended a district or general council meeting, nor did she travel to raise support and share her needs. From the time she arrived in Argentina in 1910 until her retirement in 1960 at age 90, she never took a furlough. When asked why she never returned to America to visit and itinerate, she responded that God had called her to Argentina and she understood the call to be for life.

When Wood was 88, a national worker became concerned about her overwork and made known to Field Secretary Melvin Hodges that a clothes washer would ease her load. Wood had been washing all the clothes at the mission on a washboard. Since she had been a missionary before the founding of the district councils, Wood had no home district that watched out for her needs, so her lack was sometimes overlooked. Wood, at age 89, became the proud recipient of a brand new 1958 washer paid for by the newly formed Etta Calhoun Fund of the Women’s Missionary Council. She wrote back expressing her gratitude: “You have greatly lightened the work … I have never seen anything like it. It is ornamental as well as useful.”

When Wood finally returned to the United States in 1960, a year before her death at age 91, her travel companion, Lillian Stokes, wrote, “As I saw her few little ragged belongings I thought, ‘the earthly treasures of a missionary,’ but the word of God says, ‘great is her reward in heaven.’”

This veteran single female missionary laid the foundation work for the revival that continues today in Argentina. In 1912, she wrote, “Ours is largely foundation work … but we believe our Father is preparing to do a mighty work and pour out the ‘latter rain’ upon the Argentine in copious showers before Jesus comes.” The sweeping Argentine revival of the 1980s and 1990s under evangelists Carlos Annacondia and Claudio Freidzon saw their beginning in Alice Wood, the fearless little missionary lady from Canada.

Read one of Alice Wood’s many reports from the field on page 12 of the May 29, 1920, issue of the Pentecostal Evangel.

Also featured in this issue:

“Fire From Heaven and Abundance of Rain,” by Alice Luce

“The Great Revival in Dayton, Ohio,” by Harry Long

“Questions and Answers,” by E.N. Bell

And many more!

Click here to read this issue now.

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

Note: Quotations in this article come from Alice Wood’s missionary file at the AGWM archives.

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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Walter Evans: Rediscovering a Pioneer Black Assemblies of God Minister in Nebraska

Evans Walter

By Darrin J. Rodgers

Until this week, I had never heard of Rev. Walter Evans, a pioneer black Assemblies of God evangelist who was a faithful, well-loved member of the Nebraska District Council for about 20 years until his death in 1959.

On Monday, when sorting through a collection of treasures recently deposited at the Flower Pentecostal Heritage Center, I discovered a delightful advertising card for a black gospel musician and evangelist named Walter Evans (pictured here). Who was Evans? Was he a Pentecostal? Probably Church of God in Christ, I surmised.

A quick search on the Heritage Center website uncovered that Evans was a licensed Assemblies of God minister, and that he died in 1959. I located his ministerial file in the Heritage Center vault, but it contained only scant information, confirming that he was indeed a licensed minister in 1958 and 1959, that he last lived in Bridgeport, Nebraska, and that he died on February 3, 1959.

Evans Walter card

Walter Evans advertised himself as an “evangelistic singer” who played “beautiful music on traps and drums”

Evans’ brief ministerial file did not disclose his race. Since the earliest years of the Assemblies of God, applicants for ordination have been required to state their race on applications that were filed at the Assemblies of God national office. These applications, ultimately, find their way to the vault at the Heritage Center, where they are safely stored for posterity.

Because Evans was licensed, and not ordained, his application for credentials was not filed at the national office. Why was Evans licensed and not ordained?

It was not unusual for Assemblies of God ministers to remain licensed and not to progress to the level of ordination. In 1958, when the Assemblies of God started including licensed ministers in its national directory, there were over 9,300 ordained ministers and over 5,200 licensed ministers.

However, it is possible that Evans was a casualty of a national policy from 1939 to 1962 that disallowed black ministers from receiving ordination (which was given at the national level) from the Assemblies of God. Black ministers could still be licensed (which was given at the district level). This policy was adopted in 1939 as the societal tensions were emerging over the Civil Rights movement and was rescinded in 1962 when the Assemblies of God ordained Bob Harrison, a high-profile Assemblies of God evangelist who worked with Billy Graham.

This policy had the practical effect of obscuring the ministry of blacks in the Assemblies of God. Until 1958, the national office did not keep files on licensed ministers or include them in the national ministerial directories. Now, historians have difficulty accessing information about black Assemblies of God ministers. District ministerial lists, which included licensed ministers, do shed some light on these black ministers. However, these lists rarely identified the race of the ministers, making it difficult to systematically identify black ministers and to share their stories.

The Heritage Center holds an incomplete collection of the Nebraska District ministerial directories. I did some digging and found that Evans was not listed in the 1938 directory, but was in the 1939 directory, as well as in directories from the following years until his death. District directories gave Evans’ city of residence as Burton (1939, 1942, 1943, 1945) and Bridgeport (1948, 1953).

I contacted the Nebraska District office for more information about Evans, and Val helpfully responded with a number of references that she was able to find. She confirmed that Evans was credentialed with the Nebraska District from 1939 to 1959, and that he lived in Scottsbluff and Mullen, as well as in Burton and Bridgeport. It is unknown whether he transferred his credentials from another denomination or district to the Nebraska District, or whether the district granted him his first credentials.

Val also provided this “colorful” obituary of Evans in the March 1959 issue of the Nebraska Fellowship (the monthly district periodical):

Walter Evans Passes On
by Clyde King

During the last of January Brother Walter Evans suffered a stroke while living with his daughter, Mrs. Cecil Jones in Chicago. He lived for five days, during which time he was unable to talk. Your District Secr. treas sent a small bouquet for his funeral in the name of the Nebraska Dist. As an unsaved farmer boy I first heard Brother Evans sing in the country Coburg Church where I was converted. I liked the song entitled, “Every Time I Feel the Spirit.” But the one I remember best is, “What Are They Doing in Heaven.”

Our former District Superintendent, Brother A. M. Alber enjoyed introducing Brother Evans at one of our district meetings by adding, “Brother Evans always adds a lot of color to our meetings.” Brother Evans would get up, set a chair for his foot, strum his guitar and counter with the remark, “I’m just an Irishman turned wrong side out.” Brother Evans was still adding color to our District meetings as he attended our Lexington Camp last summer; but we won’t be seeing him anymore. He passed away Febr. 3rd.

Walter Evans and countless other unheralded black ministers have helped to build God’s Kingdom through the Assemblies of God. Since the ordination of the first black Assemblies of God minister (Ellsworth S. Thomas of Binghamton, New York) in 1915, blacks have become an important part of the Assemblies of God. In 2015, the Assemblies of God USA counted that 1.9% of its ministers were black (722), and nearly 10% of its adherents were black (308,520). The challenge, in years to come, is to uncover the testimonies of these and other socially marginalized Assemblies of God ministers, so that we can better tell the full story of the “Full Gospel.”

The author, Darrin J. Rodgers, M.A., J.D., serves as director of the Flower Pentecostal Heritage Center.

UPDATE:

Dr. Byron Klaus, retired president of the Assemblies of God Theological Seminary (1999-2015), read this article and responded that his grandparents knew Walter Evans:

I have pictures of Brother Evans staying on my grandparents farm in Whitney NE. He preached revivals all over Western Nebraska in the late 1930’s. He was a regular visitor to the churches in the area. He’d just show up and say the Lord had sent him. Though it was certainly unusual in these times to have a black man preaching in these churches, no body ever thought it was anything other than the Spirits guidance. This was also an era when the KKK was everywhere in the region railing against everything that wasn’t white. Jews, Asians, Native Americans, etc.

__________________________________________________

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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Five Lessons from the Great Cuban Revival of 1950-1951

Cuba photo

Hands raised in prayer by those seeking salvation, Holguin, Cuba, February 1951

This Week in AG History — May 17, 1959

By Darrin J. Rodgers
Originally published on PE-News, 18 May 2017

The Pentecostal church in Cuba exploded in growth during a series of evangelistic and healing services throughout the island nation in 1950 and 1951. Several church leaders in Cuba, including Luis Ortiz, Dennis Valdez, Hugh Jeter, and Ezequiel Alvarez, hosted Pentecostal evangelist T. L. Osborn, and about 50,000 people made professions of faith in Christ. Jeter, an Assemblies of God missionary, wrote about this remarkable revival in the May 17, 1959, issue of the Pentecostal Evangel.

Jeter wrote, “One of the greatest moves of God’s Spirit in our generation took place in the island of Cuba in 1950 and 1951. It was a common occurrence in many Cuban cities for crowds of 10,000 to 15,000 people to fill a baseball stadium or city park night after night to hear the gospel and to be prayed for.”

The revival effected immediate and lasting change. Jeter noted, “Thriving congregations suddenly came into existence in places where previously we had had no work at all. The entire stock of the Bible society was quickly sold out. The miraculous was continually in evidence and people were convinced that of a truth God was in our midst.”

What can we learn from the remarkable Cuban revival? Jeter identified five practical lessons:

1.  A revival can be judged by its results over time. While some people initially questioned whether the Cuban revival was genuine, over the years it became obvious that people who were converted had become faithful Christians. Small churches were strengthened, and new churches were planted. The Assemblies of God Bible school in Cuba, which had temporarily closed due to lack of students, was overwhelmed in the years following the revival with students who had a burning passion to share the gospel.

2.   True revival will be grounded in the Bible and will give glory to God and not to man. Jeter wrote, “Our principal evangelist, Brother Osborn, did not claim to have any special gift or revelation that would set him a class apart from the rest of us. He simply let us know what God had promised and inspired us to believe that God would keep His Word.”

3.  Effective “follow-up” is essential in order to integrate converts into churches. The best “follow-up,” according to Jeter, is not merely a systematic visitation of converts, but the continuation of the revival spirit in local churches. The same spiritual vibrancy that brought people to faith in Christ will also inspire people to be faithful in church.

4.  Church leaders must be willing and able to relocate their congregation if current buildings become inadequate. Pastors who showed flexibility regarding location could more easily retain converts simply because they could fit into the church.

5.  Technology can help to reach the unchurched and to communicate with the faithful. In the Cuban revival, radio was an important tool by which news of the revival spread quickly.

“Can this revival be duplicated elsewhere?” Responding to this question, Jeter suggested that “God is no respecter of people, or of nations.” He noted that revival came to Cuba following a long period of time during which believers developed their faith and prepared for a move of God. While recognizing that God is sovereign in bringing revival, he stated, “I know of no reason why it cannot happen anywhere else in the world.”

Read Hugh Jeter’s article, “Lessons from the Cuban Revival,” on pages 6, 7, and 22 of the May 17, 1959, issue of the Pentecostal Evangel.

Also featured in this issue:

* “Standing Together,” by Frank J. Lindquist

* “Led by the Holy Ghost,” by W. E. McAlister

* “Do the Deaf Speak in Tongues?” by Twila Brown Edwards

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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Dr. Stanley Horton: Influential Pentecostal Theologian, Educator, and Writer

Horton desk

Stanley M. Horton at his desk at Gospel Publishing House, working on the Adult Teacher, circa 1955

This Week in AG History — April 27, 1975

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

Stanley M. Horton (1916-2014), the noted Pentecostal author and educator, was one of the most influential teachers of laypeople in the history of the Assemblies of God. He taught at the highest level in Assemblies of God institutions of higher education and authored the standard textbook on the Pentecostal understanding of the Holy Spirit, but it was through his “side job” as a writer of Sunday School material that he yielded his broadest influence.

Horton’s Pentecostal background goes back to the Azusa Street revival of 1906-1909. His mother, Myrle Fisher, was baptized in the Holy Spirit at the meetings at Azusa Street. She later married Harry Horton, who followed Myrle’s father, Elmer Fisher, as pastor of the Upper Room Mission, located just blocks from the Apostolic Faith Mission on Azusa Street.

The family often attended Angelus Temple, the home church of Evangelist Aimee Semple McPherson. One of Horton’s childhood memories is being led to the Angelus Temple platform to lead in prayer for a children’s meeting. He sat on Sister Aimee’s lap until it was his turn to pray.

Exposure to some of the early leaders and ministries of the Pentecostal movement gave Horton an inside understanding of the relationship between the development of theological ideals and their practical application to Christian living.

From his youth, Horton exhibited unusual intellectual prowess. He graduated from high school in 1933 at age 16 and in 1937 received his undergraduate degree in science from University of California at Berkeley. He went on to earn a Master of Divinity from Gordon Divinity School, a Master of Sacred Theology from Harvard, and ultimately his doctorate from Central Baptist Theological Seminary in 1959.

In a day when Pentecostal scholarship was considered “an oxymoron,” Horton was a rarity. While many of his peers considered higher education to be a hindrance to the Spirit’s anointing, Horton felt that God had called him to develop his intellectual abilities. If he did not fulfill that calling, he reckoned, he would be disobeying God.

Horton went on to teach at the college and university level for 63 years and traveled the world as a lecturer until age 92. He authored dozens of books — many of which have been translated into multiple languages — and published more than 250 scholarly articles. His book, What the Bible Says About the Holy Spirit, still serves as the definitive text on the topic in seminaries and universities around the world.

However, it is possible that his broadest influence in the Pentecostal world came through the humblest of his writings. In the April 27, 1975, issue of The Pentecostal Evangel, Horton was honored for serving as author of the Adult Teacher Sunday School quarterly for 25 years. Students in churches of every size and teachers of every level of ability would open these quarterlies each Sunday to glean a deeper understanding of biblical principles from the same pen that was writing university textbooks.

Balancing a heavy teaching load and raising three children, the scholar would stay up late into the night, at the beginning rate of $1 per hour, to develop lessons that would take the deepest theological truths and convey them in a manner that applied to the daily lives of farmers, factory workers, and businessmen and women. Dr. Bob Cooley, past president of the Evangelical Theological Society, former president of Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, and a 1949 student of Dr. Horton, wrote, “If you read the adult quarterly, you can see that the lesson material grew out of an academic understanding of Scripture but was very practical . . . a technical understanding of the biblical text but a remarkable way of translating that into a body of applied theology.”

Dr. Horton’s sacrifice of time proved to be an investment in the lives of tens of thousands of Assemblies of God laypeople who would never attend one of his seminary classes, but who were still able to receive theological training from one of the greatest minds of the Pentecostal movement — just by attending Sunday School.

Read the article, “A/G Editors Honor Stanley Horton for 25 Years of Writing Ministry,” on page 26 of the April 27, 1975, issue of the Pentecostal Evangel. 

A biographical sketch of Horton, a bibliography of his writings, and video interviews are accessible on the Flower Pentecostal Heritage Center website.

Also featured in this issue:

• “Unveiling the Man of Sin,” by Ian McPherson

• “Build A Bridge of Friendship,” by Marjorie Stewart

• “Navajo Trails Assembly Outgrows Its Building,” by Ruth Lyon

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 Revivaltime Choir: Over 1,300 Students were “Young Evangelists” in this Radio Ministry

Revivaltime1

Revivaltime choir, circa 1960s. Cyril McLellan, director, is standing in front, far right.

This Week in AG History — April 15, 1962

By Glenn W. Gohr
Originally published on PE-News, 13 April 2017

When people reflect on Revivaltime, the long-standing weekly radio broadcast of the Assemblies of God, they often think of the much-acclaimed speakers, C. M. Ward and Dan Betzer. But the ministry of the Revivaltime choir, made up of students from Central Bible College (CBC) who volunteered to sing on the program each week, was just as important.

The Assemblies of God released the first Revivaltime broadcast on Easter Sunday, 1950. Three years later, on Dec. 20, 1953, the program was broadcast from the Bowie Hall auditorium at CBC and began airing on the ABC Radio Network with C. M. Ward as the speaker. Through the years, it is estimated that more than 1,300 people ministered as choir members and musicians under the leadership of Cyril McLellan, Revivaltime’s longtime music director. Although McLellan trained for and expected musical excellence, the emphasis of every practice and broadcast was prayer and a desire for the anointing of the Holy Spirit.

The choir practiced during the week. Then on Sunday afternoons, beginning in January 1962, a bus would transport the students from CBC to the auditorium at the Assemblies of God national office. After rehearsing, the choir was joined by the rest of the team for prayer, and then C. M. Ward (and later Dan Betzer) would offer a few inspirational thoughts to the choir before starting the live broadcast. Two songs which became a hallmark of every program were “All Hail the Power” and “There’s Room at the Cross.”

A variety of songs and traditional hymns rounded out the musical selections for the Revivaltime program, with the choir often presenting a sermon in song which would augment the preaching. Whether it was a live radio broadcast in the Assemblies of God national office auditorium or when the choir was on tour, the choir members would often disperse into the congregation, connect with people, and pray for their needs. Ward often referred to the choir as “these young evangelists.”

Each year, two or three times as many talented CBC students auditioned for the choir than could be used. Those selected willingly gave up many hours each week to prepare for the half-hour broadcast. The students only met a small fraction of their audience, and they seldom would see the results of their ministry in music and prayer. Yet there are many testimonies of persons who have been saved, healed, encouraged, and helped by their singing.

An article in the Pentecostal Evangel from 55 years ago entitled “Why They Sing for Revivaltime” gave some background on why the students gladly sang for Revivaltime. The article includes testimonies from choir members as well as people in the audience.

Why did they sing for Revivaltime? One factor listed, in addition to their love for singing, is that the students found that “working with the talented choir director, Cyril McLellan, is a rewarding experience.” They also caught on to the vision of the ministry they could have through Revivaltime.

Gwen Hestand, a sophomore, testified, “I chose Revivaltime as an outlet for ministry because the broadcast’s very foundation is to meet human need wherever it exists and to present Christ as the answer to that need.”

“There’s no other ministry where so many people in so many places can be reached at one time,” said Carl Guiney, another sophomore.

David A. Ferrell, a student who had served as an evangelist, shared: “The Revivaltime choir is the greatest opportunity I have ever had to help so many. To read letters from those in distress and to go before the throne of God with these requests is the most rewarding work I’ve done.”

A listener in Alabama reported, “I receive a wonderful blessing from the message and beautiful music.” From Oregon came this testimony: “I enjoy the singing so much. I like to sing along with the choir.”

Revivaltime was not just a radio broadcast, it was a ministry that touched lives through the message and songs. The choir prayed often. Their focus was not on performance, but on ministering the gospel through song.

Read, “Why They Sing for Revivaltime,” on pages 16-17 of the April 15, 1962, issue of the Pentecostal Evangel.

Also featured in this issue:

• “The Cross in Christian Experience,” by Gordon D. Fee

• “The Last Supper,” by Violet Schoonmaker

And many more!

Click here to read this issue now.

Pentecostal Evangel archive 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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