Category Archives: History

From the Cabaret to Musical Evangelist: Meyer Tan-Ditter, Jewish Assemblies of God Pioneer

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This Week in AG History — September 30, 1962

By Darrin J. Rodgers
Originally published on PE-News, 28 September 2017

Meyer Tan-Ditter (1896-1962) was an unlikely candidate to become an Assemblies of God evangelist and missionary. Born into an Orthodox Jewish home in London, England, Tan-Ditter abandoned his family’s strict religious standards when he reached adulthood. A gifted musician, he spent seven years playing in cabarets. He spent considerable time at race tracks, where he exercised horses. For nearly five years, he traveled the world in the British Naval Service and the American Merchant Marine. Tan-Ditter later described himself as living “the life of a sailor.” He spread his wings and imbibed deeply in the ways of the world.

A friendship with a Christian woman – known to history only as “Sister Wicks” – changed the trajectory of Tan-Ditter’s life. Wicks, knowing that the young man came from an observant Jewish background, began asking him about his childhood faith. At first, he resented her questions. He was not interested in discussing religion. Furthermore, his family had taught him to distrust Christians.

Wicks continued to show esteem for both Tan-Ditter and for Jewish traditions. Over time, he opened up to her. She asked about his thoughts regarding the identity of the Messiah, but she carefully refrained from mentioning the name of Jesus. Her inquiries sparked questions in Tan-Ditter’s mind. He was already very familiar with the Talmud and the Torah, and he began to suspect that it could be possible that the Messiah had already come.

One night while staying at his parents’ home, something jostled Tan-Ditter awake. He was startled to see a glow with a bright lighting shining in his eyes. The longer he stared at the light, the clearer it became. He soon realized that it was the face of Jesus Christ in the light! He jumped out of bed and ran into the kitchen, nervous and shocked.

His mother came into the kitchen and asked what was wrong. He was not sure what to say. His vision seemed to confirm what he already suspected – that Jesus could be the Messiah. He knew that his family would disown him if he confessed this belief. Finally, he told her that he had just seen Jesus in a vision.

Tan-Ditter’s mother began weeping, thinking that her son must be either crazy or apostate. Rumors circulated about his vision. A little while later his father asked, “What is this I hear? I hear you are becoming a Christian.” Tan-Ditter answered, “I am not becoming one, I have been one for three weeks.” His father immediately kicked his son out of the house and asked him to never return. The local Jewish community ostracized him, and people would come up to him on the streets and mockingly ask him to describe what Jesus looked like. Following Jesus would be costly.

Sister Wicks provided a room for the 25-year-old homeless convert and encouraged him to seek God in prayer. For 10 days, Tan-Ditter spent extended times of prayer on his knees. He asked God to show him whether Isaiah chapter 53 does indeed refer to Jesus. His vision of Jesus as Messiah held fast. His father brought him to two rabbis, who cross-examined the young man. But he held his vision of Jesus close to his heart, and the rabbis could not shake his faith.

Tan-Ditter received another vision. This time he saw an angel carrying a large book come into his room. The angel told him to eat the book, which he did. The next morning he awoke with a great hunger to share the message of Jesus Christ with the Jewish people. This vision propelled Tan-Ditter toward a life of ministry to the Jewish people.

To prepare for this calling, Tan-Ditter attended two Assemblies of God schools. He initially enrolled at Beulah Heights Bible Institute in North Bergen, New Jersey (now University of Valley Forge). After one year, he transferred to Bethel Bible Training School in Newark, New Jersey (now Evangel University). He graduated in 1922, was ordained as an Assemblies of God evangelist in 1924, and married Alice Laura French in 1926. Together, they served in pastoral ministry and became well-known musical evangelists and missionaries.

The Tan-Ditters served as missionaries to the Jewish people in the United States until Meyer’s death in 1962. Alice passed away in 1975. The couple did not have children.

Meyer Tan-Ditter’s testimony illustrates several themes in Pentecostal history. Many early Pentecostal converts testified that signs and wonders drew them to faith. Likewise, Tan-Ditter’s vision confirmed, in his mind, that Jesus was the Messiah. Early Pentecostals also often found that serving Jesus was costly. And Tan-Ditter was not the only early Pentecostal whose Jewish background and knowledge of Hebrew scripture proved to be a strong foundation for Pentecostal faith. Myer Pearlman, the noted Assemblies of God systematic theologian from the 1920s through the 1940s, had a similar testimony. The Assemblies of God, mirroring the Book of Acts, proved fertile ground for both Jews and Gentiles.

Read Meyer Tan-Ditter’s obituary on page 23 of the Sept. 30, 1962, issue of the Pentecostal Evangel.

Also featured in this issue:

• “Open Doors in the Congo,” by Gail Winters

• “Dedicated to Sacrifice,” by Anthony Sorbo

• “Pioneering among the Deaf and among the Hearing,” by Maxine Strobridge

And many more!

Click here to read this issue now.

Click here to read Meyer Tan-Ditter’s testimony, “How God Got Hold of a Jew,” published on page 8 of the January 22, 1927, issue of the Pentecostal Evangel.

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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Royal Rangers: Shaping Boys into Godly, Responsible Men Since 1962

Johnnie_Barnes_1400

Johnnie Barnes wearing a Revolutionary War outfit and holding a large Bible, 1976

This Week in AG History — September 23, 1962

By Darrin J. Rodgers
Originally published on PE-News, 21 September 2017

“A new age is upon us! It is an age of jet travel, space consciousness, pleasure madness, and moral indifference. Our boys are growing up in this overpowering environment. They will be the victims of it unless our church men do something to guide the energies and thoughts of the boys into right spiritual channels. Action must be taken quickly.”

Johnnie Barnes wrote these words in 1962, introducing readers of the Pentecostal Evangel to the new Royal Rangers discipleship program for boys.

Assemblies of God leaders in the 1950s and 1960s realized that shifting cultural currents posed significant challenges to the development of Christian manhood. They chose Johnnie Barnes (1927-1989), an energetic young preacher from Texas, to craft a new program to respond to this emerging discipleship crisis.

Barnes’ boyhood experience as a Boy Scout helped to prepare him for this new challenge. As a teenager, he was an Eagle Scout recipient, and his heart was set on being a park ranger. But God called him into the ministry, and by his early 20s he became a Methodist circuit-riding preacher. Barnes soon received the baptism of the Holy Spirit, which flooded his heart with a sense of God’s grace and power, accompanied by greater personal humility and power in his ministry. Barnes transferred his ministry credentials to the Assemblies of God, where he quickly became noted for his passion for ministry to men and boys.

When developing Royal Rangers, Barnes drew upon aspects of Boy Scouts, the Royal Ambassadors program of the Southern Baptist Convention, and similar programs. What resulted was a unique Pentecostal mentoring program that melded outdoor adventure, Christian service, and biblical training. Royal Rangers became a familiar rite of passage for boys in Assemblies of God churches across America and around the world.

As head of Royal Rangers, Barnes had a broad vision and built bridges across denominational lines. In 1975, Royal Rangers began allowing other denominations to charter groups. The Congregational Holiness Church was the first, followed by the International Pentecostal Holiness Church, the Pentecostal Free Will Baptist Church, the Church of God (Cleveland, Tennessee), and others. Today, churches of numerous denominations use the Royal Rangers program.

Since the founding of Royal Rangers in 1962, the spiritual and cultural decline of America has quickened, and the need for godly mentors for boys is greater. The legacy of Royal Rangers is demonstrated in the lives of over 2.5 million boys around the world who have participated in this program designed to mold boys into godly, responsible men.

Read the article by Johnnie Barnes, “A Bird’s-Eye View of our New Boys Program,” on pages 9 and 19 of the Sept. 23, 1962, issue of the Pentecostal Evangel.

To learn more about Royal Rangers and its flexible and adaptable programs, visit the Royal Rangers website.

Also featured in this issue:

* “Rescue the Prayer Meeting,” by Lloyd Christiansen

* “Always be Joyful,” by F. Helen Jarvis

* “The Pentecostal Dimension in Education,” by G. Raymond Carlson

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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Etta Calhoun: Pioneer Pentecostal and Founder of Assemblies of God Women’s Ministries

Etta Calhoun

Etta Calhoun, 1901

This Week in AG History — September 14, 1969

By Ruthie Edgerly Oberg
Originally published on PE-News, 14 September 2017

Etta Gray Fields Calhoun (1870-1940), a wife and mother from Texas, was convinced that women could make a world of difference if they banded together and put their time, money, and prayer into joint efforts rather than separate missions projects. She was the founder of the Assemblies of God Women’s Missionary Council (now Assemblies of God National Women’s Ministries) and is the name behind the Etta Calhoun Fund (now Touch the World Fund) which has supplied indoor equipment for missions institutions since 1957.

Born on September 19, 1870, to devout Methodist parents, Calhoun showed an early interest in community involvement. As a teenager, she began working with the Women’s Christian Temperance Union (WCTU). The WCTU educated the public regarding the social evils of alcohol and gave women the opportunity to develop leadership and public speaking skills. At age 20, she became a speaker for the WCTU and learned valuable lessons about organizing women together for a cause.

During this time, she became an ordained minister for the Methodist church and felt a call to missions. However, her mother became seriously ill and Calhoun moved from Ohio to Orchard, Texas, to help care for her mother. She began teaching school and, in 1899, married Marion Fields, a successful businessman with Houston Electrical Company. Moving to Houston, they worked together to use their financial blessings to reach out to the needy around them.

In 1905, an evangelist named Charles Parham brought the Pentecostal message to Orchard. Calhoun visited the meetings and received the baptism in the Holy Spirit with the evidence of speaking in tongues and shared her experience with her pastor. Their church soon became a part of the fledgling Pentecostal movement.

Mr. Fields’ health began to deteriorate and his wife cared for him until his death in 1921. Etta Fields then married John Calhoun of Houston. They attended the Full Gospel Mission Assembly of God church where, in 1925, Calhoun organized the women into a prayer band for missions. After several weeks of meeting together for prayer, Calhoun began to encourage them to consider ways in which God might want to use them to meet the needs of the missions field. At her encouragement, their first project was to sew clothes for the 300 children at Lillian Trasher’s orphanage in Assiout, Egypt.

Building upon the organizational skills she learned as a young woman in the WCTU, Calhoun began traveling to other Assemblies of God churches and districts to organize Women’s Missionary Councils. In September 1925, the General Council of the Assemblies of God recognized these organizations as extensions of Assemblies of God ministries. In 1951 the Women’s Missionary Council became an official national department in Springfield, Missouri.

Calhoun continued in ministry, teaching at Southern California Bible School (now Vanguard University) and Southern Bible Institute (now Southwestern Assemblies of God University) until her death in 1940. In 1957, the Women’s Missionary Council formed the Etta Calhoun Fund, using her birthday, September 19, as an important day for offerings to be taken for the purpose of supplying missions school and institutions with indoor equipment.

The Etta Calhoun Fund is now known as the Touch the World Fund and is still observed on the Sunday closest to Calhoun’s birthday. One of its many projects for the September 17, 2017, offering is to provide beds and mattresses, couches, tables, chairs, a refrigerator and a stove to Timothy’s Abode, a missionary training school in Catamayo, Ecuador, under the direction of missionaries Ron and Esther Marcotte.

Read an article about the 1969 Etta Calhoun offering on page 14 of the September 14, 1969, Pentecostal Evangel.

Also featured in this issue:

• “On Course for God” by Norman Correll

• “Christ is Our Priest” by T. J. Jones

• “The Great Revival of 1857″ by Harold A. Fischer

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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American Indian College: Training Native Americans for Pentecostal Ministry for 60 Years

AIC

American Indian College, 1980.

This Week in AG History — September 9, 1973

By Darrin J. Rodgers
Originally published on PE-News, 7 September 2017

American Indian College was pioneered 60 years ago in Phoenix, Arizona, by a white female Assemblies of God missionary, Alta Washburn, who recognized the urgent need to train Native American leaders.

At the time, the U.S. census reported about 500,000 Native Americans living in the nation. Many were migrating from rural reservations to urban areas, and various denominations started “Indian missions,” mostly led by white missionaries.

Alta Washburn and her husband began serving the Apache Indians on the San Carlos Reservation in Arizona in 1946. They understood firsthand the importance of developing indigenous leaders. As whites, their ministry on the reservation was limited. But Native American migration to the cities opened new ministry opportunities. They moved to Phoenix in 1948 and started All Tribes Assembly of God, which became an important spiritual and social refuge for Native Americans from various tribal backgrounds who often felt out of place in their new surroundings.

Washburn believed that she was called to empower Native Americans to become pastors and leaders in their own communities and tribes. She had a vision to plant Native American churches throughout Arizona. An important part of this vision was the establishment of a Bible school to train pastors. The school she founded, initially called All Tribes Indian Bible Training School, opened its doors on Sept. 23, 1957. Washburn remained as president of the school until 1965.

The Sept. 9, 1973, issue of the Pentecostal Evangel highlighted the history of the school. The article noted that the school emphasized study of the Word of God and training in practical ministry. One of the most visible student ministries was the Tribalaires, a traveling group of students who sang and ministered in churches across the nation.

Simon Peter, a Choctaw, became the school’s first Native American president in 1978. The school changed its name several times over the years — American Indian Bible Institute (1967), American Indian Bible College (1982), and American Indian College (1994). In 2016, American Indian College became a campus of Southwestern Assemblies of God University, retaining its name and mission, while benefiting from the resources and faculty of the larger school.

Since its origins 60 years ago, American Indian College has grown significantly and now serves nearly 25 tribes as well as other ethnicities. Alta Washburn’s vision for a school to train Native American leaders has made a lasting mark, not only on the deserts of Arizona, but across the nation, wherever its graduates have served as pastors, missionaries, evangelists, and church workers.

Read “Indian Youth Train for Ministry,” on pages 14 and 15 of the Sept. 9, 1973, issue of the Pentecostal Evangel.

Also featured in this issue:

• “What We can do for our Colleges,” by Albert W. Earle

• “I Like My Problems” by Ralph Cimino

• “Jesus is Always in Vogue,” by J. Robert Ashcroft

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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Teen Challenge: Transforming the Lives of Drug and Alcohol Addicts Since 1958

Teen Challenge

Howard Foltz (left) and Dieter Bahr (right) standing in front of a Teen Challenge center in Europe

This Week in AG History — August 27, 1967

By Glenn W. Gohr
Originally published on PE-News, 31 August 2017

Teen Challenge, among the world’s largest and most successful substance abuse recovery programs, grew out of an Assemblies of God minister’s burning desire to share Christ with troubled youth. The program’s origin with David Wilkerson in 1958 and its subsequent expansion around the world is a remarkable testimony to God’s life-changing power.

After reading a news article in the Feb. 24, 1958, issue of Life magazine which talked about a high-profile murder trial for members of a teen gang in New York, David Wilkerson, a young pastor in Philipsburg, Pennsylvania, prayed about this situation. He felt a compelling burden to go to New York City and help those boys.

With the prayers of church members, and accompanied by his youth pastor, Wilkerson headed to New York City. He attempted to speak with the judge during the trial, but was thrown out of the courtroom. An embarrassing photo of him holding up a Bible was featured in the New York Daily News. Although his efforts seemed unfruitful, he learned that a number of gang members had been in the courtroom that day. The gang members figured if the cops didn’t like him, and the cops didn’t like them, they all were in the same boat.

The gang members began watching what Wilkerson did. He took advantage of this newfound popularity to preach the gospel both in street meetings and in crowded gang hideouts and heroin “shooting galleries.” Eventually he enlisted the aid of 65 Assemblies of God churches from New York and held a citywide rally for gang members and teens caught up in the gang culture. On the last night of the rally, members of the Mau Maus, Bishops, and several other gangs were in attendance. At the conclusion of the service, dozens of gang members came forward to accept Christ as Savior, including Nicky Cruz, a teen gang leader from Brooklyn.

From this small beginning, additional street rallies were held in New York City, and shelter was offered to young people in need. Evangelism, street meetings, and outreach to teens remained essential, but this new ministry also encompassed recovery from addiction, counseling, and training in practical life skills. This ministry, which is now known as Teen Challenge, focused not only on Christian conversion, but also on Christian discipleship.

In the early 1960s, Dave Wilkerson teamed up with John and Elizabeth Sherrill of Guideposts magazine to write the story behind Teen Challenge. The Cross and the Switchblade, published in 1963, gave the compelling story of David Wilkerson’s ministry to the gangs of New York City and the start of Teen Challenge. A popular movie of the same name was produced in 1970, which starred Pat Boone and Erik Estrada.

Teen Challenge centers sprang up in Brooklyn, Chicago, Boston, Dallas, Philadelphia, San Francisco, Los Angeles, etc. Many of these new Teen Challenge ministries were pioneered by people who had read The Cross and the Switchblade or had visited another Teen Challenge ministry.

Teen Challenge, which is now a part of AG U.S. Missions, has garnered the attention of national leaders such as President Ronald Reagan, President Gerald Ford, and President George W. Bush.  President Reagan said, “Not only does Teen Challenge help our young people deal with their substance abuse, but it also gives our kids something to live for — a relationship with God, a healthy self-esteem, and a direction in their lives.”

Fifty years ago, in the Aug. 27, 1967, issue, the Pentecostal Evangel highlighted the ongoing growth of the Teen Challenge ministry in an article titled, “Teen Challenge on the Move.” This article featured two new Teen Challenge centers located in Denver and Bayamon, Puerto Rico, as well as centers in Detroit, Seattle, Philadelphia, Boston, and Dallas-Fort Worth. A dozen Teen Challenge centers had been established worldwide by 1967.

What began as an outreach by David Wilkerson to the gangs of New York City in 1958 has developed into one of the largest and most successful Christian treatment programs for individuals caught up in drugs, alcohol, and other life-controlling problems. In addition to 30 administrative offices and 227 Teen Challenge centers in the United States, Global Teen Challenge has been set up to assist with the development of new centers outside the U.S. In 2017, Global Teen Challenge is in 122 countries, representing 1,200 programs.

The specific challenges and methods have changed over the years, but Teen Challenge’s focus remains the same. Teen Challenge leaders recognize that preventing addiction and other life-controlling problems is a process, and Christ alone holds the key to prevention and cure.

Read “Teen Challenge on the Move,” on pages 16 and 17 of the Aug. 27, 1967, issue of the Pentecostal Evangel.

Also featured in this issue:

• “Joy in Jerusalem”

• “The Lord’s Prayer” by G. Raymond Carlson

• “Good News Crusades in Nigeria”

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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Was the Dust Bowl a Sign of God’s Judgment on America? A Pentecostal Leader Responds to this Question.

Dust BowlThis Week in AG History — August 25, 1934

By Ruthie Edgerly Oberg
Originally published on PE-News, 24 August 2017

In Luke 13:1-5, Jesus addressed the question, “Do tragic current events indicate God’s judgment for sin?” Jesus was referring to both a political crisis and the natural occurrence of a deteriorating tower that toppled and crushed 18 people.  In the Aug. 25, 1934, Pentecostal Evangel article, “Is It Superstition?” General Superintendent E. S. Williams addressed a similar question: “Is the Dust Bowl a sign that America is under God’s judgment?”

1934 was a difficult year for much of the United States. The Great Depression was still in full swing with an unemployment rate of 21.7 percent. The new president, Franklin Roosevelt, had begun a redistribution of wealth that some feared would lead the United States to a more Communistic form of government.  To top it off, 1934 saw the worst farming conditions in centuries with 71.6 percent of western North America in drought as the Dust Bowl reached its zenith.  This combination of political crisis in the Great Depression and natural crisis in the Dust Bowl caused many Americans to ask, “Are we under the judgment of God for our sins?”

One particular sin that seemed to be on the mind of some was the Department of Agriculture’s slaughter of 6,000,000 pigs in an attempt to control the price of pork in 1933.  Secretary of Agriculture, Henry A. Wallace, made the following statement, “My attention has been called to a statement by a minister out in the Corn Belt before the district conference of his faith. Concerning the actions of the New Deal he says: ‘… some of them are downright sinful as the destruction of foodstuffs in the face of present want.’ I have been used to statements of this sort by partisans, demagogues, politicians, and even newspaper columnists … But when a minister of the gospel makes a statement, we expect it to be the truth.”

In his opening paragraph, Williams addressed this directly: “… officials of the Department of Agriculture are a bit concerned over the spread of the superstition that the disastrous drought which had gripped our land was God’s way of punishing folks … (they) went on to say that this superstition started in the pulpits of Iowa.”

Williams took issue with the term “superstition” defining it as “a belief founded on irrational feelings, especially of fear.” He cautioned his readers that, indeed, they should “be careful … lest they reach rash and hurried conclusions” in their fear and concerns for the future of their livelihood and nation.

However, Williams also cautioned “At the same time it would be folly to blindly shut our eyes and refuse to inquire whether or not there may be back of present conditions a moral cause … Let us not be so foolish as to follow the worldly wise who know not God and for that reason may look upon wholesome fear and honest inquiry as but superstition.”

Williams believed that the root cause of the current troubles went much deeper than concern over agricultural direction: “Destruction of cattle and restriction of crops may have been a blunder; but we must look far deeper than to this alone if we would get to the bottom of our troubles. Our chiefest mischief as a nation is that we have departed from dependence upon and reverence for the living God.”

He bluntly asked the question of the drought, “Are these things mere accidents of an evolving nature or are they the voice of God?” Williams does not claim to know the answer to this question in its fullness on a national scale but he does counsel Evangel readers to use the current tragedy as occasion to examine their own need for repentance, encouraging them “if He shows you things which you ought to make right, make them right without delay, for, ‘except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish.’”

Read the full article “Is It Superstition?” on page 2 of the Aug. 25, 1934, issue of the Pentecostal Evangel.

Also featured in this issue:

“A Famous Entertainer Becomes a Faith Missionary,” by Esther B. Harvey

“Aeneas, Jesus Christ Cures You,” by Lilian Yeomans, M.D.

“Congo Women Touched By Gospel,” by Mary Walker

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 Prosperity Gospel and Worldliness: A Warning from an Early Pentecostal Leader

GAston

W. T. Gaston, circa 1927

This Week in AG History — August 16, 1953

By Darrin J. Rodgers
Originally published on PE-News, 17 August 2017

Will the Pentecostal movement follow “the path of gradual surrender to carnal forces” like most Christian renewal movements before it? This question, posed by former General Superintendent W. T. Gaston (1925-1929) in the Aug. 16, 1953, issue of the Pentecostal Evangel, remains strikingly relevant.

Gaston wrote that history’s “tragic lesson” is that a church’s solid foundation does not prevent corruption from “fleshly elements within.” He offered this warning at a time when certain media-savvy Pentecostal healing evangelists had been exposed for their ungodly lifestyles, but who continued to promote themselves and their unbiblical message that God guarantees financial prosperity to believers.

Gaston suggested, “If we are to have a future that is better or even comparable and worthy of our past, we will need to learn over again some of the lessons of yesterday.” One of the important lessons to rediscover, he wrote, was the importance of promoting “pure, undefiled” religion.

He recalled that many early 20th century Pentecostal pioneers were bi-vocational ministers, that often met in homes or rented buildings, and that most were not very impressive by the standards of the surrounding culture. However, they did not need worldly goods and accolades in order for the Holy Spirit to accomplish great things through their lives and ministries.

Gaston wrote that he witnessed an “utter disregard for poverty or wealth or station in life” in the early Pentecostal movement. Yet “those rugged pioneers,” he noted, “had something that made them attractive and convincing.” The contrast between the attitudes of the world and the early Pentecostals was striking. According to Gaston, early believers were “completely satisfied without the world’s glittering tinsel, and content to be the objects of its scornful hatred.”

Believers must carefully guard their hearts, Gaston warned, or face a dissipation of this consecration and sacrificial spirit. He noted, as an example, that some ministers in the 1950s seemed to “project themselves and their projects instead of promoting the common cause and sharing equally in the honors and sufferings of the common brotherhood.”

Gaston identified a love of money as a danger to the Pentecostal movement and an impediment to the gospel. We “must draw the line against all comers with a money complex,” he asserted, in order “to retain its good sense and religious balance.” He lamented that certain high-profile evangelists promised God’s blessings to those who would give money to their ministries. He wrote, “Ministers of the gospel who lay up treasure on earth while they preach that people should lay theirs up in heaven are neither consistent nor worthy.” Gaston suspected that the “selfless, lowly Jesus” would “refuse to go along” with such ministers.

Furthermore, Gaston was troubled by sensationalism promoted by some of the big-name preachers in his day. “Full-orbed religion throbs with sensation,” he wrote. However, he warned against “unbridled sensationalism,” which could easily bring “disillusionment and disintegration” to those who have not developed a strong faith. Gaston concluded with “a simple appeal for consistency and reality in our religious approach,” praying that the Pentecostal movement would “purge itself of practices or propaganda patterns which are not compatible with the spirit and letter of the New Testament.”

Gaston’s article offers several important lessons to 21st century Pentecostals. First, Pentecostals should carefully guard their hearts. History demonstrates that selfishness and worldliness tend to creep into the church, and that even Christian renewal movements can drift from their founding ideals. Second, early Pentecostalism grew amidst widespread scorn and persecution as believers joyfully embodied consecrated, holy living. Third, Pentecostals can avoid the dangers of extremism and sensationalism by being solidly grounded in Scripture and biblical values.

Read W. T. Gaston’s article, “Guarding our Priceless Heritage,” in the Aug. 16, 1953, issue of the Pentecostal Evangel.

Also featured in this issue:

* “Eternity-Proof,” by Arne Vick

* “Sunday Schools around the World”

And many more!

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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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