Category Archives: Spirituality

Amanda Benedict: The Early Pentecostal Prayer Warrior in Springfield, Missouri

AmandaBenedict_1400This Week in AG History — March 19, 1927

By Glenn W. Gohr
Originally published on AG News, 19 March 2020

Amanda Benedict (1851-1925) is remembered as a fervent prayer warrior and one of the early participants in the Pentecostal movement in Springfield, Missouri. When she died, Assemblies of God leaders credited her prayers for the success of the local congregation and national ministries located in the city.

When Benedict moved to Springfield around 1910, she was 60 years old and had already served the Lord with distinction in a rescue home for girls in Chicago and in a faith home for children in Iowa.

Soon after moving to Springfield, while working as a door-to-door salesperson, Benedict met Lillie Corum. The two ladies got acquainted and, in conversation, Corum shared about her experience of the baptism in the Holy Spirit. Corum had been baptized in the Spirit on June 1, 1907, under the ministry of her sister, Rachel Sizelove, who had brought the Pentecostal message from Azusa Street.

Benedict expressed interest in receiving this blessing and began seeking it. The two ladies began praying together regularly, and soon Amanda herself was filled with the Spirit. Corum, Benedict, Birdie Hoy, and a few others prayed fervently and helped with the beginnings of what became Central Assembly of God.

With a burden for lost souls, Benedict prayed and interceded for days on end, until she felt the burden lift or victory came. She often prayed all night in a grove of trees near the corner of Campbell Avenue and Calhoun Street, which later became the site of Central Assembly of God. She prayed many times for Springfield to make a spiritual impact on the world, and that God’s blessings would flow through Springfield to the ends of the earth. At one point, she felt led to fast and pray for Springfield for one entire year — living only on bread and water.

In 1915, Benedict moved to Aurora, Missouri, where she started a Pentecostal church that became affiliated with the Assemblies of God. After pastoring in Aurora for almost a decade, she died in 1925 at the age of 74. At her funeral service at Central Assembly of God in Springfield, church members, Bible school students, and others gave inspiring testimonies of her life.

Stanley Frodsham, the editor of the Pentecostal Evangel, reported that Benedict helped to launch a tent meeting in the early days of revival in Springfield and “spent whole nights praying under the canvas.” Among other things, “She prayed for a Pentecostal Assembly in Springfield.” And on the very site where she prayed, the first building for Central Assembly was erected. Frodsham and others believed that Central Assembly of God, Central Bible College, and the Assemblies of God national office, all located in Springfield, resulted largely from Benedict’s fervent, effectual prayers.

Benedict was buried without a grave marker in Eastlawn Cemetery in Springfield. In 2007, 82 after her death, a marker was finally placed on her grave. The marker features a fitting tribute: “She prayed and fasted for the city of Springfield.” On the back is a Scripture verse: “Pray without ceasing” 1 Thessalonians 5:17.

Frodsham published a sermon by Benedict, titled “Abundance for All,” a couple of years after her death. The sermon compared the blessings of the baptism in the Holy Spirit to a multitude of savory items held in a locked bakery. She said, “I would fail to satisfy a vigorous physical appetite to look through the windows of a locked bakery.” She continued: “Just so it is unsatisfying to a healthy spiritual appetite to see what Pentecost meant in the years that are past, and yet not partake of it now in this present day.” She felt that the baptism in the Holy Spirit was necessary to receive all the blessings of God. She said, “Pentecost means appetite and a free table loaded with solid food and with dainties hitherto unknown.”

She exhorted the reader to depend on God and ask Him for this blessing: “If you are a seeker of the baptism of the Holy Ghost, see to it that you receive with the God-appointed sign, promised by Christ himself (Mark 16:17), that the disciples received when they were first filled with the Spirit (Acts 2:4).”

Read “Abundance for All,” by Amanda Benedict on page 5 of the March 19, 1927, issue of the Pentecostal Evangel.

Also featured in this issue:

• “Holy Ground,” by James H. McConkey

• “Judgments of God and Revival Fires in Poland,” by Gustave H. Schmidt

• “Job,” by Ernest S. Williams

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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Prominent Novelist Sven Lidman Shocked Sweden in 1921 by Converting to Pentecostalism

Lidman1This Week in AG History — March 12, 1927

By Darrin J. Rodgers
Originally published on AG News, 12 March 2020

When Sven Lidman (1882-1960), one of Sweden’s most prominent authors, accepted Christ as Savior and was baptized at the leading Pentecostal church in Stockholm in 1921, it seemed as though the entire nation took notice.

Sven Lidman (pronounced Leed’man) was born into great privilege. He received a classical education and he earned a law degree from the University of Uppsala. He spent several years in the military and then studied the Italian language and literature. By 1920, he was an acclaimed author and had published 13 books and collections of poetry.

Lidman was a renaissance man. His writing explored family issues and sexuality, philosophy and ethics, and religion and politics. He cultivated relationships with the leaders of his day, and his early life was steeped in worldly pleasures.

Despite Lidman’s background, his conversion to Christ was not entirely unexpected. For years, he had experienced a deep spiritual struggle. He felt deep inner longings that could not be satisfied with brandy, tobacco, and women. He openly shared this struggle through his pen, most notably by authoring in 1920 an annotated translation of St. Augustine’s Confessions. Lidman closely identified with this fifth-century-Christian theologian who abandoned a life of youthful sin and who used his testimony to proclaim the transformative power of the gospel. Lidman soon followed in Augustine’s footsteps.

However, it came as a shock to many that Lidman cast his lot with the Pentecostals. Lidman could have easily joined a respectable Lutheran congregation of the State Church of Sweden. Instead, Swedish Pentecostal leader Lewi Pethrus baptized him at the Filadelfia Church.

Lidman’s conversion was widely covered by the nation’s press and became an ongoing topic of conversation at dinner tables across Scandinavia. The Christian press in other corners of the world also trumpeted this news.

Why did Lidman join the Pentecostals? Lidman’s conversion to Pentecostalism, according to a March 12, 1927, Pentecostal Evangel article, occurred because “Lidman is no half-way man.” Lidman would not settle for anything less than genuine, historic, biblical Christianity. “He believes in the power of Christ’s blood and redeeming death to save from sin,” the article continued. “He believes in a whole dedication to the Christian witness.”

Lidman rejected the notion that his conversion consisted merely of “a series of processes in the subconscious.” Rather, he maintained that “real conversion” to Christ was “the consequence of meeting with a supernatural power.” True Christians who have encountered and submitted to God’s power, Lidman wrote, are living sacrifices. “It is only upon the whole offering on the Lord’s altar that His fire falls,” he declared.

Lidman illustrated this theology of full consecration with his own testimony. At first, Lidman was not willing to surrender all of his ways to God. Early in his Christian life he defended his use of brandy and tobacco. But he recounted how his mind changed after an encounter with a man who had suffered the ravages of alcoholism. He realized he could not calmly stand before an alcoholic and say, “Drinking is an adiaphoron, a matter of indifference, and not a sin per se.” He could no longer in good conscience say, “There are many splendid and real Christians who are not abstainers.” Lidman came to believe that saving faith should permeate every aspect of a Christian’s life. Lidman submitted his destructive habits to God, and God took away his desire for alcohol and tobacco.

Although Lidman was an intellectual, he grew disenchanted with certain intellectual fads of his day. He had the independence of mind to challenge prevailing cultural assumptions and instead wanted something real. And reality, for Lidman, was the living Christian faith that he found in the Pentecostal church. The Pentecostal baptism in the Holy Spirit, he wrote, “is a full-blooded reality and no pale intellectual ideal.”

Filadelfia Church pastor Lewi Pethrus asked Lidman to become editor of the leading Pentecostal magazine, Evangelii Härold. Lidman accepted and served in that position from 1922 until 1948. Lidman became a popular Pentecostal preacher, and countless people accepted Christ through his voluminous writings. Lidman became the second best-known Pentecostal in Sweden, after Lewi Pethrus.

The article concluded by noting that Lidman encouraged both education and heartfelt faith. While some “rationalists” and “revivalists” seemed to believe that faith and understanding are mutually exclusive, Lidman asserted that Christians need both.

“I know not how the forces of cold and darkness can ever be driven from the heart save through revival Christianity. They can never be cultivated away,” he wrote. “But after revival has gone ahead with its spring break-up of ice and frost the work of education begins.” According to Lidman, education is a work of the Spirit.

Sven Lidman’s profound influence on Swedish Pentecostalism may have faded from the memory of many American Pentecostals, but his testimony and writings continue to challenge readers to seek the fullness of God. Lidman had the world but found it wanting. Like Augustine before him, the Swedish novelist and intellectual found that only Jesus could satisfy his deepest longings.

Read the article, “The Witness of a Swedish Novelist,” on pages 4 and 5 of the March 12, 1927, issue of the Pentecostal Evangel.

Also featured in this issue:

* “Reminiscences of a Faith Life,” by Marie Burgess Brown

* “African or Scriptural Brick,” by Arthur S. Berg

* “The Blood,” by J. Narver Gortner

And many more!

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
Website: iFPHC.org

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Alice Reynolds Flower: Thanksgiving in the Life of a Pentecostal Pioneer

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Flower family portrait at Scranton, Pennsylvania, December 1930. (L-r): Suzanne, George, J. Roswell, Joseph, David, Roswell, Alice R., and Adele Flower.

This Week in AG History — November 22, 1964

By Glenn W. Gohr
Originally published on AG News, 21 November 2019

Alice Reynolds Flower (1890-1991), affectionately known as “Mother Flower,” was known far and wide for her godly example, her preaching and teaching, devoted prayer life, her writings, and pearls of wisdom. She also was very thankful to God for His many blessings in her life.

She was thankful for healing. Her mother experienced a dramatic healing in 1883 (which was seven years before Alice was born). Mary Reynolds was an invalid, suffering for seven years from incurable diseases brought on by a nervous collapse. Mrs. Reynolds had ulcers in her throat and lungs, and eating caused great pain. She visited prominent doctors across the country, seeking relief from her chronic pain, but the medical profession seemed incapable of helping her.

After years of suffering, Mary Reynolds’ thoughts turned to God. A question formed in her mind: Why don’t you take your case to the Lord in prayer? A friend suggested that a Quaker evangelist, R. H. Ramsey, could come and pray for her, and he did.

“When Mr. Ramsey anointed me,” said Mrs. Reynolds, “I urged that he not only pray for me bodily, but my spiritual welfare also.” The next day she was overjoyed when she realized that she had been healed — both body and soul. This was such an astounding miracle that the editor of the Indianapolis Journal (who was a friend of the family), wrote an article entitled, “Another Cure By Faith,” which was published on the front page of the paper. Other newspapers also reported on her healing. Mary’s healing served as a visible reminder that God is real and that He continues to provide for His people. She gladly shared her testimony of healing for the rest of her life, and this had a profound influence on her daughter, Alice.

In later years, Alice herself, while in her early teens, was near death with double pneumonia. After much prayer, her mother knelt by her sick bed and said, “My dear, the Bible conditions have been met — use what breath you have left to praise God.” Between gasps, Alice followed her mother’s advice, and her condition changed within the hour. “My recovery was phenomenal — a real miracle,” recalled Alice. She was back in school within a couple of days.

Alice Reynolds Flower was thankful for salvation and for the baptism in the Holy Spirit. As a young girl of 16, she attended a meeting conducted by Rev. Tom Hezmalhalch in Indianapolis on Easter Sunday of 1907. She had been seeking the baptism in the Holy Spirit, and at the meeting she prayed: “Lord, please give me this baptism of the Holy Spirit. I believe You to do it just now and I thank You for it in Jesus’ name.” That was her simple prayer of faith. Then she lifted her hands and boldly declared, “I thank You, Lord, for the baptism of the Holy Spirit.” Soon she felt the physical manifestation of God’s power and sank to the floor and began speaking in tongues.

“Wave after wave of glory swept over me,” said Alice, “until there seemed to be a shining path reaching from my opened heart right into the presence of God.”

Mother Flower was thankful for her family. She dedicated one of her books of poetry, From Under the Threshold, to her six boys and girls — “whose care and training has been my greatest school and richest joy in life.” The first poem is called “My Blossoms Six.” The first stanza follows:

Rich are the lessons that you have brought
Since first one by one you came,
Lessons of patience, tenderness, trust,
As daily we played life’s game.
I gave to you the best I could
And you gave your best to me
But oh how little you each one guessed
How rich would those lessons be.

She raised six children, one of whom died while preparing for the mission field as a student at Central Bible College. Her other five children all became ordained ministers with the Assemblies of God and served Christ with distinction.

Alice Reynolds Flower was the wife of J. Roswell Flower, the first general secretary of the Assemblies of God (elected at Hot Springs, Arkansas, in April 1914). She also was an ordained minister herself, preaching for revivals and other special events. She and her husband started what became known as the Pentecostal Evangel. The Flowers also helped to found what today is the University of Valley Forge in Phoenixville, Pennsylvania. Alice also taught Sunday School and led a weekly prayer meeting at Central Assembly of God in Springfield, Missouri, for over 60 years.

Her anointed writings included many tracts and poems as well as a few books, including The Home — A Divine Sanctuary, Building Her House Well, and Grace for Grace. She emphasized holiness and godly Christian living.

She liked to write about thankfulness. Three of her poems are “Thanksgiving Grace,” “Thanksgiving Hymn,” and “Thanksgiving Praise.” In “Thanksgiving Praise” she answered these questions: Whom shall I praise?, How shall I praise?, When shall I praise?, For what shall I praise?, and How long shall I praise? In the poem she recounted “countless days of His rich mercies” which followed her all the days of her life.

Fifty-five years ago, Mother Flower wrote a piece on thankfulness for the Pentecostal Evangel called, “Rejoice in the Lord Alway!” She emphasized that for those “who rejoice in the love of a faithful Heavenly Father and His wonderful redemption, thanksgiving is far more than a seasonal occasion.” She emphasized that one needs to be thankful even in the midst of hardship and even when answers to prayer seem slow. Alice reminded her audience that “He told us to lift up our head and rejoice for our redemption draweth nigh.” She closed out the article with these words of wisdom: “Whoever you are, wherever you live, whatever your circumstances, may your life in its every expression be a song of praise unto Him this blessed Thanksgiving season.”

Read Mother Flower’s article, “Rejoice in the Lord Alway!” on pages 5 and 6 of the Nov. 22, 1964, issue of the Pentecostal Evangel.

Also featured in this issue:

• “Thank God and Take Courage,” by Elva J. Hoover

• “Women of the Harvest,” by Ann Ahlf

• “We Are Thankful,” by Mildred Pitts

And many more!

Click here to read this issue now.

For the poem, “Thanksgiving Praise,” click here.

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
Website: www.iFPHC.org

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Joseph Smale and the Lost Sermons that Prepared Los Angeles for the Azusa Street Revival

Pentecostal BlessingThis Week in AG History — October 7, 1962

By Darrin J. Rodgers
Originally published on AG News, 10 October 2019

The Azusa Street Revival (1906-1909) in Los Angeles and the African-American pastor of the Azusa Street Mission, William Seymour, have become iconic symbols of the Pentecostal movement. However, historians and participants in the revival point to a lesser-known Baptist pastor and graduate of Spurgeon’s College, Joseph Smale, who helped prepare Los Angeles for the revival.

The immediate catalyst for the Azusa Street Revival came in the summer of 1905 when Smale, pastor of First Baptist Church of Los Angeles, returned from a visit to Wales. He had attended meetings during the great Welsh Revival, during which entire towns experienced an outpouring of the Holy Spirit. Smale witnessed countless people repent of sin and turn toward God, and he prayed for God to do a similar work in Los Angeles.

Smale opened up his church for daily intercessory prayer meetings. Spiritually hungry people came from across Los Angeles and cried out to God for revival — praying specifically for a new “Pentecost.”

The prayer meetings attracted large numbers of people. However, some Baptist leaders opposed the spontaneous character of the prayer. They forced Smale to resign as pastor. He formed a new congregation, The New Testament Church of Los Angeles, which became a hub for people who committed themselves to pray for revival.

In the fall of 1905, Smale preached a series of sermons titled “The Pentecostal Blessing.” He encouraged believers to seek a restoration of the spiritual blessings described in the New Testament. Under Smale’s ministry, countless people developed a great hunger for God and engaged in deep prayer and Bible study.

Joseph Smale - FBCLAWhen William Seymour came to Los Angeles in the spring of 1906 and began encouraging believers to seek biblical spiritual gifts, he found fertile ground for his message. People from varied backgrounds and from numerous churches — including Smale’s church — crowded into the Azusa Street Mission to experience the modern-day Pentecost for which they had been praying.

Historians have long known that Smale’s sermon series, “The Pentecostal Blessing,” played a pivotal role leading up to the Azusa Street Revival. The sermons were a manifesto on the importance of recovering the spiritual life of the early church. They convicted and persuaded many to seek for a greater outpouring of the Holy Spirit. However, it appeared that Smale’s sermons had been lost to history. No copies apparently survived.

Then the unexpected happened. Several years ago, someone bought a copy of Smale’s sermons at a garage sale in Oklahoma. He was not aware of their significance and showed them to Flower Pentecostal Heritage Center director Darrin Rodgers, who immediately discerned their importance. The sermons were deposited at the Heritage Center, where they are safely preserved for posterity.

Importantly, Gospel Publishing House has republished The Pentecostal Blessing, which was officially released as part of its “Spirit-Empowered Classics” series in 2017. The book includes a series foreword by noted Azusa Street Revival historian Cecil M. Robeck Jr. and a biographical sketch of Smale by his biographer, British Baptist educator Tim Welch.

The sermons that prepared Los Angeles for the Azusa Street Revival – long thought to be lost – are now available to 21st century readers.

The Oct. 7, 1962, issue of the Pentecostal Evangel includes an article by Stanley Horton about the Azusa Street Revival, which begins by describing Smale’s role in the revival.

Read Stanley Horton’s article, “Pentecostal Explosion: Once the Spirit Fell at Azusa Street the Waves of Pentecostal Power Quickly Spread throughout the Religious World,” on pages 8-9 of the Oct. 7, 1962, issue of the Pentecostal Evangel.

Also featured in this issue:

• “Ecumenicity: False and True,” by Frank M. Boyd

• “Tribes, Tongues, and Triumphs,” by Marion E. Craig

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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Melvin Hodges: A Pentecostal Response to War and Racism

HodgesThis Week in AG History — September 23, 1944

By Darrin J. Rodgers
Originally published on AG News, 26 September 2019

“Is it possible to maintain calm and serenity in the midst of the world-shaking storms that are raging today?”

Melvin Hodges (1909-1988), an Assemblies of God missionary to Central America, posed this question in 1944 in the Pentecostal Evangel. The Second World War was on everyone’s mind, and Hodges described the seemingly intractable conflicts around the world. “Nations are locked in a struggle for their very existence,” he wrote, and countless people are killed “as opposing systems of government struggle [to maintain] their way of life.”

How should the Christian respond to such conflict? Hodges encouraged believers to exhibit “calmness and steadfastness.” Believers will stay “on a true course regardless of the storms that rage,” according to Hodges, if they have faith in the promises of God and submit to God’s will.

Significantly, Hodges also admonished readers to reject the racism that had permeated vast segments of the world. Hodges wrote, “We must not be moved from the love of God in our hearts toward all men by the spirit of racial hatred being fostered today. Some hold the Jew responsible for all the ills of the world. Others are moved to intense hatred of the enemy nations. Again, some manifest bitterness toward certain racial groups in America.”

According to Hodges, blaming people groups or nations “is a false diagnosis of the ills of this sick world.” Instead, he identified the world’s woes as being rooted in “the evil nature of all unregenerate mankind.”

Hodges is perhaps best known for his promotion of indigenous church missions theory — the belief that churches should be self-governing, self-supporting, and self-propagating, rather than controlled by outside missionaries. Hodges’ article, though, pertains to what are usually regarded as missionary-sending nations, offering a critique of racism in America and Europe, as well as in non-Western nations.

It would have been easier for Hodges to remain silent when confronted by racial hatred in his own culture. By speaking out, he risked marginalization. But Hodges believed that racial hatred and God’s love were incompatible, and that Christians must not assign blame for social problems to racial or cultural groups. This wise counsel continues to be true today.

Read “Call to Calmness and Steadfastness” by Melvin Hodges on page 8 of the Sept. 23, 1944, issue of the Pentecostal Evangel.

Also featured in this issue:

• “Why I Came to Egypt Thirty-Four Years Ago,” by Lillian Trasher

• “V Day,” by Lester Sumrall

• “Family Worship,” by Walter Scott

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: iFPHC.org

 

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The Great Depression and the Expansion of the Assemblies of God

Stewart auto revival

Assemblies of God evangelist (T. Lloyd?) Stewart, Pennsylvania, Fall 1935

This Week in AG History — September 14, 1935

By Darrin J. Rodgers
Originally published on AG News, 12 September 2019

How do economic troubles affect churches? According to common wisdom, economic downturns bring spiritual upturns. As the theory goes, when people discover they cannot be self-sufficient, they look for spiritual solutions to their problems.

But is this really the case? History reveals that the Assemblies of God grew significantly during the Great Depression of the 1930s, but its growth was a deviation from the norm. Most churches suffered great setbacks. What really happened during the Great Depression? What lessons can this history provide for the Assemblies of God of the 21st century?

The Great Depression of the 1930s devastated many segments of American Christianity. Historian Mark Noll noted that mainline Protestants not only faced economic uncertainties, but also theological uncertainties as liberal theology had begun to replace historic Christian beliefs. Many mainline congregations, schools, and ministries had to close or drastically cut back. Their institutions, funded by endowments that disappeared with the Wall Street crash, were running off the fumes of the past.

However, there was a noticeable exception to the decline of religious institutions in the 1930s: evangelical and Pentecostal churches made significant gains. According to Noll, these “sectarian” churches “knew better how to redeem the times.”

Assemblies of God evangelist Christine Kerr Peirce, writing at the height of the Great Depression, warned that churches are not guaranteed to grow during bad times.

In the Sept. 14, 1935, issue of the Pentecostal Evangel, Peirce wrote, “Instead of the depression driving people to God, there has developed an apathy and indifference which has not characterized previous periods of distress, when men have turned to God for help.”

Peirce’s lament for the church in 1935 could easily describe the condition of many segments of the American church in 2019: “Our modern methods are fast wearing out. That which a few years ago attracted the great crowds, attracts them no more. We have worn out every spectacular appeal we could make and while a few are reached here and there, yet the truth stares us plainly in the face that nowhere are we doing more than just scratching the surface, in comparison with the great number of unchurched and unsaved that should be reached.”

Why was the church in such a state of spiritual stupor? According to Peirce, “The backslidden, apathetic, lethargic condition of the pew today is due largely to the fact that this work [evangelism] has been left in the hands of the pulpit.” Instead, she contended, every Christian is called to be a witness.

How can the church remedy this problem? Peirce dismissed the idea that the church needs methods that are even “more spectacular.” Instead, she declared, “The need of the present moment is men and women of vision!” By this she meant that Christians first “must see God himself,” and then must have a “vision of others.” She elaborated, “A true vision of the lost world will prostrate us on our face with a burden of intercession.”

According to Peirce, then, the visionary church must be worshipful and missional. While Peirce’s critique was aimed at the American church in general, she recognized that Assemblies of God members could very easily lose their vision and replace their passion for God and for souls with a reliance on modern methods.

However, visionary Assemblies of God leaders viewed the economic crisis as an opportunity, leading the Fellowship to engage in ardent prayer and great personal sacrifice to advance a cause that was much bigger than any one person. What was the result?

In September 1929, the Assemblies of God reported 1,612 churches with 91,981 members in the U.S. By 1944, this tally increased to 5,055 churches with 227,349 members. During that 15-year period, the number of Assemblies of God churches tripled and membership almost tripled.

This growth didn’t happen by accident. Men and women laid a foundation for the expansion of the Assemblies of God during the Great Depression, often at a tremendous cost. Of today’s seven largest Assemblies of God colleges and universities, four were started during the Great Depression: North Central University (1930); Northwest University (1934); Southeastern University (1935); and Valley Forge Christian College (1939).

It was during these hard times that Assemblies of God scholarship blossomed. Myer Pearlman (1898-1943), P. C. Nelson (1868-1942), and E. S. Williams (1885-1981) wrote many of their influential theological books in the midst of the Great Depression. Pearlman and Nelson literally worked themselves to death, their health breaking under the strain of constant writing, teaching, and preaching.

The Assemblies of God’s foreign missions enterprise was centralized and strengthened during the Depression. This change encouraged coordination of efforts and accountability. The Assemblies of God published its first Missionary Manual in 1931 and in 1933 the Assemblies of God began providing funding for a missions staff at the national office. While the Great Depression made finances tight, in 1933 the Foreign Missions Department trumpeted that it did not have to recall any missionaries because of shortage of funds. When other denominations were retreating, the Assemblies of God was making significant advances in missions.

The history of the Assemblies of God during the Great Depression shows that church growth is possible during economic drought – if believers draw close to God and consecrate themselves to reach the lost.

Read Peirce’s admonition to be worshipful and missional in her article, “Men of Vision,” in the Sept. 14, 1935, issue of the Pentecostal Evangel.

Also featured in this issue:

• “Looking up in the Struggle,” by Ernest S. Williams

• “Training Children,” by Mrs. J. C. Miller

• “Secrets of a Spirit-Filled Sunday School”

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: iFPHC.org

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Miracles, Growth, and Persecution: Bulgarian Pentecostalism in the 1930s

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Bulgarian Pentecostal leader Nicholas Nikoloff, with wife Martha, son Paul, and daughter Ruth-Marie Nikoloff, 1937.

This Week in AG History — July 9, 1932

By Darrin J. Rodgers
Originally published on AG-News, 11 July 2019

Early Bulgarian Pentecostals witnessed great growth while enduring great persecution. Nicholas Nikoloff wrote an account of the Bulgarian believers’ deep faith and suffering in the July 9, 1932, issue of the Pentecostal Evangel.

Nikoloff was intimately familiar with the subject of his article. He served as general superintendent of the Union of Evangelical Pentecostal Churches in Bulgaria from 1928 until 1931, when he moved to the United States.

“The striking thing in Bulgaria is the great spiritual hunger of the villagers,” Nikoloff wrote. Miracles were common, according to Nikoloff, and “some of the believers have a real gift of healing.”

Bulgarians fanned the Pentecostal flame by publishing two periodicals and numerous tracts, which they distributed widely. A number of Bulgarian young people received formal theological education at a Pentecostal Bible school in Danzig, and others took local evening Bible courses.

This Pentecostal progress attracted the attention of government officials and local religious leaders, who tried to quash the growing movement.

Nikoloff recounted, “The believers were severely persecuted. Some were imprisoned. Many of them were arrested, taken through the streets and people made fun of them. Others were forbidden to even pray in their own homes, and threatened severely by certain local authorities.”

Despite these difficulties, Nikoloff reported that “God gave victory and liberty was granted.” This acceptance was gained in several communities because of healings of young people who were demon possessed or lame. Pentecostals continued to grow and, by World War II, constituted the majority of Protestants in Bulgaria.

Read the entire article by Nicholas Nikoloff, “The Signs Follow in Bulgaria,” on page 6 of the July 9, 1932, issue of the Pentecostal Evangel.

Also featured in this issue:

• “Two Types of Spirituality,” by A. G. Ward

• “An Interesting Trip in the Fiji Islands,” by Lawrence Borst

And many more!

Click here to read this issue now.

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

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

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

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