Category Archives: Spirituality

“America Must Choose”: A Warning from 1968 about the Christian’s Response to Social and Political Unrest

Scott Charles P14338

Charles Scott and his wife, Gertrude

This Week in AG History —March 24, 1968

By Darrin J. Rodgers
Originally published on PE-News, 23 March 2017

1968 was a year of social and political unrest. American race riots, the war in Vietnam, and the assassinations of Martin Luther King Jr. and Robert F. Kennedy grabbed the world’s attention. Cultural uncertainty and rumblings of revolution were on everyone’s mind.

In the midst of this cultural chaos, an article in the March 24, 1968, issue of the Pentecostal Evangel encouraged readers to remain grounded in their Christian faith.

Assemblies of God leader Charles Scott, in an article titled, “America Must Choose,” expressed concern that “we have permitted ourselves to become blind to the grave dangers that are gnawing at the very vitals of America.” Scott recalled that Marshall Henri Petain, who led France during the Nazi occupation, surmised that France’s downfall was rooted in the “immorality, alcoholism, and irreligion” of the French people. Scott suggested that these three evils were likewise threatening America. He went on to detail the moral decay in America, pointing out that violence, sexual immorality, and drug addiction were hurting children and undermining families.

At a time when many were drawn toward political solutions and extremes, Scott instead recognized that the nation’s woes, at their root, were spiritual. He recommended a spiritual solution to the problems enveloping the nation. He encouraged Christians to choose “to abandon these evils and to walk the path of righteousness.”

How should Christians work to spiritually rebuild America? According to Scott, Christians should dedicate themselves to worshipping God — corporately as families and churches, and also individually. He described the need to rebuild family, church, and private altars. This was a common theme over the years in Scott’s articles and sermons — he felt called to remind Christians about the importance of developing specific times and places to worship God corporately and individually.

“America must choose,” Scott wrote, how to respond to the dangers besetting the nation. While not rejecting political action, he believed that true, lasting change could only occur through spiritual renewal. “True patriots,” Scott suggested, are people who seek “to destroy corruption, intemperance, wickedness, and selfishness” in their own lives. Others, seeing their example of humility and faith, would turn toward God, and America would then be strong and “a blessing in the earth.”

Read Charles Scott’s article, “America Must Choose!” on pages 2-3 of the March 24, 1968, issue of the Pentecostal Evangel.

Also featured in this issue:

* “A Warning on Worldliness,” by Larry Hurtado

* “How to Teach the Bible,” by James H. McConkey

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 Azusa Street Revival: What Frank Bartleman’s Eyewitness Account Reveals about the Worldview of Early Pentecostals

Azusa collageThis Week in AG History —March 11, 1916

By Darrin J. Rodgers
Originally published on PE-News, 9 March 2017

It was an unlikely location for an event that would change the face of Christianity. In the summer of 1906, revival erupted in the newly formed congregation meeting at the small, run-down Apostolic Faith Mission at 312 Azusa Street in Los Angeles. Critics attacked the congregation because its mild-mannered black Holiness preacher, William J. Seymour, preached racial reconciliation and the restoration of biblical spiritual gifts. The Azusa Street Revival, as it became known, soon became a local sensation, then attracted thousands of curiosity seekers and pilgrims from around the world.

The spiritual intensity of the revival was red hot for more than three years, making Azusa Street one of the most significant Pentecostal centers in the early twentieth century. Just over 110 years later, the Pentecostal movement, broadly construed, now claims over a half billion adherents, the second largest grouping within Christianity after the Catholic Church.

Frank Bartleman, one of the participants at Azusa Street, wrote down his account of the revival and the precipitating events. In 1916, Bartleman wrote an article with his recollections of the revival that was published in the Weekly Evangel (the predecessor to the Pentecostal Evangel). He later wrote a book, How Pentecost Came to Los Angeles (1925), which became a widely-read portrayal of the Azusa Street Revival. Bartleman’s eyewitness account captured fascinating details about the revival, which give insight into the spirituality and worldview of early Pentecostals.

Bartleman noted that the Azusa Street Revival did not occur in a vacuum. The immediate catalyst for the revival happened in the summer of 1905, when Joseph 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.” Bartleman was among those who gathered at Smale’s church. He experienced a burden for “soul travail” – he sensed that God was calling him to win lost souls to Christ.

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.

When 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.

Bartleman offered some cautionary advice regarding the history surrounding Azusa Street. “It would be a great mistake,” he wrote, “to attempt to attribute the Pentecostal beginning in Los Angeles to any one man.” Bartleman stressed that the early Pentecostal revival was a sovereign move of God that had developed over time. He wrote, “Pentecost did not drop down suddenly out of heaven. God was with us in large measure for a long time before the final outpouring.”

Still, Bartleman reserved a special place in Pentecostal history for the Azusa Street Mission. He observed that the Pentecostal revival began “in earnest” under Seymour’s leadership at the humble, run-down location on Azusa Street.

Bartleman noted multiple ironies regarding the revival. The Azusa Street Mission, he wrote, took place in a dilapidated building and was led by “a quiet colored man, very unassuming.” Yet the revival attracted people from across the racial divides and news of the outpouring quickly spread across the world. Bartleman also noted that Seymour initially preached about the gift of speaking in tongues without having had the experience himself. Seymour did not receive the gift until several weeks into the Azusa Street Revival. Finally, Bartleman observed that many respectable Christian leaders looked down upon the revival because of its humble origins and interracial character. However, many of these critics ended up losing their own church members to the Azusa Street Revival.

The Azusa Street Revival has become iconic, symbolizing Pentecostal identity. Its emphasis on the restoration of biblical spiritual gifts certainly played a significant role in the early movement. Furthermore, the revival’s egalitarian character – men and women from varied racial and social backgrounds were both leaders and participants – is very appealing to our own twenty-first century egalitarian assumptions.

However, there is a danger that modern readers will boil down historic Pentecostal identity to consist merely of spiritual gifts and egalitarianism, while failing to understand the spirituality and worldview of early Pentecostals. The early Pentecostal worldview, at its core, encouraged believers to seek full consecration to Christ and His mission. The consecrated life, as illustrated in the Azusa Street Revival, was lived out through holy living and spiritual disciplines. Early Pentecostals committed themselves to prayer, fasting, and Bible study. They demonstrated a gritty determination to share Christ, no matter the cost. Importantly, they avoided worldly entanglements that would dilute their testimony, insisting that their heavenly citizenship should far outweigh any earthly allegiances.

With each year, we become further removed from the generation that birthed the prayer movement that became Pentecostalism. Testimonies from the iconic Azusa Street Revival provide insight into the spirituality that sparked the Pentecostal movement. Perhaps these testimonies will inspire future generations to likewise seek to be fully consecrated to Christ and His mission.

Read Frank Bartleman’s article, “The Pentecostal or ‘Latter Rain’ Outpouring in Los Angeles,” on pages 4, 5 and 8 of the March 11, 1916, issue of the Pentecostal Evangel.

Also featured in this issue:

* “The Five Judgments,” by S. A. Jamieson

* “A Great Opportunity in the Mexican Work,” by H. C. Ball

And many more!

Click here to read this issue now.

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

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

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

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Melodies of Praise: 60th Anniversary of a Favorite Assemblies of God Songbook

melodies-of-praise

The Melodies of Praise hymnal and orchestrations made their debut in 1957. Pictured here are Assemblies of God Music Division staff members Lorena Quigley (left), Marie Salisbury (center), and Edwin Anderson.

This Week in AG History — February 10, 1957

By Ruthie Edgerly Oberg
Originally published on PE-News, 2 February 2017

Early Pentecostals commonly believed that two books were essential for revival: the Bible and the songbook. Fervent, spiritual singing has been a distinguishing characteristic of the Pentecostal movement from its inception, alongside powerful anointed preaching.

In the few first decades of the movement, Pentecostals used and promoted a great variety of songbooks published by non-Pentecostals, such as R. E. Winsett. However, at the 1920 General Council of the Assemblies of God, a recommendation was made that “in addition to the Sunday School literature … a Pentecostal Song Book, to be used universally throughout the Assemblies of God, be prepared and published.”

When Chairman J. W. Welch asked how many ministers would use a uniquely Pentecostal song collection. nearly all the ministers raised their hands. This recommendation was met with the 1924 release of Songs of Pentecostal Fellowship, the first Assemblies of God effort to produce a songbook that was distinctly Pentecostal.

Songs of Pentecostal Fellowship was followed by other songbooks, such as Spiritual Songs (1930), Songs of Praise (1935), and Assembly Songs (1948). These collections consisted mainly of gospel songs which were popular at camp meetings and revival services. They also featured songs by Assemblies of God authors and began to bring unity to the congregational singing of the churches.

The 1950s brought a “golden era” to Pentecostal music. Quartet conventions began featuring more Pentecostal groups such as the Blackwood Brothers, and the Assemblies of God established the Music Division of Gospel Publishing House. One of the Music Division’s first duties was to produce a songbook for congregational singing that would also encourage the use of orchestrations for instruments. 

This new songbook, Melodies of Praise, made its debut 60 years ago in the Pentecostal Evangel, and it was formally introduced at the General Council later that year. It was the first Assemblies of God music publication to be released in both round note and shaped note editions, giving it a broader appeal for use in the southern singing schools. Melodies of Praise kept the gospel songs that were popular in churches but also incorporated more traditional hymns, such as Great Is Thy Faithfulness. Conversely, the compilers also sought to expose more church members to newer writers, such as Ira Stanphill, with the inclusion of songs like Mansion Over the Hilltop and Suppertime. It also incorporated a newer genre of church music with its introduction of choruses like Everybody Ought to Know, I Shall Not Be Moved, and Isn’t He Wonderful. 

Another change the Music Division made was to release a companion edition with instrumental orchestrations. Most Pentecostals embraced the use of instruments in worship and, for the first time, church instrumentalists could participate in the accompaniment of song services with the aid of properly composed notation.

Melodies of Praise was well received and sold 77,410 copies in its first year. By 1986, almost 2 million copies had been sold. Even after it was replaced in 1969 by the popular Hymns of Glorious Praise, it continued to sell well. Pentecostals have long known the power and importance of good church singing. The songs of the church teach and affirm biblical truth, are a spiritual expression of our affection toward God, and a testimony of His work in our lives. They also serve as a unifying factor. With the publication of a denominational hymnal, an Assemblies of God church member from Kentucky could visit a church in California and instantly feel at home during the congregational singing.

As the 60th anniversary of the release of Melodies of Praise is celebrated, it is a time to recognize the Assemblies of God’s rich history of worshiping through song. Even as times have changed, and many churches have moved to electronic projection of songs rather than printed hymnals, the Assemblies of God is still known as a people who embrace the musical language of worship with fervent passion.

New copies of Melodies of Praise are available through My Healthy Church.

See the original advertisement for Melodies of Praise on page 10 of the Feb. 10, 1957, issue of the Pentecostal Evangel.

Also featured in this issue:

* “A Prophet’s Shattered Home” by J. E. Harris

* “What is Communism” by Frank W. Smith

*”First Graduating Class at Rhodesian Bible School” by H. B. Garlock

And many more!

Click here to read this issue now.

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

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

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

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Filed under History, Music, Spirituality

Waiting for Christ’s Return: A Warning from 1941 about Biblical Prophecy

prophecy-chart

Assemblies of God evangelist Ivan D. Rayborn and his prophecy chart, circa 1950s.

This Week in AG History — December 13, 1941

By Ruthie Edgerly Oberg
Originally published on PE-News, 8 December 2016

On the first Sunday after the bombing of Pearl Harbor, Assemblies of God church members opened their weekly magazine, the Pentecostal Evangel, to an article by Iowa evangelist (and later Kansas City pastor), William E. Long, asking them, “Can ye not discern the signs of the times?”

Long laments that when he was younger he possessed more Bible knowledge than he did in later years. When he started in ministry he “knew” the identity of the Antichrist and could easily ascertain the meaning of the 144,000 of Revelation 14 and the Man-child of Revelation 12. He recalled the sermons he had heard proffering various identities of the Beast of Revelation, among whom were Kaiser Bill, Woodrow Wilson, Vladimir Lenin, Leon Trotsky, Benito Mussolini, and Adolf Hitler.

Long also recollects the fear of a dear old saint greatly disturbed about a sticker on the back of his car displaying a Blue Eagle (the symbol of President Roosevelt’s “National Recovery Administration”). She met him in front of the church in tears and, pointing to his sticker, exclaimed, “Oh, Brother Long, you have taken the Mark of the Beast!”

Looking back as an older, more experienced preacher, Long had good advice for the Evangel readers of 1941 and for Pentecostal believers today. He cautions against two extremes in handling biblical prophecy. The first being that we would be “carried away with every foolish idea that blows our way.” As Pentecostals we are anxious to see the prophecies of the Bible fulfilled and, in our enthusiasm, can fall prey to absurd and short-sighted teachings.

The second extreme is that these “wild, weird ideas” would lead to a reluctance to preach prophetic sermons. Neglecting biblical prophecy is just as alarming as the first extreme, according to Long. He pleads, “We must keep preaching the second coming of the Lord and not quit just because some have read into the Bible prophecies things that were not there.”

After World War I, the “war to end all wars,” Long states that many American preachers have “stood before large audiences and said they wouldn’t insult their audience by believing there would be any more wars.” Saying we have “beat our swords into plowshares and our spears into pruning hooks,” these preachers forgot Jesus said that right up until the time of the end “there shall be wars, and rumors of wars.” Having heard their president declare war on Japan that very week, his words took on a somber tone for Evangel readers.

Long also points to Jesus’ proclamation that the Jews “shall be hated of all nations for my name’s sake” (Matthew 24:9) and reminds his readers that “in America today there are clubs and beaches and areas with signs which say, “For Gentiles Only.” Even though Long and the rest of the western world did not yet know the fullness of the atrocities of the Jewish Holocaust happening at that very moment, he warns this would be a sign of the nearness of Christ’s return.

He also mentions that Pentecostals should learn from the Jews who watch for the appearance of Messiah and who await the fulfillment of “the return of the Jews to their own land,” a reference to the Zionist movement for the establishment of a Jewish state in Palestine. “The Jews are looking for Him and praying that Messiah will come. But let us ask ourselves this question: are we really anxious for Jesus Christ to return? We in America are not so anxious to have Him come. We have good jobs, we live in luxury, we have comfortable homes, we still enjoy peace.”

Long ends his exhortation to remember the urgency of Christ’s second coming with an application from His first coming. He hearkens back to Luke chapter two and Simeon, a man who lived his entire life longing to see Jesus, yet who only saw the Lord for a few short moments. “Why lament because we did not have the privilege of knowing Jesus as the shepherds did, and Simeon, and John? We are going to be in His presence forever! … My prayer is ‘Even so, come quickly, Lord Jesus!’ Is that your prayer, too?”

Read Long’s article, “Signs of the Times,” on pages 2 and 3 of the Dec. 13, 1941, issue of the Pentecostal Evangel.

Also featured in this issue:

* “Are You a Fruit-Bearing or a Withered Branch,” by Clara A. Grace

* “A Scientist Meets the God of Science,” by James R. Graham, Jr.

* “News from our School and Orphanage in Syria”

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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Learning Gratitude on the Frozen Tundra: Paul and Marguerite Bills, Assemblies of God Missionaries to Alaska

billsThis Week in AG History — November 24, 1968

By Glenn W. Gohr
Originally published on PE-News, 23 November 2016

Paul E. Bills (1921-1977) and his wife, Marguerite, learned true gratitude while serving as Assemblies of God missionaries in the harsh conditions of remote Alaska. In a 1968 Pentecostal Evangel article, Paul showed how the challenges of life on the frozen tundra taught them to be thankful.

In faith, Paul and Marguerite drove from New Jersey to North Pole, Alaska, in the fall of 1955, thinking they were under missionary appointment with the Assemblies of God. When they arrived, however, they were surprised to discover that their paperwork had not been received. Eventually things were straightened out, and they were granted appointment.  For the next 20 years Paul and Marguerite devoted their lives to evangelizing Eskimos in spite of difficult and primitive conditions.

Paul Bills made the bold statement: “It took the Alaskan mission field to create within us a thankful heart.” While pastoring a church in North Pole, Paul and Marguerite adopted two infant Alaskan Native girls named Marcis and Roxanne. Later the family added a son Paul.

One of their first mission stations was in the village of Beaver, located on the Yukon River just south of the Arctic Circle. They lived in a little two-room dirt-roof cabin.  One of the first questions Paul asked was “Where do we get our water?” He was told that the Yukon River had lots of water.  However, it was under several feet of ice, plus there was a very steep bank at the edge of the river. Bills declared, “You have no idea how we struggled and slipped and prayed as we filled our water barrel. Never had water seemed so precious.”

From North Pole and Beaver, Paul and Marguerite and their daughters went to Barrow and ministered for several years. There they found the water situation even worse. The source was a lake located five miles out on the tundra. Most of the year the water was in the form of ice. Sometimes they were able to buy ice from those who had dog teams. The price was not unreasonable, at about 10 to 20 cents a gallon, as it wasn’t easy work to chop the ice and then deliver it. But that was not all. Once received, the ice had to be scraped before being put into a tank next to the furnace. This procedure itself took several hours. Every ounce of water was precious, and none of it was wasted. The same water was often used for several needs—washing dishes, taking baths, washing clothes, scrubbing floors, etc.

Have you ever thanked God for a thermostat?  You might if you lived in Alaska.  Paul Bills’ first winter there was a rough one. For a six-week period the temperature never rose above 40 below zero. It stayed mostly 50 to 60 below and got very close to 70 below. In those conditions, hitching up a dog team and going out looking for wood is quite a chore which often could involve frozen toes, fingers, and faces. “Every piece of wood put into the Alaskan stove is like a gift from God,” said Bills.

How often do you thank God for the sun? When living in Alaska, one tends to appreciate the sun very much. Bills remembered coming to the Barrow station, and each day the sun would be lower and lower in the sky. He shared: “On November 18 we watched it sink beneath the horizon and there was a sense of sadness. It was almost like losing a friend, for we knew we would not see it again for over two months. You really don’t miss something until you lose it.” This is especially true with respect to the sun. Bills shared, “January 23rd is always an exciting day in Barrow. Everyone talks about it.” On that day each year, the sun appears again in the sky, and everyone is happy for daylight again.

Have you ever lived in a desert or treeless area for an extended period of time? In 1965, Paul Bills and family moved to Nome, Alaska, among a group of people who in all their lives had never seen a tree except maybe in a picture. In the fall of 1968, at a time when many people in the rest of the U.S. were enjoying the changing colors of the fall trees and looking forward to a Thanksgiving feast, Paul shared: “In our present station in Nome we are in a treeless area and when we are able to get out to the tree area we cannot help but notice the majesty of trees.”

Recounting all the things he was thankful for, he asked, “Are you really grateful for the food you eat? When you offer thanks is it a mere ritual? A Christian duty? Do you consider the variety of items before you? How about those fresh fruits and vegetables?” His response was, “If you live in a remote Alaskan village you would forget that some of these items exist. Then sometimes you would dream about corn on the cob, watermelon, peaches, oranges, and dozens of other foods which are just memories of former days. If perchance a plane brings in a delicacy on a rare occasion, you bow your head in deep gratitude for this special blessing from God.”

Bills concluded his article by remarking, “Yes, we are truly thankful for the privilege of living on the mission field, for it has awakened our soul to the virtue of gratitude; and it is such an enjoyable and edifying experience to be grateful for the everyday blessings of life.” Importantly, he observed that “Genuine thankfulness is a help to holiness.”

In 1976, Paul Bills was diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (Lou Gehrig’s disease). He died the next year and was buried on his 56th birthday. At his request, he was buried in Barrow beside Ned Nusunginya, his close friend and interpreter, who was converted during Paul’s initial revival in Barrow.

Paul and Marguerite Bills devoted their lives to share the gospel in remotest Alaska, and the challenges they encountered taught them about the importance of gratitude. They developed an attitude of thanksgiving, and they encouraged others to likewise view difficulties as valuable, transformative experiences for growing in Christ.

Read Paul E. Bills’ article, “I Learned Gratitude on the Alaska Mission Field,” on pages 2-3 of the Nov. 24, 1968, issue of the Pentecostal Evangel.

Also featured in this issue:

• “Five Grains of Corn,” by Mrs. Max (Hannah) Johnson

• “Maintaining the Balance,” by Alice Reynolds Flower

• “A Change in Government,” by C. M. Ward

And many more!

Click here to read this issue now.

Pentecostal Evangel archived edition 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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C. H. Austin: From the Saloons to Assemblies of God Railroad Evangelist

chaustin

This Week in AG History — November 16, 1929

By Darrin J. Rodgers
Originally published on PE-News, 17 November 2016

Clement Henderson Austin (1889-1973) knew railroads almost as well as he knew the gospel. He spent decades working as a train engineer, but he became mired in a lifestyle of drunkenness, gambling, violence, and addictions to alcohol and tobacco.

After a dramatic conversion, Austin became an Assemblies of God evangelist. He spent the rest of his life sharing the gospel, illustrated by his life story. Austin’s testimony was published in a Gospel Publishing House tract, which was republished in the Nov. 16, 1929, issue of the Pentecostal Evangel.

Austin’s mother died when he was eight years old. For years he carried this sorrow deep inside his soul, crying himself to sleep at night. He wondered why he could not have a mother, like all the other boys.

As a young teenager, Austin ventured onto the streets of Fort Worth, Texas, where he quickly adapted to the ways of the world. He started firing train engines at age 16, soon becoming a train engineer. A large young man, he learned how to fend for himself.

Saloons became a second home to young Austin. He started drinking and smoking, then gambling and stealing. He prided himself on his coarse speech, later calling himself “one of the ringleaders in oaths and smutty jokes.”

Austin recalled that he was “young and tender” when he started living on the streets. But as the years progressed, he noted, “my heart became more cold and hard.” He could feel “the enemy’s fangs” as they “sank into my soul and body.”

The coarse engineer married a young woman and they had a son. Austin tried to cover up his drunken and thieving ways by lying to his wife. But he knew that his life was spinning out of control, and he felt incredible guilt over the injustice he was committing against his family. He did not want his son to follow in his footsteps.

Austin had not been to church in twelve years. While Austin had tried to ignore God, he realized he needed to turn his life around, and he knew he could not do it alone. One night, while looking into the stars, he said aloud, “O God, help me to quit gambling.” Starting at that moment, Austin’s faith — birthed out of desperation — took root.

God seemed to chase after Austin. Two weeks before his conversion, Austin was running through a dark tunnel and heard a voice say, “Throw away your tobacco.” He did, and he never tasted it again.

In the meantime, Austin’s wife began attending revival services at a Pentecostal church in San Diego, California. At first, she did not tell Austin, afraid that he might mock her. But she could not keep quiet, and she told him about the miracles she witnessed. Cripples were leaving their crutches, and deaf people could hear again. He agreed to go hear the evangelist.

The revival services were being held in a small hall, which was packed with people. Austin recalled that “people sang as if they meant it,” and he could tell they had something that he was missing. A young sailor sat next to Austin, and when the evangelist called people to the altar, he tried to pull Austin forward for prayer. Austin knew that he needed to go forward, but he did not want to make a public demonstration.

An intense battle ensued between Austin’s ears. He recalled hearing a voice tell him that he was “too big a sinner” to be on his knees in church. This voice, who Austin recognized as the devil, taunted him, telling him that his drinking buddies would laugh at him. But Austin looked past his suffering, had faith in God, and cried out, “O Lord, have mercy on me.”

After an emotional spiritual battle, Austin found himself laying on the floor. He felt spiritual oppression flee, and he felt a sweet peace sweep through his soul. Austin set his heart on Christ and never looked back.

Austin told his family, friends, and coworkers about his conversion. He returned money he had stolen and asked for forgiveness from those he had offended. “There is now no more drinking, no more gambling, no more taking the name of our Lord in vain, no more tobacco,” he wrote. Instead, “old things have passed away and all things have become new.”

Austin studied for the ministry at Berean Bible Institute, an Assemblies of God school in San Diego. He graduated in 1925 and was ordained as an Assemblies of God evangelist in 1926. He continued working as an engineer on the Rock Island, Southern Pacific, and San Diego and Arizona railroads, but he viewed his secular employment as a vehicle for his higher calling – to preach the gospel across the American Southwest. During the next half century, this large, gentle, earnest railroad engineer, armed with his testimony and a Bible, touched countless lives.

Read Clement H. Austin’s testimony, “Saved and Called to Preach,” on pages 12-13 of the Nov. 16, 1929, issue of the Pentecostal Evangel.

Also featured in this issue:

• “Ten Reasons Why I Believe in Divine Healing,” by Thomas G. Atteberry

• “The Extra Portion,” by Mrs. Robert (Marie) Brown

And many more!

Click here to read this issue now.

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

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

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

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How should Christians respond to political and cultural crises? This AG evangelist’s admonition from 1959 is timely today!

ml-davidson

Martin Luther Davidson, 1953.

This Week in AG History — October 18, 1959

By Darrin J. Rodgers
Originally published on PE-News, 13 October 2016

How should Christians respond to political and cultural crises? Assemblies of God evangelist Martin Luther Davidson, in a sermon at the 1959 General Council, encouraged listeners to learn from the example of the first-century church. The early church, he noted, endured significant persecution in a society rocked by political turmoil and moral decay. In the midst of this social upheaval, the church established its identity and experienced remarkable growth.

How was the early church able to overcome adversity? Davidson identified three characteristics of early Christians that he suggested “was the secret of their victory.”

First, early Christians overcame adversity because they were consecrated to Christ and His mission. They despised sin, they surrendered themselves to suffer for the sake of righteousness, and they stood firm in the faith. According to Davidson, “Those Early Church saints were strongly marked by a holy indifference to external adversaries.” Early Christians endured the most severe forms of persecution. “They scorned the violence of fire, the edge of the sword, trials of cruel mockings and scourgings,” he noted. Davidson prayed that God would give twentieth-century Christians the “steadfastness of faith” that characterized first-century Christians.

Second, early Christians overcame adversity because of their sincere “holiness of character.” Davidson defined holiness as the condition of a person’s character. He noted that holiness could not be achieved by wearing or doing certain things; holiness could only come from the sanctifying, indwelling presence of God. Davidson expressed concern that this biblical view of holiness was being replaced in some Pentecostal circles by either “legalistic ritualism” (emphasizing external actions over the condition of the heart) or “liberalism” (presuming that conduct has no relationship to the condition of the heart). Davidson admonished Pentecostals to retain the historic view of holiness, asserting that “anything less will fail is in these critical days.”

Third, early Christians overcame adversity because they were “unwavering in holy faith.” Unlike modern conceptions of faith as mere “positive thinking,” Davidson carefully described the principles of biblical faith. True Christian faith, according to Davidson, is grounded in the Bible, it trusts in the person of God as revealed in Jesus Christ, and it provokes the believer to action.

Davidson encouraged Pentecostals to learn from early Christians, who “became intoxicated on the Spirit so much” that outsiders concluded they must be drunk with wine because they had no fear of man. “If the Church is to advance in these perilous days of universal crises,” Davidson concluded, “it must be filled with Spirit-intoxicated men” who demonstrate consecration, holiness, and unwavering faith.

Read Martin Luther Davidson’s article, “Forward in the Face of Crises!” on pages 3-4 of the Oct. 18, 1959, issue of the Pentecostal Evangel.

Also featured in this issue:

• “Praying in the Holy Ghost,” by Normand J. Thompson

• “Deaf Students Prepare for the Ministry,” by Maxine Strobridge

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

Leave a comment

Filed under History, Spirituality