Tag Archives: Assemblies of God

Revivaltime: How Radio Helped Shape Assemblies of God Identity

Revivaltime

C. M. Ward at microphone, with Revivaltime Choir in background, 1958.

This Week in AG History — December 11, 1960

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

Revivaltime, the Assemblies of God weekly radio program broadcast from 1950 until 1995, was one of the Fellowship’s most successful national ministries. Its hosts, C. M. Ward (1953-1978) and Dan Betzer (1979-1995), became two of the best-known Assemblies of God personalities, known to millions of listeners “coast to coast and around the world,” as the program’s familiar introduction intoned.

The broadcast, established in 1946 as Sermons in Song, was renamed Revivaltime in 1950. In 1953, Ward became the first full-time speaker, and the program began broadcasting on the ABC radio network. Each program began with the song, “All Hail the Power of Jesus’ Name,” sung by the Revivaltime choir. The song became so ingrained into the program’s identity that some have called it the “unofficial anthem” of the Assemblies of God. The reading of a biblical text and a sermon came next, followed by an invitation to kneel at the “radio altar” while the choir sang Ira Stanphill’s “There’s Room at the Cross for You.”

The program saw almost immediate success. For decades, over 10,000 letters from listeners poured into the Revivaltime offices each month. By 1960, church officials estimated that Revivaltime’s U.S. radio audience was 12 million people — 12 times as large as the Sunday morning attendance at Assemblies of God churches in America. Add to that the numerous Revivaltime broadcasts in other countries, and the magnitude of the program’s influence quickly becomes obvious.

Ward and Betzer engaged audiences with sermons employing simple, direct language and powerful illustrations and human-interest stories. They also modeled the charismatic gifts on the air, sometimes exercising a “word of knowledge” — communicating messages under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit to specific unknown listeners. Countless thousands of people wrote in and credited Revivaltime for playing a role in a relative’s salvation, a healing, or other divine interventions.

Revivaltime and other national ministries — such as Christ’s Ambassadors (the ministry to youth and young adults), Royal Rangers (the Scout-like boys ministry), and Missionettes (now National Girls Ministries) — helped to give the Assemblies of God a sense of national identity and branding. While the focus in the Assemblies of God remained on the local church, these national ministries provided generations of Assemblies of God members with a sense that they were a part of a larger community of believers.

The Dec. 11, 1960, issue of the Pentecostal Evangel celebrated the seventh anniversary of Revivaltime, featuring C. M. Ward, D. V. Hurst (national secretary of Radio), and Bartlett Peterson (Revivaltime executive director) prominently on the cover. Together, these three men and hundreds of others labored to develop Revivaltime into a ministry that not only helped to evangelize and disciple believers, but also helped shape the identity of the Assemblies of God.

Read articles about Revivaltime’s seventh anniversary on pages 2 and 12 of the Dec. 11, 1960, issue of the Pentecostal Evangel.
Also featured in this issue:

• “The Security of the Believer,” by Myer Pearlman

• “Predestination: What Does the Bible Teach about this Mysterious Subject?” by Ralph M. Riggs

And many more!

Click here to read this issue now.

Listen to classic Revivaltime radio episodes by clicking here.

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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Early Pentecostal Revivals Among Scandinavian Immigrants in Fargo-Moorhead

FargoThis Week in AG History — November 29, 1930

By Darrin J. Rodgers
Originally published on AG News, 27 November 2019

Few Assemblies of God congregations in 1930 could boast an attendance of 1,000 people in a service. Yet when Fargo Gospel Tabernacle dedicated its new building on Oct. 8, 1930, over 1,000 people attended the services. The Nov. 29, 1930, issue of The Pentecostal Evangel reported on the event held in North Dakota’s largest city, then with a population of 28,619. British-born, Oxford-educated evangelist Charles S. Price was the dedication speaker, and long-time local pastor John Thompson also delivered a sermon in the Swedish language.

Fargo Gospel Tabernacle (now Northview Church) was organized in 1926 and by 1933 claimed approximately 500 members. How did this congregation grow so quickly in this northern city known for its large Scandinavian immigrant population? At least two factors played a part in the church’s rapid development.

First, Fargo Gospel Tabernacle was built upon the foundation of earlier Pentecostal revivals and churches in the region. The congregation’s most significant Pentecostal predecessor was the Swedish Free Mission, which was located in neighboring Moorhead, Minnesota.

John Thompson previously served as pastor of the Swedish Free Mission before becoming a member of Fargo Gospel Tabernacle in his later years. The Swedish Free Mission was a leading congregation in a network of Scandinavian congregations in Minnesota and the Dakotas in which speaking in tongues and healing commonly occurred as early as the 1890s. Many early members of Fargo Gospel Tabernacle had been previously involved in this indigenous Scandinavian-American Pentecostal revival.

Second, Fargo Gospel Tabernacle was organized by a Norwegian immigrant, Henry H. Ness, who proved particularly adept at unifying existing Pentecostals and engaging the local community in high-profile activities.

Ness was a gifted orator and organizer, he held a number of successful evangelistic events, and he also produced two weekly radio programs, the Sunshine Hour and the Back Home Hour, broadcast over local radio station WDAY. Ness left Fargo in 1933 and moved to Seattle, Washington, where he pastored an Assemblies of God congregation, Hollywood Temple, and also founded Northwest University.

Today, Northview Church is the second largest Assemblies of God congregation in North Dakota, with Sunday morning attendance of about 1,000 people.

The history of early Pentecostalism in Fargo demonstrates that the Pentecostal movement did not originate solely among English-speakers in revivals at Topeka, Kansas (1901) or Azusa Street, Los Angeles, California (1906-1909). Rather, people from various national and denominational backgrounds, all of whom had experienced a common touch of the Holy Spirit, coalesced to form what we know today as the Pentecostal movement. While revivals at Topeka and Los Angeles were among the most prominent points of Pentecostal origin, early Scandinavian Pentecostal revivals in Minnesota and the Dakotas remind us of the movement’s diverse origins.

Read the report of the dedication of Fargo Gospel Tabernacle on page 21 of the Nov. 29, 1930, issue of the Pentecostal Evangel.

Also featured in this issue:

• “The Three Phases of Sanctification,” by Donald Gee

• “Is it Possible to be Happy?” by J. Narver Gortner

And many more!

Click here to read this issue now.

For additional information about the Pentecostal revival among Scandinavian-Americans in the 1890s and early 1900s, read “Rediscovering Pentecostalism’s Diverse Roots: Pentecostal Origins in Scandinavian Pietism in Minnesota and the Dakotas,” by Darrin Rodgers. The article was published in a Norwegian journal, Refleks, and is accessible by clicking here.

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

Flowerfamily_1400

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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Caring for the Orphans of India and Nepal: Anna Tomaseck, Pentecostal Pioneer

Tomaseck AnnaThis Week in AG History — November 8, 1930

By Ruthie Edgerly Oberg
Originally published on AG News, 07 November 2019

Anna Tomaseck (1902-1981), a single woman known as “Mamaji” (precious mother) to the many children whom she raised on the Indian/Nepali border, spent 50 years serving God in India and is credited with opening the doors of Nepal to the Pentecostal movement.

Tomaseck accepted Christ in a Billy Sunday crusade and consecrated her life to serve in whatever way God led. She trained as a registered nurse in Ohio and began to tell others of her desire to be a missionary, sensing a call to India. Her Presbyterian Sunday School teacher and many friends pledged their support and Tomaseck arrived in India in 1926.

Almost immediately, she was introduced to missionaries who had received the baptism of the Holy Spirit and she, too, accepted this gift and identified with the Assemblies of God in 1928. Tomaseck spent the first 10 years of her missionary service at the Assemblies of God Girls School in Bettiah, learning the Hindi language and assisting in evangelistic efforts.

In the Nov. 8, 1930, issue of the Pentecostal Evangel, she wrote, “Our school is growing and we have over one hundred students. We are much in prayer these days that God will again pour out His Spirit upon us, for we are a needy people and He alone can meet our need.”

Through these kinds of prayers, Tomaseck soon discerned there was something else that God had in mind for her. While visiting English missionary Amy Carmichael, she spent several days seeking for the specific assignment for which Christ had called her.

When Tomaseck left Carmichael’s mission, she believed that God had given her a two-fold mission: to raise children that no one else wanted and to reach the people of Nepal. Many discouraged her from this endeavor as Nepal was closed to Christianity. Tomaseck determined if she could not legally enter Nepal, she would get as close as she could.

Looking at a map of the railway system, she set her sights on Rapaydiya, the last Indian village before Nepal. In 1936, she purchased a one-way ticket and rented the house nearest the border – the last house in India – and began learning the Nepali language.

Tomaseck brought along with her three children who had been subsisting on whatever scraps they could find after their parents died. Soon local people understood that the young American lady would take in children, regardless of their health or status. Many more babies were brought to her home, from both India and Nepal. Some were orphans, some were unwanted by their families, and some were abandoned because their parents could not afford to feed them. Some had leprosy. They were all starving and sick.

Tomaseck received some criticism from other missionaries and supporters who felt that her time should be spend evangelizing rather than caring for sick children. She was undeterred. She instituted a teaching program that provided life skills for her children, seeing that each boy learned a trade and that each girl was taught to manage a home. As her children grew and moved out to find their place in life, more children came to take their place. In three decades of service on the Nepali border, Tomaseck raised 420 children in the Nur Children’s Home, teaching each of them about the love of Christ.

Tomaseck soon found that she was able to cross the border without police permission, as she was escorted by border guards who she had raised when they were boys. A string of churches was planted in southern Nepal and much of the leadership of the Pentecostal church traced their roots back to her ministry.

After 33 years in Rapaydiya, Tomaseck returned to Bettiah, where she remained until her retirement in 1976 at age 74. She moved to Maranatha Village in Springfield, Missouri, and passed away five years later.

God saw the need in a remote part of the world and He heard the prayer Tomaseck wrote in the 1930 Pentecostal Evangel, asking for His Spirit to be poured out on their work. He enabled a young single woman to raise up believers, teachers, laborers, and pastors who would go where missionaries could not go. Mamaji’s abandoned babies became men and women of the Spirit who built His church in India and Nepal.

Read Anna Tomaseck’s early report from the field on page 11 of the Nov. 8, 1930, issue of the Pentecostal Evangel.

Also featured in this issue:

• “In the Midst of Chinese Bandits” by W.W. Simpson

• “War, the Bible, and the Christian” by Donald Gee

• “From Witch Doctor to Gospel Preacher,” by A.R. Tomlin

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 German District Council: 97 Years and Counting

German District

A group of ministers from the German District standing outside a church; circa 1940s. Identified are (l-r): John Koch (independent pastor), 2 unidentified, Mr. Petrat (lay preacher from Detroit, MI), David Hintz (lay minister and printer from Milwaukee), L. W. Drewitz, C. W. Loenser, Henry Scharf, unidentified, and Hugo Ulrich.

This Week in AG History — October 29, 1961

By Glenn W. Gohr
Originally published on AG News, 31 October 2019

The German District Council of the Assemblies of God was organized 97 years ago to serve German-speaking Pentecostals in the United States. The German district (known as the German Branch until 1973) was birthed in the fall of 1922 at a meeting held in New Castle, Pennsylvania. Participants at the organizing meeting came from Michigan, Illinois, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, and Canada.

General Chairman E. N. Bell praised the formation of a German district. He said, “We should be glad to have a German Branch to recommend Germans for credentials and to encourage you every way possible. God bless and guide you. Door is open.”

August H. Wendt was chosen as the first superintendent and served until his death in 1929. He was succeeded by Hugo A. Ulrich, pastor of Bethel Tabernacle in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Other superintendents through the years include Carl W. Loenser, Alvin Sprecher, Raymond Rueb, David D. Rueb, and the current superintendent, Daniel J. Miller.

As the German Branch continued to grow, additional congregations were started among German-speaking families in the northern plains states, primarily among German immigrants from Russia. Most of these new congregations were in Nebraska, North Dakota, and South Dakota. Congregations were also started in Santa Clara, California, and Puyallup, Washington, and other places with a German population. A number of the early German district pastors were bivocational or shepherded multiple congregations.

By the 1950s most German district congregations were holding services in both English and German languages. A majority of the church members were immigrants from German-speaking settlements in Russia, Poland, Germany, Hungary, and other Eastern European countries. They or their parents had fled Germany during wartime, depression, or famine. Although the culture in their new-found land was different, these people felt drawn to churches that ministered to them in their native tongue.

The printed word has also helped to advance the German district. Its publications through the years have included Wort und Zeugnis (“Word and Witness”), Licht und Leben (“Light and Life”), and Lektionsheft (a Sunday School quarterly), Crossroads, and GD Insight.

The German District Council office is located in Saint Joseph, Michigan. The district also operates Bethel Park (Bridgman, Michigan), which serves as the location of the annual German district family camp and other events.

In October 1961, Alvin Sprecher, secretary-treasurer of the German Branch, gave a report of the German Branch, which at that time was one of six non-English language branches of the Assemblies of God in the United States. He reported, “Nearly one hundred more souls were saved in German churches this year than last.” He described several efforts to start new German churches over the past year. He also told of a “profitable camp again this summer” with J. P. Kolenda as the speaker. “We had record attendance,” reported Sprecher, “and a blessed outpouring of the Holy Spirit with souls saved and believers filled.” He also was thankful for a successful youth camp where “a number of children were saved, and some received the baptism of the Holy Spirit.”

The German district is still planting churches in new locations across the United States. Interestingly, in recent years a number of African-American churches and ministers have affiliated with the German district. The German district is also active in missions work around the globe. In 2018, the German district consisted of 34 churches in the United States with 2,677 adherents.

Read Sprecher’s article, “German Branch Makes Gain” on page 7 of the Oct. 29, 1961, issue of the Pentecostal Evangel.

Also featured in this issue:

• “The Big Breakthrough,” by E. M. Clark

• “The Time of Great Trouble,” by R. M. Riggs

• “Pentecost Repeated,” by Harley Vail

And many more!

Click here to read this issue now.

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

See also: “The German District: Ninety Years and Counting” published in Assemblies of God Heritage in 2012.

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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J. Narver Gortner: The Methodist Pastor Who Became an Assemblies of God Pioneer

Gortner

J. Narver and Della Gortner, with their son, Vernon, circa 1914

This Week in AG History — October 25, 1930

By Darrin J. Rodgers
Originally published on AG News, 24 October 2019

Most people today probably associate the name Gortner with Marjoe Gortner (1944- ), the child evangelist-turned-movie star. Early Assemblies of God members, however, would associate the name with his grandfather, J. Narver Gortner (1874-1961). J. Narver, the son of a Methodist missionary, became a prominent early leader in the Assemblies of God.

J. Narver’s father was an old-fashioned Methodist preacher who taught the importance of holy living and who believed that God still performs miracles. His father yielded to a call to serve as a missionary in Liberia. The Gortner family sailed for Liberia in 1887, but their life as African missionaries was short-lived. J. Narver’s father died in 1888, and his grieving widow and two sons went back to America, where they settled on the family farm in Nebraska.

The sorrowful experience in Liberia might have caused J. Narver to reject the thought of entering the ministry. However, he felt a pull toward the pastorate and enrolled at Garrett Biblical Institute (now Garrett Theological Seminary) in Evanston, Illinois. He began pastoring his first church, a Methodist congregation in Inman, Nebraska, at the age of 19.

Narver pastored several churches in Nebraska, numerous people accepted Christ under his ministry, and he rose in prominence in the Methodist Church. In 1911, his wife, Della, became deathly sick. J. Narver accepted the pastorate of a church in southern California, hoping that the change in climate would bring a measure of relief to Della.

Della did get better, but her healing did not come from the weather. Rather, she attributed her healing to the prayers of several Christians, including Pentecostal pioneer and medical doctor Finis Yoakum. She often testified that before she was healed, she had subsisted for fourteen months primarily on raw eggs and malted milk. After she was healed, she could eat beef, mashed potatoes, and gravy, and anything else she wanted.

Della’s healing caused the Gortners to view Pentecostals favorably. Pentecostals were generally considered part of the broader Holiness and Wesleyan movements, with which the Gortners also identified. However, Pentecostals also placed an emphasis on the baptism in the Holy Spirit with an evidence of speaking in tongues, which was not emphasized in Gortner’s Methodist church.

In 1914, J. Narver read about a Pentecostal camp meeting slated to be held in Cazadero, in the California Redwoods. Carrie Judd Montgomery, an early Pentecostal healing evangelist, was going to minister at the camp. He had read Montgomery’s periodical, Triumphs of Faith, and wanted to experience a Pentecostal service for himself.

J. Narver attended the camp and received a powerful experience of being baptized in the Holy Spirit. He also was healed of a long-standing painful spinal condition after evangelist Smith Wigglesworth, another speaker at the camp, prayed for him.

The 40-year-old Methodist pastor was both exhilarated and in a quandary. He wanted to testify about his baptism in the Holy Spirit and his healing.  However, he thought it would likely cost him his position as a Methodist pastor and denominational official.

Gortner went home and next Sunday morning told his Methodist congregation in Arroyo Grande what had happened to him. They listened with interest, Methodist officials did not remove him from the pastorate, and his fears subsided. He remained in the Methodist church until 1919, when he decided to become more involved in the young Pentecostal movement.

Gortner transferred his ordination to the Assemblies of God and quickly rose in prominence in his new church. In 1920, he became the first superintendent of the Central District of the Assemblies of God, and the following year he became a member of the Executive Presbytery, a position he kept for 26 years. He also served as a pastor in Oakland, California (1927-1937) and president of Glad Tidings Bible Institute in San Francisco (1941-1947). He authored five books and over 250 articles published in the Pentecostal Evangel.

According to historian Carl Brumback, Gortner was a very influential theologian and church leader in the Assemblies of God from the 1920s through the 1940s. Brumback viewed J. Narver Gortner, Samuel A. Jamieson, and P. C. Nelson as a “doctrinal trio” which had “a great part in molding the conservative nature of the Assemblies of God.” In 1927, Gortner championed the idea of changing the name of the Assemblies of God to The Pentecostal Evangelical Church. Gortner was not ashamed of being Pentecostal and thought the term Pentecostal should be in the name of the Fellowship. He also built bridges across the denominational divides and played a significant role in the formation of the National Association of Evangelicals.

In its early decades, the Assemblies of God benefited significantly from an influx of veteran ministers from other denominations whose lives had been touched by the work of the Holy Spirit. J. Narver Gortner was one such minister, and his influence can still be felt through the countless lives that he touched through his ministry and writings.

Read Gortner’s testimony on pages 6 and 7 of the October 25, 1930, issue of the Pentecostal Evangel.

Also featured in this issue:

  • “Is the Baptism in the Holy Spirit a Necessity?” by P. C. Nelson
  • “The Initial Evidence of the Baptism in the Holy Spirit,” by Donald Gee
  • “Was the Apostle Paul a Madman?” by Charles A. Shreve

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

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The Assemblies of God and Evangelism: A Priority Since 1914

Gospel carThis Week in AG History — October 18, 1964

By Glenn W. Gohr
Originally published on AG News, 18 October 2019

How important is evangelism? It is absolutely essential to fulfilling the Great Commission to “go and make disciples of all nations.” Evangelism has always been at the forefront of the Assemblies of God and its mission.

At the second General Council in November 1914, the Assemblies of God delegates approved a resolution to achieve “the greatest evangelism that the world has ever seen.” This was quite a goal to set for such a small group. Yet, we could argue that together we have succeeded in reaching that target now with over 69 million people worldwide belonging to an AG church.

What are some of the creative ways that people have done evangelism work? People have used tent meetings, gospel rallies, street witnessing, gospel wagons and cars, tracts dropped from airplanes, gospel ships, various Speed the Light vehicles, Sunday School, Vacation Bible School, chalk drawings, ventriloquism puppets, Buddy Barrel, hand puppets, railroad evangelism, motorcycle ministry, rodeo evangelism, etc.

As the AG became more established, it adopted a constitution and bylaws and outlined its purposes as an organization. The first mandate of the four-fold reason for being of the AG is “to seek and to save that which is lost.” Again we see evangelism as paramount to the AG and its mission.

The Assemblies of God has always had ministers, evangelists, missionaries, and lay people actively sharing the gospel. In 1953, a resolution was adopted to create a Department of Evangelism “to emphasize, encourage, and coordinate all phases of evangelism.” This led to the establishment in 1963 of a Spiritual Life Evangelism Commission to help facilitate evangelistic efforts in all areas of the AG. This helped to ensure that individual departments or ministries would have the advancement of evangelism as a main part of their stated purpose.

Today we see evangelistic efforts maintained in every ministry of the AG, especially in such areas as Chi Alpha, Sunday School, church planting, church multiplication efforts, prison ministry, military and institutional chaplaincy, and AG World Missions and U.S. Missions efforts.

Fifty-five years ago, D. V. Hurst, who was coordinator of the Spiritual Life Evangelism Commission, wrote an article called, “It’s Time For Action,” which encouraged everyone to practice personal evangelism. He emphasized that the Early Church was known for action. “In fact,” he said, “the record of its accomplishments is called ‘The Acts.’”

Just as Jesus challenged the disciples to “look to the field,” Hurst admonished Christians to also find a place of harvest, a place of action, to share the gospel.

Hurst said, “The promise of Jesus to the Spirit-filled was not restrictive.” The mandate of “Ye shall be witnesses” was directed to all who experience the baptism in the Holy Spirit.

Hurst exhorted the whole Fellowship: “Use everyone you can enlist. The main business of the church is evangelism.” Calling everyone to action, he declared: “All should be totally involved in reaching others with His gospel.”

Read the article, “It’s Time For Action” on pages 24, 25, and 27 of the Oct. 18, 1964, issue of the Pentecostal Evangel.

Also featured in this issue:

• “Great Things He Hath Done,” by Ralph W. Harris

• “Speeding the Light in Latin America,” by Melvin Hodges

• “NAE Now 22 Years Old,” by Jared F. Gerig

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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