Tag Archives: Assemblies of God

Latino and Latina Pioneers in the Assemblies of God

Temple Beth-El

Templo Beth-el Latin American Assembly of God (Weslaco, Texas), circa 1960

This Week in AG History —October 19, 1929

By Darrin J. Rodgers
Originally published on AG News, 18 October 2018

Hispanic ministers and churches have played an important role in the Assemblies of God (AG) for over 100 years. The Pentecostal message spread rapidly among Spanish-speakers, first along the borderlands in Texas among refugees from the Mexican Revolution and among Puerto Ricans. The AG ordained its first Hispanic minister in 1914 and created a conference for U.S. Hispanic churches (later known as the Latin American District) in 1918.

Eighty-nine years ago this week, the Pentecostal Evangel briefly noted that the Hispanic AG churches in the United States (with the exception of Puerto Rico) had formed the Latin American District. Over the decades, Hispanics forged their own identity, leaders, and churches within the AG. In 2017, over 23 percent of AG adherents in the United States were Hispanic.

The following vignettes offer a glimpse into the lives and ministries of several Hispanic AG pioneers. While Anglo missionaries to Hispanics, such as Henry C. Ball, Alice E. Luce, and Florence Murcutt, also were an important part of the story, the below stories feature Latino(a)s who helped to lay the foundation for the AG. Their testimonies offer a glimpse into the vibrant spiritual lives of our Pentecostal pioneers.

Antonio Rios Morin

Antonio Rios Morin (born ca. 1867), a former Mexican Revolution army officer, in 1914 became the first Hispanic to be ordained as an AG minister. He was converted in 1912 under the ministry of Mexican healing evangelist Enemecio Alaniz in a racially integrated Pentecostal home meeting in Houston. Morin joined with Alaniz and other Hispanic and Anglo Pentecostal ministers, evangelizing among the Mexican refugees in the borderlands of Texas. At the time, many refugees followed Spiritism or other occult practices. Many people were saved, healed, and delivered from demons under Morin’s ministry.

Juan Lugo

LugoJuan Lugo (1890-1984) was born in Puerto Rico and raised on the sugar plantations of Hawaii. In 1913, Lugo’s mother came into contact with Pentecostal missionaries from the interracial Azusa Street Revival who were en route to Japan and China. She accepted Christ and told her son, but he initially rejected her witness. When one of Juan’s co-workers who could not read also became a Christian, he asked Juan to read the Bible to him on breaks. Juan reluctantly agreed, and what he found in the Bible changed his life. He soon accepted Christ, was baptized in the Holy Spirit, and felt called into the ministry. In 1916, he returned to Puerto Rico, where he pioneered the first Pentecostal churches on the island. He established La Iglesia de Dios Pentecostal (Pentecostal Church of God), which was affiliated with the AG. He later moved to New York, where he helped establish Puerto Rican churches on the East Coast, which became the foundation for the Spanish Eastern District.

Dionicia Feliciano

FelicianoDionicia Feliciano (born ca. 1890) was the first Latina ordained by the AG. She and her husband, Salomon, were Puerto Ricans who, like Juan Lugo, were saved and baptized in the Holy Spirit in 1913 while working on sugar plantations in Hawaii. They became ordained Assemblies of God ministers in San Jose, California, in 1916. They returned to Puerto Rico, where they helped Lugo pioneer the young Pentecostal movement. In late 1916, they ventured to the Dominican Republic, where they served as the first Pentecostal missionaries to that nation. Dionicia was very active in church planting and evangelistic work.

Isabel Flores

Isabel Flores (a male Mexican-American pastor) and H. C. Ball co-founded the January 1918 organizational convention of AG churches and ministers, which was held in Kingsville, Texas. Flores was one of the earliest Hispanic AG ministers. Like many Mexican refugees, he faced significant cultural and legal challenges in America. In one such circumstance, Flores was arrested in May 1918 and incarcerated in the Jackson County jail in Edna, Texas. The reason for the arrest is unknown. An account published in 1966 in La Luz Apostolica simply stated, “It was wartime, and the officer did not speak Spanish and Isabel did not speak English.” Ball came to the aid of Flores and traveled to Edna, where he spoke with authorities and secured the prisoner’s release. Flores’ experience demonstrates that it was advantageous for Hispanic Pentecostals to form an alliance with Anglos of like faith.

Demetrio and Nellie Bazan

BazanIt would be difficult to overstate the impact of Demetrio (1900-1976) and Nellie Bazan (1895-1995) on the AG. Both Demetrio and Nellie felt called into the ministry and were ordained together in 1920, less than a month before their wedding. H. C. Ball, the Anglo AG missionary to Hispanics, saw potential in Demetrio for pastoral leadership and mentored him. Demetrio proved to be an effective pastor, evangelist, and administrator, and succeeded Ball in 1939 as the first Hispanic to serve as Latin American district superintendent. Bazan’s far-reaching vision and abilities helped the Hispanic constituency of the AG to grow significantly. Nellie was an important AG leader in her own right. She preached from the pulpit at least 30 times per year, engaged in extensive door-to-door evangelism, was a prolific author, and raised 10 children.

Jose Giron

GironJose Giron (1911-2001) succeeded Demetrio Bazan in 1959 as superintendent of the Latin American district, which grew by 1970 to encompass 403 churches, 827 ministers, and 21,000 members. In 1971, Giron led the district to divide into four smaller districts, laying the foundation for structures that allowed continued growth and better oversight and accountability. Giron had demonstrated strong evangelistic and church planting skills early in his ministry, and his careful yet forward-looking leadership skills proved invaluable to the AG.

Francisca Blaisdell

Francisca Blaisdell (ca 1885-1941) was born in Mexico and started preaching the Pentecostal message in 1915. She married an Anglo AG missionary, George E. Blaisdell. Francisca founded the Concilio Misionero Femenil (Women’s Missionary Council) in 1922 in Agua Prieta, Mexico. The purpose of the council was to encourage missionary work along the U.S.-Mexican borderlands. The Blaisdells moved to Arizona, and H. C. Ball and Juan Lugo ordained her as an AG missionary-evangelist in 1923. Francisca became a prominent Latina AG evangelist, but the council, which claimed 44,600 members by 2005, was perhaps her most significant achievement.

Concepcion (Chonita) Morgan Howard

Concepcion (Chonita) Morgan Howard (1898-1983) was a pioneer Latina Pentecostal evangelist and pastor. She accepted Christ and was baptized in the Holy Spirit in 1913 in the mining town of San Jose de las Playitas in Sonora, Mexico. Her father was Anglo, and her mother was Mexican. In 1919 she married an Anglo preacher, Lloyd Howard, who was pastoring a small Mexican congregation in Arizona. She was ordained by the AG in 1928 as an evangelist to Mexicans living along the Mexican-American border. In addition to her work as an evangelist and pastor, she served as the second president of the Concilio Misionero Femenil (1941-1962).

Roberto Fierro

FierroRobert Fierro (1916-1985) was a prominent Mexican-American AG evangelist who preached fluently in both English and Spanish. Fierro surrendered his life to Christ at 15 years of age, following his mother’s miraculous healing in a Pentecostal church. He soon felt a call to minister and enrolled in Bible college. Throughout the 1940s and 1950s, he preached throughout the United States and in Spanish-speaking countries to crowds that often numbered into the thousands. Countless people were converted and healed under his ministry.

Jesse Miranda

MirandaJesse Miranda (1937-present) is a respected Hispanic AG church leader and educator who in 1995 became the first Latino to be elected as an executive presbyter. Jesse began life in Albuquerque, New Mexico, the son of a lumber mill worker and a mother with a third-grade education. He started preaching at 19 and served as an instructor at Latin American Bible Institute from 1959 to 1978 and as superintendent of the Southern Pacific Latin American district from 1984 to 1992. Jesse became known as a bridge builder, serving as the founding president of the multidenominational Alianza de Ministerios Evangelicos Nacionales (AMEN) and as executive director of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference, the nation’s largest Christian Hispanic organization. Christianity Today dubbed him “the granddaddy of U.S. Latino Protestantism.”

Read about the formation of the Latin American District in the article, “The Thirteenth General Council Meeting,” on page 5 of the Oct. 19, 1929, issue of the Pentecostal Evangel.

Also featured in this issue:

• “A Sound of Rain,” by W. E. Moody

• “The Church’s Greatest Need,” by Charles E. Robinson

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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The Story Behind Speed-the-Light: How Assemblies of God Youth Raised Over $300 Million for Missions

Speed the Light

An airplane (“Old Sikorsky”) purchased with Speed the Light funds, circa 1946. Pictured (L-R) are: E. L Mason; H. B. Garlock; unidentified; Warren Straton; Fred Merian; unidentified; J. Robert Ashcroft.

This Week in AG History —October 11, 1953

By Ruthie Edgerly Oberg
Originally published on AG News, 11 October 2018

“Never mind, it will soon blow over.” These skeptical words greeted the enthusiasm of Christ’s Ambassadors (CA) Director Ralph Harris when he recounted that Assemblies of God young people had given over $100,000 in 1945 to the new missions fund, “Speed the Light.” Not many adults believed that the youth of their churches could sustain their excitement for providing missionary transportation vehicles in far-off countries.

The idea for the fund had come to Harris only a month after taking his new post as national youth director. It was 1944 and young people were beginning to come to grips with the changes in their world following World War II. Vehicles had been hard to come by as many automobile manufacturers stopped producing civilian vehicles in favor of military vehicles.

Harris knew the youth of America could identify with those who were without transportation. Harris also knew that the war had exhibited to young people the power of vehicles being used for destructive purposes. They had watched news reels of airplanes, jeeps, and boats destroy and be destroyed. Was there a way to show the world that the same vehicles that had been used to bring desolation to a nation could also be used to bring the good news of the hope of the gospel? Could the young people of the Assemblies of God lead the way in this effort?

General Superintendent E.S. Williams offered a less-than-positive response to Harris’s idea of using offerings from CA groups to purchase airplanes and motorcycles for missions. Williams later reported that his first thoughts were, “Jesus didn’t use a motorcycle. And Paul didn’t fly a plane.”

However, while Williams was very conservative in his approach to money, he was also a man in touch with God. While Harris was still trying to sell his idea, Williams felt the Holy Spirit reminding him that Jesus and Paul might not have used those vehicles, but they likely would have if they had been available. Within an hour of approaching his boss, Harris had the approval to begin promoting his new idea.

The program needed a name so Harris offered a prize to the young person that submitted the best name. Ernestine Houston of Arizona sent in the moniker “Speed-the-Light” (STL) and was awarded $15 in Gospel Publishing House materials for coining the new name, which is still used 73 years later.

Harris set the astronomical goal of $100,000 for their first year, 1945. CA members were told that if they each gave $1 their goal could be met. It was greeted with skepticism on the part of some leadership, but the Assemblies of God youth came through with $113,375.39. Their first major purchase was a small amphibian plane for the work in Liberia. It was the first non-military plane to ever fly into that country and caused quite a stir. The Liberians were so excited to see the plane that for many years they charged no duty fees on any STL equipment brought into the country.

Appeals soon began to pour in from all over the world. Boats were needed in the Bahamas, a jeep in Costa Rica, mules were requested in Nigeria, and bicycles in Upper Volta. The Assemblies of God discovered that one missionary, properly equipped, could do the work of 10 who lacked resources. Missionaries were going farther, faster, and easier than they ever had before.

Harris knew he had to keep the challenge fresh so he proclaimed the third Sunday of October “Dollar Day” when a special offering would be sent in from each CA group totaling $1 for each young person who attended the church. The Pentecostal Evangel lent its support to the project, running articles highlighting STL on that Sunday.

One young man, Loren, was 17 when STL was born. He later testified that STL built a bridge for him to different parts of the world as he read the updates in the Evangel articles and had the opportunity to contribute to something that was larger than himself. He was learning that he could impact an entire world for the good. He later became a pastor in Nebraska who supported STL in his local church until God called him to spend 12 years in Nicaragua, using his own STL vehicle. He later served as the field director for Latin America and, in 1997, Loren Triplett retired as executive director of Assemblies of God World Missions. It started with giving $1 to Speed the Light’s Dollar Day.

Since that first year in 1945, the youth of the Assemblies of God have given $312,870,885.76 to STL, including $9,421,143.41 in 2017. The third Sunday of October is still STL Day in the Assemblies of God. J. Philip Hogan, referring to the skeptic who told Harris that this excitement in the youth would “soon blow over,” wrote on STL’s 40th anniversary in 1984, “He was right! It has blown all over the world!”

Read stories and view photos from “Dollar Day” in the article, “Keep ‘Em Rolling,” on page 7 of the Oct. 11, 1953, issue of the Pentecostal Evangel.

Also featured in this issue:

• “Family Worship and the Promise of Power,” by Norman V. Williams

• “Pentecostal Principles,” by James D. Menzies

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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Thomas F. Zimmerman: Assemblies of God Statesman

Zimmerman_oct_1400This Week in AG History —October 4, 1959

By Ruthie Edgerly Oberg
Originally published on AG News, 04 October 2018

Over a 50-year period, Thomas F. Zimmerman (1912-1991) served the Assemblies of God as pastor, district official, department leader, assistant general superintendent, and general superintendent. His leadership greatly increased the influence of the Pentecostal movement in the evangelical world, as well as in the broader American religious landscape.

Born in 1912 to devout Methodist parents, Zimmerman’s family was exposed to Pentecostalism the way many were in the early days of that movement: through a miraculous healing. When Zimmerman was 5 years old, his mother was given no more than six weeks to live after a diagnosis of terminal tuberculosis. The diagnosis led the family to seek prayer at the Apostolic Faith Mission in their hometown of Indianapolis. The pastor and several members of the congregation came to the Zimmerman home and prayed for her healing. The next morning she felt well enough to get out of bed and a few weeks later, the doctor declared her completely well. The family began attending the Sunday afternoon meetings at the Pentecostal church after their morning service at the Methodist church. Eventually, their pastor suggested they leave his congregation, and they affiliated with the independent Pentecostal group.

Zimmerman was heavily influenced by the new pastor of the Apostolic Faith Mission, John Price. Price’s own pastoral training was “on the job” and he believed in doing the same for his congregants. After showing capable ministry as the church youth leader and while still in high school, Zimmerman was asked to become Price’s associate pastor. In this capacity he was exposed to the wide ranging needs of a congregation and given much preaching experience. When Mrs. Price lay dying, she asked young Zimmerman to promise two things: to continue to help her husband and to marry their oldest daughter, Elizabeth. Thomas and Elizabeth were already interested in each other and Pastor Price performed the ceremony for his associate pastor and his daughter in 1933.

Due to Zimmerman’s position at the church being voluntary, he worked full-time at the Bemis Brothers Bag Company. His natural leadership ability was recognized, and he made the enviable salary of $30 a week during the depression. However, after the death of their 9-month-old son in 1935, both Thomas and Elizabeth felt that they should devote their full time to the ministry. He was ordained by the Assemblies of God on May 7, 1936. They took a small congregation in Harrodsburg, Indiana, where the average offering was $2.68 a week. The congregation grew to 250 during their two years there, and Zimmerman’s leadership ability came to the attention of other leaders within the growing denomination.

In 1942, while pastoring in Granite City, Illinois, Assemblies of God leaders invited Zimmerman to attend the organizational meeting of the National Association of Evangelicals in nearby St. Louis with them. Zimmerman had made it a practice of working with non-Pentecostals in every city in which he ministered. His passion was evangelism and he found common interest among other evangelical leaders. Through this involvement, Zimmerman was able to provide leadership to the founding of the National Religious Broadcasters in 1944.

That same year, Central Assembly in Springfield, Missouri, called Zimmerman as its pastor. This placed him among denominational leadership, and in 1945 Zimmerman also became head of the Assemblies of God radio department. He then served as secretary-treasurer of the Southern Missouri District from 1949-1951, followed by a brief pastorate in Cleveland, Ohio, when he was elected as an assistant general superintendent at the 1953 General Council, moving him back to Springfield. He served closely alongside Superintendent Ralph Riggs and managed much of the day-to-day operations of the national office.

In 1959, the General Council, held in San Antonio, Texas, elected Thomas F. Zimmerman as its ninth general superintendent. The Oct. 4, 1959, Pentecostal Evangel made this announcement to the larger constituency in a one-page article, “The General Council at a Glance.”

Zimmerman served as general superintendent for 26 years, the longest tenure of anyone in that office. He was regarded as a “Pentecostal statesman,” bringing the Pentecostal movement in general, and the Assemblies of God in particular, more visibility and influence in the religious world. His involvement in extra-denominational associations and civic organizations brought him and the Movement recognition in other areas. He was invited to the White House during each administration from Kennedy to Reagan and received civic awards ranging from “Springfieldian of the Year” to the Silver Beaver award from the national Boy Scouts.

During his tenure, the national offices of the Assemblies of God created several new divisions, the assistant general superintendents were reduced from four to one, a full-scale retirement complex for ministers and missionaries was opened, federal land was received for the new liberal arts college, and the Assemblies of God opened a seminary for the further academic education of its ministers. He also recognized the importance of the oral and written accounts of the place of Pentecostalism in American and world history and so was instrumental in establishing the Assemblies of God archives (now the Flower Pentecostal Heritage Center, the largest repository of Pentecostal archival materials in the world).

When Zimmerman left office in 1985, he left an indelible mark on the Assemblies of God. His willingness to grow and adapt to change and his leadership in the broader evangelical movement helped to prepare the Assemblies of God to be one of the fastest growing denominations during his tenure.

Read more about the report from the 1959 General Council on page 4 of the Oct. 4, 1959, issue of the Pentecostal Evangel.

Also featured in this issue:

• “Enlist Now” by Raymond Brock

• “Our Missionary Advance,” by Noel Perkin

• “The Greeks Had A Word For It,” Raymond Cox

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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Danger Signals: How to Tell if a Revival Movement is in Decline

HodgesThis Week in AG History —September 29, 1957

By Darrin J. Rodgers
Originally published on AG News, 27 September 2018

“Has the 20th century Pentecostal revival reached the zenith of its spirituality and usefulness, and is it now doomed to fade as a potent force from the modern spiritual scene; or do greater glories still lie ahead?”

This question was posed by Assemblies of God missions leader Melvin Hodges in a 1957 Pentecostal Evangel article. At the time, the modern Pentecostal movement was about 50 years old. Pioneers of the movement were passing from the scene, and memories of the early revivals were fading.

Hodges noted that previous Protestant revival movements originated in “deep spirituality, holiness, and a sense of destiny.” However, they each “lost their fervor and one by one settled down to take their places in the ecclesiastical world as yet another denomination.”

He looked further back into church history, drawing parallels between the early church and Pentecostalism. “The New Testament Church,” he wrote, “gradually lost the purity and power that characterized her apostolic beginnings, and became adulterated by worldliness, greed and paganism as she increased in numbers and influence.” Would the Pentecostal church likewise stray from its biblical ideals and become corrupted by the world?

“We dare not ignore the lessons of history,” Hodges warned. He identified three characteristics of a declining revival movement: 1) a diminishing hunger for God; 2) a lack of concern for holiness; and 3) the loss of the sense of mission and destiny.

While spiritual decline over time is likely, Hodges suggested that it is not inevitable. He admonished readers to rediscover the deep spirituality common among early Pentecostals: “Let hunger for God be reawakened in our hearts. May a walk in holiness, worthy of our vocation, be our goal, and let us consecrate ourselves anew to the fulfilling of our world destiny in the plan of God.”

If Pentecostals draw close to God and commit themselves to His mission, according to Hodges, they “can face the future with confident expectancy that the future holds still greater revelations of the glory of God.”

Read the entire article, “Danger Signals” by Melvin Hodges, on pages 4 and 5 of the Sept. 29, 1957, issue of the Pentecostal Evangel.

Also featured in this issue:

• “Taking Christ to the People,” by R. J. Carlson

• “The Silence of the Trinity,” by P. T. Walker

• “The Living Dead,” by Oswald J. Smith

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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Noel Perkin: Assemblies of God Missions Leader, 1927-1959

Perkin NoelThis Week in AG History —September 20, 1941

By Glenn W. Gohr
Originally published on AG News, 20 September 2018

Noel Perkin (1893-1979), known as “Mr. Missions,” served as missionary secretary (now called executive director of AG World Missions) for the Assemblies of God (AG).

Born in London, England, he moved to Canada at the age of 18 and took a job with the Bank of Montreal in Toronto. He worked there seven years and became head of the savings department. He also joined efforts with a group of Christian businessmen and established a Pentecostal church in Toronto.

In 1918, Perkin was ordained by the AG and then did missionary work in Argentina. After three years of missionary work, he moved to the U.S. and settled in Rochester, New York. He became assistant pastor of Elim Tabernacle and attended Elim Bible School where he met his wife. He married Ora Blanchard in 1922 and pastored small churches in New York over the next four years.

In 1926 the Perkin family moved to Springfield, Missouri, where Noel Perkin started working at the national office of the AG. He became the assistant missionary secretary for a year before accepting the position of AG Missionary Secretary. He served 32 years, from 1927-1959.

Missionary Secretary Noel Perkin gave an address at the 1941 General Council on the topic, “Occupy Till I Come.” He spoke on missions from a global perspective, talking about the current world crisis and the role of missionaries. At that time, World War II was well underway, but the United States would not enter the conflict until later that year after the bombing of Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941.

Although Perkin mentioned that many countries were closed to gospel work at that time, he was encouraged because “even though there is not any opportunity to do much, if any, missionary work through American missionaries, yet multitudes of the people are still being reached through the courageous service of native evangelists and pastors.”

Perkin gave some glowing testimonies of the gospel message being shared underground and on the war front. He shared one example of a nurse who worked both in a supply base and also in tending to and escorting wounded soldiers from the front lines to a hospital. An American saw her helping soldiers and asked, “Are you not already wounded and partly incapacitated?” “Yes,” she replied quietly, “but there is such a need at the front. You know they expect a lot of us who are Christians.”

Perkin mentioned difficulty in getting workers to the mission fields and difficulty in getting funds to certain fields. But he still promoted missions efforts, even if it involved sacrifice. He closed his remarks by saying, “The crisis is, what shall we do with the challenge that is set before us?” His response was, “Not do less but more, for the night settles down upon us when no man may work.”

Missions has always been paramount to the AG. At the second General Council in November 1914, a resolution was adopted which committed the AG to “the greatest evangelism that the world has ever seen.” This has continued to be a primary goal of the Assemblies of God throughout the decades.

Read Noel Perkin’s address, “Occupy Till I Come,” on pages 4-7 of the Sept. 20, 1941, issue of the Pentecostal Evangel.

Also featured in this issue:

• “The Work Whereunto I Have Appointed Them,” by Ernest S. Williams

• “The Diary of a Delegate”

• “Central America Presents a Great Opportunity,” by John L. Franklin

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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The Great Depression and the Expansion of the Assemblies of God

Sunday school

Sunday school class of 315 people, Assembly of God at Kennett, Missouri; circa 1931

This Week in AG History —September 11, 1937

By Darrin J. Rodgers
Originally published on AG News, 11 September 2018

The Great Depression of the 1930s devastated many segments of American Christianity. Historian Mark Noll has 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.”

A statistical report on the Assemblies of God published in the Sept. 11, 1937, issue of the Pentecostal Evangel provided evidence of this numerical growth. For the biennium beginning in 1935 and ending in 1937, the number of Assemblies of God churches grew from 3,149 to 3,473 (an increase of 10 percent), and the number of ministers grew from 2,606 to 3,086 (an increase of 18 percent). A partial count of members of Assemblies of God churches indicated growth from 166,118 to 175,362 (an increase of 6 percent). If a complete census of the churches had been conducted, the report noted, the membership tally would have been higher.

The growth rates from 1935 to 1937 were not an anomaly. The Assemblies of God reported significant numerical increases throughout the Great Depression. In September 1929, the Assemblies of God reported 1,612 churches with 91,981 members in the United States. 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 did not happen by accident. Assemblies of God pioneers during the Great Depression laid a foundation for the expansion of the Assemblies of God, often at a tremendous personal cost. Of today’s seven largest AG colleges and universities, four were started during the Great Depression: North Central University (1930); Northwest University (1934); Southeastern University (1935); and the University of Valley Forge (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 the 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 AG’s foreign missions enterprise was centralized and strengthened during the Depression. This change encouraged coordination of efforts and accountability. The AG published its first Missionary Manual in 1931 and in 1933 the AG began providing funding for a missions staff at the national office. While the Great Depression made finances tight, the Foreign Missions Department (now AG World Missions) trumpeted that it did not have to recall any missionaries because of shortage of funds. When other denominations were retreating, the AG was making significant advances in missions.

Large-scale population migrations forced by the economic upheaval of the 1930s resulted in the unplanned evangelization of new regions. Pentecostals who left the Midwest during the Dustbowl established numerous Assemblies of God congregations in the western states. Pentecostals left the rural South and migrated to northern cities and started congregations in almost every major city. Hundreds of thousands of migrant workers in the U.S. returned to Mexico, including many new Pentecostal believers who, in effect, became indigenous missionaries to their homeland. In the providence of God, the painful social dislocation of the 1930s helped bring about the rapid spread of Pentecostalism. Like pollen scattered by a strong wind, Pentecostal refugees planted churches wherever they happened to land.

Faced with the social chaos and financial uncertainty of the Great Depression, it would have been understandable if Assemblies of God leaders had chosen to not invest in church planting, missions, and education. However, the difficult times reminded believers that Christ’s second coming could be imminent, and that the harvest fields were ripe. 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 the Kingdom of God.

Read the full report about the growth of the Assemblies of God from 1935 to 1937, “A Good Report Maketh the Bones Fat,” on pages 2 and 3 of the Sept. 11, 1937, issue of the Pentecostal Evangel.

Also featured in this issue:

• “The Prophetic, Priestly, and Kingly Anointings,” by Gayle F. Lewis

• “He Sent His Word and Healed,” by Arthur W. Frodsham

• “News from War-torn China,” by W. W. Simpson

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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E.N. Bell’s 1919 Response to Oneness Pentecostalism

BaptismThis Week in AG History —September 6, 1919

By Ruthie Edgerly Oberg
Originally published on AG News, 06 September 2018

In 1913, a doctrinal view that later fractured the young Pentecostal movement found its roots in a camp meeting In Los Angeles. The resulting divide into Trinitarians and Oneness Pentecostals, sometimes called “The New Issue,” was addressed many times by early Assemblies of God leaders, coming down firmly on the side of the historic Christian view of the Trinity.

At a camp meeting at Arroyo Seco, California, many people began to notice the miracles that came in response to prayers, “in the name of Jesus.” Amid this focus, a man named John Scheppe claimed to have had a revelation of the power of the name of Jesus. Another minister remarked that the apostles did not mention baptizing in the “name of the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost” but rather “in the name of Jesus.” After the camp meeting, many began to rebaptize in “the name of Jesus” only.

Gradually, some began to consider what baptizing in “Jesus Only” implied. Some preachers began to preach that when Scripture speaks of “the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost” that it meant that the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost had a name: Jesus. Eventually, this led to the understanding that there was only one person in the godhead — Jesus Christ. The teaching spread that Jesus IS the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit.

Many Pentecostals accepted rebaptism in Jesus’ name (including E. N. Bell, the first general chairman of the Assemblies of God) without accepting a denial of the Trinity. Wanting everything that Jesus had for them they gladly were willing to undergo the waters of baptism in identifying with the power of His name. However, the confusion that resulted led to many ministerial discussions, debates, and numerous articles. At the 1915 General Council it was recommended that there be no divisions based on baptismal formulas but a resolution was passed affirming the distinctions with the Trinity. In 1916, the General Council approved a “Statement of Fundamental Truths” that clearly articulated where the Assemblies of God stood on the deity of Christ and the Trinity.

E. N. Bell, the first general chairman (later called general superintendent), in the Sept. 6, 1919, Pentecostal Evangel addressed this issue in an article entitled, “The Great Controversy and Confusion.” Some of the brothers advocating the “Jesus Only” position had reported that the newly formed Assemblies of God was opposed to baptism in the manner in which the apostles baptized in the book of Acts and that church leadership was preventing “teaching that exalts Him (Jesus) as God.”

Bell explained that the General Council of the Assemblies of God did not raise any issue over people baptizing in the name of Jesus until “there came to be attached to it certain fundamental errors” that “made only the entering wedge for other teaching not found in Acts” or “a single line in the whole New Testament.”

Bell continued to expound upon the understanding of the nature of the relationship between the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit: “There is That in the Father of Jesus which makes Him the Father and not the Son; there in That in the Son of God which makes Him the Son and not the Father; and there is That in the Holy Ghost which makes Him the Holy Ghost and not the Son. Yes, the Father is the Begetter of Jesus, and Jesus is the Begotten. The Father is not the Begotten of Jesus, and Jesus is not the Begetter of the Father … God in His Word uniformly maintains these distinctions.”

The split in the young Pentecostal movement was difficult for the leaders on both sides as each sought to lift up the name of Jesus and see Him glorified in the power of the Holy Spirit through their lives and ministry. Differences in scriptural understanding led to difficult choices in supporting ministries and in fellowshipping together.

Bell ended his 1919 article with these words, “If the other brethren had never introduced other matters dishonoring to the Father and to the Son, and contrary to the Scriptures, and had held only for the matchless and glorious TRUE DEITY of the blessed Son of God, then we would be all pulling together today … if they will drop all these unscriptural issues and hold only for His true Deity, we can do it yet.”

Doctrinal divides are never easy within the body of Christ. The Assemblies of God has sought, since its beginning, to hold fast to scriptural teachings as a primary way to uphold unity within the Church of Jesus Christ.

Read E. N. Bell’s article, “The Great Controversy and Confusion,” on page 6 of the Sept. 6, 1919, issue of the Pentecostal Evangel.

Also featured in this issue:

• “Soul Food for Hungry Saints,” by A.G. Ward

• “Sunday School Lesson from a Pentecostal Perspective”

• “Pacific Pentecostal Bible School,” by Elder D.W. Kerr

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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