Tag Archives: Assemblies of God

80 Years Ago: The Assemblies of God was a Founding Member of the National Association of Evangelicals

This Week in AG History — May 10, 1947

By Darrin J. Rodgers
Originally published on AG-News, 12 May 2022

Pentecostals were relatively isolated from mainstream Protestantism in the early twentieth century. Eighty years ago, in 1942, when the Assemblies of God and other Pentecostal churches were invited to become founding members of the National Association of Evangelicals (NAE), it was a watershed event that paved the way for increased cooperation between Pentecostals and other theologically conservative evangelical churches.

In 1947, Pentecostal Evangel Editor Stanley H. Frodsham recounted how participation in the NAE seemed to be a fulfillment of prophecy. Frodsham recalled that, years earlier, “a mature Pentecostal saint” made the following prediction: “The time will assuredly come when God will unite all true children of God in real heart fellowship, and will break down all the barriers that are now separating us from one another.”

The early Pentecostals who heard this prediction, according to Frodsham, discerned that it was in accordance with Scripture: “In our hearts we were convinced that this was a true prophecy, for did not our Lord Jesus pray that they (all His children) may be one?”

While the Bible admonished believers to exhibit unity, such unity was elusive. Frodsham lamented that “the saints have been busy through the centuries building denominational and sectarian walls of partition between themselves and other saints.”

Tearing down these walls of division among believers was one of the reasons why the Assemblies of God formed, Frodsham reminded readers. He wrote, “At the first Council of the Assemblies of God, held at Hot Springs, Arkansas, in 1914, the ministers who attended all came with one mind, determined to oppose the raising of walls that would separate us as a Pentecostal people from other children of God.”

Frodsham believed the formation of the NAE helped to achieve the vision of unity promoted in the Bible and by early Pentecostals. He noted that the NAE brought together different strands within the broader evangelical family: “When the National Association of Evangelicals came into being five years ago, those who called for the convention did what no other group of Fundamentalist believers had done before – they invited the brethren of both the Holiness and the Pentecostal groups.”

Moreover, the NAE helped usher Pentecostals into the evangelical mainstream and also provided opportunities for interaction between the churches: “They recognized us as a people outstandingly aggressive in evangelism and missionary vision, and acknowledged that our coming together with others who are true to the fundamentals of the faith could mean mutual blessing,” Frodsham stated.

Today the Assemblies of God is the largest of the 40 denominations that are members of the National Association of Evangelicals.

Read Stanley Frodsham’s entire article, “Fifth Annual Convention of the NAE,” on pages 6 and 7 of the May 10, 1947, issue of the Pentecostal Evangel.

Also featured in this issue:

• “When Mother Looked!” by John Wright Follette

• “Divine Rules for Parents,” by S. M. Padgett

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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Speed the Light Growth Marked by 1967 Parade of Vehicles in Springfield, Missouri

This Week in AG History — April 30, 1967

By Glenn W. Gohr
Originally published on AG-News, April 28, 2022

Fifty-five years ago, an unusual parade of vehicles drove past the AG national office. This was a special presentation of the Speed the Light (STL) program held in 1967 when the Christ’s Ambassadors Department (now National Youth Ministries) wanted to demonstrate how much equipment was being raised for missionaries in a single year.

The origin of Speed the Light goes back to March 1943, when Ralph W. Harris (1912-2004) had just started as the first national director of the CA Department. Harris had an idea which he called “Speed the Light.” It would be a new avenue for youth to raise money for missions by having students raise funds for buying vehicles for missionaries. In later years, funds also purchased printing accessories and other needed equipment for missionaries. The well-known slogan, “Send the Light” was changed to “Speed the Light” to emphasize the importance of speeding the gospel message to a needy world.

The program kicked off in 1945 and enlisted thousands of youth across the country to raise more than $100,000 in the first year. One of the major purchases was a Sikorsky amphibian plane for use in Liberia. Later youth were instrumental in raising funds for other missionary planes, including Ambassador I and II which were used to transport AG missionaries overseas. Speed the Light efforts continue today. In 2021 AG youth raised $17.2 million, bringing the total since 1945 to more than $361 million.

Verne MacKinney, STL coordinator, was the innovator of the unusual demonstration on March 24, 1967. Arrangements were made with several Springfield, Missouri, car dealerships who loaned a total of 188 vehicles, including cars, a Jeep, buses, trucks, trailers, motorcycles, boats, and bicycles for “Operation Demonstration” which lined up on Boonville Avenue.

This was an impressive lineup six lanes wide which represented Speed the Light purchases the previous year (1966) when giving was over $650,000 for STL. During an era of many boisterous protests, this demonstration gave a picture of how Christian youth were dedicated to raise funds for a worthy cause. These vehicles were not the actual vehicles and equipment sent to missionaries, but it gave an idea of the magnitude of this ongoing project.

Christ’s Ambassadors from local churches as well as students from Central Bible College and Evangel College helped to stage this demonstration. In addition, about 30 representative U.S. and world missionaries were present in costume to add color and significance to the occasion. Speakers included Russell J. Cox, national secretary of Christ’s Ambassadors; J. Philip Hogan, director of Foreign Missions; and Thomas F. Zimmerman, general superintendent of the AG. News media also gave the event national publicity.

After three brief speeches, the cavalcade of people and vehicles moved about a quarter mile down Boonville Avenue, and after three simultaneous blasts of 188 horns to celebrate this accomplishment, the group disbanded.

Read “Operation Demonstration,” on page 24 of the April 30, 1967, issue of the Pentecostal Evangel.

Also featured in this issue:

• “The Spirit of the Age” by Don Mallough

• “Unto What Were You Baptized?” by C. M. Ward

And many more!

Click here to read these issues 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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Don and Sharon Kiser: Assemblies of God Missionaries to Florida’s Migrant Community for 25 Years

This Week in AG History — April 20, 1975

By Darrin J. Rodgers
Originally published on AG-News, 21 April 2022

When Don Kiser and his wife, Sharon, graduated from Southeastern University (Lakeland, Florida) in 1972, they felt God’s call to minister among the migrant workers of Eloise, Florida. They moved into the impoverished community and, without money or significant ministry experience, started knocking on doors. They initially ministered in relative obscurity, building relationships with people often considered to be outcasts in society.

Over the next 25 years, the Kisers developed a thriving ministry among the migrants of central and south Florida. The young missionaries’ fascinating story was published in the April 20, 1975, issue of the Pentecostal Evangel.

In the 1970s and 1980s, many migrants in Florida lived in utter squalor. They lived in camps provided by the owners of the orange groves where they worked. Raw sewage ran in the streets between decaying shanties, liquor stores, and rusted-out mobile homes.

Eloise was considered a “permanent” migrant community, as some lived there all year instead of following the crops. But the social challenges remained — the lifestyles of many of the migrants made it difficult to integrate into the broader society. Most churches did not know how to minister to the migrants. They didn’t want dirty, smelly, barefoot children on their church carpet, and the deeply ingrained problems of the adults seemed an insurmountable obstacle to ministry.

It was in this environment that the Kisers, at the young age of 23, felt called to minister. In many ways, they were unlikely candidates for such an assignment. Don Kiser was raised in a well-to-do liberal Presbyterian home and as a teenager lost all interest in religion.

Everything changed after Don’s mother accepted Christ in a small Assemblies of God church. Don was 16 years old and wanted nothing to do with his mother’s newfound faith. But she told him about some pretty girls who attended the church, convincing him to visit. He ended up accepting Christ on his second visit to the church, and was later baptized in the Holy Spirit and felt God’s call into the ministry.

Don enrolled at Southeastern University, where he met and married Sharon. When they prayed about the nature of their future ministry, they felt God calling them to people who had no hope. Don, in particular, had no interest in serving in a comfortable pastorate; he felt called to make a difference in the lives of those who had the least.

While at Southeastern, the Kisers assisted an independent Pentecostal minister with his small outreach to the migrants in Eloise. The congregation met in an old remodeled cab stand. The Kisers saw a great need, and in that need they saw their future. After graduation, they moved to Eloise. The other minister soon moved on, leaving the ministry to the young couple.

The Kisers became well-known among migrants in the area. The young couple remodeled an old bus into a mobile chapel, which they drove throughout the migrant community in central Florida. They knocked on doors, befriended residents, prayed with people, and invited them to church. Don preached and Sharon played the organ.

The ministry was named Harvest Chapel. The name had dual appeal — referring to the “plentiful harvest” of souls in Luke 10:2, and also to the migrants’ labor.

Initially, Don had to work secular employment to supplement their meager ministry income. Other Assemblies of God congregations in the region began supporting the Kisers, allowing them to minister fulltime to migrants. Several years later they bought a building in Wahneta, located three miles south of Eloise, where they opened a second migrant church.

Ministry opportunities among the migrants seemed endless. Seeking to extend their outreach into the migrant camps in south Florida, in the early 1980s the Kisers purchased a utility van that they remodeled into a camper and mobile chapel. The front of the vehicle provided a home during their ministry trips, and the back of the vehicle opened up and became a ministry platform.

In addition to weekend services at the two churches, during the week the Kisers typically held three evening services using the portable chapel. Weekdays, ministered to children who were too young to work.

Don and Sharon Kiser continued ministering to the migrants of central Florida for 25 years. They poured their lives into people who might otherwise be overlooked or rejected. Their ministry was often very difficult and challenging. But they stayed true to God’s original calling to give hope to those who had the least. The Kisers retired in the late 1990s due to Don’s poor health and later moved to Mineral Bluff, Georgia.

The landscape of Assemblies of God history is dotted with the testimonies of consecrated men and women such as Don and Sharon Kiser, who devoted their lives to sharing the gospel in word and deed. Like many other Assemblies of God pioneers, they took a path that included hardship and discomfort. They feared that too much comfort might cause them to forget their calling to those who were hurting the most. The example of the Kisers reminds us that the Christian’s testimony often shines brightest in humble circumstances when ministering to the lowliest.

Read “Migrant Town Minister” on pages 14-17 of the April 20, 1975, issue of the Pentecostal Evangel.

Also featured in this issue:

• “God’s Foot upon the Leash,” by Thelma M. Moe

• “The Joy of the Firstfruits,” by John F. Hall

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 Spiritual and Social Vision of T.K. Leonard: An Assemblies of God Founder’s Forgotten Legacy

First executive presbytery of the Assemblies of God in front of a stone wall at the First General Council in Hot Springs, Arkansas, April 12, 1914. Seated in front (left – right): T.K. Leonard, E.N. Bell, and Cyrus Fockler. Standing in back (left – right): John W. Welch, J. Roswell Flower, D.C.O. Opperman, Howard A. Goss, and M.M. Pinson.

This Week in AG History —March 2, 1946

By Ruthie Edgerly Oberg
Originally published on AG News, 24 February 2022

Thomas King Leonard (1861-1946), an evangelical pastor from Ohio, was among the earliest to accept the Pentecostal message from the Azusa Street Revival (1906-1909). As a Pentecostal, Leonard pioneered an interracial congregation in a former bar and brothel. Importantly, the congregation provided the first home for the newly formed Assemblies of God national office from 1914 to 1915. 

Carl Brumback, in his 1961 history of the Assemblies of God, called Leonard a “truly indispensable man” at the organizational General Council in 1914. According to Revivaltime radio host C.M. Ward, Leonard “dominated the scene until his retirement in 1941 … a great man.” Yet few Assemblies of God members today probably recall the name of T.K. Leonard. 

Leonard started in the ministry with a small denomination called Christian Union. A bivocational pastor, he owned a prosperous farm outside of McComb, Ohio. In September 1906, he believed that God was pressing upon him to “sell my possessions, consecrate myself, spirit, soul, and body to the ministry of the Lord Jesus.” 

It was during this same time that reports began to spread about an outpouring of the Holy Spirit at a little mission on Azusa Street in Los Angeles. Some Christians in Ohio who heard about the revival began to desire more of God. When Claude McKinney began to preach the Pentecostal message in Akron, Leonard went to the meetings and was convinced of the reality of the baptism in the Holy Spirit with the evidence of speaking in tongues. 

In January 1907, Leonard took the proceeds from the sale of his farm and purchased an old hotel at 406 Sandusky in Findlay, Ohio. This two-story hotel and tavern, which had doubled as a brothel, seemed the appropriate place to begin a mission to reach those who were most in need of his message of salvation and deliverance. He renovated the building and called it “The Apostolic Temple.” 

The only thing from the old tavern that seemed useful for the new church was the bar rail, which Leonard “converted” to an altar rail. The bar rail was not the last of the conversions. Before long many who used to drink at the old bar and make use of the “house of ill-repute” were kneeling in repentance at the altar rail and finding love that was pure and lasting.  

Significantly, Leonard’s congregation was interracial and was committed to caring for the poor. From the church’s founding, Leonard had determined that his work would include persons of every race and economic class. Feeling that the word “church” carried a negative connotation, he searched for another word that expressed their mission to “call out” a group of people from all walks of life. He finally fell on the Greek word “ekklesia” (the called-out assembly) and changed the name of his church to “The Assembly of God” and began issuing credentials under that name in 1912. 

Feeling strongly that education for those called into ministry was vital, he opened “The Gospel School” for the training of ministers. He also started up a print shop that he christened “The Gospel Publishing House.” 

When the call was issued in 1914 for a gathering of Pentecostal believers in Hot Springs, Arkansas, for the purpose of bringing greater unity to this fledgling movement, Leonard served on the conference committee and was elected one of the executive presbyters. It was T.K. Leonard who wrote the constitutional preamble which established the term “Assemblies of God” as the name for the new Fellowship.  

When discussion turned to the need for a headquarters for the Fellowship, Leonard offered his facilities. The newly formed Assemblies of God set up its first headquarters in his converted tavern and brothel in Findlay, Ohio, and began using Gospel Publishing House to print materials. The arrangement was short-lived due to inadequate space, and the headquarters moved to St. Louis in 1915. 

By 1916, the Assemblies of God was facing doctrinal challenges, and the need became apparent for a formal statement of faith. Leonard served on the committee that drafted the Statement of Fundamental Truths, which remains the authoritative theological statement for the Assemblies of God to this day. 

Leonard settled into his pastoral role at the Findlay church, which he led until his retirement in 1941 at age 80. He intended to continue preaching and teaching; however, his health deteriorated and he spent his last years in quiet retirement. 

A death notice printed in the March 2, 1946, issue of the Pentecostal Evangel stated, “Brother Leonard will be remembered as the author of the original declaration on constitution which was adopted at the first General Council…which declaration shaped the course of the Assemblies of God fellowship.” In fact, it was Thomas King Leonard who gave the Assemblies of God its first constitutional preamble and resolution, its official name, and the name of its publishing house, all of which form a legacy that has endured to this day.

See the notice for T.K. Leonard’s death on page 12 of the March 2, 1946, issue of the Pentecostal Evangel. 

Also featured in this issue:

• “A Day with a Palestine Shepherd” by Frances Stephens

• “How God Provided a Christmas Dinner” by Missionary to Japan Jessie Wengler

• “Our Missionary Advance in India”

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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Vaughn Shoemaker: Pulitzer Prize Winning Cartoonist and Assemblies of God Layman

This Week in AG History —February 24, 1940

By Ruthie Edgerly Oberg
Originally published on AG News, 24 February 2022

Vaughn Richard Shoemaker (1902-1991), an American editorial cartoonist, won the 1938 and 1947 Pulitzer Prizes for Editorial Cartooning for his work with the Chicago Daily News. He was the creator of the character, John Q. Public, and a faithful Assemblies of God layman.

As a boy born before radio, movie theaters, or television, Shoemaker looked forward to the delivery of the evening newspaper and reading the comics page on the living room floor. His first attempts at drawing consisted of sidewalk art drawn with a piece of lime found at a construction site.

At age 14, heart trouble sent him to the hospital where their family was given no hope for his survival. With her son placed in a sanitorium outside Chicago to await death, Shoemaker’s mother prayed earnestly for God to heal her son. When the doctor later examined him, he declared, “It’s almost as if you have a new heart!”

Shoemaker’s own faith journey was based on his mother’s conviction that God was personally involved in their lives but he did not have much in mind for life beyond his job as a lifeguard on Lake Michigan. When he found the girl he wanted to marry, Evelyn Arnold, a Miss Chicago winner, he proposed only to be told, “I like you, but until you set a goal for yourself and show me you’re working hard toward it – well, nothing doing.”

Exhibiting more confidence than he felt, Shoemaker went to the offices of the Chicago Daily News to ask for a job. Told there were no openings, Shoemaker returned the next day, and the next, and the next, until his presence became annoying. One day he was waiting in the office to see if there were any openings when one of the newspaper artists, an alcoholic who often failed to meet his deadline, did not appear for work and the editor was in a bind. He looked at the 19-year-old Shoemaker and put him immediately to work, with a seat next to Chet Gould, the eventual creator of the Dick Tracy cartoon strip.

Three years later, the chief cartoonist at the Daily News took a job at the New York Herald. Two weeks later, his replacement was offered a job with King Features Syndicate. The third man to try the job was distracted with family issues and failed to meet deadline three days in a row leaving the presses on hold while the art department tried to find a cartoon for the front page. With the staff decimated, the art director looked at Shoemaker and said, “Kid, do you think you can draw the cartoon while I try to send out of town for a cartoonist?”

Not even knowing if the paper was Democratic or Republican, Shoemaker said, “Sure I can!” When he marched into the chief cartoonist’s office, he realized he had just offered to draw his first political cartoon for a paper with a staff of 3,000 and more than half a million readers. Shoemaker later said, “I froze up. My stomach was churning and I started to sweat. Then I remembered my mother, who prayed to God every day. I was desperate. So I got down on my knees, alone in the middle of the chief cartoonist’s office, and asked God for help. And He gave it to me.”

He continued this practice of asking God for an idea for the next three days. After a string of successful cartoons, the Daily News made him chief cartoonist. He was not much of a Christian, but he found himself kneeling every day to ask for help and realized that, for the first time in his life, God was real to him. Soon Evelyn agreed to marry him, and he began to grow in his faith, joining the Stone Church, an Assemblies of God congregation in Chicago. From his first day in his new office, he never started a day at his drawing board without praying and reading from the Bible.

However, he discovered that “when you become a Christian, you’re all alone in the world — especially if you work in a newspaper office.” He invited the only other Christian he knew at the Chicago Daily News to weekly lunches for mutual encouragement. Sometimes they would ask young pastors to join them, including a young Wheaton college student named Billy Graham. These meetings soon grew until they expanded to include other Chicago businessmen and developed into the Gospel Fellowship Club, which developed into the Christian Business Men’s Connection.

In 1934, Shoemaker was under pressure to create a Christmas cartoon for the front page. The only idea coming to him was overtly Christian — a simple manger scene with John 3:16 included in the heading. The editors all nixed the idea but their new publisher, Frank Knox, who went on to become Secretary of the Navy, liked it. The cartoon was a success and it set a precedent for hundreds of other spiritual cartoons that Shoemaker published, including one that was picked up by the Pentecostal Evangel in the Feb. 24, 1940, issue.

In the spring of 1938, Shoemaker was sent by the paper to visit 17 countries in Europe to produce cartoons portraying the mood of the people caught up in the rise of the Nazi party and its leader, Adolph Hitler. He had recently drawn his first Pulitzer Prize-winning cartoon, “The Road Back” and Herman Goering criticized his cartoons as “horrible examples of anti-Nazi propaganda.”

He served as chief cartoonist for the Chicago Daily News from 1925 until 1952, creating the beleaguered taxpayer character, John Q. Public, said to been more recognizable by Chicagoans than their own mayor.

In 1952, Shoemaker moved to the Chicago Tribune. By 1963, his cartoons were syndicated to more than 75 newspapers. In his later years, Shoemaker traveled the United States giving presentations in churches called, “God Guides My Pen” as he drew cartoons with spiritual application. He died in 1991 at his home in Carol Stream, Illinois, believing that “everything I’ve done worthy of recognition came about because I realized I couldn’t do it alone. God had to help me.”

See one of Shoemaker’s cartoons on page 5 of the Feb. 24, 1940, issue of the Pentecostal Evangel.

Also featured in this issue:

• “Sealed Unto the Day of Redemption” by E.S. Williams

• “Does God Work Miracles Today?” by Howard Taylor

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 First African American Assemblies of God Minister: Ellsworth S. Thomas

From the Ellsworth S. Thomas ministerial file, FPHC

by Darrin J. Rodgers

Ellsworth S. Thomas (1866-1936) holds the distinction of being the first African American to hold Assemblies of God (AG) ministerial credentials. His name was just a footnote in the history books until recently, when new information came to light.

Ellsworth S. Thomas was born in March 1866 in New York. His parents, Samuel and Mahala, were part of a free black community in Binghamton, New York, that pre-existed the Civil War. They overcame racism and societal restrictions, developed strong families, and carved out their own religious, economic, and social niche in the region.[1]

Samuel was born in Maryland in 1830 and worked as a laborer. He was also a Civil War veteran, serving for three years (1863-1865) as a private in the Massachusetts 54th Infantry. Ellsworth was born about nine months after his father returned home from the war.[2] Mahala was born in 1842 in Pennsylvania and worked as a laundress.[3] According to the 1880 census, Ellsworth was partially blind.[4] He attended common school,[5] which probably consisted of local blacks who joined together and made private arrangements to hire a teacher.[6] After Samuel passed away in the early 1890s, Ellsworth lived with his mother and cared for her. She died on April 24, 1913.[7] Census records show that Ellsworth owned a modest house (valued at $2,000 in 1930) and that most of his neighbors were white.[8] He never married.[9]

Binghamton city directories from 1888-1892 reveal that Ellsworth was a laundryman and a laborer. Beginning in 1899, though, they listed his occupation as a traveling evangelist.[10] His name first appeared in the AG ministers’ directory in October 1915, which stated that he was a “colored” pastor in Binghamton.[11]

In 1917, AG leaders asked existing ministers to re-submit applications for credentials, apparently because paperwork had not been kept during the earliest years of the Fellowship. Robert Brown, influential pastor of Glad Tidings Tabernacle in New York City, endorsed Ellsworth’s 1917 application. On the application, Ellsworth stated that he was originally ordained on December 7, 1913, by Robert E. Erdman, a Pentecostal pastor from Buffalo, New York.[12]

Records at the Flower Pentecostal Heritage Center show that Thomas pastored a congregation in Beaver Meadows, New York, from about 1917 until about 1922. He remained an AG evangelist for the remainder of his life. He held evangelistic meetings in the area around Binghamton, he held regular services in his home, and he pastored again briefly in about 1926.[13] He also was a regular speaker in the 1930s at two other black churches in Binghamton—Shiloh Baptist Church and Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church.[14]

A 1936 letter from Paul Westendorf informed the Pentecostal Evangel of Ellsworth’s death on June 12, 1936. He was 70 years old and passed away in Binghamton after a serious illness. Westendorf wrote,

He has been in the Council Fellowship for many years and so will be remembered throughout the Eastern District. Brother Thomas was faithful and true to the Lord in all kinds of circumstances, serving Him with gladness, therefore we feel that he had an abundant entrance in the presence of the Lord.[15]

Thomas’s funeral was held in Christ Episcopal Church in Binghamton, the oldest Episcopal congregation in the city, with the church’s pastor, Theodore J. Dewees, officiating. Thomas was buried in the Christ Episcopal Church plot in Spring Forest Cemetery.[16]

The newsletter of the Eastern District (which included Pennsylvania, Delaware, New York, and New Jersey) noted Thomas’s passing:

Brother Ellsworth S. Thomas has been taken home to glory, but very little has been learned about the details. His funeral was conducted by the rector of Christ Church, Episcopal, in Binghamton…Many will remember Brother Ellsworth as a Bible teacher and some of the ministers will remember the fellowship we had with Brother Thomas one morning before meetings opened up, at the council in Rochester years ago, when we all sang “He’s Coming in Power” and Brother Thomas got to dancing in the Spirit, while he held onto a near-by [sic] door because of his almost being blind. He is one more of our number who is on the other side![17]

Ellsworth S. Thomas’s passing was also briefly noted on page 13 of the July 25, 1936, issue of the Pentecostal Evangel.[18] A photograph of Thomas has not been located.

When Ellsworth S. Thomas transferred his ordination to the AG in 1915, the Fellowship was only a year old. He probably did not know that he was the AG’s first credentialed black minister. Thomas became known throughout the Eastern District for his Bible teaching and for his good cheer despite the obstacles he faced, including partial blindness. He never pastored a large congregation, but he was faithful where God placed him. Over the years, memories of this pioneer dimmed. However, Ellsworth S. Thomas remains an example, not just for black ministers, but for all who desire to follow Christ wholeheartedly.

Adapted from: Darrin J. Rodgers, “The Untold Stories of Three Black Assemblies of God Pioneers,” Assemblies of God Heritage 39/40 (2019-2020): 37-41.


[1] Keisha N. Benjamin, “Free Blacks in Nineteenth Century Binghamton,” Binghamton Journal of History 6 (2006).

[2] U.S., Civil War Soldier Records and Profiles, 1861-1865. Ancestry.com

[3] 1870 U.S. Federal Census. Binghamton Ward 2, Broome Co., New York, 27.

[4] 1880 U.S. Federal Census. District 38, Binghamton, Broome Co., New York, 22B.

[5] Ellsworth S. Thomas, ministerial file, FPHC.

[6] Benjamin, “Free Blacks in Nineteenth Century Binghamton.”

[7] New York Death Index. Ancestry.com.

[8] 1900 U.S. Federal Census. District 0013, Binghamton Ward 05, Broome Co., New York, 12A-B; 1930 U.S. Federal Census. District 0023, Binghamton Ward 05, Broome Co., New York, 10A.

[9] Ellsworth S. Thomas, ministerial file, FPHC.

[10] Binghamton City Directories, Ancestry.com.

[11] Assemblies of God ministerial directory, 1915, 16.

[12] Ellsworth S. Thomas, ministerial file, FPHC.

[13] Ellsworth S. Thomas, ministerial file, FPHC.

[14] Press and Sun Bulletin (Binghamton, NY), June 17, 1933, 16; Press and Sun Bulletin (Binghamton, NY), September 16, 1933, 9; Press and Sun Bulletin (Binghamton, NY), December 23, 1933, 9.

[15] Ibid.

[16] Eastern District Bulletin, October 1936, 21; Obituary, “Ellsworth H. [sic] Thomas,” Press and Sun Bulletin (Binghamton, NY), June 15, 1936, 5.

[17] Eastern District Bulletin, October 1936, 21.

[18] Pentecostal Evangel, July 25, 1936, 13.

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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Church Planting in the Assemblies of God: Cumberland, Maryland in the 1940s and 1950s

This Week in AG History — January 31, 1954

By Darrin J. Rodgers
Originally published on AG-News, 03 February 2022

Church planting has always been part of the DNA of the Assemblies of God. While specific programs and personnel come and go, each new generation of leaders has emphasized the importance of starting new churches. In the 1950s, the National Home Missions Department (now U.S. Missions) promoted the “Mother Church Plan.” This program encouraged each Assembly of God congregation to start a “daughter church.” 

The Jan. 31, 1954, issue of the Pentecostal Evangel highlighted how one historic congregation, Central Assembly of God in Cumberland, Maryland, had started four churches in neighboring communities in the previous five years. Central Assembly of God, established in 1915, experienced a revival in 1939. As a result of this revival, young people in the church felt stirred to action and began holding prayer meetings in small towns without Assemblies of God churches. The prayer meetings developed into “outstations,” where small groups gathered for services in rented buildings, schoolhouses, or homes. Each outstation had a superintendent and was under the oversight of the “mother church.” A carload of people from Central Assembly of God, including speakers and musicians, would travel to the outstations to help with the services. The mother church financially and spiritually assisted its daughter churches in this manner until the new congregations grew and could become self-sustaining.

Central Assembly of God’s first daughter church to become self-sustaining was in Bedford Valley, Pennsylvania. By 1954 the Bedford Valley Assembly had an average attendance of 140 people. The Bedford Valley congregation soon mothered its own church in Rainesburg, Pennsylvania. The mother church, according to the Pentecostal Evangel article, had become a grandparent! Central Assembly of God planted two additional churches, in Fort Ashby, West Virginia, and Carpenter’s Addition, West Virginia. 

Initially, some members of the Cumberland church were concerned that sending some of its best members to other communities to plant churches would weaken the mother church. However, the opposite proved true. The daughter churches broadened the mother church’s sphere of influence, and new leaders stepped up to fill the open ministry positions. The mother church became a ministry hub for a broader geographic region. In 1940, approximately 100 people attended Central Assembly of God’s Sunday School. By 1953, this number had risen to 342. The combined Sunday School attendance of the mother church and the daughter churches was about 700 people. 

While the National Home Missions Department began promoting the “Mother Church Plan” in the 1950s, the concept had already been tried and found successful across the Fellowship. The 2009 General Council approved a similar program, whereby a church would be able to register its outreaches, which are distinct from the parent church, as “Parent Affiliated Churches.”

Read the article, “They Exist to Evangelize!” on pages 10-11 of the Jan. 31, 1954, issue of the Pentecostal Evangel.

Also featured in this issue: 

• “A Marvelous Healing,” by Mrs. Lee Jones

• “Miraculous Healing and Conversion,” by John C. Jackson 

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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Briggs Dingman: How an Evangelical Minister Overcame Prejudice Against Pentecostals

This Week in AG History — January 24, 1948

By Darrin J. Rodgers
Originally published on AG-News, 27 January 2022

Briggs P. Dingman (1900-1968) was a renaissance man — he served as a minister, musician, author, linguist, and educator. He spent the first half of his ministry in Methodist, Presbyterian, and Baptist churches and as an officer in the Salvation Army. Much to his own surprise, however, he spent the latter half of his ministry in Pentecostal churches and schools.

Dingman, who shared his testimony in the Jan. 24, 1948, issue of the Pentecostal Evangel, had a broadly informed worldview. He attended Dickinson College, Moody Bible Institute, and Xenia Theological Seminary (a Presbyterian school). He was studious, had a working knowledge of at least five languages, and authored a novel, By Ways Appointed (Moody Press, 1935). Dingman considered himself to be “open-minded” on theological matters. Yet early in his ministry he reflexively rejected Pentecostal claims without first examining them.

It is easy to dismiss people and beliefs, Dingman came to realize, based on a caricature. He had little actual experience with Pentecostals. He had encountered some Pentecostals whom he deemed to be “ultrademonstrative,” and he had read that others handled snakes. He assumed Pentecostals to be deluded or even demon-possessed.

Dingman’s views of Pentecostals began to change when he came into contact with a young Assemblies of God minister. They became friends, and Dingman grew to admire his spiritual life. He felt “forced to admit” that the Assemblies of God preacher and his wife had a closer walk with the Lord than he did.

When Dingman took a different pastorate, he became friends with another Pentecostal minister who was overflowing with joy and spiritual depth. Dingman began developing an internal conflict when it came to Pentecostals — he admired their spirituality but pitied them for believing a “delusion.”

An Assemblies of God pastor who befriended Dingman wisely appealed to Dingman’s desire to be open-minded. He encouraged Dingman to read Assemblies of God literature and to judge for himself whether Pentecostal beliefs were biblical. One of the first books he read was by Robert Chandler Dalton – a Baptist chaplain who had been baptized in the Holy Spirit and who transferred his ordination to the Assemblies of God. Dingman was stunned. Dingman had been a longtime friend of Dalton. 

Dingman voraciously read book after book about Pentecostal beliefs. He came to two conclusions: 1) anti-Pentecostal books were written by people who apparently had very limited knowledge of actual Pentecostal teachings; and 2) Scripture teaches that the baptism of the Holy Spirit often follows conversion. His preconceived anti-Pentecostal prejudices shattered, Dingman determined that he would seek a deeper relationship with God, even if it meant identifying with the Pentecostals.

Shortly afterward, Dingman was baptized in the Holy Spirit. He recounted, “there was no hysterical outburst or extreme manifestation” — his soul was simply flooded by a “real visitation of the Holy Spirit.”

How would Dingman’s former ministry colleagues react? Dingman anticipated criticism: “Doubtless many of my former pastor and laymen friends feel that now I am deluded, but I feel that I may be permitted to exclaim, “Oh, sweet delusion!” 

Dingman explained how the baptism in the Holy Spirit brought him into a deeper relationship with God, wondering how spiritual depth could be called a “delusion.”

He wrote: “If having a continuous spirit of praise to my heavenly Father is delusion, then may it continue! If having a walk with God that was never before so rich, is delusion, then may I grovel in this ignorance until He comes! If having His daily blessings poured out upon my life in measure never before so copious is delusion, then this experience is an anomaly if there ever was one. No, far from suffering from a delusion, I have found the light, and what a light it is!”

Dingman cast his lot with the Pentecostals and never looked back. He transferred his ordination to the Assemblies of God in 1945. He went on to serve as a professor at two Assemblies of God schools: Northeastern Bible Institute (Framingham, Massachusetts) and Southwestern Bible Institute (now Southwestern Assemblies of God University, Waxahachie, Texas). He also taught at Elim Bible Institute (Lima, New York).

Briggs Dingman’s testimony illustrates the prejudice that often existed against early Pentecostals. Despite this prejudice, however, the Pentecostal movement became one of the largest revival and renewal movements in Christian history. Countless people, including seasoned ministers like Dingman, found spiritual depth and renewal within Pentecostalism.

Read Dingman’s article, “Is Pentecost a Delusion?” on pages 3 and 7 of the Jan. 24, 1948, issue of the Pentecostal Evangel.

Also featured in this issue:

• “A Precious Friend, or an Offence – Which is Christ to You?” by Lee Krupnick

• “The Revival in Ireland in 1859” 

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 Global Turmoil? Three Pentecostal Responses to the Attack on Pearl Harbor

This Week in AG History — January 10, 1942

By Darrin J. Rodgers
Originally published on AG-News, 13 January 2022

The Imperial Japanese Navy conducted a surprise military strike on the United States naval base at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, on the morning of December 7, 1941. The following day the United States declared war on Japan, and within a few days America was fully embroiled in the Second World War.

How should the Assemblies of God respond to this world crisis? The January 10, 1942, issue of the Pentecostal Evangel published three articles addressing this pressing question.

Pentecostal Evangel Editor Stanley H. Frodsham, in an article titled, “Keeping Tranquil in a World of Turmoil,” cautioned believers to not become caught up in the destructive patterns of the world. He predicted that the “insanity” of the nations would not last forever and instead urged Christians to remain calm. He admonished readers to act according to an eternal perspective, reminding them of Matthew 5:5, “the meek shall inherit the earth.” Frodsham’s irenic posture during the early years of the Second World War was in continuity with his earlier opposition to the First World War (1914-1918).

Raymond T. Richey shared a different perspective about the war. In an article titled, “Evangelizing at our Army Camps,” he wrote about his experience as a military chaplain during both world wars. Richey was known for holding evangelistic meetings in his “patriotic tent” (which was constructed of red, white and blue cloth) and he saw thousands of soldiers accept Christ. He encouraged readers to pray for and support chaplains, suggesting that army camps “present the greatest opportunity for home missionary work that ever has been.”

Evangelist E. Ellsworth Krogstad, in a sermon titled “Loyalty to Government and to God in the Present World Crisis,” encouraged American Christians to be loyal to their government, which he claimed was “founded upon godly principles.” He acknowledged America’s imperfections, but he also “(thanked) God for the privilege of living in America.” America was great, according to Krogstad, because it provided the “greatest liberty,” including freedom of speech, press, assembly, and worship.

The responses to the outbreak of the Second World War by Frodsham, Richey, and Krogstad demonstrate that early Pentecostals were not cookie-cutter thinkers. Frodsham promoted pacifism, Richey was known for his patriotism, and Krogstad emphasized the blessings of American liberty. They each had their own perspectives on politics and world events. However, all agreed that American Christians needed to pray fervently and with great contrition. They took seriously the notion that the Christian’s citizenship, ultimately, lay in heaven and not on earth. It was with this deep conviction that they encouraged readers, in the midst of global turmoil, to place their primary focus on things eternal.

Read the articles by Frodsham, Richey, and Krogstad in the January 10, 1942, issue of the Pentecostal Evangel.

Also featured in this issue:

* “Watchmen, What of the Night?” by Noel Perkin

* “Ezra Teaches Separation,” by J. Bashford Bishop

* “The Sadhu,” by Mary Warburton Booth

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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Eight Rules for a Happy Marriage (According to C. M. Ward)

This Week in AG History — December 30, 1956

By Glenn W. Gohr
Originally published on AG-News, 30 December 2021

Sixty-five years ago, C. M. Ward delivered a sermon over the Revivaltime radio program titled “Eight Rules for a Happy Marriage.” Ward was known for his direct, practical, and biblical messages, often laced with humor. His sermons covered a broad spectrum of subjects pertaining to daily life.

Ward is best remembered as the longtime speaker for Revivaltime, the radio ministry of the Assemblies of God. The program started in 1950, but when Ward became the speaker in December 1953 the program began airing on the ABC radio network and covered 275 stations. Within a year, Ward’s dynamic ministry caused the broadcast to be given major ratings by ABC officials, who listed it as the top religious program in many parts of the country. Over the next 25 years (1953-1978), Ward preached more than 1,300 weekly radio broadcasts on over 650 stations.

While Ward’s radio address “Eight Rules for a Happy Marriage” first aired in 1956, his observations continue to be of interest to husbands and wives today.

Ward stressed that marriage is a partnership. He called it a “contract of trust entirely based on love.” He tied this into the message of 1 Corinthians 7:3: “Let the husband render unto the wife due benevolence: and likewise also the wife unto the husband.”

The first rule that Ward listed was that “Life’s partnership calls for a family altar.” He mentioned the time-proven adage, “Families that pray together stay together.” He strongly advised, “A partnership in the Lord must include the practice of Bible reading and praying together if God’s fullness of blessing is to be the daily experience in the home life.”

Next Ward declared, “Life’s partnership calls for a sense of safety.” By this he meant that a husband and wife should be able to “safely trust” in each other. They should be able to discuss business matters, money affairs, and private thoughts with each other without having to worry about things being shared with others. Certain things need to be kept in confidence.

The third rule he shared was “Life’s partnership calls for an understanding about money.” Ward emphasized that in order to avoid misunderstandings about money, a couple should not have separate money accounts. Instead, all monies should be seen as “ours.” Share and share alike.

Fourthly, Ward declared, “Life’s partnership does not include relatives.” He said it is good to be on good terms with in-laws and other relatives, but they should not be allowed to manage or influence personal matters that pertain to a marriage partnership. A couple’s home life should not be controlled by outside forces.

The fifth rule said, “Life’s partnership calls for a will.” Ward suggested that a couple should talk about their future — including the possibility of death. He encouraged couples to make a will and keep it updated. It is best to be prepared for end-of-life decisions as well as day-to-day activities.

Sixthly, “Life’s partnership calls for fellowship.” Marriage is not a silent partnership. There must be conversation. Ward’s suggestion was not to bore your spouse, but wisely choose the topics of discussion. He said to “Season your meals with bright, constructive, cheery, Christ-honoring conversation.” It can keep your partnership alive.

The seventh rule stated, “Life’s partnership calls for cooperation.” There is no room in a marriage for rivalry. Ward said, “There is a secret in finding happiness in the happiness of another.” Instead of criticizing a project your spouse is doing, encourage them to do what is important to them, even it is not the type of project you would do. Ward said, “Let there be room for personal expression.”

The final rule promoted the idea that “Life partnership calls for spiritual union.” Marriage is meant to be a partnership in spiritual matters. The marriage oath was taken in the name of the Trinity, and God should remain primary in the marriage relationship. If at all possible, a couple should plan to sit together in church and be united in their religious convictions. “A house divided . . . cannot stand.” Most of all, he emphasized that “Jesus Christ is concerned about your marriage.”

Read C. M. Ward’s sermon, “Eight Rules for a Happy Marriage,” which was published on page 8 of the Dec. 30, 1956, issue of the Pentecostal Evangel.

Also featured in this issue:

• “A New Life for the New Year,” by Atwood Foster

• “Be of Good Courage,” by Marie Brown

• “What Price Alaska?” by James Reb

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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