Tag Archives: Church Planting

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

This Week in AG History–January 31, 1954
By Darrin Rodgers

Also published in PE News, 29 January 2015

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 January 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 January 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 Evangelarchived 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

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Review: U.S. Missions 75th Anniversary


U.S. Missions: Celebrating 75 Years of Ministry. Springfield, MO: Gospel Publishing House, 2012.

The Assemblies of God USA has always been dedicated to the mission of God, domestic and abroad, since its founding in 1914. While Assemblies of God World Missions (AGWM) was created in 1919, it was not until 1937 that Assemblies of God U.S. Missions (AGUSM) was created to bring greater organization to home mission efforts. This full-color, lavishly-illustrated coffee table book celebrates the 75th anniversary of AGUSM. This volume provides an overview of the history of U.S. Missions, as well as its seven departments, and is a wonderful tribute and memoir to Assemblies of God U.S. missionaries and their efforts to reach America with the gospel, that none perish.

Chapter 1, “Highlights of 75 Years of U.S. Missions,” is an adapted and edited from A History of Home Missions of the Assemblies of God (1992) by Ruth Lyon.


In Chapter 2, Kirk Noonan provides an overview of Chaplaincy Ministries, which includes industrial/occupational chaplains, prison chaplains, and military/VA chaplains. The Chaplaincy Ministries Department was started in 1973. Noonan reports, “Chaplains minister to service personnel, prisoners, the sick, dying people in crisis and trauma, athletes, truckers, bikers, cowboys, law enforcement personnel, fire fighters, factory workers, retirees, people involved in human trafficking, politicians, etc. To put it simply, where there is someone in need, there is a chaplain” (p. 21).


Sarah Malcolm traces the history of Chi Alpha in chapter 3. Chi Alpha is the national ministry of the Assemblies of God USA to reach students, including over 700,000 international students, who are attending colleges and universities in the U.S. Founded in 1953, Chi Alpha is currently the fourth largest evangelical campus ministry in the U.S. Malcolm states, “Chi Alpha is not just a program, it is a culture of disciple making. The transformed students and committed missionaries of Chi Alpha are laying the ground work for the next generation of the Assemblies of God and its leaders” (p. 50).


Chapter 4, written by William Molenaar, explores the history of Intercultural Ministries. While intercultural ministries and evangelism have been a part of the Assemblies of God since its founding, the Home Missions Department was tasked with overseeing intercultural ministries in 1937. Later in 1945, the Intercultural Ministries Department was created within AGUSM. America’s multicultural past, present, and future creates both a great evangelistic challenge and a great evangelistic opportunity for the Assemblies of God USA. Molenaar focuses on five of the earliest and historic ministries: Jewish ministries, Native American ministry, ministry to the Blind, ministry to the Deaf, Alaskan ministry, and the various ethnic-language branches, districts and fellowships of the Assemblies of God USA.


Joshua R. Ziefle wrote Chapter 5, which covers the history of Missionary Church Planters and Developers (MCPD). Originally founded in 1947, MCPD is tasked with identifying, supporting and resourcing church planting and development missionaries appointed by U.S. Missions. Ziefle notes, “For almost a century, the Assemblies of God has been a leader in church planting. Early Pentecostals were visionaries and entrepreneurs, buoyed by a vision to save the world and anchored by a deep commitment to Christ and God’s Word” (p. 71).


Chapter 6 features a history of Teen Challenge International, U.S.A., written by David Batty, Ethan Campbell, and Patty Baker. The authors trace the inspiring story of David Wilkerson’s ministry in New York City to the global growth of the Teen Challenge. It is widely held that Teen Challenge is “one of the world’s largest and most successful drug recovery programs” (p. 89). Teen Challenge has been running over 50 years now with more than 1000 centers in 93 countries around the world.


William Molenaar wrote chapter 7 regarding the U.S. Mission America Placement Service (MAPS) Department. U.S. MAPS “is the ministry within Assemblies of God U.S. Missions that assists churches, schools and ministries by coordinating volunteers with construction and evangelism projects” (p. 99). MAPS originated in 1967 as an inter-departmental effort of the Assemblies of God National Office to mobilize laity to participate in the mission of God both home and abroad, and today has a thriving RV volunteer ministry.


Finally, Chapter 8, written by Kevin Dawson, traces the development of the Youth Alive Department. Dawson explains, “Youth Alive is a missionary movement dedicated to equipping and releasing students to reach the middle school and high school campuses of the United States” (p. 118). Youth Alive not only develops campus clubs, but it mobilizes young people to be missionaries to their schools. Today, Youth Alive is in 15 percent of the middle schools and high schools in the U.S.

Readers will enjoy reading the substantive histories of U.S. Missions, as well as browsing the historical photographs throughout the book. Flower Pentecostal Heritage Center staff provided images and significant editorial assistance in the production of the book: William Molenaar authored two chapters, Glenn Gohr checked facts and citations, and Gohr and Darrin Rodgers provided extensive editorial work. Few books are both attractive and add to the body of scholarly literature. This book achieves both. U.S. Missions: Celebrating 75 Years of Ministry will be warmly received by both scholars and those who lived the history.  This commemorative volume should be added to your personal library and is also ideal for your coffee table, waiting room, or as a gift.

Hardcover, 128 pages. $25.00 retail. Order from: Gospel Publishing House.

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Review: German Pentecostal Church Planting

Clark, Paul.  German Pentecostal Church Planting, 1945-2005: Implications for Intentional Mission in the Twenty-First Century.  Benton Harbor, MI: Priority Publishing, 2011.

Pentecostalism is booming.  From Capetown to Singapore to Rio de Janeiro, the barely hundred-year-old movement is making its presence felt wherever it goes.  Its continuing expansion across the global South in recent years has, among other things, created a veritable cottage industry for those willing to research and discuss the work of the Holy Spirit in the myriad cultural worlds of the now.  The flurry of popular and academic attention to such contemporary developments has been intense.  In the process, however, many older and just as unique indigenizations have been ignored.

This volume by Paul Clark is a helpful corrective to this trend.  By focusing on German Pentecostal church growth over the past 60 years, Clark reveals the movement’s unique path in the heart of old Europe.  As a veteran missionary church planter in Germany, Clark’s approach to his subject matter is both informed and immediate.  The careful research work he has done here tells of a religious movement nearly as old as Azusa Street, but which developed under vastly different circumstances.

Clark’s purpose is to provide “insights to assist present and future church planters in Germany” (5) as they and others come to “understand contextual and theological issues unique to Germany” (10).  Following a literature review of the German language sources relevant to the topic at hand, a discussion of biblical models of church planting, and the context of the Freikirchen (Free Churches), Clark turns his attention to the deep history of Pentecostalism in Germany.  Outsiders from the beginning, German Pentecostals were not welcomed in the state-funded churches and came into existence as culturally suspect “Free Churches.”  Not long after the movement took root in 1906, German believers faced the additional pressure of being labeled as cultic and even Satanic by fellow evangelical Free Church Christians—not to mention German society at large.  For Clark, this 1909 Berlin Declaration helped create an image of Pentecostals that has been as damning as it has been lasting.

The five German church groups studied for this monograph are: the Bund Freikirchler Pfingstgemeinden (BFP), the Volksmission, the Ecclesia Fellowship of Churches, the Mulheim Association, and the Church of God.  Clark investigates all of the German-speaking church plants operating with the cooperation of these groups in the post-WWII era, provided the congregations are still in existence.  He then sorts the churches into eleven categories according to the circumstances of their founding.  Clark rejects two of these categories–churches founded by refugees from the East and by splits in existing churches–as poor models upon which to base further church planting.  Planting churches by use of evangelistic meetings, while showing some success in the past, is also downplayed as less than useful in modern Germany.

The remaining categories of historical church planting retain viability for Clark: resident clergy or layperson initiated, mother church plants, foreign missionary initiated, organic development from the Charismatic Movement, non-resident clergy/lay initiated, home cell group initiated, derivatives of youth oriented ministry, and as the result of proximity to a national or international ministry.  Of these models, Clark elevates the mother-daughter church paradigm as key.  Further, he strongly encourages the use of interpersonal missionary connections rather than institutional outreach.

Clark’s study has much to commend it.  Most notable is the care and diligence with which he assembles the data that comprises this study.  Scholars and church leaders will be glad of it for years to come.  For the English-speaking reader, his is a rare insight into German Pentecostalism that elucidates the unique context of Pentecostalism in a secular land that maintains its cultural allegiance to a state-funded Staatskirche.  The slow numerical growth witnessed by church planters in Germany is thus not surprising.  Clark’s additional observations about the use of the home cell group and suggestions for dialogue and cooperation between the major Pentecostal groups once again reminds readers that his knowledge of the movement is both as deep as it is practical.

Alas, there are some drawbacks to Clark’s work.  First, he often lacks the specificity needed to adequately make his point.  Throughout the book and in his title, for instance, he continually refers to the need for “intentional” ministry.  The term is both undefined and overused in the book, in the process rendering it essentially meaningless.  By not clearly spelling out what he means theologically, he weakens a major piece of his argument.  So too his occasional assertions of “emotional excesses” (49) on the part of some German Pentecostals remains opaque.  He neither historically nor philosophically explains what he means by this language, in the process clouding one of the criticisms made against the movement.

Second, Clark’s approach is rather unfocused.  He does well in establishing the facts on the ground and analyzing the data, but when he moves from analysis to practical recommendations, he seems to have missed a step or two.  His approach to his findings and suggestions mostly takes the form of lists.  While some of what he has to offer is vital, other conclusions—such as “pastors need to lead by example” (146)—seem neither particularly profound nor necessarily derived from his research.  A more focused thesis, the removal of excess and sometimes unnecessary commentary, and more deliberate argumentation would help organize his findings more helpfully.

In spite of these drawbacks, Clark’s work stands alone as one of the only—if not the only—full-length English work on indigenous German Pentecostalism.  Because German Pentecostal Church Planting, 1945-2005 exists at the crossroads of the historical, sociological, practical, and theological, it is hard to criticize it for occasionally unwanted editorializing.  Many of Clark’s comments are both insightful and apropos, and will bear much fruit for those willing to read both his monograph and peruse the associated twenty-two appendices of data and related material.  Missionaries, pastors, and other ministry workers in Western Europe will be wise to study it closely as they contemplate the work at hand.  English-speaking students of global Pentecostalism and sociologists of religion will alike both find much to provoke conversation and reflection on this small corner of the diverse and changing world religious landscape.

Reviewed by Dr. Joshua R. Ziefle, Northwest University

Published also in German: Clark, Paul. Die Gründung von Pfingstgemeinden in Deutschland, 1945-2005 : Implikationen für intentionale Mission im 21. Jahrhundert.  Benton Harbor, MI: Priority Publishing, 2011.

Paperback, 280 pages. €16.95 retail. Order from: Priority Publishing.


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Texas Minister Celebrates Sixty-Five Years of Ministry

Rev. Opal Lesher Hall of Red Oak, Texas, who has been referred to by many as the official poet laureate of Oak Cliff Assembly of Dallas, Texas over the years (so named first by OCAG pastor David Godwin), is celebrating sixty-five years of ministry, and is being honored by the Assemblies of God. She was ordained on July 15, 1943.

On Sunday, June 8, 2008, Dr. Tom Wilson of The Oaks (formerly Oak Cliff) Assembly of God in Dallas, presented Opal Hall with a certificate of appreciation from the General Secretary’s office of the Assemblies of God and a letter from General Superintendent George O. Wood. Here is a copy of the letter:

Dear Sister Hall,

Greetings in the Lord! I recently learned that on July 15, 2008, you will have been an ordained minister for 65 years. That is indeed a milestone that few, if any ever reach. It is a joy for me to take this occasion to salute you for the sterling service you have given to The General Council of the Assemblies of God.

Please accept this letter as a small token of the esteem the General Council has for you for your dedicated and faithful service to the Kingdom of God and the local church. Your ministry represents many years of dedication to the Lord which has contributed to the growth of the Assemblies of God. Your faithful service is deeply appreciated. We esteem you highly!

Jesus told us that the Heavenly Father knows us so intimately that he numbers the hair on our heads. That wonderful word from the Lord tells us that He has watched over the endless hours and days you have served him, and that he will also watch over you in the days to come.

May the Lord bless you abundantly.

Sincerely yours in Christ,
George O. Wood
General Superintendent

Photos: Rev. Opal Lesher Hall receives flowers and congratulations from Dr. Tom Wilson, and a beautiful certificate of appreciation from the General Secretary’s office. In the lefthand photo are Dr. Tom Wilson at the podium, church member Doris McNellis presenting flowers, daughter-in-law Andrea Hall, and Rev. Opal Hall. On the right is Dr. Tom Wilson, with Rev. Opal Hall holding the certificate of appreciation.

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Wisconsin minister celebrates 100th birthday

Lillian Adamson

Photo: Wisconsin-Northern Michigan District Superintendent Arden Adamson presents a Certificate of Recognition to retired Assemblies of God minister Lillian Flessing Adamson on her 100th birthday.

May 3, 2008, was a day of joy as family members gathered around retired minister Lillian Flessing Adamson to celebrate a fruitful life spanning an entire century—100 years! Adamson holds ministerial credentials with the Wisconsin-Northern Michigan District of the Assemblies of God. District Superintendent Arden Adamson, who is her nephew by marriage, presented her with a Certificate of Recognition, signed by Assemblies of God General Superintendent George Wood.

Born on May 3, 1908, in Athens, Wisconsin, Lillian received missionary appointment to Brazil in 1939. A graduate of North Central University, Lillian, along with her coworker, Ellen Miller, did evangelism and church planting in Brazil. Their first work was in Ribeirao Preto, Brazil. They were also involved in ministry in Porto Alegre and Florianopolis. In 1941 they had two works in the Sao Paulo area—Sao Carlos and Araraquara. According to articles in the Pentecostal Evangel, they reported many salvations, healings, deliverances and Holy Spirit baptisms.

Following their return to the United States, Lillian spent several years teaching and helping in various church ministries. She was asked to start an elementary school at Ebenezer Assembly of God in Chicago where she taught and served as the principal for 22 years. In 1973, at the age of 65, she married Earl Adamson. They pastored in Madison, Wisconsin, and Collinsville and Yorkville, Illinois, prior to moving to Oshkosh to be near family. Earl passed away in 2003 and Lillian now resides at the Omro Care Center in Omro, Wisconsin.

When she married Earl after the death of his wife, Josie, Lillian became, and continues to be, an integral part of the Adamson family. She holds a place of honor in their family for the love, care and acceptance she has shown to Earl, his children, and their spouses and grandchildren, who all call her “Grandma Lillian.”

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Review: Java and Justice

Java and Justice

Java and Justice: Journeys in Pentecostal Missions Education, edited by B. Brenneman, W. R. Brookman, and N. Muhovich. Minneapolis, MN: North Central University Press, 2006.

Sponsored by the Department of Intercultural Studies and Languages at North Central University, this handy volume presents foundational issues in educating students for missions in the 21st century by presenting 19 essays by 17 contributors.

Essays in this volume include:

  • The shame and the glory of being a Pentecostal: a personal journey / Bob Brenneman
  • A legacy of Pentecostal missions education at North Central University: 1936-2006 / Dan Notely
  • Story telling: a Biblical model of missions education / Nan J. Muhovich
  • Planting ethnic churches in urban America / Richard and Farella Shaka
  • Prepared in the fire: Argentine revival and missionary training / Rocky Grams
  • The explosion of spiritual gifts and fervor in Celtic missions / Carolyn Tennant
  • Spirit, mission, and the religions: toward a p(new)matological/Pentecostal theology of religions / Amos Yong
  • Biblical justice: caring for the poor and oppressed / Nan Muhovich
  • Ministry in hostile areas / Mark Hausfeld
  • The veil worn and the veil torn: reflections from the inside / Myra Crane
  • Sexual slavery and the gospel / Beth Grant
  • From Noah to Saddam: the story of the Kurds / Bob Brenneman Continue reading

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Review: Move, and I Will Move


Move, and I Will Move: How the Great Church Builder Taught Me Step by Step, by Arvid Kingsriter with Lynne Jonell. Minneapolis, MN: North Central University Press, 2006.

When Arvid Kingsriter pioneered Bloomington Assembly of God in 1953, he could not have known that the congregation would become one of the largest in Minnesota, or that he would continue to pastor the church until 1989. Kingsriter, through his leadership in the Minnesota District, his steady and balanced life, and his passion for missions and church planting, has influenced generations of Pentecostals. In Move, and I Will Move, Kingsriter aims to share lessons from his life and ministry. From his recollections as a student at North Central Bible Institute in the 1930s, to accounts of various revivals and leaders with whom he worked, to leadership lessons learned through crises such as the Latter Rain movement, to advice offered to ministers, this book will prove a valuable resource for pastors, scholars, and people in the pew.

Paperback, 210 pages, illustrated. $12.95 plus shipping. Order from: University Bookstore, North Central University, 910 Elliot Ave., Minneapolis, MN 55404. Ph. 612-343-7887.

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