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Henry H. Ness: The Norwegian Immigrant Who Became an Influential Assemblies of God Pastor and Educator

Ness

Henry H. Ness (right) and Ed Eliason traveled together as Assemblies of God evangelists in the 1920s. They were called the ‘Banjo Twins.’

This Week in AG History — March 22, 1970

By Darrin J. Rodgers
Originally published on AG News, 22 March 2018

Henry H. Ness (1894-1970) immigrated to America in search of wealth and opportunity. When he dedicated his life to Christ in the 1920s, however, his focus changed from accumulation of wealth to sharing the gospel. He followed God’s call into the ministry and became an influential Assemblies of God pastor and educator.

Ness was born in Kristiania (Oslo), the capital city of Norway. His parents were devout Christians and were members of the Filadelfia Church, the first Pentecostal congregation in that country. Ness knew the power of God from firsthand experience. He grew up in the midst of the emerging Pentecostal revival, and he spent much of his free time during his teenage years in prayer meetings and church services.

Like many of his friends, Ness felt the lure of America. From 1820 to 1920, about 720,000 Norwegians immigrated to the United States. That was a sizeable portion of the nation, as Norway had a population of 2,653,024 in 1920. In 1911, when Ness was only 17 years old, he left Norway and set sail for America.

Ness initially settled in Chicago and then moved to Minneapolis, where he operated his own drug store. After several years, he sold the business and took a job with Standard Oil Company, where he was promoted several times and held a good position. In 1919, Ness married a young Danish immigrant, Anna, and they began a family together. They were living the American dream.

In his rush to achieve success, Ness neglected his spiritual life. He replaced the heart-felt Christian faith of his Norwegian upbringing with American materialism. Deep inside, he knew that he needed to get right with God, but he suppressed the sense of conviction he felt from the Holy Spirit. He became consumed with the daily activities of life and did not have time for God.

One Sunday evening in the early 1920s, Anna attended a Pentecostal service in Minneapolis and committed herself to God. She came home with a radiant countenance, exclaiming to her husband, “I am saved! Oh, I am saved! You too must be saved. It is so wonderful!” Ness could tell that she had a genuine conversion experience. Anna’s newfound faith brought back memories of the early Pentecostal revival in Norway. Two weeks later, Ness knelt down in his home and consecrated himself to the Lord.

Ness felt called to the ministry and, in 1925, he accepted the pastorate of a small Assemblies of God church in Brainerd, Minnesota. The following year, he moved to Fargo, North Dakota, where he pioneered Fargo Gospel Tabernacle (later First Assembly of God). Ness related well to the city’s large population of Scandinavian immigrants. During the seven years of his Fargo pastorate, the church grew to 500 members. He united several groups of Pentecostals in the region, including a group of former members of the Swedish Free Mission in neighboring Moorhead, Minnesota, where people began experiencing the gift of speaking in tongues in the 1890s. Ness documented the story of this early Scandinavian-American Pentecostal revival in his book, Demonstration of the Holy Spirit.

In 1933, Ness accepted a call to pastor another congregation of Scandinavian immigrants – Hollywood Temple, located in Seattle, Washington. The congregation emerged from a Pentecostal revival among Baptist churches in Seattle in the early 1920s. Founded in 1927 by former members of Elim Swedish Baptist Church, the new congregation was initially called Hollywood Temple Full Gospel Baptist Church (now Calvary Christian Assembly).

Ness led the congregation to affiliate with the Assemblies of God in January 1934. Later that year, he founded Northwest Bible Institute (now Northwest University), which was initially located on the church property. The college flourished, and the church planted several daughter congregations across the area. He served as pastor and college president until 1948, when he was appointed by the Governor to be chairman of the Washington State Board of Prison Terms and Paroles, a position he held for six years. Ness was a respected minister and community leader. He authored several books, including the widely-read Dunamis and the Church (GPH, 1968).

Ness parlayed his background as an immigrant into a platform for building bridges across the religious and national divides. Following World War II, he made frequent trips to other nations and met with religious and political leaders. His obituary in the Pentecostal Evangel noted that Ness had a 30-minute private audience with Pope Pius XII, which helped win religious freedom for the Assemblies of God in Italy.

When Henry H. Ness went to be with the Lord in 1970, he left behind numerous institutions and countless people impacted by his extensive ministry. The young Norwegian immigrant had turned from a life of materialism, consecrating himself to God. Instead of building his own kingdom, Ness helped to build the kingdom of God.

Read Henry H. Ness’s obituary on page 28 of the March 22, 1970, issue of the Pentecostal Evangel.

Also featured in this issue:

• “A Corn of Wheat Must Die,” by William F. P. Burton

• “Pressures on the Church,” by C. M. Ward

• “What Chi Alpha Means,” by Johnny Davidson

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 Pastor Overcame Prejudice Against Pentecostals

Dingman Briggs

This Week in AG History — January 24, 1948

By Darrin J. Rodgers
Originally published on PE-News, 25 January 2018 

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 January 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 confliction 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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Dr. Stanley Horton: Influential Pentecostal Theologian, Educator, and Writer

Horton desk

Stanley M. Horton at his desk at Gospel Publishing House, working on the Adult Teacher, circa 1955

This Week in AG History — April 27, 1975

By Ruthie Edgerly Oberg
Originally published on PE-News, 27 April 2017

Stanley M. Horton (1916-2014), the noted Pentecostal author and educator, was one of the most influential teachers of laypeople in the history of the Assemblies of God. He taught at the highest level in Assemblies of God institutions of higher education and authored the standard textbook on the Pentecostal understanding of the Holy Spirit, but it was through his “side job” as a writer of Sunday School material that he yielded his broadest influence.

Horton’s Pentecostal background goes back to the Azusa Street revival of 1906-1909. His mother, Myrle Fisher, was baptized in the Holy Spirit at the meetings at Azusa Street. She later married Harry Horton, who followed Myrle’s father, Elmer Fisher, as pastor of the Upper Room Mission, located just blocks from the Apostolic Faith Mission on Azusa Street.

The family often attended Angelus Temple, the home church of Evangelist Aimee Semple McPherson. One of Horton’s childhood memories is being led to the Angelus Temple platform to lead in prayer for a children’s meeting. He sat on Sister Aimee’s lap until it was his turn to pray.

Exposure to some of the early leaders and ministries of the Pentecostal movement gave Horton an inside understanding of the relationship between the development of theological ideals and their practical application to Christian living.

From his youth, Horton exhibited unusual intellectual prowess. He graduated from high school in 1933 at age 16 and in 1937 received his undergraduate degree in science from University of California at Berkeley. He went on to earn a Master of Divinity from Gordon Divinity School, a Master of Sacred Theology from Harvard, and ultimately his doctorate from Central Baptist Theological Seminary in 1959.

In a day when Pentecostal scholarship was considered “an oxymoron,” Horton was a rarity. While many of his peers considered higher education to be a hindrance to the Spirit’s anointing, Horton felt that God had called him to develop his intellectual abilities. If he did not fulfill that calling, he reckoned, he would be disobeying God.

Horton went on to teach at the college and university level for 63 years and traveled the world as a lecturer until age 92. He authored dozens of books — many of which have been translated into multiple languages — and published more than 250 scholarly articles. His book, What the Bible Says About the Holy Spirit, still serves as the definitive text on the topic in seminaries and universities around the world.

However, it is possible that his broadest influence in the Pentecostal world came through the humblest of his writings. In the April 27, 1975, issue of The Pentecostal Evangel, Horton was honored for serving as author of the Adult Teacher Sunday School quarterly for 25 years. Students in churches of every size and teachers of every level of ability would open these quarterlies each Sunday to glean a deeper understanding of biblical principles from the same pen that was writing university textbooks.

Balancing a heavy teaching load and raising three children, the scholar would stay up late into the night, at the beginning rate of $1 per hour, to develop lessons that would take the deepest theological truths and convey them in a manner that applied to the daily lives of farmers, factory workers, and businessmen and women. Dr. Bob Cooley, past president of the Evangelical Theological Society, former president of Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, and a 1949 student of Dr. Horton, wrote, “If you read the adult quarterly, you can see that the lesson material grew out of an academic understanding of Scripture but was very practical . . . a technical understanding of the biblical text but a remarkable way of translating that into a body of applied theology.”

Dr. Horton’s sacrifice of time proved to be an investment in the lives of tens of thousands of Assemblies of God laypeople who would never attend one of his seminary classes, but who were still able to receive theological training from one of the greatest minds of the Pentecostal movement — just by attending Sunday School.

Read the article, “A/G Editors Honor Stanley Horton for 25 Years of Writing Ministry,” on page 26 of the April 27, 1975, issue of the Pentecostal Evangel. 

A biographical sketch of Horton, a bibliography of his writings, and video interviews are accessible on the Flower Pentecostal Heritage Center website.

Also featured in this issue:

• “Unveiling the Man of Sin,” by Ian McPherson

• “Build A Bridge of Friendship,” by Marjorie Stewart

• “Navajo Trails Assembly Outgrows Its Building,” by Ruth Lyon

And many more!

Click here to read this issue now.

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

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

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

Leave a comment

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