Tag Archives: Evangelism

From Wittenberg to Azusa and Beyond: How Gospel Tracts Have Fueled Revival

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Ralph Riggs praying over the first run of the GPH “Hi, Neighbor” tracts in the 1950s.

This Week in AG History — February 10, 1940

By Ruthie Edgerly Oberg
Originally published on AG News, 7 February 2019

Nearly every major religious revival since the invention of the printing press has seen prolific use of the small printed pamphlet known as the gospel tract. The Pentecostal revival has been no exception.

While some religious movements, like the Wycliffites of the 14th century, made good use of the printed pamphlet even before the evolution of movable type, it was Gutenberg’s invention in the 15th century that helped make the religious tract a publishing phenomenon. Taken from the word “tractate” (meaning “treatise”), tracts have been used as a cost-effective way to reach large numbers of people with a simple message of persuasion.

It was after Luther’s 95 Theses were translated into German and distributed in tract form that the Protestant Reformation gained traction with the common people. The Wesleyan revival depended heavily on the reprinting of John Wesley’s sermons and Charles Wesley’s songs in an inexpensive format that could be easily carried and disseminated by the circuit riding preachers of the Methodist revival. Charles Finney wrote and distributed the small booklets. D. L. Moody believed in them so much that he founded an association of students to print and distribute them from gospel wagons, which led to the creation of Moody Press.

The American Tract Society was founded in 1825 and, during the Civil War, it joined forces with the Young Men’s Christian Association (YMCA) to distribute tracts to soldiers in the Union Army. In the South, the Evangelical Tract Society was formed to meet the needs of the Confederate soldiers. Both societies reported an urgent need for more printed materials along with great response on the part of the soldiers. Many young men came to the saving knowledge of Jesus through their response to these tracts that made their way through the armies.

From the beginning of their own revival movement, Pentecostals were prolific publishers. Some of the credit for the promotion of the Azusa Street revival belongs to a tract by journalist Frank Bartleman. Just days after the meetings began at Azusa Street, a great earthquake hit San Francisco. Bartleman believed that this great California earthquake was a message from God that people must repent and turn to God before it was too late. He wrote a tract titled “The Earthquake” and distributed more than 125,000 copies. This drew even more attention to the revival that was taking place in Los Angeles.

The Assemblies of God, through Gospel Publishing House (GPH), began publishing tracts almost immediately upon its inception in 1914. GPH published tracts by their own Fellowship leaders, such as E.N. Bell, E. S. Williams, and Stanley Frodsham, as well as prominent preachers such as A. G. Ward and, later, his son, C. M. Ward.

In the Feb. 10, 1940, issue of the Pentecostal Evangel a call was published for “Ten Men Wanted.” “Good men – saved men who are burdened for blinded, misguided, indifferent, sin-hardened souls. Women…young people are wanted, too.” The advertisement went on to say, “Ten workers, with the Lord’s help can accomplish wonders. Let each contribute $1.00 toward a $10.00 37-pound order of our full gospel tracts” in order to “keep public literature containers well stocked with papers and tracts…” They were reminded to “anoint your efforts with earnest prayer. Carry tracts wherever you go, and you will do much good.”

GPH tracts covered a wide variety of topics, such as the need for holiness and separation from worldliness through consecration to God. Many contained testimonies of how God had delivered people from sin and life-controlling addictions. Others told the simple message of the gospel in easily understood form, while many provided a doctrinal defense of Pentecostal distinctives.

One Assemblies of God layman in Springfield, Missouri, Lester Buttram, felt the Lord telling him in 1926 to “Print My Word.” Buttram felt that God put some strictures on him, however. He was never to charge for his productions and he would not promote one particular denomination. The 22-year-old man withdrew $7.10 from his bank account and went to a local printer with his message. The printer was so impressed that he offered to double the order and print $15 worth of Buttram’s tracts. This led to the formation of the Gospel Tract Society, which is still in business and based in Independence, Missouri.

While most Pentecostals believe that the most effective evangelism technique is one-on-one relationship building, many still use tracts. With gospel tracts, believers are able to leave written and visual material in a variety of places, providing all kinds of people with a relevant message. Gospel Publishing House, through My Healthy Church, continues to offer a wide variety of tracts for use in evangelistic ministry.

Read the call for tract distribution on page 3 of the Feb. 10, 1940, issue of the Pentecostal Evangel.

Also featured in this issue:

• “A Healthy Assembly” by Donald Gee

• “Sign Posts on the Spirit-Filled Highway,” by Willard Peirce

• “When God Is In It,” by Charles Elmo Robinson

And many more!

Click here to read this issue now.

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

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

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

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Confronted by Racial Tensions, Ohio AG Church Grew by Reaching out to Hispanics and Blacks in 1960s

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Pastors (left to right): S. Reyes Nodal (Templo Betel); Dana Dickson (Evangel Assembly, Sandusky); Keith Smith (Broadway Assembly); Robert E. Burel (Beulah Assembly)

This Week in AG History —August 8, 1965

By Darrin J. Rodgers
Originally published on AG News, 09 August 2018

Fifty-three years ago, the community of Lorain, Ohio, was in the midst of a significant demographic shift. Thousands of immigrants from Cuba and Puerto Rico relocated to Lorain to work in the steel mills, and the African-American community was growing. Racial tensions existed in the historically white town of 60,000, as residents grappled with these social changes.

How should the church respond to racial tensions and community strife? Keith Smith, an Assemblies of God pastor in Lorain, saw the changes in his community as an opportunity to share the gospel and bring reconciliation. He led his church, Broadway Assembly of God, to seek out the newcomers and minister to their needs.

Members of Broadway Assembly canvassed the community, befriended the immigrants, and began a bus ministry so that those without transportation could come to church. The church began a Spanish-speaking ministry under the leadership of S. Reyes Nodal, an Assemblies of God pastor born in Mexico. Nodal’s ministry grew and became Templo Betel (Bethel Temple), the first Spanish-speaking Assemblies of God church in Ohio.

Broadway Assembly asked a Church of God in Christ pastor, Robert E. Burel, to lead an outreach to African-Americans. Under Burel’s leadership, a new congregation, called Beulah Assembly, formed and met in Broadway Assembly’s building. After about a year and a half, Burel led his congregation to affiliate with the Church of God in Christ.

Broadway Assembly grew significantly even as it was planting new churches in its own community. Sunday school attendance grew from 200 to over 600 in a few years. The church built a new building to accommodate its growing crowds and gave its old building to Templo Betel.

How should today’s church respond to demographic changes and social strife? When confronted by a similar situation 50 years ago, Keith Smith did not retreat into the comfort of his church building. He led his congregation to engage the community and reach out to Spanish-speaking immigrants and African-Americans.

Read the article about Broadway Assembly, “Mother Church Triples,” on page 15 of the Aug. 8, 1965, issue of the Pentecostal Evangel.

Also featured in this issue:

• “Witness for Christ,” by Fred Smolchuck

• “Man Overboard!” by Charles T. Crabtree

• “Be Not Silent,” by Bob Hoskins

And many more!

Click here to read this issue now.

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

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

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

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Zelma Argue: Pioneer Pentecostal Evangelist and Writer

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A. H. Argue (right) standing with his son Watson (left) and daughter Zelma (center) in front of a car at the Ohio State Pentecostal Camp Meeting at Findlay, Ohio.

This Week in AG History — July 24, 1937

By Ruthie Edgerly Oberg
Originally published on PE-News, 20 July 2017

Zelma Argue (1900-1980) was the daughter, sister, sister-in-law, aunt, and cousin of great preachers. When her father, A. H. Argue, was asked on an evangelistic campaign, “Where is (your wife)?” his answer came quickly, “Oh! She’s at home raising the preachers.” As an evangelist with her family, Zelma ably filled the pulpit, but it seems she was even more productive with her pen.

Upon her ordination and embarkment on the evangelistic trail in 1920, her family gave her a writing set and a portable typewriter. Over the next 60 years she put them to good use, penning eight books and writing for at least seven periodicals, including nearly 200 articles for the Pentecostal Evangel. Her first article, “Buying Gold,” appeared in the March 5, 1921, edition and her final article, “Threefold Purpose of the Baptism in the Holy Spirit” was published on March 23, 1980, just two months after her death.

Argue wrote with a passion, challenging readers that the Christian life must carry an ever-increasing surrender to God’s service. While her words were oftentimes hard, she wrote in such a way that the resulting effect did not convey condemnation but conviction. Her common topics were intimacy with God, revival, prayer, worship, and the importance of soul-winning.

In an article in the July 24, 1937, Pentecostal Evangel, “The Next Towns Also: A Plea for Fresh Efforts at Direct Evangelism,” Argue examines the practical application of the words of Jesus in Mark 1:38, “Let us go into the next towns also…” In this passage, Christ is at the beginning of his ministry and has reached a zenith of popularity in Capernaum; so much so that He found the need to search for a solitary place, prompting Peter to remind Him that “all men seek for thee!”

Argue makes the proposition that Jesus was at a crisis point in ministry — one that we often face, as well. If He chose to stay in Capernaum it seemed that all would be going His way. If He chose to move on, He had no idea the reception He would face in another town. In addition, if He focused on others, what would happen to those whom He left behind? Argue states, “but in solitude He had heard from above. His answer was ready: ‘Let us go into the next towns, that I may preach there also, for therefore came I forth.’ These last words seem to suggest that He had been pondering deeply and had only reached His conclusion by recalling what He must never forget: the goal set before Him.”

Argue illustrates the importance of consistently reaching out into new fields by comparing the church to a lively home where there are little children for whom to care. She argues that the home with babies is a much happier spot than a home where all the inhabitants were adults who “had little to do but sit around and disagree” with each other. She plainly states that an assembly with a stream of new blood constantly pouring into it was God’s best for a contented home church: “Fresh kindling catches fire better than burnt over wood!”

The genius of Argue’s writing is that she not only points out the need for reaching beyond current borders but offers practical solutions that can be easily and quickly implemented. She says that in “railroad stations and other public places I never see a box of Christian Science literature that I do not feel that we should have a box of Evangels.” She encourages churches to consider moving evening services into a tent for the summer or renting out a building in another part of town when having a guest speaker so that new ears are exposed to the gospel message.

Fifty years before they were widely popular, she encourages “Branch Sunday Schools” conducted in neighborhoods outside the church building to reach children and their families. Argue also admonishes churches to consider having meetings at different times of the day and week to reach those whose schedules or lifestyle is not conducive to Sunday or evening services. She also suggests that church take advantage of technological advances, like radio programming, to expand to new fields.

She pleads with readers that “not only foreign fields, but our next towns, our neighborhoods, our next-door neighbors, may present fields of opportunity … if someone will leave the well-tilled and well-reaped field, and search out those not yet reached, as Jesus Himself sought so faithfully to do.” His vision includes “the next town,” and ours must, also.

The Argue family continues to bless the Pentecostal movement with great Pentecostal preachers, such as David Argue (former Assemblies of God Executive Presbyter) and Don Argue (the first Pentecostal to serve as president of the National Association of Evangelicals). However, few would contest that some of the best preaching in the Argue family came through the pen of the lifelong spinster aunt, Zelma Argue.

Read the full article, “The Next Towns Also,” on page 2 of the July 24, 1937, issue of the Pentecostal Evangel.

Also featured in this issue:

“Spiritual Promotion,” by W.E. Moody

“Pioneering in Nicaragua, by Melvin Hodges

“Healed of Pneumonia and Tuberculosis,” by Eunice Bailey

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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Reaching Remotest Alaska: Byron and Marjory Personeus and the Gospel Boat

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Byron and Marjory Personeus on board the Fair-Tide II, 1945

This Week in AG History — July 7, 1945

By Glenn Gohr
Originally published on PE-News, 7 July 2016

Byron and Marjory Personeus, Assemblies of God missionaries to Alaska, developed a unique evangelistic tool at the close of World War II.

In 1945, funds from Speed the Light, together with money Byron had raised itinerating, made it possible for him to purchase the Fair-Tide II. This gasoline-powered cabin cruiser was an answer to prayer, as he longed for a mission boat to evangelize in Southeastern Alaska.

Byron Personeus was born in Juneau, Alaska, and grew up on the mission field as the son of pioneer AG missionaries Charles and Florence Personeus who first went to Alaska in 1917. After Byron finished Bible college in 1940, he worked with his father in Ketchikan and later helped him build the first Assembly of God church in Pelican.

After he was ordained in 1944, Byron presented the idea of Alaskan boat ministry to the Northwest District, and he was granted approval to itinerate among the churches to raise funds for this project. Because of gasoline rationing during the second world war, he used a motorcycle as he traveled some 5,000 miles raising funds.

An article entitled “Gospel Boat for Alaska,” published July 7, 1945, in the Pentecostal Evangel, reports on the Fair-Tide II, which “will be used to carry the gospel to fishermen, cannery workers and villagers among the many islands sprawling along the southeastern coast of Alaska where the Full Gospel has never been preached.”

The Fair-Tide II, built by the Stephens Boat Company of Stockton, California, in 1930, was commissioned in 1934. It was 43 feet long and could accommodate up to nine people. At the time of the article in the Evangel, the newly-acquired boat was on its way from Portland to Seattle, where it would be “recommissioned and dedicated to the service of the Lord.” While in Seattle, the boat was equipped with a public address system, and a few other necessary alterations were made before Byron and his new bride, Marjory, embarked for Alaska.

During the summer months, the Personeuses lived on the boat, taking the gospel to many isolated villagers and cannery workers. The Fair-Tide II was used regularly in gospel ministry until it was sold in 1949 because of needed repairs. After that, additional funds were raised so that other mission boats called the Anna Kamp and the Taku could be skippered by Byron Personeus as he and his wife continued to spread the gospel to the remote island areas of Southeastern Alaska.

Read “Gospel Boat for Alaska” on page 11 of the July 7, 1945 issue of the Pentecostal Evangel.

Also featured in this issue:
• “When Pentecost Came to the Moluccas,” by Mrs. R. M. Devin
• “Not Limiting the Holy One of Israel,” by Zelma Argue
• “Hints to Preachers,” by A. G. Ward
And many more!

Click here to read this issue now.

Pentecostal Evangel archived editions courtesy of 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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What Did Early Pentecostals Teach about the Theology of Work?

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D.W.Kerr (back row, center) with a group of Assemblies of God executive presbyters, 1919.


This Week in AG History — June 11, 1921

By Darrin Rodgers
Originally published on PE-News, 9 June 2016

What did early Pentecostals teach about the theology of work? Some observers have claimed that early Pentecostals were so focused on the spiritual life that they neglected careful reflection about other aspects of daily life. However, early issues of the Pentecostal Evangel tell a different story. In a 1921 article, D. W. Kerr, an executive presbyter of the Assemblies of God, wrote an insightful article titled, “A Pentecostal Businessman.”

Kerr explained at length why Pentecostals should be well-equipped to serve in all areas of life, including in business. Kerr wrote that “the Lord will pour His Spirit in such fullness” in order to equip believers “for life and for service in all the varied spheres and the diversified forms of human toil and labour under the sun.” According to Kerr, spirituality should not be divorced from work. Pentecostal spirituality should be so all-encompassing that it makes a positive impact upon the labors of the faithful.

Kerr was an influential theologian and church leader. Five years earlier, Kerr served as the primary drafter of the Assemblies of God’s “Statement of Fundamental Truths.” In this article, Kerr disagreed with the notion that religion should be separate from “social, domestic, or business affairs.”

Drawing heavily from Scripture, Kerr identified character qualities that should describe all Pentecostals: “prompt and punctual, courteous and obliging, tender and affectionate, affable and sober, devoted and self-sacrificing.” A Pentecostal engaged in business, according to Kerr, should also be full of “vision, action, and determination,” and also demonstrate humility and dependence upon God.

Pentecostal businesspeople should exhibit these qualities, Kerr wrote, wherever they go.  He wrote, “whether in the home, or society; or on the busy thoroughfares, and commercial centers; whether at the accountant’s desk, or on the board of exchange; or in the places of barter, buying and selling and getting gain; that in all these places of business activities, a Pentecostal business man can adorn himself and his calling.”

Importantly, Kerr suggested that the Pentecostal businessperson can effectively witness his or her faith by living out these character qualities in the marketplace. A person’s inner spiritual life, he suggested, is revealed by outward actions, habits, and character. Kerr’s admonitions continue to encourage Pentecostals to cultivate biblical values in all spheres of life.

Read the entire article by D. W. Kerr, “A Pentecostal Businessman,” on pages 8 and 11 of the June 11, 1921, issue of the Pentecostal Evangel.

Also featured in this issue:

• “The Pruning of the Vine,” by Alice E. Luce

• “A Plea for our Missionaries,” by Frank Lindblad

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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Assemblies of God Founders Were Diverse, Yet They Believed They Could Do More Together Than Apart

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A group stands in front of a tent at an Aimee Semple McPherson camp meeting in Wesson, Arkansas, ca. 1920. W. J. Walthall is in the center (tenth from right).

This Week in AG History — November 8, 1924

By Darrin Rodgers
Originally published on PE-News, 5 November 2015

The founders of the Assemblies of God were not “cookie-cutter” Pentecostals. They were pastors, evangelists, and missionaries who hailed from a variety of religious and social backgrounds. Some came from large northern cities; others from small southern hamlets. Many were entrepreneurs who had launched churches, orphanages, and rescue missions without any denominational backing. They often differed on ministry methods, which were shaped by their personalities and cultural preferences. They were not all cut from the same mold. However, they all believed they were helping to restore the vibrant witness of the New Testament church, and they all believed that they could do more together than they could apart.

This diversity within the early Assemblies of God naturally created tension. However, many founders embraced this tension and sounded a common theme — that they aimed for “unity of the Spirit” until one day they could achieve “unity of the faith.”

The first masthead of the Christian Evangel (the original title of the Pentecostal Evangel), from 1913, stated: “The simplicity of the Gospel, In the bonds of peace, The unity of the Spirit, Till we all come to the unity of the faith.” This call to unity implicitly recognized that readers did not yet have “unity of the faith” — that disagreement existed on some matters. In the meantime, they affirmed that believers should aim for “unity of the Spirit.”

The minutes from the first General Council, held in April 1914, reveal that the convention began with devotions. The devotions set the tone for the next 11 days of meetings. According to the minutes, the devotions brought together “Men of God, full of faith and of the Holy Ghost,” but who “were not yet in perfect unity in faith.” The minutes then reported that participants “retained the unity of the Spirit until the unity of Faith was being much manifested in the meetings.” This language about keeping “unity of the Spirit” while aiming for “unity of the faith” was repeated in the resolution that officially formed the General Council of the Assemblies of God.

The Pentecostal Evangel, in 1924, published a devotional article about “the two unities” — the unity of the Spirit and the unity of the faith. The article, by pioneer Assemblies of God pastor W. Jethro Walthall, illuminated what early Pentecostals meant when they used the phrases “unity of the Spirit” and “unity of the faith.” According to Walthall, “unity of the faith” — which is the believer’s eschatological hope — cannot be fully achieved on earth. Before they achieve perfection in heaven, Christians can maintain “unity of the Spirit” on earth. Walthall wrote that “unity of the Spirit” is achieved by “walking worthy of our calling, and this is done by a meek and lowly walk with God, and maintaining a loving and long-suffering attitude to all saints.”

These insights — showing how early Pentecostals theologically explained the existence of differences amongst themselves — provide hope to those today who struggle to find unity amidst diversity.

Read “The Two Unities” by W. Jethro Walthall on page 5 of the November 8, 1924, issue of the Pentecostal Evangel. Also featured in this issue:
• “The Sin of Hopelessness,” by Florence L. Personeus
• “The Old-Time Power,” by Donald Gee
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 Healing of Joseph Wannenmacher: How a Gifted Violinist became an Assemblies of God Pioneer

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This Week in AG History — October 29, 1949

By Darrin Rodgers
Originally published on PE-News, 29 October 2015

As a young man, Joseph P. Wannenmacher (1895-1989) was a rising star in the Milwaukee musical scene. But a miraculous healing in a small storefront mission in 1917 forever changed his life, and he went on to become a well-loved Assemblies of God pioneer pastor. He shared his powerful testimony in the October 29, 1949, issue of the Pentecostal Evangel.

Like many other Milwaukee residents, Wannenmacher was an immigrant. He was born in Buzias, Hungary, to a family that was ethnically German and Hungarian. The Wannenmachers moved to Milwaukee in 1903, but his father was unable to adapt to American ways so they returned to Hungary after 10 months. In 1909, they returned to Milwaukee to stay.

From an early age, music helped define Joseph Wannenmacher’s life. In Hungary, he was surrounded by some of the nation’s best musicians and became a noted violinist. In Milwaukee, at age 18 he organized and conducted the Hungarian Royal Gypsy Orchestra (named after a similar group in his homeland), which performed at many of the region’s top entertainment venues.

Wannenmacher seemed to have it all. He could afford fashionable clothing, a gold watch, and diamond-studded jewelry. But underneath his successful veneer, Wannenmacher was haunted by his own human frailties.

Wannenmacher knew that he was dying a slow, painful death. His flesh would swell, develop blisters, and rot. Doctors diagnosed his condition as bone consumption. His sister had already died of the same malady. Anger boiled up in Wannenmacher as he grappled with the unfairness of life. He developed a sharp temper and, try as he might, he could not find peace.

Wannenmacher was raised in a devout Catholic home, so he turned to his faith to help him deal with his physical pain and bitterness. He frequently attended church and offered penance, but these practices did not seem to help.

He then turned to Luther’s German translation of the Bible, which someone had given to him, and began reading it voraciously. In its pages he discovered things he had never heard before. He read about Christ’s second coming, salvation by faith, and Christ’s power to heal. Perhaps most importantly, he learned that God is love. Up until that point, he had conceived of God as “Someone away up there with a long beard and a big club just waiting to beat me up.” But then, at age 18, he began to discover the gospel for himself.

In the midst of this spiritual awakening, Wannenmacher’s health was weakening. He could barely hold his violin bow in his hand, and the pain was almost unbearable. Then one morning in 1917 he heard about a group of German-speaking Pentecostals who prayed for the sick. The next service was scheduled for that afternoon, and Wannenmacher made a beeline for it. He wrote, “It was a dilapidated place, but the sweet presence of God was there.”

The small band of believers had been fasting and praying that God would send someone who was in need of salvation and healing. The service was unlike anything Wannenmacher had ever seen before. He watched the people get on their knees and cry out to God. Their outpouring of genuine faith moved Joseph’s heart.

The pastor, Hugo Ulrich, preached that sinners could be saved simply by trusting in Christ. It seemed too good to be true, Wannenmacher thought. Faith then came into his heart, and he started laughing for joy. The pastor thought Wannenmacher was mocking him, but Wannenmacher didn’t care. At the end of the service, Wannenmacher came forward to the altar and experienced a powerful encounter with God.

Wannenmacher described his time at the altar: “the power of God just struck me and shook for fully half an hour…the more His Spirit operated through my bones, through my muscles, through my being, the hotter I became. The more God’s power surged through me, the more I perspired. The Lord simply operated on that poor, diseased body of mine.”

He described this experience as being in the “operating room” of God. Later in the service, as he knelt at the altar rail in silent prayer, it seemed like heaven came down. He recalled, “As I waited there in God’s presence … [God’s] hands went down my body from head to toe, and every spirit of infirmity had to go. I got up, and I was a new man.”

A few days later, Wannenmacher was baptized in the Holy Spirit. He soon launched into gospel ministry and shared his testimony wherever he went. He played his violin and sang gospel songs during the lunch hour at the Harley Davidson plant, where he sometimes worked. He testified about his healing in hospitals, street corners, and other places. Everywhere he went, he prayed with people, and many accepted Christ and were healed. Wannenmacher’s family jokingly referred to his violin as the “healing violin,” because numerous people experienced healing as he played songs such as “The Heavenly City.”

In 1921 he married Helen Innes and started Full Gospel Church in Milwaukee. He went on to found six additional daughter churches in the area. He also served as the first superintendent of the Hungarian Branch of the Assemblies of God, which was organized in 1944 for Hungarian immigrants to America. After pastoring Full Gospel Church (renamed Calvary Assembly of God in 1944) for 39 years, he retired in 1960.

Throughout his ministry, Wannenmacher emphasized the importance of the Word of God. In his Pentecostal Evangel article, Wannenmacher compared reading the Bible to the mastery of music. “You have to practice and play music over and over again before you have mastered it,” he wrote, “and you have to apply yourself to those wonderful teachings of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, too, in order to make them yours.”

While Joseph Wannenmacher went to be with the Lord in 1989, his legacy lives on in the churches he founded and in the people whose lives he touched. Calvary AG is continuing to reach people in the Milwaukee area and was renamed Honey Creek Church in 2015. Joseph and Helen’s three children, John, Philip, and Lois (Graber), were involved in Assemblies of God ministries. Philip served as pastor of Central Assembly of God (Springfield, Missouri) from 1970 to 1995. Philip’s daughter, Beth Carroll, serves as director of Human Resources at the Assemblies of God National Leadership and Resource Center. On the floor just above Beth’s office, Joseph’s “healing violin” is on display in the Flower Pentecostal Heritage Center museum.

Joseph Wannenmacher’s story reminds believers that history never really disappears. People, events, and themes from the past tend to resurface in the present, but it often takes discernment to see them. God radically transformed Joseph Wannenmacher’s heart and healed his body, and the world has never been the same.

Read Joseph P. Wannenmacher’s article, “When God’s Love Came In,” on pages 2-3 and 11-13 of the October 29, 1949, issue of the Pentecostal Evangel.

Also featured in this issue:

• “Life’s Supreme Objective,” by D. M. Carlson

• “Ministering to the Needy,” by J. H. Boyce

And many more!

Click here to read this issue now.

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

Joseph Wannenmacher's

Joseph Wannenmacher’s “healing violin,” on display at the Flower Pentecostal Heritage Center museum

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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