Tag Archives: Gospel Publishing House

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


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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Missing GPH songbook: “Songs of Light and Life” (1926)

You may remember that in January 2007 we discovered a new (old) Assemblies of God hymnal that we had not seen before. It was published by Gospel Publishing House in the 1940s, but somehow disappeared from sight and mind for decades before re-emerging. It is now safely stored in the Flower Pentecostal Heritage Center vault! Click here for the announcement of that exciting find.

It happened again! At least, we hope it will. A search through old issues of the Pentecostal Evangel yielded yet another GPH songbook that we do not have in our collection. We have never seen a copy of it, and we do not know of any other person, archive or library that owns a copy.

The Pentecostal Evangel, from June 19, 1926 through Aug 13, 1927, advertised a new GPH songbook — Songs of Light and Life. One advertisement, published in the June 19, 1926 issue (page 15), stated that the songbook, which contained 165 songs, was well-suited for revival services and camp meetings. The ad warned readers that they should order quickly because of the limited quantities on hand. The price? It cost twelve cents per copy; fifteen cents postpaid.

If you have a copy of Songs of Light and Life or if you know where one is located, please contact the Flower Pentecostal Heritage Center at archives@ag.org.

Posted by Darrin Rodgers

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Amanda Benedict remembered after 82 years

Amanda Benedict Memorial Service

Participants at the Amanda Benedict memorial service (l-r): Assistant Archivist Glenn Gohr; Rev. Hubert Morris of Central Assembly; FPHC Director Darrin Rodgers; Dr. James Bradford, pastor of Central Assembly; General Secretary George Wood; Jewell Woodward, adminstrative assistant to George Wood; National Prayer Center Director John Maempa; and Archivist Joyce Lee.

Benedict Grave Stone 1

Front of marker

Benedict Grave Stone 2

Back of marker

Photographs by Sharon Rasnake

As part of the celebration of 100 years of Pentecost in Springfield, Central Assembly chose to honor one of the early leaders in the church, Miss Amanda Benedict, who is remembered as a fervent prayer warrior.

Educated in New York, her home state, she later conducted a rescue home for girls in Chicago and was connected with a faith home for children in Iowa. She moved to Springfield, Missouri, sometime before 1910 and met Mrs. Lillie Corum while working as a door-to-door salesperson. The two ladies and others began praying together regularly, and soon Amanda Benedict received the baptism of the Holy Spirit. She had a burden for lost souls and that God might bless the gospel work in Springfield, Missouri.

Sister Benedict would fast and pray for days on end, until a burden was lifted or victory came. Often, like Napoleon, she would say, “There shall be no Alps!” She had a tremendous burden that God would make Springfield a center from which his blessings would flow to the ends of the earth. At one point she felt led to fast and pray for Springfield for one entire year — living only on bread and water.

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Celebrating 100 years of Pentecost in Springfield, Missouri

Corum Farmhouse

Farmhouse where Lillie Corum was baptized in the Spirit in 1907

June 1, 2007 marks 100 years of Pentecost in Springfield, Missouri.

Just after the Azusa Street revival broke out in Los Angeles in 1906, Evangelist Rachel Harper Sizelove began writing glowing reports to her sister, Lillie Corum, who lived in Springfield, Missouri. Mrs. Corum started reading copies of William Seymour’s Apostolic Faith paper, and she earnestly began seeking and praying to receive the baptism in the Holy Spirit.

The next May, Rachel Sizelove traveled from Azusa Street to Springfield to visit her sister and family. And in an all-night prayer meeting, Lillie Corum was baptized in the Spirit at her farmhouse in the wee hours of June 1, 1907. She is credited with being the first person in Springfield to receive the baptism in the Holy Spirit. And soon afterwards, the Corum family, rejected by their Baptist pastor, began holding prayer meetings in their home. This was the beginning of Central Assembly of God, the mother church in Springfield, Missouri.

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Review: A Desk for Billie

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A Desk for Billie. Film produced by the National Education Association, 1956. Rereleased on DVD, 2007. Dr. Billie Davis, one of the best-known educators in the Assemblies of God, started life in the hopyards of Oregon. She spent her childhood during the Great Depression of the 1930s traversing across America with her parents, who were migrant farm workers. They were “homeless” before the term became fashionable. They lived and traveled in a battered Model A Ford with a makeshift wooden frame constructed on the back to provide shelter. She describes herself as a child as “a small ragged hobo” who would “[sit] on the ground beside a campfire, hungrily licking the fishy oil from the lid of a sardine can” while studying her school lessons. How was Billie Davis able to rise from her impoverished surroundings? She attributes her success to the discovery, as a young girl, of three ways to better herself: 1) Sunday school; 2) libraries; and 3) public school. Billie Davis came to work for the Gospel Publishing House in Springfield, Missouri in 1942, serving as the first editor of the Sunday School Counselor magazine. After the Saturday Evening Post featured her story, “I was a Hobo Kid” (published December 13, 1952), Reader’s Digest picked it up. Then, in 1956, the National Education Association produced a film about her life, “A Desk for Billie.” This film, a tribute to the value of education, was widely distributed across America and viewed by generations of teachers and schoolchildren. “A Desk for Billie” encourages viewers to appreciate Sunday school, libraries, and public schools. Billie Davis went on to earn her Ed.D. from the University of Miami and served as a professor at Evangel University, as an Assemblies of God missionary, and in numerous leadership roles in education, church, and government. UPDATE: As of January 28, 2021, “A Desk for Billie” is accessible online: youtube.com/adeskforbillie DVD, color, 57 minutes.  


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Ralph W. Harris in photos and videos

[splashcast JEFV4151MC]
SplashCast with Flickr photos and YouTube Video.
Produced by iFPHC

Ralph W. Harris (1912-2004)

Ralph Harris, a talented youth leader, pastor and editor, was full of the zest for life and had creative genius which helped to shape and mold the Assemblies of God for decades.

Originally from Michigan, Harris graduated from Central Bible Institute with bachelor’s and master’s degrees. He pastored churches in Michigan, Washington, and Missouri. In 1943, he was appointed to establish a national office in Springfield for the Assemblies of God youth program, Christ’s Ambassadors. The next year he founded Speed the Light, a highly successful youth program that gathers funds to provide transportation for missionaries.

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We discovered a new [old] hymnal!

Book Ad

Do you know the story behind the above hymnal, Glorious Gospel Hymns, published by Gospel Publishing House?

We at the Flower Pentecostal Heritage Center thought we had a complete collection of all Assemblies of God hymnals ever published, so when a donor gave us a copy of Glorious Gospel Hymns last year, we did a double take. Research into old issues of the Pentecostal Evangel yielded the above advertisement (published March 9, 1946, and Feb. 15 and Aug. 30, 1947), so it was likely published in 1946.

Since we had never seen Glorious Gospel Hymns, it must not have received wide circulation. The thick, 670-page hymnal contains The Apostles’ Creed, responsive readings, and other selections not found in the other gospel songbooks produced by GPH during that time period.

This edition of Glorious Gospel Hymns was compiled and edited by Haldor Lillenas, assisted by more than five hundred pastors, evangelists, and other church workers. According to the introduction, the book was prepared because of the “need among many denominations for a hymnal having a combination of the most famous and widely used hymns and the strongest and best loved gospel songs obtainable.” Haldor Lillenas produced a hymnal by the same title in 1931 for use by the Church of the Nazarene.

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Posted by Darrin Rodgers


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