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

This Week in AG History — November 8, 1924

By Darrin J. Rodgers
Originally published on AG-News, 10 November 2022

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 Nov. 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

Pictured: Assemblies of God leaders in San Antonio, Texas, circa 1926. Front row is unidentified. Identified on the back row (l-r): unidentified, Josue Cruz, unidentified, Henry C. Ball, Josue Sanchez, and Demetrio Bazan. Please contact the Flower Pentecostal Heritage Center (archives@ag.org) if you know if the names of the unidentified people.

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J. Philip Hogan on Agnosticism


“The reason that this new generation is full of agnosticism and has revolted against the structured church is because they have never seen the real Church; they know nothing about its present or future ministry and its real greatness.”
–J. Philip Hogan, Executive Director, Assemblies of God Division of Foreign Missions (1959-1989)

Source: Pentecostal Evangel, October 12, 1969

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Review: Reaching Single Adults

Reaching Single Adults

Reaching Single Adults: An Essential Guide for Ministry, by Dennis Franck. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 2007.

Dennis Franck has made history in single adult ministries in the Assemblies of God. In 1979, when Franck started his first full-time ministry position — as Single Adults pastor at First Assembly in Billings, Montana — he was one of five known paid single adult pastors in the Assemblies of God in the United States. He discovered great need within the single adult community — and the group in Billings soon attracted 125 singles, hailing from 27 church backgrounds, to its Sunday morning meetings. Not bad for a church of 400 people.

Today, Franck serves as National Director of Single Adult Ministries for the Assemblies of God, a position he has held since 2000. He is a frequent speaker at single adult conferences, retreats and leadership training in the Assemblies of God and in other denominations. Pastors and ministry leaders now have access to Franck’s research and hard-won ministry lessons in his new book, Reaching Single Adults. This book is significant for several reasons. Not only is it the first book on this subject to be published in the United States in eight years, it is the first known ministry/leadership book about ministry to single adults published by an Assemblies of God author. Continue reading

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Review: Uldine Utley

Why I Am A Preacher

Uldine Utley: Why I am a Preacher, compiled by T. J. Lavigne. Kissimmee, FL: Cloud of Witnesses Publishing Co., 2006.

Ted Lavigne has developed a passion for discovering and researching child evangelists and their unique role in presenting the gospel. To my knowledge, this topic of child evangelists has never been discussed in a book or dissertation. This makes his research all the more important. It is significant that just as child preachers of yesteryear filled a vital role in communicating the gospel, there are still child evangelists today in the U.S. and abroad. You will be blessed by reading some of their stories.

In this volume, which is the opening text in a child and teen preacher series, he focuses on the life of a well-known girl evangelist, Uldine Utley. She preached in Madison Square Garden in 1926 at the age of 14 and ministered other places across the U.S. She was also featured in American Magazine, the Boston Sunday Post, the New York Times and many other publications.

Lavigne includes a timeline of significant events concerning her ministry, rare photographs, an extensive bibliography, and interesting bits of information about Utley and her family that previously were unpublished. This book includes excerpts from Uldine Utley’s book, Why I am a Preacher: A Plain Answer to an Oft-repeated Question (1931), and from her Petals from the Rose of Sharon newsletters, with related information about some key evangelists connected with her ministry.

The serious reader of church history will be delighted and inspired by the testimony of this girl evangelist and will look forward to additional volumes in this series.

Reviewed by Glenn Gohr

Paperback, 149 pages (8.5×11 in.), illustrated. $29.95, plus $6.00 shipping.

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Review: Off-Road Disciplines

Spiritual Adventures of Missional Leaders

Off-Road Disciplines: Spiritual Adventures of Missional Leaders, by Earl Creps. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass, 2006.

Church statistics tell us that overall, but with some exceptions, western churches are declining in membership. Certainly one factor for this decline is that much of western Christianity has lost part of its identity as a missional community, a community which prophetically partners with the Holy Spirit in His mission. As a result, church leaders are seeking the heart of God for both vision and empowerment for continuing in Jesus’ ministry of reconciliation in the contexts in which they are called. Slowly but surely, the community of Christ is recognizing its missional weakness when it comes to both the lifestyles of the individual followers of Christ, and the structure of the community itself.

Reacting to these shortcomings, the emerging church movement has arisen to fill the missional gaps by applying a relevant, contextualized gospel to those whom the traditional or even “contemporary” churches would not ordinarily reach. Off-Road Disciplines is a timely book that speaks to both the emerging church movement, and the traditional or denominational churches. Continue reading

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