Tag Archives: Pentecostal History

Assemblies of God Missions Publications: From Missionary Challenge to Worldview Magazine

This Week in AG History —August 30, 1959

By Ruthie Edgerly Oberg
Originally published on AG News, 01 September 2022

The Pentecostal revival that birthed the Assemblies of God in 1914 brought with it a revival of dedication to the mission that each believer must “go into all the world and preach the gospel.” There was an urgency to take the message to the ends of the earth and, along with that, was born a pressing need to communicate the progress of this effort, along with its needs and concerns.

The first official weekly publication of the Assemblies of God, the Christian Evangel (later renamed the Pentecostal Evangel), began publishing updates and needs from the 32 recognized missionaries approved at the first General Council in April 1914. J. Roswell Flower, the first general secretary and, in 1919, the first missions secretary, also served as the editor of the Evangel and sought to use the publication to bring increased cooperation from the churches in support of the missions effort.

In 1944, under the direction of editor Kenneth Short, a separate quarterly publication devoted exclusively to missions was created. The Missionary Challenge (later changed to World Challenge) carried a format that highlighted a variety of updates from the field, emphasized a field in focus, provided a daily prayer devotional plan, and a prayer list for each missionary’s birthday. It also included a Junior Challenge with a story written specially to communicate to children the need for world missions.

As more departments of the General Council were created, the publication was used to highlight reports and opportunities provided by the Women’s Missionary Council (WMC), Boys’ and Girls’ Missionary Crusade (BGMC), Light for the Lost (LFTL), and Speed the Light (STL).

In March of 1959, World Challenge announced that the missions publication would merge with the denominational weekly, the Pentecostal Evangel, in order to increase the circulation of missionary articles.

However, the Aug. 30, 1959, issue of the Pentecostal Evangel features the relatively new promotions secretary of the Foreign Missions Department, J. Philip Hogan, announcing a new missions publication in an article titled, “Why Another Missionary Magazine?”

The new periodical was called Global Conquest after the new initiative approved by the missions department. Hogan gave three reasons for the decision to return to a separate missions publication: 1) The 1960s promised to be an era of “stepped-up communications” and the voice of missions must assert itself to be heard amongst the competing voices; 2) The commitment of the Assemblies of God was to communicate with each donor what was happening with their investment; and 3) Missions deserved “priority status” so as not to be lost among other reports featured within the larger Evangel publication.

Global Conquest
continued as the official missions initiative, along with the free quarterly publication of the same name until 1967, when it was determined that some people incorrectly thought the title implied political ambitions. The name was changed to Good News Crusades, in support of the mass evangelism efforts of city outreaches, also called Good News Crusades, taking place on the field. The publication was changed from quarterly to bi-monthly.

In 1979, missions leaders realized that “crusades” might also carry bad connotations in some parts of the world and Good News Crusades was replaced by a monthly magazine, Mountain Movers. This periodical was sent free of charge to every Assemblies of God missions donor for almost 20 years. Joyce Wells Booze served as its initial editor. Under her leadership, there was a concerted effort to provide short articles written by missionaries on a reading level that would appeal to all ages.

Mountain Movers was merged into the Pentecostal Evangel in 1998, and the first Sunday edition of each monthly Evangel featured solely missions content. This practice continued until the Pentecostal Evangel ceased print publication in 2014.

Without the Pentecostal Evangel, Assemblies of God missions leaders felt it was vital to continue a steady stream of print communication about the needs and concerns of the worldwide evangelistic mission of the church. Worldview magazine was commissioned in 2015 as a monthly periodical to continue to fulfill the imperative of the mission enunciated by Hogan in 1959: to ensure that world evangelism is a priority in the Assemblies of God.

Read the announcement of the publication of Global Conquest on page 7 of the Aug. 30, 1959, issue of the Pentecostal Evangel.

Also featured in this issue:

• “Pentecost in the Philippines,” by Alfred Cawston

• “Miracles in A Missionary’s Life,” by C.M. Ward

• “Reaching the Children for Christ,” by Leonard and Genevieve Olson

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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J. Roswell Flower: Pentecostal Pioneer, Church Leader, Publisher, Statesman, Educator

This Week in AG History — August 16, 1970

By Darrin J. Rodgers
Originally published on AG-News, 18 August 2022

J. Roswell Flower (1888-1970) was elected, at age 25, to serve as the first general secretary of the Assemblies of God. He went on to become one of the Fellowship’s most prominent leaders in its first four decades. When he went to be with the Lord, General Superintendent Thomas F. Zimmerman declared, “The name of J. Roswell Flower was synonymous with the Assemblies of God.”

Flower demonstrated remarkable leadership at a young age. He proved adept at writing and publishing, which gave him a platform in the emerging Pentecostal movement. In 1908, just over one year after his conversion, he began publishing a small magazine, The Pentecost. At the time, he was just 20 years old. In 1910, he gave the magazine to ministry colleague A.S. Copley. He married Alice Reynolds in 1911, and together they began another magazine, the Christian Evangel, in 1913. It was the only weekly Pentecostal periodical in existence.

When the Assemblies of God was organized in April 1914, Flower was only 25 years old. There were many people in attendance who were older and more experienced, yet delegates entrusted Flower to serve as the first general secretary. He also served as manager of Gospel Publishing House and, in 1919, he became the first Foreign Missions secretary.

Flower was an early champion of education. In 1922, he encouraged Pentecostals to support the establishment of a school in India in order to secure “greater and more permanent results for God.” He was one of the original faculty members of Central Bible Institute (CBI), which was founded in Springfield, Missouri, in 1922. In 1923, he proposed that all Assemblies of God missionaries be required to spend a term at CBI, which would allow church leaders to train and get to know the character and abilities of prospective missionaries. Flower’s proposal proved unpopular, however, and he was not re-elected at the 1923 General Council. He instead became Foreign Missions treasurer. Two years later, he was not re-elected to that position.

J. Roswell and Alice Flower moved to Pennsylvania, where they spent the next decade in pastoral and district leadership. In 1929, he was elected to serve as superintendent of the Eastern District Council. He was a regular lecturer at Bethel Bible Training School, an Assemblies of God school in New Jersey. Significantly, he helped Alice to establish a summer Bible school, located on the Eastern District campground, which was the forerunner of the University of Valley Forge. Flower emphasized education because he believed that careful study of the Bible would be essential for the growth and maturation of the Assemblies of God.

Delegates to the 1935 General Council elected Flower to again serve as general secretary, a position he would hold until his retirement in 1959. During this period Flower emerged as a leading Pentecostal statesman, encouraging cooperative efforts among believers with similar faith commitments. He labored to make the Assemblies of God a founding member of the National Association of Evangelicals, and he helped form the Pentecostal Fellowship of North America and the Pentecostal World Fellowship. Flower also was involved in civic leadership, serving on the Springfield City Council and on the boards of various organizations.

J. Roswell Flower’s remarkable leadership flowed out of his rich spiritual life. He and Alice modeled a home life that bore witness to the sanctifying power of the Holy Spirit. Alice was a prolific author and preacher, and her sermons, books, and articles on the Christian home were widely read. They practiced what they preached. Five of their six children also entered full-time ministry; the sixth died while in Bible school.

It is appropriate that Flower became the namesake of the archives and museum located in the Assemblies of God national office. The Flower Pentecostal Heritage Center, which is the largest Pentecostal archives in the world, preserves and promotes the heritage of a movement for which Flower helped lay the foundation.

Read the article, “J.R. Flower with Christ,” on page 4 of the Aug. 16, 1970, issue of the Pentecostal Evangel.

Also featured in this issue:

• “What the Holy Spirit Does,” by Harvey McAlister

• “We Preached in Romania” by Joe G. Mazzu Jr.

• “New Arkansas Teen Challenge Reaching Desperate Youth”

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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From Fascism to Christ: Bruno Frigoli Fought for Mussolini, Found Christ, and Became an Assemblies of God Leader in Bolivia

Bruno Frigoli (right), who ministered to Colonel Banzer’s soldiers in 1958, presenting a Bible to Hugo Banzer, president of Bolivia, in 1972.

This Week in AG History — June 18, 1972

By Glenn W. Gohr
Originally published on AG-News, June 16, 2022

In his teenage years, Bruno Frigoli was an Italian soldier and fought for Mussolini in World War II. After he was tried and acquitted of war crimes, he decided to start a new life in Bolivia, where he converted to Christ. Bruno became an Assemblies of God minister and missionary, serving in both Bolivia and the United States.

Bruno Robert Frigoli (1926-2020) was born in Ronchi dei Legionari, Northern Italy. His father was a lieutenant colonel in the Italian army, and at the age of 17, Bruno joined the war effort as a soldier under Mussolini. He attended a military college in Italy and trained for specialized anti-guerilla operations. He received several commendations for his work in this kind of warfare. He became a first lieutenant in the Italian army with the special troops of the Alps and took part in several dangerous missions.

In his last mission, before the collapse of the Italian army, he and a fellow officer were chosen to scout out an area, and they were ambushed. The other officer was killed by a barrage of bullets. Frigoli’s ear was grazed, so he decided to lay down on the ground next to the other officer to pretend he also had been killed. Later that night, once the coast was clear, he crawled and staggered back to camp, bringing the body of his comrade with him so that he would have the honor of a military funeral.

When the war ended, Frigoli and other Italian officers were confined to a prison at Sondrio, Italy. Over time, each of them were brought to trial for their war crimes, and 12 out of 13 of them were executed. Only Bruno remained. When it was his turn to come to trial, the Catholic chaplain took the opportunity to speak favorably of Bruno. He said that Bruno was a kind-hearted man. He could not be a brutal killer and was only carrying out orders. Something changed the attitude of the prosecutor, and suddenly he pronounced that Officer Frigoli should be freed. The judge said, “Cleared. Not guilty! You are free to go.”

Even with his freedom, there were still people who wanted Bruno dead because of his previous involvement with the Fascist army. He determined that he must leave Italy. He managed to scrape up enough money to travel to Argentina to begin a new life, and there he became a construction foreman under the Argentine government, overseeing a thousand workers. He married a hometown sweetheart from Italy named Tilly, and they had three children together. Even with successes in his life, he felt unsettled.

Eventually a friend convinced Bruno that riches awaited him in the jungles of northern Bolivia. He left his construction business in Bariloche, Argentina, and went to the Beni area of Bolivia in search of gold. After discouraging results from the search for gold, he established himself in Santa Cruz, Bolivia, working in the lumber industry. He became the manager of a sawmill that his wife’s family had purchased.

One day Bruno was traveling from Santa Cruz toward the jungle. He flung his army shirt over the back of the seat. After several hours he noticed the shirt was gone, and it had all his important documents in it. By this time it was getting dark. What was he going to do? He came across two women, Pearl Estep and Flora Shafer, who were Assemblies of God missionaries. They were traveling toward Santa Cruz. He told them about losing the shirt somewhere along the way. He asked if they would look for it and return it to him when he came back to the city. If they found it, the best place to meet, they said, was the church.

Bruno agreed to meet them at their church on his return trip. He arrived at the church in time for the morning service, and he met the pastor, missionary Everett Hale. The pastor told him the women had not returned, but if he would come to the evening service, he could talk to them. The women came to the evening service, but they had been unable to locate the shirt.

Bruno was not very impressed with the little church and was disappointed that his shirt was not found. But something about the church caused him to return. On Good Friday, April 3, 1953, a guest preacher from the Salvation Army preached. Bruno and his brother-in-law, Leonardo, both were in attendance. The message was about the Prodigal Son, and both of the men felt like they needed God. They both went forward at the altar call and prayed for salvation. One year later, Bruno received the baptism in the Holy Spirit at a church in La Paz, Bolivia.

Soon after this, Bruno began preparing for ministry. He became a Sunday School superintendent and pioneered a new assembly at the edge of the jungle. He was anxious to serve God in any way possible. He asked himself repeatedly, “Am I doing enough?” He wanted to step into full-time ministry.

Then tragedy struck. The Frigolis were in a terrible auto accident, and Tilly was killed. Bruno suffered major injuries and was flown back to Italy to recover. His three children were placed with Tilly’s parents. He eventually returned to Bolivia, and he became a full-time pastor.

Bruno received local ordination in December 1961. He attended Central Bible Institute in Springfield, Missouri, in 1962. During this same time he met his wife, Frances Ruth (Hiddema) Frigoli, who was serving as a missionary nurse in Bolivia. They were married on June 18, 1962.

Bruno received U.S. ordination through the New Jersey District in October 1967 while serving as a missionary. At that time he was pastor of the Evangelistic Center of the Assemblies of God, which was Bolivia’s largest Protestant church and located in the heart of La Paz, the capital city. He also served as the national secretary before becoming general superintendent of the Assemblies of God in Bolivia. He was an international Bible teacher, and he also was in charge of a night Bible school in Bolivia. He served on various boards, including the Lausanne Committee for World Evangelization.

The Frigolis served together as missionaries in Bolivia, Peru, and Argentina for 30 years. They also worked for LIFE Publishers. Frances passed away in July 2019, and Bruno passed away on May 10, 2020, in Grandville, Michigan.

In an interview with Bruno Frigoli in 1972, he shared about his amazing conversion and his subsequent missionary work in Bolivia and Latin America. He had been trained to fight in anti-guerrilla warfare in the Alps of Italy and ended up becoming a soldier of the Cross in the Andes of South America.

Frigoli’s story was also featured in a Revivaltime booklet produced by C. M. Ward that outlined his testimony of a former Fascist who later served Christ as a missionary in Bolivia.

Read “From the Alps to the Andes” on page 24 of the June 18, 1972, issue of the Pentecostal Evangel.

Also featured in this issue:

• “The Day That Changed My Life,” by Glen Bonds

• “Outreach to a College Community”

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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From Norway to Nepal: Agnes Beckdahl, Pioneer Pentecostal Missionary

This Week in AG History — April 9, 1967

By Glenn W. Gohr
Originally published on AG-News, April 7, 2022

Agnes Nikola (Thelle) Beckdahl (1876-1968) was one of the first Pentecostal evangelists to Denmark, Germany, Switzerland, and England, and for over 50 years she served as an Assemblies of God missionary in Northern India near the border of Nepal.

Beckdahl was born at Andoen, an island near Kristiansand off the coast of Norway. She made a commitment to serve God in her teen years and later renewed her dedication at age 20. At that time, she felt a strong conviction that she was called to the mission field.

In December 1906, soon after the aftershocks from the Azusa revival had reached the European continent, Beckdahl ventured to Christiania (now Oslo), the capital of Norway, to help in mission and jail service at the Christiania Bymission (City Mission), founded by T. B. Barratt. While attending Barratt’s mission and Bible school, she opened her heart to more of God. Soon she received the baptism in the Holy Spirit.

Beginning in May 1907, Agnes, and a Norwegian coworker, Dagmar Gregersen, traveled as missionary evangelists in Denmark, Germany, Switzerland, Great Britain, and several other places. Many years later she reported on these travels: “We were the first to bring the Pentecostal testimony to Germany in spring time 1907. Went through seven countries in Europe including the Eastern United States from Boston, Massachusetts and Connecticut and New York State. I think more than 2,000 were saved and filled with the Spirit on that tour. It was a wonderful revival with an outpouring of the Holy Ghost in convicting power upon the whole world during that time!”

After traveling in evangelistic work in Europe and the United States, Beckdahl attended the Missionary Institute at Nyack, New York, in preparation to go as a missionary to India. Stopping in Norway and in England first, she arrived in India on May 10, 1910. She visited Pandita Ramabai’s Mukti Mission in Poona, India. While at Poona, she met a Salvation Army officer from Denmark named Christian Beckdahl. They kept in touch. Agnes ended up going to the Mission House at Fyzabad, India, and Christian began missionary work near the border of Nepal with the American Pentecostal Mission. Later Agnes and two coworkers were at a mission station in Nepalganj, also on the border of Nepal. Christian and Agnes decided to get married. The marriage took place in the Scandinavian Evangelical Mission in Brooklyn, New York, on Aug. 14, 1915. Two days later, they both were ordained as missionaries with the Assemblies of God at Wells Memorial Gospel Assembly in Tottenville, New York.

After some deputational work, the Beckdahls sailed for India in December 1915. They established a work in Nanpara on the border of Nepal, where Agnes had previously lived. The Beckdahls traveled throughout Northern India and in Nepal, evangelizing everywhere they went. They served as missionaries together in India for over 50 years until Christian’s death in November 1950. They raised one son, Samuel Beckdahl, who also served as an AG missionary in India and who married Ruth Merian, daughter of AG missionaries Fred and Lillian Merian.

After her husband’s death, Agnes Beckdahl returned to the United States where she lived in retirement in Pinellas Park Home and later in Bethany Retirement Home in Lakeland, Florida. She passed away on Jan. 17, 1968, at the age of 91.

During the 1960s, the Pentecostal Evangel published a series of profiles of early Assemblies of God ministers and missionaries. One of these profiles featured Agnes Beckdahl and her missionary work at Nanpara, India.

Read Agnes Beckdahl’s article, “Along the Nepal Border,” on page 22 of the April 9, 1967, issue of the Pentecostal Evangel.

Also featured in this issue:

• “The Old Farmer” by Bruce S. Williams

• “Tend Your Garden,” by Joyce Wells Booze

And many more!

Click here to read these issues 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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Elizabeth Sisson: Pioneer Pentecostal Missionary, Evangelist, Church Planter, Author

This Week in AG History — February 18, 1922

By Glenn W. Gohr
Originally published on AG-News, 17 February 2022

Elizabeth Sisson (1843-1934) was an early missionary, itinerant evangelist, church planter, and author. She was one of four daughters born to New England whaling captain, William Sisson, and his wife Elizabeth (Hempstead) Sisson. She was converted in 1863 in New London, Connecticut, and felt a calling to ministry. She reported that she saw a vision of Christ, who said to her: “I have ordained you.” She joined Second Congregational Church and later attended an Episcopal church.

In 1871 she left the U.S. to serve India as a missionary for the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions (ABCFM) where she ministered among Hindus and Moslems. After she was stricken with severe illness, Sisson was forced to leave India for a period of recuperation in London. She reported that she was healed of an “incurable disease” at W. S. Boardman’s Bethshan Faith Home in London. In 1887 she returned to the U.S. and was a gospel worker in Chicago for a time.

She soon took up a teaching and writing ministry. During this period, she became associated with Carrie Judd Montgomery and became the associate editor of Triumphs of Faith in Buffalo, New York. The two women went to San Francisco in the fall of 1889, where Carrie met and married George Montgomery. During this time Sisson attended some tent meetings held by Maria Woodworth-Etter in Oakland. She later resigned her post with Triumphs of Faith and returned to New England, where she was baptized in the Holy Spirit at a camp meeting at Old Orchard, Maine.

For several years Sisson traveled as an evangelist, accompanied by her sister Charlotte. She held meetings in New England, Canada, and other places. In 1908 she made an evangelistic tour to the British Isles. She spent four months ministering with F. F. Bosworth in Dallas in 1915. That same year she also ministered in Detroit.

Sisson attended and actively participated in the 1917 General Council. She delivered the keynote address on the topic of “building of the body of Christ.” She became affiliated with the Assemblies of God soon afterwards on Dec. 18, 1917, at the age of 74. In her final years she made her home at 17 Jay Street, New London, Connecticut.

Sisson became a sought-after conference speaker and was a prolific writer. She contributed articles to Word and Work (Framingham, Massachusetts), Confidence (Sunderland, England), The Latter Rain Evangel (Chicago), the Pentecostal Evangel, and Triumphs of Faith (Oakland, California). She contributed more than 65 articles to the Pentecostal Evangel and well over 100 articles to other Pentecostal periodicals. In addition, she authored over 30 tracts and booklets. Many of these focused on the topic of prayer. She passed away at her home on Sept. 17, 1934, at the age of 91.

One of her articles on prayer, written 100 years ago, was called “The Last Lap of the Race.” It included a three-point message on 1) the prayer race, 2) how to pray, and 3) the victory.

She started out by saying, “On a racecourse everything depends, not on the beginning of the race … but when comes the last lap of the race, how every eye is fixed upon the runners.”

She stressed that as Pentecostals, we have come to that critical moment — the last lap of a race. And she said this 100 years ago. How much more relevant is this idea today. She quoted the powerful verse in Joel 2:28: “It shall come to pass in the last days, saith the Lord, I will pour out my Spirit upon ALL flesh.”

She considered this outpouring of God’s Spirit upon all flesh as the last blaze of glory in the Gentile age. She wrote that “truly we are in the last lap of the prayer race. It is ours to apprehend the program of God and pray it in.”

She emphasized the vital importance of prayer with a single declaration: “Restrain prayer, retard God’s operations. Increase prayer in the Holy Ghost, and speed this plan of God.” Indeed, when in prayer we have given Him “good measure pressed down and running over,” He will answer back with “gospel measure,” said Sisson.

Sisson listed many examples of answered prayer. She recommended being “hidden in the name of Jesus, covered by the blood” when you pray. She also stressed that it is the power of Jesus’ Name that brings the “Victory of the Throne” when praying. Sisson gave several examples from the Old Testament regarding prayer and praise. She stressed that true victory comes through praising God.

Read Elizabeth Sisson’s article, “The Last Lap of the Race,” which was published on page 2 of the Feb. 4, 1922, issue of the Pentecostal Evangel and continued on page 2 of the Feb. 18, 1922, issue of the Pentecostal Evangel.

Also featured in this issue:

• “The Return of the Lord,” by Arthur W. Frodsham

• “Seven Reasons Why Sick Are Not Healed,” by Max Wood Moorhead

And many more!

Click here and then here to read these issues 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 First African American Assemblies of God Minister: Ellsworth S. Thomas

From the Ellsworth S. Thomas ministerial file, FPHC

by Darrin J. Rodgers

Ellsworth S. Thomas (1866-1936) holds the distinction of being the first African American to hold Assemblies of God (AG) ministerial credentials. His name was just a footnote in the history books until recently, when new information came to light.

Ellsworth S. Thomas was born in March 1866 in New York. His parents, Samuel and Mahala, were part of a free black community in Binghamton, New York, that pre-existed the Civil War. They overcame racism and societal restrictions, developed strong families, and carved out their own religious, economic, and social niche in the region.[1]

Samuel was born in Maryland in 1830 and worked as a laborer. He was also a Civil War veteran, serving for three years (1863-1865) as a private in the Massachusetts 54th Infantry. Ellsworth was born about nine months after his father returned home from the war.[2] Mahala was born in 1842 in Pennsylvania and worked as a laundress.[3] According to the 1880 census, Ellsworth was partially blind.[4] He attended common school,[5] which probably consisted of local blacks who joined together and made private arrangements to hire a teacher.[6] After Samuel passed away in the early 1890s, Ellsworth lived with his mother and cared for her. She died on April 24, 1913.[7] Census records show that Ellsworth owned a modest house (valued at $2,000 in 1930) and that most of his neighbors were white.[8] He never married.[9]

Binghamton city directories from 1888-1892 reveal that Ellsworth was a laundryman and a laborer. Beginning in 1899, though, they listed his occupation as a traveling evangelist.[10] His name first appeared in the AG ministers’ directory in October 1915, which stated that he was a “colored” pastor in Binghamton.[11]

In 1917, AG leaders asked existing ministers to re-submit applications for credentials, apparently because paperwork had not been kept during the earliest years of the Fellowship. Robert Brown, influential pastor of Glad Tidings Tabernacle in New York City, endorsed Ellsworth’s 1917 application. On the application, Ellsworth stated that he was originally ordained on December 7, 1913, by Robert E. Erdman, a Pentecostal pastor from Buffalo, New York.[12]

Records at the Flower Pentecostal Heritage Center show that Thomas pastored a congregation in Beaver Meadows, New York, from about 1917 until about 1922. He remained an AG evangelist for the remainder of his life. He held evangelistic meetings in the area around Binghamton, he held regular services in his home, and he pastored again briefly in about 1926.[13] He also was a regular speaker in the 1930s at two other black churches in Binghamton—Shiloh Baptist Church and Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church.[14]

A 1936 letter from Paul Westendorf informed the Pentecostal Evangel of Ellsworth’s death on June 12, 1936. He was 70 years old and passed away in Binghamton after a serious illness. Westendorf wrote,

He has been in the Council Fellowship for many years and so will be remembered throughout the Eastern District. Brother Thomas was faithful and true to the Lord in all kinds of circumstances, serving Him with gladness, therefore we feel that he had an abundant entrance in the presence of the Lord.[15]

Thomas’s funeral was held in Christ Episcopal Church in Binghamton, the oldest Episcopal congregation in the city, with the church’s pastor, Theodore J. Dewees, officiating. Thomas was buried in the Christ Episcopal Church plot in Spring Forest Cemetery.[16]

The newsletter of the Eastern District (which included Pennsylvania, Delaware, New York, and New Jersey) noted Thomas’s passing:

Brother Ellsworth S. Thomas has been taken home to glory, but very little has been learned about the details. His funeral was conducted by the rector of Christ Church, Episcopal, in Binghamton…Many will remember Brother Ellsworth as a Bible teacher and some of the ministers will remember the fellowship we had with Brother Thomas one morning before meetings opened up, at the council in Rochester years ago, when we all sang “He’s Coming in Power” and Brother Thomas got to dancing in the Spirit, while he held onto a near-by [sic] door because of his almost being blind. He is one more of our number who is on the other side![17]

Ellsworth S. Thomas’s passing was also briefly noted on page 13 of the July 25, 1936, issue of the Pentecostal Evangel.[18] A photograph of Thomas has not been located.

When Ellsworth S. Thomas transferred his ordination to the AG in 1915, the Fellowship was only a year old. He probably did not know that he was the AG’s first credentialed black minister. Thomas became known throughout the Eastern District for his Bible teaching and for his good cheer despite the obstacles he faced, including partial blindness. He never pastored a large congregation, but he was faithful where God placed him. Over the years, memories of this pioneer dimmed. However, Ellsworth S. Thomas remains an example, not just for black ministers, but for all who desire to follow Christ wholeheartedly.

Adapted from: Darrin J. Rodgers, “The Untold Stories of Three Black Assemblies of God Pioneers,” Assemblies of God Heritage 39/40 (2019-2020): 37-41.


[1] Keisha N. Benjamin, “Free Blacks in Nineteenth Century Binghamton,” Binghamton Journal of History 6 (2006).

[2] U.S., Civil War Soldier Records and Profiles, 1861-1865. Ancestry.com

[3] 1870 U.S. Federal Census. Binghamton Ward 2, Broome Co., New York, 27.

[4] 1880 U.S. Federal Census. District 38, Binghamton, Broome Co., New York, 22B.

[5] Ellsworth S. Thomas, ministerial file, FPHC.

[6] Benjamin, “Free Blacks in Nineteenth Century Binghamton.”

[7] New York Death Index. Ancestry.com.

[8] 1900 U.S. Federal Census. District 0013, Binghamton Ward 05, Broome Co., New York, 12A-B; 1930 U.S. Federal Census. District 0023, Binghamton Ward 05, Broome Co., New York, 10A.

[9] Ellsworth S. Thomas, ministerial file, FPHC.

[10] Binghamton City Directories, Ancestry.com.

[11] Assemblies of God ministerial directory, 1915, 16.

[12] Ellsworth S. Thomas, ministerial file, FPHC.

[13] Ellsworth S. Thomas, ministerial file, FPHC.

[14] Press and Sun Bulletin (Binghamton, NY), June 17, 1933, 16; Press and Sun Bulletin (Binghamton, NY), September 16, 1933, 9; Press and Sun Bulletin (Binghamton, NY), December 23, 1933, 9.

[15] Ibid.

[16] Eastern District Bulletin, October 1936, 21; Obituary, “Ellsworth H. [sic] Thomas,” Press and Sun Bulletin (Binghamton, NY), June 15, 1936, 5.

[17] Eastern District Bulletin, October 1936, 21.

[18] Pentecostal Evangel, July 25, 1936, 13.

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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How Should Christians Respond to Global Turmoil? Three Pentecostal Responses to the Attack on Pearl Harbor

This Week in AG History — January 10, 1942

By Darrin J. Rodgers
Originally published on AG-News, 13 January 2022

The Imperial Japanese Navy conducted a surprise military strike on the United States naval base at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, on the morning of December 7, 1941. The following day the United States declared war on Japan, and within a few days America was fully embroiled in the Second World War.

How should the Assemblies of God respond to this world crisis? The January 10, 1942, issue of the Pentecostal Evangel published three articles addressing this pressing question.

Pentecostal Evangel Editor Stanley H. Frodsham, in an article titled, “Keeping Tranquil in a World of Turmoil,” cautioned believers to not become caught up in the destructive patterns of the world. He predicted that the “insanity” of the nations would not last forever and instead urged Christians to remain calm. He admonished readers to act according to an eternal perspective, reminding them of Matthew 5:5, “the meek shall inherit the earth.” Frodsham’s irenic posture during the early years of the Second World War was in continuity with his earlier opposition to the First World War (1914-1918).

Raymond T. Richey shared a different perspective about the war. In an article titled, “Evangelizing at our Army Camps,” he wrote about his experience as a military chaplain during both world wars. Richey was known for holding evangelistic meetings in his “patriotic tent” (which was constructed of red, white and blue cloth) and he saw thousands of soldiers accept Christ. He encouraged readers to pray for and support chaplains, suggesting that army camps “present the greatest opportunity for home missionary work that ever has been.”

Evangelist E. Ellsworth Krogstad, in a sermon titled “Loyalty to Government and to God in the Present World Crisis,” encouraged American Christians to be loyal to their government, which he claimed was “founded upon godly principles.” He acknowledged America’s imperfections, but he also “(thanked) God for the privilege of living in America.” America was great, according to Krogstad, because it provided the “greatest liberty,” including freedom of speech, press, assembly, and worship.

The responses to the outbreak of the Second World War by Frodsham, Richey, and Krogstad demonstrate that early Pentecostals were not cookie-cutter thinkers. Frodsham promoted pacifism, Richey was known for his patriotism, and Krogstad emphasized the blessings of American liberty. They each had their own perspectives on politics and world events. However, all agreed that American Christians needed to pray fervently and with great contrition. They took seriously the notion that the Christian’s citizenship, ultimately, lay in heaven and not on earth. It was with this deep conviction that they encouraged readers, in the midst of global turmoil, to place their primary focus on things eternal.

Read the articles by Frodsham, Richey, and Krogstad in the January 10, 1942, issue of the Pentecostal Evangel.

Also featured in this issue:

* “Watchmen, What of the Night?” by Noel Perkin

* “Ezra Teaches Separation,” by J. Bashford Bishop

* “The Sadhu,” by Mary Warburton Booth

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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Maria Gerber: How a Pentecostal Missionary Became an “Angel of Mercy” During the Armenian Genocide

This Week in AG History —December 4, 1915

By Darrin J. Rodgers
Originally published on AG-News, 09 December 2021

An estimated 800,000 to 1,500,000 ethnic Armenians living in the Ottoman Empire (present day Turkey) were systematically rounded up and killed by Ottoman authorities between the years 1915 and 1918. The Armenian Genocide, as it came to be known, is the second-most studied case of genocide, following the Jewish Holocaust.

Newspapers around the world reported on the suffering endured by the mostly Christian Armenians. Right in the midst of the conflict was Maria A. Gerber (1858-1917), an early Pentecostal missionary who had established an orphanage in Turkey for Armenian victims.

Gerber was born in Switzerland, where she was raised with 11 siblings by Mennonite parents. As a child, she did not have an interest in spiritual things, because she saw her mother weep when she read her Bible. She thought that Scripture must be the cause of sadness.

Gerber was a carefree child and loved to sing and dance. But, at age 12, she was stricken with multiple ailments, including rheumatic fever, heart trouble, tuberculosis, and dropsy. The doctor’s prognosis was not good — Gerber only had a short time to live.

Fear gripped Gerber’s heart. She had never committed her life to the Lord. She knew that if she died, she would not go to heaven. Gerber cried out, “Jesus, I want you to save me from my sins.” Immediately, she felt peace deep inside her soul. She was ready to die.

But God had other plans for the young girl. Gerber quickly recovered from her incurable illness, much to everyone’s surprise. Gerber’s mother had been so confident that her daughter was on death’s doorstep that she had already given away all of her clothing. Her mother scrounged around and found clothes for Gerber.

Gerber shared her testimony of salvation and healing at school and in surrounding villages. She found her calling. She read Matthew 28:18 and sensed that verse was meant for her: “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me [Jesus]. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations…”

Gerber’s faith deepened as she blossomed into a young woman. She received training as a nurse, but in her heart she wanted to become a missionary. In 1889 a remarkable revival featuring healing and speaking in tongues came to her town in Switzerland. In her 1917 autobiography, Passed Experiences, Present Conditions, Hope for the Future, Gerber recounted the rapturous praise and numerous miracles that occurred in that early Swiss revival.

The young nurse wanted training for missions work and, in 1891, she headed for Chicago, where she attended Moody Bible Institute. By the mid-1890s, she heard about massacres of Armenian Christians that were occurring in the Ottoman Empire. Gerber and a friend, Rose Lambert, felt God calling them to minister to the Armenian widows and orphans.

Gerber and Lambert arrived in Turkey in 1898 and began working with the besieged Armenians. They began caring for orphans and purchased camel loads of cotton for widows to make garments for the orphans and for sale. Donors from America and Europe began supporting these two audacious women who had ventured into very dangerous territory to do the Lord’s work.

Gerber, in particular, found support among wealthy German Mennonites who lived in Russia. In 1904, they funded the construction of a series of large buildings to house hundreds of orphans and widows. Zion Orphans’ Home, located near Caesarea, became a hub of relief work and ministry in central Turkey. When persecution of Armenians intensified in 1915, resulting in the extermination of most Christian Armenians from Turkey, Zion Orphans’ Home was ready to help those in distress.

Gerber identified with the emerging Pentecostal movement as early as 1910. This should not be surprising, as she had experienced her own Pentecost 21 years earlier. The Assemblies of God supported her missions efforts, and numerous letters by Gerber were published in the Pentecostal Evangel. Assemblies of God leader D.W. Kerr, in the foreword to Gerber’s 1917 autobiography, wrote that he had known Gerber for 26 years and that her story will encourage readers “to greater self-denial and a deeper surrender.”

Gerber suffered a stroke and passed away on Dec. 6, 1917. Gerber’s obituary, published in the Pentecostal Evangel, stated that she was known as “the angel of mercy to the downtrodden Armenians.”

It would have been easy for Gerber to ignore the persecution of Armenians. The massacres were on the other side of the world. She could have stayed safe in America or in Europe. But Gerber followed God’s call and spent almost 20 years ministering to refugees who faced persecution and death. Few people today remember her name. But according to early Assemblies of God leaders, Maria Gerber personified what it meant to be Pentecostal.

Read one of Gerber’s articles, “Great Results Seen in Answer to Prayer,” on page 4 of the Dec. 4, 1915, issue of the Pentecostal Evangel.

Also featured in this issue:

• “Divine Love: The Supreme Test,” by Arch P. Collins

• “What Think Ye of Christ?” by M. M. Pinson

And many more!

Click here to read this issue now.

Read Maria A. Gerber’s obituary in the Jan. 5, 1918, edition of the Pentecostal Evangel (p. 13).

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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Fred Vogler: From Australia to Assemblies of God U.S. Missions Pioneer

This Week in AG History — October 4, 1941

By Glenn W. Gohr

Originally published on AG News, 7 October 2021

Fred Vogler (1888-1972), an immigrant from Australia, impacted the Assemblies of God in many ways, including serving as the first director of what is now U.S. Missions.

Vogler was born in Boonah, Queensland, Australia, and immigrated in the spring of 1905 with his parents and four of his 12 brothers and sisters, along with some 60 other Australians, to Zion City, Illinois, which was founded as a Christian community about 30 miles north of Chicago. They became affiliated with healing evangelist John Alexander Dowie, who also was originally from Australia. The Voglers learned about him through his magazine, Leaves of Healing, which reported on many testimonies of divine healing.

Fred Vogler was 17 when he arrived in Zion City, and previously he had been saved and felt called to preach. He had contact with the Salvation Army while still living in Australia, but he discovered a new dimension of Christian experience in Zion City. He attended some cottage prayer meetings that Charles Parham conducted there. This led him to be baptized in the Holy Spirit in 1907, and he joined with other young people who spent many hours waiting on the Lord. He also began to diligently look for opportunities for Christian service. Vogler was among a group who had weekly prayers meetings and who traveled on Sunday afternoons to nearby Kenosha, Wisconsin, to hold street meetings.

Early in 1908, Vogler (who had been working as a carpenter), left his employment to evangelize with Bennett Lawrence. A few months later, J. Roswell Flower joined them for meetings in the Indiana towns of Mooresville, Farmersburg, and Worthington. They also evangelized in other places, often without any advance arrangements. In spite of opposition at times, Vogler recalled, “God gave us the victory.”

In 1909, Vogler and Flower went to Kansas City, Missouri, to assist in tent meetings sponsored by A.S. Copley, an influential Pentecostal editor and preacher. There was opposition from some holiness preachers who strongly opposed Pentecostalism. But in the end, the sympathetic crowd sided with Vogler and Flower. One sister said, “God bless these young men! We ought to help, not condemn them.”

On April 7, 1910, Vogler married Margaret Boyer, who also had been part of the young people’s group at Zion City, Illinois. She had ministered for a while with a gospel team directed by William Manley, another influential early Pentecostal. For two years after their marriage, the Voglers lived in Zion City, where Fred was employed as a carpenter, and the Voglers were active in the local Christian Assembly as well as evangelism in the surrounding area.

In 1912, the Voglers left Zion for Plainfield, Indiana, where they enrolled in a new “faith” school called Gibeah Bible School, which was conducted by D.W. Myland. There they kindled friendships with J. Roswell and Alice Reynolds Flower and Flem Van Meter who also attended this Bible school.

After three terms at the school, the Voglers took over as pastors of a mission in Martinsville, Illinois, where they stayed for seven years. While living there, Fred Vogler was ordained by J. Roswell Flower and Ed Armstrong, becoming affiliated with the Assemblies of God on June 1, 1914.

Vogler also was a building contractor, which helped to support his growing family. Flower and others knew of his abilities, and in 1920, Vogler was enlisted to build the first wooden structure for Central Assembly in Springfield, Missouri. This building later housed the first two years of Central Bible Institute.

During his time in Springfield, Vogler visited his sister in Topeka, Kansas. He saw a great need for evangelism in the capital city of Kansas, so he began planning to pioneer a work there as soon as he finished the building project in Springfield.

Vogler moved his family to Topeka, where he rented a basement room across the street from the governor’s mansion. By day he worked as a carpenter/contractor building a large contracting firm in Topeka, and the rest of the time he devoted to establishing a church in cooperation with the fledgling Kansas district. In 1921 he accepted the added responsibility of serving as secretary-treasurer of the Kansas district.

In 1923, the Kansas district elected Fred Vogler to the office of superintendent, a role he filled for 14 years (1923-1937). In 1927, his beloved wife, Margaret, passed away, leaving him with five young children. He married Nettie Voelkel in 1931, who became a wonderful helpmate to him and a mother to his children.

In 1937, Fred Vogler was elected to the office of Assistant General Superintendent and moved to Springfield, Missouri, where he served 14 years as an executive officer for the Assemblies of God. As part of his duties, he became the first executive director of the Home Missions and Education Department. When the two areas were separated in 1945, he became the director of the Home Missions Department (now called U.S. Missions). Under his leadership, many churches were built in Alaska as well as other places across the U.S. He also had a burden for reaching Native Americans, which led to a number of Indian mission churches springing up in many areas. He also supervised the formation of the Ministers’ Benefit Association which later was called Aged Ministers’ Assistance, and in 1947 he headed the newly formed Department of Benevolences.

In 1954, Vogler retired from his executive duties and moved to Belleville, Illinois. He passed away there in 1972 at the age of 84. His wife, Nettie, passed away in 1982 at the age of 91. Three of Vogler’s children followed their parents into ministry. His only son, David, was an ordained Assemblies of God minister. Daughter Kathryn spent two years in home missions work, received ordination, and was an appointed missionary to India. Daughter Mary Vogler was an ordained minister who was active in child evangelism and in teaching at Great Lakes Bible Institute in Zion, Illinois. The two younger daughters, Ruth Riegle and Alice Howard, became active lay workers.

Commemorating this pioneer evangelist, pastor, builder and church executive, who influenced a full range of ministries, the Pentecostal Evangel observed, “His accomplishments were great because he had vision and was willing to give himself without reservation to see the vision fulfilled.”

During World War II, Fred Vogler, as executive director of Home Missions, talked about many critical issues the U.S. was facing, including crime, alcohol, and spending, as well as some religious statistics. He identified 60 million people in the United States without any church affiliation and 13 million children without any religious training. With so many people without God, he said, “We have a great field right here in America.” He expanded on this thought by saying, “We are not responsible to God for past generations, neither are we responsible to God for future generations, but we are responsible to God for the generation that now lives.” Vogler recognized the need for missionaries abroad, but he also saw a real need to evangelize and win the lost in the United States, especially during the crisis in the 1940s.

Read the article, “Home Missions in the Light of the Present World Crisis,” on page 2 of the Oct. 4, 1941, issue of the Pentecostal Evangel.

Also featured in this issue:

• “The Place of Youth in Our Movement,” by Wesley R. Steelberg

• “The Gospel in India” by Maynard L. Ketcham

• “A Call to Missionary Work,” by J. Bashford Bishop

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

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Rediscovering the Early Pentecostal Worldview: The Lost Message of Full Consecration

This Week in AG History —September 27, 1930

By Darrin J. Rodgers
Originally published on AG-News, 30 September 2021

“I sometimes wonder whether God is much interested in big movements. I know He is intensely interested in individual souls who are wholly consecrated to Him, and wholly devoted to His cause.” [1]    — Stanley Frodsham, editor of the Pentecostal Evangel

Early Pentecostal literature is overflowing with calls to full consecration — the insistence that Christians fully devote themselves to Christ and His mission. This call to full consecration — an essential part of the worldview of early Pentecostals — is now a faint echo in some quarters of the movement. Early Pentecostals offered profound insights concerning the need for a deeper spiritual life. A rediscovery of these insights — which focus on discipleship and mission — could reinvigorate the church by challenging believers to question the Western church’s accommodation of the materialism and selfishness of the surrounding culture.

FULL CONSECRATION

What is “full consecration?” The term may be unfamiliar to many readers. Stanley Horton noted, in a 1980 Pentecostal Evangel article, “In the early days of this Pentecostal movement we heard a great deal about consecration.” Horton went on to explain that the Hebrew word, kadash, which means consecration, was later replaced in popular piety by similar words, such as dedication and commitment. He noted that kadash signified a “separation to the service of God,” calling for not merely a partial dedication, but for “a total consecration and a lifestyle different from the [surrounding] world.”[2]

Pentecostalism emerged about 120 years ago among radical Holiness and evangelical Christians who aimed for full consecration. They were very uncomfortable with the gap between Scripture and what they saw in their own lives; between ought-ness and is-ness. They wanted to practice an authentic spirituality; a genuine Christianity, not just in confession, but in practice. Yearning for a deeper life in Christ, they were spiritually hungry and desired to be more committed Christ-followers. These ardent seekers saw in Scripture that Spirit baptism provided empowerment to live above normal human existence; this experience with God brought believers in closer communion with God and empowered them for witness.

According to Pentecostal theologian Jackie Johns, early Pentecostals embraced a worldview that, at its heart, is a “transforming experience with God.”[3] According to this understanding, the experience of being filled with the Holy Spirit enables believers to consecrate themselves to God.

RESULTS OF THE CONSECRATED LIFE


Various themes arose from this worldview that emphasized full consecration:

Mission — Pentecostals have demonstrated a gritty determination to share Christ, in word and deed, no matter the cost. They had a vision to turn the world upside down, one person at a time. Delegates to the second General Council of the Assemblies of God, held in November 1914, committed themselves to “the greatest evangelism that the world has ever seen.”[4]

Priesthood of all believers — Pentecostals have put into practice a radical application of this Protestant ideal, affirming that God can call anybody into the ministry — regardless of race, gender, educational or social status, age, handicap, and so on.

Spiritual disciplines — Believers prayed, read their Bibles, fasted, avoided worldly entanglements that would dilute their testimony, and called for a lifestyle of self-denial for the sake of lifting Christ up to the world.

Expectation of the miraculous — Believers practiced biblical spiritual gifts, experienced miracles, and viewed life’s struggles as spiritual warfare.

Racial reconciliation — Early Pentecostals at Azusa Street and elsewhere, realizing that full devotion to Christ precluded racial favoritism, committed themselves to overcoming the sin of racism.

A conviction that heavenly citizenship should far outweigh earthly citizenship — Early Pentecostals emphasized one’s faith and calling above national concerns.

These themes (the above list is not exhaustive) all made sense within the worldview that called for full devotion to Jesus and no compromise with evil or distractions from the Christian’s highest calling. Pentecostals, subject to human frailty and the confusion of surrounding cultures, have not always lived up to these ideals. Still, Pentecostal identity should not be defined by the shortcomings of individual members, but by the vision for authentic Christianity that captures the imagination of its adherents.

The concept of full consecration is the underlying quality that gave birth within early Pentecostalism to the above themes, including speaking in tongues. Early Pentecostals viewed tongues-speech as the evidence, but not the purpose, of Spirit baptism. The purpose of this experience with God was full consecration — to draw believers closer to God and to empower them to be witnesses. The Pentecostal experience enabled believers to live with purity and power.

Early Pentecostals recognized that the consecrated life came at great cost, but yielded great spiritual riches. Daniel W. Kerr, the primary author of the AG’s Statement of Fundamental Truths, warned against “the fading glory” on some Christians’ faces, and instead called for a “deeper conversion” that is marked by desire for holiness.[5] Quoting Hebrews 12:14, Kerr stated that holiness, “without which no man shall see the Lord,” is both a “product of grace” and “a life of self-denying and suffering.”[6] Early Pentecostals insisted that the consecrated life is not inward-focused. Kerr averred that holiness “is a life of love for others, manifested in words and work.”[7]

Early Pentecostals were ahead of their time. It should be noted that they were not buying into modern political or social ideologies; their commitments arose from their devotional life. Some of their commitments — such as women in ministry and racial reconciliation — brought persecution 100 years ago, but the culture has shifted so that these stands are now considered respectable by many. This newfound respectability presents a challenge — it is possible to look like a Pentecostal by embracing historic Pentecostal themes that are now considered “cool,” without also seeking to be fully consecrated.

PENTECOSTALISM WITH CONSECRATION?

Living out and conveying authentic Christian spirituality from one generation to the next has often proven a difficult task. Carl Brumback, in his 1961 history of the Assemblies of God, expressed concern over the decline of the spiritual life within the Pentecostal movement. He wrote:

It must be admitted that there is a general lessening of fervor and discipline in the Assemblies of God in America. This frank admission is not a wholly new sentiment, for down through the years in the pages of the Pentecostal Evangel and other periodicals correspondents have asked, “Is Pentecost the revival it was in the beginning?” As early as five years after Azusa, they were longing for “the good old days”! Nevertheless, it is vital to any revival movement to reassess not too infrequently the state of its spiritual life.[8]

Is it possible to be Pentecostal without full consecration? D. W. Kerr, in answering this question, propounded that “when we cease to [esteem others better than ourselves] we cease to live the Christ-life. We may still have the outward form, but the power is gone.”[9] Those who identify with the Pentecostal tradition but who practice or defend sinful or unwise activities are being inconsistent with the early Pentecostal worldview.

NEED FOR RENEWAL

Self-centered spirituality seems to be the default setting for humanity. “Pure and undefiled religion,” however, requires caring for the needy and keeping oneself unspotted from the world (James 1:27). Pentecostalism arose as a renewal and reform movement within Christianity — and now the movement may itself be in need of renewal and reform.

How can Pentecostals rekindle a wholehearted passion for Christ and His mission? Stanley Frodsham suggested that Christians need to form a daily habit of reconsecration.[10] Rediscovering classic Pentecostal and Holiness hymns and devotional writings would be a good place to start.

The classic Holiness hymn “Take My Life and Let It Be” (lyrics below) is a prayer for full consecration.

     Take My Life and Let It Be

     Take my life, and let it be consecrated, Lord, to Thee.
     Take my moments and my days; let them flow in ceaseless praise.
     Take my hands, and let them move at the impulse of Thy love.
     Take my feet, and let them be swift and beautiful for Thee.
     Take my voice, and let me sing always, only, for my King.
     Take my lips, and let them be filled with messages from Thee.
     Take my silver and my gold; not a mite would I withhold.
     Make my intellect, and use every power as Thou shalt choose.
     Take my will, and make it Thine; it shall be no longer mine.
     Take my heart, it is Thine own; it shall be Thy royal throne.
     Take my love, my Lord, I pour at Thy feet its treasure store.
     Take myself, and I will be ever, only, all for Thee.

Early Assemblies of God General Superintendent Ernest S. Williams wrote an article, “Consecration,” published in the Sept. 27, 1930, issue of the Pentecostal Evangel. He asserted, “Consecration is the only way to a life of Christian victory.” He went on to observe that “Unconsecrated persons may skim through satisfied with unsubstantialness in their religion. But he who would live above reproach to the honor and glory of God, will present his body a living sacrifice, not to be conformed to this world in example, spirit, or aim.”

For the consecrated believer, Williams wrote, “Christ becomes the source of his life and strength. In Him he finds wisdom, righteousness, sanctification, and redemption, his light, his life, his all in all.”

E.S. Williams, the only general superintendent who participated in the Azusa Street revival, frequently encouraged believers to lives of holiness and consecration.

Read early Pentecostal literature, sing old Holiness hymns, meditate upon them, and let God transform you. In doing so, you will rediscover the worldview of early Pentecostals.

Read E.S. Williams’ article, “Consecration,” on page 2 of the Sept. 27, 1930, issue of the Pentecostal Evangel.

Also featured in this issue:

• “What the Coming of Christ Will Produce in Our Lives” by Stanley Cooke

• “Moved with Compassion for India’s Millions” by Marguerite Flint

And many more!

Click here to read this issue now.

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

Endnotes:
1. Stanley Frodsham, Wholly for God: A Call to Complete Consecration, Illustrated by the Story of Paul Bettex, a Truly Consecrated Soul (Springfield, MO: Gospel Publishing House, 1934), 20.
2. Stanley Horton, “Consecration, Commitment, Submission,” Pentecostal Evangel, Feb. 10, 1980, 20.
3. Jackie David Johns, “Yielding to the Spirit: The Dynamics of a Pentecostal Model of Praxis,” in The Globalization of Pentecostalism: A Religion Made to Travel (Carlisle, CA: Regnum Books, 1999), 74.
4. General Council Minutes, April-November 1914 [combined], 12.
5. D. W. Kerr, Waters in the Desert (Springfield, MO: Gospel Publishing House, 1925), 77.
6. Ibid., 34.
7. Ibid., 33.
8. Carl Brumback, Suddenly from Heaven: A History of the Assemblies of God (Springfield, MO: Gospel Publishing House, 1961), 349-350.
9. Kerr, 130.
10. Frodsham, 61.

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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