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Royal Rangers Founder Johnnie Barnes: How a Methodist Minister Experienced the Baptism in the Holy Spirit

This Week in AG History —August 24, 1946

By Ruthie Edgerly Oberg
Originally published on AG News, 26 August 2021

John Henry Barnes (1927-1989), better known as “Johnnie,” is remembered as the giant of a man who developed the boys ministry program of the Assemblies of God, “Royal Rangers.” When asked by Assistant Superintendent Howard S. Bush in 1961 to take on the task of developing this aspect of the Men’s Fellowship, Barnes prayed, “Lord, I’m available, if this is what you want me to do, with the Spirit’s help, I will do it.”

Born the sixth of seven children on a Texas ranch, Barnes experienced numerous outdoor adventures while growing up. He was involved in Boy Scouts of America, reaching the rank of Life Scout and serving as a Junior Assistant Scoutmaster, and he planned to become a park ranger after graduating from high school. But in 1946 he surrendered his life to Christ in a Methodist revival service. Turning down a football scholarship to a Texas university he enrolled at Texas Wesleyan College to pursue ministry training.

Barnes was licensed in the Methodist church during his freshman year of college and was given a circuit of two small churches in Marionville and Sybill Bend to pastor while attending school. In January 1950 he accepted the pastorate of an Evangelical Methodist church in Lubbock, Texas. It was while pastoring in Lubbock that Barnes connected with a friend who had a Pentecostal experience. This friend encouraged the young Methodist pastor to seek God for the truth of a deeper experience with God in the Spirit.

During this time, Barnes received a letter from his girlfriend, Juanita, stating that she had received the baptism in the Holy Ghost and encouraged him to consider it. Hungering for more of the Lord, Barnes attended a revival meeting at a nearby Assemblies of God church in February 1950. He tells of this experience in a 1963 article, “How A Methodist Minister Received the Pentecostal Baptism,” published in the Pentecostal Evangel:

“The first night I went to the altar I was very conscious of my position as a Methodist minister. Kneeling very carefully on one knee I prayed something like this, ‘Here I am, Lord. If you want me to have this experience, give it to me.’ But I did not receive the Baptism that way. I soon realized I must forget about my position and simply desire the infilling of the Holy Spirit with all my heart. It took a few days of fasting and several hours of prayer to humble my stubborn proud spirit … then one wonderful night I went to the altar wanting more than anything else for God to fill me with the Holy Spirit. I fell on my knees, raised my hands toward heaven, and began to tell Jesus of my love for Him. Soon I was lost in the presence of Christ … when I came to myself I was speaking in a language I had never heard before. I knew beyond a shadow of doubt that this was the baptism of the Holy Ghost. God revolutionized my life that night so that I have not been the same person since.”

The following Sunday, Barnes preached a sermon to his Methodist church, “Why I Believe in the Baptism of the Holy Ghost.” The response was mixed but the consensus was that “Bro. Barnes is a different person from the one we used to know.”

Barnes resigned his church and began traveling as a Pentecostal evangelist. In August 1950, he married Juanita and in June 1951 was ordained with the Texas district of the Assemblies of God. He went on to pastor the Assembly of God church in Electra, Texas, and served as the district youth director of the North Texas district.

When Barnes began to develop the Royal Rangers program in 1962, he intentionally included teaching on the baptism in the Holy Spirit in each of its age-level programs. His own experience of the need for the power of the Spirit to equip him for the task ahead of him, along with the teaching of Scripture, convinced him that this must be a key component of ministry to men and boys. When Barnes passed away in 1989, there were 5,290 Royal Rangers groups in the United States with more than 128,000 young men being taught of their need for the power of the Holy Spirit in their lives.

Barnes later expanded and republished his 1963 Evangel article in pamphlet form, including a poem he wrote about his first experience in that 1950 Pentecostal service, entitled “First Nighter by Johnnie Barnes”:

I sat in the car till time to begin
Before I had nerve to get out and go in.
My heart began to jump, to bounce and to leap,
But I’d made a promise that I had to keep.
I slipped in the door and took a look around,
Then in the seat fartherest back I finally sat down.
I hoped no one would see me for I felt kinda low,
For I was a Methodist and rather dignified, you know.
Chills went up my spine and flutters through my heart,
Before the preacher said it was time to start.
“Let us pray,” said the preacher as he bowed his head,
But there were too many praying to hear what he said.
They started to sing and my goodness, my lands,
They were so irreverent they started clapping their hands!
They sang too fast and didn’t stop at the end;
But kept right on singing till they ran out of wind.
Someone called my name and that made me jump;
For that Pentecostal preacher had me up a stump.
“Will our Methodist brother testify?” the preacher said,
I stammered out the first thing that came into my head.
I sat back down kinda glad it was over;
But that preacher looked satisfied as a cow eating clover.
They started testifying and how the words did roll,
They said something about how good they felt in their souls.
The shouted, they danced, they stomped on the floor,
And that silly preacher hollered for more.
I was embarrassed and had all kinds of blues,
I felt like sinking way down in my shoes.
The preacher got up and took a text on Grace,
I’m telling you that man preached all over the place.
That man would walk, he would holler and leap,
He would wave his arms, then he would weep.
He told of the Holy Ghost and the unknown tongue.
And when he had finished I was glad he was done.
Then he called for the needy to come to the altar,
But I stood as firm as the Rock of Gibraltar.
When it was over they all shook my hand,
The men hugged my neck and said I was grand.
I couldn’t have been more uncomfortable sitting on a tack,
And when I left I swore I’d never come back.
But I did and finally I didn’t even mind
For everytime I went it got gooder each time.
As time went by and God led me on,
I realized God withheld nothing good from his own.
Then one day I paid the price God asked me to pay;
And my pride and ambition all vanished away.
Then God brought me from sagebrush to green pastures so fine;
For the promise of the Father at last was mine.


Read Johnnie Barnes’ article, “How A Methodist Minister Received the Pentecostal Baptism,” on page 10 of the Sept. 22, 1963, issue of the Pentecostal Evangel.

Also featured in this issue:

• “The Army of the Lord” by Richard E. Orchard

• “Riding On the Wind” by Zelma Argue

• “Trial By Fire” by Evelyn Bolton

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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Royal Rangers: Shaping Boys into Godly, Responsible Men Since 1962

Johnnie_Barnes_1400

Johnnie Barnes wearing a Revolutionary War outfit and holding a large Bible, 1976

This Week in AG History — September 23, 1962

By Darrin J. Rodgers
Originally published on PE-News, 21 September 2017

“A new age is upon us! It is an age of jet travel, space consciousness, pleasure madness, and moral indifference. Our boys are growing up in this overpowering environment. They will be the victims of it unless our church men do something to guide the energies and thoughts of the boys into right spiritual channels. Action must be taken quickly.”

Johnnie Barnes wrote these words in 1962, introducing readers of the Pentecostal Evangel to the new Royal Rangers discipleship program for boys.

Assemblies of God leaders in the 1950s and 1960s realized that shifting cultural currents posed significant challenges to the development of Christian manhood. They chose Johnnie Barnes (1927-1989), an energetic young preacher from Texas, to craft a new program to respond to this emerging discipleship crisis.

Barnes’ boyhood experience as a Boy Scout helped to prepare him for this new challenge. As a teenager, he was an Eagle Scout recipient, and his heart was set on being a park ranger. But God called him into the ministry, and by his early 20s he became a Methodist circuit-riding preacher. Barnes soon received the baptism of the Holy Spirit, which flooded his heart with a sense of God’s grace and power, accompanied by greater personal humility and power in his ministry. Barnes transferred his ministry credentials to the Assemblies of God, where he quickly became noted for his passion for ministry to men and boys.

When developing Royal Rangers, Barnes drew upon aspects of Boy Scouts, the Royal Ambassadors program of the Southern Baptist Convention, and similar programs. What resulted was a unique Pentecostal mentoring program that melded outdoor adventure, Christian service, and biblical training. Royal Rangers became a familiar rite of passage for boys in Assemblies of God churches across America and around the world.

As head of Royal Rangers, Barnes had a broad vision and built bridges across denominational lines. In 1975, Royal Rangers began allowing other denominations to charter groups. The Congregational Holiness Church was the first, followed by the International Pentecostal Holiness Church, the Pentecostal Free Will Baptist Church, the Church of God (Cleveland, Tennessee), and others. Today, churches of numerous denominations use the Royal Rangers program.

Since the founding of Royal Rangers in 1962, the spiritual and cultural decline of America has quickened, and the need for godly mentors for boys is greater. The legacy of Royal Rangers is demonstrated in the lives of over 2.5 million boys around the world who have participated in this program designed to mold boys into godly, responsible men.

Read the article by Johnnie Barnes, “A Bird’s-Eye View of our New Boys Program,” on pages 9 and 19 of the Sept. 23, 1962, issue of the Pentecostal Evangel.

To learn more about Royal Rangers and its flexible and adaptable programs, visit the Royal Rangers website.

Also featured in this issue:

* “Rescue the Prayer Meeting,” by Lloyd Christiansen

* “Always be Joyful,” by F. Helen Jarvis

* “The Pentecostal Dimension in Education,” by G. Raymond Carlson

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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Royal Rangers

This Week in AG History — September 23, 1962

By Darrin Rodgers
Originally published on AG-News, Mon, 23 Sep 2013 – 4:24 PM CST

“A new age is upon us! It is an age of jet travel, space consciousness, pleasure madness, and moral indifference. Our boys are growing up in this overpowering environment. They will be the victims of it unless our church men do something to guide the energies and thoughts of the boys into right spiritual channels. Action must be taken quickly.”

Johnnie Barnes wrote these words in 1962, introducing readers of the Pentecostal Evangel to the new Royal Rangers discipleship program for boys.

Assemblies of God leaders in the 1950s and 1960s realized that shifting cultural currents posed significant challenges to the development of Christian manhood. They chose Johnnie Barnes, a fiery young preacher from Texas, to craft a new program to respond to this emerging discipleship crisis.

When developing Royal Rangers, Barnes drew upon aspects of Boy Scouts, the Royal Ambassadors program of the Southern Baptist Convention, and similar programs. What resulted was a unique Pentecostal mentoring program that melded outdoor adventure, Christian service, and Biblical training. Royal Rangers became a familiar rite of passage for boys in Assemblies of God churches across America and around the world.

As head of Royal Rangers, Barnes had a broad vision and built bridges across denominational lines. Additional Pentecostal fellowships began to charter Royal Rangers groups, including the Congregational Holiness Church, the International Pentecostal Holiness Church, the Pentecostal Free Will Baptist Church, and the Church of God (Cleveland, Tennessee). Over the past 51 years, over 2.5 million boys across the world have participated in this program designed to mold boys into godly, responsible men.

Read the article by Johnnie Barnes, “A Bird’s-Eye View of our New Boys Program,” on pages 9 and 19 of the September 23, 1962, issue of the Pentecostal Evangel.

To learn more about Royal Rangers and its flexible and adaptable programs, visit the Royal Rangers website.

Also featured in this issue:

* “Rescue the Prayer Meeting,” by Lloyd Christiansen

* “Always be Joyful,” by F. Helen Jarvis

* “The Pentecostal Dimension in Education,” by G. Raymond Carlson

And many more!

Click here to read this issue now.

Pentecostal Evangel archived editions courtesy of the Flower Pentecostal Heritage Center. For current editions of the Evangelclick here.

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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