Assemblies of God

views updated May 14 2018


The largest organized church in the pentecostal movement. Its origins may be found in the holiness revival within the Methodist Church in the decades immediately following the Civil War. It grew out of the broader Pentecostal movement of the early 20th century, which reflected influences of the Holiness and Fundamentalist (biblicism) movements. The main distinction between the pentecostal groups and the other denominations that grew from the same source lies in their belief that, after the religious experience of conversion and of the baptism by the Holy Spirit that sanctifies and cleanses from inner sin, it is part of the divine dispensation that the same charismatic signs that marked the Apostles after the first Pentecost should reappear in the Christian community. Thus, the "second blessing" of the holiness sects is made manifest among the pentecostals by the healing of the sick and speaking with tongues. Baptist influence is seen in the practice of immersion and in the rejection of infant baptism.

The Apostolic Faith Movement, the immediate precursor of the Assemblies of God, began (1901) at Bethel Bible College, Topeka, Kans. Charles F. Parham, a holiness revival preacher, had organized this small institution the previous year to offer courses in Scripture study and to prepare men and women for the evangelistic ministry. Speaking in unknown tongues became common among the Topeka students, and this form of the "second blessing" began to manifest itself in revival meetings. Pentecostal congregations developed in Kansas, Missouri, and Oklahoma in a loose fellowship. William J. Seymour experienced a similar outpouring of the Holy Spirit in Texas and founded a holiness mission (1906) in Los Angeles, Calif. One of his converts, G. B. Cashwell, conducted similar revivals in North Carolina. The same type of pentecostal movement sprang up elsewhere, with such leaders

as A. J. Tomlinson gathering (1908) the Church of God at Cleveland, Tenn., and Elder C. H. Mason forming the Church of God in Christ the same year.

In the Dec. 20, 1913, issue of Word and Witness published in Malvern, Ark., editor E. N. Bell called "saints who believe in the baptism with the Holy Ghost, with signs following" to a meeting in Hot Springs, Ark. In 1914 a general convention of Pentecostal Saints and Churches of God in Christ was held at Hot Springs, Ark. Endorus N. Bell, pastor of a Baptist church in Texas and editor of the pentecostal Word and Witness, and J. Roswell Flower, editor of the Christian Evangel, were the prime movers of the meeting. Its aim was to recognize the need for a standard in the ministry and preaching of the pentecostal movement, for fellowship between the congregations, and for a centralized agency for foreign missionary work. A missionary board, the Home and Foreign Mission Committee, was set up and a general council was incorporated legally. The highly democratic movement had little interest in denominational machinery, loosely organizing itself under an annual general council, with state and district councils, and local assemblies. The ministry of women was recognized and a central publishing house set up in St. Louis, Mo.

Originally conceived as an informal fellowship to facilitate cooperative work and provide such services as ministerial certification, the simple structure formed in 1914 evolved into a large organization administering extensive programs. The General Council, which meets every two years, includes all ministers and a delegate from each local church. The 240-member General Presbytery meets annually, and governance between its sessions is in the hands of the 13-member Executive Presbytery, consisting of the four-member Administrative Board, a director of foreign missions and eight regional representatives. Local churches retain a high degree of autonomy.

In 1916, the new body adopted "A Statement of Fundamental Truths," including assertion of a trinitarian position and rejection of the quasi-unitarian shift of some pentecostals to baptism in the name of "Jesus only." In 1918, the denomination declared it would not accept those who considered optional "our distinctive testimony" of speaking in tongues. The constitution now says baptism in the Holy Spirit is an experience "distinct from and subsequent to the experience of the new birth," is "witnessed by the initial physical sign of speaking with other tongues," and produces an "enduement of power for life and service." The gift of tongues is also seen as a sign of the imminent return of Christ.

Although the Assemblies of God have increasingly come to resemble the older Protestant denominations and belong to the National Association of Evangelicals, they continue their distinctive emphases on tongues and divine healing, though without rejecting modern medicine. Informal in worship, they are aggressive in evangelism and missionary work.

The Assemblies of God are avowedly fundamentalist in their theological views, emphasizing the unity and Trinity of God, the Incarnation and atoning death of Christ, humanity's fallen nature, the need for repentance and sanctification by faith, and the inspiration and sufficiency of the Scriptures. They stress the work of the Holy Spirit in the process of conversion and the outpouring of the Spirit cleansing from inner sins. The movement known as the New Order of the Latter Rain, beginning in 1947, placed even greater stress on pentecostal manifestations, but this group has gradually died out. In addition, the Assemblies of God condemn the use of liquor, tobacco, cosmetics, and worldly adornment. A great deal of freedom is allowed in both worship and evangelistic services for spontaneous demonstrations of praise or zeal. Services center on sermons and hymns and are often of long duration.

Bibliography: c. brumback, Suddenly From Heaven (Springfield, Mo. 1961). i. winehouse, The Assemblies of God (New York 1959). r. m. riggs, We Believe (Springfield, Mo. 1954). r. m. anderson, Vision of the Disinherited: The Making of American Pentecostalism (New York 1979). w. w. menzies, Anointed to Serve: The Story of the Assemblies of God (Springfield, Ill. 1971).

[r. k. macmaster/

t. early/eds.]

Assemblies of God

views updated May 21 2018


ASSEMBLIES OF GOD emerged from the mass of Pentecostal sects that formed during the nineteenth century and trace their formation to the Azusa Street revival of 1906. Following early efforts by Pentecostals to organize, southern leaders called for a general conference to meet at Hot Springs, Arkansas, in 1914. Although many pastors feared the usurpation of congregational autonomy, the three hundred who did attend recognized the advantages of cooperation, fellowship, and the setting of standards of conduct and practice. Founder Eudorus N. Bell also argued the need to expand publishing, missionary, and education efforts. The new body showed great respect for congregational autonomy and did not initially adopt a statement of faith, holding the Bible to be "all sufficient rule for faith and practice." A twelve-man executive presbytery was created, and by the end of 1914, the number of ministers participating stood at 531.

Bell drafted an early summary of beliefs, which included the preaching of salvation, baptism in the Spirit, spiritual gifts, premillenialism, divine healing, and observance of baptism and communion. In 1915, however, the "Jesus Only" controversy erupted, when several pastors called for rebaptism in the name of Jesus alone. This led in 1916 to the General Council's preparation of a statement of fundamental truths, a serious matter in a movement that disdained creedal statements. Although 156 ministers left, membership continued to climb, and by 1918 ministerial membership stood at 819. In 1918, the Assemblies of God also took a firm stand that the baptism of the Holy Spirit was regularly evidenced by the initial physical sign of speaking in tongues.

After 1918, the Assemblies of God operated from Springfield, Missouri, where the Gospel Publishing House provided vital periodical support to a scattered flock. The Word and Witness spread the Pentecostal message, while the Christian Evangel serviced the Pentecostal constituency. After 1919, the Christian Evangel, renamed the Pentecostal Evangel, became the sole paper of the movement. The 1945 General Council set up a radio department, with its first broadcast in 1946, and created the half-hour Revival time in 1950. The Assemblies of God also founded the Midwest Bible School at Auburn, Nebraska, in 1920 and Central Bible Institute at Springfield in 1922. For missionary work, the General Council of 1914 created the Home and Foreign Missions Presbytery to funnel funds, offer counsel, and provide legal holding of property purchased abroad. The 1915 General Council set guidelines for making missions effective, and the Foreign Missions Department was created in 1919. In 1937, the Assemblies of God established a Home Missions Department, with special ministries to the deaf, foreign-language groups, and Native Americans.

During the 1940s, 76,000 members of the Assemblies of God served in the military and 1,093 were killed. The denomination began work among servicemen and the Servicemen's Department was set up in 1944, while thirty-four pastors became military chaplains. Closer cooperation with other denominations also took place. Representatives of the Assemblies of God attended the 1942 St. Louis meeting that formed the National Association of Evangelicals, with which the 1943 General Council voted to affiliate. The Assemblies of God also joined the World Pentecostal Conference in 1947, and participated in the Pentecostal Fellowship of North America organized in 1948, for which J. R. Flower of the Assemblies of God was appointed to draw up the constitution.

In the postwar world, the Assemblies of God faced new challenges as Pentecostalism won public acceptance. A renewed focus on evangelism and spiritual life was emphasized with the establishment of the Evangelism Committee in 1965. The Assemblies of God refined its statements on biblical inerrancy and engaged in greater cooperation with other religious groups on issues of moral and social concern. In an effort to retain its appeal to a younger generation, it created a youth department in 1940 and fostered campus ministries and the Mobilization and Placement Service, which allowed church members to use their skills in Christian service. The Teen Challenge program proved particularly effective in dealing with troubled youth, through coffee hours, drop-in centers, school and club programs, and some vocational training. In 1999, the Assemblies of God, under the leadership of general superintendent Thomas Trask, boasted a constituency of 2,574,531. It was a growing body and the largest single Pentecostal denomination, apart from the Church of God in Christ.


Blumhofer, Edith L. Restoring the Faith: The Assemblies of God, Pentecostalism, and American Culture. Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1993.

McGee, Gary B. People of the Spirit: The Assemblies of God. Spring-field, Mo.: Gospel Publishing House, 1997.


See alsoAfrican American Religions and Sects ; Evangelism, Evangelicalism, and Revivalism ; Pentecostal Churches .

Assemblies of God

views updated May 21 2018

Assemblies of God. Christian denomination. It was organized in 1914 in Hot Springs, Arkansas, USA, from previously independent Pentecostal churches. It became the largest white Pentecostal body in the USA, with 1.4 million adherents in 10,000 autonomous congregations throughout the country.

Assemblies of God

views updated May 23 2018

Assemblies of God Largest Pentecostal religious sect in the US. Founded in 1914 by preachers of the Church of God in Hot Springs, Arkansas, in 1916 it was incorporated and titled General Council of Assemblies of God. Today, the Church has c.600,000 members.

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