Know your church.
How many people attend church of a particular denomination without knowing their history or their theology?
In the Phoenix metro area alone, there are 133 different denominations, spanning all religions–Protestant, Catholic, Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist and Jewish.
We are going to take a look at a number of these denominations, beginning with the Assemblies of God. There are currently 56 Assemblies of God churches or fellowships in the metro Phoenix area. For more information, go to http://ag.org.
According to Stephan Harris, Arizona Assemblies of God Superintendent, terminology is important.
“We are seeing a ‘shift’ from calling ourselves a ‘movement’ to a ‘fellowship’. The term denomination has not been used for several years. We are not a denomination, by definition, but instead, a movement or as they like to say now, a fellowship of believers.”
With that in mind, here is the history of their movement, dating back to 1914.
The Early History of the Assemblies of God Movement (1897-1945) The Assemblies of God was founded in 1914 in Hot Springs, Arkansas. Their national headquarters are in Springfield,Missouri. Also located there are the Gospel Publishing House and the International Distribution Center. They publish a weekly magazine, Today’s Pentecostal Evangel.
The Jim Crow Era (1897-1910) The early founders of the church were licensed white ministers of the Church of God in Christ, the largest African-American Pentecostal body founded by Charles Harrison Mason in 1897.
By 1910, many white ministers began receiving credentials from the Church. However, these ministers continued their work along segregated lines and the affiliation did not last long due to the racial climate of the Jim Crow Era.
Tongues The Assemblies of God has roots in the Pentecostal revival in the early 1900s. The term, Pentecostal, comes from the Bible verses in Acts where believers received the Holy Spirit on the Day of Pentecost, and began speaking in “tongues.” (See “Statement of Fundamental Truths” below. More on this in the “Theology—What the Assemblies of God Believe” article to follow.)
Because of this peculiar belief, the Pentecostal views were not welcomed by established churches. Those in the Pentecostal movement soon found themselves outside existing religious bodies. They were forced to seek their own places of worship, and soon there were hundreds of distinctly separate Pentecostal congregations.
Founding (1914) Church leaders sent invitations for all Churches of God in Christ, Pentecostal and Apostolic Faith Assemblies to meet together. Everyone thought that they needed something in writing to address the formal recognition of ministers, financial accountability and approval and support of missionaries as group, rather than from individual churches.
In 1914, the Assemblies of God was founded by mostly white ministers from 20 states and a few foreign countries. They were incorporated as the General Council of the Assemblies of God (Assembly of God). Eudorus Neander Bell was elected the first chairman.
Statement of Fundamental Truths (1916-1918) In 1916, the Statement of Fundamental Truths was adopted. Among the Fundamental Truths was a statement regarding speaking in tongues as the initial physical evidence of Spirit baptism. This doctrine was challenged by some who argued that while for many speaking in tongues was an evidence of baptism, it was not the only evidence.
The issue was decided at a meeting of the General Council in 1918. Following debate, resolutions were passed which restated the official position. Included in the resolutions were two important statements that 1) set the grounds for central doctrines, primarily tongues, and 2) reassure evangelical Christians of the church’s adherence to orthodox teaching.
Central Bible College (1922) The first Assembly of God institution of higher learning, Central Bible College, was started at Central Assembly of God Church in Springfield, Missouri, in 1922.
Period of Isolation–Between the Wars (to 1945) The church kept a relative isolation from other Pentecostal and evangelical groups from the beginning of World War I to the end of World War II. Partnerships began to develop which resulted in the creation of the World Assemblies of God Fellowship. The church also began to communicate with other US churches through the Pentecostal Fellowship of North America, the Pentecostal/Charismatic Churches of North America, and the National Association of Evangelicals.
By 1945, there were 5,055 Assemblies of God churches with over 225,000 members in the US. It currently is the ninth largest denomination in the US with 2.9 million members.
We will see how they have increased more than ten times in the last 65 years, as well as what they believe (theology) later articles.
To God be the glory, great things He has done.