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Little-Known Facts in Assemblies of God History


E. N. Bell, ca.1920

Though early Pentecostals were often accused of being uneducated, the first chairman of the General Council of the Assemblies of God, E.N. Bell, was extremely well educated. He held degrees from Stetson University and Southern Baptist Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky, and he earned a bachelor of divinity at the University of Chicago.



From its beginning in 1914, the Assemblies of God has never considered itself a denomination. It has always considered itself a “voluntary, cooperative fellowship.”


The first issue of the Christian Evangel, July 19, 1913; and the first issue of The Pentecostal Evangel, October 18, 1919.

The Pentecostal Evangel did not begin as a “denominational” magazine. In fact, it began in July 1913, 9 months before the Assemblies of God was born. It was first known as The Christian Evangel, later as The Weekly Evangel, then as The Christian Evangel again, before becoming The Pentecostal Evangel on October 18, 1919.


The radio program Revivaltime was initially known as Sermons in Song in the 1940s. The speaker was E.S. Williams, with narrator T.F. Zimmerman.


Two general superintendents of the Assemblies of God passed away while in office. E.N. Bell passed away suddenly with a heart attack at his Springfield, Missouri, home in 1923. Wesley R. Steelberg died of a heart attack in 1952, while in Wales.



Etta Calhoun

Women's Ministries began as a grassroots movement. Etta Calhoun, a prominent temperance leader in Texas, organized the first Women's Missionary Council at Morwood Mission in 1925. Twenty-seven districts independently formed a WMC department before the General Council authorized a national office in 1951.


 


Students at Midwest Bible School, 1920

The Bible school recommended by the first General Council was T.K. Leonard's Gospel School in Findlay, Ohio. The first Bible school established by the Assemblies of God (in 1920) was called the Midwest Bible School, located in Auburn, Nebraska. It lasted but 1 year.


Today's Central Bible College began in the basement of Central Assembly of God in Springfield, Missouri. Central Bible Institute opened its doors in 1922.


The first class of
Central Bible Institute, 1923.

General Superintendent Ralph Riggs once wrote an open letter to the Fellowship entitled “The Doctrine of Divine Healing Is Being Wounded in the House of Its Friends,” to curb an over-reaction against healing due to the “unscriptural, unethical, and extravagant practices” of some healing evangelists.



The last picture of W. E.
Simpson before he was
murdered.

Perhaps the first A/G missionary to be martyred was Elmer Hammond, who was murdered by bandits in South China in 1916. Bandits in South China also murdered Paul Bettex later that same year. In 1932, W.E. Simpson, son of early missionary leader W.W. Simpson, was killed on the field.


Three grandsons of William and Catherine Booth, founders of the Salvation Army, became members of the Assemblies of God.



Thomas F. Zimmerman

Since its inception, the Assemblies of God has had 11 different general superintendents or chairmen. The longest tenure was that of Thomas F. Zimmerman, who served from 1959 until 1985.


Since it began in 1942, the National Association of Evangelicals has counted the Assemblies of God among its most ardent members. The first A/G leader to head the NAE was T.F. Zimmerman.


The very first resolution in A/G history (4/2/14) read in part, “Be It Resolved . . . That we recognize ourselves as a GENERAL COUNCIL of Pentecostal (Spirit Baptized) saints from local Churches of God in Christ, Assemblies of God, and various Apostolic Faith Missions and Churches, and Full Gospel Pentecostal Missions, and Assemblies of like faith in the United States of America, Canada, and Foreign Lands.” [Capitalization is in the original.]



Jack Coe, ca. 1951

In 1956, Jack Coe, an Assemblies of God evangelist, was brought to trial on a charge of practicing medicine without a license.


The A/G roots were in the 1906–09 Azusa Street revival in Los Angeles, California. One of the young men baptized there was E.S. Williams, later to be general superintendent of the A/G (1929–49).


Glenn Cook told of Pentecost at a revival at the Christian and Missionary Alliance Gospel Tabernacle in Indianapolis, Indiana, in January 1907. Among those to first hear of Pentecost there was the mother of future General Superintendent T.F. Zimmerman. During Cook's meetings, a young man named J. Roswell Flower was saved. He later married Alice Reynolds, a member of one of the church's founding families.



Dollie Drain Simms

Dolly Drain Simms, who was ordained at the first General Council, was perhaps the first woman to receive credentials from the Assemblies of God.


The first district council to be formed was the Oklahoma District Council in July 1914, at a camp meeting in Tulsa.


One of the main reasons for the formation of the A/G was the advancement of missions. The 1914 missionary list included about 27 names. Today there are almost 2,000 foreign missionaries.


Kenneth L. Horn is managing editor of the Pentecostal Evangel, Springfield, Missouri.

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