AG History

The General Council of the Assemblies of God (USA), one of the largest Pentecostal denominations

in the United States, was organized in 1914 by a broad coalition of ministers who desired to work

together to fulfill common objectives, such as sending missionaries and providing fellowship and

accountability. Formed in the midst of the emerging worldwide Pentecostal revival, the Assemblies of

God quickly took root in other countries and formed indigenous national organizations.

The Assemblies of God (USA) is a constituent member of the World Assemblies of God Fellowship –

one of the largest Pentecostal fellowships in the world.

 

Historical Roots

Throughout the latter half of the 19th century in the United States, Protestants from various

backgrounds began to ask themselves why their churches did not seem to exhibit the same vibrant,

faith-filled life as those in the New Testament. Many of these believers joined evangelical or Holiness

churches, engaged in ardent prayer and personal sacrifice, and earnestly sought God. It was in this

context that people began experiencing biblical spiritual gifts.

 

Pentecostals pioneers were hungry for authentic Christianity, and they looked to previous spiritual

outpourings, such as the First Great Awakening (1730s-40s) and Second Great Awakening

(1800s-30s), for inspiration and instruction. They identified themselves in the tradition of reformers

and  revivalists such as Martin Luther, John Wesley, and Dwight L. Moody.

 

The Pentecostal Revival

One of the focal points of the emerging Pentecostal movement was known as the Azusa Street

revival (1906-09). It was an unlikely location for an event that would change the face of Christianity. In

the summer of 1906, revival erupted in the newly-formed congregation meeting at the small, run-down

Apostolic Faith Mission at 312 Azusa Street in Los Angeles, California. Critics attacked the

congregation because its mild-mannered African-American Holiness preacher, William J. Seymour,

preached racial reconciliation and the restoration of biblical spiritual gifts. The revival soon became a

local sensation, then attracted thousands of curiosity seekers and pilgrims from around the world.

Seymour had been a student of Charles Parham, who provided the doctrinal framework for the

young Pentecostal movement. Parham’s identification in scripture of speaking in tongues as the “Bible

evidence” (later called the “initial evidence”) of Spirit baptism became a defining mark of the emerging

Pentecostal movement. After students at his Bethel Bible School in Topeka, Kansas, began speaking in

tongues at a prayer meeting on January 1, 1901, Parham, through his Apostolic Faith Movement, had

some success in promoting the restoration of the gift of tongues. While the Apostolic Faith Movement

was largely confined to the south central United States, the revival at Azusa Street catapulted

Pentecostalism before a worldwide audience.

 

Formation of the Assemblies of God

As the revival rapidly spread, many Pentecostals recognized the need for greater organization and

accountability. The founding fathers and mothers of the Assemblies of God met in Hot Springs,

Arkansas on April 2-12, 1914 to promote unity and doctrinal stability, establish legal standing,

coordinate the mission enterprise, and establish a ministerial training school. These founders

constituted the first General Council and elected two officers: Eudorus N. Bell as chairman (title later

changed to general superintendent) and J. Roswell Flower as secretary, as well as the first executive

presbytery.

 

The approximately 300 delegates to the first General Council represented a variety of independent

churches and networks of churches, including the “Association of Christian Assemblies” in Indiana and

the “Church of God in Christ and in Unity with the Apostolic Faith Movement” from Alabama, Arkansas,

Mississippi, and Texas.  Almost immediately, leaders were faced with a doctrinal dispute – whether to

abandon traditional Trinitarian theology in favor of a modal monarchian view of the godhead (also

called the “New Issue” or Oneness theology). In 1916 the General Council approved a Statement of

Fundamental Truths, which affirmed Trinitarian orthodoxy.  From the beginning, evangelism and

missions have been central to the identity of the Assemblies of God and have resulted in a continuing

growth at home and abroad. In 2007, the Assemblies of God claimed a constituency in the United

States of 2,836,174 adherents; 12,311 churches; and 33,622 ministers. The General Council supported

2,691 foreign missionaries and associates working with the broader World Assemblies of God

Fellowship, whose adherents numbered more than 57 million.  The aggressive missions programs of

the church are designed to establish self-supporting and self-propagating national church bodies in

every country. Ministers and leaders are trained in 1,891 foreign Bible schools. The Assemblies of God

has 19 endorsed Bible colleges, universities, and a seminary in the United States.

The National Office of the Assemblies of God is located in Springfield, Missouri. The National Office

includes an administration building, the Gospel Publishing House, and the International Distribution

Center. The Gospel Publishing House, the printing arm of the church, turns out more than 12 tons of

gospel literature each day.