Fellowship commemorates centennial through a variety of events on the North Central campus
On April 2, 2014, the Assemblies of God (AG) celebrated its 100-year anniversary. Dr. James Bradford, general secretary of the Assemblies of God said, “They came together to form what we are the fruit of: The Assemblies of God, as one expression of the greater work that God is doing for the kingdom of God.”Since then, the fellowship has changed immensely, grown swiftly, and has made a great impact on the world.
The Assemblies of God was founded in 1914 in Hot Springs, Ark. “A halo of glory rested over the sessions from day to day,” said an attendant, Walter Higgins. He continued, “God saw fit to bless this meeting with the dissertation of His Holy Ghost. The praises rose from those gathering in the services seemingly like a mighty sea.”
According to Bradford, E.N. Bell, the first chair of the Assemblies of God, gave five reasons for coming together. The first was for unity, for keeping the AG and its churches biblical and steady.
The second reason was conservation in order for leaders in the AG to be kept accountable in doctrine and morality. The third reason was for world missions. E.N. Bell insisted that it was important to concentrate on people who were going to take missions seriously with learning language and culture.
The next reason was for a central legal basis. When churches are registered with the AG, they are connected to the 501C3 nonprofit umbrella of the AG. The fifth and final reason was for education. Bell said, “We may have a proposition to lay before the body for a general Bible training school with a literary department for our people.” Dr. Bradford responded: “That is North Central University.”
The AG was founded on a set of core values. According to Dr. Glen Menzies, the dean of the Institute for Biblical and Theological Studies (IBATS), the AG is Pentecostal with an emphasis on baptism of the Holy Spirit as an empowering for witness. Dr. Menzies added that the early AG church put an emphasis on the expectation that the second coming was soon and that time was short.
“My own view is that it [the AG] is Pentecostal and Evangelical,” said Dr. Menzies. The AG shows little distinction from being Pentecostal. As an AG school, North Central University refers to being Pentecostal more often than being AG.
“One hundred years ago today, God started something that grew faster around the world than anyone could have thought,” said Dr. Bradford.
The AG has seen tremendous growth worldwide. Of 60 million people affiliated with the AG, only 3 million live in the United States.
According to Dr. Menzies, Frank Lindquist and James Menzie asked Ben Hardin, an evangelist and pastor of the Gospel Tabernacle in Gary, Ind. where the most difficult field for missions was in America. His response was Minnesota, so that is where Menzie and Lindquist went.
Lindquist would go on to start the Minneapolis Gospel Tabernacle (the first AG church in Minnesota). North Central University would be founded in the basement of the Minneapolis Gospel Tabernacle (now Christ Church International), and Frank Lindquist would become the first president of North Central University.
The Azusa Street Revival was racially integrated. Frank Bartleman famously said, “The color line was washed with the blood of Christ [at Azusa Street].” After that, however, the AG went through a period of racial segregation. According to Dr. Menzies, the segregation was probably one of the reasons for the end of the Pentecostal revival.
“I hope we retain the spirituality of the first century [of the AG],” said Dr. Menzies, “but I hope that the second hundred years is characterized by the washing away of the color line. It has to be that way.”
“Can anything clean come from something unclean?” Bishop Lemuel Thuston said. “By the transforming power and grace of our savior: yes.” According to Bishop Thuston, 100 years later the Pentecostal family is truly closer to being one, as Jesus prayed, than ever before since Azusa.
Dr. George O. Wood, general superintendent of the Assemblies of God, invited the executive tier of the Church of God and Christ, including Thuston, to show how these two fellowships could do more together than they ever could accomplish separately.
“Whenever you hit a 100-year milestone, it is a time to reflect and assess where we are going,” said Dr. Menzies. “If you meet someone new, what do you talk about? They tell their story. The AG needs to be clear about what its story is.”
“We are not only celebrating the legacy of the first 100 years, but the next 100 years as well,” said Dr. Bradford. The Assemblies of God is known for its missions program and rapid growth in members. With 100 years of history, the AG now has 60 million people affiliated worldwide. One of every 12 people is Pentecostal, Charismatic, or Neo-charismatic. With its tremendous missionary outreach, the AG has been a leader and provided stability for the Pentecostal movement.