It was a cold, wintry 30th day of December, 1919, when a group of dedicated individuals met in Chicago, Illinois. These men and women were destined to organize what is known today as the Pentecostal Church of God. Eli DePriest, one of those present, reported that after they had concluded the business, prayer was offered, and while they were praying, the building where they were assembled was actually shaken by the power of God! The objective of this group was to unite their resources for the purpose of spreading the Gospel. Cooperative evangelism was the strength of their effort.
From this humble beginning emerged one of the leading Pentecostal denominations of our day—the Pentecostal Church of God. The church is part of the great Pentecostal revival that began around the turn of the 20th century.
TOPEKA, KANSAS, BETHEL BIBLE COLLEGE
The origin of modern Pentecostalism can be traced to Bethel Bible College, founded in October 1900 by Charles Fox Parham. The school was located in Topeka, Kansas in an elaborate unfinished mansion known as “Stone’s Folly.” In his monthly publication, The Apostolic Faith, Parham announced that anyone who prayed and diligently studied the Word was welcome to attend. Since this was a “faith school,” no tuition was charged. Parham was the only instructor and the Bible the only textbook.
Before leaving for a speaking engagement in Kansas City, Parham assigned the student body the task of determining from their study of Scripture, the evidence of receiving the Baptism in the Holy Spirit. When Parham returned he was amazed to learn that the students had reached the conclusion: the indisputable proof of one receiving the Baptism in the Holy Spirit was speaking with other tongues.
This conclusion was of tremendous importance, for it marked the occasion when speaking in tongues was first considered to be the initial physical evidence of one being filled with the Holy Spirit.
On January 1, 1901 the first day of the 20th century, Agnes N. Ozman requested those present to lay hands on her and pray that she might receive the infilling of the Holy Spirit. When this was done, she began to speak in tongues, glorifying God.
According to the report she was so overwhelmed by this new experience of Pentecostal power she could not speak in the English language for three days. Miss Ozman’s baptism inspired the other students to seek for a similar experience. One of the mansion’s large upper rooms was converted into an area for prayer. The students, as well as others in the city, continued in intercessory prayer for three glorious days. Then on the night of January 3, 1901, many others, including Parham, received the mighty infilling of the Spirit.
After this glorious experience, Parham carried this Pentecostal message from Topeka, Kansas to: Kansas City, Missouri; Lawrence, Kansas; Nevada, Missouri; El Dorado Springs, Missouri; Galena, Kansas; Joplin, Missouri; and Orchard, Texas.
AZUSA STREET REVIVAL
In the fall of 1905, Parham moved his headquarters to Houston, Texas and once again established a short-term Bible school. William J. Seymour, a black holiness preacher from Louisiana, audited the classes taught by Parham. He believed the teaching but did not receive the Baptism in the Holy Spirit. Among the people from the Houston area who visited the services and received the Pentecostal experience was a lady, Miss Neely Terry, who was visiting from Los Angeles, California. When she returned home to the holiness mission she attended on Santa Fe Street, she suggested that they invite Seymour to preach for them with the possibility of becoming their pastor. The invitation was extended and Seymour accepted. Here he preached the Baptism in the Holy Spirit and declared that speaking in tongues was the initial evidence of the infilling of the Holy Spirit. This proved unacceptable to the church leadership. As a result Seymour moved his meetings to the home of Richard and Ruth Asbury, 214 North Bonnie Brae Street. Thus on April 9, 1906 the great Pentecostal revival of Los Angeles began.
The prayer services continued in the Asbury home. On the evening of April 9, 1906 Seymour and seven other men were waiting before the Lord when suddenly, as though hit by a bolt of lightning, they were knocked from their chairs to the floor. The seven men with Seymour began to speak in divers kinds of tongues magnifying God. The shouts were so fervent and loud that news spread quickly of the unusual events on Bonnie Brae Street. A few days later Seymour finally received the Holy Spirit. Soon huge crowds began to gather. Since the house could not begin to accommodate the people, the services were moved outside into the street with the front porch being used for the pulpit. The people came from everywhere. Many would fall under God’s power as they neared the house. The whole city was stirred. They shouted until the foundation of the porch collapsed, without injuring anyone. During these days, many people who came because of curiosity were baptized in the Holy Spirit. The sick were healed and sinners were saved.
To further accommodate the crowds, an old dilapidated, two-story frame building at 312 Azusa Street in the industrial section of the city was secured. This building, originally built for an African Methodist Episcopal (AME) church, had more recently been used as a livery stable, storage building and tenement house. In this humble Azusa Street mission, a continuous three-year revival occurred and became known around the world. Stanley H. Frodsham, in his book, With Signs Following, quotes an eye witness description of the scene:
“The news spread far and wide that Los Angeles was being visited with a rushing mighty wind from heaven. The how and why of it is to be found in the very opposite of those conditions that are usually thought necessary for a big revival. No instruments of music are used. None are needed. No choir. Bands of angels have been heard by some in the Spirit and there is heavenly singing that is inspired by the Holy Ghost. No collections are taken. No bills have been posted to advertise the meetings. No church organization is back of it. All who are in touch with God realize as soon as they enter the meeting that the Holy
Ghost is the leader. One brother states that even before his train entered the city he felt the power of the revival.
“Travelers from afar wend their way to the headquarters at Azusa Street. There they find a two-story whitewashed store building. You would hardly expect heavenly visitations there unless you remember the stable at Bethlehem. But here they find a mighty Pentecostal revival going on from ten o’clock in the morning until about twelve o’clock at night. Pentecost has come to hundreds of hearts.
“As soon as it is announced that the altar is open for seekers for pardon, sanctification, the Baptism in the Holy Ghost, and healing for the body, people rise and flock to the altar. There is no urging. What kind of preaching is it that brings that? The simple declaring of the Word of God. There is such power in the preaching of the Word in the Spirit that people are shaken on the benches. Coming to the altar many fall prostrate under the power of God and often come out speaking in tongues. Sometimes the power falls on people and they are wrought upon by the Spirit during the giving of testimonies, or the preaching, and they receive the Holy Spirit. It is noticeably free from all nationalistic feeling. If a Mexican or a German cannot speak English, he gets up and speaks in his own tongue and feels quite at home, for the Spirit interprets through the face and the people say ‘amen.’ No instrument that God can use is rejected on account of color or dress or lack of education. That is why God has so built up the work.
“Seekers for healing are usually taken upstairs and prayed for in the prayer
room. Many have been healed there. There is a large room upstairs that is used for Bible study. A brother fittingly describes it this way: ‘Upstairs there is a long room furnished with chairs and three California redwood planks laid end to end on backless chairs. This is the Pentecostal upper room where sanctified souls seek the Pentecostal fullness and go out speaking in tongues.’”
Frank Bartleman, in his book Azusa Street, gives the following description of the mission and the services:
“Brother Seymour generally sat behind two empty shoe boxes, one on top of the other. He usually kept his head inside the top one during the meeting, in prayer. There was no pride there. The services ran almost continuously. Seeking souls could be found under the power almost any hour, night and day. The place was never closed nor empty. The people came to meet God. He was always there. Hence a continuous meeting. The meeting did not depend on the human leader. God’s presence became more and more wonderful. In the old building, with its low rafters and bare floors, God took strong men and women to pieces, and put them together again, for His glory. It was a tremendous overhauling process. Pride and self-assertion, selfimportance and self-esteem, could not survive there. The religious ego preached its own funeral sermon quickly.
“No subjects or sermons were announced ahead of time, and no special speakers for such an hour. No one knew what might be coming, what God would do. All was spontaneous, ordered of the Spirit. We wanted to hear from God, through whoever . . . He might speak. We had no respect of persons. The rich and educated were the same as the poor and ignorant, and found a much harder death to die. We only recognized God . . . .
“We were delivered right there from ecclesiastical hierarchism and abuse. We wanted God. When we first reached the meeting, we avoided as much as possible human contact and greeting. We wanted to meet God first. We got our head under some bench in the corner in prayer, and met men only in the Spirit, knowing them after the flesh no more. The meetings started themselves, spontaneously, in testimony, praise and worship.”
From the Azusa Street revival the Pentecostal message spread swiftly across America and to many foreign countries. News of the California revival reached Chicago by the summer of 1906. John C. Sinclair is quoted as saying, “The saints at 328 West 63rd St. began to pray on the first of July, 1906 that God would baptize us in the Holy Ghost, as we had heard that the saints at Los Angeles had been baptized.” It is reported that Sinclair was the first person in the Chicago area to receive this Baptism. On November 19, 1906 a Pentecostal revival began in his church and continued for a number of months.
For most of the first two decades of the twentieth century, with the exception of the Holiness-Pentecostal churches in the southeast, there was little formal organization. In fact, organization was bitterly opposed by many. As a result, many independent Pentecostal churches began to spring up in storefront buildings, schoolhouses, brush arbors, anywhere these ardent believers could find a place to meet. Their main goal was to spread the good news that God was still doing a mighty work among His people. There was very little order or control in the churches. Since the congregations tended to trust anyone who claimed to be Spirit-filled, they were often taken advantage of by shysters. Therefore, it soon became apparent that some form of cooperative fellowship was necessary in order for the infant Pentecostal Revival to survive and evangelize effectively.
On December 29 and 30, 1919 a small group of dedicated individuals met in Chicago, Illinois in an attempt to unite their efforts for evangelism. Among those present for this meeting were: John C. Sinclair, pastor of the Christian Apostolic Assembly, Chicago, Illinois; George C. Brinkman, who edited his own independent monthly paper, The Pentecostal Herald; J. A. Bell, an associate to Sinclair; Eli Jackson DePriest, an evangelist from Black Rock, Arkansas; Edward Matthews; Wilmer Artis; Thomas R. O’Reilly, an evangelist from Indianapolis, Indiana; R.E. McAlister, general secretary/treasurer of the Pentecostal Assemblies of Canada; Ida Tribbett, an evangelist from Sturgis, Michigan, who was also the first person ordained by the Pentecostal Assemblies of the USA; Elder W. C. Thompson, pastor of Chicago’s Church of God in Christ; and Watson Emet Tubbs, an evangelist from Milwaukee, Wisconsin.
At this organizational meeting the following officers were chosen: moderator, John C. Sinclair; secretary, George C. Brinkman; and treasurer, J. A. Bell. This newly-formed group also heartily accepted Brinkman’s offer and adopted The Pentecostal Herald as the official organ of the fellowship.
At the 1921 convention Edward Matthews was elected chairman and W. W. Pelton, treasurer.
Due to growing dissatisfaction with the decisions and actions of the new leadership, a reorganization meeting was held on February 15, 1922 in Chicago, Illinois. J. D. Snowden was chosen as the temporary chairman for the meeting. New officers were elected and the name of the organization was changed from Pentecostal Assemblies of the USA to the Pentecostal Church of God. John B. Huffman was elected general chairman, George C. Brinkman, secretary and James Gillespie treasurer.
Although this new cooperative fellowship experienced growth during the Chicago era, the growth was hampered because the men in leadership positions were also involved in other activities. John B. Huffinan continued to pastor the church in Blytheville, Arkansas throughout his tenure as general chairman from 1922 to 1924, and Osborn V. Gilliland, who was elected general chairman in 1925, was not even present to call the 1926 convention to order.
However, during the 1926 convention, Rik Field, was elected general chairman in that convention and proved to be a valuable leader, giving stability to the national program. Historical records view him as a fresh breed of leadership and helped moved the General Office to Ottumwa, Iowa. During his five years as chairman (1926-1931), he traveled extensively and did much to promote fellowship and Bible holiness.
In the 1927 convention A. D. McClure was elected general secretary and his wife general treasurer. Since the McClures had been pastoring in Ottumwa, Iowa since 1923, they chose to retain that position. The offices were moved to Ottumwa making their continued support possible. In 1927 The Pentecostal Messenger became the official paper of the church with A. D. McClure as the editor. In addition to his local pastoral ministry (1923-1949), McClure freely served as general secretary (1927-1931), editor of the “Messenger” (1927-1933) and general moderator (1931-1933).
Some progress was experienced during the Ottumwa era. One of the major accomplishments was the organization of districts.
KANSAS CITY ERA
After G. F. C. Fons was elected moderator in 1933, the General Offices were moved to Kansas City, Missouri. Frank Lindblade served as vice-moderator (1931-1935) and general secretary (1935-1937). He had considerable authority since McClure remained in Ottumwa pastoring a growing church. The new moderator elected in the 1933 convention, as well as the general superintendent elected in 1935, chose to continue their previous ministries in addition to serving in the General Office. (G. F. C. Fons pastored in Fort Smith, Arkansas; M. D. Townsend continued to serve as district superintendent in California.)
For a short period of time in 1938 and 1939, the General Offices were located in Fort Worth, Texas.
While in Kansas City, the General Offices were located in rented facilities on Troost St. and in the Schukert building. Later, for the first time in its history,
the movement was able to purchase property (1101 Prospect Avenue) to house the General Headquarters.
According to The Pentecostal Messenger K. R. Camp, general secretary treasurer (1946-1955), commented concerning those years:
“For some two years the ground floor was used as the General Office and the upper floor as living quarters for both the general superintendent and the general secretary. In the year of 1943, printing equipment was purchased and the offices moved upstairs, the lower floor being used for the printing department. It was then that we first started to print our own literature. Our printing had been farmed out before, so this was a forward step.
“At this time, the office staff consisted of the general secretary with an elderly lady as his assistant and the printing department employed two full-time men and one part-time pressman.”
The words “of America” were added in 1934 after it was discovered that another group was operating under the name Pentecostal Church of God.
The 30’s and 40’s were decades of growth, although they were punctuated with times of severe financial difficulties.
Marion D. Townsend was the first man officially titled general superintendent serving from 1935 to 1937. During this time he continued in his position as the California district superintendent. When the convention insisted that the general superintendent move to the headquarters city, Townsend chose to remain in California.
Therefore, the 1937 convention elected Harold M. Collins as general superintendent. He served capably from 1937-1942. During his term the Pentecostal Church of God began publishing Sunday school literature.
In the 1942 convention J. W. May emerged as the general superintendent. His term (1942-1947) was a time of tremendous growth. May reported that during his tenure as general superintendent, “The number of districts doubled and the churches and ministers more than doubled.”
When J. W. May resigned in 1947, H. T. Owens was elected to serve the Pentecostal Church of God as general superintendent. He served effectively from 1947 to 1949. During this time plans were made to move the General Offices to Joplin, Missouri.
M. F. Coughran served as general superintendent from 1949 to 1953. Coughran was a man of dynamic and effective leadership. During his tenure the General Office faced and conquered seemingly insurmountable financial difficulties. In 1951 the offices were moved to Joplin, Missouri, where they have remained to the present time. When Coughran resigned in 1953, practically all the indebtedness for the new headquarters located at 1601 Maiden Lane in Joplin had been eliminated.
In 1953 R. Dennis Heard was called upon to accept the responsibilities of general superintendent and served with distinction for 22 years. During this time the Pentecostal Church of God continued to grow and God opened new doors of opportunities and ministries.
By 1957 the facilities on Maiden Lane were considered inadequate for needed expansion, and a four-story office building located at 312-316 South Joplin was purchased. Later an adjacent building, located on Wall St., was secured for the expansion of the printing plant. The printing plant was again moved in 1972 to the five-story Newman Building located at 602 Main St., and the General Offices were moved to the new executive center at Third and Main in downtown Joplin. In addition, the organization built a 13-story retirement center— Messenger Towers.
In 1975 R. Dennis Heard asked not to be considered for another term, and Roy M. Chappell was elected and served with excellence for 12 years. During his tenure much time and effort were spent restructuring and placing the organization in a sound financial position. Property was purchased and a new headquarters facility was built at 50th and Pennsylvania. The administrative offices were dedicated at the 1985 General Convention. A new facility for Messenger Publishing House was constructed in 1987.
During General Superintendent Chappell’s term the King’s Men Fellowship, Senior Christian Fellowship, Home Missions and Evangelist ministries were established.
Also, in the fall of 1983 the decision was made to merge the denomination’s two colleges, Southern Bible College in Houston, Texas and Evangelical Christian College in Fresno, California. The formation of a new nationally-sponsored learning center known as Messenger College, located in Joplin, Missouri, became the outgrowth of this merger. The campus was established directly across the street from the General Headquarters facility.
In 1987 Roy M. Chappell accepted a pastorate in California and the convention called on James D. Gee to assume the leadership as general superintendent.
James D Gee served very capably until the 2001 General Convention. Among his significant accomplishments were the establishment of the office of the Business Manager and the improved financial position of the organization, including paying off the mortgage of the headquarters building and the purchase of the 8.2 acres adjoining the headquarters property. Most of the buildings on the Messenger College campus were constructed during his term. "Strategy 2000" and "Project Paraclete" were two of the significant initiatives of his administration.
In 2001 Reverend Phil L. Redding, Arkansas district secretary-treasurer was elected general superintendent/bishop (a new title), re-elected in 2003 and served until 2005. Action was taken at the 2003 General Convention that provided for several monumental changes. The title of the general superintendent/bishop was changed to General Bishop. A death benefit program was adopted to replace the insurance provision for ministers. A First Fruits (tithing) program replaced the 5% Church Participation program, and the Pentecostal Church of God updated her position concerning marriage, divorce, and remarriage, adopting a position paper on the subject.
In 2005 General Bishop Phil Redding announced that he was resigning from the office of general bishop. The organization suffered a severe financial setback, primarily through a building program instituted through the Home Missions department. Phil L. Redding presented a new structure to the 2005 General Convention and added that if the convention adopted this proposal he would go ahead and allow his name for consideration for the office of general bishop.
The convention did adopt the restructure by changing the name of the Executive Committee to General Council and placing the two corporate officers, the six assistant general bishops and one bishop of ethnicity on the council, but chose to elect Charles R. Mosier as general bishop. Reverend Mosier served as Michigan District superintendent on two separate occasions, as World Missions director from 1989 to 1999 and as the assistant general bishop for the Northeastern Division. Reverend Charles G. Scott, Pentecostal Church of God Stewardship Ministries director, was elected as the general secretary. The members of the new General Council, which included the six assistant general bishops, were C. W. Goforth, Thomas Branham, Leon McDowell, Jan Lake, Donald Johnson and Wayman C. Ming, Jr.
This action of restructure also placed the selection process of all departmental directors under the leadership of the General Board. The ministry directors who were elected by the General Board included: Loyd Naten, World Missions; C. Don Burke, Indian Missions; Reggie Powers, Youth Ministries; Pat Wilson, Home Missions; Billie Palumbo, Discipleship Ministries; and Barbara Mosier, Women’s Ministries. The 2005 General Convention also placed a renewed emphasis on multi-cultural ministries, discipleship ministries, and stewardship ministries. In a gracious act of sacrificial giving, the 2005 convention raised over $350,000 toward the debt of the Home Missions Department.
Following several months of struggling with illness, General Bishop Mosier was promoted to glory on July 8, 2006. The General Board placed the guidance of the organization under the General Council until the 2007 General Convention. Although this was a circumstance the Pentecostal Church of God had never faced, God comforted and blessed during this difficult time.
During the 2007 General Convention in Joplin, Missouri, the convention removed the death benefit for its ministers because of the severe financial loss that had been realized. Only those already on gratis status or would attain gratis status by the end of 2007 retained the benefit—a financial commitment of approximately $1.5 million. The convention also gave over $150,000 toward the debt of the Home Missions Department. General Secretary Charles G. Scott was elected general bishop and Assistant General Bishop Wayman C. Ming, Jr. was elected as general secretary. This action created one of the youngest leadership teams of any major Pentecostal organization in America. The convention ended with tremendous harmony and unity.
The 2009 General Convention was also held in Joplin, Missouri with the theme, “We are PCG.” During this historic 90th Year convocation, the convention made three significant contributions to the future of the Pentecostal Church of God: (1) adopting a reformed Minister’s Study series; (2) providing a $60 per year/per minister increase to the Youth Ministries department by increasing the ministerial credential fee; and (3) allowing the General Board to explore the possible relocation of the International Headquarters to a larger metropolitan area. General Bishop Charles G. Scott and General Secretary Wayman C. Ming Jr. were re-elected for another term.
During the 2011 General Convention in Dallas, Texas, a monumental decision was made to relocate the International Headquarters of the Pentecostal Church of God and Messenger College to Bedford, Texas, which is part of the Dallas Metroplex area. This decision was made by the General Board and ratified by the General Convention. A "restoration and discipline" process for ministers and churches was added to the General Bylaws and the length of term for the General Bishop and General Secretary was increased from two years to four years after an initial two year term. The General Board was also afforded discretionary authority in all matters of policy, personnel, operations, and budgets between General Conventions for the welfare of the Pentecostal Church of God. General Bishop Charles G. Scott was elected for a four year term, and after General Secretary Wayman C. Ming Jr. stepped down from his position, World Missions Director Loyd L. Naten was elected as General Secretary.
Information obtained from the Pentecostal Church of God site.