Introduction 20th Century Pentecostals

Introduction 20th Century Pentecostals
By Fred J. Foster

It was the great world-wide camp meeting in Los Angeles in 1913, with hundreds of preachers present from all over the Union and Canada. The occasion was a baptismal service in the pool near the big tent. Evangelist R. E. McAlister was speaking. He explained the different methods of baptism, versus the Scriptural mode. He mentioned the triune immersionist method–baptizing the candidate three times, face downward. He analyzed it thus: “They justify their method by saying that baptism is in the likeness of Christ’s death, and make a point from the Scripture that Christ bowed His head and died.” He concluded abruptly by saying, “that the Scriptural answer to all this was that the apostles invariably baptized their converts once in the name of Jesus Christ; that the words Father, Son and Holy Ghost were never used in Christian baptism.”

An inaudible shudder swept the preachers on the platform and the people in the vast arena. The preacher noticed it, and stood in awesome silence. Brother Denny mounted the platform in one bound, took the preacher aside, and told him not to preach that doctrine or it would associate the camp with a Dr. Sykes who so baptized.

“Evangelist McAlister resumed his explanation, and said he did not mean to convey the idea that because the apostles baptized in the name of Jesus Christ, it was wrong to baptize according to the formula in Matthew 28:19. Thus ended the confusion on the platform. But the Gun Was Fired from that Platform Which Was Destined to Resound Throughout All Christendom, and that Within a Year.” (1)

Little realizing that the sparks from his words would light great fires of revelation in the hearts of many of his hearers, R. E. McAlister walked from the platform that day fifty years ago. The sound is still ringing today.

When still a young man, it rang clear and strong in the author’s heart, and his feeling is that much is owed this twentieth-century church. Through God, she has rescued, nourished and mothered us to the rich spiritual experience we enjoy so greatly. Countless thousands have been influenced by this religious awakening to bring believers into harmony with early church practices and beliefs. Very little is in print, though, about this awakening, and, in the light of this, I have embarked upon the journey of writing the history of the Oneness Movement.


(1) First of all, there is a definite need for such a history. The Oneness Movement has made a distinct mark upon the religious world and has shared a great part in the history of the Pentecostal movement of the twentieth century.
(2) Many living today know very little of the struggles of the early part of the century. If this knowledge were better known, greater appreciation for the noble warriors of the past and for some still living in their elder life would be had.

(3) The world needs a history of the church in the twentieth century, so like the first-century church. The Bible is emphatic that Christ will come for a bride like unto the church He founded in the beginning of the church age; a church teaching and practicing the same basic doctrines the apostles propagated.

(4) History is filled with the attainments of those who were challenged to heroic deeds by the vision, accomplishment and devotion of men and groups of the past. May this history also accomplish this noble act in the lives of the ministry who read its pages.


The primary concern of this study will be the pinpointing of happenings and events relative to those Pentecostals who baptize by immersion in the name of Jesus Christ, and who receive the baptism of the Holy Ghost with the initial sign of speaking with other tongues, in relation to the second chapter of the Book of the Acts of the Apostles.

“Then Peter said unto them, Repent and be baptized everyone of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost.” (2)

“And when the day of Pentecost was fully come, they were all with one accord in one place. And suddenly there came a sound from heaven as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled all the house where they were sitting. And there appeared unto them cloven tongues like as of fire, and it sat upon each of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance.”(3)

These Pentecostals also believe in the Oneness of the Godhead, rejecting the Trinitarian theory, and basing this doctrine on the Biblical teaching that the Father, Son and Holy Spirit are manifestations of the one true God.

“And without controversy great is the mystery of godliness: God was manifest in the flesh, justified in the Spirit, seen of angels, preached unto the Gentiles, believed on in the world, received up into

In the past fifty years the Oneness message has had a tremendous growth. A recent report by the Associated Press in a national release stated that the United Pentecostal Church was one of the fastest growing church groups in the country. And so it has been the characteristic of these church groups to spread their message far and wide with great evangelistic fervor.

The groups who have played a prominent part in the Oneness emergence into the religious life of America are the following, in order of numerical strength: The United Pentecostal Church; Pentecostal Assemblies of the World; The Assemblies of Jesus Christ; and The Church of the Lord Jesus Christ of the Apostolic Faith.


There are many Pentecostal organizations in the world adhering to various beliefs and forms of church authority. The one common principle where all are alike is the belief in the receiving of the Holy Spirit, as the early church did, with the initial evidence of speaking in other tongues. Most still cling tenaciously to the Trinity, but a select group has embraced the full Scriptural truth of the Oneness of the Godhead and baptism in the name of Jesus.

The various church groups within the Pentecostal movement who have contributed somewhat to its present status are as follows, in the order of greater numerical strength: Assemblies of God; Church of God in Christ; United Pentecostal Church; Church of God; Pentecostal Church of God of America; International Church of the Foursquare Gospel; Pentecostal Assemblies of the World; Pentecostal Holiness Church; Church of God of Prophecy; and Open Bible Standard Churches. There are several other smaller groups in different parts of the country and, of course, some stronger works in other countries of the world. All of these have contributed, to a certain extent, to the impact the Pentecostal movement has had on all the world. At this very time it is not uncommon to hear of preachers and laymen of the more staid denominational churches seeking for, and receiving, the baptism of the Holy Spirit.


There have been injected into the history of mankind, from time to time, weighty spiritual truths which, if followed, would be of tremendous blessing to the recipient. God has, through these revelations and happenings, led people into closer associations with Himself. It has always been the case, though, that the greater majority was too taken up in traditions of the past to follow God on to a fuller and deeper understanding of spiritual things and the heavenly will.

(1) First of all, God’s standard was disobeyed in the Garden of Eden by the first parents.

(2) Who would believe Noah and the seemingly fantastic idea of the ark? Hind thought naturally shows us, in this instance, that God definitely was leading in a much more desirable way.

(3) When the children of Israel were in Egyptian bondage, Moses and his law appeared on the scene to lead them to the land flowing with milk and honey.

(4) While down in Babylonian Captivity, God prepared a way of returning again.

(5) The long-awaited Messiah was then thrust upon the earth in the person of Jesus Christ.

(6) The Day of Pentecost, happening with all its spiritual significance, was next, where believers were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus and received the gift of the Holy Ghost, with the
accompanying sign of speaking in other tongues. Along with this were miracles, healings and a devoted life of holiness to the Lord.

(7) After a falling away from these early church age truths, God raised up Martin Luther and the message of “Justification by Faith.” The Reformation was then to come to pass, led by such able reformers as Zwingli, Calvin, Servetus, Knox and Wesley.

(8) In the very early part of this century God again began pouring out the baptism of the Holy Spirit. This was bringing the church back to its original state.

(9) Then, in the middle teens of this century, light on the original baptismal formula and the Godhead was seen.

(10) Holiness standards were being sought out in compliance with God’s Word. Surely the Lord was preparing a church for the last days.

The important thing to see is that in all these moves by the Lord, as He has revealed new truth or old truth forgotten or rejected, there were those ready to follow Him, no matter the cost. Whatever sacrifices they were called upon to make, or hardships which they had to suffer, some have carefully sought the will of God and followed Him all the way. They were ready to use the fire God had lighted in their own hearts to light other hearts, so that many could enjoy the blessings of this particular leading of the Lord.

It goes without saying that the vast majority of people would let God pass on by. Rejection of the moves of God has been the history of man and also his ruin. Emerson said, “The greatest homage we can pay to truth is to use it.”

(5) This has been one of mankind’s greatest failings because so much truth goes unused and unwanted. When truth comes marching by, too many let it march on without falling into step and following truth to its heaven-crowned destination. Stopfard A. Brooke said, “If a thousand old beliefs were ruined in our march to truth, we must still march on.”

(6 )And because faithful soldiers have shouldered the responsibility of the truth of water baptism in the name of Jesus, the Oneness of the Godhead, and the baptism of the Holy Ghost, we venture into this, their history. It is a tribute to the memory of some already gone and others still living, those often-times overlooked champions of the cross, before whom this writer takes off his shoes and breathes the Scriptural, surely this “is holy ground.”


1. Frank J. Ewart, “The Phenomenon of Pentecost,” p. 75-77.
2. Acts 2:38
3. Acts 2:1-4
4. I Timothy 3:16
5. Tyron Edwards, “The New Dictionary of Thoughts” (Standard BookCompany), p. 687.
6. Ibid.
7. Exodus 3:5