Spread the Tidings Round By Robin Johnston

Spread the Tidings Round
By Robin Johnston

Early Pentecostals understood themselves to he participants in the latter rain outpouring of the Spirit. The Book of Acts outpouring of the Spirit was understood as the former rain. The latter rain would be another outpouring of the Spirit that would herald the second coming of the Lord and would be greater than the former rain.

Even though the early Pentecostals saw themselves as part of a divine destiny ordained by God, they never considered letting the drama play out without aggressively spreading the good news of what God was doing. They knocked doors, held street services on busy intersections, and opened new missions that boldly proclaimed that the Comforter had come. They also harnessed the power of the printing press. Dozens of new periodicals began circulating across America and around the world.

The Azusa Street revival has become the touchstone of the Pentecostal movement. It has cast a long shadow from the humble building located at 312 Azusa Street, Los Angeles, California. However, it might have remained a local phenomenon if William Seymour, the Azusa Street pastor, had not published a monthly newsletter called The Apostolic Faith. Seymour published the periodical from September 1906 until May 1908, which coincides with the height of the revival. Seymour claimed in 1907 that The Apostolic Faith had a press run of over forty thousand. It may be more than coincidence that when Clara Lum moved to Portland, Oregon, to help Florence Crawford and took the mailing list for The Apostolic Faith with her that the Azusa mission began its decline. Seymour obviously thought the periodical was important because he went to court to have the mailing list returned. His suit was not successful and 1908 marks the beginning of the decline in the Azusa Street revival.

Seymour was not alone in his understanding of the importance of periodicals to the spreading of the Pentecostal message. Charles F. Parham, the theological founder of the Pentecostal movement, published a periodical also known as The Apostolic Faith. When his image was tainted with an alleged scandal, a number of his disciples continued to publish The Apostolic Faith and eventually merged it with another periodical known as The Word and Witness. This publication was initially edited by Howard Goss and he subsequently turned it over to E. N. Bell. It was in this periodical that the call was first issued that led to the formation of the Assemblies of God.

Other early publications were The Bridegroom's Messenger, edited by G. B. Cashwell and E. A. Sexton in Atlanta, Georgia. As early as 1908, J. Roswell Flower was publishing The Pentecost in Indianapolis, Indiana. A number of early periodical became official organs of newly developed Pentecostal organization. For example, the Assemblies of God combined The Word and Witness and The Christian Evangel and it eventually became The Pentecostal Evangel, which remains their official organ.

Periodicals also developed around doctrinal issues within the movement. All of the early periodicals were committed to the doctrine of three distinct works of grace—salvation, sanctification, and Holy Spirit baptism. When William Durham challenged this paradigm with his "Finished Work of Calvary" message, his publication, The Pentecostal Testimony became the champion of this message. Durham died prematurely shortly after he unveiled the "finished work" message and his assistant, Frank Ewart joined with R. E. McAlister and G. T. Haywood and began to publish The Good Report, which continued Durham's "finished work" message.

It is not surprising that when the New Issue (baptism in Jesus' name and the Oneness of God) emerged, a number of new periodicals were birthed. Frank Ewart used Meat in Due Season to trumpet God's newest revelation. In Indianapolis G. T Haywood began to publish The Voice in the Wilderness. One issue of The Present Truth, also published in Indianapolis, contained articles by all the leading Oneness advocates. David Lee Floyd and D. C. 0. Oppennan published The Blessed Truth, which also promoted the New Issue.

When the Oneness advocates began to organize, they understood the need for regular communications. One early Oneness organization, the General Assembly of Apostolic Assemblies, adopted Opperman's The Blessed Truth as their official publication. Shortly after its formation, the G. A. A. A. merged with the Pentecostal Assemblies of the World and for a number of years the P A. W. was the primary Oneness organization. Before a decade had passed, underlying racial tensions had led to a splintering of the P. A. W during that time, 0. F Faussbegan to publish The Pentecostal Witness. One of the organizations formed out of the P. A. W, the Pentecostal Ministerial Alliance (which later became the Pentecostal Church Incorporated) called their periodical The Apostolic Herald. The P. A. W merged with the Apostolic Church of Jesus Christ and called their new organization the Pentecostal Assemblies of Jesus Christ and their new official publication, The Pentecostal Outlook. The P. C. I. and the P A. of J. C. merged in 1945 to become the United Pentecostal Church and the new publication was called The Pentecostal Herald.

Along with organizational periodicals, a number of individuals also published periodicals. The most notable Oneness periodical of this type was The Witness of God, published by Andrew Urshan.

The regular publication of newsletters and magazines was instrumental in the rapid spread of the Pentecostal movement and today they provide the best snapshot of the developing movement. We all owe a heartfelt thank-you to our busy pioneers who had the initiative to do the hard work of writing and publishing. They indeed did "spread the tidings 'round." 

From, “Pentecostal Herald”/ www.pentecostiziherold /February 2009, by Robin Johnston

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