Explosion, Motivation, and Consolidation:
The Historical Anatomy of The Pentecostal movement
By L. Grant McClung, Jr.
It began with the scorn and opposition of clergymen and the secular press:
Breathing strange utterances and mouthing a creed which it would seem no sane mortal could understand, the newest religious sect has started in Los Angeles. Meetings are held in a tumble-down shack on Azusa Street, near San Pedro Street, and the devotees of the weird doctrine practice the most fanatical rites, preach the wildest theories and work themselves into a state of mad excitement in their peculiar zeal. (Los Angeles Times 1906:1)
Estimates of its size in 1906 ranged from 13,000 (Corum, 1981, Volume 1, Number 1:1) to 15,000 (Orr 1973:184). By the mid-1920s it had, in the United States alone, increased ten-fold (Orr 1973:184). By the time of its “Golden Jubilee” it had reached a count of at least ten million worldwide (du Plessis 1958:200) and had become known as “The Third Force in Christendom” (Van Dusen 1958:113-l24).
Within eighteen years of the end of this century, the secular press again reported on this phenomenon. Using the figures in David B. Barrett’s World Christian Encyclopedia (1982 Oxford University Press) Time magazine’s Richard Ostling reported that this movement had fifty-one million adherents (1982:66), along with “another eleven million charismatic fellow-travelers . . . within the major Christian bodies”(Spittler 1983:13).
What is the historical anatomy of this missionary awakening known as the Pentecostal Movement? What happened to men and women at the turn of this century to cause a veritable explosion of worldwide evangelistic activity around the globe? Not all of the answers are offered in the following introductory essay, but the reader should be able to gain something more of an “inside view* by tracing some of the historical elements of the movement and reading some of the accounts of first-hand participants.
The “Pentecostal Explosion” at the advent of the twentieth century was not an isolated event. Although Azusa Street seemed to be a focal point, especially from 1906 to 1908, the movement cannot be said to
have been centered in any one place. Bloch-Hoell asserted, “As the Pentecostal Movement spread in the United States, the importance of both Azusa Street and Los Angeles decreased. After the first formative years, the Movement had no joint headquarters” (1964:53).
Leaderless leadership. In addition, no main personality can be said to be the originator of the movement. This, said widely respected pentecostal spokesman Donald Gee, is:
…one highly significant feature of the Movement that distinguished it in a striking way from most of those that have gone before. The Pentecostal Movement does not owe its origin to any outstanding
personality or religious leader, but was a spontaneous revival appearing almost simultaneously in various parts of the world. We instinctively connect the Reformation with Luther, the Quakers with George Fox, Methodism with Wesley, the Plymouth Brethren with Darby and Graves, the Salvation Army with William Booth, and so on. But the outstanding leaders of the Pentecostal Movement are themselves the product of the Movement. They did not make it; it made them. (1949:3)
One well-known product of the movement, David du Plessis, (known as “Mr. Pentecost,” 1977 Logos) emphasized the leadership of the Holy Spirit in the twentieth century as in the first-century church, and underlined Gee’s emphasis that “there is no man who can claim to have been the founder of this great worldwide Christian revival”(l958:l94).
A God to be experienced. This phenomenon of “leaderless leadership” and “denomination less dynamics” was not the result of a “new emphasis on any special doctrine. Rather, the emphasis is upon an experience” (du Plessis 1958:1941. Pentecostals have been known for their insistence upon the necessity of experiencing God through the Holy Spirit. They have historically seen the Holy Spirit himself as the originator and impetus for world mission. Gee said that the central attraction of the
…consisted purely of a powerful individual spiritual experience. The stress was not on any system of doctrine, for Arminians and Calvinists found themselves on the same platforms, and teachers with diverse views upon Holiness and Eschatology were conscious of a new, deep fundamental unity in spirit. Neither was the emphasis upon any ideas about Church government, for Episcopalians, Methodists, Brethren, Salvation Army members, and indeed some from practically every section of the Church, participated in the Movement. There was no particular cult or method practiced, for if there was one thing above another that marked the meetings it was their amazing diversity. (1949:30)
Pentecostal ecumenism. Researcher John Thomas Nichol agreed that “the early Pentecostals emphasized an experience rather than a system of doctrine or church government” (1966:55). Thus, he observed in his oft-quoted Pentecostalism:
…Arminians and Calvinists, Holiness folk who believed in a “second work of grace” and Baptists who adhered to the theory of “the finished work at Calvary,” Methodists, Brethren, and Anglicans-all of whom represented variant forms of church doctrine and polity-all met around the same altar to pray and expect the impartation of the Holy Spirit and his charismatic gifts. (1966:55)
The explosion that temporarily resulted in a “Pentecostal ecumenism” was later to solidify into more neatly marked doctrinal and governmental boundaries, but for the meantime, says Larry Christenson, “Pentecostal Christianity in its formative period had strong ecumenical tendencies. The spontaneity and vitality of its experience spread without too much regard for denominational boundaries” (in Synan 1975:31).
A student movement. But if the explosion could be said to be ecumenical, cross-cultural, and missionary in nature, it could also be described as a “student movement” of sorts. The event that preceded Azusa Street by five years and actually precipitated the revival in Los Angeles began at the outset of the century in a student atmosphere (Corum 1981, Volume 1, No. 2:1). Was it not in a Bible School in Topeka, Kansas, where Charles Parham’s students searched the Scriptures for evidences of a Pentecostal experience? Was it not a student (Agnes N. Ozman) upon whom the Holy Spirit came during that prayer/study vigil? Was it not also a student who later came to Parham’s second school in Houston, Texas? (Synan 1975:31) This student
…was destined to become another key figure in the story of the Pentecostals: W.J. Seymour, an ordained Negro minister. It was Seymour who carried the Pentecostal message to California, to one of the most famous addresses in Pentecostal history: 312 Azusa Street, Los Angeles. (Sherrill 1964:38-39)
Internal elements. Additional reading from two main sources can inform us as to the inner dynamics that made this explosion possible. One of them, Christenson, delineates four basic elements that were present in early Pentecostalism. First, he says, was the priority of event “Pentecostal Christianity tends to find its rise in events which are heralded as a demonstration of supernatural power and activity.” There was, in the second place, a mood of expectancy. Pentecostal Christianity, he notes, “is Christianity standing on tiptoe, expecting something to happen.” The third element was fullness of life in the Holy Spirit, a fullness in which “the Holy Spirit is the initiator of rich and varied Christian experience. No personal testimony is, no worship service complete, without clear-cut evidence of the presence and activity of the Holy Spirit.” Finally, already introduced earlier, there was the paradox of ecumenism and exclusive. Though ecumenical at the outset, the movement developed “exclusivistic tendencies” (“Pentecostalism’s Forgotten Forerunner” in Synan 1975:25-31).
A second source for further study is Chapter 5 of Nichol’s Pentecostalism in which he articulated some fifteen “Causes for the Initial Success of Pentecostalism.” In summary form they are:
1. A world conditioned to expect the supernatural.
2. Christians previously prepared to expect manifestations of the Spirit.
3. Emphasis upon experience rather than doctrine or church government.
4. Pentecostals’ self-image as a revitalization movement within the Christian Church.
5. An early thrust toward nominal Christians and lethargic believers rather than to the unconverted.
6. An appeal to the lower strata of American society.
7. Taking initiative in going to people rather than waiting for them to come to them.
8. The use of mass meetings to create a sense of belonging to a community.
9. The effective use of newspapers/ periodicals to disseminatepentecostal message.
10. A democratic tendency which drew people of all classes with nodiscrimination.
11. Emphasis upon divine healing.
12. Meeting psychological felt-needs of people.
13. The conviction of early adherents that God had raised them up for a special work.
14. A tremendous spirit of sacrifice.
15. The principle of establishing indigenous churches.(1966:54-69)
Motivation. To say that early pentecostals were motivated and driven by a power beyond themselves would be a classic understatement! Their lifestyle and message proceeded from a conviction that God was in their midst and had chosen them for a special work. It was this certainty, “the sense of reality that emanated from them, which undoubtedly attracted people. The Pentecostals were convincing, someone has said, because they themselves were convinced” (Nichol 1966:66). Their conviction is measured on at least three levels of their experience: theological motivation, evangelistic zeal, and supernatural recruitment.”
Theological motivation. Early pentecostals were marked by their exactness in following a literal interpretation of Scripture. They sought to be people led by “The Book” and by the Holy Spirit. They saw themselves in the midst of a literal fulfillment of Joel 2:28-32. Whatever criticism is offered against their subjective interpretation of Scripture and their high value upon experience, pentecostals have always valued Scripture as God’s Word for today. One of the earliest Azusa Street alumni, Frank Bartleman, recalled, “In the beginning of the Pentecostal outpouring I remember preaching for three hours one evening in the heart of New York City. And then the people wanted more. Those were days of great hunger for the Word of God” (n.d.:7). A Church of God minister, C. M. Padgett, wrote in the December 14, 1918, issue of the Church of God Evangel about the “Results of Sanctification.” One of them, he said, will be:
The Word of God will be prized above all reading, to your soul it will be the book of books; other reading matter will be secondary. The newspaper will not be allowed to crowd out the Word of God. (Tomlinson 1918:1)
Agnes Ozman, whose baptism in the Holy Ghost on January 1, 1901, signaled the beginning of the modern Pentecostal Movement in America, was deeply motivated by the Scriptures. During her active involvement in mission work-visiting the elderly, praying for the sick, preaching and testifying-she realized:
…a need within. And for about three weeks my heart became hungry for the baptism of the Holy Ghost. I wanted the promise of the Father more than ever I did food or sleep. On New Year’s night, January 1, 1901, near eleven o’clock, I asked that prayer be offered for me and hands be laid on me to fulfill all scripture, that I might receive the baptism which my whole heart longed to have. (LaBerge n.d.:27-29)
Immediately after her controversial baptism in the Holy Ghost and its surrounding publicity, Agnes Ozman and her Bible school colleagues went to the Scriptures:
So we blessed God and gave thanks for all things, made a study of the outpouring of the Holy Ghost. We found the sign given when the former rain of the Spirit was poured out was talking in tongues and magnifying Jesus as in Acts 2:4. (n.d.:30)
But if their experience was informed by the Word, their passion was fired by the Spirit. They followed the precedent of holiness teachers such as Torrey, Moody, and Simpson who saw that “the divine purpose in the baptism in the Holy Spirit was an inducement with power for witnessing and service” (Gee 1961:30). The Pentecostals believed that the new experience of the Holy Spirit was more than and separate from their experience of sanctification. The original statement of faith from the first issue of The Apostolic Faith (Seymour’s paper from the Azusa Street Mission) had a statement to that effect:
The Baptism with the Holy Ghost is a gift of power upon the sanctified life. . . . Too many have confused the grace of Sanctification with the enduement of Power. (Corum 1981, Volume 1, No. 1:2).
Numerous testimonies match the story of pioneer preacher Aaron A. Wilson, who “felt the call to preach from a child, but when filled with the Spirit such a burden for lost souls came upon me!” (in Warner 1978:78).
Motivation for lost souls and the preaching of the gospel to all the world flowed from a life in the Spirit and the literal instruction and modeling of Scripture, particularly the book of Acts. It was also literal words of Scripture and the prevailing mood of premillennialism that provided yet another theological motivation: an eschatological urgency.
Eschatological urgency is at the heart of understanding the missionary fervor of early pentecostalism. Damboriena has accurately observed,”Understood as the theology of ‘last things,’ eschatology belongs to
the essence of Pentecostalism” (1969:82) and other analysts, both sympathetic and nonsympathetic, have documented the symbiotic relationship between premillennialism, dispensationalism, and the Pentecostal Movement (Bloch-Hoell l964; Sheppard in Hunter 1983).
The early pentecostal preachers believed that they were proclaiming the “End Time message” (Nichol 1966:66). Their early records revealed:
…a close and abiding association between the baptism in the Holy Spirit as evidenced by speaking in tongues for an enduement of power in Christian witness, a fervent belief in the premillennial return of Christ and His command to evangelize to the uttermost parts of the world. This Baptism, viewed as the fulfillment of Joel’s prophecy for “the last days,” seemed to heighten the imperative for world evangelism. (McGee 1983:6)
These pioneers envisioned a revival that was going to touch and inspire every part of the Christian Church, for they were representative of so many of its sections. Above all things, says Gee, “their hearts glowed with the expectation and conviction that this was destined to be the last revival before the coming of the Lord, and that, for them, all earthly history would soon be consummated by the ‘Rapture'” (1949:2). In telling the story of the West Central Council of the Assemblies of God, Eugene N. Hastie takes note of a number of early missionaries from the council who went before the formation of a missions board. One group, the Crouch family, left in 1912 for Egypt on a one-way trip! “The Crouch party,” says Hastie, “went mostly at their own expense, expecting to remain there until the rapture, which they believed was very near at hand” (1948:143).
A look inside the Azusa Street paper, The Apostolic Faith, reveals interesting glimpses of the urgency reflected in their times. Though somewhat lengthy, the following quotations provide observers with the eschatological worldview of early pentecostals. This series covers a time period from September 1906 to January 1908:
Many are the prophesies spoken in unknown tongues and many visions that God is giving concerning His soon coming. The heathen must first receive the gospel. One prophecy given in an unknown tongue was interpreted, “The time is short, and I am going to send out a large number in the Spirit of God to preach the full gospel in the power of the Spirit.” (Corum 1981, Volume 1,No. 1:1)
Similarly, another instance seems to be typical of the messages given in those early days. Headlined under “The Second Chapter of Acts,” it reads:
A preacher’s wife, who at first opposed Pentecostal truth, went home and read the second chapter of Acts, and while she read, the Spirit fell upon her and she began to speak in tongues. . . . As she was on
the way to the church she met a brother whom she had been instrumental in leading to the Lord. He is a foreigner and as soon as she saw him, she began to pour out her soul in French. He was amazed andsaid, “When did you learn French?”
“What did I say?” she asked.
“You said: ‘Get ready! Get ready! Jesus is coming soon!'” (Volume 1, No. 2:2)
Others have come from the Atlantic coast and from Colorado and different states and they have received a Bible Pentecost, evidenced by speaking in tongues, and from other centers workers are going out to the ends of the earth, till we cannot keep track of them. The Lord is speedily preparing His people for His coming. (Volume 1, No. 6:1)
Following the summer camp meeting of 1907 (in Hermon on the outskirts of Los Angeles) a reporter said:
Many were the heavenly anthems the Spirit sang through His people. And He gave many beautiful messages in unknown tongues, speaking of His soon coming, invitations to come to the Lord, and exhortations from the Word. (Volume 1, No. 10:1)
A sense of immediacy is found in this final quote:
There is no man at the head of this movement. God Himself is speaking in the earth. We are on the verge of the greatest miracle the world has ever seen, when the sons of God shall be manifested, the saintsshall come singing from the dust (Isaiah 26:19) and the full overcomers shall be caught up to meet the Lord in the air. The political world realizes that some great crisis is at hand, the scientific world,the religious world all feel it. The coming of the Lord draweth nigh,it is near, even at the doors. (Volume 1, No. 11:1)
Twenty years later one of the most remembered of the early Pentecostal pioneers, T.B. Barratt, wrote in the preface to his When the Fire Fell, “I am convinced that this Movement is the last call to all ere Christ comes!”(1927:3). As the reader will note in Part Two (which deals more at length with theological motivations, the eschatological factor) though somewhat diminished, is still at work among Pentecostals today.
Reflecting back near the forty-year mark of the movement, Donald Gee noticed that on the British scene, the early sense of urgency tended to keep things from being too well organized:
The strong expectation of the soon return of our Lord prevented any great expectation of perpetuity in the home assemblies. . . . Evangelistic zeal mostly expended itself in open air preaching and missionary fervor. (1949:63)
A sense of the immanency of Christ’s return caused other things, like theologizing, to be postponed. Responding to the criticism that Pentecostals have produced little literature, Church of God historian Charles W. Conn noted at the movement’s fifty-year mark:
Another factor that must be considered is the Pentecostal sense of urgency. The belief in the imminent second-coming of Christ has been so great that more emphasis has been placed on the present than on the future. Our message has been one of immediacy-to reach as many of the lost with the message of Christ as is possible before His return. For that reason we have preached, prayed, fasted and urged much, but have written little. (1956:34)
Evangelistic zeal. Early pentecostal missionaries, as Gary B. McGee’s informative article illustrated, were characterized with the watchword, “They went everywhere preaching the gospel”(1983:6). McGee, Associate Professor of Theology and Church History at the Assemblies of God Theological Seminary, claimed, “The history of Pentecostalism cannot be properly understood apart from its missionary vision.” Evangelism andmissions typified the movement, said Assemblies of God historian Stanley H. Frodsham who asserted, “This Pentecostal revival has also been decidedly missionary from the beginning” (1946:50).
Azusa Street participants were flung from Los Angeles and other centers of pentecostal worship into the far corners of the world. In the years 1906-1908 pentecostal missionaries began pressing “to the regions
beyond” (McCracken 1943:8):
Whole families volunteered for the Word, sold their possessions, and started for the field. They were possessed with a passion to go to the ends of the earth for their Lord, and no sacrifice seemed too great for them that the gospel might be proclaimed and the coming of the Lord might be hastened. (McCracken 1943:8)
This early evangelistic zeal was characterized by a spontaneity in sending forth personnel without prearranged financial help. Missionaries went strictly “by faith.” This was still before consolidation and the structural “means” of missions. The following story of an early Pentecostal Holiness missionary typifies scores of stories which could be recounted:
Soon Miss Almyra Aston was also ordained by the Oklahoma Conference which met at Oklahoma City August 25, 1911, and sent to India. She had only ten dollars toward her fare when she started for California, but God miraculously supplied her need and on January 3, 1912 she sailed for Hong Kong. Here she intended to stay until God saw fit to provide passage to India, which He did, and in due time she arrived at her destination where she labored for several years. (Campbell 1951:346)
Supernatural recruitment. As one reads the book of Acts, he is amazed at the surface simplicity with which the early Christians obeyed the leading of the Holy Spirit. For example, the evangelist Philip was preaching in Samaria (Acts 8) and a great revival ensued. In the midst of this turning to God, Philip was instructed to leave and go to the road that led from Jerusalem to Caza (8:26). With like simplicity, he obeyed the Holy Spirit who told him to approach the Ethiopian eunuch in the chariot (8:29-30). In fact, he was so eager to obey the Lord that he ran to the man! The same impression is conveyed by the spontaneity in the sending forth of early pentecostal missionaries.
These early evangelists were supernaturally recruited in a variety of ways: dreams(Ingram 1938:12); visions(Burton in Gee 1949:100); prophecy(Corum 1981:6); tongues and interpretations (Durasoff 1969:69-70); words/inner impressions (Lindsay 1972:20); and the direct voice of God (Lindsay 1972:17; Cook 1955:20). Others had this calling initiated or confirmed by the Lord “customizing” certain portions of Scripture to them during their Bible reading (Warner 1978:140-141; Frodsham 1946:145).
These leadings of the Holy Spirit not only characterized pentecostal missions in the early stages but continued on through the years (du Plessis 1977:1-6; Richards 1972:41; Sumrall 1977:24-30). Of interest is the experience recorded by many of being in prayer, hearing the name of a place which they had never heard of before, and later having to find the place on a map:
It was during this period, whilst I was in prayer, that the Holy Spirit impressed a word upon my soul. It was the name of a town that Ihad never visited and knew nothing about. . . . I felt that God was speaking to me to go to this particular town to establish another church. (Richards 1972:41)
Subsequently this English author went to Slough, in Buckinghamshire, and established a church that later grew to more than five hundred members.
Robert F. Cook was an Azusa Street recipient who went to India as an independent missionary and later joined the Church of God through the efforts of J.H. Ingram. He tells the unusual account of how God confirmed his leading to India. In order for Cook’s wife to be assured of the Lord’s leading:
He gave her the name of a town in South India, of which she was quite ignorant at the time.
She and a friend, Esther Lampert, were sitting on the floor while Esther was tuning Wife’s guitar; suddenly Wife spoke out, “Bangalore.”
Sister Esther looked up and said, “Did you say ‘Tune lower’?” “No,” said Wife, “I heard a voice saying*Bangalore’ and I repeated it.”When I came home, they told me of this, and I said, “Why, that is the town where the missionary with whom we are going has lived.” (1955:20)
Recently, in discussing intercession for “hidden people,” Foursquare pastor Jack Hayford said, “One man I know was given the name of a province in China which he had never heard of. He had to find it on the map to verify it existed, yet the Holy Spirit had whispered into his heart while he prayed”(in Pedersen 1981, Volume 18, No. 2: 14).
Though in the early stages when there were no mission boards, denominations, or special organizations, there was still a spiritual sending forth, a sense of belonging to a group which was “sponsoring” one, even if only pledging to pray and send whatever finances that could be raised by faith. In Fred T. Corum’s Like as Fire (a collection of Azusa Street papers) one notes a picture of a group of twelve which formed part of the original “leadership” at the mission. These, says Corum:
…were the twelve selected to examine the candidates for licenses as missionaries and evangelists. The licenses were signed by the Pastor W.J. Seymour, and Elder Hiram W. Smith, who had formerly been a Methodist Pastor. These twelve acted as the Credential Committee and after a candidate had been approved they laid on their hands and prayed as did the Apostles of old. People were told where to go on the mission field through visions and prophecy and results followed wherever they went. (1981:6)
One of the early earmarks of the movement was a practice which has received both negative and positive commentary even within the Pentecostal Movement. In order for it to be understood, the backdrop of
the events surrounding the baptism of Agnes Ozman needs to be retold from another angle. In her own words:
The next night after I received the Holy Ghost . . . I with others went to a mission downtown in Topeka and my heart was full of glory and blessings. I began to Pray in English and then in tongues. At the close of the services a man who is a Bohemian said he understood what I said in his own language. . . . When my husband first heard speaking in tongues at a street meeting in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, two women spoke in tongues and he thought they had learned the language they were speaking. And it was a sign to him, then it made him hungry. (La Berge n.d.:32)
As reports circulated about the events at Parham’s Bible school,
…reporters, government interpreters, and language experts converged on the school to investigate the new phenomenon . . . a remarkable claim made during these meetings was that the students, Americans all, spoke in twenty-one known languages. . . . (Synan 1971:102)
Pentecostal historian Vinson Synan says that Parham began to take these events at face value and…immediately began to teach that missionaries would no longer be compelled to study foreign languages to preach in the mission fields. From henceforth, he taught, one need only receive the baptism with the Holy Ghost and he could go to the farthest corners of the world and preach to the natives in languages unknown to the speaker. . . . Very few pentecostal leaders accepted this premise, although Parham held to it until his death. (1971:102-103)
The phenomenon recorded in Ozman’s testimony is known as xenolalia. “speaking in a known language which the person has not learned by mechanical methods” (Hunter 1983:13). Norwegian researcher Nils Bloch-Hoell (an outside observer) has related this activity to pentecostal missions in his The Pentecostal Movement under the subtopic “Xenolalia and The Resulting Urge to Open Foreign Missions”:
In December of the year 1906 a headline in a New York newspaper announced that “FAITH GIVES QUAINT SECT NEW LANGUAGES TO CONVERT AFRICA.” There followed an account of Pentecostals on their way to Africa and other distant fields because they believed that they had received, together with the gift of glossolalia, a call to the missionary field. This case is by no means unique. There are many reports from the early Pentecostal Movement claiming that immigrants were converted when the persons who spoke with tongues used a language which they had never learnt, the native language of the immigrant. It was on this account that Pentecostal believers went from America in 1906, believing that the gift of speaking with tongues which they had received would enable them to preach the gospel to the heathens in their own languages. A source from January 1908 reports eighteen cases from China, Japan, and lndia, all of which were unsuccessful. (1964:87)
What Bloch-Hoell calls xenolalia is referred to by Assemblies of God researcher Ralph W. Harris as xenoglossolalia(l973:6) and by anthropologist/ linguist William J. Samarin (Tongues 0f Men and Angels) as xenogiossia (1972:109ff). Technically, says Church of God of Prophecy theologian Harold D. Hunter:
Glossolalia is a form of speech which does not directly correspond to any known language, while akolalia can be used to describe that phenomenon in which the speaker uses one language and the audience “hears” the words in a different language(s).
Xenolalia refers to one speaking in a known language which the person has not learned by mechanical methods. It would be possible to use the term heteroglossolalia for what I have labelled xenolalia. (1983:13)
That Azusa Street missionaries were influenced by Parham’s teaching is evidenced in the first issue of The Apostolic Faith:
Many are speaking in new tongues, and some are on their way to the foreign field, with the gift of the language. We are going on to get more of the power of God. (Corum 1981 Volume 1, No. 1:1)
The practice was further undergirded by such accounts as that of A.G. Ward, a pioneer minister among the Indians in Canada. One day while preaching to them through an interpreter, “he began to speak in other tongues under the power of the Spirit. His interpreter suddenly exclaimed, ‘Why you are now speaking to us in our own language'” (Gee 1949:14).
Without discounting the practice altogether, most Pentecostal writers have later interpreted xenolalia to be the exception rather than the rule. Frodsham, however, devotes an entire chapter to it in his With
Signs Following ( 1946:229-252) and takes a rather positive view of the practice. Harris, who has devoted an entire book to the subject (Spoken By the Spirit 1973), says that the phenomenon is characteristic of contemporary Pentecostalism as well as that reported from the earlier days of the movement. He collected instances of “xenoglossolalia” from more than sixty languages. His informants were from a wide spectrum of participants who responded to his query for actual, verifiable instances (1973:8).
McGee notes that early in the movement many Pentecostals had begun to question the missionary use of tongues and emphasized that the Baptism of the Holy Spirit was for an avenue of praise and intercession to God. “Early periodicals,” he said, “began to emphasize the need for language study before commencing overseas evangelism” (1983:6). Donald Gee has also attempted a correction by pointing to the use of tongues primarily in worship and personal devotion:
Although its chief purpose was for communion with God in prayer and praise, yet it could also provide an arresting sign to unbelievers if any were present. Divine providence could add to the impressiveness of the sign by causing the language uttered to be the mother tongue of the unbeliever, as on the Day of Pentecost. This was apparently incidental, however, and was not inherent in the gift. (1972:62-63)
While this is not the place for a lengthy treatment of the subject in itself, it should be seen as a central element in the missionary fervor and practice of the first Pentecostal missionaries. They were theologically motivated by literal biblicalism and the dynamic personal working of the Holy Spirit; they were full of evangelistic zeal and spontaneous missionary sending; and they were recruited supernaturally. Such were the characteristics of the Pentecostal explosion and motivation.
Consolidation. The early explosive years of the movement and the fiascos associated with doctrinal naivete (Synan 1971:111) andfinancial immaturity (Conn 1959:24-25) began to demonstrate the need for sound financial support, overall strategizing, and proper preparation for work on foreign fields (McGee 1983:7). Conn suggests that two words typify the missionary efforts of the “primitive Pentecostal movement . . . vague and simple . . .” (1959:15):
In order to understand the situation of this primitive period, one must understand something of early Pentecostal missions. There were no strong denominations or wealthy mission funds. So universal was the Pentecostal revival that there were few clear-cut sectarian lines. Even those bodies that were identifiably organized, such as the Church of God, were too poor or too small to accomplish a great deal alone. Pentecostal missionaries went to all parts of the world, to be sure, but they usually went as emissaries of the entire Pentecostal fellowship, without sponsorship of any specific church or missions board. They went forth, as they call it, “by faith,” expecting to be kept on the mission field by whatever support might be sent to them. They were the true pioneers of the Pentecostal faith, souls who bore a burden to carry the message of Christ to distant shores, who labored without certainty of provision and accepted even occasional aid as a gift from God. (1959:14-15)
Our discussion of the maturation and consolidation of pentecostal missions will be guided by three considerations. There will be a look at three kinds of pentecostal missionaries, a pentecostal faith mission (case study), and the subsequent denominations.
Three kinds of missionaries. McGee has helped the process of sorting out the maze of missionary types from the early days of the movement by suggesting that there are at least three different groups of missionaries in early pentecostalism:
1. Those who had been called, but due to their feelings about the urgency of the hour and their belief in the missionary purpose of tongues, took little or no time to gather financial resources or study the history, culture, or language of the country where they were going to minister.
2. The newly Spirit-filled veterans of other missionary agencies.
3. Men and women who had received Bible institute education in preparation for overseas endeavors (1983:6-7).
McGee notes that the second group of missionaries figured prominently in early pentecostal missions. These were persons of experience who brought to the movement accumulated years of experience in missionary structures (1983:6-7). In some cases, the work of newly formed denominations and mission boards was as much that of consolidating and amalgamating existing works started by independent pentecostals as that of initiating new advances in missions.
Such was the case of a Church of God missionary, J.H. Ingram, who, “More than any other person before him (in the Church of God)… personified missionary zeal and dramatized the missions cause”(Conn 1959:28). Ingram not only served as a missionary himself but embarked on several around-the-world “good will tours” for his denomination, intending to “contact independent missionaries around the world who were interested in affiliating with the Church of God” (Conn 1959:29). As with the Church of God so with others: consolidation had begun.
A Pentecostal faith mission. As the North American scene was still in the explosion phase (ca. 1906-1911) the British were busy putting together a faith mission: The Pentecostal Missionary Union.
A conspicuous result of the fervor and motivation stirred by the expanding Pentecostal Movement was the kindling of a new zeal and interest in foreign missions. In Great Britain, says Donald Gee:
…the need became apparent for some kind of Pentecostal missionary organization. Young men and women were coming forward in an increasing stream who evidently needed some kind of training before they left; whilst experienced missionaries connected with existing Societies were finding themselves forced out on account of coming into fresh blessing through the Pentecostal Movement. (1949:46)
Thus, on January 9, 1909 (less than a decade after the Ozman baptism in Topeka, Kansas, and only three years following the initial events at Azusa Street), a small company gathered at All Saints’ Vicarage in Sunderland to form the “Pentecostal Missionary Union.” Alexander A. Boddy was the first chairman, but at a later meeting on October 14, when the first official minutes began, records show that Cecil Polhill was elected president, “a post which he retained until the Pentecostal Missionary Union became merged with the Assemblies of God in 1925″(Gee 1949:46). Cecil Polhill had already distinguished himself as a veteran missionary, having gone to China twenty years before as one of the now famous “Cambridge Seven” (C.T. Studd was another of that early group). Polhill had subsequently visited the outpouring in Los Angeles and was baptized in the Holy Spirit at a prayer meeting in a private house there. Gee tells us that Polhill brought experience and instruction to the fledgling young Pentecostal mission:
The principles of the Pentecostal Missionary Union were very largely formulated upon the model of the China Inland Mission. This is not surprising in view of the fact that Cecil Polhill was also a member of the Council of the China Inland Mission. It was therefore what is generally known as a “faith mission,” and the Directors did not guarantee any fixed amount of support to workers, but sought faithfully to distribute the funds available. It was undenominational in character; and missionaries were at liberty to adopt whatever form of church government they personally believed to be most scriptural in any churches formed by the blessing of God through their ministry. (1949:47)
The PMU did not waste any time in appointing their first missionaries. Four months later, two single women, Kathleen Miller and Lucy James, sailed for India on February 24, 1909. Miller had previously been in India but was now returning under pentecostal auspices. Miss James was a first-term appointee. The first four missionaries actually trained by the PM U went out in 1910. One of them was John C. Beruldsen, who ministered for over thirty-five years in North China (1949:47-48).
Of interest is that fact that the PMU was organized and sending forth board-sponsored missionaries at least fifteen years prior to the establishment of boards and departments by the two largest North American pentecostal bodies-the Assemblies of God and the Church of God. The Assemblies of God did not formalize their “Missionary Department” until 1919 (Menzies 1971:131) and the Church of God established a standing Foreign Missions Board in 1926 (Conn 1959:25). One year after the PMU sent Miller and James, Church of God missionary R. M. Evans sold his possessions in Florida and landed with his wife and another self-supporting missionary, Carl M. Padgett, in Nassau, Bahama Islands, on January 4, 1910 (Conn 1959:50). Evans, however, had gone totally at his own expense.
The following year (in September, 1911), some of the earliest Assemblies of God missionaries (the Clyde Millers and Vivian Waldron) left Des Moines, Iowa, for British East Africa. Eugene N. Hastie tells us they were the first pentecostal missionaries from the West Central District Council. Since there was no organized body to stand behind them, “a local missionary board was formed in Des Moines to send them support and encouragement” (1948:142).
Many ideals and models could be drawn from the PMU before it later merged with the Assemblies of God. At least one main emphasis of the mission should be quoted in our day in which mission agencies and denominational boards are awakening to the challenge of “unreached peoples”:
…the particular emphasis of the Pentecostal Missionary Union was always upon China, and reaching the closed land of Tibet. A specially urgent emphasis was placed upon taking the gospel to the last few lands that had never heard, and a further party went to the North-West Frontier of lndia, in an attempt to reach Afghanistan. (Gee 1949:48)
Frontier missions and focus upon the unreached was a part of Pentecostal missions as early as 1909 with the vision of the Pentecostal Missionary Union.
Elsewhere in Europe, the Norwegian foreign mission work was sending missionaries to India, South Africa, and South America by 1910. About the same time the Swedish Pentecostal churches were initiating an aggressive missions program (Woodford in Greenway 1952:42-43).
The North American denominations. Back on the North American scene, as Woodford observed, most pentecostal denominations were making initial efforts at some type of missions organization within ten years of the first spontaneous events associated with Azusa Street and other indigenous missions (in Greenway 1952:42).
It appears that the Pentecostal Holiness Church was one of the earliest groups to begin the consolidation process. Joseph E. Campbell, one of their earliest historians, says that the earliest record of a
“missionary board” in the Pentecostal Holiness Church was at the Fayetteville Convention in 1904. There may have even been some type of earlier activity, but “there is no concrete evidence to warrant such a conclusion” (1951:344). In 1906 at the Lumberton, North Carolina Convention, a Reverend T.J. McIntosh was received as an ordained minister in the organization. McIntosh went to China in 1907 and traveled on around the world. In 1909 he circled the world a second time. Though he was the first missionary to receive financial support from the Pentecostal Holiness Church, he did not go out officially under the church’s board. “There were no official missionaries sent outby the Pentecostal Holiness Church,” says Campbell, “until after the consolidation with the Fire-Baptized Holiness Church in 1911” (1951:344).
The Pentecostal Holiness Church elected a Foreign Missionary Board in 1911. By the time of their General Convention in 1913 they had some eleven missionaries on the field, some partially supported while others received no support at all (1951:347-348).
The Church of God (Cleveland, Tennessee) which, as is typical of most North American pentecostal groups, has more members outside of North America than on the continent, was founded on August 19, 1886, with nine members (Conn 1959:11). As such, it has the distinction of being the oldest pentecostal church in America, pre-dating the Topeka outpouring and the Azusa Street revival. It should be noted, however, that the Church of God was not a Pentecostal church at its inception. It was ten years from the founding of this movement before they experienced supernatural signs and wonders during the “Shearer Schoolhouse Revival” of 1896. It remained static until it became fully Pentecostal (McClung 1983b:8-9; Conn 1959:11-12).
As early as the General Assembly of November, 1913, “a systematic raising of foreign missions finances was introduced” to the Church of God (Conn 1959:23). The following year the first “Committee to Consider Plans for Foreign Mission Work” met and
…submitted some resolutions providing for state treasurers and a general treasurer, and for tithes of freewill offerings and special mission offerings, taken by evangelists at their convenience, to be forwarded to Headquarters. This was modified slightly the next year, a committee of five being appointed, who urged that a special offering be taken at least once a month and that the pastors present the matter to their people oftener. (McCracken 1943:13)
By 1917 there was a bimonthly special missions page in the Church of God Evangel that announced special “mission-day” offerings. Historian Horace McCracken observed, “The increase between 1916 and 1919 is partly traceable to these ‘mission days'” (1943:13). The Church of God eventually instituted a standing Foreign Missions Board in 1926 (forty years after their founding in 1886) and created a full-time office of Executive Mission Secretary in 1942 (1943:15).
April 2, 1914 was the date of the first gathering of a new pentecostal denomination, which has become the largest and best known of all North American Pentecostal movements: The Assemblies of God. There is agreement among Assemblies of God historians that one of the powerful motives and initial reasons which brought the Assemblies of God together was the cause of world evangelism (Kendrick 1961:96; Hodges 1974:31; Menzies 1971:94, 106). In a sense, the denomination was founded as a missions organization.
The December 20, 1913, issue of a Pentecostal tabloid Word and Witness carried a formal call for a “General Convention of Pentecostal Saints and Churches of God in Christ”(Menzies 1971:93). The same issue enumerated five subjects to be considered at the forthcoming meeting. Two of those subjects directly addressed the need for consolidation and coordination of foreign missionary efforts (1971:94).
The need had come, says Kendrick, for a “clearing agency”:
…one that could receive and forward funds, make appeals, and publicize the work of missions. The Assemblies of God became just such an agency. The first council directed the chairman to serve as
“missionary secretary” and to administer all missionary contributions. The Executive Presbytery was also considered a “missionary presbytery” and as such assisted the chairman with the missionary problems of the new group. (1961:96)
At the initial General Council in part of a second resolution which later became part of a document entitled “Preamble and Resolution on Constitution,” there was an appeal “to be more scriptural and legal in transacting business, owning property, and executing missionary work at home and foreign lands” (Menzies 1971:100).
The strong missions flavor present at the founding meeting carried over to the third council in 1915. At that time a definite missionary policy was desired. Accordingly, says Kendrick, the following written plan was “adopted as the basis of the missionary practices of the church”:
Resolved. That this Council exert all its powers to promote the evangelicalism of heathen lands according to New Testament methods, viz:
First. In the proper testing of those who claim to be called to the foreign work. Rev. 2:2; Acts 13:1-4.
A. As to a personal experience of full New Testament salvation.
B. As to a definite call to foreign work.
C. As to physical, mental and spiritual fitness for the work.
Second. In the proper sending, supporting and supervision of those approved.
A. Every Assembly ought to have a definite part in it, either sending or maintaining one or more missionaries of its own, or sharing the burden of one or more missionaries with one or more other assemblies.
B. Missionaries receiving the baptism on the field ought to be brought in touch and supported by the assemblies having no missionaries of their own.
C. Missionaries who fail on the field ought to be brought home by assemblies concerned.
D. Missionaries are responsible to the assemblies supporting them for all funds entrusted to them and should give a periodical report.
E. No missionary should return home without the approval of his or her supporting assemblies except in extreme circumstances.
Third. Missionaries home on furlough should be maintained and supervised by their assemblies the same as while on the field. Every opportunity should be afforded to present the needs of their field and of mission work in general, not only to their own assemblies, but the Assemblies of God everywhere. (1961:96-97)
In 1919, J. Roswell Flower was appointed to a newly developed position, Missionary Secretary. This was followed by the establishment of the “Missionary Department” that same year and a reorganized Foreign Missions Board in 1955 (Menzies 1971:131, 246).
Other North American groups followed suit. The Pentecostal Assemblies of Canada consolidated their position between 1919 and 1921 (Woodford in Greenway 1952:43) and the Open Bible Standard Churches between 1927 and 1932 (Mitchell 1982:105). Within twenty years of its birth the Pentecostal explosion, though not losing its momentum and fire, was consolidated and ready to move into further organized expansion. “From this time,” says Woodford, “advance was registered all along the line…” (Greenway 1952:43)