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  • July 11, 2014 - Reflections

    By Jean S. Horner
    The other day while walking down a corridor in a public building, I saw what appeared to be someone walking toward me. On coming closer, I found it was my own reflection in a huge mirror. For a moment it frightened me. Somehow a full-length reflection of one’s self is a startling thing. ...

Rich Heritage, Bright Future

By Ken Horn
Aug. 11, 2013

Recording Our Past

The early editions of the Pentecostal Evangel defended the genuineness of the Pentecostal experience with some lengthy, detailed articles, such as the series in early 1916 by Bennett F. Lawrence, an executive presbyter of the Assemblies of God. But they did not ignore the fact that error could emerge from unbiblical fanaticism and the cult of personality.

“There be many,” W. F. Carothers wrote, “ ... who do not hesitate to rush out with the first impression that strikes them — making shipwreck for themselves and often for many others. ‘Fools rush in where angels fear to tread.’”1

Lawrence’s series was quite thorough. The 13-part “Apostolic Faith Restored: A History of the Present Latter Rain Outpouring of the Holy Spirit known as the Apostolic or Pentecostal Movement” was actually a serialization of the first history of the Assemblies of God in book form, published the same year. Lawrence’s work is still valuable reading, providing a historical perspective in proximity to the actual events.

The Pentecostal Evangel has continued to reinforce the Movement’s history throughout the years with various articles. For example, Cordas C. Burnett offered a three-part retrospective on the formation of the Fellowship with a series titled, “Forty Years Ago,” concluding in the April 11, 1954, issue.

Evaluating Our Past

The Evangel has preserved valuable word pictures of what today would be called Old Time Pentecost.

For example, P.S. Jones in the May 18, 1946, issue said: “If there is one distinctive feature in Pentecostal church worship, it is the prominence given to the prayer room. Most forms of church service end when the benediction is pronounced, but in Pentecostal assemblies another service in the prayer room usually begins at that point. What we have to say here is not intended to detract from the acknowledged importance of the opening service of song, prayer, testimony and the ministry of the Word; but we wish to emphasize that, to a very large degree, the blessing on that service is dependent upon the spiritual power which proceeds from the prayer room.”2

Change is an acknowledged factor in any organization’s history. Articles such as Jones’ permit us to evaluate whether a change has been to the good.

Tracing Our Doctrine

While some would portray early Pentecostals as uneducated and shallow, that could hardly be said of much of the Evangel’s early content. While rich in accounts of experiences with Holy Spirit power, many articles offered studious, in-depth biblical content as well. For example, in 1917, while still The Weekly Evangel, the magazine carried the lengthy multi-part series “Pictures of Pentecost in the Old Testament” by Alice E. Luce, that later was published as a book by Gospel Publishing House.

Luce, a British-born Anglican missionary, became the most prominent missiologist in the Assemblies of God in its early decades. Luce’s writings demonstrate early evidence that AG Missions endeavored to build indigenous churches — an idea in direct contrast to most mainline missions efforts. Paul preached Christ, not culture, Luce affirmed. Missiology in the magazine throughout its history has continued to demonstrate this important distinctive focus, right up to the present day.

The pages of the magazine have never shied away from addressing controversial topics. In its early stages, the magazine had a role in the theological formation of the Movement, addressing the three most important doctrinal debates in the AG’s formative stages — initial evidence of the baptism in the Holy Spirit (tongues), the finished work of Calvary (sanctification), and anti-trinitarianism (Oneness or “Jesus Only”).

Other important doctrinal and cultural issues have been tackled openly since then — creationism, abortion, gay rights, and more. One can even peer back in time and glimpse firsthand information from some of the incidents that divided the Movement, as the stories were developing, such as E.N. Bell’s apology for being rebaptized in the name of Jesus alone.

One can even trace changes in the Movement’s stance on cultural issues. For example, the pacifist position became patriotic support of the military between the two World Wars.

Bell became the first to tackle controversial theological questions regularly in the magazine through “Questions and Answers.” A variety of leaders and theologians in other eras, such as E.S. Williams and Stanley M. Horton, continued this helpful feature throughout most of the century and into the next.

Looking Forward

The mission of the publication from the beginning has been “to propagate the gospel of Jesus Christ; to give proper emphasis to Pentecostal distinctives, including the baptism in the Holy Spirit and its desired effects in the lives of believers; and to strengthen the Fellowship.”

In doing this, the Pentecostal Evangel also emphasizes themes that reinforce the mission of the Assemblies of God:

“Our primary reason for being is to: 1. Evangelize the lost. ?2. Worship God. ?3. Disciple believers.?4. Show compassion.” (See, homepage.)

With the Lord’s help, the Evangel will continue to fulfill this function until His return. And it will continue to be published “not by [human] might nor by [human] power, but by [God’s] Spirit.”

KEN HORN has been the editor of the Pentecostal Evangel since 2008.

1. W.F. Carothers, “Grapes and Pomegranates,” The Weekly Evangel, Jan. 15, 1916, p. 9.

2. P.S. Jones, “A Unique Pentecostal Feature,” The Pentecostal Evangel, May 18, 1946, p. 1.

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