A New Season

Over eight months ago, we left a church we loved and I laid down my calling as a pastor in order to seek out what God had next for our family.  It has been a difficult 8 months and we often have been tired from the waiting, from what seemed to be open doors that inexplicably shut, and from living in scarcity.  Yet, even in the difficulty of these past months, God has been faithful and we have not only survived, but we have thrived through our transition.

I am excited to announce that this time of transition has finally came to a close.  20 years ago, in a freshman class at ORU, I heard the Lord say to me, “You are going to get a PhD”.  10 years ago, as I finished my masters degree at ORU, I started my journey toward getting my PhD believing that one day God would lead me back ORU. That day has arrived.

For the past several months I have been in talks with Dr. Mark Roberts, the new dean of the ORU Library, about joining his team.  After months of waiting and unexpected challenges, last Friday things finally came together. On Monday morning I began a new career as a Faculty Librarian at ORU.  I am so thankful to Dr. Roberts showing me favor in offering me this position.  My primary job is to help with the acquisition of new scholarly books needed for ORU’s new PhD program that will begin in the next year.  In addition, I will provide support to the many other outstanding librarians and assist Dr. Roberts as needed in the Holy Spirit Research Center.  (In short, God gave me a job where I get to buy books and help students to do research on the Holy Spirit! How awesome is that!) This opportunity couldn’t be a better fit for me and I give God all the praise for making this happen.

In addition to this awesome development, during this transition time I have received several opportunities to share about the ministry of the Holy Spirit in several churches in the Tulsa area. I have been given opportunities to preach in Sunday services and have given several seminars on Holy Spirit in Wednesday night services, small groups and Young Adult groups and have seen God do some amazing things.  God’s people are so hungry for solid teaching as well as authentic experiences with the Holy Spirit.  Some of the talks I have given have been: Three experiences with the Holy Spirit,  the Baptism in the Holy Spirit,  Reasons you should pray in the Spirit, the Holy Spirit in the life of Jesus, and the nature of Spiritual gifts. In every session, the Holy Spirit has stirred up weary believers, filled hungry hearts, and truly brought times of refreshing and renewal to believers.  Everything God has taught me through my education, writings, and ministry in the church are being used to help stir up a passion for Spirit-filled ministry in other churches. What an honor God has given to me to have these opportunities.

This is definitely a new season for the Isgrigg family.  I am so thankful to God for his goodness. And thankful to those who have prayed for us and supported us during this time.  I am especially thankful to God for a wife who was courageous enough to step out in faith and who has been my rock though it all.  I still have one more goal to achieve, that is to finish my PhD.  I am nearing the end and it is just in time. I am truly excited about my new season and what God has for me to do.

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Eschatological Women of the Assemblies of God: Alice E. Luce

Alice Eveline Luce was a missionary to India and church planting pioneer who entered the Pentecostal movement in 1910. She was born in England in 1873 and at age 22 she became a missionary with the Anglican Church Missionary Society.[1] While in India, word of the Pentecostal movement had reached her in 1910 and she sought out the baptism in the Spirit for herself. Not long after, she became ill and returned to England in 1912 to recover. In 1915 she moved to Texas to become a missionary to Mexico and was ordained in the AG by M.M. Pinson. In 1926, she helped to found the Spanish speaking Berean Bible School (now Latin America Bible Institute) in San Diego with veteran missionary to Mexico H.C. Ball. Alice Luce was known in the AG as a missionary strategist, Bible school educator and Hispanic missionary. She wrote three books that were published by the GPH: The Messenger and His Message (1925), The Little Flock and the Last Days (1927), and Pictures of Pentecost.

Luce’s Little Flock and the Last Days is a significant work because it is the first GPH book specifically on eschatology by a woman. While she did not intend the book to be a ‘exposition on prophecy, nor yet a study of social or international conditions in the twentieth century’, she wanted to bring light to the topic of Christ’s return and encourage believers to be prepared for his coming. [2]

One unique element of Luce’s premillennial eschatology is understanding of ‘signs of the times’. She recognized that the signs of wars, famines, pestilences, and earthquakes mentioned by Jesus were intended to be  ‘characteristic of the whole of this church age, the dispensation of grace.’ [3] For Luce the true signs that she was living in the last days were 1) the budding of the fig tree (rise of the Jewish nation), 2) the sign of summer in all the trees (awakening of the nations), and 3) the Latter Rain outpouring of the Spirit.[4] She devotes a chapter to each of these significant signs of the soon coming of Christ.

Another unique element in Luce’s eschatology was that she argued that the Millennium was important for the purpose of reversing the curse upon the created order.  She believed Jesus must come to restore nature. Based on Romans 8:20-22, Luce understood that restoration of creation was part of the millennial agenda. Since the second coming will bring the resurrection of believers, it will also signal the resurrection of creation.  Jesus will institute peace, reverse natural disasters, extend the ability of the earth to produce and sustain people and reverse the curse on animals and nature. She says,

The suffering and groaning of nature in this time of the dominion of sin, is not a hopeless mourning over something irrevocably lost. On the contrary, it is a suffering in hope, a death which is only the gateway of entrance into new life … the whole creation, though it suffered with him in this fall, will ultimately be redeemed and restored to greater beauty and fertility than ever.[5]

Luce is another example of the type of pneumatological orientation of AG eschatology and the role that women played in the theological shaping of AG doctrine.  Luce was highly respected missionary and teacher within the AG.  Her books showed a great theological maturity and wisdom.  Together, Alice Luce and Elizabeth Sisson represent some of the earliest eschatological testimony in print for of the AG.

[1] Alice Luce, Little Flock and the Last Days, (Springfield, MO: Gospel Publishing House, 1927), p. v.

[2] Gary B. McGee ‘Luce, Alice Eveline’ DPCM, pp. 543-544.

[3] Luce, Little Flock and the Last Days, pp. 32-37.

[4] Luce, Little Flock and the Last Days, pp. 32-33.

[5] Luce, Little Flock and the Last Days, pp. 47-48.

 

Eschatological Women of the Assemblies of God: Elizabeth Sisson

In my studies of AG eschatology I was delighted to uncover a couple women who were influential with their eschatological writings.  One such woman was Elizabeth Sisson who had the unique opportunity to transition with from the late nineteenth century healing holiness movement, to the Pentecostal movement and finally into the AG.

Sisson had a long and varied career as an evangelist, missionary to India, editor and was close friends of Carrie Judd Montgomery and Maria Woodworth-Etter. In 1871, prior to leaving for India as a missionary, Sisson attended a holiness convention led by William Boardman in which she testifies, ‘God met me again, baptizing me with His Spirit, and taking me into closest relation with Himself’.[1] In the early 1880s, Sisson left India in order to recover from an illness and she settled into a healing house in Bethshan, London. In 1885, she attended the Keswick convention and spoke during many sessions.[2] In 1887, equipped with her health and an experience with the Spirit, she returned to the US to minister with Carrie Jude Montgomery. She even for a short time she co-edited Triumphs of Faith. [3] She also regularly spoke at meetings in England at the Sunderland Pentecostal conventions of A.A. Boddy.[4] Prior to the organizing of the AG, she spent time ministering along side of F.F. Bosworth and S.A. Jamieson in Pentecostal Meetings in Texas.[5] Sisson was well known in early Pentecostal circles and was a regular guest at the Stone Church in Chicago.[6]

As a high profile evangelist and voice in Pentecostal literature, Sisson was invited to be the first woman to be a keynote speaker at a General Council when she gave the keynote address at the 1917 Council in St. Louis.[7] Later that year, she officially joined the AG at the age of seventy-four, despite her insistence that she did not need ordination ‘from man’.[8] Since the AG did not accept women as Presbyters, Sisson held no official office but she holds the distinction of the only woman to speak at General Council early years of the AG.[9]

She was a frequent contributor on eschatological topics to the many Pentecostal periodicals including the Confidence in England, Carrie Judd Montgomery’s Triumphs Of Faith, the Pentecostal Evangel and Latter Rain Evangel. The Evangel Publishing House published her book Foregleams of Glory in 1912, which contained a collection of her writings including a collection of ‘Resurrection Papers’.[10]  Sisson also became the first AG woman to have a doctrinal book published when GPH published her Faith Reminiscences as a part of the first series of books called The Pulpit and Pew Full Gospel Series that were offered in 1925.[11]

Sisson regularly wrote articles on the latter rain outpouring of the Holy Spirit, the return of Jesus, and her favorite eschatological topic was the resurrection.  She believed that not only was the Pentecostal movement a sign of the nearness of Jesus, but that Pentecostal people themselves were signs.  She says, ‘Pentecost with all its demonstrations of the Spirit is a sign. A mighty sign. And the Pentecostallers when yielded to the Holy Spirit are a sign people’.[12]

One important aspect of Sisson’s eschatology was the relationship that resurrection had to creation and Romans 8:19-20. She recognizes that the world is ‘groaningly anticipating a release form bondage into the liberty of the glory of God’s children’ and that ‘with resurrection is somehow involved the liberation of all creation’.[13] The creation, which was subject to sin and frustration, shares the fate of the human beings God created. The resurrection of believers therefore ‘ends creation’s wait, and begins creation’s deliverance from the bondage of sin into the liberty of the resurrection.[14]

Another significant eschatological concept in Sisson’s writing is the Tribulation. Reading Revelation in a literal sense, she believes the Tribulation will be an awful period in the future, but will not be empty of purpose. The tribulation period will be a time of purging for the Church, Israel and the nations. The coming judgment in the tribulation is not an act of vengeance, it is an act of his grace and love. Jesus came in love to the world as ‘remedy’ for sin, however, many did not receive this gift of his love. As part of God’s plan, the tribulation serves as a gift to the world. She says, ‘A new expression of his love! Judgment is His second remedy when His first has proved ineffectual’.[15]

More of Sisson’s eschatology will be featured in my dissertation. Sisson represents several firsts for the AG. Sisson as the first AG woman to publish a book on eschatology in her Foregleams of Glory in 1912.  She was the first woman to have spoken at General Council in 1917.  She was the first woman to have a doctrinal book published by the Gospel Publishing House in 1925.  Although women were not permitted to be pastors in the early years of the AG, Sisson was an influential woman that was highly respected.  A.G. Ward called Sisson ‘a rare Christian character, a woman deeply taught of God, and of wide Christian experience. Her articles are worthy of a place in the writings of the church’. I agree.

Darrin Rogers and the The Flower Pentecostal Heritage Center has featured Sisson in several articles.

Sisson’s 1905 vision of a World Wide Revival

This Week in AG History

[1] Elizabeth Sisson, Foregleams of Glory (Chicago, IL: Evangel Publishing House, 1912), p. 126; Cecil M. Robeck Jr, ‘Sisson, Elizabeth’ IDPCM, pp. 788-89; LRE (May, 1909), p. 6-10.

[2] Record of the International Conference on Divine Healing and True Holines, (London, UK: 1885), p. 74-75, 161-62.Sisson attended the 1885 Keswick Convention where she was exposed to Boardman and teaching on the latter rain teaching on the Baptism in the Holy Spirit.

[3] Sisson, Foregleams of Glory, pp. 195-98.

[4] Confidence, (June, 1908), pp. 6-7.

[5] Confidence, (June, 1914), p. 110. See also Robeck, ‘Sisson, Elizabeth’, pp. 788-789.

[6] The Latter Rain Evangel published over 70 of her sermons and articles, many of which she delivered at the Stone Church Pentecostal conventions.

[7] GC Minutes (Sept 9, 1917), p. 5. Sisson also spoke in response to a sermon by A.P. Collins on the Second Coming of the Lord where she remarked that she ‘left a letter at home directing what to do in case she should be caught up whilst away on her present trip’. p. 20.

[8] In Sisson’s application for ordination, when asked whom she is ordained by, she replies, ‘By the Lord’. ‘Application for Ordination’, (Dec 18, 1917), held at IFPHC, Springfield, MO.

[9] For more on the role of women in the early AG see Joy E. Qualls, ‘‘God Forgive Us for Being Women’: The Rhetorical Negotiations and Renegotiations of the Role of Women in the Assemblies of God’ Unpublished (PhD Thesis; Regent University, 2010) pp. 25, 161.

[10] Sisson, Foregleams of Glory, pp. 9-88. Foregleams was a collection of sermons and articles published in the LRE from 1909-1912. Although an AG publishing house did not publish this work, I have included it with the criteria that the Latter Rain Evangel was so closely associated with the AG and because it predates the formation of the AG.

[11] Elizabeth Sisson, Faith Reminiscences and Heart to Heart Talks (Springfield MO: Gospel Publishing House, 1927). For a full list of this series see the ad in PE (Dec 17, 1927), p. 16.

[12] Elizabeth Sisson, ‘These Wars! Why?’ LRE (July, 1916), p. 16.

[13] Sisson, Foregleams of Glory, p. 9.

[14] Sisson, Foregleams of Glory, pp. 50-51.

[15] Elizabeth Sisson, ‘A Sign People’ PE (Jan 11, 1919).

An Introduction to Pentecostal Theology by William K. Kay

I wanted to share this brief video featuring my Ph.D. supervisor, Dr. William K. Kay.  Kay is a renown professor of theology who holds multiple posts in several universities in the UK. He has written numerous books and a vast number of articles on Pentecostalism,  religious education, and practical theology. Kay was the founding director for the Centre for Pentecostal Theology at Bangor University, a program that has continued to produce a new generation of Pentecostal scholarship. In addition to his  achievements as a scholar, Professor Kay is also a wonderfully gracious man. I count myself so blessed to have been able to have been able to study under him.

Progress Update: The End is Near

This past week marked 6 months since I left the church in order to work full time on writing my dissertation. Many of you have asked how its going. I am grateful for your concern.  First, I want to say how good God has been to us.  He has provided for us in various ways that have enabled me to stay at this task.  He has allowed me to do side jobs, to be a guest speaker, and other opportunities that have allowed me to stay at this much longer than I had anticipated.  I honestly thought I would be done by now. But I am getting there. The End is Near.

I am super excited about what I have accomplished in these past six months.

  • Chapter 1 – Introduction and Methodology – What I am doing and why I am doing it.
  • Chapter 2 – Literature Review – What everyone has already said and where my study will expand the conversation
  • Chapter 3 – The Official Eschatology found in the Statement of Fundamental Truths and other statements
  • Chapter 4 – The Eschatology in the Doctrinal Books
  • Chapter 5 – The Eschatology in 100 years of articles in the Pentecostal Evangel
  • Chapter 6 – The Future of AG Eschatology (Writing now)

This final chapter  requires a different set of skills than I have been using in the previous chapters.  For most of these chapters I have been a historian.  In this chapter I return to my task as theologian to suggest what I think AG eschatology needs in order to continue to be relevant into the future.  I am really enjoying writing it.  In this chapter I am proposing a pneumatological (spirit-centered) way of imagining eschatological doctrine.  Basically, what I am proposing is that AG doctrine is best when it is Spirit-oriented doctrine.  Therefore, imagining the future with the aid of the Holy Spirit should be the goal (what I am calling the eschatological imagination).

So while there is work to be done, the end is near. Praise God for his faithfulness. I am excited to be bringing this journey to a close.  I anticipate that I could wrap the first draft of this chapter up this month.  Then I can hopefully revisit the other chapters in a final revision before my supervisors and I talk about submission.

As I come toward the end, I have two prayer requests.  First, pray that I can finish strong and that despite my fatigue I can write a meaningful final chapter that makes this study worth the effort.  In the end, if I don’t contribute to renewing a passion in AG ministers for the doctrine of the second coming, all this was in vain.  Second, I need God to reveal what I am to do when I am done.  God has helped me go this far.  But we are still waiting for an open door for me.  I am now officially an adjunct (part time) professor at ORU, but I am still awaiting an opportunity to have a full time job, whether at ORU or in Ministry. I know God has plans for me, I just don’t know what yet. Your prayers have helped me so far.  I know they will sustain me to the end.

Are These Signs of the Times?

I am sure I am not alone in feeling like there seems to be a uptick in the number of natural phenomenon in recent days.  This weekend Hurricane Irma is supposed to make landfall. Two weeks ago Hurricane Harvey devastated Houston. Yesterday there was an 8.0 earthquake in Mexico.  Recently typhoons in Asia have caused massive flooding. And a month ago we got to witness a total solar eclipse in America.

With all of these events in such close proximity, it is very natural to ask, “What do these things mean? Are they signs of the times?”  Are these what Jesus talked about would take place before the end?   I think it is human nature for Christians to want to question in what way these things might be interpreted as signs. Is is judgment? Is it God telling us he is coming soon? Is it prophecy coming to pass? 

As a student of history and of eschatology I have had to come to terms with how to understand the “signs of the times”.  As I have read through 100 years of Pentecostal literature it is clear that they thought WWI, WWII, and other calamities of the twentieth century were signs of the end. They believed Jesus was coming soon.  Yet the end did not come. Were they wrong?

Let me suggest that there is an alternative way of understanding the significance of the ‘signs of the times’ that sees natural disasters in an eschatological sense without falling into the pitfalls of speculation and prediction that previous generations have suffered through.

We first must point out that ‘signs’ are by nature to be understood as symbols that point to something else. They are visual reminders of a truth or reality. In the case of Jesus’ prediction, the signs of wars, famines, and natural phenomenon point to the the fact that the end is near (Matt 24). However, though he said these signs would point to the end, it should be noted that he did not say these signs would ONLY take place at the end. Everything Jesus mentioned has been a regular part of the history of human experience.

“We know that the whole creation has been groaning…” (Rom 8:22)

So in what way are they a sign? Are they a sign of God’s anger or judgement? Or that prophetic time is running out?  Paul tells us something different. He reminds us that Hurricane Irma is a symptom of a creation that has been “subjected to frustration”.  The effects of sin in the world has caused a “groaning” within creation. (Romans 8:19-22).  Many of these natural phenomenon we are seeing today are the result of the environmental conditions of the present day. There are natural reasons for what is happening. All of creation is groaning and suffering as a reminder that there will be an day when humanity AND creation will be redeemed. So these signs are reminders that creation is still in need of eschatological redemption.  

This leads us to the second thing to keep in mind.  Events like this make us ask, “Is the end near?”  But the Scriptures clearly tell us that we are living in the last days. This is true even if there were no natural disasters.  On the day of Pentecost, Peter declared, “In the last days I will pour out My Spirit” says the Lord (Acts 2:17).  So technically, the “last days” began 2000 years ago.  We have always been in the last days!  When previous generations looked at the signs and determined the end was near, they were right.  When we look at the signs, we get the sense that the end is near as well. Because it is! Jesus is still coming and redemption is still near.

I think it is natural for us to want to assign a significance of natural disasters.  But we need to be cautious. God is not picking on Florida or Houston. He is not sending a message to America. When Christians say these calamities are about judgment, we minimize the suffering of those to whom it happens. Instead, we should see natural disasters as a reminder to us that creation has been effected by sin.  We still live in a world where people suffer, where nature is dangerous, and where there is loss and pain.  But Jesus promised he will come again and he will reverse the curse upon his creation.  Every ‘groan’ is a reminder of that promise. As I watch anxiously this weekend the destruction of Hurricane Irma, my soul joins with all creation in ‘groaning’ for a day when creation will finally be at peace. 

For the creation waits in eager expectation for the children of God to be revealed.  For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the freedom and glory of the children of God. We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. (Romans 8:19-22)

 

The Theological Legacy of “I’ll Fly Away”

If you were to ask for song requests in any AG church in America, I can almost guarantee someone will request “I’ll Fly Away”.  For whatever reason, this song has become an American and Pentecostal favorite of previous generations. There are several reasons its popular. For one, this song has an Oklahoma connection, being written in 1932 by Alfred E. Brumley from Spiro, OK. (Check out this great article in the Tulsa World about Brumley and Spiro).   Second, its is a fun song with a catchy tune.  Its one of those songs you can’t help but clap and shout to.  Perhaps its most notable appeal is the eschatological concept.  “I’ll fly away” expresses the hope for many christians that we will one day ‘fly away’ to heaven to be with Jesus.

As a person who didn’t grow up singing this song, it doesn’t have the same sentimentality for me that it does for many Pentecostals. As a student of eschatology I have discovered that the song actually represents a very important tension in Pentecostal eschatology.  Let me explain.

Pentecostals have always cherished the doctrine of the soon coming of Christ.  The most important aspect in the doctrine of the rapture is that believers will be caught up to be with the Lord when he comes (1 Thess. 5:17).  So when the song says, “I’ll fly away”, we immediately are filled with hope and joy that Jesus is coming.

When you look at the song there are some conflicting messages about heaven, the return of Christ and death. Let me demonstrate.

  • “Some glad morning, when this life is over, I’ll fly away” – What is this phrase referring to? “When this life is over” makes me think it is about death. But death is not the rapture, although in some sense we do ‘fly away’ to heaven.  But rapture is best understood as alive people being caught up and transformed as we are welcomed into heaven.
  • “To a home on God’s celestial shore” – This phrase and imagery is very popular in hymnody.  But notice the designation of Home.  When Jesus comes, we are going home to heaven.
  • “When I die, Hallelujah bye and bye, I’ll fly away.” – Again, the intention is unclear.  Is this death or the rapture?

The AG believes that Jesus will return to rapture/resurrect the bride of Christ and bring her to the Marriage supper of the Lamb in Heaven. However, this will only be a temporary journey, because after a short time (most say it will be 7 years but not all) Jesus will return with his saints to set up the millennial kingdom on earth.  Pentecostals understood that Heaven was Not Their Home. 

Contrary to descriptions made by some scholars, Pentecostals were not “otherworldly”, at least not in an eschatological sense. They were very focused on the future of earth.  Prior to about 1950, AG periodicals talked about heaven, but they did so ambiguously and rarely did they see it as our eternal home. But classical evangelical theology and hymnody such as “I’ll Fly Away” slowly began to change that orientation.  In the late 1940s and 1950s, at the height of the convention song era of hymnody, songs about heaven dominated the minds of AG churches.  Soon, everyone was singing, “Ill fly Away”.

As I point out in my book, and as I have discovered in my study of the first 50 years of AG eschatology,  the Pentecostal hope is not going to heaven, it is that Jesus is coming to make everything new again.  Heaven is not our home, the earth is our home.  One day, Jesus will return to set up his kingdom “on earth as it is in heaven.”  Our hope is that through the reign of Christ, the world will be transformed and all of the promises of no more curse, sin, and pain will be realized.  Earth will be Heaven once more as it was in the Garden of Eden.

One AG writer put it this way in 1917,

“God has been a stranger and an outcast to His own garden because of the usurper, but the Son of the Father undertook to deal with the usurper and will not leave off till He has completed the work given to Him by His Father, so that God once more can visit His garden”. WE 216 (Nov 24, 1917), p. 4.

Similarly, S.A. Jamieson comments in 1922,

“The planet on which we live is by no means to be annihilated … As sinful man has been delivered by redemption of Jesus Christ, so this sin-cursed earth is also to share in that redemption. It is to be transformed, renew, glorified and made a fit place for the habitation of God’s redeemed people.” S.A. Jamieson, ‘A New Heavens and A New Earth’, PE 464/465 (Sep 30, 1922), p. 6.

We are Premillennial believers. We believe there will be a literal kingdom on earth and we will be in it.  If we believe that, how can Heaven be our home? We will ‘fly away’, but we will also ‘fly back’ to earth.

Now you may be saying, “So what. Its just a song”.  I understand. For those of you that love the song, I don’t want to diminish that love. Sing away!  Its a part of our heritage. But from a eschatological perspective, as we sing these songs about heaven, just keep this in mind.  Our songs shape our theology in much of the same way that this song has shaped our eschatology and the role of heaven. As believers, we are not trying to escape this world. That is not our hope. Our hope is that one day Jesus is going to fix this world.   The AG has been committed to that hope for over 100 years. He created the Earth for us. The Earth also longs for our redemption (Romans 8:19-25). Eden was lost, but it will be restored when Jesus comes again. That is our hope. Not that we will live with God in heaven, but that one day God will live with us again on earth.

“Then I hears a loud voice from the throne saying, ‘Now the dwelling of God is with men and he will live with them. He will wipe very tear from their eyes.'” (Revelation 21:2-3).

Want Less

I was in a parking lot yesterday and a bumper sticker caught my eye. It was two simple words: Want Less.  Immediately my spirit said, “Yes. That’s it.”  We live in a consumerism nightmare. We have filled our lives with stuff.  Most of us have so much stuff that we are buried in debt.  And yet we are all miserable.  King Solomon talked about this in the book of Ecclesiastes.  He says,

I undertook great projects…I made gardens and parks for myself…I amassed silver and gold for myself…I became greater than anyone…I denied myself nothing my eyes desired. I refused my heart no pleasure..Yet when I surveyed all I had done and what I had toiled to achieve, everything was meaningless. (Ecc 2:4-11)

Solomon’s words ring true.  We have everything, and have nothing. The problem is not that we have stuff, the problem is that we ‘WANT’ so much. We all need to Want Less. 

Nearly 6 months ago, my family left a great church that was not only a family of people we loved but also provided a living for our family.  It was a modest living, but we were blessed none the less.  Its almost 6 months now of being without income and people wonder how we have been able to survive.

Two words: Want Less.

I think many people in our society are afraid of poverty. But in reality, with all our stuff and drowning is debt, people are already poor. We use stuff to make us feel better. But it doesn’t. We get jobs so we can have better stuff. But we are still miserable.  I have been to the dump. I’ve seen all that stuff we think is so important. Its just a pile of junk in the end.  Our consumerism is not only destroying us, its destroying our planet. 

In 1985, my father moved our family to Bixby with a dream of building a YMCA.  There was nothing here but a board of directors.  Our family struggled, but my Dad had a dream. People in the Y business told him, “Get out of there, you’ll starve before you build that Y.”  But we stayed. My parents weren’t afraid of poverty.  We just learned how to Want Less.  In 1989, he and his team raised 2 Million dollars to build what is today the Daily Family Ymca. We were poor, but we did it.  The Y has been a pillar of the community for over 30 years. But it would have never been done if this one family had not decided to Want Less.

What would you do if you could learn to want less? What step of faith, what dream, what life would you live if you would want less? What ‘Want’ have you traded for what you really want?

We left our church because we felt like it was time. We knew it would cost us comfort. But we did it in search of God’s plan for our life.  We were not afraid of being poor. And because we were already used to living our lives with less, we have made it so far. We are still in the process and the story is not over.  But this time has given us so many things that we didn’t have six months ago.

Simplicity has a price, but the rewards are incalculable.  Peace. Family. Life. Purpose. This is all any of us want. When you want less, you are easily satisfied with what you have.  We don’t have much. Probably less than we have ever had. But I can tell you without a shadow of a doubt that we have more of what matters than we have ever had as a family.

 

Were Early AG Leaders Anti-Intellectual?

From the beginning, the Pentecostal movement had a careful relationship with theology and the pursuit of education. Even today, many of my educated AG pastor friends are often frustrated with the way in which people within our fellowship are suspicious of education.  Roger Olsen speaks of the these attitudes.  He says, ‘Endemic to Pentecostalism is a profoundly anti-intellectual ethos. It is manifested in a deep suspicion of scholars and educators and especially biblical scholars and theologians.’[1] Some early Pentecostals rejected the need for education because they believed the Holy Spirit and the power of God was a greater validation of ministry than human approval. Elizabeth Sisson, a veteran missionary and evangelist who joined the AG in 1917, rejected the notion that she needed any credentials, education, or degrees to validate her ministry. She remarked,

You might hold all the offices of the church, and append to your name all the letters of the alphabet bestowed by all the universities of Europe and America, but these things of the power and learning and intellect of man will not release the demon oppressed, will not heal the sick, etc. But praise God, through the simple believer, under the power of the Holy Ghost, these things are wrought.[3]

Sisson’s application for credentials with the AG reveal this sentiment. When asked ‘have you been ordained and by whom?’ on the application, Sisson responds, ‘By the Lord.’

The problem with education for many Pentecostals was not the pursuit of knowledge; it was education at the expense of simple faith in Jesus and the Scriptures. The main concern was the way in which seminaries were indoctrinating its clergy in Higher Criticism. Denominational seminaries were believed to be guilty anti-supernatural bias the sought to ‘tear the blessed Book of Life to pieces’.[8]   A.G. Jeffries, a British AG evangelist, describes the situation.

For fifty years the American people have been cursed with head, and starved for heart preaching. Many churches have demanded of their ministers a classical education before ordination, and have made little or no demands of them along spiritual lines. It has been all head and no heart, and this very thing has brought on a spiritual dearth that has been and is appalling indeed.[4]

The return to heart Christianity over head Christianity was part of the lure of the Pentecostal faith.  Because of this, many late 19th Century evangelicals turned to the Bible School model where they emphasized spiritual formation as well as knowledge. Many early Bible schools boasted of having ‘No book but the Bible’ and ‘No teacher but the Holy Spirit.’

The reaction to modernism and education did not necessarily mean that Pentecostals were anti-education.  This is certainly the case when one looks at  Assemblies of God leaders.  Some of the most prominent early leaders of the AG were themselves educated in colleges and seminaries. These were not lay-theologians who were articulating a populist Pentecostal theology. [5] E. N. Bell, a well-educated Southern Baptist Pastor, held a bachelors degree from Stetson University and a seminary degree from Theological Seminary in Louisville  as well as spent 3 years at University of Chicago. J.R. Flower was not trained in theology but spent two years preparing for law career in Indianapolis. S. A. Jamieson was a ‘scholarly’ Presbyterian minister who spent nine years in Wabash College and Lane Theological Seminary.[6] Arch P. Collins did his training at Baylor University. T. K. Leonard spent two years at Findlay College, a Church of God institution. P. C. Nelson was trained at Denison University and later Rochester Theological Seminary where he trained under Augustus H. Strong.[7]

The first AG Bible school where subjects were taught including OT and NT interpretation, Church History, and Homiletics.

The relatively high level of education in many of the early AG leaders was vital to the preservation of the fellowship through several theological debates that took place in the first decade. These leaders had to formulate a doctrinal statement, defend the orthodox views of the Trinity, and articulate their Pentecostal distinctive.  Their ability to articulate sound theological views was greatly helped by the education they brought with them into the fellowship.

While some  still have the attitude that education is detrimental to Pentecostal Spirituality, there is a legacy in the AG of educated ministers and a commitment to higher education. In a future post I will share a bit about AG education and the origin of AG Bible schools. Hopefully this post is a reminder that attitudes about Pentecostals should always be understood in context.  While it is true that anti-education sentiment was part of early Pentecostalism, it certainly was not the whole story.  The AG benefitted greatly from the education level of many of its founders and early leaders.  It is part of our history. It is a part that I am grateful for and hope will continue to be important for this generation.

 

[1] Roger E. Olsen, ‘Pentecostalism’s Dark Side’ Christian Century (Mar 7, 2006), p. 27. See also Paul Lewis, ‘Why have Scholars Left Classical Pentecostal Denominations?’ AJPS, 11:1 (2008), pp. 69-86; William W. Menzies, Anointed to Serve (GPH 1971)p. 141.

[2] Sisson’s application for credentials reveal this sentiment. When asked ‘have you been ordained and by whom?’ on the application, Sisson responds, ‘By the Lord.’

[3] Elizabeth Sission, ‘The Coming Glory’ PE, (Nov 26, 1927), p. 2.

[4] A.G. Jeffries, ‘The Limit of Divine Revelation’ PE (Mar 18, 1916), p. 6.

[5] Spittler argues that ‘The tradition survives, however, in classical Pentecostal circles of esteemed pastors and church leaders producing doctrinal expressions.’ Spittler, ‘Theological Style,’ pg 299.

[6] S. A. Jamieson, ‘How a Presbyterian Preacher Received the Baptism’ PE (Jan 31, 1931) p. 2, Brumback, Like A River, pg 136.

[7] Gary B. McGee, ‘Nelson, Peter Christopher’ in Dictionary of Pentecostal and Charismatic Movements Ed. Stanley Burgess & Gary B. McGee (Grand Rapids, MI: 1988), 636-637.

[8] PE (Jan 20, 1920), p. 8.

[9] ‘Announcement of Bible School’ CE (Feb 24, 1917), p. 14.

[10] PE (Jan 10, 1920), p. 8; PE (Jul 10, 1920), p. 2; Brumback, Like A River, p. 87.

[11] ‘Pentecostal Bible Schools’ PE, (Mar 19, 1921), p. 9.

History of the PAOC Statement of Faith — Andrew K. Gabriel

The Pentecostal Assemblies of Canada (PAOC) is in a process of reviewing and refreshing its Statement of Fundamental and Essential Truths (SOFET). You can find a copy of the most recent, 2014, statement here. The PAOC’s SOFET has seen many changes. Some of these changes reflect reaffirmations of previous beliefs, while some reflect changing beliefs […]

via History of the PAOC Statement of Faith — Andrew K. Gabriel