Encyclopedia of the Great Plains

David J. Wishart, Editor


The Assemblies of God, headquartered in Springfield, Missouri, was founded in April 1914, when 300 ministers and delegates assembled in Hot Springs, Arkansas, and sought a way to accredit ministers, commission and support missionaries, select a common biblical name, and establish a Bible training school. The convention lasted ten days and was characterized by passionate preaching, heated debate, fervent prayer, and an unusual unity that produced an agreement to form a "cooperative" fellowship of churches that would not be an organization but an "organism" empowered and directed by the Holy Spirit. The result of this meeting was called the General Council of the Assemblies of God.

After Hot Springs, successful evangelistic campaigns were conducted in brush arbors, tents, town halls, and any other place where people could gather and seek God. Meetings were characterized by shouting, unusual physical manifestations, and testimonies of divine healing. Preaching was centered on four cardinal doctrines that included salvation by grace through faith, divine healing as part of Christ's atonement, the baptism in the Holy Spirit initially evidenced by speaking in tongues, and the imminent return of Jesus Christ to earth. Early Assemblies of God ministers called it the full gospel, and it swept through the High Plains like a prairie fire.

By 1922 the Assemblies of God had established regional district councils in North Texas, West Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas, Nebraska, South Dakota, and North Dakota, all part of annual district councils that supervised a growing number of churches. By 1925 the Pentecostal Assemblies of Canada had formed its own organization and begun a prolonged period of growth that is still expanding under the leadership of its present general superintendent, James McKnight.

The Assemblies of God has flourished among the independent and highly individualistic communities of the Great Plains. Two of the largest districts of the Assemblies of God are in the Great Plains. In all, more than 1,700 churches and 190,000 members throughout the Plains make up 10 percent of its total church membership. Outstanding leaders in the Assemblies of God, such as Bert Webb, Bartlett Petersen, Stanley Berg, G. Raymond Carlson, A. G. Ward, A. H. Argue, E. R. Foster, Hugh Cadwalder, A. A. Wilson, and the present general treasurer of the Assemblies of God, James K. Bridges, have all labored in Great Plains districts.

Gene Brown Waxahachie, Texas

Burgess, Stanley M., and Gary B. McGee, eds. "Pentecostal Assemblies of Canada." In Dictionary of Pentecostal and Charismatic Movements. Grand Rapids MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1988: 695–99.

Carlson, G. Raymond. "When Pentecost Came to the Upper Midwest." Assemblies of God Heritage 4 (1984): 3–7.

Menzies, William W. Anointed to Serve. Springfield MO: Gospel Publishing House, 1971.

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