By Dr. Doug Petersen, Professor of World Missions and Intercultural Studies at Vanguard University
In April 2014, the Assemblies of God turned 100 years old!
Over the past 3 issues, we presented a look at our impact
as seen by an anthropologist, a theologian, and a missionary,
all Vanguard University professors with a lifetime in our fellowship.
Dr. Doug Petersen, the Margaret S. Smith Distinguished Professor of World Missions and Intercultural Studies, writes this –
From its origins in the Azusa Street Revival in Los Angeles in 1906, the Pentecostal movement has exploded from humble beginnings into a global phenomenon. According to the Pew Research Center’s Study on Global Christianity classical Pentecostals now number 280 million of which one of every four (24%) or 66.5 million are Assemblies of God believers. Of the world’s five major geographical regions, the highest proportion of AG members live in Latin America (30 million), Africa (18 million), and Asia Pacific (6 million). Together these three regions account for more than 80% of all Assemblies of God believers in the world. Almost one out of every 100 people in the world are AG!
It wasn’t always like this. When the Assemblies of God first formed in 1914, there were only about 300 present. Like the expansion of the early church in the book of Acts, this movement has crossed geographic, social, cultural, economic, and linguistic barriers to encompass every nook and cranny of the planet.
As a missionary for several decades, across Latin America, I got to see individual experience become a mass movement. And here is what I have seen:
When people find the Lord, they are transformed.
- They leave behind destructive dysfunctional behaviors like drinking, gambling, and running around.
- Holiness and a strict moral code stand out as the major characteristics of their new life.
- They save money, work hard, and make sure their own children get an education.
- Women are treated with respect.
- They care for the poor, because they know about poverty.
At the core of their being is a set of beliefs and practices which springs from the transforming spiritual experience of conversion followed, sometimes immediately, by a distinctive second work of the Spirit, usually evidenced by speaking in tongues, known as Spirit baptism or “being filled with the Spirit,” equipping them with an enduement of spiritual power to be active participants in God’s mighty works. And participants they are! They share with everyone they meet — on the buses, in the subways, at work – that Jesus Christ has changed their lives and that he can do the same for them.
100 years ago they claimed they had found “power to proclaim.”
100 years of history shows they found it.
For further conversation (he loves to talk about these ideas!) –
contact Dr. Doug Petersen at email@example.com
Photo from 2014 Hands Across the Border (HATB) – Vanguard University student Alba Quezada