The Assemblies of God: Godly Love and the Revitalization of American Pentecostalism

The Assemblies of God: Godly Love and the Revitalization of American Pentecostalism

The Assemblies of God: Godly Love and the Revitalization of American Pentecostalism

The Assemblies of God: Godly Love and the Revitalization of American Pentecostalism

Excerpt

As the metal-and-glass doors swing open and the crowd begins
to file into the auditorium-sized sanctuary of the Brownsville
Assembly of God, moms, ministers, and many more feel they
are entering sacred space. As they walk down the wide carpeted
aisles—aisles that in a few hours’ time will be filled with the life
less bodies of stricken worshipers—some tread lightly, as if they
are walking on holy ground…. All told, more than 2.5 million
people have visited the church’s Wednesday-through-Saturday
evening revival services, where they sang rousing worship
music and heard old-fashioned sermons on sin and salvation.
After the sermons were over, hundreds of thousands accepted
the invitation to leave their seats and rush forward to a large
area in front of the stage-like altar. Here, they “get right with
God.” … Untold thousands have hit the carpet, where they
either writhe in ecstasy or lie stone-still in a state resembling a
coma, sometimes remaining flat on the floor for hours at a time.
Some participants call the experience being “slain in the Spirit.”
Others simply refer to receiving the touch of God. Regardless
of what they call it, these people are putting the “roll” back in
“holy roller.” (Rabey 1998, 4–5)

Although religious revivals have been said to be “as American as baseball, blues music and the stars and stripes” (McClymond 2007, xvii), they inevitably stir up controversy as well as revive faith. The Azusa Street Revival that occurred in Los Angeles between 1906 and 1909, now commonly credited as the birthplace of Pentecostalism, had followers and detractors, as did the Pensacola Outpouring some ninety years later. In both cases, many people attributed spiritual and social transformations to these events while others were put off by the turbid emotionalism they saw at these revival meetings.

The Assemblies of God (AG), a Pentecostal denomination, was founded in Hot Springs, Arkansas, in 1914 by men and women whose lives had been changed by the Azusa Street Revival. By the 1990s membership had reached . . .

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