Apr 2, 2014

'You should buy these cheap round trip tickets'

One hundred years ago today, April 2, 1914, white Pentecostal preachers and revivalists from across America gathered in a Hot Springs, Arkansas winter resort, and founded the Assemblies of God.

The call that gathered them there was issued to all who "desire with united purpose to co-operate in love and peace to push the interests of the kingdom of God everywhere," with the caveat that that meant it was "only for saints who believe in the baptism with the Holy Ghost with sings (sic) following, Acts 2:4; 10:46; 19:6; Mark 16:6-18; 1 Cor. 12:8:11."

It's a fascinating document. It says a lot about who these people were and the world they lived in.

One example of that is how, in the call, very practical matters of poor preachers with poor congregations arranging for long-distance travel are dealt with, at the same time that belief in everyday miracles and the importance of acting in faith is affirmed. There's a tension, there. The leaders of the future Pentecostal denomination want to hold to the importance of following the inspiration of the Holy Ghost, and know they have all themselves done things that seemed crazy to secular eyes. Yet, they also have all been burned by hustling preachers who justify their lack of preparation as spiritual.

From a white Pentecostal newspaper, Word and Witness, published December 20, 1913:
Now, brethren, as it is very important for all Pentecostal preachers to be present, you lay this before your people and get them to pay your fare to and fro. Winter tourist round trip tickets at cheap rates are on from nearly all over the country to Hot Springs up to April 30th, good to return up to June 1st, and you should buy these cheap round trip tickets. But if you fail in this, we want you to come anyhow, and if you have not faith to get home after you are here, then we will stand with you in trusting God for your return fare or to get out on the field. As we feel this General Assembly will do much good in spreading this glorious gospel around the world, we ask all the saints everywhere to send offerings to Financial Secretary H. A. Goss, Hot Sprints, Ark., for the expenses of the meeting. In this way only can entertainment be provided. As far as possible let all come prepared to take care of their own expenses. 
The meeting will be held in the Grand Opera House on Central Avenue, Hot Springs, Ark. . . . The scope the meeting may be enlarged as the Lord shall lead the brethren to do so. Meetings will go on day and night for the good of the saints. 
In March 14, 1914, the month before the meeting, the same message was repeated succinctly:
All who can, come prepared to board yourself and pay your own fare to and fro. We will help as far as God supplies the means to supply meals and rooms for saints attending who cannot. No dead beats allowed. Bring your own bed clothing. Many expect to come. 
God provides! But don't be a dead beat. That's an important tension held at the General Assembly, in the organization of the Pentecostal movement, an example of one of the many careful balances that early Pentecostals worked to maintain.

The entire issue of that 1913 newspaper is available online, thanks to the work of the Flower Pentecostal Heritage Center.