The General Council of the Assemblies of God, formed in 1914, traces its origins to the Higher Life Movement of the previous century, as well as the work of Charles F. Parham. The holiness preacher and his students at Bethel Bible School studied scriptural references regarding the blessing of unlearned languages. Soon after, many believed they experienced this phenomenon during a revival in Kansas on the first day of 1901. Along with the influence of the Higher Life Movement, including the atonement of Jesus Christ and physical healing, Parham’s view of speaking in tongues as biblically sound evidence of baptism in the Holy Spirit was crucial to the development of Classical Pentecostal thought.
In 1914, nearly three hundred Pentecostal preachers assembled in Hot Springs, Arkansas to secure doctrinal agreement and to discuss the establishment of independently governed churches with a common focus in mission work. They believed that rapid evangelization and subsequent spiritual “outpourings” would precede the beginning of the end-times. It was the goal of the Assembly to evangelize both locally and internationally.
Reluctance to be categorized as a denomination discouraged the Assembly to issue an immediate statement of doctrine. A disagreement and eventual rift over the trinity in 1916 prompted the “Statement of Fundamental Truths.” The document rejected the Godhead, the concept that God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit exist as separate bodies. The Assemblies of God remain Trinitarian, believing that God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit are one. Other doctrinal beliefs such as atonement through the death of Christ, divine healing, and the infallibility of the Bible can be traced to sixteenth-century radical reformation thought. Like many Christian denominations, the Assemblies of God practices the Lord’s Supper and baptism. Any current disputes over doctrine are referred to and decided by the General Council, which meets biannually.
When new churches are established, they are to be self-sufficient and loosely associated with the whole. While each church retains its sovereignty, elects its own clergy, and engages in missionary programs, two smaller structures under the General Council serve to oversee and communicate with the fifty-six designated districts of the Assemblies population. The General Presbytery is a bimonthly meeting of representatives from each district, and the Executive Presbytery includes administration and local and foreign missions.
Although the majority of the membership is white, there is a growing population of Hispanic followers. There are over 400 Bible colleges worldwide associated with the Assemblies of God, and nearly twenty institutions in the U.S. The Assemblies of God claims a membership of over thirty million adherents worldwide.
General Council of the Assemblies of God
1445 North Boonville Avenue
Springfield, MO 65802-1894
Profile prepared by Alexis Liverman