Pentecostals have always been prolific, and the turn-of-the-century rediscovery of the New Testament truth of Spirit baptism, evidenced by speaking in tongues at Charles Parham’s Bethel Bible College, spawned a plethora of circulars, papers, and tracts. Parham launched The Apostolic Faith in March 1899 and used this publication to promote the activities of his school in Topeka, Kansas. While the initial publication predates the Pentecostal outpouring that took place at Bethel, the name of the periodical evidences his school’s dedication to recreating a New Testament model of Christianity. Before the baptism fell, Parham’s curriculum was mainly focused on healing and prophecy, and the facility included a Healing Home, a spiritual retreat for the physically and spiritually infirmed (Goff 46-7). When Agnes Ozman, one of the Bethel students, received the baptism of the Holy Ghost on 1 January 1901, The Apostolic Faith became the first Pentecostal publication and began promoting Spirit baptism with the evidence of speaking in other tongues.
When the famed Azusa Street revival began, William Joseph Seymour borrowed the name of Parham’s publication and began publishing The Apostolic Faith from Los Angeles in September 1906. The headline of the first issue read boldly: “Pentecost Has Come: Los Angeles Being Visited by a Revival of Bible Salvation and Pentecost as Recorded in the Book of Acts.” This periodical was seminal in promoting the Pentecostal experience. It included a broad spectrum of testimonies, conversion reports, missionary news, and theology. Tens of thousands of copies were soon in circulation, and printed reports of unprecedented revival in Los Angeles brought thousands to the true birthplace of modern Pentecostalism, the mission at 312 Azusa Street.
While the secular press wrote articles criticizing the Azusa Pentecostals as fanatics citing their long, raucous services and mixing of racial and social classes in an environment of unbridled revivalism, The Apostolic Faith provided glowing details of conversions, miracles, and the phenomenon of speaking in tongues, often accompanied by interpretation. A May 1907 article declared: “The interpretation of many of the messages in nearly every language spoken by the Holy Ghost in unknown tongues is that Jesus is coming” (Untitled).
Many missionaries visited Azusa Street filled with hunger or curiosity returning to their labor filled with the Holy Ghost. In October, the paper reported that eight Pentecostal missionaries had been dispatched from Los Angeles (Seymour 1). Hundreds of preachers, mainly from Holiness denominations, received their Pentecostal baptism at Azusa and returned to their churches declaring its truth. The paper also chronicles the Spirit baptisms of a spectrum of immigrants including: Mexicans, Chinese, Russian, Italians, and Japanese, many of whom were converted after hearing messages in tongues delivered in their native languages. Additionally, The Apostolic Faith records the conversions of Catholics, Jews, and Muslims to the Pentecostal faith. Racism and bigotry were forgotten in the presence of God, and the Spirit produced a miraculous unity amongst the early Pentecostals.
Bro. Frank Bartleman, a Los Angeles journalist and former Holiness preacher who received the baptism of the Holy Ghost, saturated California with thousands of Pentecostal tracts during the Azusa revival. Before Azusa, Bro. Bartleman and other Christians in Los Angeles, inspired by published accounts of the Welsh Revival led by Evan Roberts, were anticipating another Pentecost and praying fervently to that end. The Azusa revival filled that hunger, and Bro. Bartleman’s writing captures the deep hunger and spiritual zeal of the early Pentecostals and their singular belief in God’s soon coming. Following the San Francisco earthquake, he published a tract called “The Last Call.” In less than three weeks, Bro. Bartleman and his workers distributed over 75,000 of the pamphlets, and the revival at Azusa increased (Bartleman 50-4).
Initially, Bro. Bartleman continued writing articles about the Pentecostal outpouring in Los Angeles for Holiness publications. Gradually, proponents of the Holiness Movement distanced themselves from the Pentecostals, and Bartleman began submitting his work to other exclusively Pentecostal publications including The Way of Faith, Christian Harvester, and Apostolic Light (Bartleman 61). While little is known of these publications, they provide evidence that a growing number of Pentecostal circulars were in existence.
Pentecostal periodicals were influential and provided a rudimentary cohesiveness for the burgeoning movement. In 1914, the newsletter Word & Witness called for a general convention of members of the Church of God in Christ and “all Pentecostal or Apostolic Faith Assemblies who desire with united purpose to co-operate in love and peace to push the interests of the kingdom of God everywhere” (Bell 1). From this advertised meeting emerged the Assemblies of God, one of the earliest and largest Pentecostal organizations.
The restorationism of the early Pentecostal Movement is strongly evidenced in the published writings of early apologists, and periodicals very often included strong, doctrinal defenses. The notion of the “Finished Work of Calvary” championed by Bro. William H. Durham, the well-known pastor of Chicago’s North Avenue Mission, penetrated Pentecostalism through his paper entitled The Pentecostal Testimony (“William Durham” 255). The controversial “New Issue”, the contemporary name for Oneness theology, emerged at the Worldwide Pentecostal Camp Meeting held in Arroyo Seco, California, when Bro. R.E. McAlister, a Canadian evangelist, declared that the Matthew 28:19 formula for baptism was never used by the New Testament Church. Several brethren, including McAlister, Frank Ewart, Glenn Cook, and John Scheppe, became convinced, through prayer and study, that the proper biblical baptismal invocation was “in the Name of the Lord Jesus Christ.” This idea spawned an untold number of publications and tracts dedicated to the furtherance of the revelation of the Mighty God in Christ.
A 1913 notice in Word and Witness announced the launch of The Good Report edited by Brothers Ewart and McAlister, the oldest known Oneness periodical (Notice). Bro. Ewart also edited a paper called The Present Truth. Perhaps the three most influential Oneness publications, however, were Bro. Ewart’s Meat in Due Season, Bro. D.C.O. Opperman’s The Blessed Truth, and Elder G.T. Haywood’s The Voice in the Wilderness. These papers were filled with articles about the advancement of the Jesus’ Name message, including international news of rebaptisms in the name of Jesus.
Bishop G.T. Haywood was one of the most prolific and profound Oneness apologists. He wrote: “Much of the early Pentecostal movement was promoted and introduced to various islands, countries, and continents of the world through tracts and periodicals that we published.” His paper, The Voice in the Wilderness, became the official organ of the Pentecostal Assemblies of the World in 1918, and Haywood retained editorial responsibility for the publication after he was elevated to presiding bishop in 1925 (Tyson 16). He also wrote a prodigious number of tracts and booklets, including his masterpieces: “The Finest of Wheat” and “The Victim of the Flaming Sword.” His incomparable ability to articulate biblical truth with theological proofs, historical context, and eschatological importance makes him one of the most beloved twentieth century Pentecostal authors.
While Oneness brethren promulgated truth in their periodicals, their detractors were also busy campaigning against the spread of their message. In 1915, J. Roswell Flower, General Secretary of the Assemblies of God, lamented the penetration of the “New Issue” literature in the Assemblies of God’s Weekly Evangel :
Another letter, this very week, tells of the unsettled conditions in an eastern State where the Los Angeles [Oneness] literature has been scattered broadcast [sic] among the Pentecostal Assemblies, and where unstable souls, who know not the Word of God, are being swept off their feet. And that is not all, the new teaching has been carried to the foreign fields, and already hearts that are sore and distressed are writing us stating the awful results and after-effects of this teaching . . .
He further warns: “These workers are scattering over the country, and methinks they drive like Jehu. They are liable to drop in your assembly any day, and the day after, your assembly is possibly on the verge of dissolution” (Flower 1). Clearly, Trinitarians were worried about the wildfires of doctrinal truth ignited worldwide by Oneness Pentecostal publishers and preachers, and the “New Issue” battle was largely fought on front pages of their respective periodicals.
Ultimately, the Pentecostal press was a key component in reshaping the face of twentieth century Christianity. With the ink of inspiration, great Apostolic believers penned, printed, and published the full gospel message; and while thousands of evangelists, missionaries, and Christian workers canvassed the globe with New Testament truth, they were often preceded by or armed with Pentecostal literature. From the writings of our Pentecostal pioneers, we can create a composite picture of the passion and zeal that fueled the fires of revival that made Pentecostalism the fastest growing religion on earth (McClung 1). The yellowed records of our past must inspire us, and their voices urge us on toward increased worldwide evangelism as we carry the blessed truth of the Apostolic faith to a new generation of believers. Founded on our strong Pentecostal heritage of the written word and empowered with modern tools of mass communication, we can publish “The Whole Gospel to the Whole World.”
Bartleman, Frank. From Plow to Pulpit: from Maine to California. Los Angeles: 1924.
Bell, E.N. General Convention of Pentecostal Saints and Churches of God in Christ, Hot Springs, Arkansas, April 2 to 12, 1914. Word & Witness 9.12 (1913): 1.
Flower, J. Roswell. Editorial Comment on Issue. Weekly Evangel, 99 (15 July 1915): 1.
Goff, James. Fields White unto Harvest : Charles F. Parham and the Missionary Origins of Pentecostalism. Fayetteville, AR: University of Arkansas Press, 1988.
McClung, Grant. Pentecostals: the Sequel. Christianity Today. 50.4 (2006): 1-8.
Notice. Word & Witness 9.6 (1913): 8.
Seymour, William J. The Pentecostal Baptism Restored: the Promised Latter Rain Now Being Poured Out on God’s Humble People. The Apostolic Faith. 1.2 (October 1906): 1.
Tyson, James. Before I Sleep. Indianapolis: Pentecostal Publications, 1976.
Untitled. The Apostolic Faith 1.8 (May 1907): 3.
“William Durham.” Dictionary of Charismatic and Pentecostal Movements. Eds. Stanley M. Burgess and Gary B. McGee. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1988.