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Wesley and the Pentecostals

Many denominations were directly impacted and influenced. Frank Bartleman traveled the east coast spreading the message of Pentecost. G.B. Cashwell preached the Pentecostal message throughout the southeast, influencing numerous denominations including the Church of God (Cleveland, TN), the Freewill Baptist Church, and the Fire Baptized church. Pentecostalism’s influence was not limited to the United States; believers took the message throughout the world by evangelism and missions. The doctrine of sanctification and Spirit baptism was an essential part of the ministry, mission, and message of the early Pentecostal church.


Holiness-Pentecostal Churches

From Azusa Street, the Pentecostal message literally spread around the world.

There are several major Pentecostal denominations, which are both Wesleyan-holiness and Pentecostal. These churches maintain an emphasis on three works of grace (salvation, sanctification, Spirit Baptism). The largest of the three is the Church of God in Christ, which was founded in 1897 by two ministers C.H. Mason and C.P. Jones in Memphis, TN. C.H. Mason was the true leader and quickly took the reigns of the new group. Mason was filled with the Holy Ghost at Azusa Street and returned to Memphis to spread the message of Pentecost throughout the south.

In the beginning, the COGIC was an interracial denomination, but in 1913, many of the white ministers broke off to form the Assemblies of God. Mason continued to work on both sides of the racial lines, but the group eventually became mostly Afro-American. The COGIC is the largest black Pentecostal denomination in the world with nearly 8 million members worldwide. The church has two schools, All Saints Bible College in Memphis and C.H. Mason Theological Seminary in Atlanta.

Mason was filled with the Holy Ghost at Azusa Street and returned to Memphis to spread the message of Pentecost throughout the south.

The next largest of the Holiness-Pentecostal churches is the Church of God (Cleveland, TN), which has nearly 6 million members throughout the world. It was first known as the Christian Union, and was led by Richard G. Spurling. In 1896, a holiness revival broke out at the Shearer schoolhouse near Camp Creek, NC. During the revival, believers experienced sanctification and Spirit baptism with the evidence of speaking with other tongues. In 1903, a Quaker bible salesman named A.J. Tomlinson became the leader of the new movement and the name was changed to the Church of God. Under his leadership the church began to grow and moved to Cleveland, TN. Tomlinson began preaching Pentecostal doctrine as early as 1907, but was not filled with the Holy Spirit until 1908 in a revival meeting, which was led by G. B. Cashwell.

There is no telling what will happen when the church rediscovers Wesley’s doctrine of the holiness.

In 1923, Tomlinson was removed as overseer due to alleged misappropriation of funds. Tomlinson took 2,000 members and founded the Church of God of Prophecy, which has the same basic beliefs. The Church of God is the larger of the two. F.J. Lee took his place as general overseer and under his leadership, the COG continued to grow. The Church of God has a worldwide constituency with missionaries in many parts of the world. It maintains Lee University and several colleges and the Church of God Theological Seminary.

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Category: Church History, Summer 2006

About the Author: The Rev. Dr. Winfield H. Bevins serves as the Director of Asbury Seminary’s Church Planting Initiative. He is also the Canon for Church Planting for the Anglican Diocese of the Carolinas and an adjunct professor at Trinity School for Ministry. He is the author of Plant: A Sower’s Guide to Church Planting (Seedbed, 2016), Rediscovering John Wesley (Pathway Press, 2005), Our Common Prayer: A Field Guide to the Book of Common Prayer (Simeon Press, 2013), Creed: Connect to the Basic Essentials of Historic Christian Faith (NavPress, 2011), and Grow at Home: A Beginner’s Guide to Family Discipleship (Seedbed, 2016). Amazon Author Page Facebook Twitter: @winfieldbevins

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