There are several groups which call themselves “Apostolic.” Generally speaking, these churches all seek to uphold or return to the teachings and practices of the first church. Some of these churches hold to Pentecostal doctrine, while some do not. The largest groups are probably the Apostolic Church (or Apostolic Faith Church), which was born out of the Welsh revival of 1904-1905; and the New Apostolic Church International, which is traced back to the British revivals of the 1830s.
The Apostolic Church is a worldwide fellowship with about 6 million members. Each national church is led by a chief apostle and is self-governing. According to one of their early writers, the Apostolic Church stands for first-century Christianity in faith, practice, and government, “to make known world-wide the forgiveness of sins through the atoning death of Christ, the baptism in water by immersion; the baptism of the Holy Spirit with signs following; the nine gifts of the Holy Spirit; the five gifts of our Ascended Lord; and the vision called in the New Testament, the Church which is His body.” As intimated in that statement, the practice of signs and wonders is an integral part of their doctrine.
The doctrine of the Apostolic Church is similar to most evangelical churches. They believe in the unity of the Godhead and the distinctions between the members of the Trinity. Regarding salvation, they teach the need for conviction of sin, repentance, restitution, and confession for salvation. Like most churches within the Methodist tradition, they teach the possibility of a believer falling from grace. Where they differ from many evangelicals is in the Pentecostal teaching of tongues as a sign of Holy Spirit baptism and in their teaching that the ministry of apostles and prophets should never cease in the Church Age.
The New Apostolic Church International has more than 11 million members worldwide. The revival movement which spread through Great Britain in the 1830s led to many people praying for a fresh outpouring of the Holy Spirit. By 1832, apostles had been ordained, and the Catholic Apostolic Church was formed. In 1863, the Hamburg Schism, a disagreement over individual interpretations of the Scripture and the appointment of new apostles, led to the formation of the New Apostolic Church. The first New Apostolic Church in America was founded by German immigrants in Chicago in 1872.
The doctrine of the New Apostolic Church also bears similarities to other evangelical churches. The virgin birth, sinless life, and atoning death of Jesus Christ, the need of personal repentance and confession for forgiveness of sins, and the literal return of Jesus Christ to earth are all held by this church. Regarding conversion, however, the water of baptism is an essential part of rebirth and entitles the believer to the sealing of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is given by the act and authority of an apostle, which makes the believer a child of God and incorporates him into the body of Christ. These doctrines mark a clear distinction from other evangelical churches.
Another group is the Apostolic Christian Church in America, which was formed in Lewis County, New York, in 1847. Its history is traced back to Samuel Froehlich’s work in Switzerland in the 1830s. Froehlich was influenced greatly by the Anabaptists of the 16th century, and his church was known in Europe as Evangelical Baptist. Like their Anabaptist forebears, these believers hold to a literal reading of Scripture and use Scripture only as their basis of life and practice. There are about 90 congregations in North America and Japan.