The Assemblies of God is one of the largest Pentecostal denominations, with 57 million adherents worldwide. It was organized in 1914 to promote unity and doctrinal stability among groups that had been influenced by the Pentecostal revivals of the early 1900s, revivals which were the result of a desire to see an increase in God’s power in churches and individuals. Many people spent long hours in prayer, seeking a fresh infusion of the Spirit. Following the teachings of Charles Parham, these people were expecting speaking in tongues as an evidence of the Holy Spirit’s baptism. The first popularly acknowledged revival was at Azusa Street in Los Angeles, 1906-1909. From that movement, several churches were formed, and in April 1914, meetings were held in Hot Springs, Arkansas, which led to the formation of the Assemblies of God. Eudorus Bell, formerly a Southern Baptist preacher, was appointed as the first chairman of the denomination.
The core doctrines of the Assemblies of God are salvation by repentance and faith, Holy Spirit baptism as evidenced by speaking in tongues, divine healing as an expected part of salvation, and the imminent Second Coming of Jesus Christ. Like many other Pentecostal churches, their doctrine of salvation follows the teachings of Jacob Arminius (1560-1609) in that believers can fall from grace as a result of persistent, unrepentant sin. The need for personal repentance and faith in Jesus’ substitutionary death for sin is the cornerstone of salvation (Luke 24:46-47). Regarding the baptism of the Spirit, the official emphasis of the church is on the need for power from on high to witness, not on an experience or bubbly feelings. Even though this is the official statement of the church, it is easily observed that some Assemblies of God preachers have given an inordinate focus on the ecstatic experiences like being slain in the Spirit and “holy laughter”. On the doctrine of divine healing, again there is a discrepancy between the official position and that of some teachers. The Assemblies of God website states that the same faith that saves also heals and that preachers don’t heal – only God does. Believers are called to pray and leave the outcome to God. Yet some of the more infamous faith healers who have been ordained in the Assemblies of God portray themselves as special avenues of God’s healing.
The emphasis of the Assemblies of God churches has always been evangelism and missions, and faith healing crusades have often been a key element of that work. While many people have evidently been brought to saving faith through the faithful work of Assemblies of God churches, there have also been a significant number of problems associated with their ministries. Benny Hinn, Morris Cerullo, Jim Bakker, and Jimmy Swaggart all received their ministry credentials through the Assemblies of God and have been repeatedly involved in scandals. The Brownsville (Pensacola) Revival was led by an Assemblies of God church and has led to a wide range of biblically questionable practices. Even though revival and healing campaigns have been a hallmark of Assemblies of God ministries for years, there is little evidence to show that God was at work in those campaigns. In the cities where many thousands supposedly came to Christ, there has been no noticeable decrease in crime or divorce, and even though hundreds have claimed healing, there are no documented cases of visibly evident healing (like restored limbs or reversed diseases).
There are many deeply committed believers within the Assemblies of God, and we ought to love them as brothers and sisters in Christ. Within that fellowship are also many people who have been confused by the emphasis on healing and signs and the false doctrines taught by a few noteworthy teachers. Any time we give preeminence to emotional experience over the clear teaching of the Word, we open the door to potentially harmful doctrines. First Thessalonians 5:21 commands us to “prove all things; hold fast that which is good.” As believers, we ought to carefully examine every teaching and practice, compare it to the Word of God, and hold on to only those things which are upright by that standard.