Proclaiming the Gospel: 2004 Church of God Heritage Calendar
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Gospel tents, fiery evangelists, hand bills and outdoor baptismal services are all part of the Church of God’s heritage of evangelism. “Proclaiming the Gospel” is the theme of the 2004 Church of God Heritage Calendar.
The calendar features photographs of tents, camp meetings and other evangelistic activities along with evangelists such as J.W. Buckalew, Lula Lee Jones, and Wade H. Horton. Also included are the organizational dates and significant activities of many Church of God ministries with special attention given to the Department of Evangelism and Home Missions.
Our Heritage of Evangelism
Proclaiming the gospel is at the heart of the Church of God movement according to Dixon Pentecostal Research Center Director Dr. David G. Roebuck, who wrote the Introduction to the 2004 Church of God Heritage Calendar. Since our birth in a meetinghouse along Barney Creek in 1886, we have utilized a variety of methods and means to preach the gospel of Jesus Christ.
When A.J. Tomlinson made his way from Indian to western North Carolina, he considered himself a “missionary-evangelist.” Evangelism was a burning issue at the first General Assembly in 1906. The Assembly heard reports and many consecrated themselves to the work at hand. According to the minutes, “After the consideration of the ripened fields and open doors for evangelism this year, strong men wept and said they were not only willing but really anxious to go. It is therefore the sense of this meeting that we do our best to press into every open door this year and work with greater zeal and energy for the spread of the glorious gospel of the Son of God than ever before.”
The Church of God spread rapidly because its people were evangelistic. Often relying on their own fervor and depending on God for material necessities, people went into new fields of evangelism on their own, without support from any denominational agency. General Overseer John C. Jernigan noted in 1948, “In the early days, when the brethren went out to hold revivals, there were no choirs, no church houses, and no money to sponsor them. They either went out singly or in small groups of workers, mostly inexperienced but full of fire and victory.”
The establishment of prayer meetings or Sunday schools in nearby communities was a frequent method of church planting that Jernigan highlighted. These met in homes or whatever public facilities they could secure. After some time, the people invited a preacher for a revival. The preacher stayed in a private home and fasted, prayed and preached “until the power fell.” This new location then became a starting point for outreach to other communities.
Church of God leadership began to recognize a need for more organization in the evangelistic thrust of the movement in the early 1950s. In 1956, the General Assembly authorized the National Evangelism Committee in order to support evangelists and create programs to assist churches in revival. Then in March 1963, General Overseer Wade H. Horton and the Executive Council created the Evangelism and Home Missions Department to begin on May 1, 1963, in order to coordinate and direct the evangelism efforts of the church. The church appointed Walter R. Pettitt to serve as the first director of this department.