A paper which traces the history, theory and theology and belief of the “Church of God”.
CHURCH OF GOD I. ORIGIN Most of the Pentecostal churches which bear the name “Church of God” can be traced to a holiness revival in the mountains of northwest Georgia and eastern Tennessee. In 1884, R.G. Spurling, a Baptist minister in Monroe County, Tennessee, began to search the Scriptures for answers to the problems of modernism, formality, and spiritual dryness.
An initial meeting of concerned people was held on August 19, 1886, at the Barney Creek Meeting House to organize a new movement that would preach primitive church holiness and provide for reform and revival of the churches. Christian Union was the name accepted by the first eight members enrolled that day. Spurling died within a few months and was succeeded in leadership by his son, R.G. Spurling, Jr. After ten years of little growth, three laymen influenced by the Spurlings’ work claimed a deep religious experience similar to that written about by John Wesley, the founder of Methodism, and as a result began to preach sanctification.
The three laymen began to hold services at Camp Creek, in Cherokee County, North Carolina, among a group of unaffiliated Baptists, Spurling and the Christian Union moved their services to Camp Creek and united with the group in North Carolina. During this revival that followed this merger, spontaneous speaking in tongues occurred. After searching the Scriptures, the group recognized the phenomena as a Biblical occurrence and as a new outpouring of the Holy Spirit. II. BASIC THEOLOGY AND BELIEF The Church believes in an experiential understanding of justification by faith, sanctification as a second work of grace, and the baptism of the Holy Spirit evidenced by speaking in tongues. It also believes in the restoration of both ministerial and spiritual gifts to the Church. They are believing Christians, who use the Holy Bible as the basis of their teachings. They do practice “footwashing” at least annually, and they do encourage mid-week services, usually held Wednesday evening. III. GOVERNANCE The Government of the Church of God in centralized. Authority is vested in the general assembly, which meets every two years and is chaired by the general overseer. A supreme council operated between general assemblies, and a general executive committee oversees the boards and agencies. State overseers have charge over the churches in their areas and appoint the pastors. Tithing is a central feature of finances. The height of centralization came in 1914 when the annual elections of the general overseer were discontinued and Tomlinson became overseer for life. IV. ORDER OF WORSHIP The order of worship is much like the Pentecostal Church, but more orderly. They still practice speaking in tongues, singing praises, lots of prayer, and preaching the gospel message. REFERENCES Conn, Charles W. “Church of God Distinctives.” Encyclopedia Americana. 1995 ed. Hughes, Ray H. “Church of God.” Grolier Multimedia Encyclopedia. Vers. 7.0. Computer Software. Grolier Inc., 1995. CD-ROM.
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