The United States has spawned many ChrisÂtian deÂÂnoÂminations, some of which have gone on to thrive internationally. This year marks the centennial of one of the great success stories, the Assemblies of God. Not only have the Assemblies become a truly global church, but they have won far more followers outside their original homeland than within it.
The AG grew out of the famous Pentecostal revival that began on Los Angeles’s Azusa Street in 1906. In 1914, local congregations met in Hot Springs, Arkansas, to form the denomination. MemÂberÂship reached only 50,000 by the 1920s, but then it proceeded to grow rapidly. The AssemÂÂblies of God in the United States reached 1 million members by 1971, rising to 3 million today. By comparison, the Episcopal Church since the 1960s has contracted from 3 million members to 2 million.
The church’s expansion in recent years is greater than we would think if we just counted signs explicitly using the Assemblies of God label. Many of the country’s thriving megachurches are affiliated with the AG, but use a more generic label. That practice is not intended to deceive but rather recognizes a popular sense that traditional denominational labels are divisive and sectarian. My own working rule is that megaÂchurch signs should usually read “ComÂmunity Church (really AssemÂblies of God).”