This is a page that focuses on religious and theological issues, as well as providing comprehensive teaching from a classic Catholic perspective. As you read the articles, it is my hope they will educate and bless you.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

John MacArthur's Blowing Smoke About "Strange Fire" - A Response

In recent weeks, a fundamentalist Reformed/Calvinist megachurch pastor in California by the name of John MacArthur has created a bit of controversy with a conference he hosted at his church, Grace Community Church, called  the Strange Fire Conference.  Essentially, what this conference entailed was a series of talks which sought to establish that the spiritual gifts it speaks of in such places as Acts and I Corinthians are not for today, but only for the Apostles' times (a view known as cessationism) and the concluding premise of this position is that the Pentecostal and Charismatic movements must be false, of the devil, etc.  This is a whipping-post MacArthur has wailed on before, as evidenced for one by his earlier book Charismatic Chaos.  Although he does make some legitimate points regarding some extremes in the Charismatic movement, overall MacArthur's position is extremely problematic in that in one sweeping assertion he has condemned half a billion Christians in the world to eternal damnation based on their belief in the spiritual gifts, etc.  I have been following this for some time, and now wanted to just provide some of my own perspective on this issue.

John MacArthur, author and popular Fundamentalist megachurch pastor

Not all MacArthur has said or done over the years is necessarily bad, and I am less inclined to totally dismiss everything he has preached on the basis of the stupidity displayed by this conference.  On many basic things, MacArthur is actually theologically orthodox, and he has also made a commendable stand against the growing apostasy promoted by the Emerging Church movement, and I share much of his convictions on that.  Therefore, in writing this, we must remember to not have a blanket condemnation of the man, but rather to stand against some of the false accusations he has made in regard to other Christian traditions. 

The main issue with MacArthur in regard to Pentecostals is that he is theologically a cessationist, meaning that many of the supernatural manifestations of the past, and the spiritual gifts that make them possible, are things limited to the Apostolic era and do not exist in the Body of Christ today.  Therefore, the only logical conclusion someone like MacArthur could come to is this - if genuine manifestations of the Holy Spirit are limited to the Apostolic dispensation (yes, MacArthur is also a premillenial dispensationalist doctrinally as well - more on that aspect of his theology later), then anyone claiming to possess them today must be either charlatans or of the devil.  However, this presents an issue for MacArthur, who claims also to be a proponent of Biblical inerrancy.  If the gifts were for one age and not for another, does that mean God is not immutable then?  What would someone like MacArthur do then with a Scripture like Hebrews 13:8, which affirms that Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever?   Or John 1:1 - in the beginning Jesus was (or, being the phrase for "in the beginning" in Greek is dative, it can also be translated "from the beginning" and be placed at any position in that verse without altering its meaning).  So, if Jesus was from the beginning and is immutable (unchanging), by MacArthur denying spiritual gifts, is he not guilty then of "adding to and taking from the Word of God," (Proverbs 30:6 and Revelation 22:19) which in term would bring damnation upon him?  It also makes God unsure of himself too - after all, if you are a new Christian and someone like MacArthur stands up in a pulpit and says "well, God did that then but now he changed his mind," what would that do for your faith?   These are some interesting questions, but unfortunately this is something that is common in much of Reformed/Calvinistic Fundamentalist thinking.  To clarify that, let me just say that not all Reformed/Calvinists (or even Fundamentalists for that matter) think like this; even among Charismatics, brilliant Reformed theologians such as J. Rodman Williams have provided a great service to the Church, and others like D. James Kennedy and Francis Schaeffer have written a tremendous wealth of material that has also enriched the Body of Christ tremendously.  However, it also must be conceded that not all Reformed Calvinists are cessationists either, although the overwhelming majority of cessationists are Reformed Calvinists.  It is important for these cessationists to take heed to what Catholic apologist Karl Keating wrote when he said "They too (fundamentalists - my add) believe things that are not found in the face of Scripture.  There are peculiarly fundamentalist doctrines that find no warrant in Scripture that should, by the fundamentalists' own rationale, be thrown out." (Karl Keating, Catholicism and Fundamentalism {San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1988}p. 67).  This is an interesting observation, because being raised fairly conservative myself, I have noticed over the years a sort of pragmatism even among the strictest Fundamentalists that means God can all of a sudden change his mind at whim, based on man's changes in societal norms (think, for instance, of how many Emergent Church people and Rick Warren disciples once described - and some still do! - themselves as "Bible-believing Fundamentalists." Hmm....).  And, this is something author David Bercot addresses when he talks about the Western Christian tendency towards legalism - reducing the truth of God's word to formulaic legalisms (David Bercot, Common Sense {Tyler, TX: Scroll Publishing, 1992} p. 96).  Unfortunately, when that happens, the risk is that some things in Scripture become relativistic based on legalese, and the Calvinist tradition has unfortunately produced a whole spectrum of heresies, ranging from the cessationism of John MacArthur to the "Christian Universalism" of Rob "No Hell" Bell, that have plagued American Evangelicalism for generations.  In time, this idea that God can all of a sudden change his mind has catastrophic consequences, as churches change positions on things much like Madonna changes husbands.  Archbishop Haverland correctly notes this mentality when he writes that this individualistic view of Scripture and theology on the part of American Evangelicals will in time cause secularization, and indeed we are seeing that today (Mark Haverland, Anglican Catholic Faith and Practice {Athens, GA: Anglican Parishes Association, 2011} p. 63).  In short, Fundamentalist ideas about Scriptural inerrancy may ultimately lead to their own crisis, and the Calvinistic idea of eternal security (which is a misappropriation of Augustine's theology of justification on Calvin's part) will not do them much good when the apostasy foretold in Scripture hits them too.  Given time, John MacArthur (or some of his disciples) may follow in the path of the Emergent Church crowd, as both their positions share a common root.  And, all this because MacArthur thinks God can change his mind about his own Word.

I noted the above to address MacArthur's allegations from the viewpoint of historic Church teaching on the issue.  The Church has first of all never advocated the doctrine of Sola Scriptura.  Do we believe the Bible is the infallible Word of God, divinely authored and enshrining His true revelation of salvation to man?  You bet we do!  However, the Church is the custodian of God's Word, and our understanding of that truth must be grounded in what the Church historically has taught concerning those truths.  Many things we have some liberty, as the Church presents a number of positions on minutiae, but on the major, essential doctrines there are no compromises.  For one thing, the Holy Spirit is seen as God, or as the Creed presents him, "The Lord, the Giver of Life."  As such, the Holy Spirit indwells every believer.  And, over the centuries, the Church has affirmed, documented, and testified that God, through the Holy Spirit, can and does work in miraculous, supernatural ways in the lives of individual believers.  The Biblical conduit for that, naturally, is the provision of the gifts of the Holy Spirit, although there are also "diverse works" of the Holy Spirit that the Church affirms Scripture doesn't specify but bear witness of the Lord's presence.  People have been healed, raised from the dead, and have often been given visions, prophetic insights, and other such things for the edification of the Body.  MacArthur, therefore, speaks a heresy against the Holy Spirit when he says these things have ceased, and it is the Pentecostals who are correct in that regard.  Although I have not agreed with Dr. George Wood, the current General Superintendent of the Assemblies of God, in recent years over some other issues, I do believe he summed up classic Pentecostal understanding well in his statement regarding MacArthur's allegations when he noted, based on Acts 2:39, that the gifts of the Holy Spirit are given to us and our children (meaning future generations) as a promise of the New Covenant - well spoken, Dr. Wood! (accessed 11/19/2013 at A more conservative Pentecostal pastor and overseer of the Bible Holiness Fellowship Association, Dr. Joseph Chambers,  who responded that MacArthur's position is even unique among Calvinists he knows, and is an utterly hopeless view that gives the believer little hope.  This is what Dr. Chambers said:

We could study lives of the great leaders of church history from the disciples, Apostle Paul, and thousands of the Greats. John MacArthur is the first one I have ever heard say that said that God no longer speaks to men. Something is seriously missing in His theology. He is the first and only Calvinist that I have ever heard state this kind of theology. This may not be believed by most ministers in their ranks. I also confess that I have no interest in a system of theology that must depend on flesh and mind without Holy Ghost inspiration in the present. This view of "Total Depravity" is the reason that this theology is a hopeless theology. Not only do they believe in "Total Depravity," but also that the Holy Spirit has ended His supernatural work in human lives. If we are totally depraved to the degree that God cannot give us His anointing, and if the Holy Ghost is done with us, then our theology is going to be dead and empty as is most evident in this message by John MacArthur. We can only know truth by the power of His supernatural Spirit working in us for Christ’s glory. (accessed from

I agree with Dr. Chambers on this, in that MacArthur has chosen to rely on his own fleshly wisdom and reason rather than the clear testimony of both Scriptures and Church history.  The verse I would have for Dr. MacArthur at this point is a harsh one, but may be a dose of medicine he needs to shock him back to reality - professing wisdom, he has become a fool (Romans 1:22).  God's ways, we must always have the humility to remember, are not man's ways, and sometimes what God does goes against the way we think (I Corinthians 1:25).  Tongues-talking looks foolish to our Enlightenment-minded Western thinking, but God has given it as a gift.  The idea that one can be healed without the aid of some professional doctor that will just give you a huge bill you can't afford anyway is unconscionable to the rational mind, but think of millions  God has touched - many people don't have the means of being healed in a hospital, so God comes to them, especially in Third World countries where medical care is sloppy at best.  Critics of the Pentecostal and Charismatic movements like MacArthur often use the justification that "frauds" and "fake shows" can occur, based on the outlandish excesses of some TV preachers.  But, here is the problem with that - there are people out there trying to scam others with religion all the time, and if there wasn't a real, they wouldn't be faking it; think about it!  At the same time MacArthur's Charismatic Chaos was published around 1993 or so, another Evangelical author by the name of Hank Hanegraaff published Christianity in Crisis which documented the false teachings of many TV preachers, in particular the "Prosperity Gospel."   The main difference between Hanegraaff's and MacArthur's books is fundamental and can be found in the opening pages of Christianity in Crisis  - Hanegraaff specifically stated that his book was not a book targeting Pentecostals or Charismatics, nor did it have anything to do with positions on spiritual gifts.  As a matter of fact, Hanegraaff actually maintained that the "Prosperity Gospel" was cultic and didn't represent Charismatic spirituality as well.  MacArthur made no such distinction in his writing, but rather chose to paint every Pentecostal and Charismatic with a sweeping allegation that they were "abhorrent," and in that blanket accusation MacArthur also condemned Hanegraaff even, who is a member of Calvary Chapel, a Pentecostal denomination.  Yet, I also find it curious that MacArthur may actually hold to a few heresies himself, including dispensationalism.  Mind you, I am a premillenialist, but as a premillenialist I maintain that there will be only one resurrection, and only one Second Coming of Christ - a dispensationalist has Christ coming back more times than Shirley McClain's reincarnation cycles she brags about!  As a classic dispensationalist, MacArthur has essentially given consent to a non-Biblical heresy, namely that there may be as many as four "Second Comings" in the scheme his theology is constructed around.  This is worth mentioning because despite supposedly being "biblical inerrancy" advocates, people like MacArthur are really writing their own versions of Scripture, which in many cases are more infallible to them than the real thing.  Yet, they condemn us Catholics for our stand on Holy Tradition - even we would not go that far!

More could be said on all this, but I wanted to make a few concluding observations.  One, the same mentality that MacArthur espouses - essentially, the cessationist view that God is all of a sudden fickle in what he promised - is also the same mentality his biggest opponents, the equally-wrong Emergent Church crowd, have.  Both of these schools of thought have their roots in Reformed Calvinism, although they take the same premises to different extremes.  MacArthur would say that God doesn't give spiritual gifts for modern times, while Brian McLaren and Rob Bell would use the same reasoning to throw the organs out of churches, reject doctrines of sin and hell, and also slowly come to accept some bad behaviors such as homosexuality and abortion as "relevant for the age" (these are guys who think Sodom and Gomorrah's sin was inhospitality, and that prohibitions against homosexuality are not relevant today as a result - they are sort of cessationists as well).  Both extremes - MacArthur and McLaren - are wrong; the Church has an established doctrine and position that has not changed since the time of the Apostles, and on issues such as spiritual gifts and morality, the Church has had a consistent response and witness.  It is too bad that MacArthur, who is often bound up in the inerrancy of his own reading of Scripture rather than the way the Church has historically taught it, misses the whole point.  I am not ready to write him off yet, and do not believe he is un-Christian, but will say that if he doesn't learn to discern better his position, he will regret that choice later.  It is really too bad, because MacArthur has done some amazing things for the Kingdom in other areas.  If he can just get past his own biases now, he'd do well.   Any rate, that is my perspective on the issue, although much more could be said.  God bless.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Highways and Hedges Part 6 - The Fundamental and Free Holiness Movements


I was actually not planning on doing a sixth article in the series, but so much information necessitated its creation.  The groups in this article - with the exception of the first - are all interrelated; they all have fellowship with each other, have similar histories and convictions, and the one thing that really binds most of them together is an Oklahoma-based periodical that is published bi-monthly entitled The Holiness Messenger.  First, I want to give some introductory material, and then I want to get into these groups themselves.

As the 1970's dawned, many of the larger Pentecostal denominations began to strive for more respectability in the wider Christian spectrum, and when churches start to do that it usually means a shedding and eschewal of many aspects of their early heritage.  Therefore, many people who were members of congregations affiliated with the Assemblies of God, Church of God (Cleveland) and other such groups began to take on the more worldly trappings of society around them, and in doing so they sought to be indistinguishable from the wider world by supposedly "becoming those to whom they minister."  Not only Pentecostals, but many groups considered as historically conservative Evangelical had similar transformations.   This naturally led to concerns among many more conservative members of these churches, concerns that grew to such a magnitude that in time many congregations of more conservative Pentecostals began withdrawing from fellowship with the large denominations.  Such things as the growing popularity of "Contemporary Christian" music, worldly dress, and even the acceptance of social drinking and the use of tobacco products were incomprehensible to many old-time Pentecostal folks, and it was often seen by them in an eschatological context as a "falling away" or a "deception of the elect."   Seeking to preserve what they believed were their core convictions as Spirit-filled Pentecostal Christians, the dissenting churches began to fellowship with one another, and a number of small new groups emerged that embodied old-time Pentecostalism as it once was.  Many of these groups were informal fellowships, but some in time did develop structural mechanisms for ordaining clergy, promoting missions, and also Bible schools came into existence.  With this new developing of a conservative Pentecostal/Holiness identity naturally gelling into a movement, it is estimated that close to 20% of all Assemblies of God, Church of God, and other larger Pentecostal denominations experienced an exodus of membership to these new fellowships.

I write much of this material because I in many ways sympathize with people who are part of these fellowships because in many ways I share their convictions, although not with 100% agreement necessarily.  Oftentimes, you have to wade through some legalism, anti-Catholicism, and other things to see the real assets of such fellowships, but they are there.  I have, for instance, been subscribed to The Holiness Messenger since sometime around 2003.  And, I am also interested in seeing much of the Pentecostalism I knew in my childhood preserved at its best, and these groups are doing that in an exemplary way. 

I am going to focus on first a group out of Palatka, FL, called the Pentecostal Revival Center Association, and then I will devote much more space to those groups and fellowships which in some way are associated with The Holiness Messenger, as there are many of them. 

The Pentecostal Revival Center Association

A Christmas tree vision birthed a church in early 1966.  A lady minister by the name of Dolly Harrell had a vision in the early 1960's of a large cedar tree that she really took to heart, and from the vision a church emerged in Palatka, FL, called the Pentecostal Revival Center.  First, I want to tell a little of Dolly's story, and then we will discuss the PRCA.

Dolly Baer was born in 1920 in Charlotte, NC, and at an early age her folks moved the family to the town of Branford, FL, where young Dolly grew up.  She married her husband of 54 years, James Harrell, at the age of 14 and the young couple moved to Palatka where James worked in a paper mill.  After their move, Dolly worked as a Sunday School teacher in a local Methodist church until 1958, when she became involved with a local Assembly of God doing evangelistic work.  In time, she would be educated at Southeastern College (the same school I got my degree from) and she held credentials with the Assemblies of God beginning in the mid-1950's.  In December 1965, she established the Pentecostal Revival Center, later moving it to its present location in 1976 after confirmation of the tree vision she had.  At close to the same time, she began a radio ministry which later culminated into a TV ministry in the early 1980's, known today as GospelVision TV.  She continued in active ministry until her passing on April 13, 2009.

Pastor Dolly Harrell (1920-2009) - founder of the Pentecostal Revival Center
 The official establishment of the Pentecostal Revival Center Association dates back to 1978, when it was formally incorporated with the State of Florida.  The church operates the TV station, a school, and other enterprises, as well as credentialing ministers.  I am not sure where other congregations of this fellowship exist, although there seems to be alluding of the fact that at least a couple of daughter churches exist in northeast Florida.  The original church in Palatka now has about a couple of hundred members, and hosts numerous revivals, concerts, and other events which are aired over its TV station.  

The present Pentecostal Revival Center in Palatka, FL.
Fundamental Holiness/Pentecostal Fellowships Associated With The Holiness Messenger
The origins of many of these groups go back to 1953, when a group of conservative Holiness/Pentecostal pastors came to a consensus that the printed page would be a greater vehicle for fellowship among them.  Many of this group of ministers, coming primarily from Oklahoma, used the terms "Free Holiness," "Free Pentecostal Holiness," and similar terms to describe themselves, and many of them were originally affiliated with the Assemblies of God or Church of God.  With one of their own, Rev. Ira Roberts, chosen to edit the new periodical, the Holiness Messenger was launched on June 16, 1953.  70 years later, it is still published.
The flagship issue masthead
Rev. Ira Roberts
Rev. Roberts unfortunately passed on in 1950, and Rev. Ralph Cox succeeded him and as far as I can ascertain he still edits the paper today.  From that small group of ministers, The Holiness Messenger today has a circulation in the thousands, and on its website (, where much of the historical information was obtained) a Church Directory lists over 428 congregations which associate with the periodical.  Many of these congregations are either independent Pentecostal churches, or they are organized into at least 15 small fellowships, some of which we will be discussing momentarily.  Also included in the list are a number of conservative congregations who are affiliated with the Assemblies of God, Church of God (Cleveland) and other denominations.  As mentioned, I have been receiving The Holiness Messenger myself for several years, and although informative, it has also piqued my interest regarding the roots of many of the churches that subscribe to it.  The paper itself is still published out of Sapulpa, OK, and Ralph Cox, although advanced in age, still edits and oversees its operation.  
Rev. Ralph Cox, current editor of The Holiness Messenger, and his wife Doreen.
The Messenger has also proven to be a valuable resource of various services - missionary agencies, evangelistic ministries, Bible schools, camps, music artists, and other such - and also publishes in each issue a listing of upcoming revivals, campmeetings, and crusades conducted by its subscribing churches and fellowships.  Occasionally, it also includes reviews and contact information for books, CD's and other material its subscribers produce.  

As mentioned, there are 428 churches listed that have some association with this paper, and many of them are loosely organized into fellowships.  Some fellowships - such as the Wesleyan Pentecostals, Holiness Baptists, and Calvary Holiness Association - we have already discussed in detail in other segments.  Others are congregations, as mentioned, which are part of the Assemblies or Church of God.  Still others are independent congregations.  However, from what I could gather from research, there are about 11 other groups outside the listed ones above represented in the readership, and I want to deal specifically with some of those in the next section.

The Fellowships
1. Free Pentecostal Church of God Fellowship - This particular fellowship is based out of Cincinatti, OH, and has a number of affiliated churches in Ohio, Kentucky, and other surrounding states.  They have a website ( as well as a vibrant youth organization, the Free Pentecostal Holiness Youth.  They also have a spring campmeeting and credential ministers.  

The mother church of this fellowship, the Pentecostal Holiness Tabernacle in Cincinatti, was founded in 1922 in the downtown area, but erected its current church building in the 1970's.   At present, according to the Free Pentecostal Holiness Youth website ( there are
  9 affiliated churches, with the majority being in southwestern Ohio.  
The Pentecostal Holiness Tabernacle in Cincinnati,HQ church of the Free Pentecostal Church of God Fellowship
2.  Free Holiness Churches - Richard Crayne, pastor of the Pentecostal Assembly in Morristown, TN, noted in his book Pentecostal Handbook (Morristown, TN: self-published, 1989) that there are six groups bearing the name "Free Holiness," and they vary according to faith and practice - four of them are conservative Holiness-Pentecostal, one embraces Oneness teachings, and one is not quite as strict on Holiness standards as the others.  Crayne also notes that some do practice serpent-handling, although this isn't a widespread thing among any of these groups.   A couple of the groups have a large concentration of members in the Midwest and Middle South regions (Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas, etc.) and played an instrumental role in the creation of The Holiness Messenger.  One group is well-established in southern Appalachia - centered in the Sand Mountain, AL, area - and also has a web presence at   Crayne counts this latter group as having about 40 churches, but their website documents 69 congregations ranging from Kentucky to Lake Wales, FL, although the majority are concentrated in Alabama and Tennessee.  This group is of interest due to extensive documentation, and they predate the arrival of Pentecostalism in the mountains by several years, as many of their churches were already established by 1908.  This fellowship was largely the work of two early evangelists from those days, Sam Bates and Tom Perry, the latter who according to Crayne had heard the Holiness message from a Tom Austin in Chattanooga (Crayne, p. 650).  Of the other Free Holiness groups, one can be traced back to the ministry of a Ruben Wayne Dillard (1890-1989) in Arkansas who came from a Freewill Baptist background but embraced the Holiness message in 1913 (Crayne, p. 68).  A second group claims the founder of The Holiness Messenger, Rev. Ira Roberts, among its membership.  A third group, Crayne documents, owes its origins to an "Uncle Mack" O'Neal (1850-1952) from North Carolina. 

Statistics are not available as to membership records of these various groups, but sufficive to say there may be a combined total of 3000 or more members in all of them, just by my estimate.  Richard Crayne's research on this has proven invaluable for finding out as much as I have, honestly!

Free Holiness Church, Higdon, AL
3. The Holy Church of God - The origins of this particular fellowship go back to the 1950's in Savannah, GA, when it was established by some dissident members of the Church of God (Cleveland, TN).  The mother church of the movement - also the largest with a 700-seat sanctuary - is still located in Savannah, although they do have congregations in the Deep South in Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi, and Florida.  
Having a very loose fellowship, each congregation has almost total autonomy.  Like many of the other groups discussed, the Holy Church of God is very conservative in doctrine, following a strict Holiness code.  Crayne notes however that the Savannah church tends to be more strict than the Alabama churches though (p. 130).   Their website is at
The Holy Church of God, Savannah, GA.

4.  The Bible Holiness Ministerial Fellowship - Recently, I obtained some good DVD teachings by a Pentecostal pastor in North Carolina by the name of Joseph Chambers (born 1936), and come to find out he is the overseer of the Bible Holiness Fellowship, which he organized in 1998 after withdrawing from the Church of God over modernism which he saw as a threat.  Several congregations of this fellowship - in particular in Elkton, VA - have a good relationship with The Holiness Messenger.  Pastor Chambers is the founder and overseer of this fellowship, and he also pastors Paw Creek Church in Charlotte, NC, as well as having an active parachurch ministry of his own in which he addresses things such as false revivalism, rock music, etc.  

Rev. Joseph Chambers, overseer of the Bible Holiness Fellowship and pastor of Paw Creek Ministries in Charlotte, NC.
This group is not to be confused with the non-Pentecostal Wesleyan Bible Holiness Church, which is headquartered in the Midwest, as the Chambers group is very much Pentecostal!  Rev. Chambers' website is at, and the Bible Holiness Fellowship's page can be found at  A second group with a similar name and emphasis is also found in Arkansas, and can be accessed at   Dr. Chambers also has several books and messages available.  The Elkton church, which pre-dates the Paw Creek one by several years, is listed by Crayne as a "Free Pentecostal Church."

5. Free Gospel Church - This is a group I have some familiarity with, due to their well-known Bible Institute located at their fellowship headquarters in Export, PA.  Their history goes back to 1916, when brothers Frank and William Casley left the Christian and Missionary Alliance after receiving the Pentecostal experience in 1907.  According to 1988 statistics in The Dictionary of Pentecostal and Charismatic Movements (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1988) the Free Gospel Church consisted of about a dozen American churches and around one thousand members (p. 315).  Much of this fellowship is centered around the Free Gospel Bible Institute, which has an influence that goes far beyond its membership - many Assemblies of God ministers back in West Virginia where I grew up graduated from there actually, which also led to many of them in the Potomac District of the Assemblies being somewhat more conservative than the rest of the denomination.  Although at one time the Free Gospel Church engaged in extensive fellowship with the wider Pentecostal community (it was a member of the Pentecostal Fellowship of North America up until it was reorganized as the Pentecostal Charismatic Churches of North America in 1994, which the Free Gospel Church declined to join), in recent years it has engaged in fellowship with more conservative Holiness/Pentecostal groups like those represented by the Messenger.  As a body, the Free Gospel Church is fairly conservative, strictly Holiness and fundamental, and it hearkens back to an earlier era of the Assemblies of God interestingly enough, as it is much what the Assemblies used to be.  The Bible Institute still has a vibrant presence, although in recent years class size has decreased, but many ministers in these more conservative fellowships count FGBI as their alma mater.

Free Gospel Bible Institute, Export, PA
6. South Florida Holiness Fellowship -  This particular group sparked my interest as one of their congregations, God's Miracle Center, is located in nearby Plant City, FL.  The genesis of this group goes back to a group of Holiness Methodists who formed it in 1855, although it didn't become Pentecostal until the early 20th century (see for more on that).  Many of its current churches though were of more recent origin - God's Miracle Center, for instance, was founded in 1963.   The overseer of the six churches that are currently part of this fellowship is Rev. Rufus Caraway, pastor of the Upper Room Church of God in Arcadia, FL.  

God's Miracle Center, Dover, FL (established 1963), a congregation of the South Florida Holiness Fellowship
7. Pentecostal Christian Assemblies -  This little fellowship was organized in 1983 by Rev. Marvin R. Howell (1931-2008) a former Church of God minister in Goldsboro, NC.  Howell remained the superintendent of the Assemblies until his passing in 2009.  The stats of this group are not known, although they do have several congregations it appears in the Carolinas. (referenced from

Marvin Howell (1931-2008), founder and General Overseer of the Pentecostal Christian Assemblies
Pentecostal Christian Assemblies headquarters, Goldsboro, NC.
8. North Georgia Holiness Fellowship - The North Georgia Fellowship is headquartered in Nicholson, GA, where it also holds its youth camps, and consists of six churches.  They have a website at that gives more information about them, although little of their history is mentioned.

9.  Calvary Evangelistic Center Fellowship - This Independence, IA, based fellowship has its roots in the ministry of Rev. William F. Hill, who began evangelistic work in the area in 1965.  The Fellowship was incorporated in 1971, and now has an extensive missionary enterprise as well as a Christian school established in 1975.  More about them is available at their website -  

10. Shady Springs Holiness Fellowship - This southern Indiana-based Pentecostal/Holiness fellowship has its roots in a series of campmeetings that go back to 1958, initiated by evangelistic work of Rev. James Ray.  Today it encompasses a fellowship of 16 churches, primarily in Indiana but also in Kentucky as well.  Their website is  

11. Sunset Hill Campmeeting Fellowship - This Illinois-based fellowship originates back to 1915, when a local Pentecostal evangelist by the name of Ralph Cook (born 1888) first received the Pentecostal baptism and began a preaching ministry in 1917.  Bethel Chapel was later established in 1924, and became the "mother church" for the fellowship.

Rev. Ralph Cook, his wife Lena, and daughter Eula in 1919.
A campground is maintained near Bethel Church in Granite City, IL.  Although it is hard to determine how many churches are part of this fellowship, as no statistics are available, it seems to be fairly localized to Illinois and adjacent areas in Kentucky.  More about this group is available at their website,  

Concluding Observations
Documenting these small fellowships is a bit of a chore, but it is fun work as well.  You learn much, but it can also be frustrating as some stats are not readily available.  Among some other churches that could have been mentioned here but were not due to the fact many are single congregations are the Martinsville Church of Truth in Martinsville, VA, pastored by Rev. Bill Preskitt.  This congregation dates back many years, and is in regular fellowship with other local conservative Pentecostal/Holiness groups in the vicinity.  For many years, they also made their services available on CD, although I am not sure if they still do so or not.  There are many such independent churches like this that merit a separate study of their own.
Again, many of these fellowships resulted from a split within larger Pentecostal denominations when the latter sought to modernize themselves more, although several also predate the larger groups by years.  The purpose of the Highways and Hedges project is to attempt to document as accurately and thoroughly as possible the legacy of these fascinating groups, for in many of them one can find a living portrait of what early Pentecostals used to be like.  It is only too unfortunate that many scholars of the larger Pentecostal movements cannot appreciate them - perhaps it is because they present an atavistic image of Pentecostalism that maybe some scholars want to divorce themselves from.  

At any rate, if any errors in information are documented, please forgive those, as this whole project is still a work in progress and will be subject to revision as new information becomes available.  Due to scanty history records of some fellowships - some of them believe sincerely that their primary duty is the Lord's work, and therefore they have an eschatological drive that dictates historical documentation take a backseat to evangelism.  They may have a point, but on the other hand they may deprive themselves of their greatest witness - a historical record of their testimony - by ignoring and refusing to write things down and keep records.  Therefore, it is up to those like me who can see the significance of their movements to preserve them.

Thanks again for reading, and continue to check in for new insights.