In the wake of the Azusa St. Revival, the need for denominational organization became apparent to many when established Christian churches largely rejected Pentecostal adherents. Holiness bodies, such as Wesleyan Methodists and the Salvation Army, disassociated themselves with Pentecostals, leaving the later without acceptance into any kind of already-established ecclesiastical structure.
Certain fundamentalist teachers, such as H.A. Ironside, rejected Pentecostals as well. Some churches even considered the Pentecostal movement an urban cult. Others called it nothing more than emotional fanaticism without corrective leadership.
As early as 1908, some Midwestern Pentecostal churches were informally working together. Ministers reviewed each other's sermons. Congregations met together for camp meetings. Yet challenges existed that motivated others to continue to push for formal organization.
Advocates for organization were also met with opposition from within their movement. Some believed that their Pentecostal experience had liberated them from denominationalism and they didn't want to return to what they thought was a rigid structure.
Others argued that there were challenges that a denominational structure could help meet. One challenge at the time was con-men who would claim to be Pentecostal preachers, only to flee the church that was hosting them with the congregation's money. This demonstrated the need for a system by which ministers could be credentialed. Another challenge was that Pentecostal missionaries going overseas found work more difficult without the support of a denomination. Still another challenge was that doctrinal disagreements were occurring because there was no articulated Pentecostal belief statement.
The First General Council On December 20, 1913, the Pentecostal publication “Word and Witness” called for a “General Convention.” It was advertised as an opportunity for Pentecostal churches to meet in love and peace, not in disharmony. Certain discussion questions set the agenda: (1) What would God have us teach? (2) How do we conserve the work? (3) How do we allocate missions’ money (4) How do we get federal recognition? (5) How do we lay the groundwork for a Bible school?
The opposition to organization was strong. Critics labeled it as “popery,” meaning that like the Roman Catholic Pope, some Pentecostals were trying to put themselves in a position to govern the entire movement. Others warned against wasting their time and having denominational pride. Ignoring the accusations of their critics, the call for a General Convention was repeated two times in early 1914, and was answered in April, 1914.
From April 2 to 12, 1914, the first General Council of the Assemblies of God was held in Hot Springs, Arkansas. Over 300 people met from over 20 states. At an attempt for unity - since those who opposed denominational organization were also present - the first three days were devoted to preaching, prayer, and fellowship. Advocates for formal organization won over the constituency. The group adopted the name “Assemblies of God” when referring to the united bodies and would eventually incorporate under the name “General Council of the Assemblies of God.” Among the outcome of the first meeting was a system by which ministers could be regionally credentialed.
Although future meetings would produce doctrinal statements and elect governing officials, there is no doubt that in April 1914 the Assemblies of God was born.