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This essay proceeds in three movements: a history of modern Pentecostalism, a

personal narrative of my own experiences in a Pentecostal church, and an examination of five enthymemes, drawn from my Pentecostal experience, that continue
to structure the way I think and write. These enthymemes are found to be guides
to topic selection, critical practice, and intended audience response in my professional life as a rhetorical critic.

And it shall come to pass afterward,

that I will pour out my Spirit upon all flesh;
And your sons and your daughters shall prophesy,
Your old men shall dream dreams,
Your young men shall see visions:
And also upon the servants and upon the handmaids
in those days will I pour out my Spirit.
Joel 2:2829
And when the day of Pentecost was fully come, they
were all with one accord in one place. And suddenly
there came a sound from heaven as of a rushing mighty
wind, and it filled all the house where they were sitting.
And there appeared unto them cloven tongues like as of
fire, and it sat upon each of them. And they were all filled
with the Holy Ghost, and began to speak with other tongues,
as the Spirit gave them utterance.
Acts: 2:14
Martin J. Medhurst is Distinguished Professor of Rhetoric and Communication at Baylor
University in Waco, Texas.
Rhetoric & Public Affairs
Vol. 7, No. 4, 2004, pp. 555-572
ISSN 1094-8392



his essay proceeds in three movements: historical, personal, and inventional. I begin by tracing the roots of modern Pentecostalism, connecting those roots to my own family background and personal experience, and
then trying to extract from that history and experience some inventional
principles that have affected the way I think and communicatethe rhetorical resources that inhere in the Pentecostal tradition. I cannot, of course,
claim any kind of generalizability beyond my own experience, but I do believe
that my experiences are representative of at least one major branch of
Pentecostalismthat grounded in the church life and teachings of the
Assemblies of God fellowship.1


All Pentecostals believe that their faith and experiences are grounded in the
biblical witness of Gods movement throughout human history. In the Hebrew
scriptures, God promised through the prophet Joel that in the end times He
would pour forth his Spirit on all flesh and that such a supernatural outpouring of the Spirit would be marked by dreams, visions, signs, and wonders. In
the New Testament, the Spirit is poured out on the disciples at the Day of
Pentecost in fulfillment of Jesus promise that once he had ascended to the
Father he would send his Spirit as a guide and comforter to his followers.
Throughout the intervening two thousand years of Christian history there
have been periodic, if irregular, outpourings of the Spirit.2 Often these outpourings have been marked by miracles, healings, prophesies, and the gift of
supernatural tongues where the recipient speaks a human language that he has
never studied (xenolalia) or a heavenly language unknown to anyone on Earth
Such outpourings of the Spirit were relatively rare in Christian history, until
the latter nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. With the coming of the
American Civil War, a war that some Christians interpreted as a punishment
for the sin of slavery, many turned to personal and national repentance and reconciliation. Like Lincoln, they saw a just God whose judgments were altogether
righteous, and who demanded personal righteousness, even holiness, as a condition of continued blessing. Out of this impulse grew the National Holiness
Association, founded in Vineland, New Jersey, in 1867. The holiness movement, as it soon came to be called, grew primarily out of the Wesleyan tradition and thus found its home within the Methodist Church. While there were
holiness movements within other denominations as well, it was the Methodist
holiness movement that was the seedbed for modern Pentecostalism.4
The distinguishing mark of holiness Methodists was their belief in a second work of grace. The first work of grace was the sinners justification,



accomplished by accepting Christs atoning sacrifice on the cross. But the holiness movement taught that there was a second work called sanctification. This
was a subsequent work of grace that was necessary to cleanse and purify the
hearts of those who had been saved. Like justification, sanctification was an
immediate experience received by faith. While the dominant emphasis was on
the cleansing or purifying function of sanctification, some holiness leaders
also emphasized that this second blessing was an anointing of the Holy
Spirit, given to empower the believer for Christian service. Some even began
to refer to this second blessing as a baptism in the Holy Spirit. The holiness
movement grew and prospered over the last half of the nineteenth century,
with its teachings being spread through camp meetings, revivalists such as D.
L. Moody and Charles Grandison Finney, and pastors who converted whole
congregations to the holiness teaching. However, not all Methodists accepted
the doctrine of sanctification, and in 1894 the Southern Methodist Church
officially rejected the holiness movement, causing more than 25 different holiness groups to leave the Methodist Church in search of more friendly spiritual
Many of these holiness groups began to form their own churches or associations. For purposes of this essay, the most important groups so formed were
the United Holy Church (1886); the Fire-Baptized Holiness Church (1895);
the Church of God, Cleveland, Tennessee (1896); the Church of God in Christ
(1897); and the Pentecostal Holiness Church (1898).5 By the turn of the century, there were dozens of such holiness groups spread across the country, with
greatest strength in the Midwest and South. On the first day of the twentieth
century, January 1, 1901, something happened that would change forever the
nature and direction of the holiness movement. At a Bible school in Topeka,
Kansas, run by former Methodist turned holiness preacher Charles Fox
Parham, a student praying for the infilling of the Holy Spirit suddenly began
to speak in tongues. Other students soon followed, and then Parham himself
spoke in tongues. Parham immediately identified this gift of tongues as an
outpouring of the Holy Spirit signaling the last, end-time revival before the
return of Christ. He taught that what the students were experiencing was a
new Pentecost and that God was supplying known tongues (xenolalia) to
empower people to go to foreign lands as missionaries. His idea was that the
end was so near that God would miraculously give foreign languages to his
students so that the Gospel could be preached immediately in foreign lands,
thus bypassing the need for time-consuming language training.6
Parham soon formed his own church movement called the Apostolic Faith,
and began holding revival services all across the Midwest. In 1905, he expanded
his ministry into Texas, where he founded another Bible School in Houston. His
teaching was straightforward. In addition to the first blessing (justification) and



the second blessing (sanctification), there was now a third blessing (baptism in
the Holy Spirit), and the initial evidence of such baptism was speaking in
tongues. One of the students at Parhams Bible School in Houston was a young
Baptist man named William Joseph Seymour. An African American, Seymour
was not allowed to sit in the same classroom as the white students, so he sat
behind a curtain to listen to Parhams teachings. After only weeks of instruction,
Seymour was offered a pastorate in Los Angeles, which he eagerly accepted. He
was 35 years old. Upon arrival, Seymour immediately began preaching the doctrine that he had learned from Parhamthat there was a third blessing and that
the evidence for it was speaking in tongues. This teaching resulted in his immediate removal from the church. Undaunted, Seymour continued to preach and
teach at the homes of some of the parishioners who wanted to hear more of this
strange new doctrine. Within days, one of those parishioners, Edward Lee,
received the baptism of the Holy Spirit and spoke in tongues. Then another
received the gift, and another, and finally Seymour himself. By now the flock was
too large for a private home, so Seymour secured an abandoned church building that had been used, most recently, as a livery stable. It was in downtown Los
Angeles at 312 Azusa Street. And the rest, as the saying goes, is history.7
The Azusa Street revival of 19069 introduced the Pentecostal experience
to thousands of worshippers from both the United States and Europe. As word
of the revival spread, more and more people came to Seymours Apostolic
Faith Gospel Mission to see for themselves. Many experienced the baptism in
the Holy Spirit and spoke in tongues, including several of the people who
would become the founders or spiritual mentors of the original Pentecostal
denominations: among them Gaston Barnabas Cashwell, who in two years of
preaching throughout the South brought four major holiness denominationsthe PHC [Pentecostal Holiness Church], the Fire-Baptized Holiness
Church, the Church of God (Cleveland, Tennessee), and the Pentecostal FreeWill Baptist Churchinto the Pentecostal movement;8 Charles H. Mason,
cofounder of the holiness Church of God in Christ; William H. Durham,
whose modification of the doctrine of sanctification would be a catalyst for
formation of the Assemblies of God; and Ernest S. Williams, who would go on
to become general superintendent of the Assemblies of God. While most of
these denominations had been in existence for some years as holiness
churches, they became Pentecostal in orientation when their leaders returned
from Azusa Street having experienced the Pentecostal infilling of the Spirit.
One exception to this generalization is the Assemblies of God, which was a
postAzusa Street creation. Founded in 1914, the Assemblies of God did not
come directly out of the holiness movement. Whereas all of the holiness
churches that became Pentecostal after Azusa Street retained their teachings
about sanctification as a distinct second blessing (and added Baptism in the



Spirit as a third blessing), the Assemblies specifically rejected the idea that
sanctification was separate from justification. Following the finished work
theology of William H. Durham, first set forth in 1910, the Assemblies held
that a believer was justified and sanctified simultaneouslya finished work
and that all that remained was to be baptized in the Spirit.9 Most of the men
and women who founded the Assemblies of God had been affiliated with
Charles Masons interracial Church of God in Christ. In addition to splitting
over the issue of sanctification, the founding of the Assemblies effectively separated white Pentecostals from their African American brethren.10

It was not long after the founding of the Assemblies of God in 1914 that
Pentecost came to my hometown of Alton, Illinois. Hard against the
Mississippi River as it separates Missouri from Illinois, Alton had seen its share
of American history. The Lewis and Clark expedition had camped at nearby
Wood River, abolitionist Elijah P. Lovejoy had been martyred at Alton, and
Lincoln and Douglas had debated there. By the second decade of the twentieth century, Alton was well on its way to becoming a heavily industrialized,
blue-collar community, where people labored at the steel mill or the flour mill,
the box company or the glass factory, the oil refineries or the armory. It was
1913 when the first Pentecostal group began to meet in Alton, and 1916 when
the first Pentecostal church was erectedthe Edwards Street Assembly of God,
under the leadership of the Reverend A. W. Kortkamp. Three years later, in
1919, Dallas Nahum Medhurst and his wife, Ethel Haskins Medhurst, arrived
in Alton with their three-year-old daughter, Bernice. Ethel immediately joined
the Edwards Street church. Raised as a Methodist, my grandmother had somehow discovered the Pentecostal experience between her marriage in 1916 and
her arrival in Alton in 1919. She was, in fact, the only member of her family of
nine brothers and sisters to embrace Pentecostalism.
By 1920, the Edwards Street church was growing. In June of that year the
young Pentecostal evangelist Aimee Semple McPherson came to Alton to hold
a three-week tent revival. According to the local newspaper:
The old time religion, embracing absolute allegiance to God, without the modern socials, stunts, movies, etc, to support poor God, is what Aimee Semple
McPherson, woman revivalist conducting meetings in tabernacle-tent on High
School Campus, is preaching.
Religion without frills; religion which means actually being good and living
for God; religion without modern affectations; religion which means serving
God, is the kind urged by the unique and fiery revivalist.11



Sister Aimee was a favorite in Alton. She returned for a three-day meeting in
1921. The revivals were apparently successful, for shortly thereafter the
Edwards Street church decided to spin off a sister congregation. Ground was
broken for the Alton Gospel Tabernacle in October 1922, with the dedication
of the new church on March 4, 1923. My grandmother, along with six-and-ahalf-year-old Bernice and three-year-old Dale Eugene, attended the dedication
ceremony and became founding members of the new church, a membership
my grandmother and aunt would maintain for almost 40 years before moving
on to a different Assembly of God church.
Sister Aimee returned to the Alton Gospel Tabernacle in 1928 to dedicate
the new prayer tower. In the interim, she had built Angelus Temple, a Los
Angeles church with a seating capacity of 5,300 (1923); purchased radio station KFSG (1924), thus becoming the first woman in America to obtain a
radio broadcast license; founded a new Pentecostal denominationthe
International Church of the Four Square Gospel (1927)and become (second
only to Billy Sunday) the most famous evangelist in 1920s America.
Pentecostalism, while thoroughly rejected by most of the established denominations, nevertheless continued to grow and flourish. So, too, did the
Medhurst family. In 1930, Ethel had her third and last child, Maurice Allen
Medhurst, my father. He, too, would grow up in and eventually become a
member of the Alton Gospel Tabernacle. And it was in the churchs youth
group, sometime in 1946, that he met Wilma Lucille Belangee. She was 18; he
was 16. Three years later they would be married in the church. The church was
their life. And in 1952 when I came along, it became my life, too. At not quite
ten weeks of age, I was dedicated to the Lord, dedication being what lowchurch Protestants do instead of infant baptism (which they reject as unbiblical). From 1952 to 1960, I attended the Alton Gospel Tabernacle, along with
my parents (and after 1959, my little brother), both of my grandmothers,
aunts on both sides of my family, and cousins. It truly was a family affair.
Like most Pentecostals, I was taught to be separate from the world. That
meant believing and worshipping differently (we sang loudly, clapped our
hands, shouted praises, raised our hands toward heaven, spoke in tongues, interpreted tongues, gave words of prophesy, prayed for miracles, testified orally to
the Lords goodness), behaving differently (we didnt drink, smoke, chew, join
oath-bound secret societies, dance, attend movie theaters, gamble, or wear anything that could cause undue attention to physical characteristics, including
heavy makeup or jewelry), and associating differently (our friends were, almost
without exception, from church; our circle of Christian friends extended only to
other local Assembly of God churches where, through the mechanism of
monthly youth rallies, we could find our future mates). It was, without doubt,
an insular kind of existence, yet one filled with much joy and happiness.



I made my profession of faith at the Alton Gospel Tabernacle at the age of

seven. Like most Pentecostal youth I was saved by responding to an altar call.
I still remember the words of one of the songs we used to sing:
Romans 10 and 9 is a favorite verse of mine
Confessing Christ as Lord, I am saved by grace divine.
These are the words of promise, in golden letters mine,
Romans 10 and 9.

We would then recite Romans 10:9: If thou shalt confess with thy mouth the
Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the
dead, Thou shalt be saved. Everything was done in the King James Version
back then, and it was that version that I memorized in Sunday school, vacation Bible school, youth meetings, summer camps, year in and year out. We
had contests to see who could memorize the most Bible verses. I was thoroughly immersed in the words of Scripture, which, like all Pentecostals, I took
to be the very words of God.
Over the years, the one thing that has stuck with me more than any other
is the songs that we used to sing. Starting as a child, I was systematically inculcated into a world and life view through the medium of song, much of which
I retain to this day. Many simple tunes carried, for me, profound lessons:
Jesus loves the little children
All the children of the world.
Red and yellow, black and white
They are precious in His sight
Jesus loves the little children of the world.

Even as a child, it was clear to me that if Jesus loved the children of color, then
so must I. No one ever preached a sermon on racism. They didnt have to.12
In November 1959, shortly after the arrival of my brother Michael and just
weeks after making my profession of faith, I was struck by a car and nearly
killed. I still bear the scars of that accident, both on my forehead (where my
head hit the concrete pavement) and on my back (where the hood ornament
of the car pierced my back, missing the spinal cord by less than an inch). As I
lay in a semiconscious state on the side of the road, waiting for the ambulance,
my mother, Aunt Bernice, and our next-door neighbor, Marguerite Collins, all
Pentecostal believers, rushed to my side and prayed. From that moment on, I
was known as the miracle boy. They considered it a miracle that I had lived.
For the next several years people would remind me that I was a walking miracle. I had become a living proof of the goodness and mercy of God. Though it



took the better part of a year, I made a full recovery. I was now a living, breathing example of Gods power. I had been spared for a reason, but what? And
why? The answer, surely, was to be found in prayer.
Prayer is the key to heaven,
But faith unlocks the door.
Words are so easily spoken,
But prayer without faith
Is like a boat without an oar.
Have faith when you speak to the Master
Thats all Hell ask you for.
For prayer is the key to heaven
But faith unlocks the door.

So I prayed. I also began to sing in churchfirst trios and duets, then solos.
I was eight years old in 1960 when my parents suddenly announced that we
would be leaving the Alton Gospel Tabernacle for a new church that was just
forming in North Alton. This new church was a group of 2530 people who
met in the local Odd Fellows hall, had no full-time minister, and virtually no
money in the bank. But they did have faith, and eventually the North Side
Assembly of God Church came into existence, along with a new church building in 1963. I later learned that my parents, my Aunt Bernice and Uncle Kent,
and ultimately my grandmother Ethel, too, left the Alton Gospel Tabernacle
because of financial irregularities. There was a crook in the leadership position. This was the first of several fallen brethren that I would encounter as I
grew to maturity in the Assemblies of God.
North Side Assembly was where I grew from an eight-year-old boy to a 21year-old man. Most importantly, it was where, on a Sunday night in 1964, I
was filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke in tongues. That, of course, was not
an unusual occurrence for a Pentecostal youth. Almost all of my church contemporaries also experienced the Pentecostal baptism. It was a normal and
expected step along the road to spiritual maturity.
They were in an upper chamber
They were all with one accord.
When the Holy Ghost descended
As was promised by our Lord.
Oh, Lord send the power just now
Oh, Lord send the power just now
Oh, Lord send the power just now
And baptize everyone.



And so I was baptized in the Spirit. The only word for it was joypure joy.
The windows of heaven are open
The blessings are falling tonight.
Theres joy, joy, joy in my heart
For Jesus makes everything right.
I gave him my old tattered garments.
He gave me a robe of pure white.
Im feasting on manna from heaven
And thats why Im happy tonight.

For Pentecostals, the baptism in the Holy Spirit is a gift from God, given to
empower the believer to live a holy life and to witness to Gods grace, mercy,
and love. It is a complete surrender of ones will and ones life to the guidance
of God. The gift of tongues is a vehicle by which the individual can praise God
and, when accompanied by interpretation of the tongue, can edify the congregation by discerning what God is saying through the strange, ecstatic utterance.
Pentecostals believe that all of the gifts of the Spiritthe word of wisdom,
the word of knowledge, faith, healing, miracles, prophecy, discernment of
spirits, tongues, and interpretation of tongues, according to 1 Corinthians
12:711are still operative today and are available to equip the believer for
the spiritual warfare that attends human existence. Pentecostals take literally
Pauls admonition in Ephesians: For we wrestle not against flesh and blood,
but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of
this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places (Eph. 6:12). Pentecostal
believers are therefore always imploring God to send his Spirit to help them.
Send us the rain, Lord
Send us the rain, Lord
Send us the Latter Rain.
We need the rain, Lord
We need the rain, Lord
We need the Latter Rain.

Because God has promised his Spirit to lead and guide, the Pentecostal believer
is sure of the final outcome of this spiritual battle. Indeed, the battle has
already been won.
The Lion of Judah
Shall break every chain.



And give to us the victory,

Again and again.
The Lion of Judah
Shall break every chain.
And give to us the victory,
Again . . . and again.

My life in the North Side Assembly of God followed the same pattern from
age eight to 18: Sunday school and worship on Sunday mornings from 9:15 to
12:15 (or whenever the Spirit quit moving); Sunday evening worship from
7:00 to 9:00 (or whenever the Spirit quit moving); and youth service on
Wednesday evenings from 7:00 to 9:00. Every year there would be a revival service that would usually last one or two weeks (more if the Spirit was really
moving). We would have the usual assortment of traveling evangelists, singers
of various sorts (especially Gospel quartets), visiting missionaries (some of
whom our church supported financially), annual Vacation Bible School in the
summers, usually for two weeks, monthly youth rallies that rotated among the
Assembly of God churches in the region, the occasional visit from an A/G
District representative, and from ages eight to 14 Christian youth camp for a
week every summer in Carlinville, Illinois. In short, my life revolved around
the church and its various activities.
By about age 12 or 13, I was speaking regularly to youth audiences; later I
would occasionally preach. Once I even preached the Christmas morning service
at North Side. Naturally, many people assumed I would become an Assembly of
God minister. Our little church produced at least three ministers during the time
I was there, but I was not among them. Rather than follow my friends to Bible
school or to the one and only Assembly of God liberal arts college, I chose to go
to a Christian (but non-Pentecostal) college. Of course I continued to attend an
Assembly of God church while away at college, at least for a while. And I always
went back to North Side on holiday and summer breaks. But college changed me
in many ways, and when I graduated, though still a Pentecostal, I no longer
attended a Pentecostal church. Even so, I do believe that it was this tradition that
shaped many of my adult ways of thinking and communicating.




For me, the rhetorical resources of Pentecostalism lie in the experiences I had
as a young person and the lessons or tacit understandings I took away from
those experiences. At one level this seems appropriate, since Pentecostalism is
defined by the dual experiences of salvation (justification + sanctification) and
baptism in the Holy Spirit (defined by speaking in tongues). Like all orthodox



Christians, Pentecostals adhere to doctrines such as creation, fall, and redemption that, if taken seriously, necessarily affect the way an individual thinks about
such matters as human nature, destiny, and being-in-the-world. If, for example, one believes that all people are created in the image of God, then one must
always treat the other as a child of Godas a Thou rather than as an It, to use
Martin Bubers language.13 Such belief necessarily affects the way we communicate with one another. But rather than dwell on those topics that Pentecostals
share with a wide range of other Christian traditions, I want to focus on those
experiences that seem to me to be characteristically Pentecostal in origin.
Pentecostals establish their self-identity and public personae through a
series of interrelated enthymemes and examples. I will focus on only five: (1)
God is in control, (2) Pray without ceasing, (3) Expect a miracle, (4) Trust and
obey, and (5) Work. According to George A. Kennedy, an enthymeme commonly takes the form of a statement and a supporting reason, as in Blessed are
the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven (Matt. 5:3).14 In
enthymematic form our five premises might look something like this:
1. God is in control, for all things work together for good to them that love God,
to them who are the called according to the will of God. (Rom. 8:28)
2. Pray without ceasing, for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning
you. (1 Thess. 5:17)
3. Expect a miracle, for with his stripes we are healed. (Isa. 53:5)
4. Trust and obey, for without faith it is impossible to please Him. (Heb. 11:6)
5. Work, for the night cometh, when no man can work. (John 9:4)

Note that in every case the premise is warranted by a quotation from

Scripture. The Bible is the authorizing agent in a Pentecostal worldview. One
can securely hold the premise because the warrant is guaranteed by God himself, through his holy word. This being the case, the Pentecostal can, in the face
of the most horrific circumstances, still believe that God is in control. In the
words of the old spiritual:
Hes got the whole world, in His hands
Hes got the whole wide world, in His hands
Hes got the whole world, in His hands
Hes got the whole world in His hands.

If God is in control, then no situation or circumstance can ultimately be

defeating. To believe that God is in control is to hold both that God knows
what He is doing (even when we cannot understand His plan) and that nothing is impossible with God.



God can do anything, anything, anything,

God can do anything but fail.
He can save, he can keep
Just believe him and he will,
God can do anything but fail.

While the premise that God is in control might be seen by some as a license to
relax, to the Pentecostal it is exactly the opposite, for we are enjoined to pray
without ceasing. Because spiritual battles are being waged constantly, the
Pentecostal must be ever vigilant in prayer. Just as Jesus continued constant in
prayer all the way up to his arrest in the garden, so too must we be ever faithful. Even on the cross, Jesus prayed for those who were crucifying him.
Following Jesus own example, we pray to the Father that His will be done on
Earth. Following Jesus admonition, we pray for our enemies and for those
who spitefully use us. As he moves deeper into personal prayer, the Pentecostal
will often begin to pray in tongues. This is both a sign of his complete surrender to the will of God and a language of praise and adoration. Like the angels
in heaven, the Pentecostal proclaims by ecstatic utterance:
Holy is the Lord and Mighty is His name
King of heaven yet down to Earth he came.
Angels sing his praise all Earth shall do the same
Holy is the Lord and Mighty is His name.

With St. Paul, the Pentecostal understands that speaking in tongues in the
privacy of ones prayer closet is an edification for the self. It brings one closer
to God and focuses ones energies toward heaven and eternity. In ecstatic
prayer, the Pentecostal believes that the Spirit itself maketh intercession for us
with groanings that cannot be uttered (Rom. 8:26). Prayer is serious business,
for it links us to the Divine.
Because God is in control and does hear our prayers, we can expect miraclessupernatural events that could range from a complete change of heart,
to a business turnaround, to a restored relationship, to deliverance from drugs
or alcohol, to physical healing. Pentecostals expect healings because the Bible
teaches that with His stripes we are healed. Furthermore, healing is one of
the gifts of the Spirit delineated in 1 Corinthians 12:711. From the outset of
the rise of modern Pentecostalism, healings have been reported as manifestations of the Spirits outpouring. From time to time, particular ministries have
claimed gifts of healing, among them those of Aimee Semple McPherson, Oral
Roberts, and Kathryn Kuhlman. But the key term in my premise is expect



expect God to act in unusual, perhaps even supernatural ways. Pentecostals live
in the constant expectation that God can and will act in history, even if that
means acting outside the norms of our day-to-day experiences. This constant
awareness of Gods presence and power shapes the way a Pentecostal thinks
about everything, because whatever the current situation may be, God can
change it. In that sense, life, though under Gods supervision, is radically contingent because He can intervene at any moment. Part of this expectation of
miracles involves the possibility of divine intervention, usually in the form of
angelic beings, for some have entertained angels unawares (Heb. 13:2).
Pentecostals believe in both angels and demons, and they know that either
could be encountered at any moment along lifes journey. This innate sense of
expectancythat something is about to happencauses the Pentecostal to
have his spiritual antennae always on alert. Like their New Testament counterparts, modern Pentecostals live in the expectation of Jesus imminent return.
He saves, he keeps, he satisfies,
This wonderful friend of mine.
Someday Ill meet him in the skies,
This wonderful friend of mine.

This sense that one might be caught up or raptured at any moment gives
the Pentecostal a motive for watching the signs of the times. Living in the
expectation of Gods final consummation of the age changes the way life is
lived, decisions made, judgments rendered.
Therefore, the primary task of the Pentecostal is to trust and obey, for
without faith it is impossible to please Him (Heb. 11:6). Such trust is first and
foremost in the One who died in order that we might live.
Trust in the Lord and dont despair
He is a friend so true.
No matter what your troubles are
Jesus will see you through.
Sing in the darkest night
Sing in the bright sunlight.
Every day, all the way,
Let us sing, sing, sing.

But Pentecostals also trust in the Bible, which is held to be the verbally
inspired word of God. The Bible contains not only the grand narrative of
mankinds salvation, but specific promises from God to Man.



Every promise in the book is mine,

Every chapter, every verse, every line.
I am trusting in his love divine,
Every promise in the book is mine.

What are those promises? Strength and comfort in time of trouble. Protection
from the Evil One. Power to witness. Healing from disease. Love, joy, and
peace. Victory over sin and wickedness.
Victory, victory, blessed blood-bought victory
Victory, victory, victory all the time.
As Jehovah liveth
Strength divine he giveth
Unto those who know him
Victory all the time.

The ultimate promise is, of course, reunion with God in heaven. Pentecostals
love to sing about heaven.
Marching on in the light of God
Marching on, I am marching on.
Up the path that the Master trod
Marching, marching on.
A robe of white, a crown of gold,
A harp, a home, a mansion fair.
A victors palm, a joy untold
Are mine when I get there.

Pentecostals are also taught to trust and obey those in authority, particularly their local pastor. Such authorities are ordained by God, and one risks his
or her relationship with the divine by resisting or disobeying the pastors
Most of all, the Pentecostal is admonished to work. This admonition had its
origins in the eschatological teachings of early Pentecostalism, which viewed the
outpouring of the Spirit as a sign of the impending return of Christ. We must,
therefore, be about the Fathers business. We must work and witness, spread the
good news all over the world, establish churches, raise up evangelists, send missionaries, and use all the available means of persuasion, including the newest
technologies, to spread Gods word before it is too late. A sense of urgency pervades all Pentecostal works. We are racing against timeand eternity. Jesus himself taught us to work, for the night cometh, when no man can work.15



It has now been more than 30 years since I left the Assemblies of God, yet
these five premises still pervade my consciousness. These songseach of
which I reproduced from memorystill play in my head. I am still, at some
primordial level, a Pentecostal, even if in Roman Catholic clothing. And the
songs and teachings are clearly part of my inventional storehouse. Earlier this
year, I was at a political science conference hosted by my friend George C.
Edwards III. While introducing me, George made some offhand comment
about Baylor, indirectly referencing the recent shooting of a Baylor basketball
player by one of his teammates. Without missing a beat, I interjected: But
George, just remember that where sin abounds, grace does much more
abound (Rom. 5:20). Thats another way of completing the enthymeme that
begins with the premise God is in control. Thats what immediately came to
my mind. Scripture speaks to everyday life. Thats the way I was raised. It is still
the way I think, even when I dont have time to think about it.
The first act of rhetorical invention is to invent the Self. Burke was right: we
invent language and the negative and they, in turn, invent us. Self-formation
takes place over many years, the formative years as we like to call them. I was
formed in a Pentecostal environment. It shaped the way I think, and such
thinking led me early in my career to study such topics as fundamentalism,
public prayer, civic piety, and religion in public life.16 But it is not what I have
studied that is especially revealing, but how I have thought about these topics
and the motives that have led me to embrace them. I think and write and speak
out of a traditiona religious traditionthat manifests itself in many different ways (just as the Spirit can manifest itself in many different ways).
One of those ways is in what I choose to studymy selection of topics. I
seem drawn to topics that put God and Man into contact with one another in
the everyday worldinaugural prayer, politics and religion, religious language,
the pulpit and politics.17And why is that? Because the Spirit of God pervades
everything and there is nothing that is purely secular or purely human. The
Spirit is constantly at work, even in the most mundane of human activities.
Second, I always think and write out of my worldview, which has been
shaped, in large measure, by this religious tradition. Such a worldviewmine
or anyone elsesconsists of assumptions, beliefs, and presuppositions. It functions much like an ideology to guide not so much what I must think, but how
I will thinkhow I will approach a topic or a problem. Part of this worldview
is a belief in Truth (eternal and unchanging) and truths (socially constructed
and time-bound). In practical terms that means I do believe that there are better and worse ways to think about rhetorical situations. I do believe that it is
possible to discover the truth about those situations through the practice of
rhetorical criticism.18 Clearly, this is a form of faithof trusting and obeying,
and believing that faithful pursuit of such truths are somehow underwritten by



Truth itself. Discovery of such truths may, from time to time, even give the
reader a glimpse of this greater Truth.
Third, my scholarship is, in its very performance, a form of prayer, for it is
a discourse seeking response and affirmation. If my work is a prayer, then regular scholarly activity becomes a way to fulfill the biblical mandate to pray
without ceasing and to work before the night comes. As a critic, I am, in a
sense, petitioning the reader to draw near, to hear my plea, to affirm my being
by recognizing in my writings even a glimmer of the truths whose ultimate
ground is Truth itself. It is not divine discourse, but it may be discourse that
reflects the divine impulse of reaching out in love to the Otherdiscourse in
which author and reader discover a transcendent ground upon which both can
stand. How does that happen? Only by the Spirit.

1. From a worldwide perspective, the Assemblies of God is the largest Pentecostal denomination. However, the vast majority of its membership is outside of the United States. The A/G
have approximately 2.5 million members in the United States compared with about 25 million overall. The Church of God in Christ, a predominantly African American denomination, is the largest American Pentecostal church, with approximately 6 million members.
Other American branches of Pentecostalism include the Church of God, Cleveland,
Tennessee; the International Pentecostal Holiness Church; the International Church of the
Four Square Gospel; and the nontrinitarian United Pentecostal Church International.
There are scores of smaller Pentecostal bodies. For a listing of the websites of these and
other Pentecostal churches, go to For a
scholarly history of the Assemblies of God, see Edith L. Blumhofer, Restoring the Faith: The
Assemblies of God, Pentecostalism, and American Culture (Urbana: University of Illinois
Press, 1993).
2. See Stanley M. Burgess, The Pentecostal Tradition: A Sampling of Ecstatic Experiences
Reported in Different Eras of Church History, Christian History 17, no. 2 (May 1998):
4041; David Barrett, Appendix: A Chronology of Renewal in the Holy Spirit, in The
Century of the Holy Spirit: 100 Years of Pentecostal and Charismatic Renewal, 19012001, ed.
Vinson Synan (Nashville, Tenn.: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 2001), 41552.
3. There are many books on the phenomenon of glossolalia. See, for example, John Sherrill,
They Speak with Other Tongues (Old Tappan, N.J.: Chosen Books, 2004); Gary B. McGee,
Initial Evidence: Historical and Biblical Perspectives on the Pentecostal Doctrine of Spirit
Baptism (Peabody, Mass.: Henrickson, 1991); Wade H. Horton, Glossolalia Phenomenon
(Cleveland, Tenn.: Pathway Press, 1996); Watson E. Mills, Glossolalia: A Bibliography (New
York: Edwin Mellen Press, 1985); Speaking in Tongues: A Guide to Research on Glossolalia
(Grand Rapids, Mich.: Eerdmans, 1986).
4. Blumhofer, Restoring the Faith, 1142.
5. There are some discrepancies over exact names and dates of incorporation for these
churches, many of which were, in fact, founded as associations rather than churches. I
have adopted the names and dates found in Synan, The Century of the Holy Spirit, 3.



6. For more on Charles Fox Parham, see James R. Goff Jr., Fields White unto Harvest: Charles
F. Parham and the Missionary Origins of Pentecostalism (Fayetteville: University of Arkansas
Press, 1988); Blumhofer, Restoring the Faith, 4356.
7. Much has been written about the Azusa Street revival. See, for example, Ted Olsen,
American Pentecost: The Story Behind the Azusa Street Revival, the Most Phenomenal
Event of Twentieth-Century Christianity, Christian History 17, no. 2 (May 1998): 1017;
Blumhofer, Restoring the Faith, 5662; Robert Owens, The Azusa Street Revival: The
Pentecostal Movement Begins in America, in The Century of the Holy Spirit, ed. Vinson
Synan, 3968. For a firsthand report by a participant, see Frank Bartleman, Azusa Street
(Plainfield, N.J.: Logos International, 1980).
8. The Editors, Setting the Vision: Pentecostalisms Early Leaders Were as Varied as They Were
Dynamic, Christian History 17, no. 2 (May 1998): 36.
9. On Durhams theology, see James R. Goff Jr., Pentecostal Quilt: Sanctification Scuffles,
Christian History 17, no. 2 (May 1998): 1819; Vinson Synan, The Finished Work
Pentecostal Churches, in The Century of the Holy Spirit, 12348.
10. From the beginning of the Azusa Street revival in 1906 until the founding of the
Assemblies of God in 1914, Pentecostalism was an interracial phenomenonwhich was
precisely why some people found it so distasteful. There appear to have been several
motives for the formation of the Assemblies of God, but race was clearly one factor.
Between 1907 and 1913, Charles H. Mason, the African American founder of the Church
of God in Christ, ordained hundreds of white Pentecostal preachers. Mason was invited
to the founding General Council of the Assemblies of God in 1914, where he preached an
apparently well-received sermon. As late as the 1950s, Assembly of God leaders would
address Mason as Venerable Father. He died in 1961. See Synan, The Century of the Holy
Spirit, 1046.
11. Revivalist Slams Dross in Religion, Alton Evening Telegraph, June 29, 1920, 1.
12. But maybe they should have preached on racism, not because Pentecostals were racists
most that I knew would readily accept a person of any color in the congregationbut
because the culture was racist. Unfortunately, one hallmark of modern Pentecostalism, particularly in the years that I was a member, was its insularity. Most Pentecostals turned
inward, not outward. We were to be separate from the world. That seemed to give us a
license to let the world go to hell. That bothered me then; it still does. Apparently there has
been some progress in the intervening 30 years. In 1994, for example, the Pentecostal
Churches of North America, an umbrella organization first chartered in 1948, reorganized
itself along racially inclusive lines.
13. Martin Buber, I and Thou, trans. Ronald Gregor Smith (New York: Scribners, 1958).
14. George A. Kennedy, New Testament Interpretation through Rhetorical Criticism (Chapel Hill:
University of North Carolina Press, 1984), 16.
15. This is one of the reasons that most of the televangelists are Pentecostalsthey see television as a way to persuade masses of people to Christianity. Among the more prominent
Pentecostal televangelists are Jim Bakker of the now-defunct PTL Club, Jimmy Swaggart,
and Paul Crouch of Trinity Broadcasting Network. All three were, at one time, ordained
ministers in the Assemblies of God. Before he became famousand then infamous
Jimmy Swaggart came to the North Side Assembly. I shook his hand when I was about 12
years old. When I was in high school, I used to play basketball at the Alton YMCA with
Richard Dortch, who later went on to become the bag man for Jim Bakker at Heritage



Village USA. Like Bakker, he was indicted and went to prison. These were just two of the
fallen brethren I mentioned earlier.

16. See, for example, Martin J. Medhurst, FundamentalismStep to the Right? Journal of the
Illinois Speech and Theatre Association 29 (1975): 5461; American Cosmology and the
Rhetoric of Inaugural Prayer, Central States Speech Journal 28 (1977): 27282; McGovern
at Wheaton: A Quest for Redemption, Communication Quarterly 25 (1977): 3239; From
Duche to Provoost: The Birth of Inaugural Prayer, Journal of Church and State 24 (1982):
17. Recently, I have returned to such topics: Martin J. Medhurst, Forging a Civil-Religious
Construct for the Twenty-first Century: Should Harts Contract Be Renewed? Journal of
Communication and Religion 25 (2002): 86101; Religious Rhetoric and the Ethos of
Democracy: A Case Study of the 2000 Presidential Campaign, in The Ethos of Rhetoric, ed.
Michael J. Hyde (Columbia: University of South Carolina Press, 2004), 11435.
18. For more on an explicitly Christian approach to rhetorical criticism, see Martin J.
Medhurst, Religious Belief and Scholarship: A Complex Relationship, Journal of
Communication and Religion 27 (2004): 4047.