The COGAF family of churches are part of the longest running revival in church history. The Pentecostal revival exploded onto the scene just after the turn of the 20th century, when the Lord Jesus brought together an unprecedented revival and outpouring of the Holy Spirit in Wales, with a recovered truth concerning the Baptism in the Holy Spirit. This allowed the Welsh Revival to become the first truly global awakening, while the intentional seeking of the Holy Spirit baptism created a focal point of faith which has caused the revival to continue well into a second century. As of 2016, Pentecostal or Charismatic believers total nearly 600,000,000, which equals the amount of non pentecostal Protestants. In just one century, this movement has equaled Protestantism and is nearly half the size of Catholicism.
On January 1, 1901, a small group of saints were gathered in an unfinished house in Topeka, KS, known to the locals as “Stone’s Folly,” seeking God in a manner that had not been heard of before by the church in America. This group of about 3 dozen were seeking specifically to be baptized in the Holy Spirit, with the expectation that they would speak in unknown tongues when the Spirit came. They had come to this conclusion based upon a study of scripture to answer the question, “Is there more of God to experience beyond sanctification?”
You see, these were Wesleyan Methodist believers. As such, they believed wholeheartedly in a second definite work of grace called “sanctification.” This was a doctrine preached by John Wesley, the founder of Methodism, and is summed up in the COGAF articles of faith as “that act of God's grace whereby the affections of men are purified and alienated from sin and the world and elevated to a supreme love toward God.” Put another way, if salvation frees you from the bondage to sin, sanctification frees you from even the desire for it.
However, these believers were convinced that “there must be more.” So, they sought God in His word, until they were sure that the scriptures taught a further encounter in God, called the Baptism in the Holy Spirit, and that, when a believer received this experience, they would speak in unknown tongues.
It was not unheard of for believers down through the ages to have this experience, but it was almost unheard of, in recent centuries, for someone to intentionally seek it. It was this combination of hunger and faith that brought an outpouring of God upon that band of believers that night that is still shaking the world.
Just after midnight on January 1st, the Holy Spirit was poured out. A woman named Agnes Ozman was the first to receive the Spirit and speak in an unknown tongue. She would later labor with some of the early pioneers of COGAF, including one of its founders, E.A. Buckles. Within days all 34 had received the Holy Spirit, and they began to go forth and preach this distinctive doctrine and experience.
At the same time this was happening, two powerful prayer movements over 5,000 miles apart were crying out to God for revival. Wales was known as “the land of revivals” because of its history of powerful moves of God. Yet, the churches in Wales were at the time dead and dry, and the people were unconcerned about spiritual things. It was time for God to move. Hungry, desperate voices were raised to heaven throughout the land.
Meanwhile, in Los Angeles, a growing group of intercessors throughout the city were asking God to come and shake America, which was in a place of almost historic spiritual decline. While the early preaching teams from Topeka began to preach the experience of the Baptism of the Holy Spirit throughout the central part of the United States, the companies of intercessors were calling upon God for revival. What happened next was the devil’s worst nightmare. Revival broke out in Wales in the fall of 1904, and within 18 months over 150,000 people in the little nation of less than 2,000,000 had been radically saved. All of the churches were full, services were held nightly. Pubs closed due to lack of business. Mules in the coal mines had to be retrained with new commands since the miners no longer used curse words. There has never been a revival more intense in its affect on a nation than the revival in Wales.
Some of the intercessors from Los Angeles actually traveled to Wales, and returned even hungrier for God to move in America. As the prayer for revival reached a fever pitch, a one eyed black preacher named William Seymour came to Los Angeles in 1906. He had learned about the doctrine of the Baptism of the Holy Spirit from the leader of the Topeka outpouring. He came to Los Angeles to preach this doctrine, but after one night, was locked out of the church that had invited him to preach.
After a few nights holding meetings in a home, and the Spirit being marvelously poured out, the meetings were moved to an old livery stable at 312 Azusa Street in Los Angeles. The meetings exploded, continuing 7 days a week for 3 and ½ years. The meetings would start at 10 am and continue until 2 or 3 in the morning. When the meetings ended, seekers would continue to pray until the next meeting started. This means that the meetings actually went 24/7 for 3 ½ years. People came from literally all over the world to experience “Pentecost.”
Meanwhile, in Kansas, Oklahoma, and Arkansas, the table was being set for the later formation of COGAF. Holy Ghost revival was raging up and down the border of Arkansas and Oklahoma, which was then known as “Indian Territory” until it became a state in 1907. Pockets of revival were also breaking out in SE Kansas and SW Missouri. Some of the churches founded in these revivals would become early churches in COGAF.
In 1907, one of the future ministers in COGAF, Della Lacy, received the Holy Spirit in a revival meeting in Eureka Springs, Arkansas. The following year, she joined one of Charles Parham’s evangelistic teams led by John Hockersmith. She would labor with this team for eight years. In 1914, while in revival in the Hickory Grove community in Oklahoma, she would meet her husband, Frank Atchley. Later, they would marry and begin conducting revival campaigns on their own.
1909 was a critical year for the future movement. An evangelist came from the Azusa Mission and began to hold meetings in Avant, Oklahoma, just a few miles from the present day location of Happy Hill Church. One of the men who received the Baptism of the Holy Spirit at these meetings was a preacher by the name of Frank Henderson. He will be instrumental in the later revival meetings that will birth Happy Hill, meaning that church was connected directly to the Azusa Outpouring from its inception.
Also, in 1909, a 32 year old backslidden Methodist named Edwin Alvia Buckles was saved on the 2nd Saturday night in March. The former sheriff began to preach the very next day. Later that summer, feeling in his soul that there must be more, he went to an altar on the 5th of July seeking sanctification. He prayed throughout the day and night, and into the next day. Finally, at 3 in the afternoon on July 6th, he was sanctified. Soon thereafter, he began to pastor a small Methodist church in Cedarville, Arkansas, just north of Van Buren. In September, a group of Holy Ghost preachers came to hold meetings in the Wynn blacksmith shop north of Van Buren. Buckles went to the meetings to fight against this new doctrine, but was instead convinced of his need for this experience. He received the Baptism of the Holy Spirit in that meeting and began to preach the experience throughout the region. He was the first to preach the message in the Ozark, Arkansas area.
In 1910, a new doctrine teaching that sanctification was not a definite work but rather happens progressively over the course of a Christian’s life began to be preached in the Pentecostal ranks. This doctrine was called the “finished work” doctrine and created a great division within the revival.
This doctrine was first preached in the central Arkansas area by a man named Lon Echols in 1912. The Pentecostal believers were so disturbed by this that they sent to Wilberton, Oklahoma to ask Brother Buckles to come and address the controversy.
Over the next two years, the Pentecostal movement was decidedly in two camps, the “holiness” camp, so called because of their belief in definite and entire sanctification as preached by John Wesley, and the “finished works” camp. Feeling that it was necessary to form a movement of ministers to protect the doctrine of definite and entire sanctification, a conference was convened on September 19, 1914 at Crossroads Mission, south of Ozark, Arkansas. Those that we know that attended were:
James Obadiah McKenzie, an elder in the Crossroads Mission church. He served as chairman of the conference.
Joseph Plummer Rhodes, who had received the Holy Spirit in 1911 under the ministry of LonEchols. He later became a preacher in the movement.
Oscar Harrison Myers, who had received the Holy Ghost in 1909, and was noted as one of themost powerful preachers in the young Pentecostal movement.
Of Course, E.A. Buckles also attended, and was elected Chairman of the new movement.
We would now use the term “General Superintendent.”
COGAF is a family of believers and churches in pursuit of Jesus and His way of doing things.