The (Original) Church of God
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The (Original) Church of God is a Pentecostal Holiness Christian denomination located mostly in the Southeastern United States. Its origins can be traced to a small meeting of Christians at the Barney Creek Meeting House in Monroe County, Tennessee in 1886. This church is often denominated the Church of God (Cleveland TN) to distinguish it from other related Church of God bodies, but the church's designation for itself is The (Original) Church of God, Inc. Offices and a publishing house are located in Cleveland, Tennessee.
The (Original) Church of God shares a common origin and history with the Church of God (Cleveland) and several other Christian bodies named Church of God. The (Original) Church of God, Inc. came into being in 1917, when the Church of God in Chattanooga, Tennessee, led by Joseph L. Scott, separated from the Cleveland-based church. This body's use of Original in parentheses reflects the belief that it is true to the original faith, purpose and practice of the Church of God movement. The church incorporated in 1922. Ridgedale Theological Seminary was founded in 1925. Introduction
A Brief history of “The (Original) Church of God”
The following is a brief history of “The (Original) Church of God." The name as above was given to us by the Superior Court, and we chartered it as such in a number of States. It is registered at the United States Patent Office in Washington DC, and is the first church to take the name of “The Church of God” in the United States of America. Our General Office is located in Chattanooga, TN.
About the year 1884, a spirit of dissatisfaction and unrest began to work in mind of a licensed minister of the Missionary Baptist Church by the name of Richard G. Spurling, then living in Monroe County, TN. The dissatisfaction arose because certain traditions and creeds that were burdensome and exceedingly binding on the members. This humble and sincere servant of God, who was also a faithful servant of the church of which he was a member, and licensed minister, began a more careful study of the Bible, and for two years or more spent much time in searching of the Scriptures, and church history with a view to a reformation. After two years or more of careful searching, praying and weeping, and pleading with his church for reform to no avail, he, with others, began to arrange for an independent meeting for a conference and a more careful consideration of religious matters. The result of the prayers and research on the part of Mr. Spurling and his companions proved three things to their entire satisfaction. In the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, when the noble and illustrious reformers were throwing off and breaking out from under the galling yoke of Romanism, and launched and inaugurated what is commonly known as Protestantism, they failed to reform from creeds; they adopted the law of faith when they should have adopted the law of love: and they failed to reserve a right of way for the leadership of the Holy Ghost as the General Overseer. Besides the aforesaid points, they were awakened to the fact that God’s Church existed only where God’s law and government was observed by His children.
After having taken plenty of time for consideration, the time and place for the meeting was arranged and announced. That day is worthy of remembrance: Thursday, August 19, 1886. The small company of humble, faithful, conscientious pilgrims met at the Barney Creek Meeting House, Monroe County, Tennessee. After prayer, a strong discourse was delivered by the Rev. Richard G. Spurling, emphasizing the need of a reformation. The arguments were full of force and proved effective, and were endorsed by the hearers so that when the time came for action there was free and earnest response. The propositions and obligations were simple. We give it below: “As many Christians as are here present that are desirous to be free from all men-made creeds and traditions, and are willing to take the New Testament, or law of Christ for your only rule of faith and practice; giving each other equal rights and privileges to read and interpret for yourselves as your conscience may direct, and are willing to set together as The Church of God to transact business as the same, come forward.” In response to this proposition eleven persons, whose names are given below, presented themselves and gave to each other the right hands of fellowship: Elder Richard Spurling, his son, R. G. Spurling, Susan Mitchell, Elizabeth Hamby, John Plemons, Sr., Polly Plemons, Barbara Spurling, Margaret Lauftus, Barbara Plemons, John Plemons, Jr., Adeline Lauftus, and two others, names not given. Then they decided to receive persons into membership who possessed a good Christian character, and that ordained and licensed ministers from other churches could retain their same position or office without being re-ordained. By virtue of the office he had held as a faithful ordained minister in the Missionary Baptist Church for a number of years, Elder Richard Spurling was duly acknowledged and recognized as their minister, to do all the business devolved on him as such in the new order. He then having been placed in authority by the body, took his seat as Moderator, and by prayer dedicated the infant church to God, imploring His guidance and blessings for it, and that it might grow and prosper, and accomplish great good. An invitation was then given for the reception of members, and they received Richard G. Spurling, who was then a Licensed Minister. The church chose him as their pastor, and had him ordained the next month, September 26, 1886.
Soon after this, Elder Richard Spurling died, at the advanced age of seventy-four years. Although he was honored with being the first ordained minister, yet he did not live to see the results of his prayers, tears and labors of love in assisting to launch this last great reformation, that is now assuming such vast proportions as it is spreading over the world. To the sleepless nights of prayer and labors of love by this remarkable old saint and his son, Richard G. Spurling, who is also deceased, we attribute much of the success and advancement of later years. No doubt they only saw the light as “though a glass darkly”, but the rays of the early dawn pierced through the darkness until they were able to at least declare independence and freedom from creeds and sing “Hosannah to the Son of David” for liberty. Great and sincere praises be to our God. The little church grew very slowly. Only a very few cared anything about the infant organism. The pastor continued his preaching, not only at the church, but wherever he was granted the liberty. In this way the minds of the people were continually agitated, and gradually prepared for the work of the Spirit that was to follow. For ten years this servant of God prayed, wept and continued his ministry against much opposition and under peculiar difficulties, before seeing much fruits of his labor. In the year 1896 three men, who lived in the same county and locality, became enthused religiously, and were powerfully wrought on by the Spirit of God. These men, whose names were William Martin, Joe M. Tipton and Milton McNabb, went over into Cherokee County, North Carolina, and commenced a meeting at the Schearer School House. They preached a clean gospel, and urged the people to seek and obtain Sanctification subsequent to Justification. They prayed, fasted and wept before the Lord until a great revival was the result. People became interested, and were stirred for miles around. Quite a large number professed salvation and sanctification thru the blood of Christ. The Baptist and Methodist churches became antagonistic to the wonderful revival that was spreading, and about thirty were excluded from the Baptist Church at one time because they professed to live a holy life, which the church denounced as heresy. After the close of the series of meetings, and the three evangelists were gone, the people commenced a Sunday School, and regular prayer meetings were conducted, usually by William F. Bryant , a leading man of the community. The people earnestly sought God
and the interest increased until unexpectedly, like a cloud from a clear sky, the Holy Ghost began to fall on the honest, humble, sincere seekers after God. While the meetings were in progress one after another fell under the power of God, and soon quite a number were speaking in other tongues as the Spirit gave them utterance. The influence and excitement then spread like wildfire, and the people came for many miles to investigate, hear and see the manifestations of the presence of God. Men, women and children received the Holy Ghost and spoke in other tongues under the mighty power of God. The power of healing was soon realized, and a number of miraculous cases of healings were wrought by the power of God. The people knew but little about the Bible, but they prayed, and shouted and exhorted until hundreds of hard sinners were converted. The influence grew and spread until it extended into three or four adjoining counties. Persecutions arose, and four or five houses were burned where these earnest, humble people met for worship. At one time the storm of persecution broke in with such fury that one hundred and six men, composed of Methodist and Baptist ministers, stewards and deacons, one Justice of the Peace and one sheriff, banded themselves together to put down the revival, even by violence, if that were the only way it could be accomplished. They deliberately tore down and burned the house where sinners were getting saved, in nearly every service, in open daylight. But the greater the persecutions the more the revival spread. The meetings were moved to the home of W. F. Bryant, and the power and glory increased. It was while they were in progress there that seven men banded themselves together to stop the work, and one day rode to the home of Mr. Bryant and demanded him to stop the meetings, and also forbade him to have prayers with his family; but, like Daniel of old, he purposed in his heart to obey God rather than man, and the meetings continued, amid threats, showers of stones and rains of lead. During these years of revivals and persecutions, Mr. Spurling often came in their midst, and in vain tried to show the precious people the need of God’s Law and Government. Everything moved on smoothly among themselves for several months, even years, and they were able to endure all the persecutions heaped upon them with grace and love. But in the absence of government and authority, false teachers crept in and led many humble, sincere, unwary souls into error. Factions began to show themselves, and fanaticism took possessions of some of them who were more easily duped by Satan than others.
About that time, Mr. Bryant and a few others began to see the mistake in being without government and authority, but as they were unable to accomplish anything on that line the work was allowed to drift. It is estimated that more than one hundred persons really received the Holy Ghost and spoke in tongues as the evidence during that revival. It was not until May 15, 1902, that any plan for government was adopted. On that day a number of humble people met at the home of Mr. Bryant, Cherokee County, NC, and under the instructions and supervision of Mr. Spurling, God’s Government was recognized. While this was a continuation of the same church that was started sixteen years before, it was called “The Church of God,” as aforesaid, one of the officers W. F. Bryant, was set forth and ordained which made the church permanent. R. G. Spurling was chosen pastor, and they continued their meetings; yet the work was rather slow to develop, as so many had been led into error by the false teaching referred to above, but a sufficient number remained true to keep the work alive. For a year it was a real struggle to hold the church against much unbelief and criticism, and there were no additions. It was June 1903 that the work revived and took upon it a new impetus. At a meeting held June 13, 1903 they made a more careful study of the New Testament order, and five more accepted the obligation and joined with the faithful little flock to push the work along. Another minister and two deacons were ordained by the church in proper order. The new minister was chosen pastor, and that year there were fourteen more accessions, and the work went on smoothly and prospered amid some light persecution. Among the number added that year were M. S. Lemons and A. J. Tomlinson. The next year one church was set in order in Georgia and two more in Tennessee. Then the workers had increased, and evangelism encouraged, so the work grew and prospered under the blessings and approval of God. Near the close of 1905 the work had so prospered that there began to be a demand for a general gathering together of members from all churches to consider questions of importance and to search the Bible for additional light and knowledge. Accordingly arrangements were made and the meeting called.
Five ordinances are recognized: baptism by immersion, biblical church government, the Lord's Supper, feet washing and tithing. Other beliefs include the need for repentance, justification & regeneration for salvation, the Wesleyan teaching on sanctification, divine healing, and speaking in tongues as the evidence of the baptism of the Holy Spirit.
In 2014, the (Original) Church of God had a membership of over 500 in 14 congregations. The (Original) Church of God has around 40 ordained ministers. Churches are located mainly in the east and south-central United States, such as Tennessee, Alabama, Arkansas, Virginia, and West Virginia. They also have several churches and ministers located in the Philippines, Liberia and India. The (Original) Church of God owns a campground in Van Leer, Tennessee called Camp Ridgedale and publishes a bi-monthly magazine called The Messenger.
The (Original) Church of God is governed by a Board of Bishops and led by a General Overseer. The current General Overseer is Bishop James (Randy) Taylor. 255 Bailey Lane, Pulaski,TN 38478. The church has been updating its bylaws and beliefs, the beliefs.
- (Original) Church of God: Denominational Profile, The Association of Religion Data Archives
In 1993, the (Original) Church of God had a membership of over 18,000 in 70 congregations. The (Original) Church of God has around 50 ordained ministers. Churches are located mainly in the east and south-central United States, such as Tennessee, Alabama, Arkansas, Virginia, and West Virginia. They also have several churches and ministers located in the Philippines,Liberia, and India. The (Original) Church of God owns a campground in Van Leer, Tennessee and publishes a bi-monthly magazine called The Messenger.
- Encyclopedia of American Religions, J. Gordon Melton, editor
- Handbook of Denominations in the United States (8th ed.), by Frank S. Mead and Samuel S. Hill