The Church of God started in a Tennessee millhouse on Aug. 19, 1886, when former Baptist minister Richard Green Spurling and his father formed a Christian Union with the intention to follow the New Testament, with each member having the freedom to interpret the scripture individually.
As the movement grew over the next two decades, the church formally adopted the name Church of God in 1907.
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Today Church of God ministries include more than 7 million members in 178 countries and territories.
Here are five factors involved in the development of the Church of God:
1. The seeds this new plan of worship were planted two years before that 1886 meeting, when Spurling became dissatisfied with customs and beliefs he felt were problematic and restrictive to its members. A licensed minister, he would spend the next two years poring over the Bible, and the Scriptures.
2. Spurling, who was associated with the Latter Rain movement, denounced the establishment Baptist views because he believed them to be too exclusive. Spurling's son, Richard Green Spurling, was ordained as pastor of the Christian Union congregation in September 1886, and he also formed two other congregations. The Spurlings shared a goal of restoring the church.
3. At that meeting, the elder Spurling issued the following challenge: "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."
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4. About 10 years after the initial introduction, organizers held a revival at the Shearer Schoolhouse in Camp Creek, N.C., and introduced its "doctrine of sanctification." All who opposed were persecuted, while believers felt "an outpouring of the Holy Spirit that included speaking in tongues and divine healing," according to churchofgod.org
. These experiences paved the way for the growing Pentecostal movement in the early 20th century.
5. The Church of God's first General Overseer, A. J. Tomlinson, instituted a form of Church government with an inclusive International General Assembly (1907), established a world evangelization effort starting in the Bahamas (1909), inaugurated the Church of God Evangel (1910), and created educational environments for ministers and members (1918). With members dispatched around the world, the regional and international ministries offer support through world evangelization, care, discipleship, education, and support services.
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