In 1987, it was a royal effort from the late Prince Mahlalengangeni, one of the sons of the late king of Swaziland, King Sobhuza II, that saw the establishment of the Assemblies of God bible college that is today known as Swaziland College of Theology.
It was not the construction of the college only, but also the establishment of the International Ministries Assemblies of God (IMAG) that the Prince made sure that it happened during his life time. He had pursued pestering negotiations with the leadership of the Assemblies of God in Springfield, Missouri, in the US, prior to winning its favour to declare Swaziland as a new mission field for the organization.
Many men and women of God from the US came to Swaziland to put a hand in evangelism in the Kingdom, including
the internationally renowned Assemblies of God Minister and musician, Reverend Jimmy Swaggart, back in the years. A successful movement was launched, many gave their lives to Christ and IMAG churches were planted.
Our college, the Swaziland College of Theology, has been playing a pivotal role in the training of leaders who then worked as pastors in the churches planted by the movement. Even today, pastors are being trained and churches are being planted in Swaziland.
We still have IMAG missionaries from the US and from other African countries who work in the communities, churches, Extension School of Ministry (ESOM) centres and in our college.
The General Council of the Assemblies of God, one of the largest Pentecostal denominations in the world, was organized in 1914 by a broad coalition of ministers who desired to work together to fulfill common objectives, such as sending missionaries and providing fellowship and accountability. Formed in the midst of the emerging worldwide Pentecostal revival, the Assemblies of God quickly took root in different countries and formed indigenous national organizations.
Throughout the latter half of the 19th century in the United States, Protestants from various backgrounds began to ask themselves why their churches did not seem to exhibit the same vibrant, faith-filled life as those in the New Testament. Many of these believers joined evangelical or Holiness churches, engaged in ardent prayer and personal sacrifice, and earnestly sought God. It was in this context that people began experiencing biblical spiritual gifts.
Pentecostals pioneers were hungry for authentic Christianity, and they looked to previous spiritual outpourings, such as the First Great Awakening (1730s-40s) and Second Great Awakening (1800s-30s), for inspiration and instruction. They identified themselves in the tradition of reformers and revivalists such as Martin Luther, John Wesley, and Dwight L. Moody.
THE PENTECOSTAL REVIVAL
One of the focal points of the emerging Pentecostal movement was known as the Azusa Street revival (1906-09). It was an unlikely location for an event that would change the face of Christianity. In the summer of 1906, revival erupted in the newly-formed congregation meeting at the small, run-down Apostolic Faith Mission at 312 Azusa Street in Los Angeles, California. Critics attacked the congregation because its mild-mannered African-American Holiness preacher, William J. Seymour, preached racial reconciliation and the
restoration of biblical spiritual gifts. The revival soon became a local sensation, then attracted thousands of curiosity seekers and pilgrims from around the world.
Seymour had been a student of Charles Parham, who provided the doctrinal framework for the young Pentecostal movement. Parham’s identification in scripture of speaking in tongues as the “Bible evidence” (later called the “initial evidence”) of Spirit baptism became a defining mark of the emerging Pentecostal movement. After students at his Bethel Bible School in Topeka, Kansas, began speaking in tongues at a prayer meeting on January 1, 1901, Parham, through his Apostolic Faith Movement, had some success in promoting the restoration of the gift of tongues. While the Apostolic Faith Movement was largely confined to the south central United States, the revival at Azusa Street catapulted Pentecostalism before a worldwide audience.
FORMATION OF THE ASSEMBLIES OF GOD
As the revival rapidly spread, many Pentecostals recognized the need for greater organization and accountability. The founding fathers and mothers of the Assemblies of God met in Hot Springs, Arkansas on April 2-12, 1914 to promote unity and doctrinal stability, establish legal standing, coordinate the mission enterprise, and establish a ministerial training school. These founders constituted the first General Council and elected two officers: Eudorus N. Bell as chairman (title later changed to general superintendent) and J. Roswell Flower as secretary, as well as the first executive presbytery.
The approximately 300 delegates to the first General Council represented a variety of independent churches and networks of churches, including the “Association of Christian Assemblies” in Indiana and the “Church of God in Christ and in Unity with the Apostolic Faith Movement” from Alabama, Arkansas, Mississippi, and Texas.