In general, our early church leaders suffer local persecution for their efforts to operate in the fullness of the Holy Spirit. They were perceived as deceptive and dangerous. Pentecostalism was widely rejected by those unwilling to experience for themselves, and thus the leadership of the movement was unjustly treated. There were those who picketed and published, berated and boycotted the movement in its early years. From that perspective, we do genuinely owe them a great debt. They refused to let their faith be influenced by their experiences and perpetuated the greatest missionary work our planet has seen.
My indifference happens because many in the leadership of the movement also established a divide that is still evident today. The racial divide in our fellowship has been both divisive and devastating. Early leaders did not treat minorities with respect or equality. This is well documented and not new information. In fact, just a few years ago, the former General Superintendent issued an apology to other ethnic organizations for our approach and treatment of combined fellowship. The truth is, the minority driven denominations in Pentecostalism were formed before we as the Assemblies of God were. WE SHOULD BE ONE.
In our small town, still today there is an undercurrent of distrust. No one really discusses it, but it is there. Minority churches and majority churches can share the same doctrine and build a block apart. We have missed some great opportunities to reach minority America by issues of our own creation.
I wonder what those early leaders would say if they could see my student ministry today. Our makeup is 70-80% minority! Our strength is those they would not accept. I believe our greatest contribution toward the next hundred years will be realized by how well we bridge the chasm created by the river of our own ignorance.