Bible and Church Ministries at SAGU grows 86 years deep

It is said that a tree is only as healthy as its roots and that they grow as deep as the tree is tall. Today, P.C. Nelson's statement "the whole Gospel for the whole world" remains above the Sheaffer auditorium entrance as a reminder of SAGU's deep roots. After 86 years, SAGU remains committed to the core values of its founders.

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From 1904 to 1905, an estimated 100,000 people were saved in the Welsh Revival. News of the revival reassured evangelicals that end-times were near and emboldened pastors to pray for revival. In 1906, when William Seymour began holding Bible studies and prayer in a run-down building on Azuza Street in Los Angeles, revival began in the U.S.

Seymour accepted and taught midwestern Apostolic movement leader Charles F. Parham’s view of the baptism of the Holy Spirit – speaking in tongues as intelligible languages for missionary evangelism. Crossing social and cultural barriers, between 300 to 500 people began attending daily services, and attendants received the Holy Spirit and spoke in other tongues.

The Azuza Street revival lasted only nine years, but its influence shaped the modern Pentecostal movement.

Years later, a car struck and badly injured P.C. Nelson, a well-studied Baptist minister. His friends began to pray for him after hearing that his leg might be amputated. Nelson was healed.

Eventually, Nelson was filled with the Holy Spirit, resigned from his church and held healing services where thousands of people were saved. The services continued for a couple of years before they built Enid Gospel Tabernacle and joined the General Council of the Assemblies of God in May 1927.

That same year, Nelson opened Southwestern Bible School in Enid, Oklahoma. The purpose of the school, Nelson said, was “to give men and women a better knowledge of the Word of God, and to bring them into closer fellowship with Christ, and into harmony with His will for themselves, whether it be to serve Him in their own homes, on the farm, in the shop or store or office, to minister in the pulpit as pastors or evangelists, or to carry the glad tidings across the seas.”

Several years later, a car struck and badly injured P.C. Nelson, a well-studied Baptist minister. His friends began to pray for him after hearing that his leg might be amputated. Nelson was healed.

Southwestern Bible school offered typing, short hand and Bible classes. The school held morning chapel services, and Friday and Sunday student-led services. Students also held street meetings, visited jails and hospitals and traveled to nearby communities to preach or to minister through music.

Prayer rooms were always open as Nelson emphasized the importance of prayer for the development of the school and its students. During this time, there were numerous accounts of God’s presence during dorm devotionals and morning chapels.

Despite early success, it wasn’t long before the Great Depression took a toll. Enrollment decreased as men went off to war, and cash contributions could no longer sustain the school.

In 1940, three Assemblies of God school presidents met and agreed that God had ordained a merger of the three schools. In 1941, Southern Bible Institute (Goose Creek, Texas), Shield of Faith Bible Institute (Fort Worth, Texas), and Southwestern Bible School became Southwestern Bible Institute.

SAGU has expanded its course offering over the years. Still, 23 degree programs are vocational ministries. And SAGU requires that all students, regardless of discipline, take 24 hours of Bible courses to graduate.

Today, P.C. Nelson’s statement “the Whole Gospel for the whole world” sits above the Sheaffer auditorium entrance to remind SAGU of its deep roots. SAGU remains deeply committed to the core values of its founders.

SAGU hosts Credentialing Day every year to assist students with their credentialing, licensing or ordination exam. Every class begins with prayer, where students and professors pray for a country of the day and the needs of others. Students attend daily chapel services and weekly dormitory devotionals. Through the year, SAGU has special chapels like Spiritual Saturation Week, Missions Convention and Week of Prayer.

Every dorm provides a prayer room that is open throughout the day. Southwestern Missions Association (SMA) hosts weekly prayer meetings to pray for specific needs like salvation for unbelievers, the Muslim world, and revival in America. Once a month, they host All Night Prayer to intercede for the needs of the campus family, the country and the world.

The Emmaus Prayer Walk, built by President Emeritus Delmer Guynes in the early 1990s, expanded from one third of a mile around the front lawn to a mile across the campus. The prayer walk includes enclaves and plaques with Scripture where students can pray and study. Above the Sheaffer Auditorium, the Jeter Prayer Room remains a hub for personal prayer and weekly prayer meetings.

Just as Nelson advocated for prayer and outreach in the early days, President Bridges admonishes students to reach outside themselves. Students continue off-campus ministry through 11 need-based organizations. These groups minister at public DFW universities, in homosexual communities, on the streets to the homeless, in Muslim communities, at after-school programs, at nursing homes, at safe houses for abused woman and children and in Texas prisons. They also host sidewalk Sunday schools for children and conduct humanitarian efforts in the Waxahachie community.

Traveling ministry remains a vital part of SAGU's culture. Six groups minister through music, comedy and drama on the weekends and during the summer.

So, if a tree's roots grow as deep as the tree is tall, SAGU has established deep roots. Even with the diversification of degrees, SAGU holds firmly to her established purpose and core values.

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