The Church of God is an evangelical Pentecostal denomination that has emerged in recent years as one of the most prevalent Pentecostal denominations in Georgia. Early missionary work in the state led to the establishment of several churches between 1903 and 1920, and the Church of God retained steady appeal among both Black and white populations for the better part of the twentieth century. In 2006, 522 congregations in Georgia were members of this denomination. The vast majority of churches are located in rural areas of the state, although several urban areas, particularly Atlanta and Augusta, have substantial concentrations of Church of God congregations as well.

Cornerstone Church of God
Cornerstone Church of God

Photograph by Kate Howard, New Georgia Encyclopedia

Several denominations fall under the moniker “Church of God,” but most often it denotes the Church of God (Cleveland), a denominational movement with roots in an 1886 meeting of Christians at the Barney Creek Meeting House on the Tennessee and North Carolina border. The denomination’s name originally referred to Cleveland, Tennessee. Richard Spurling, a Baptist minister, founded the denomination as a reaction against what he described as “man-made” Baptist creeds and argued that the New Testament should be the sole authority for church doctrine and practice. The denomination aligned itself with Pentecostal and Holiness churches during the 1900s and 1910s, affirming such tenets as the inerrancy of the Bible; the process of sanctification; glossolalia, or speaking in tongues; divine healing; and the pre-millennial second coming of Jesus Christ.

Evangelism also emerged as a particularly important goal of congregations affiliated with the Church of God. Indeed, the work of missionaries has contributed directly to the growth of the denomination from a few thousand at the beginning of the twentieth century to about 1 million members in the United States and more than 6 million members in 150 countries at the end of the twentieth century.

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Cornerstone Church of God

Cornerstone Church of God

The Cornerstone Church of God in Athens, pictured in 2006, is one of more than 500 Church of God congregations across the state. A Pentecostal denomination, the Church of God was founded in Tennessee in the late nineteeenth century and has maintained a presence in Georgia since 1903.

Photograph by Kate Howard, New Georgia Encyclopedia