A.G. (Alfred George) Ward (1881-1960), a Pentecostal pioneer in Canada, was an example of an unconverted minister. According to his own account, he began in ministry as a Methodist circuit-riding preacher — before he became a Christian. He later converted during his own sermon!
Ward shared this humorous anecdote in the June 22, 1946, issue of the Pentecostal Evangel. He became a prominent Canadian camp-meeting speaker and evangelist, but was possibly best known as the father of longtime Revivaltime speaker C.M. Ward.
A.G. Ward took great care to preach about the importance of having a vibrant spiritual life, as he knew from experience how easy it is to possess a form of religion without substance. His sermons frequently focused on the threefold theme of his life: salvation, consecration, and divine healing, all accomplished through the power of the Holy Spirit. His messages resonated with listeners across North America.
A.G. Ward’s father, an alcoholic, died when his son was only 2 months old. The strain of struggling alone to raise four children took its toll, and Ward’s mother died when he was 13. Just before his mother’s death, he attended a Methodist revival meeting. Although he felt a desire to become a Christian, the church leader who spoke with him only encouraged him to believe the Scriptures. Ward did not have an understanding of repentance or the availability of power to live a Christian life.
Nevertheless, young Alfred wanted to be a preacher. After finishing high school, he was appointed as a Methodist circuit-rider on the western frontier of the Canadian Rockies. At the time, young preachers were expected to receive practical experience as ministers before receiving education. During these early meetings, he preached the Bible; but he did not truly know God. His preaching lacked power, conviction, and results.
In the Pentecostal Evangel article, he recalled, “On my second circuit as a Methodist preacher … during a series of special meetings while I was doing the preaching, I was converted. I was the only convert in a week’s meetings, but I have always been thankful and a few others have been saved since, as a result of the preacher getting converted.”
It was not long after this experience that Ward met a group of Methodists in northwestern Canada who taught holiness and believed that Jesus healed people in answer to the prayer of faith. Ward met Christian and Missionary Alliance founder A.B. Simpson, a teacher of divine healing.
Simpson sent Ward to begin an Alliance work in Winnipeg, where he met and married a Mennonite evangelist, Mary Markle. In 1907, at a holiness prayer meeting in Winnipeg, they both received the baptism in the Holy Spirit with the evidence of speaking in tongues. This ended their affiliation with both the Mennonites and the Christian and Missionary Alliance.
A.G. and Mary took a step of faith and, in 1909, organized one of the first Pentecostal camp meetings held in Ontario. The young evangelists had no money to give in the offering at the camp meeting. However, they felt impressed to physically place their infant son, Charles Morse Ward, in the offering basket as their gift to God’s work. They did so, and young C. M. grew up with a calling to the ministry from a young age.
After the meeting, Ward raised funds by selling his tent to another young Canadian evangelist, future Foursquare Gospel Church founder Aimee Semple McPherson, and began holding meetings in schoolhouses, churches, and other places across Canada and later throughout the U.S.
Ward not only preached consecration, he modeled it in his own life. C.M. Ward, in a Revivaltime booklet titled Intimate Glimpses of My Father’s Life, described his father’s deep spiritual life. The younger Ward wrote, “I would rather have been born in such a home than have the honor of sitting in the White House.” C.M. credited the example of his father’s message of holy consecration, lived out through the power of the Holy Spirit, as his own model for ministry.
Read the full sermon “Christ or Self — Which Shall It Be” on page 3 of the June 22, 1946, issue of the Pentecostal Evangel.
Also featured in this issue:
• “Signs of the Times,” by Ralph M. Riggs
• “A Harvest of Souls in Jamaica,” by Harvey McAlister
• “How to Have Revival,” by George T.B. Davis
Pentecostal Evangel archived editions courtesy of the Flower Pentecostal Heritage Center.