Dake’s Influence on Pentecost Band Theology

An early photo of the Pentecost Bands, prior to 1892, founder Vivan Dake is in the front/center right.

While the Pentecost Bands were loosely affiliated with the Free Methodist Church (mostly through connections of leaders such as Vivan Dake and the mentorship of Free Methodist General Superintendent Benjamin Titus Roberts), they diverged from mainstream Free Methodist theology on several key points. One of the most significant was the bands’ beliefs in the process of spiritual sanctification.

The 1890 Free Methodist Book of Discipline, the articles of religion outlines that the path to salvation is justification through faith. Even after justification, an individual can still fall into sin if they fall away from their faith. However, IF, after justification, an individual seeks God and desires to follow His commandments, it’s possible for that person to experience sanctification. As The Discipline states, “Justified person, while they do not outwardly commit sin, are nevertheless conscious of sin still remaining in the heart…. Those that are sanctified wholly are saved from all inward sin—from evil thoughts and evil tempers. No wrong, no temper, none contrary to love remains in the soul. All their thoughts, words, and actions are governed by pure love.”

While the bands technically believed this, Dake was adamant that when an individual was saved, they simultaneously experienced justification, regeneration (rebirth in Christ), and sanctification. The Free Methodist Church did not make the distinction that sanctification had to occur at the same time as salvation. In fact, many accounts of sanctification published in The Free Methodist during this same period noted sanctification occurring later.

While this might seem like splitting doctrinal hairs, Dake’s insistence that it was essentially “all or nothing” was one of Free Methodist leadership’s concerns about his mentorship of the bands and the bands’ ministry. Nelson notes in his biography of Dake notes his detractors did not fully “research” or were “indifferent” to Dake’s theology on this point, despite Dake regularly publishing his perspective in religious periodicals such as The Vanguard and The Free Methodist.1

As Nelson described it Dake’s concern was that individuals who claimed to experience sanctification at a later date were not fully committed to holiness:

“In many places over the land, those who have been refusing to walk in the light of God and keep his commandments are told to consecrate fully and believe God for sanctification, and when they do, of course, in submitting on the contested point, they get blest and take that blessing for the experience of holiness, when it is evident they have just been saved from their rebellion….This loose teaching, he saw, was filling the land with a great deal of spurious holiness.” 2

Dake believed individuals who didn’t experience simultaneous regeneration and sanctification were “confused by wrong teaching.”  

Dake’s influence as founder of the bands and leader of the bands (until his death in 1893) can’t be discounted. Band members did not have to complete any formal religious training and with no formal oversight from the Free Methodist Church, members would have relied on Dake and other early band leaders for ministerial training.  

As the bands grew in the late 1880s and early 1890s, Free Methodists became concerned with the conflicting doctrine of sanctification the bands promoted.

Yet, band members were not the ones the denomination blamed, as Free Methodist elder F.D. Brooke explained in his August 22, 1888 Free Methodist, report from the Pentecost Bands Harvest Home meeting:

“The Bands are doing a good work, and though they are held in question by some of our ministers and people, one has to but ‘come and see’ to be convinced that God is with them and using them in the salvation of the lost, and the infusing life and aggressiveness into the church. It would be unreasonable to expect these boys and girls who are taken from the workbench, plow, kitchen table, and teacher’s desk to be as sound doctrinally as old conference preachers who have passed through a course of study; however, in the fundamentals of Christianity I discovered nothing unsound in them.”3

Brooke went on to admonish his fellow Free Methodists who criticized the band workers: “We suggest that if those who sleep on spring beds and feathers and eat pie and cake and fried chicken, instead of criticizing this work, would remember these at least honest Christian boys and girls in their well-intended and heaven endorse efforts to rescue the perishing souls of men and send them a dollar occasionally to buy oatmeal and then spend a little in earnest prayer for them, it would do more to solve the problem of Pentecost Band work than anything else.” 4

Brooke’s report not only alluded to doctrinal tensions under the surface but also to the radical nature of the bands’ ministry and the extreme poverty the band workers lived in as the denomination did not financially support their ministry.

Without official oversight or financial support, the denomination was very limited in what it could actually do to curtail conflicting doctrinal views within the bands.  In essence, what Dake personally believed became band practice and theology. By 1892, the band ministry was expanding not only across the Midwest but internationally as well, and Dake’s stubbornness to follow Free Methodist policy and doctrine came to a head as the Illinois Annual Conference’s committee on ministerial relations recommended he not receive a ministerial appointment in 1893 because he refused to follow The Discipline’s procedure for appointing and raising funds for foreign missions through the Free Methodist General Conference Missions Board.

When the ministerial relations committee asked if he knew his actions were increasing tension and causing strife in the conference, Dake responded with, “Yes, I know it, but I can’t help it. I must obey God and save my soul.” Dake then refused to follow denominational policy in the future, noting, “I propose to follow God and get to heaven.”5

Dake’s insistence at the 1892 meeting that he maintained a direct line to God indicated the communication climate he had cultivated in the bands since they were established in 1888. Nothing, not theology, church policy, or interpersonal strife, mattered if “God” was telling band leaders to do something contrary to what were standard denominational beliefs. This mindset would lead many of the band members to split with the Free Methodists in 1894 and to members developing controversial holiness lifestyle practices such as marital purity.

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1 T. Nelson (1894) The Life and Labors of Vivan Dake, p. 89

2 ibid, 90-91

3 F.D. Brooke, “Harvest Home Meeting,” The Free Methodist August 22, 1888, p.4

4 ibid.

5 1892 Annual Conference Minutes of the Free Methodist Church, “Illionis Conference Minutes,” p. 54.

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