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15. In Southern Asia, it’s ministry by example

In a remote village of Southern Asia’s Himalayan Mountains, Doug Jacobs shares with the small group that has gathered. For the next week, he will teach and encourage believers in the area. He and his family will eat and live as the locals do, with primitive surroundings and no modern conveniences. They wouldn’t want to be anywhere else.

Since 1996, Jacobs, his wife, Ramona, and their two children, Meredith and Luke, have called this area home. They talk passionately about their love for the people and the specific call God gave them to work here. “When we read about this area in an unreached peoples guide, the Holy Spirit gave us an extremely intense burden of intercession,” Doug recalls. In 1995, he came for a visit. “As soon as I got off the plane, I felt at home.”

At first the family settled in the capital city. But a church leader challenged them to look to the villages where the majority of the people lived. “We realized then that our message is not only in what we say, but also in what we do.” Soon the family began trekking to remote villages to build relationships. “On one trip, the locals assured me that my family would only have to cross one mountain river. What they didn’t tell us was that we would have to cross the same river nine times,” Doug says with a laugh. But the journey was worth the effort. The handful of believers in the village has grown into a vibrant congregation.

The family’s willingness to join hands and hearts with a remote, largely forgotten people has won them the respect of many across this rugged land. They are not willing to simply share the gospel by their words; they share it by their lives.

16. Compassion ministry feeds physical, spiritual needs

One Saturday in 1994, a few friends handed out 25 bags of groceries from the back of a pickup truck.

Since then, Convoy of Hope has spread its message of compassion around the world. More than 3 million bags of groceries have been distributed in the United States and some 50 countries.

In the United States alone, more than 800,000 people have received free food at 300 major citywide outreaches. An average of 75 churches participate in the one-day events, which often bring together white, black, Hispanic and Asian congregations that usually aren’t involved in joint projects.

Convoy events rally local church members to make a difference in the lives of the poor, from shaking hands to cooking hot dogs.

“Convoy of Hope provides a framework to release compassion to people in need,” says Mike Ennis, executive vice president. “Volunteers can make an incredible difference.”

The focus of each Saturday event is the “honored guest,” who is valued in the eyes of God regardless of economic status.

The groceries — two bags with 14 nonperishable items — are a lifeline to working poor families. Many have costly medical bills and little to eat. However, the ministry is about more than just physical food. Every participant has the opportunity to hear the gospel. Local pastors take turns sharing a short message with guests. So far, an estimated 160,000 guests have responded to altar calls for salvation. Combined with overseas outreaches, about 500,000 have indicated a desire to follow Christ.

Guests may partake in everything from a free haircut to a children’s carnival. Dozens of health professionals — including physicians, dentists and pharmacists — donate their time and services.

The evening of the event, those who signed salvation response cards receive a call inviting them to a participating church closest to their home the next day. “We really want to connect hurting people to local churches that can provide ongoing care and nurturing,” Ennis says. “These churches can become a spiritual family to them.”

17. Church plants win souls

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To Doug McAllister and Paul Drost, planting new churches is vital to the future of the Assemblies of God.

“New churches win more converts than most older established works,” says McAllister, a church planter who pastors The Harvest, a 2,000-strong congregation in Slidell, La. “New churches carry a sense of passion and purpose. Because they do not have established ways of doing ministry, it is easier for them to adopt new and effective methods to reach their community.

“Church planting impacts the Fellowship by challenging all ministers to grow and develop our ministries.”

“Church planting impacts the A/G because church plants often introduce new ideas and ways of doing ministry,” says Drost, director of the Fellowship’s Church Planting Department since 1999. “Fuller Seminary did a study that found that church plants are the most effective form of evangelism.”

Drost, 51, says one of the greatest needs of church planters is for other congregations and pastors to support and encourage them.

“There is a rising tide of interest in the United States,” says Drost. “Around the world, it is considered normal and desirable for churches to plant churches and for young men and woman to plant churches. As the A/G embraces and desires to start new churches, God’s blessings will flow on us because His blessings always flow where His heart is. Church planting is the future and hope of the A/G. As we become a church planting movement we will grow in effectiveness and move from addition to spiritual multiplication.”

18. Small groups promote church togetherness

Small groups have been a part of Christ’s Place in Lincoln, Neb., since the Assemblies of God congregation began 27 years ago. Today, more than 500 of the church’s 1,200 attendees are part of a group.

“The small groups are a balance between the large group celebration on a Sunday and the need for accountable relationships in a more intimate context,” says David Baltes, 40, small groups and ministry development pastor.

At Christ’s Place, where David W. Argue is senior pastor, attendees have the opportunity to join at different levels. The beginning stage is for those merely seeking friendships, where relationships form based on common interests such as volleyball, ministry tasks or a monthly fellowship meal. Participants progress and move into discipleship gatherings, intense Bible study groups and ultimately to leadership development. By the time people reach the top level, they are ready to use their ministry gifts in the church and community.

Groups range from half a dozen to 15 members and meet for about two hours in homes, on the church complex and at other sites. Groups meet weekly or biweekly in lieu of a Wednesday night service.

Christ’s Place has more than 50 different home groups. Some are designed to meet for a specific short-term purpose such as divorce recovery or financial management. Others meet for years, including home schooling moms and men’s accountability groups.

Over time, group members become close, providing practical ministry support to each other in times of crisis, just as a family would do.

“There’s great value in community,” Baltes says. “People are really looking to be a part of a community even before making a commitment to become a Christian.”

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