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19. Chi Alpha makes Kingdom connections

Andrew Taylor admits he had his doubts about associating with the local Chi Alpha chapter at Sam Houston State University in Texas. Chi Alpha, the Assemblies of God Home Missions outreach to secular campuses, had reached out to Taylor through friendship evangelism. “I openly denied any desire to practice Christianity,” Taylor says, “but I couldn’t resist their invitations to hang out.”

Taylor’s life was once filled with loneliness, paganism and a pluralistic worldview. Today, he attributes his life-changing relationship with God to the efforts made by Chi Alpha director Eli Gautreaux.

For Gautreaux, on a campus of 13,000 students, young people like Taylor are not uncommon. They present a new challenge, he says, in dealing with relativist, post-modern thinking in which Jesus is OK, but so is everything else. This challenge is something Gautreaux is focused on overcoming with discipleship groups and relationship building in order to connect with students.

“Our small discipleship groups are taking off,” says Gautreaux. “These are the backbone of our ministry, and after years of investing in these groups we are reaping the results.”

The results are a blossoming ministry that is witnessing 400 students a week attending services and 40 small groups. Since August 2002 this chapter has seen more than 100 students embrace relationships with God, while others have been called into full-time ministry.

Chi Alpha’s efforts to reach out to students on secular campuses are creating life-changing events for students such as Taylor.

“I am 100 percent dedicated to the kingdom of God,” he says, “and pray with every fiber in my body that my testimony can be a living one to those who seek this love I know.”

20. Pastoral training is passion for missionaries

Training pastors for a growing number of churches in a formerly communist nation is a primary concern for Kevin and Wendy Beery, U.S. Assemblies of God missionaries to Bulgaria since 1994.

The Pentecostal Assemblies of Bulgaria has grown from 35 to 600 churches since communism fell in 1989, making it the largest Protestant church in the nation.

“We have about 100 pastors for the 600 churches.” Kevin Beery says. “Deacons or interested laypeople are pastoring the remainder of the churches, and most of them have had little or no biblical training.”

Beery, who is president of the Sofia Pentecostal Bible College, opened in 1991, also is coordinator of the Bulgaria Fire Bible project, sponsored by the U.S. Assemblies of God Bible Alliance. According to Beery, the Fire Bible (formerly known as the Full Life Study Bible) will be the first complete study Bible published in Bulgarian. It will be a tremendous help to pastors and believers in the areas of sermon preparation and Bible study.

Serving as the only resident missionaries in a nation of nearly 8 million people for the past seven years, the Beerys have many additional responsibilities, including ministry to local churches and hosting various ministry teams.

Wendy Beery, who authors a column on marriage for a Bulgarian Christian newspaper, has started an outreach to street children. “Beggar children often approach cars at stoplights,” Wendy says. “When they come to our car, we always have ready a croissant and a tract to hand to them.”

21. Sunday school is heart of this church

The leadership and congregation of First Assembly in Fort Myers, Fla., believe God’s Word transforms lives and causes churches to flourish. That’s why Sunday school is at the heart of First Assembly’s ministry.

“Paul told Timothy to ‘preach the Word,’ not preach about the Word, but preach (teach) the Word,” says Pastor Dan Betzer, noting that Sunday school thrives only if the pastor believes in it. “The pastor must put Sunday school front and center with teacher training, adequate facilities and sound Assemblies of God Pentecostal curriculum. All of these contribute to a solid, growing Sunday school.”

According to Betzer, Sunday school teachers should be prepared, enthusiastic, anointed and creative in their approach. Doing so, he says, lets listeners know the Bible is exciting and contains the instructions for abundant living and eternal life.

“Sunday school has to change with the times,” says Doug Williams, Christian education pastor at the church. “But it must not move away from the Word.”

Each week more than 1 million people attend Sunday school in the Assemblies of God.

22. College value evident in alumni

Kermit Bridges, president of Southwestern Assemblies of God University in Waxahachie, Texas, believes A/G colleges are having more of a positive impact today than ever before.

“The evidence is in our alumni,” says Bridges, 44, who was recently elected to a second three-year term by a unanimous vote. “You can see A/G alumni filling important roles in diverse fields around the world. The challenge is to be relevant in a changing society, yet remain planted in the Word of God.”

Bridges says Assemblies of God colleges are doing more in order to be more effective in training people for leadership in the ministry.

“Many A/G colleges, such as SAGU, are accredited and go through the same rigors of academic self-study and outside evaluation by accrediting bodies to prove and maintain the quality of their academic programs,” he says. “Secondly, we continue to adjust our academic offerings in order to serve our constituency and provide a place of training for those pursuing diverse callings and vocations.”

Bridges says more than ever the world needs strong Christian leadership in every vocational field. “Many A/G colleges are also tailoring their ministry programs to meet the needs of the church in the 21st century,” he says.

SAGU recently added a church planting and revitalization degree, designed to prepare ministers to help breathe new life into dying churches and be pioneers of new churches around the world.

“Every believer is a minister no matter your chosen vocation,” Bridges says. “Our goal is to provide a well-rounded education focusing not just on academics and professional development, but also on the student’s spiritual, social and physical development.”

In the 2002-03 academic year, more than 420 graduates received degrees from SAGU.

23. Regular outreaches impact community

Mark and Marge Green became followers of Jesus Christ after their son, Brandon, made a salvation commitment while attending kindergarten at Life Center Christian School and Academy, a ministry of First Assembly of God Life Center in Tacoma, Wash.

“What attracts us to this church is the outreach and the caring for the lost,” says Marge, a secretary. “It’s the love they showed us and others in the community.”

The Greens are involved in a street ministry, which includes a Bible study led by Mark, a carpenter. The church’s thrift store assists the street ministry and workers in the school kitchen bake 450 cookies each week for the homeless.

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Brandon Green, now 22 and a U.S. Marine, is among Life Center’s Master’s Commission alumni.

The church, which averages 3,750 worshipers on Sundays, celebrates its 85th anniversary this year. Fulton Buntain has been pastoring there for 38 years.

Buses bring hundreds from the inner city and elsewhere to a Saturday children’s Super Club program. Two gymnasiums accommodate youth ministry. Five hundred junior high youth gather each Friday for “Impact” meetings that include skateboard ramps, games and a gospel message.

Life Christian School and Academy has 1,100 students in kindergarten through 12th grade. More than 200 residents enjoy independent and assisted living at the church’s retirement community.

Life Center has mothered several churches, including a Slavic church of 830 members and a 500-member Spanish church that meets on the grounds on Sunday afternoons.

A vital part of the ministry, Buntain says, is their television program, Introduction to Life, which airs the Sunday morning worship service weekly.

Every outreach is built on more than numbers. The foundation of Life Center ministries is a 1,600-member prayer team.

24. Sun City church reaching senior adults

Sun City, Ariz., is one of the largest retirement communities in the nation, with about 40,000 residents. In a community where the average age is about 70, Pastors Mel and Pat Holmquist and the 300-member congregation of Evangel Church Assembly of God have accepted the challenge of sharing Jesus Christ with as many senior adults as possible.

“Statistics say the chances of someone coming to Christ begin to diminish after a certain age, but we’ve seen many seniors receive salvation,” says Mel Holmquist. “The age of a person doesn’t matter to God; it only matters that the person comes to know Him through His Son Jesus Christ. We see a number of deathbed conversions each year.”

One couple came to a Sunday morning service at Evangel because they wanted to make a public confession of their newfound faith in Christ. Afterward, Holmquist asked if they preferred to postpone water baptism for a few months until the new church facility and baptismal were completed. The man decided against delaying his baptism because he wasn’t sure he’d be alive when the new facility opened. He was baptized, then passed away one week before the opening.

Since the church’s inception in 1972, personal care, prayer and missions have been key components of Evangel’s outreach.

Each week members of the congregation conduct 10 church services in nursing homes. In addition, the pastoral staff and church members visit shut-ins and those who’ve been hospitalized. Sending get-well cards and visiting people in their homes are also priorities.

At weekly prayer meetings, members intercede for residents of Sun City and for missions endeavors around the world.

“We must be missions minded,” says Holmquist, “or we are not doing what God has called us to do.”

The congregation has reached beyond the borders of their own city, sponsoring missionaries in the United States and around the world. Evangel has also planted a church in Surprise, Ariz. (see page 26 for details) and helped plant another church in North Glendale.

25. Missionaries provide stability in volatile nation

As believers in the United States embraced the Pentecostal message in the early 20th century, God called some to fulfill the Great Commission thousands of miles from their home. These early pioneers not only planted the seed of God’s Word in the hearts of new believers, they implanted a passion for the lost in their children. Wayne and Sylvia Turner have served God in the Democratic Republic of Congo for more than three decades as Assemblies of God missionaries. But their ministries began many years before as they ministered alongside their parents — Wayne in Africa, Sylvia in the Philippines.

The Turners have weathered civil unrest, war, evacuations, coups, monetary devaluations, rampant disease and disappointments. But they never have wavered from God’s call to serve in Central Africa. Whatever the need in the national church, they have put their hand to the task and pressed toward its completion. Wayne has been involved in all aspects of the work at Kinshasa Bible Institute. He has taught classes, served as principal and administrator, constructed buildings and mentored hundreds of Congolese pastors. Sylvia has organized women’s Bible study groups, taught and directed music at the Bible school, led worship seminars and assisted the national church in television and radio productions. Both missionaries have played an important role in developing relationships with the national church.

Although other locations in Africa are safer, the Turners will continue to minister in the DRC by influencing believers, training pastors and assisting the growing national church.

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