1,000 churches equals thousands of souls
Dr. George O. Wood, newly elected general superintendent of
the Assemblies of God, previously served as the Fellowship’s general secretary
for 14 years. In determining a new course of direction for the Assemblies of
God, Wood has set forth several priorities he believes must guide the future of
the Fellowship. One of the priorities that will characterize his administration
is a proactive plan to vigorously start new churches. Recently, Wood met with
Steve Pike, director of the Assemblies of God Church Multiplication Network,
and discussed why starting new churches is a crucial part of his vision for the
PIKE: Why do you believe it is important for the Assemblies
of God to plant new churches?
WOOD: First of all, let’s think biblically. In Acts 13, the
church of Antioch is growing and vibrant with two lead pastors, Barnabas and
Paul. The Holy Spirit says to send the lead pastors away. The work of God
cannot continue to exist if it simply stays at status quo.
I had an incredible spiritual experience last March as I
stood on the beach at Seleucia — the harbor from which Barnabas and Paul
sailed to Cyprus on their first missionary journey (about A.D. 46, Acts 13:4).
I was with a group of missionaries. As we prayed, I realized that when Paul
stood in that spot, not a single book of the New Testament had been written and
only the Jerusalem and Antioch churches were established.
Paul and Barnabas didn’t appear to have a five-year or even
a one-year plan. They got on the boat, and the wind of the Spirit, a
supernatural and a physical wind, blew them to Cyprus. Because Paul and
Barnabas obeyed the Spirit of God, the Church today is profiting 20 centuries
later from those churches that were launched.
If our Fellowship is to be biblical and apostolic in the
next generation, we’ve got to stay on the cutting edge of what the Holy Spirit
wants us to do next. I believe that is to plant new churches.
PIKE: The idea for launching the Church Multiplication
Network of the Assemblies of God was born earlier this year during a meeting
where key leaders were anointed with a fresh passion for reaching the lost
through the best-known method of evangelism — planting churches. U.S. Missions and the ReachAmerica Coalition are working with
us. Our target is MX9 — planting or committing to plant 1,000 churches by
August 2009. How do you see the national office helping facilitate the starting
of 1,000 new churches that could result in tens of thousands of people being
WOOD: The role of my office is to motivate, encourage,
resource and strengthen. We do that by focusing on a goal such as MX9. We do
that by offering financial partnership to districts and local churches. We
raise the level of discourse and conversation and serve as a resource center,
helping districts and local churches do ministry better. One of the valuable
resources we offer for church planting, for example, is access to the
demographics of an area: the residents’ age levels, income, ethnicity, etc.
More strategically, we offer support to churches and
districts through Church Planting BootCamps. These camps help local churches
and districts assess the gifts, natural abilities and experience of church
planters and tailor those to a particular locality or cultural target group.
PIKE: Another important priority you plan to focus on for
the future is “strategically investing in the next generation.” What is the
connection between church planting and investing in the next generation?
WOOD: Young people are the ones throughout our Fellowship’s
history who have planted the new churches. In the early days when students
completed Bible college, they planted new churches. In more recent years, the
tendency has been to follow the Antioch model and also send mature leaders to
start new churches. But I think the tide is turning to include more young
ministers once again.
PIKE: Yes, many more young ministers are planting churches,
and they are utilizing creative, nontraditional methods to reach people for
Jesus. How will our Fellowship embrace these church planters and their methods?
WOOD: As a movement, we need to be mature enough to
recognize the great diversity of this Fellowship. Different strategies can be
used to reach people with the gospel. Because the younger generation is more
wary of denominations and organized church, the nontraditional methods of doing
church may help to reach those without Christ.
We must be sensitive in bringing the unchanging gospel to a
changing culture so that we connect the two. I think the Pentecostal message is
uniquely tailored to a younger generation, because the Spirit of God is
continually innovative, creative and leading us in new directions.
One of my favorite sayings is from Deng Xiaoping, chairman
of China after Mao Zedong died. He instituted economic reform in capitalistic
ways. He was being criticized by the old Maoists for neglecting Mao’s economic
philosophy, which had brought poverty and peril to China.
Deng Xiaoping said, “It doesn’t matter if it is a black cat
or a white cat; as long as it can catch mice, it’s a good cat.”
I think that way about church. I don’t care how we do church
as long as people are getting saved, baptized in the Spirit, delivered, healed,
ready for Jesus’ coming, and taught well how to live life on earth. We’ve got
to quit judging churches or church planters by the methods they use; instead we
must look at what they are producing.
PIKE: Church planting is by nature a local activity. What
can we do to provide support for grassroots planting efforts to help those who
are starting new churches?
WOOD: We’ve been saying it for a long time, but every
Assemblies of God church should be a parent or a partner in church planting.
That’s the key.
My parents were pioneer church planters, and in their era
they had what I call, for lack of a better term, Ecclesiological Darwinism or
“random selection and survival of the fittest.” They faced attitudes of
territorialism, had no financial support, and received very little
New church plants succeeding in those days can only be
attributed to the fact they were planted by a generation of people who were
truly committed to Jesus Christ and loved what the Assemblies of God stood for.
Today we hope to come alongside church planters and be a
cooperative fellowship. Pastors in strong, healthy churches need to mentor,
support and sustain staff members who can become future church planters.
If we simply maintain the status quo, then we are in the
maintenance mode rather than the growth mode. Where churches get excited about
planting a church, that church is going to be planted.
PIKE: Jan. 13, 2008, is Church Planting Sunday in the
Assemblies of God. At Church Multiplication Network, our goal is to help every
local congregation and district optimize their ministry effectiveness. We want
to help facilitate their mobilization of people and resources so they can most
effectively carry out the Great Commission.
On Church Planting Sunday, we’re asking that every church in
the Fellowship take a step of faith and say yes to expanding the kingdom of God
through starting new churches. As general superintendent, what would your hope
be regarding the response of each local church and district to this church
WOOD: We cannot go forward unless this church planting
initiative is soaked in prayer.
Jesus looked out upon the crowd, He had compassion on them,
and He said, “Pray for workers in the harvest, because the harvest is plentiful
and the laborers are few.” Jesus always identified the problem not as a lack of
harvest, but as a lack of laborers.
One of the core values I’ve stated for our Fellowship is,
“We fervently pray for God’s favor and blessing as we serve Him with pure
hearts and noble purpose.” It was out of prayer that Acts 13:1,2 took place,
where the Spirit said, “Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to
which I have called them” (NIV). As we pray, God will speak to people’s hearts
and lives about what they should do.
To go forward in church planting, we need to open the window
to the Holy Spirit and say, “Lord, what creative things do You have for us to
do?” And then we must get out of our comfort zones. When we get out of our
comfort zones, that’s where faith and sacrifice are born. Without faith and
sacrifice, the work is not going to be done.
Every year should be a year of church planting! Evangelism
is going to happen and America is going to be reached with the gospel. We want
to be part of that.
We’re not planting churches so our statistics will look
good. We’re planting churches because people need Jesus. The most effective way
to reach people who need Jesus is to go plant a church.
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