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U.S. Missions implements innovative evangelism

By Kirk Noonan

Three hundred million people live in the United States. If Zollie L. Smith Jr., executive director of Assemblies of God U.S. Missions, has his way, 7 million of those residents will commit their lives to Christ for the first time within the next two years.

“We have a mandate from God to give every person in the United States a clear and understandable presentation of the gospel,” says Smith. “We’ve got to be aggressive. There are strongholds in America to be torn down.”

Everything from apathy to bold-faced resistance to the salvation message — coupled with obstacles such as historical, social, cultural, economic and religious issues — stands in Smith’s way of spreading the gospel. Even so, he is not swayed.

In fact, he says, AGUSM is more determined than ever to lead people into a relationship with Jesus Christ.

“The fact is, we cannot do this alone,” he says. “We’re going to partner with our districts, local churches and with other Pentecostal fellowships.”

To see Smith’s goal become reality, AGUSM is putting more emphasis on planting and revitalizing churches, equipping believers with evangelistic and discipleship training and materials, and imploring laypeople and leaders to pray.

“All our plans and actions will be undergirded in prayer,” says Smith, noting that AGUSM’s ministries and infrastructure perfectly suit the effort. “Each of our six departments is uniquely designed to reach unique segments of society with the gospel.”

A look at AGUSM’s six divisions supports Smith’s contention.

• Chi Alpha ministers to college students on some 225 college and university campuses.

“We’re utilizing everything from dodge ball tournaments, video game nights and burger bashes to offers of prayer and in-depth Bible studies as we attract students to the gospel,” says Dennis Gaylor, national director of Chi Alpha. “Prayer undergirds everything we do. Plans and programs will neither destroy Satan’s strongholds nor reconcile students to Jesus. However, a ministry built on prayer has the potential of shaking and reaching any campus for God.”

• Across the nation new AG churches that target specific demographics are springing up. Leaders believe the revitalizion and planting of churches will continue to be one of the main ways the AG will foster expansion and reach people with Christ’s message of love and hope.

“Research shows new churches strategically designed to reach new people for Jesus accomplish that mission,” says Steve Pike, director of Church Planting and Development for the AG. “The nature of a start-up church is that it can be structured specifically to go after demographic groups normally isolated from typical evangelism efforts.”

• Chaplains serve a similar purpose, but instead of targeting a community as a whole they target individuals within a larger community.

“As society becomes more and more mobile and as Christians are less likely to be regular attendees in local churches, the need for chaplains will continue to grow,” says Al Worthley, director of Chaplaincy for the AG. “But the work of chaplains cannot replace the work of local church pastors. We realize, however, that our chaplains can provide a steady stream of adherents to local churches.”

That’s a good thing. Researcher George Barna says 1 million people each year become disconnected from church. And that’s not counting the untold millions of people who have nothing to do with church to begin with.

• Among the tens of millions of people who do not know Christ as Savior are many who are part of the nation’s 500 distinct groups that communicate in more than 600 languages. Reaching such people is daunting, but there are 400 AG missionaries intent on taking the gospel to them.

“Our ministries focus on reaching these distinct people groups with the gospel of Jesus Christ,” says Scott Temple, director of Intercultural Ministries. “Our purpose is to reach the culturally distinct groups of America.”

• Teen Challenge USA continues to minister to those ensnared in life-controlling addictions.

“Because the need is so great in the United States, Teen Challenge uses several approaches to help achieve a solution to this overwhelming problem,” says Mike Hodges, national director.

Teen Challenge remains a faith-based solution for those hooked on drugs. But Hodges and his team will continue to widen their influence by implementing street ministries, providing discipleship materials to county jails and even after-school programs that include mentoring, tutoring, activity centers, sport courts, gang intervention and street rallies.

“In the next two years, Teen Challenge is endeavoring to move further into the direction of community-based and program-based support group concepts,” says Hodges. “We are poised to continue to reach beyond our traditional residential ministries to reach a great number of people.”

• Mission America Placement Service’s teams continue to do construction and evangelize communities. Their work helps keep ministries across the nation moving forward by providing a wide array of construction services that give many churches and ministries a much-needed boost.

Even with AGUSM’s impressive infrastructure, dedicated missionaries, extensive network and united desire to spread the gospel, Smith admits the status quo is not enough. Strategic partnerships, prayer and much effort on behalf of local AG churches and laypeople will be required to reach 7 million people with the gospel in the next two years.

“This is not for the spiritually weak,” says Smith. “Yes, we have the greatest commodity in Jesus, but we are going to have to rely on each other and work together to reach America for Christ.”

KIRK NOONAN is managing editor of Today’s Pentecostal Evangel.

TPExtra: AG U.S. Missions Executive Director Zollie Smith shares his plan for reaching America with the gospel in this week's two-part interview. Part 1 and Part 2

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