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
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
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
“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
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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