The Fellowship’s new Acts 2 Process is designed to
spiritual lives of churches and individuals
By John W. Kennedy
The Assemblies of God has embarked on a major initiative
designed to revolutionize discipleship methods for both congregations and
Originators describe the Acts 2 Process that focuses on
worship, fellowship, discipleship, evangelism and gift-oriented ministry as a
process rather than a program.
“We’re trying to create a template on which a church can
flow based on the five basic foundations described in Acts 2:42-47,” says Alton
Garrison, Assemblies of God assistant general superintendent. “Our goal is to
take people who are far from God, and turn them into fully devoted followers of
Christ, equipping them to do ministry and releasing them to fulfill their
life’s mission — whether it’s witnessing at the job, mentoring a friend,
going overseas or giving to a missionary.”
Garrison is spearheading the new emphasis, which he
implemented in the 1990s in the church he pastored, First Assembly of God in
North Little Rock, Ark.
“It’s a paradigm, not a program,” Garrison says. “It can be
implemented in Sunday School, Wednesday night Bible teaching or small groups.”
Garrison says the Acts 2 Process is a more flexible plan
than the Fellowship’s productive We Build People program, which kicked off in
1995. We Build People had a linear configuration similar to a baseball diamond,
where constituents went from first to home in a formula with bases dubbed
include, instruct, involve and invest. Participants had to follow an outline
that precluded, for instance, skipping second base en route from first to
The Acts 2 Process motif, on the other hand, is based on
five overlapping circles. Worship is the centerpiece that connects the rest,
which are labeled connect, grow, serve and go. A person can enter anywhere and
move from one circle to another, rather than having to take a step-by-step
approach to advance.
“For discipleship to be effective, we must move from a
program-oriented focus to a philosophy of ministry where the church and its
leadership views everything relationally,” says Wes Bartel, AG Discipleship
Ministries Agency national director.
The new design recognizes that not everyone in 21st-century
evangelicalism enters a church at the same maturity point. Some know nothing
about God; others have transferred from another church background and are ready
to jump into ministry.
The concept also marks a strategy shift for the Fellowship,
which has, along with most denominations, tended for generations to emphasize
salvation as a key for church growth. However, year after year typically fewer
than one in 10 people who make a profession of faith ends up staying in church
long enough to learn the basics about prayer, Bible reading and other disciplines.
Last year, the Discipleship Ministries Agency commissioned
LifeWay Christian Resources to conduct a survey of the state of discipleship in
the AG. Leaders expected only 600 pastors to respond, but 2,614 filled out
questionnaires, representing more than 20 percent of AG churches.
“The survey showed only 7 percent of Assemblies of God
pastors were satisfied with existing discipleship methods,” says Ken Peckett,
Discipleship Ministries Agency marketing director. “Pastors want to help people
grow, and this gives the tools for that.”
“There is a genuine groundswell toward returning
discipleship as a mandate of the church,” Bartel says.
A Spiritual Health Planner, one of the Gospel Publishing
House resources in conjunction with the Acts 2 Process, enables participants to
choose crawl, walk or run options in developing their relationship with the
Lord in the five key areas. For instance, those who rate themselves low on the
question of “I find that my relationship with Jesus comes up frequently in my
conversations with those who don’t know Him” are urged to write out their
personal testimony and share it with a friend as a first step toward growth.
The workbook contains 40 questions in all, geared to help
people identify and improve areas of weakness. Sample self-examination
statements include: “I daily seek the guidance of the Holy Spirit in ways I can
best serve God;” “There is nothing in my life that I have not surrendered to
God;” and “I regularly pray for those who don’t know Christ.” A close friend
also rates the individual to help that Christian gain a different perspective
on personal spiritual health. Participants are urged to retake the assessment
on an annual basis.
“With the Spiritual Health Planner everybody can go to a
next level,” Garrison says. “It’s a never-ending process. People are always
growing, and establishing relationships that are redemptive.”
“Part of the problem in the past has been that programs tend
to be very constrictive in their methods,” Bartel says. “They have beginnings
and ends, and you can only use certain resources.”
Garrison says the Acts 2 Process is adaptable whatever the
composition of the congregation or individual.
“Whether traditional or postmodern, urban or rural, ethnic
minority or white, this is without prescription regarding methodology because
it’s biblically based,” Garrison says. “It can be transferred to any culture or
“In our culture today, people enter church from many
points,” Bartel says. “No matter where they are, they can begin the process of spiritual
The concept is uncomplicated, yet Garrison says partakers
will need to be intentional and disciplined to make it work.
“Accountability is a necessary part of the growth process,”
Bartel says. “The focus of the curriculum won’t be knowledge; it will be to
develop a lifestyle that results in changed lives.”
Acts 2 Process components will be promoted for the next
several years as a way to promote General Superintendent George O. Wood’s core
value of skillfully resourcing the constituency. GPH will continue to provide
new accompanying materials as individuals seek to grow spiritually. In addition
to the Spiritual Health Planner, resources currently available include
Garrison’s book The 360° Disciple, which includes chapters by Bartel and six
others on discipleship ideas for pastors and laypeople; an Acts 2 Church booklet authored by Garrison; and a seven-member speakers bureau that includes
Garrison and Bartel to explain the Acts 2 Process to church leadership.
The Acts 2 Process also will have an integral part within
the Church Transformation Network (CTN), which will allow congregations to
review and assess their effectiveness in the areas of discipleship, spiritual
health and vision for the local body.
As the culmination of a year’s development, the Acts 2
Process will be the pathway in which revitalized churches introduce a
discipleship ministry model, according to Rick Allen, CTN national facilitator.
“Our goal is to bring plateaued or declining churches onto a
common spiritual page to create a renewed vision for future health and growth,”
JOHN W. KENNEDY is news editor of the Pentecostal Evangel.
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