Assemblies of God SearchSite GuideStoreContact Us

2009 Conversations

Sara Groves

Keith and Kristyn Getty

Jesse Miranda

Heather Bland

Cathleen Lewis

Robert Leathers

Ravi Zacharias

Scotty Gibbons

George O. Wood

George O. Wood

G. Robert Cook Jr.

Michelle LaRowe Conover

Janet Boynes

Kirk Cameron

Laura Wilkinson

Melody Rossi

Randy Travis

Maylo Upton-Aames

Chuck Norris

Francis Xavier 'Chip' Flaherty Jr.

Ben Carson

Robert H. Spence

Maj. Gen. Jeffrey Schloesser

R. Albert Mohler Jr.

James K. Bridges

Manny Mill

Brock Gill

Robert Burt

Gerry Hindy

J.I. Packer

Stanley Horton

Linda Mintle

Joanna Weaver

Buck Taylor

Debra Risner

Bill Glass

Edward Gilbreath

Rob Seagears and Andy Casper

2007 Conversations

2006 Conversations

TPExtra: Podcast

Conversation: Robert H. Spence

Community-focused faith

For 34 years, Dr. Robert H. Spence has served as president of Evangel University in Springfield, Mo. The Assemblies of God university of arts, sciences and professions celebrated its 50th anniversary in 2005. Beyond his service for Evangel, Spence has maintained regular involvement in an array of community government boards and service institutions. He has been recognized as an Outstanding Missourian on the floor of the Missouri House of Representatives and as the 2004 Springfieldian of the Year. He spoke recently with Today’s Pentecostal Evangel Editor Ken Horn.

TPE: For readers unfamiliar with Evangel University, what is distinctive about the institution?

SPENCE: Evangel was established to serve that large segment of our church population who sense the Lord directing them into a business career or profession so often described as “secular.” About 85 percent of our students are majoring in such fields. About 15 percent of our students are majoring in biblical studies, theology or missions, and those are very vital parts of our program. Overall, our institutional mission is to prepare people to be change agents for the kingdom of God wherever the Lord might lead them, to be instruments in God’s hands. From our beginnings in 1955 with an initial enrollment of 93, we have enjoyed the Lord’s blessings not only in enrollment and student growth, but also in seeing what had been an Army hospital during World War II transformed into a very comprehensive university campus.

TPE: How has the campus been expanded?

SPENCE: In the last decade, we have built two major academic buildings, a new fine arts center, a student union and student activities center. We have a new administration building under construction. The Lord has blessed us in our efforts to raise funds, and alumni and supporting friends have responded. In the last 15 years, we have seen more than $53 million contributed to help transform the Evangel campus, underwrite our mission and help us fulfill God’s plan for us.

TPE: How would you explain the Evangel experience?

SPENCE: You can learn a lot about the university by visiting our Web site, Our students come from literally all parts of our nation. It would be unusual for us not to have students from every state in the union. We also draw a considerable number of international students.

We’re serious about being a Christian university. We want whatever is taking place on campus to fulfill Paul’s admonition to do it to the glory of God, whether it be our athletic program, our fine arts program or our academic program. Whatever we’re doing, we want it first and foremost to be something that would bring honor to Christ our Savior. Our full-time faculty must be people who not only know Christ as their Savior, but also have experienced the infilling of the Holy Spirit and embrace our Pentecostal position and our message.

TPE: Despite the demands of your leadership role at the university, you have always made time to serve the larger Springfield and Greene County communities. A lot of Christians are afraid of community involvement because of potential conflict, but I have a sense you have been able to make an impact and not compromise your values.

SPENCE: When I came to Springfield, I had an excellent role model. General Superintendent Thomas F. Zimmerman was quite involved in the community, and he encouraged me in that way. He opened some doors, made some introductions and connected me with some people. He didn’t force the issue. He simply provided that opportunity.

I had been in Springfield only a short time before I was asked to serve on the Greene County Board for the Developmentally Disabled, an agency that serves a special needs group here in our community and they have a campus that adjoins ours, so there was some affinity there, and we also had students who served internships there. I had the opportunity to serve on our municipal City Utilities Board, and I had the distinction of serving as chairman of that board longer than anyone. I’ve served on the Chamber of Commerce Board at various times and was elected chairman of that board. And I’ve served in the county in some areas and presently serve on our local Airport Board.

At no point have I felt I’ve had to sacrifice my integrity. When pushed to a point of making a choice, I simply moved forward with the declaration of doing the right thing for the right reason and hopefully at the right time. I’ve been blessed to be in a community that respects morality, that respects honesty, that looks for integrity in leadership. I have never felt it appropriate to use my place at a board table as a pulpit. There have been times in discussions where I have expressed my opinions, but I have never couched them in terms of church doctrine.

I want whatever I do to be based strictly on personal relationships. I’ve had people serve on boards with me who are not a part of any church communion, who have approached me and wanted to engage in conversation. They are often people who have had a bad experience somewhere, but they want to talk about spiritual things. They want to deal with the real issues of life, and I’m extremely thankful for opportunities through the years to work with people like that and talk to them about things of eternal value.

TPE: You’ve had many opportunities to offer prayer at official functions. Have you experienced any negative feedback?

SPENCE: I have people comment sometimes and kid me a bit, but I take the opportunity to give a thoughtful explanation. For example, in case someone is just irritated by my using a phrase such as “in the Name of Jesus.” Let’s look at what we’re really talking about. Then you will have people respond by saying, “Oh, I see what you mean.” I have sought to identify some of those points that sometimes are argumentative and tried to approach those things in a way to alleviate antagonism.

TPE: What kind of suggestions would you have for Christians who would want to get involved in civic affairs?

SPENCE: I have tried to provide a role model, an example to students at Evangel, of ways you can make a difference in a community. There are things you can do that can help you, as a follower of Jesus Christ, demonstrate to the world that a believer in Christ can be a solid citizen, can be someone who makes a contribution to the community.

One of the most accessible entry points is a service club — Rotary, Kiwanis, Lions, Exchange, for example. I wouldn’t make that a blanket recommendation, however; there has to be an evaluation. I’ve been a member of Rotary for 34 years. I’ve had occasion to attend Rotary Clubs all over the world, with opportunities to witness in some of those places.

Every Christian has an opportunity to look at his community and ask himself, “Where is an opportunity I can respond to or make a contribution to?” There are critical needs everywhere. I would look for an opportunity to get acquainted with the leadership of the community — your city, county, justice system and business community.

Springfield is blessed with such a strong Christian community, and we have so many different faith groups. For many years I’ve served as the chairman of Springfield’s Day of Prayer Observance. Contributions from the business community make it possible for us to invite every government employee in this city — whether it’s federal, state, county or city. We involve a cross-section of leaders in the community as a part of our praying leadership, and we will have 1,000-1,100 people come together for that every year. That one involvement has opened doors. I just stand amazed at what that event has opened up.

E-mail your comments to

E-mail this page to a friend.
©1999-2009 General Council of the Assemblies of God