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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

Conversation: George O. Wood

The gospel and compassion

George O. Wood is general superintendent of the Assemblies of God. He spoke recently to Editor Ken Horn about ministry to the poor and needy.

tpe: What is the church’s responsibility to the poor and needy?

WOOD: The church is the body of Christ. A body responds to the direction of the head. The head of the body, Jesus himself, if you look carefully in the Gospels, had essentially four ministries. He came to glorify the Lord; He came to seek and save the lost; He came to make disciples; and He came to serve human need. Jesus’ serving of human need is seen in His acts of compassion towards people.

In the Early Church you see all four of these ministries continually demonstrated. So if the church is going to respond to Jesus’ leadership then it needs to be involved in all of these. We cannot set one against another or focus on one exclusively, but must do all four at the same time.

I’m glad to see that in the last number of years compassion ministries have begun to loom significantly on the Assemblies of God’s agenda and in our DNA. We’ve always been a compassionate people, but in the past few years we’ve given far more focus to it on the local church level, on the district level and on the national level.

tpe: Some churches have gotten involved in compassion at the expense of the gospel of Christ. Is that a concern?

WOOD: Liberal churches that focus on the social gospel went astray when they gave up a reliance on the authority of God’s Word and changed their doctrine as to where they got their authority. When you no longer have the Word of God as your authority, then about the only thing you have left is to do good things toward other people. Because of that example of liberal Protestant Christianity, AG leaders in our earlier years were cautious about official involvement with humanitarian ventures.

But we must be careful we don’t go to the other extreme and have an antisocial gospel. The whole nature of the church is holistic. How do we fulfill all that God’s called us to do? In today’s culture, the church is not going to win people to Jesus by simply lecturing them and telling them how bad they are. We live in a culture in which the church has to earn credibility, and without acts of compassion I believe the church loses its credibility in the world.

There are so many opportunities to link compassion with a solid gospel presentation. Think of Convoy of Hope; the many local church programs, like Adopt a Block and feeding programs; the Shapes Mentoring Program, where people take on the mentoring of children of prisoners; care for widows and single moms, where churches are doing free oil changes and other services.

All of these ministries actually address human need as a means of what I call pre-evangelism. They create a softer environment so that the heart can be open to receive the gospel message.

tpe: Convoy of Hope and the Assemblies of God continue in a powerful ministry relationship. Could you tell us about your first contact with and maybe your first impression of Convoy of Hope?

WOOD: I met Hal Donaldson about 20 years ago. I was the assistant superintendent for the Southern California District. Hal at that time had established ChurchCare America in Northern California. He has a great heart for poor people. Hal’s father died when Hal was young, and his mother raised him and his two brothers and sister. They barely eked out an existence, so Hal has this compassion for pastors of smaller churches and he started the ChurchCare network to help churches that were struggling.

It’s interesting how God leads us. Sometimes we start out and we don’t see where our vision is going. Hal started out with a more narrow focus. As he got deeper into it and moved to our headquarters in Springfield, Mo., to lead Today’s Pentecostal Evangel, this vision began to grow in him to link social compassion and evangelism and truly mobilize people to serve the poor.

It’s been amazing to watch the progress of Convoy of Hope over these last years and see the phenomenal development and the results that have been obtained, as well the goodwill of communities that have seen Convoy of Hope at work.

tpe: Convoy of Hope has worked with many different denominations, but primarily with the Assemblies of God. Would you explain the new relationship between COH and the AG?

WOOD: Convoy of Hope is going to serve as the preferred partner with the Assemblies of God and its missions agencies to provide compassion ministries and services. If there’s a disaster — an earthquake, tornado or hurricane, for example — whatever it is, abroad or at home, we’re going to work with Convoy of Hope as the disaster relief arm of our church. Convoy will still have an interdenominational focus and scope, but instead of trying to have our own disaster relief departments abroad and here, we’re going to simply network with Convoy of Hope because they are already set up to do the job.

tpe: What does that mean to people in our churches? How do they get involved?

WOOD: When there is a disaster, we will be able to send out an appeal from the Assemblies of God leadership, and our people and churches will be able to send their offerings to the Assemblies of God knowing we will pass those funds on to Convoy of Hope to do the disaster relief work.

Convoy also has an important ministry on a day-to-day, week-to-week level because of the programs they do in communities. They invite thousands of guests to enjoy a day in which there are groceries available, free haircuts, dental and medical advice at no charge, and all of it connected with evangelism and a prayer tent.

That level of ministry requires ongoing, continual funding. I encourage people to support Convoy with their personal finances. If you can, get involved in a Convoy event when they come to your community. And when there is a disaster, in the United States or even abroad, we’re looking for people who are trained volunteers to get involved in a training program at Convoy so you can be prepared to be dispatched and help in times of emergency.

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