Conversation: Ed Stetzer
Be, Do and Tell the Gospel
Ed Stetzer serves as the missiologist and research team
director at the North American Mission Board in Alpharetta, Ga., and co-pastor
of Lake Ridge Church in Cumming, Ga. Stetzer has planted churches in New York,
Pennsylvania and Georgia. He trains pastors and church planters and has written
dozens of articles and books. He recently spoke with Ken Peckett of the AG
Discipleship Ministries Agency.
evangel: As you have researched the state of the U.S.
church, what principal strengths and weaknesses have you seen?
STETZER: Discipleship has come to the fore as a weak issue.
We are not producing a lot of robust disciples. A recent Pew Forum study
indicates many evangelicals are universalists and don’t have a grounding in the
Community engagement is also a weakness we consistently see.
Churches are struggling to staff their own volunteer needs, let alone serve
their community — the widow and the orphan, the sick and the poor.
Some of the strengths are that people are passionate about
their love for God. They need to grow beyond just passion to actually have
depth. We have a great amount of resources in the body of Christ that need to be
marshaled in an appropriate direction. If enough churches became aggressive
gospel machines of transformation, they could change the world.
evangel: You recently completed a survey for the Assemblies of God on the state of discipleship in the Fellowship. How does the AG compare to the wider Protestant church?
STETZER: I would say that Assemblies of God churches are
doing better at many things than Protestant churches as a whole. Consistently,
in different studies, we have seen that Pentecostals tend to show a more robust
spiritual involvement than Protestants as a whole.
There were a few areas in our recent study where AG churches
are actually lower than all Protestants (for example, people involved in
community ministry). But, as a whole, AG churches did better in most areas.
evangel: What elements would you say produce a healthy,
STETZER: Well, first, having been born again by the power of
the gospel — I guess that is self-evident. Second, disciples should see
the mission of God as their mission, being personally changed continually by
the gospel by confession of sin, death to self, being filled with the Spirit
— all those are essential. Ultimately for me, 2 Corinthians 5:15 says
that “those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died
for them and was raised” (NIV). So, I think that disciples should live
God-centered lives rather than be self-centered in their living. That impacts everything
that they do.
evangel: Are there steps that individuals should follow to
STETZER: Some of those things for spiritual growth are going
¥ A healthy, robust spiritual community (spiritual growth is
supposed to take place in the context of community)
¥ Becoming deeply rooted in the Word of God (spiritual
growth without scriptural foundation is ultimately an exercise in self-deceit)
¥ An Òothers-focusedÓ life.
evangel: What can the local church do to foster this growth?
STETZER: We need to preach a new normal where fervency and
commitment are what is expected in church. That applies to so many things.
Ultimately creating a culture of deeper discipleship and personal mission is
what I see as missing in many settings.
evangel: How is the AG doing on developing biblical
knowledge in members — specifically when it comes to core doctrines?
STETZER: The results show that your churches think that they
are struggling in biblical knowledge, particularly among youth and children,
and doctrinal knowledge at a higher level, and they seem to be dissatisfied
with the state of discipleship within your churches. That is a statement from
your pastors to your Movement — that you need to find ways to bring more
biblical knowledge and doctrinal teaching and find ways to evaluate it. But, as
a whole, Assemblies of God pastors say their churches affirm, teach and believe
in your Assemblies of God distinctives.
evangel: What can churches do to maintain their health and
reach their community for Christ?
STETZER: They need to root themselves in a passion for their
Lord instead of their preferences in themselves and the institution they have
grown to love. We have to preach, teach and communicate that it is a misshapen
Christian life to always receive and never serve. We need to join Jesus on His
mission to share and show the good news of the gospel. Luke 4 connects the
gospel with the poor, the sick and the captive; Luke 19:10 says the Son of Man
came to seek and save those who were lost.
evangel: What action steps can our readers take?
STETZER: Ultimately the local believer has to be, do and
tell good news. They need to be good news in the way they live, do good news in
the way they serve and tell good news because they are called to share Christ with
other people. If we are being, doing and telling good news, then we are
missional disciples. The survey data shows us we have a ways to go until
missional discipleship is what shapes us and forms us as believers.
Comeback Churches: How 300 Churches Turned Around and Yours
Can Too by Ed Stetzer is available at Gospel Publishing House.
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