Connections: Raymond Culpepper
Pentecost Around the World
Dr. Raymond Culpepper serves as general overseer of the Church of God International in Cleveland, Tenn. The denomination traces its roots to 1886, and has been a vital part of the Pentecostal Movement of the 20th and 21st centuries. Culpepper spoke recently with Pentecostal Evangel Editor Ken Horn.
evangel: What is going on in the Church of God today?
CULPEPPER: It’s an exciting time for us. We see great opportunity for transition and transformation. Even in financially challenging times, we do not see a diminishing of ministry or evangelism or discipling.
evangel: Talk about the broader picture of Pentecost today.
CULPEPPER: Pentecost is healthier today than ever in its history. Pentecostalism is more than an experience; it is a relationship with the Holy Spirit that transcends experiential things so many people focus on. The Holy Spirit’s relationship with the Church is not denominational, but churchwide. By some estimates, 650 to 700 million Pentecostals worship around the world.
evangel: How are you bringing the generations together in the Church of God?
CULPEPPER: The Church of God is working hard to bring the generations together in various kinds of formats and venues. We have a proposal to lower the age of our highest rank of ministry. We began the publication of Engage, a journal for pastors in which we want to connect with all generations.
We also launched a few years ago a conference specifically focused for the emerging generation. We need to give permission to the next generation to be who they are. Obviously, this does not require any compromise of doctrine or faith or practice, but it does require changing methodology and sometimes changing false assumptions. The next generation is called of God and must carry the banner of truth into the future.
evangel: What opportunities do you see for the worldwide Church today?
CULPEPPER: We’ve never had, in my lifetime, a greater harvest field and/or greater opportunity and greater means of reaching that harvest field than we have today. Facebook, Twitter, the Internet and other media are making the world local. We are able to touch the world from where we are, and all of that must be framed by the mission of the Church. The world is now at our doorstep.
evangel: What is your philosophy of evangelism and church growth?
CULPEPPER: When I came into office I appointed a Church Plant Task Force, and they are ready to release both a report and a strategy at our next general assembly. Our goal by 2020 is to plant another 2,020 churches in the United States beyond our current 6,062 or so. In Latin American we have 8,000 Church of God congregations, and their goal for 2020 is to plant an additional 8,000 churches.
Not only do we have goals, we have a strategy and a road map. I am continuing to see that the Holy Spirit is never caught in the trap of time. He is always coming up with new ways to reach the lost.
evangel: Would you talk about the Church of God’s relationship with the Assemblies of God?
CULPEPPER: I am so thankful that in recent years we have had an open door from the Assemblies of God. We embrace this partnership and embrace our role. I was told a few years ago, by some world leaders in missionary movements, that reaching the world with the gospel is within the grasp of the present living generation — but only if we network with God’s existing vehicles.