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  • July 11, 2014 - Reflections

    By Jean S. Horner
    The other day while walking down a corridor in a public building, I saw what appeared to be someone walking toward me. On coming closer, I found it was my own reflection in a huge mirror. For a moment it frightened me. Somehow a full-length reflection of one’s self is a startling thing. ...

Strategy of the Spirit

By Randy Hurst
Dec. 5, 2010

The fresh outpouring of the Holy Spirit early in the last century resulted in an immediate concern for a lost world. In the first organizing meetings, our leaders gave eloquent and passionate expression concerning the missionary purpose in forming the Assemblies of God.

Unlike many church bodies whose missions efforts focused only on certain parts of the world, our early leaders were compelled by the Spirit to obey our Lord’s command, “go into all the world and preach the gospel.”

The boldness of our forefathers’ response to our Lord’s command is astounding. How could such a small group of Christians even consider attempting to preach the gospel in all the world? Because they believed both Jesus’ command to reach the whole world and His promise that they would receive the Holy Spirit’s power to do so.

The Spirit knows where we should be.
Acts 16 — the foundation text of John Bueno’s cover story this month — has baffled many.

At first appearance it seems strange that Paul, sent to proclaim the gospel, would be prevented by the Spirit from taking that message into Asia and Bithynia, places where it had not yet been preached.

Paul obviously had a plan. But the Spirit had a different — and better — time and method. Immediately after being prohibited by the Spirit from preaching in Asia and Bithynia, Paul received a vision now commonly known as the Macedonian Call.

 Paul’s first stop in Macedonia was Philippi. A special relationship developed between the Philippians and Paul, as Philippi appears to have been Paul’s only supporting church. Years later, in his epistle to the Philippians, Paul says, “You yourselves also know, Philippians, that at the first preaching of the gospel, after I left Macedonia, no church shared with me in the matter of giving and receiving but you alone; for even in Thessalonica you sent a gift more than once for my needs.”1

After Paul established the church in Philippi, he went on to do the same in Thessalonica, Berea and Corinth. But if Paul had followed his own plan, he would have been in Asia and Bithynia during that time.

What about the unreached in Asia? The Spirit had another strategy. Acts records a fascinating incident that can easily be passed over, which describes how the Spirit’s leading fulfilled the missionary passion of Paul’s heart more effectively than Paul’s plan would have done.

After his missionary journey in Macedonia and Achaia, Paul came to Ephesus. Luke records the scene: “He entered the synagogue and continued speaking out boldly for three months, reasoning and persuading them about the kingdom of God. But when some were becoming hardened and disobedient, speaking evil of the Way before the people, he withdrew from them and took away the disciples, reasoning daily in the school of Tyrannus. This took place for two years, so that all who lived in Asia heard the word of the Lord, both Jews and Greeks”2

Had Paul followed his own inclination and planning, he would have traveled throughout Asia proclaiming the gospel in one town at a time. Instead, the Spirit placed him in Ephesus at the school of Tyrannus, and for two years people came to receive his teaching. The message multiplied through those he discipled so that “all who lived in Asia heard the word of the Lord.”

The Holy Spirit had a time — and a method — that was much more effective than Paul’s plan. The Spirit knows where each of us should be and when we should be there.

The Spirit knows what we should do.
In the last couple of decades, we have seen explosive church growth around the world. But when the Assemblies of God was birthed, it didn’t have a glorious beginning statistically. Churches planted in other nations tended to be small outstations with few members.

In 1921, the Spirit led missionary Alice Luce to write three articles in the Pentecostal Evangel that focused on the apostle Paul’s missionary methods. As a result of those articles, a resolution was passed at the General Council a few months later to commit the Fellowship to the cause of establishing “self-supporting, self-governing, self-propagating native churches.” These later became known as “indigenous churches.”

When Noel Perkin was chosen to direct AG World Missions in 1927, he was led by the Spirit to aggressively integrate indigenous church principles into our missions practices. Within 20 years, the national churches that followed these principles began to grow significantly.

Until 1953, the U.S. Assemblies of God was larger than all other AG national fellowships combined. But as a direct result of our missions leadership’s commitment to indigenous church principles, accelerating church growth continues throughout the world wherever these principles are followed.

Jesus said, “Go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.”3

To effectively establish the church, we must do what our Lord commanded His first followers to do. A comprehensive scriptural approach reinforces our Lord’s instructions to His disciples to teach people to obey all that He commanded.

Four words summarize our mission statement: reaching, planting, training and touching. John Bueno has termed these the pillars of our mission, the DNA of what we do. Rather than four separate objectives, they are an integrated and comprehensive God-given plan. They represent the four missions practices: evangelizing, establishing churches, training national church leaders, and demonstrating Christ’s compassion to poor and suffering people.

This strategy was not formulated by the Executive Committee of World Missions. It was given by the Spirit of God himself. And God’s designs are much greater than we could conceive on our own.

Reaching, planting, training and touching are biblical mandates we are led by the Spirit to obey. Our strategy for worldwide missions is to cooperate with the Lord of the harvest, who is fulfilling His promise to build His church.

Our missionary founding fathers were led by the Holy Spirit to do what the Word of God taught in the Book of Acts by establishing churches after the New Testament pattern. For more than 80 years, this has been the primary objective of our mission and will continue to be until our Lord’s return.

The Spirit knows how we should fulfill God’s mission in the world.
The secret of incredible church growth throughout the world includes not just where we are and what we do. It also involves how the work is done.

The apostle Paul expressed how he accomplished his mission very simply in his letter to the Corinthians. His message was only “Jesus Christ, and Him crucified.” He did not depend on his own “persuasive words of wisdom” but on the “demonstration of the Spirit and of power.”4

Pentecostals should be attempting things in this world with the keen awareness that if God doesn’t act, we will fail. If we can accomplish something without the Holy Spirit’s help, it may be good — but it won’t be Pentecostal.

Countries that are experiencing great church growth exhibit the same clear pattern: Believers in those countries are fulfilling the church’s mission with the same priorities that Paul expressed to the church in Corinth. As John Bueno said, “The greatest growth takes place when men and women follow the leading of the Spirit according to scriptural principles.”

Our mission is not easy, but it is simple.

Not much frightened the apostle Paul. He wasn’t afraid of the Jewish religious leaders. He wasn’t even afraid of Caesar and the Roman Empire. But in his second letter to the Corinthians, he expressed this fear:

“I am afraid that … your minds will be led astray from the simplicity and purity of devotion to Christ.”5

How do we effectively accomplish our mission? We must have a simple focus on and passion for Jesus as well as a sincere dependence on the Holy Spirit.

These two qualities characterized the apostle Paul’s ministry. They also characterize the churches around the world that are making the greatest impact in reaching the lost and building the church.

The Spirit has a strategy. He knows where we should be. He knows what we should be doing. And He knows how we should do it.

1. Philippians 4:15,16, NASB
2. Acts 19:8-10, NASB
3. Matthew 28:19,20, NIV, emphasis added
4. 1 Corinthians 2:2-4, NASB
5. 2 Corinthians 11:3, NASB

Visit to view videos related to this article — an animated map of Paul’s second missionary journey and motion charts of overseas church growth.

RANDY HURST is communications director for AG World Missions.

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