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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. ...




Nothing Less

By Randy Hurst
Feb. 6, 2011

Reaching the lost. Planting churches. Training believers. Touching the poor and suffering.

We are engaged in all of these. Why? Because we can’t choose which of our Lord’s commands we obey. Lordship requires complete obedience. Nothing less.

Our mission is to REACH the lost with the message of Christ.
No one communicated the truth about eternal issues as clearly as Jesus did. He poignantly revealed the priority of reaching the lost with these words: “There will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance” (Luke 15:7, NASB).

If it is true that every person will face eternity and Jesus is the Savior of the whole world, then everyone must be told. It’s that simple.

The Bible teaches that every person faces only two possible eternal destinations — heaven or hell. In principle, no one is more lost than anyone else. But there is a difference. Not all spiritually lost people have the same access to the saving hope of the gospel. This fact compelled the apostle Paul to keep pressing into “regions beyond” where Christ had not yet been proclaimed.

More than 170 million Americans are lost, and we are obligated by the Lord to reach them. But consider also that Americans have access to 24/7 Christian television networks, numerous Christian radio stations and 140,000 evangelical churches.  About one in three Americans claims to know Christ, compared with one in 7 in Brazil, one in 15 in China, one in 20 in Burkina Faso, one in 48 in Czech Republic, one in 50 in India, one in 200 in Thailand, and one in 20,000 in Turkey.

Around the world, a comparison between the more than 63 million church members in Assemblies of God fraternal fellowships and the estimated 4.4 billion people in the world who still lack an adequate witness of the gospel shows an ironic reversal of the 99 to 1 ratio in the Parable of the Lost Sheep in Luke 15. The number of believers attending Assemblies of God churches worldwide equals just more than 1 percent of the world’s unreached. Any joy over those safely in the fold is far overshadowed by the sobering reality of those still lost and without access to an adequate witness of the saving message of Jesus Christ.

As with the apostle Paul, we must seek to proclaim the good news where Christ has not been named. It is unacceptable that the message of Jesus has not been adequately presented to more than two-thirds of the world’s population. How tragic it is that some people can hear the message again and again when others have never heard it once.

Our mission is to PLANT indigenous New Testament churches.
We are called not only to reap a worldwide harvest but also to help conserve it. Unless those reached through evangelism are discipled, they will never become spiritually mature and productive.

In the Parable of the Sower, Jesus clearly shows that genuine spiritual life can begin in a heart and yet die from the scorching sun of persecution or the choking thorns of temporal needs and the desire for riches. The seed must be watered and cultivated so life can survive, endure and multiply.

A resolution made in 1914 at the second Assemblies of God General Council states: “We commit ourselves and the Movement to Him for the greatest evangelism the world has ever seen.”

Another resolution passed at the 1921 Council determined how the Fellowship could expect to fulfill that astounding declaration made seven years earlier. It stipulated that our mission would be guided by “New Testament practices” and “seek to establish self-supporting, self-propagating and self-governing native churches” — known simply today as “indigenous churches.”

An indigenous church begins, grows and multiplies in its natural environment. Our mission is to plant local bodies of believers that will not be dependent on the church that sent the missionaries.

During the past five decades, a clear perspective has emerged. Wherever indigenous church practices are applied, the national church becomes strong, healthy and self-multiplying. Wherever indigenous church principles are not practiced, the national church remains weak and dependent. In some cases, it must be reestablished.

As a healthy national church grows and matures, the missionary relationship progresses from spiritual parenting to spiritual partnering. This progression became increasingly evident in the 1980s and 1990s. As missionaries and national churches committed themselves to intense evangelism in the 1990s, the strategy of partnering with indigenous churches produced the greatest growth in the history of our mission. During the last two decades, Assemblies of God fraternal fellowships around the world have increased in membership from 16 million to more than 63 million.

Clearly, the accelerating multiplication and lasting growth of Assemblies of God fraternal fellowships throughout the world can be attributed to the New Testament practices to which our early leadership committed themselves in 1921. The founders of our Fellowship could hardly have imagined what we see today, and the long-term results have almost certainly exceeded their greatest hopes and expectations.

Our mission is to TRAIN believers for effective service.
When Jesus chose the Twelve, He “summoned those whom He Himself wanted” (Mark 3:13). He still does.

In the Parable of the Workers in the Vineyard, Jesus revealed that as the end of the harvest day nears, He will return repeatedly to recruit laborers for the fields yet untouched. He doesn’t send an angelic messenger. He comes personally to the marketplace to call workers.

Today, all over the world, the Lord is personally summoning those He wants. The urgency of the end-time harvest remaining in the field compels us to respond.

The apostle Paul instructed Timothy: “The things which you have heard from me … entrust these to faithful men who will be able to teach others also” (2 Timothy 2:2).

Changing times and technological advances provide new methods in missions, but the primary means God uses to establish His Church is the same today as when He commanded His first followers: by discipling people as He did. Even in the face of challenges and increasing restrictions, the work of discipleship essentially involves one follower of Christ preparing another to do the same. This method for accomplishing our Lord’s mission on earth is then multiplied through His followers, one person at a time.

Paul instructed Timothy and Titus to appoint elders and deacons in every new church. This practice exemplifies the Holy Spirit’s work of raising up and equipping leaders wherever the Church is established. The priority in training leaders is not merely for personal fulfillment and advancement, even though educating people for that purpose is right and good. The primary objective of education in Assemblies of God World Missions is to train spiritual leaders to serve effectively as the pastors, evangelists, teachers and missionaries — gifts to the Church as the Spirit intended them to be.

Confidence in the Spirit’s power to call and enable national leadership prompted Assemblies of God missionaries to develop ministry training institutions all over the world. Currently, 899 Bible schools and 1,182 extensions are preparing more than 100,000 students in 144 countries for participation in the end-time harvest.

From the selection of Jesus’ first disciples to the present, the Lord continues to call each laborer into His harvest field. We are commanded by Him as a mission to equip those whom He has chosen to “teach others also.”

Our mission is to TOUCH the poor and suffering with the compassion of Christ.
Unless the needs of man’s eternal soul are addressed, any effort to meet his physical and social needs is both incomplete and temporary.

We believe the words of Jesus: “For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world, and forfeit his soul?” (Mark 8:36). If we must choose between ministering to physical needs alone or doing so while presenting the gospel and connecting people with a church where they can grow in Christ, the choice is clear.

From the beginning of our mission, Spirit-filled missionaries have reached out to suffering people. Why? Because both the commands of God’s Word and the Spirit of Christ within them would not allow them to “pass by on the other side” when seeing someone in need. But a major difference exists between how we minister to those in need and how secular and even parachurch organizations do.

Historically, many missions organizations have diluted their missionary purpose and become agencies of social reform at the exclusion of proclaiming the gospel. For us, compassion ministry is always integrated with sharing the gospel and establishing the church. While giving medical care or food, our missionaries always attempt in some way to share the good news of Christ and connect people with a church.

Our most effective distribution network for compassion ministries is the more than 330,000 Assemblies of God churches around the world. Believers are prepared not only to help meet the needs of people around them, but also to share the gospel and offer the lost a  spiritual family where they can grow in the Lord.

In some countries, compassion ministry is the primary means through which doors open to the gospel. As a result of our response to disasters and other crises, new believers have accepted the gospel message, and new churches have been established.

The fourth part of our complete mission statement says, “We are touching poor and suffering people with the compassion of Jesus Christ and inviting them to become His followers.” Assemblies of God missionaries and compassion ministries do not merely touch people’s physical needs. They also reach people with the good news about Jesus.

"Make disciples of all nations ... teaching them to obey all that I commanded" (Matthew 28:19,20).
Engaging in a worldwide mission is not easy, but it is simple: obedience.

To be committed to our Lord’s mission means being submitted to His lordship. Obeying merely part of His commands to His Church is intolerable.

Not only is complete obedience essential for us, but it also produces the greatest results.

We are approaching the 100th anniversary of the Assemblies of God in a few years. If the founders of our mission are to be honored, it is not for their strategic wisdom and insight or even for their great courage and faith. What is most commendable is simply their focused, passionate obedience to our Lord’s commands and their unreserved committment to the guidance of the Spirit and biblical principles. They obeyed, even though they certainly could not anticipate the incredible results of their obedience.

Unlike many church bodies whose missions focus 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” (Mark 16:15, NKJV, emphasis added).

Their bold response to Jesus’ command is astounding. How could such a small group even consider attempting to preach the gospel in all the world? They didn’t even have the resources we have today, but they believed both Jesus’ command to reach the whole world and also His promise that they would receive the Spirit’s power to do it (Acts 1:8). Their response was not from mere enthusiasm. They committed themselves to a purposeful mission guided by biblical directives.

Our mission is an integrated plan involving reaching, planting, training and touching. Its distinctiveness is not just its commitment to these four practices, but how they work together to achieve our primary objective — establishing the Church.

Parachurch organizations focus primarily on one aspect of missions, usually evangelism or compassion ministry. Few are involved in training national leaders, and almost none are involved in church planting. But the Church must do everything our Lord commanded.

More than 4 billion people still wait for an adequate witness of the gospel. Such overwhelming need of the unreached in our world challenges us to do all we can to get the gospel to everyone we can. But obedience to our Lord’s commands remains our primary motivation.

Jesus began the Great Commission by saying, “All authority is given unto me in heaven and on earth …” His lordship is the foundation of all that we do.

The apostle Paul wrote: “Christ’s love compels us, because we are convinced that one died for all, and therefore all died. And he died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again” (2 Corinthians 5:14,15, NIV).

As Isaac Watts expressed in a well-known hymn, “Love so amazing, so divine, demands my soul, my life, my all” (When I Survey the Wondrous Cross, 1707).

Jesus’ sacrifice for us should move us to complete obedience to all He commanded. Nothing less.


RANDY HURST is communications director for AG World Missions.

Email your comments to pe@ag.org.