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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. ...

What We're Doing Right

By George O. Wood
Aug. 3, 2014

If you were alive in 1914, would you have been in that famous photo of the approximately 300 men and women who formed the Assemblies of God in Hot Springs, Ark.?

Many more were invited than came. Those who came made history. They formed a Fellowship that now spans the globe, with a new church opening every 39 minutes and a new convert won to Christ every 25 seconds.

The Fellowship has grown from the original 300 who were at Hot Springs to more than 67 million worshipping in 360,000-plus churches today! May we give praise to the Lord for this remarkable growth!

We did not bring this about! There is no human way possible that the 300 who gathered in Hot Springs, or all those who came afterward, could have accomplished what has been done. We take no pride in the growth of the Assemblies of God because it is God’s doing.

The reason for our 100 years of growth is the same as told in Paul and Barnabas’ account of their first missionary journey: “They gathered the church together and reported all that God had done through them” (Acts 14:27, NIV).

Oh yes, folks labored. Our history also includes martyrs for the gospel. There are endless accounts of sowers who went to the harvest fields of this world and labored with tears. Sure, there has been great effort. Pastors, evangelists, missionaries, teachers and helpers worked hard wherever God called them. Signs followed those who believed.

Missionaries laid to rest their children in countries where there was no medical help. Pioneering pastors pitched tents and brush arbors, gathered in rented halls and lodges, believing that God would build His Church.

But with all the labors the fact remains — unless the Lord builds the house, the labor is in vain. Only God could have accomplished what we are experiencing today.

Now, the question is this: Having begun in the Spirit, will we end in the flesh?

My parents were pioneer missionaries in China and Tibet. When the door was closed to further ministry there, they left behind a church of somewhere between 100 and 200 souls. Four decades went by. My parents never heard again from their beloved people. Mom died first, then Dad.

Finally, I was able to return to China. I met Pastor Mung, who had preached the last Sunday we were there in 1949. He was now 80 years of age. He told me the long story of the church being closed, believers scattered, himself being sent to prison, and then years of probation. He finally opened the church again with 30 elderly believers when he was 75.

In those intervening five years since the reopening, the church had grown to 1,500 adult baptized believers. I responded in shock at the news and asked him, “How did this happen?”

I am sure he thought to himself that I had asked an uninformed question. So many of us are tempted to think that church growth is all about getting the right technique or importing a revival that’s taking place somewhere else.

I’ll never forget the answer Pastor Mung gave explaining the remarkable growth of his church. “Well,” he said, “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever; and we pray a lot!” He then went on to describe what the Lord had done with signs following over those years.

I tell that story because it is a lesson for us as we celebrate the Centennial and start our next 100 years.

We’re doing a lot of things right.

We have the right doctrine. I believe that if the apostles were present and looked at our Statement of Fundamental Truths they would say, “That’s what we believed. You have it right.” If I didn’t believe the apostles would say that, I’d find a church whose doctrine they would approve!

We have the right mission. Jesus is the Head of the Church, and we are His body. The Body must follow the direction coming from the Head. What did Jesus do? He came to seek and to save the lost — thus, we evangelize. He said, “Follow Me” — thus, we disciple those coming to Him. Jesus showed mercy — thus, we do works of compassion. And our Lord glorified the Father — thus, we worship.

We have the right core values. These have marked our spiritual DNA for the century past and should for the years to come:

•We must passionately proclaim Jesus as Savior, Baptizer in the Holy Spirit, Healer, and Soon Coming King.

•We must strategically invest in the next generation.

•We must vigorously plant new churches and revitalize existing ones.

•We must skillfully resource our people.

•We must fervently pray for God’s favor and blessing as we serve Him with pure hearts and noble purpose.

We have the right tactics. The model of My Healthy Church, drawn from Acts 2, puts before our people the tracks that a thriving church runs on: connect, grow, serve, go and worship.

But doing things right does not guarantee our future.

Look at the Laodicean church, an example of how churches die! They become rich, acquire wealth, and don’t need a thing (Revelation 3:17). There are church buildings all over Europe and in mainline denominations where once people gathered to worship. Now, those magnificent structures are used for community centers, mosques, restaurants, and dance halls.

What happened? Jesus got locked out of His own church (Revelation 3:20). I trust and pray Jesus will never get locked outside the Assemblies of God!

As we continue to extend the reach of the gospel in the years to come, it will only be done in the power of the Holy Spirit. Church growth, missions, and the expansion of the gospel cannot be accomplished by human effort alone.

We must instead live with a paradox that the more Spirit-filled we are, the more dependent we must become.

We must recognize it’s the Lord who builds His Church. It’s His Church, not ours. It’s not the Assemblies of Us! We are the Assemblies of God!

For sure — let’s keep our doctrine right. Let’s hold to the faith “once for all delivered to the saints” — neither adding to nor taking from Scripture.

Let us keep focused on our mission, recognizing always that our mission is local and global — that we must have nearsighted vision for our community and farsighted vision for the mission fields worldwide.

Let’s not depart from our core values. We live in an era of novelty, of an endless quest for discovering what’s new. We need to stay both planted and relevant. Values help us stay on track

Let’s engage in the right tactics. The main things are the plain things; and the plain things are the main things. Connect, grow, serve, go and worship form the skeletal structure of all we do in seeing a healthy church.

Above all, let us keep foremost a constant hunger for more of Jesus. The watchword of Pentecostal experience is “More”! We need more of Him, more power, more anointing, more blessing, more of everything. Without Him, we can do nothing! Jesus himself said that to us!

As the apostle Paul wraps up His prayer in Ephesians 3:20, he says, “Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us ... ” Notice the two words “immeasurably more.”

We use metrics all the time, even in church work. We ask one another, “How many do you have? What was the attendance Easter Sunday? How much did you give to missions?” Measurements form the answers to these questions.

Nevertheless, Paul prays for the “immeasurably more”! Look back 100 years to the first General Council in 1914. Do you think God answered our forebears’ prayers with the “immeasurably more”? I think so.

None of them could have imagined the worldwide scope of our Fellowship today. (Oh, I know we measure with 366,000 churches and 67.5 million believers — but to those early saints these numbers would have been “immeasurably more.”)

If Jesus delays His return for some time, what will the “immeasurably more” look like? As we celebrate this centennial of the Assemblies of God, I pray we are on the verge of the “immeasurably more,” that God will do a work in our day that will astound us! Selah!

It is not by might, nor by power, but by His Spirit!

You and I were not in that original picture of the 300 in Hot Springs a century ago. However, we are here today! We can be in the picture of what God is doing in 2014 and the years to come!

Let’s believe God that we can be just like Abraham. If he could become a father at age 100, then we can believe God will birth His work through us in a powerful way in the days that lie ahead!

DR. GEORGE O. WOOD is general superintendent of the U.S. Assemblies of God and chairman of the World AG Fellowship.


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