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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. ...

Assemblies of God Global Perspective

By William Molenaar
Aug. 3, 2014

A life-transforming relationship with God, through the healing work of Christ on the cross and the baptism in the Holy Spirit, has always been central to the missionary identity of the Assemblies of God. As a result, the AG is one of the largest families of Christian churches in the world.

In 2013, the AG reported more than 67.5 million followers in 366,105 churches around the world. However, many may not understand the nature of this global fellowship, known as the World Assemblies of God Fellowship (WAGF).

The WAGF is the global Assemblies of God fellowship of Pentecostal national churches in a familial relationship with one another.1  Many national churches that hold membership in the WAGF emerged from the missions efforts of the AG USA.

Early AG USA missionaries rejected a colonial missions method and accepted indigenous church principles of developing self-supporting, self-governing, self-propagating national churches. However, it is important to note that some national churches began separately from the AG USA.

For example, the largest national church, the Assembléias de Deus in Brazil, began in 1911, three years before the founding General Council of the AG in 1914. Today, over 150 AG national churches operate with their own authority, and form the WAGF as a global cooperative fellowship. 

In the late 1980s, AG World Missions leader J. Philip Hogan invited international church leaders to gather for “Decade of Harvest” conferences in Springfield, Mo., to prepare for an intense effort of global evangelization for the last decade before the year 2000.

While the 1988 conference recommended the creation of an international AG fellowship, it was not until the 1989 conference that the vision for the WAGF became a reality. Fears of western domination were calmed as the Holy Spirit brought a sense of equality and unity to national church leaders. Many saw the necessity for mutual dependence in order to work together effectively in the Great Commission.

In the beginning there was much discussion about the authority structure and the scope of power of the WAGF upon the AG national churches. Some wanted a loose organization and some desired a strong organization. However, together delegates agreed to make the WAGF a consulting and non-lawmaking assembly that would respect the authority of the national churches. 

The purpose of the WAGF is “to pursue the fulfillment of the Lord’s command to evangelize the lost in the shortest possible time, providing them the opportunity to hear and respond to the gospel in all of its fullness, by encouraging and assisting one another, promoting harmonious relationships among ourselves and the broader body of Christ, and seeking the most effective means of its accomplishment under the dynamic leadership of the Holy Spirit.”2

In order to fulfill this purpose, the WAGF has devoted itself to the following tasks:

1. To uphold one another in prayer.

2. To support and encourage one another in the task of missions and evangelism.

3. To promote Christian fellowship and cooperation among Assemblies of God people throughout the world.

4. To provide means of consultation and cooperation among the members and related agencies.

5. To share mutual concerns and insights relating to any crucial, spiritual and temporal issues of the Church.

6. To administer relief in times of crises.

7. To promote exchange of personnel in special areas of ministry.

8. To disseminate helpful information and up-to-date statistics for the benefit of the Church.

9. To be a voice to the world and governments in defense of the faith, social justice, and persecuted believers, as the largest single Pentecostal group.

10. To cooperate with the broader body of Christ whenever possible.3

The WAGF’s primary activities center upon the General Assembly that meets every three years. These world congresses are a time of prayer, thanksgiving, seeking God, and strengthening relationships across the global AG family for greater effectiveness in the mission of God. Also, regionally elected representatives meet as the Executive Council every year to make decisions on behalf of the General Assembly and set the agenda for the WAGF. 

Initially, the focus of the WAGF consisted of developing more intentional communication between the national churches through correspondence, newsletters, and prayer plans. Formal cooperative programs developed more slowly over time.

In 1993, the WAGF developed one of its most significant programs, the World Assemblies of God Relief Agency (WAGRA). WAGRA was designed to create a way for members of the AG family who were in need to be aided by other members who have more resources.

The original four objectives of the WAGRA were: 1) crisis and disaster response, 2) health and community services programs, 3) development and maintenance programs, and 4) environmental concerns. Over the years the focus has narrowed to mainly crisis and disaster response.

The WAGF has three main committees. First, the WAGF’s Commission on Religious Liberty works with other human rights agencies and governments on behalf of church members who are suffering persecution, oppression, or restriction. Second, the Theological Commission oversees doctrinal matters. Lastly, the Missions Commission encourages the formation of strategic partnerships among missions organizations.

A number of international ministries also serve to unify the worldwide AG family of churches, including: Teen Challenge, Convoy of Hope, Global University, Global Initiative (formerly Center for Ministry to Muslims), Flower Pentecostal Heritage Center, Royal Rangers International, Healthcare Ministries, and others.

Since its formation in 1989, the WAGF has experienced great growth. From 1989 to 2013, the AG family expanded from 18 million to 67 million followers, from 140,116 to 384,205 ministers and missionaries, and from 128,642 to 366,105 churches and preaching points. Currently, the WAGF has set goals to see 500,000 churches and 100 million adherents by the year 2020.4

The WAGF has brought greater unity and a sense of identity to the family of AG churches around the world. At the same time, there are still possibilities for growth in unity, intercession, and creativity to enhance cooperation in fulfilling the Great Commission.

The WAGF offers an opportunity for the AG to be known as a people of reconciliation across all racial, ethnic, linguistic, and socio-economic boundaries, since “we were all baptized in one Spirit so as to form one body, whether Jews or Gentiles, slave or free, and we were all given the one Spirit to drink” (1 Corinthians 12:13).

WILLIAM MOLENAAR (M.Div., Assemblies of God Theological Seminary) is Digital Archivist at the Flower Pentecostal Heritage Center, Springfield, Mo.

1 For more information see: William Molenaar, “The World Assemblies of God Fellowship: United in the Missionary Spirit,” Assemblies of God Heritage 31 (2011): 40-47.

2 2005 WAGF Constitution, 1.

3 2005 WAGF Constitution, 6.

4 See “Official Statistics Assemblies of God Division of Foreign Missions, 1989” (Springfield, MO: DFM, 1989); “1989 US Statistical Report”; and “Worldwide Assemblies of God Constituency 2013 Report” (Springfield, MO: AGWM, 2014). Please keep in mind that these are the only numbers one currently has access to regarding the WAGF, and that these numbers include Pentecostal national churches which are not formally members of the WAGF. While there are no official WAGF statistics, growth is still evident.

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