PE: The ethnic churches
in the Assemblies of God are growing rapidly, aren’t they?
Absolutely. We must do more, however, to equip these churches
with literature and materials in their language. Through our Vision
for Transformation process –– as we endeavor to make
adjustments that will make the Assemblies of God even more effective
in this culture — we have asked that the geographical districts
and their presbyteries make provision for ethnic representation
and that ethnic districts provide Anglo representation on their
presbyteries. The church needs to be a composite of people of
all nations, of all races, of all tribes, of all backgrounds.
As I travel, I see more and more ethnic diversity on our church
boards. I believe that’s pleasing to the Lord and healthy
for the church.
We have a lot more
work to do. But the ethnic fellowships are a huge component of
the Assemblies of God’s overall growth. So we’re looking
for ways to facilitate that growth. One of the steps we’ve
taken is to bring credentialing back to the local church. The
local church will be able to give a credential. We need to recognize
life experience. I know of a man who has been pastoring a church
for 20 years and he didn’t have a credential. He’s
proven himself. We’re not here to create speed bumps and
roadblocks. We are here to say, “We appreciate you, your
passion, your faithfulness and your vision. We’re going
to come alongside you and we’re going to make it possible
for you to be credentialed by the Assemblies of God.”
We’ve also removed
all the roadblocks from being able to plant churches. If a couple
comes along and says that God has laid a city upon their heart
to go and start a church, doors need to be opened for them to
follow the call of God without a lot of unnecessary red tape.
I’m a firm believer that the closer we come to the structure
with which we were organized as a fellowship, the better. A denomination
becomes restrictive; it builds in all kinds of by-laws and constitutions
and policies and procedures. But that’s not the Kingdom
mentality and that’s not the New Testament and that was
not why we were formed. We were formed to be a cooperative fellowship
— which is a releasing agency. Let’s have a Kingdom
mentality. Let’s not worry about the Assemblies of God.
God will take care of the Assemblies of God if we will focus on
building the kingdom of God.
PE: Some suggest
that the church is no longer relevant to culture and society.
What encouragement would you give to pastors and laypeople in
terms of being relevant to the culture in which they live?
The church has to be careful that the culture of society doesn’t
change the culture of the church. The church was meant to change
the culture of the world. That is why Jesus said that we are the
salt of the earth, we are the light of the world. A balance has
to be found, however, to be culturally relevant. When people come
into the church their needs must be met and they should be loved
and cared for. When that takes place, the church is affecting
Even though some of
the trappings of the culture have changed, people’s basic
needs are the same. Look at the Gospels. Jesus met the needs of
people. Whether it was the outcast woman at the well or the tax
collector Zaccheus or someone who needed to be healed, He met
their needs. That’s what the church is called to do. That
can be done in any culture. Meeting needs is effective in any
culture. While it is imperative that we understand trends and
specific generational groups like postmoderns and millenials,
we can’t just focus on any one culture. We must effectively
share Christ with all kinds of people. People are people. Needs
are needs. Let’s not put on all these trappings and miss
the mission God has given to us — to love the Lord our God
with all our hearts and love our neighbors as ourselves. This
whole matter of the church being relevant is so simple. If the
church will pray, if the church will love and if the church will
reach out and minister to people, I want to tell you, people will
flock to the church. It’s not complicated. If it’s
complicated, it’s because we made it complicated. It’s
not because the gospel made it complicated. It’s the compassionate
churches that are growing; people are coming in, then they’re
going out and touching their friends and touching others.
look beyond the boundaries of the church. When you consider the
spiritual climate of the nation, does it concern you?
It does. America was once known as a Christian nation. We can’t
say that anymore. We’re not a Christian nation, and the
moral slide that we are on is happening so fast that the only
agency that can turn this around is a Spirit-empowered church.
It’s not going to happen through government. It’s
not going to happen through legislation. It’s going to be
when the church is salt, when the church is light. Believers must
be willing to stand up and speak up because silence is a voice
of support. If we don’t say anything we’re giving
silent assent to those who would impose their anti-God worldview
on our nation.
Believers must exercise
their God-given privilege and responsibility to vote. And I’m
not talking about voting for a party. I’m talking about
voting for a principle. I believe that we can make a difference
in this nation. But it isn’t going to happen by sitting
on our hands. I am encouraged because we have people like Marilyn
Musgrave in Congress. She has been a part of offering the constitutional
amendment to preserve marriage in this country. I believe this
whole same-sex marriage controversy is a wake-up call to us as
a nation. It had better be, because our liberties are diminishing
fast. We have judges in the judicial system who are not interpreting
the law; they’re creating law. That is a dangerous position
for this nation. The Constitution never provided for that. Believers
have a responsibility to stand up and let our voice be heard.
PE: What are your
fears if the church remains silent? What happens if the church
doesn’t reach out beyond the walls of the sanctuary to help
people and just lets our society disintegrate?
America will come under God’s judgment. Billy Graham said
it well. If God doesn’t judge America for its immorality,
He’ll have to apologize to Sodom and Gomorrah. Who would
ever have dreamt 20 years ago that this nation would have fallen
to this depth? We are vomiting out tons and tons of pornography.
Elementary school children today have access to pornography and
this is having such a devastating effect upon the next generation
of this country. And we haven’t seen the end of that. Young
people who are into pornography today will grow into adulthood
and then into marriage. You’re going to see such a turn
for the worse in the American family that it is frightening. People
cannot consume that filth without being affected.
Let’s go back
30 years when we as a nation began allowing abortion and we said
life was no longer precious. We’re taking hundreds of thousands
of lives every year. You have people in some states voting for
the right to end their lives with the help of their doctor. And
you have young people being raised in a culture of death going
on shooting rampages in their schools.
When you violate God’s
Word, God in His mercy, in His longsuffering and in His kindness
gives us as a nation time to repent. But there will come a time
when God will have to judge America. And God will hold the church
responsible because the purpose of the church is to be the conscience
to the world. If we’re not that conscience there is not
another agency that will fill that role.
PE: Believers have
a lot more responsibility for this nation than some might think.
Yes, the responsibility for this country’s welfare lies
at the door of the church and at the pulpit of every minister.
Our responsibility as believers is to confront our culture with
PE: You touched
on this earlier, but the significance of the baptism in the Holy
Spirit can’t be separated from the church’s mission.
Talk about the importance of the Baptism to the local believer,
to the local church and to the church as a whole.
Pentecostal experience is summarized in Acts 1:8. “And ye
shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you:
and ye shall be witnesses unto me.” The enduing of power
was to be the means of living the Christian life and communicating
that life to a lost world. The baptism in the Holy Spirit gives
the believer power outside of his ability or her ability to be
able to live for Jesus Christ, to be a witness. Your life will
radiate; your life will be a witness of Jesus Christ.
The baptism in the
Holy Spirit, being a Pentecostal church, the gifts of the Spirit
in operation, people being empowered so that they can live for
Christ — these are the keys to a vibrant body of believers
who transform their society and their culture. Only one power
can break the power of drugs, and it’s the power of Jesus
Christ. The power of the Holy Spirit is able to set free and deliver.
Whether it be alcoholism, whether it be a deviant lifestyle, whether
it be bondage to pornography, the power of the Holy Spirit can
break that chain and break that hold on any life.
God raised up the Assemblies
of God to be a Pentecostal church. That we number some 51 million
believers worldwide after these 90-plus years is not because of
the Assemblies of God. It’s not because of our programs;
it’s not because of our resources; it’s not because
we’ve learned how to grow an organization. It is only because
of the enablement of the Holy Spirit.
It has been the Holy
Spirit’s empowerment that has brought this church to this
point in our history and if we continue to seek and depend upon
Him, He will continue to equip us to fulfill the Great Commission
until Jesus comes.
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