"At their most recent water baptismal service, they baptized over 2,500 new followers of Jesus."
One of the privileges of my current calling is to be in a variety of international settings with our partners in global mission. Recently, within a matter of a few weeks, I spoke to the leadership of the thriving Assemblies of God fellowship in Ghana, partnered with leading sports ministry personnel at the Rio Olympics, ministered with Susan in churches and a Bible college in Argentina, and participated in leadership at the 24th Pentecostal World Conference in São Paulo, Brazil.
In addition to the privilege of personally serving in these various environments, I am also able to listen, observe and prayerfully ponder the lessons these relationships and settings can teach me. These experiences encourage and challenge me. And they reinforce how I, as a leader, and we, as a family of churches and ministries, must engage in ministry.
I was both encouraged and challenged by our Ghanaian friends. Here in Canada, our shared vision for revitalization and multiplication is that by the end of 2020 we will have 1,500 disciple-making communities serving 350,000 Canadians. Currently, we have almost 1,200 congregational communities serving close to 240,000 persons. While many are supporting this goal, others believe that we have bitten off more than we can chew.
When I arrived in Ghana, I immediately saw Assemblies of God leaders wearing Vision 3000 T-shirts. In a country with two-thirds of Canada’s population, the Assemblies of God Ghana has over 3,000 existing churches in their Fellowship. Their vision is for 100 per cent growth in five years. They are now into their second year, and already they are over 33 per cent of the way to their goal. Churches and leaders clearly understand that multiplying local churches is a normal practice. Leaders are developed, ministry teams formed, resources allocated, collaboration happens, and a new church is birthed. Last year alone, one Christian businessman donated his company’s skills and finances to see 60 new church buildings constructed.
I must confess, when I went to Ghana I was struggling with our 2020 Initiative multiplication goal. Our friends in Ghana reinforced that vision and stirred up a gift of faith within me. This fall we have seen a number of new churches planted and disciple-making communities formed. I’m asking you to pray into this vision we share, encourage church revitalization and multiplication within your own church family, and give generously to support your Fellowship’s efforts to multiply.
I was also encouraged and challenged by the spiritual hunger of our South American brothers and sisters. For a sustained season, God has been at work in their nations transforming lives, families and communities. I met with mayors and governmental leaders who indicated that Pentecostal leaders were some of the first people they consulted on societal issues in their communities.
I was deeply impacted in a plenary session of the Pentecostal World Conference when our Brazilian colleague, Pastor José Wellington Costa, reminded us that to be the people God calls us to be, we need the operation of the Holy Spirit in our churches. He then told us that an usher who had served us in the service the night before had died. Now that got our attention! The man had dropped dead during a recent event at the church. Doctors in the congregation applied CPR and other procedures, but nothing revived him. They pronounced him dead. Pastor Wellington, prompted by the Spirit, stepped to the microphone and declared that they were to celebrate life, not death. He then prayed that the man would be raised back to life. The man immediately stood up, and he has continued to serve as an usher from that moment on.
Pastor Wellington indicated that the baptismal pool on the platform was not just for decorative purposes. At their most recent water baptismal service, they baptized over 2,500 new followers of Jesus. He reminded us again that we would not see the transformational work of God in our country unless we hunger for God and depend on His Spirit’s work. Our 2020 Initiative calls for churches that are spiritually vital as a result of their intimate walk with Christ and their dependency on the Spirit. This conviction was reinforced by the Spirit’s work among our South American friends.
Lastly, I was encouraged and challenged on this trip by the global service of Canadians, both past and present. PAOC affiliated workers Ray and Margi Bradbury, along with their son, Jeff, are planting a church in one of the more challenging areas of central Buenos Aires, Argentina. Interestingly, in the late 1920s, Margi’s grandfather, Fred Clements, and his family felt called to Henderson, Argentina, a rural town outside of Buenos Aires. They served faithfully there for 10 years and planted the third Assemblies of God church in the entire country. Fred died in 1939, and for the next six years his oldest daughter provided leadership to the church. The family returned to Canada in 1945, when Howard and Kay Kerr went to serve as pastors.
The church in Henderson has flourished. It’s estimated that more than 800 pastors have been sent out from that church to plant other churches and ministries. After pastoring the church, the Kerrs went on to establish a Bible college. Instituto Bíblico Río de la Plata has been instrumental in mentoring an entire generation of leaders who have been used by the Lord in the Argentine and global revivals of the last 50 years.
We honour these trailblazers who set an example of missional vitality for future generations to follow.
Lord of the harvest, we celebrate the faithfulness of our brothers and sisters, both past and present. We are encouraged and challenged by their example. Holy Spirit, empower us with ever-increasing faith to build on what You have accomplished through them. For Your glory. Amen.”
This article appeared in the November/December issue of testimony, a bimonthly publication of The Pentecostal Assemblies of Canada. ©2016 The Pentecostal Assemblies of Canada.