[Note: This is part two in a series examining the history of the Assemblies of God and the lessons we can draw from it. You might find it helpful to start with part one.]
As I mentioned in the last post, the story of the Assemblies of God is very much the story of a people empowered by the Holy Spirit to do amazing things. The books of Acts reads very much the same. What’s sad, however, is that this is not what our story reads like now. The story of the Assemblies of God in the early 20th century was dramatic and intense, while our story in the 21st century has become as dull as the previous century’s was exciting. This quote from my text brought the whole issue home for me:
What caused the dramatic growth in the Pentecostal Movement and the Assemblies of God in the early 1900’s? While better organization and finances were factors, the real answer is the people. Pentecostal people were willing to use any method to reach the world….They boldy evangelized because they knew God would give results. Pentecostals sacrificed themselves to build churches and win the lost. They gave God the glory and testified: “God did it all!”
Whatever It Takes
The condemnation is pretty heavy here, right? It gets heavier. Time and again, throughout this study on the history of our assembly, this is the refrain: Pentecostals did whatever it took to spread the Gospel. Can the same be said for us? Would we embrace methods that don’t appeal to us personally so that we might see the lost find Christ? Would we willingly venture down a path that might cost us our comfort, culture, even our safety for even a chance to see souls saved and lives changed? Will we take on the attitude of Paul for the sake of the lost, in response to the heart of God?
Though I am free and belong to no one, I have made myself a slave to everyone, to win as many as possible. To the Jews I became like a Jew, to win the Jews. To those under the law I became like one under the law (though I myself am not under the law), so as to win those under the law. To those not having the law I became like one not having the law (though I am not free from God’s law but am under Christ’s law), so as to win those not having the law. To the weak I became weak, to win the weak. I have become all things to all people so that by all possible means I might save some. I do all this for the sake of the gospel, that I may share in its blessings.
1 Corinthians 9:19-23
Paul changed his behavior, changed his culture, changed anything he could in order to relate to and then preach to those who were lost. He didn’t consider his personal tastes or even his own culture so valuable as to prevent him from reaching the lost.
Do we have that commitment to the Gospel that we won’t let anything get in our way? We say that we believe the Bible, but do we really believe that those who aren’t in relationship with Jesus, aren’t covered by His grace, are going to spend eternity in hell?
Leonard Ravenhill, in his book Why Revival Taries, recounts a story about Charlie Peace, a notorious English criminal, who was about to be executed. A minister had been brought in to help Peace prepare his soul for judgement. When the minister began to read to him about the fires of hell, Peace asked the minister if he truly believed in hell. The minster said that he did. Peace replied:
“Sir, if I believed what you and the church of God say that you believe, even if England were covered with broken glass from coast to coast, I would walk over it, if need be, on hands and knees, and think it worth while living, just to save one soul from an eternal hell like that!”
And those were the words of a man who had spent his life in sin. We have spent out lives in the church. Can we not match the passion of his words with our spirit-filled, spirit-directed action?
It was the people whom God used last century to spread the Gospel and the testimony of a spirit-filled life, and it will be up to the people to respond to God’s call to do the same a hundred years later.
[Quote via Assemblies of God: History, Missions, and Governance by Gary McGee, Annette Newberry, and Randy Hedlun, 7th edition, p. 37]