Conversation: Zollie L. Smith Jr.
Called to serve the United States
Zollie L. Smith Jr. was elected executive director of
Assemblies of God U.S. Missions at the 52nd General Council in August. Prior to
taking the reins of U.S. Missions, Smith served as the executive presbyter
representing the AG’s Ethnic Fellowships and as president of the National Black
Fellowship. Smith fought in Vietnam, where he was awarded the Purple Heart and
Bronze Star, and also served as a police officer and a U.S. Postal Service
inspector. Recently, Smith shared his greatest passion and what he thinks is
the nation’s greatest need with Managing Editor Kirk Noonan.
tpe: What is the spiritual climate in the United States?
SMITH: Having been extremely successful on so many fronts
including economically, academically and in industry, we have come to rely on
our humanity and intellect rather than on God. In other words, we are
spiritually disconnected from God, and because of that there has been a
spiritual decline throughout our country.
tpe: Many countries in Europe have slid from their spiritual
moorings. What can American Christians learn from such a situation?
SMITH: Mainline denominations in Europe and America are
dying because they have held onto their traditions and have refused to change
their ministry methods as society has changed. We can’t compromise our
theology, but we have to alter our methods so we can keep reaching people for
tpe: What are some of the missteps the Church makes when it
comes to fulfilling the Great Commission?
SMITH: It seems that some people in the Church have
forgotten about salvation, the great work of the Cross, and that Jesus is our
Savior and Lord. As a result, they’ve become complacent and entangled in the
affairs of the world to the point they don’t see the suffering, pain and
anguish of people who don’t know Jesus as their Savior and are on their way to
tpe: A commonly held misconception is that if a person lives
in the United States he or she has heard a clear presentation of the gospel at
least once — but you don’t think that is always the case?
SMITH: The founding fathers of the Assemblies of God knew
that as Pentecostals we had — and have — to be evangelistic.
Unfortunately, many followers of Christ today, including some Pentecostal
believers, have not been as intense about proclaiming the gospel as they should
be. That needs to change.
America is one of the greatest mission fields in the world.
Satan is out to steal, kill and destroy. We must realize this and not become complacent.
We have to be ready to fight the good fight.
The best way to do this is with the gospel message because
that is the only good news for humanity. There is no other salvation than
through Jesus Christ, and Christians must proclaim this gospel.
tpe: Will part of your portfolio as executive director be to
help embolden people to share their faith?
SMITH: God has burdened me to make sure our missionaries and
chaplains spread the gospel with intensity and fervency. Not one person in the
United States should die without having been presented with the gospel.
tpe: You’ve said when someone commits their life to Jesus,
followers of Christ should get excited.
SMITH: We need to celebrate each person who accepts Jesus
Christ as Savior. The Scriptures teach that heaven rejoices when a human being
leads another to Christ. The number one thing we must do is lead people to the
tpe: Is discipleship also a priority for you?
SMITH: Winning souls and making disciples are the Church’s
mandates, and they must be fulfilled. We can’t let facilities, money, music and
status distract us. Those are all peripheral things that will pass away
someday. Our primary reason for existing is to win and disciple souls for the
tpe: Your new position is very demanding and time-consuming;
how will you keep your focus on sharing your faith?
SMITH: My life’s mission is to share Christ. Anything that
does not line up with that mission will not be a priority of mine. I enjoy my
family, friends, work and recreational activities, but my greatest joy is
knowing and sharing Jesus.
tpe: Who are your heroes?
SMITH: The apostle Paul is a hero of mine. But my greatest
hero is Jesus Christ. He is everything to me and that is why I want to tell
everyone about Him.
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