Conversation: James K. Bridges
James K. Bridges has served as general treasurer of the
Assemblies of God since 1993 until his retirement this year. He recently
visited with Editor Ken Horn.
tpe: How did your upbringing influence your decision to
BRIDGES: My parents urged me early on to follow Jesus. I was
saved when I was about 11 years old. When I was 15, I had a wonderful Sunday
School teacher who impacted my life. She was our pastor’s wife.
One Sunday evening, she came back during the altar service
and said, “James, it’s time for you to be baptized in the Spirit.” She took me
by the hand down to the altar, and I began to seek the Lord. She just
encouraged me along. I was caught up into the glory of the presence of God and
was baptized in the Spirit, speaking in other tongues as the Spirit gave the
I arose from that altar realizing I had a calling to preach
His gospel, and I began early on. In our youth services there were
opportunities to preach and start participating in ministry, and my pastor
asked me to teach a Sunday School class for small boys. As I began to preach,
doors began to open. I was doing a lot of preaching even when I was in high
school. After Joyce and I married, I went to Southwestern Bible Institute (now
University) and prepared further for the ministry the Lord would give me.
tpe: Talk a little bit about the experience of going to
BRIDGES: I will always be grateful for the training I
received at Southwestern among many excellent faculty members and
administration. In particular, William Burton McCafferty became a real mentor
to me. I not only took his classes, but I also spent a good deal of time
visiting with him in his office.
Brother Mac was present at the 1914 formative meeting of the
Assemblies of God in Hot Springs, Ark., and he had been a noted evangelist and
Bible teacher in camps all over the country. He came to Southwestern early on
to help P.C. Nelson establish the school.
His love for the Word of God had a personal impact on me. To
this day I remember him teaching with the Bible in his hand and his obvious
love for the Word. He taught me the importance and the respect for the
authority of Scripture, its inspiration, its infallibility and its inerrancy.
tpe: How did your ministry progress over the years?
BRIDGES: Following graduation from Southwestern, I pastored
my first church in Dallas. While there, I also attended Perkins School of
Theology at Southern Methodist University, one of the most liberal seminaries
— and that was back in 1959. There was no Assemblies of God Theological
Seminary in those days. But rather than being drawn from my beliefs, I realized
how bankrupt liberal theology really is and how that kind of Christianity has
nothing to offer to a world lost in sin. It takes a true knowledge of the Word
of God and the power of the gospel.
I moved to Greenville, Texas, and pastored First Assembly
and also became presbyter of that Greenville Section. From there I took my
first sojourn outside Texas to Wichita, Kan. Paul Lowenberg was superintendent
during those days, and he’s a wonderful mentor and another one of those persons
who has influenced my life so greatly. What a great man of God, and how he
loved me and my family and poured himself into me as well.
From Wichita I returned to pastoring in Texas, spent three
years as vice president for academic affairs at Southwestern, then continued
pastoring until I was elected to the full-time office of assistant district
superintendent in North Texas in 1977. I was elected in 1981 as superintendent
of the district and served 12 years. I was re-elected in the summer of 1993,
and Joyce and I were coming to General Council in Milwaukee that year actually
talking about our plans to give more time to home and family. Of all things,
when the elections were over, I was general treasurer.
tpe: Could you talk a little bit about serving with the team
elected that year?
BRIDGES: From the very beginning of our administration in
1993, General Superintendent Thomas Trask made it very apparent he wanted us to
be not just colleagues, but friends. We found many opportunities for fellowship
among ourselves and with our families. Along with doing business in our
meetings, we spent a lot of time talking, sharing needs and praying for one
It was not easy for us to begin going our separate ways in
2007. But we still call one another and chat together. I think that is so
meaningful. You know, as deeply dedicated and committed to his mission as the
apostle Paul was, he had wonderful friends he would mention and commend in his
epistles. This is something I think is missing today with a lot of pastors.
They have very few close friends.
tpe: What are your plans?
BRIDGES: I’ll be moderating the 2009 Nine District Prayer
and Bible Conference. I’m looking forward to that. I want to do some writing.
Of course, you can’t retire from a preaching ministry, so I’ll be open to
preach at every opportunity. In the 12 years I served as superintendent of
North Texas I was able to preach in most of the district’s 600 churches. I want
to help any way I can.
tpe: As you reflect on your 14 years in the national office,
what have you seen in the Fellowship that is encouraging, and do you have any
concerns people should remember in prayer?
BRIDGES: I’m so pleased the favor of the Lord has been on
the Fellowship. At Brother Trask’s direction, we prayed earnestly every Tuesday
morning. I used those times to plead with the Lord, not just for headquarters
but also for our Fellowship, our pastors, our churches and our missionaries. I
look back on those times very warmly.
As I look over the Movement I see interesting growth. As a
matter of fact, when we talk about worldwide growth approaching 60 million,
it’s obvious the Spirit of God continues to work in our Fellowship. I have a
special concern for the United States because we have not seen that same level
of growth in this nation. I’m afraid the affluence of the day and the
philosophy of wealth among the American people are causing them to move away
from dependence upon God. The church must be careful lest it is caught up in
the spirit of the age.
It starts with an attitude that begins to lessen the
importance of Scripture. When you do that you start opening yourself to all
kinds of error. I’m convinced if you had asked ministers in some mainline
denominations 60 years ago if their church would ever ordain homosexuals, they
would have said, “Never, never.”
tpe: One of the themes of your ministry has been Pentecost.
Would you speak to the importance of Pentecost?
BRIDGES: Our Fellowship’s founders understood the prophetic
hour we are in and that the significance of the Baptism was to be the
empowerment to carry out the mission of the church. You can promote a lot of
church activity without the baptism of the Spirit. But the actual witness of
the gospel to the world has to be done through the Spirit. It has to be done in
the power of the Spirit.
It’s not enough just to tell people facts. Look at the radio
and television broadcasts going on in this country every day. There are radio
and TV stations constantly declaring the gospel, and people are hearing it. But
does it affect them? It takes a penetration of the Spirit to really get into
When Peter was preaching to the people in Jerusalem on the
Day of Pentecost, it was the Holy Spirit who touched hearts and urged people to
respond with the question “What must we do?” (Acts 2:37). Stephen shared the
gospel with such anointing that his accusers were cut to the heart (Acts
7:54-57) even though they rebelled against the Spirit’s influence. The power of
the Spirit must penetrate. You’ve got to have an anointing that can move a
person to want to respond. That’s Pentecost.
My concern is some of our churches are getting caught up in
a style of religion that is popular. You can call it “seeker-sensitive” or
whatever you want to call it, but if it’s just religion without spiritual power
then it’s not going to do what Christ has commissioned the church to do.
tpe: Do you have a word for the Fellowship?
BRIDGES: We need revival. We need a recommitment to our
doctrines. I think of the example of Israel when they were told to create two
silver trumpets. When they went into battle, the Lord promised if they would
sound the trumpets He would deliver them from their enemy. God expected Israel
to actively seek His presence. That’s what we’re going to have to do as a
Fellowship. I hope we will begin to see a move toward genuine prayer and
intercession. Those are the trumpets we have; that’s how we call on God. And
when we call, He promises to hear us.
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