Conversation: George O. Wood
The gospel and compassion
George O. Wood is general superintendent of the Assemblies
of God. He spoke recently to Editor Ken Horn about ministry to the poor and
tpe: What is the church’s responsibility to the poor and
WOOD: The church is the body of Christ. A body responds to
the direction of the head. The head of the body, Jesus himself, if you look
carefully in the Gospels, had essentially four ministries. He came to glorify
the Lord; He came to seek and save the lost; He came to make disciples; and He
came to serve human need. Jesus’ serving of human need is seen in His acts of
compassion towards people.
In the Early Church you see all four of these ministries
continually demonstrated. So if the church is going to respond to Jesus’ leadership
then it needs to be involved in all of these. We cannot set one against another
or focus on one exclusively, but must do all four at the same time.
I’m glad to see that in the last number of years compassion
ministries have begun to loom significantly on the Assemblies of God’s agenda
and in our DNA. We’ve always been a compassionate people, but in the past few
years we’ve given far more focus to it on the local church level, on the
district level and on the national level.
tpe: Some churches have gotten involved in compassion at the
expense of the gospel of Christ. Is that a concern?
WOOD: Liberal churches that focus on the social gospel went
astray when they gave up a reliance on the authority of God’s Word and changed
their doctrine as to where they got their authority. When you no longer have
the Word of God as your authority, then about the only thing you have left is
to do good things toward other people. Because of that example of liberal
Protestant Christianity, AG leaders in our earlier years were cautious about
official involvement with humanitarian ventures.
But we must be careful we don’t go to the other extreme and
have an antisocial gospel. The whole nature of the church is holistic. How do
we fulfill all that God’s called us to do? In today’s culture, the church is
not going to win people to Jesus by simply lecturing them and telling them how
bad they are. We live in a culture in which the church has to earn credibility,
and without acts of compassion I believe the church loses its credibility in
There are so many opportunities to link compassion with a
solid gospel presentation. Think of Convoy of Hope; the many local church
programs, like Adopt a Block and feeding programs; the Shapes Mentoring
Program, where people take on the mentoring of children of prisoners; care for
widows and single moms, where churches are doing free oil changes and other
All of these ministries actually address human need as a
means of what I call pre-evangelism. They create a softer environment so that
the heart can be open to receive the gospel message.
tpe: Convoy of Hope and the Assemblies of God continue in a
powerful ministry relationship. Could you tell us about your first contact with
and maybe your first impression of Convoy of Hope?
WOOD: I met Hal Donaldson about 20 years ago. I was the
assistant superintendent for the Southern California District. Hal at that time
had established ChurchCare America in Northern California. He has a great heart
for poor people. Hal’s father died when Hal was young, and his mother raised
him and his two brothers and sister. They barely eked out an existence, so Hal
has this compassion for pastors of smaller churches and he started the
ChurchCare network to help churches that were struggling.
It’s interesting how God leads us. Sometimes we start out
and we don’t see where our vision is going. Hal started out with a more narrow
focus. As he got deeper into it and moved to our headquarters in Springfield,
Mo., to lead Today’s Pentecostal Evangel, this vision began to grow in him to
link social compassion and evangelism and truly mobilize people to serve the
It’s been amazing to watch the progress of Convoy of Hope
over these last years and see the phenomenal development and the results that
have been obtained, as well the goodwill of communities that have seen Convoy
of Hope at work.
tpe: Convoy of Hope has worked with many different
denominations, but primarily with the Assemblies of God. Would you explain the
new relationship between COH and the AG?
WOOD: Convoy of Hope is going to serve as the preferred
partner with the Assemblies of God and its missions agencies to provide
compassion ministries and services. If there’s a disaster — an
earthquake, tornado or hurricane, for example — whatever it is, abroad or
at home, we’re going to work with Convoy of Hope as the disaster relief arm of
our church. Convoy will still have an interdenominational focus and scope, but
instead of trying to have our own disaster relief departments abroad and here,
we’re going to simply network with Convoy of Hope because they are already set
up to do the job.
tpe: What does that mean to people in our churches? How do
they get involved?
WOOD: When there is a disaster, we will be able to send out
an appeal from the Assemblies of God leadership, and our people and churches
will be able to send their offerings to the Assemblies of God knowing we will
pass those funds on to Convoy of Hope to do the disaster relief work.
Convoy also has an important ministry on a day-to-day, week-to-week
level because of the programs they do in communities. They invite thousands of
guests to enjoy a day in which there are groceries available, free haircuts,
dental and medical advice at no charge, and all of it connected with evangelism
and a prayer tent.
That level of ministry requires ongoing, continual funding.
I encourage people to support Convoy with their personal finances. If you can,
get involved in a Convoy event when they come to your community. And when there
is a disaster, in the United States or even abroad, we’re looking for people
who are trained volunteers to get involved in a training program at Convoy so
you can be prepared to be dispatched and help in times of emergency.
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