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September 17, 2000: John Castellani: Giving hope to addicts

September 10, 2000: Kermit Bridges: Spiritual renewal on campus

August 27, 2000: Phil Vischer: The Big Idea behind VeggieTales

August 20, 2000: Chonda Pierce: A time to laugh

August 13, 2000: Thomas E. Trask, John Bueno: The launching of Global University

July 30, 2000: G.L. Johnson: Keeping passion for Christ alive

July 23, 2000: Hal Donaldson: More than fame and money

July 16, 2000: David Moore: America in a sea of change

July 9, 2000: Jim Seymour: Real reconciliation

June 18, 2000: Randy Phillips: Plugging into the local church

June 11, 2000: H. Maurice Lednicky: Pentecost Sunday

May 28, 2000: Tim LaHaye: Prophecy-based fiction

May 14, 2000: Natalie Grant: The best testimony

April 30, 2000: Alvin Worthley: Ministry to the 'fourth world'

April 23, 2000: Robert Spence: The meaning of Easter

April 16, 2000: Stephen Pfann: The Dead Sea Scrolls

April 9, 2000: Eddie Rentz: Teens, TV, music and parenting

March 26, 2000: Lillie Knauls: Single and satisfied

March 19, 2000: Terry Lindvall: Christ and culture

March 12, 2000: David Yonggi Cho and Thomas E. Trask: World Assemblies of God Congress and 2000 Celebration

Fulfilling the Great Commission

Jesus commissioned His church to reach the lost. This mandate from the Master has been the driving force behind the Assemblies of God since its beginning. A continued expression of the Fellowship’s commitment to evangelism is evident in the newly established Commission on Evangelism.

Randy Hurst, who has served for the past three years as director of communications for Foreign Missions, has been appointed commissioner on evangelism.

Thomas E. Trask, general superintendent of the Assemblies of God, and Randy Hurst spoke with the Pentecostal Evangel about this commission and its purpose.

Evangel: What is the purpose of the Commission on Evangelism?

Trask: Pentecost was given for evangelism. God birthed the Assemblies of God for evangelism. For nearly 87 years this Church has fulfilled that purpose. The fire of evangelism must burn within this Church as we enter the 21st century. The Commission on Evangelism will help keep evangelism in focus for the Assemblies of God. We must reach the lost before Jesus comes.

I pray that the desire for evangelism moves through every fiber of this Church so millions more will come to Christ.

Evangel: Will the Commission on Evangelism implement an evangelism program?

Hurst: Evangelism must be implemented in a wide variety of cultures and contexts. Having just one program for every community would not bring maximum results.

Our constant challenge is to understand where we cannot waver in commitment to our distinctive priorities, yet learn to follow the fresh dynamic leading of the Spirit and respond to ever-changing cultures. America has increasingly become a post-Christian culture. The church now faces the challenge of communicating the message of Christ in an intercultural context. American Christian believers need some of the same sensitivities and skills as missionaries to reach our secular society. It is an issue of relevance. When Jesus dealt with the Samaritan woman at the well, He used language and ideas she could understand. He centered the conversation on her needs and interests. If we have spent much of our lives in the church, we have acquired the perceptions, values and even the vocabulary of the church. Unbelievers must be reached through their vocabulary, not ours.

Evangelism cannot be reduced to just one program because each community is different. Programs can be helpful but the more important issues are the character and competence of our people.

Trask: The factor that runs through any culture or church is passion. A passion for the lost will be the driving force. The Holy Spirit in the hearts of people must birth this. The Commission on Evangelism will endeavor to awaken the need for passion for the lost.

Evangel: How will the commission serve individual believers?

Hurst: Both through education and motivation. A major objective is to help bring awareness and understanding of what God can do in and through them personally. Some people think they’re not gifted for evangelism. But all believers are commissioned to be witnesses.

Evangelism is providing people with an adequate witness so they can come to the point of a decision concerning Jesus Christ. We need to understand the Holy Spirit’s part in the process and our part. It is not our responsibility to convince someone of sin; the Spirit does that. The same Holy Spirit who inspired the written Word will illumine its truth and make it come alive in the mind and heart of the unbeliever. We need a fresh understanding that the salvation of souls is God’s business, and we have the privilege of working with Him.

Evangel: Where should we begin?

Hurst: We should begin by addressing what we believe.

First, we must reaffirm our conviction that the lost are really lost. Many American Christians have unconsciously drifted in their personal convictions about the lost. The truth is, if the American businessman in his BMW does not know Jesus, he is as lost as the witch doctor in Africa.

Second, we need to understand the purpose of the baptism in the Holy Spirit which encompasses every aspect of a believer’s life. The promised "power" that accompanies the Baptism means "ability" — whatever ability is required to fulfill the task God has called us to do.

The word dependence describes a Pentecostal’s relationship with the Holy Spirit and evangelism. The Spirit-filled believer depends on the Holy Spirit to do what only the Holy Spirit can do.

In the last decade we have seen more than 10 times the church growth in our Assemblies of God fellowships overseas than we have in the United States. Some Americans have asked me, "What do Christians overseas have that makes them so effective in evangelism?" I believe there’s a more important question: "What do we have that they don’t that we are depending on too much?" Technology, media and other tools are all helpful, but the true power to produce results in evangelism is found in the spiritual realm rather than the natural. Tools don’t do the job — people do.

Pentecostal evangelism is God-centered. Sometimes people with limited resources are more effective because they must depend on God. They may not have the technology or the tools, so they pray and seek God more.

God has chosen to work through prayer. Any church that is effectively reaching the lost in its community will be a praying church. In prayer we submit and humble ourselves before Him. This puts us in a posture of dependence on Him.

Evangel: What do you see happening in evangelism in the coming years?

Trask: My prayer is that we will capture again the thrill of personally seeing people find Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. If we can be zealous about sharing Jesus and then disciple new believers, our churches will grow.

The task of evangelism is not finished. We cannot be satisfied with the spiritual harvest we’ve already seen. There are fields upon fields that have yet to be harvested.

 

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