The Assemblies of God Executive
Presbytery unanimously selected Deborah M. Gill as the national director
of the Division of Christian Education and commissioner for the Commission
on Discipleship. An ordained Assemblies of God minister, Gill has served
as senior pastor of Living Hope (A/G) in North Oaks, Minn., for the
past four years. She has taught as a professor for 20 years in New Testament,
Greek, homiletics and music. She previously served in missions, teaching
at Asia Pacific Theological Seminary. Gill spoke recently with Scott
Harrup, associate editor.
EVANGEL: Your office encourages
churches to pursue excellence in Christian education and discipleship.
What is the connection?
Christian education deals with acquisition of information; discipleship
deals with character transformation. Sunday school is in about 94 percent
of A/G churches. Many have excellent programs, but its imperative
that we breathe new life and energy into it wherever possible and encourage
fresh delivery systems that meet todays discipleship needs. Building
on the content of the classroom, discipleship applies those lessons
in the context of relationships, small groups, cells or one-on-one.
EVANGEL: Having served as a pastor,
what lessons have you learned that will help you in your new ministry?
GILL: Our church was small,
so we were unable to offer a Sunday school class for every level. We
also noted that our families were so busy that kids were not consistent
in attendance. So we deployed new delivery systems. Our childrens
pastor, Monica Grubb, developed "247 Kids Academy,"
a Christian education program, focused on discipling kids to follow
Jesus 24 hours a day, seven days a week. She designed a spiraling curriculum
that involved all ages simultaneously and packaged it in short, yet
intense activity modules that combine Bible teaching with activity and
friendship interaction. Our adults met weekly in cells for relational
evangelism, nurture and discipleship and occasionally in seminars for
teaching and training. Our society is changing, and we must look for
new ways to bring people into relationship with Christ and with each
EVANGEL: Talk about the growing
diversity within the U.S. Assemblies of God and what that means for
GILL: After teaching in the
Philippines, I was met by a flood of southeast Asians in my hometown,
the Twin Cities of Minneapolis/St. Paul. About 50,000 Hmong had been
granted refuge in Minnesota following the Vietnam war. My home church
(Summit Assembly) reached out with literacy assistance that soon grew
into a whole ministry (which we called New Americans) to the Hmong,
Cambodian and Lao people. We need to be aware of our growing diversity
and look for ways to minister to all people. Just as important, we must
find ways to include this diversity in our churches in positions of
EVANGEL: What role can our colleges
and universities take in Christian education?
GILL: Professors at our Assemblies
of God colleges and universities are a treasure trove of educational
resources. Many of these instructors are involved not only with their
full-time ministry on campus, but serve in their local churches as well.
Older believers have a lot to learn from the young disciples in our
Masters Commissions and in Chi Alpha groups on secular campuses. I would
love to respond to the deep desire for meaningful mentoring relationships
expressed by the 15,000 students studying in our colleges.
EVANGEL: How can the traditional
Sunday school adapt to meet Christian education needs in the 21st century?
GILL: Sunday school teachers
need to be effective and engaging. We need teachers who prepare, and
then present great content but theyve also got to be good
group facilitators. The best Bible studies offer students opportunities
to make biblical application to their own lives. Id also like
to bring to greater visibility in the Fellowship the role of models
and mentors. A movement of discipleship will never happen until we have
a groundswell of dedicated disciplers determined to invest themselves
intentionally in a lifelong lifestyle. I pray that the Commission on
Discipleship will be a hub on the wheel, networking to respond to the
needs of our Fellowship. Not only may we be known for collecting and
developing resources on discipleship, but even more may each of its
members model personally a lifestyle that reproduces friends and followers
of Jesus Christ.