Thomas E. Trask, general superintendent of the U.S. Assemblies of
God, has spent a lifetime in Pentecostal ministry. Whether serving as
pastor, district superintendent or from the Fellowships national
offices, he has emphasized the need for Pentecostal believers to fully
avail themselves of the gifts of the Spirit. He spoke recently with
Scott Harrup, associate editor.
EVANGEL: Historically, what is Pentecost Sunday?
Pentecost Sunday is the celebration of the outpouring of the Holy Spirit
on the Early Church believers. The second chapter of Acts records how
the believers, in response to the command of Jesus, had remained in
Jerusalem waiting for the power from on high He had promised. Christs
fulfillment of that promise came 50 days following His resurrection.
The believers were baptized in the Holy Spirit and experienced the power
accompanying the Spirits outpouring.
EVANGEL: Pentecost Sunday is celebrated throughout the Christian
world. What makes it particularly significant for the Assemblies of
God and other Pentecostal believers?
TRASK: There are many people in the church world who accept
the fact of Pentecost as a historical happening but do not accept the
fact that Pentecost is an experience for today. We in the Pentecostal
church believe that every believer can and should be baptized in the
Holy Spirit, should receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. We have embraced
and are recipients of the infilling of the Holy Spirit.
EVANGEL: Could you describe your own baptism in the Holy Spirit?
TRASK: I was in youth camp when it happened. As a young teenager
at the time, I was still learning to live consistently for the Lord.
Following my baptism in the Holy Spirit, I found the enablement and
the power to live for Jesus Christ and it was a great day and a marvelous
experience. I would recommend to anyone and everyone to be a seeker
of the Holy Spirit and a receiver of the Baptism He brings.
EVANGEL: How do you sense the Holy Spirit moving in local churches
TRASK: Wherever the local church is open to the work of the
Spirit and the gifts of the Spirit and there is a place given to the
Spirits ministry, God is at work and, consequently, that church
is alive and growing. The Scripture that we use as our Fellowships
focus is Zechariah 4:6: "Not by might, nor by power, but by my spirit,
saith the Lord of hosts." It is the Spirit of God, the Holy Spirit,
who makes what we do to be blessed or anointed. Wherever there is an
awareness and acceptance of the Spirits ministry, people are being
saved, people are being filled, people are being delivered, and the
needs of people are being met. Its not through an organization
or through a program that this happens.
EVANGEL: From a national perspective, what importance do you attribute
to the Holy Spirits guidance when you meet with the Executive
Presbytery and other Assemblies of God leaders?
TRASK: The Scripture says that the Holy Spirit would reveal,
first of all, Jesus Christ. The Spirit also is able to give insight
to us. That is where the gifts of the Spirit come into operation, such
as the discerning of spirits, the word of knowledge and the word of
wisdom. As a Pentecostal group of leaders who are dependent upon the
Holy Spirit to guide the church, we rely on His ability to give insight
into the challenges we face and into the possibilities surrounding different
decisions. The Spirit is able to open up avenues of awareness that we
would not have in ourselves. I have seen that again and again and am
so appreciative of the Holy Spirits readiness to help us. When
meeting with the Executive Presbytery, I have seen instances when a
message in tongues and an interpretation gave guidance. More commonly,
I see the word of knowledge in operation. The Spirit will use one of
the presbyters to speak a word directly to a situation that brings resolution.
EVANGEL: Many non-Pentecostal Christians are mightily used by God.
Does this fact weaken in any way the assertion that the Baptism is for
TRASK: None whatsoever. First of all, every believer, when he
or she comes into relationship with Jesus Christ, receives the Holy
Spirit. It is not proper doctrine to teach that a believer does not
have the Holy Spirit unless he or she has received the Baptism. When
you receive Jesus Christ, you receive the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
That is an established fact. When you are baptized in the Holy Spirit,
it is an added dimension of the third Person of the Trinity. That does
not detract from those who have not received the Baptism or render Pentecostals
as some kind of elite group within the church. The Scripture teaches
that to whom much is given, much is required. The more we have of the
work of the Spirit and the gifts of the Spirit and the knowledge of
God, the more accountable we are to God.
EVANGEL: Some Pentecostals view the Baptism as the summit experience
of their faith. Would you agree that the Holy Spirit wants to do much
more than lead the believer into speaking in tongues?
TRASK: I understand why some believers would feel that their
Baptism experience was a high point. But the danger of that is this:
Simply because one has received the baptism in the Holy Spirit and spoken
in tongues does not give them a right or license to sit back and settle
in spiritually. The Baptism should not become an experience of the past.
The baptism in the Holy Spirit is given for the empowerment of the believer,
according to Acts 1:8, to be a witness. The most effective witnesses
today are men and women living Jesus Christ day after day in the work
place or wherever their responsibilities take them. Speaking in tongues
is the initial physical evidence that one has received the gift of the
Holy Spirit. But one should not stop there. The Baptism should be an
entrance into life in the Spirit and the working of the Spirit and the
use of His gifts.
EVANGEL: Some believers in our churches are content to agree with
and observe the Baptism and the gifts of the Spirit without seeking
those gifts themselves. What are they missing?
TRASK: Theyre missing a marvelous opportunity for God
to do a deeper work in their lives. It is unfortunate that some believers
are satisfied with the dimension of God they have. The Early Church,
before Pentecost, had a dimension of Jesus Christ. But Jesus himself
said it was expedient that He go away in order to send the Comforter,
the Holy Spirit. Jesus recognized that these believers needed more of
God than what they had. So He promised He would send the Holy Spirit
who would give that added dimension and empower the believers and assist
them. Christians who have not recognized their need for the baptism
in the Holy Spirit are missing a wonderful experience in God. It is
more than just speaking in tongues. It is a lifestyle.
TRASK: I want them to recognize that the Baptism is a gift for
today; this is a gift for every believer; this is a divine experience
that will assist them in living the Christian life. They dont
have to live in their own strength but can live in the power of the
Spirits might. I pray that God will create a hunger in those who
have not received this Baptism and will renew a hunger in those who
have been baptized in the Spirit but have not enjoyed the many benefits
of living in the Spirits power in these challenging days.
EVANGEL: Anything else?
TRASK: Im so grateful for our being a Pentecostal fellowship.
I think many times we take for granted these blessings we have. I remember
when I was pastoring I would have people come into the church and they
would say, "Why didnt somebody tell me about the Assemblies of
God?" It was a day of discovery for them. I pray that this is a day
of discovery for thousands upon thousands both within and outside
the church that this gift of the Holy Spirit was given so that
all believers might benefit in their walk with Jesus Christ.