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PE: The ethnic churches in the Assemblies of God are growing rapidly, aren’t they?

TRASK: Absolutely. We must do more, however, to equip these churches with literature and materials in their language. Through our Vision for Transformation process –– as we endeavor to make adjustments that will make the Assemblies of God even more effective in this culture — we have asked that the geographical districts and their presbyteries make provision for ethnic representation and that ethnic districts provide Anglo representation on their presbyteries. The church needs to be a composite of people of all nations, of all races, of all tribes, of all backgrounds. As I travel, I see more and more ethnic diversity on our church boards. I believe that’s pleasing to the Lord and healthy for the church.

We have a lot more work to do. But the ethnic fellowships are a huge component of the Assemblies of God’s overall growth. So we’re looking for ways to facilitate that growth. One of the steps we’ve taken is to bring credentialing back to the local church. The local church will be able to give a credential. We need to recognize life experience. I know of a man who has been pastoring a church for 20 years and he didn’t have a credential. He’s proven himself. We’re not here to create speed bumps and roadblocks. We are here to say, “We appreciate you, your passion, your faithfulness and your vision. We’re going to come alongside you and we’re going to make it possible for you to be credentialed by the Assemblies of God.”

We’ve also removed all the roadblocks from being able to plant churches. If a couple comes along and says that God has laid a city upon their heart to go and start a church, doors need to be opened for them to follow the call of God without a lot of unnecessary red tape. I’m a firm believer that the closer we come to the structure with which we were organized as a fellowship, the better. A denomination becomes restrictive; it builds in all kinds of by-laws and constitutions and policies and procedures. But that’s not the Kingdom mentality and that’s not the New Testament and that was not why we were formed. We were formed to be a cooperative fellowship — which is a releasing agency. Let’s have a Kingdom mentality. Let’s not worry about the Assemblies of God. God will take care of the Assemblies of God if we will focus on building the kingdom of God.

PE: Some suggest that the church is no longer relevant to culture and society. What encouragement would you give to pastors and laypeople in terms of being relevant to the culture in which they live?

TRASK: The church has to be careful that the culture of society doesn’t change the culture of the church. The church was meant to change the culture of the world. That is why Jesus said that we are the salt of the earth, we are the light of the world. A balance has to be found, however, to be culturally relevant. When people come into the church their needs must be met and they should be loved and cared for. When that takes place, the church is affecting its community.

Even though some of the trappings of the culture have changed, people’s basic needs are the same. Look at the Gospels. Jesus met the needs of people. Whether it was the outcast woman at the well or the tax collector Zaccheus or someone who needed to be healed, He met their needs. That’s what the church is called to do. That can be done in any culture. Meeting needs is effective in any culture. While it is imperative that we understand trends and specific generational groups like postmoderns and millenials, we can’t just focus on any one culture. We must effectively share Christ with all kinds of people. People are people. Needs are needs. Let’s not put on all these trappings and miss the mission God has given to us — to love the Lord our God with all our hearts and love our neighbors as ourselves. This whole matter of the church being relevant is so simple. If the church will pray, if the church will love and if the church will reach out and minister to people, I want to tell you, people will flock to the church. It’s not complicated. If it’s complicated, it’s because we made it complicated. It’s not because the gospel made it complicated. It’s the compassionate churches that are growing; people are coming in, then they’re going out and touching their friends and touching others.

PE: Let’s look beyond the boundaries of the church. When you consider the spiritual climate of the nation, does it concern you?

TRASK: It does. America was once known as a Christian nation. We can’t say that anymore. We’re not a Christian nation, and the moral slide that we are on is happening so fast that the only agency that can turn this around is a Spirit-empowered church. It’s not going to happen through government. It’s not going to happen through legislation. It’s going to be when the church is salt, when the church is light. Believers must be willing to stand up and speak up because silence is a voice of support. If we don’t say anything we’re giving silent assent to those who would impose their anti-God worldview on our nation.

Believers must exercise their God-given privilege and responsibility to vote. And I’m not talking about voting for a party. I’m talking about voting for a principle. I believe that we can make a difference in this nation. But it isn’t going to happen by sitting on our hands. I am encouraged because we have people like Marilyn Musgrave in Congress. She has been a part of offering the constitutional amendment to preserve marriage in this country. I believe this whole same-sex marriage controversy is a wake-up call to us as a nation. It had better be, because our liberties are diminishing fast. We have judges in the judicial system who are not interpreting the law; they’re creating law. That is a dangerous position for this nation. The Constitution never provided for that. Believers have a responsibility to stand up and let our voice be heard.

PE: What are your fears if the church remains silent? What happens if the church doesn’t reach out beyond the walls of the sanctuary to help people and just lets our society disintegrate?

TRASK: America will come under God’s judgment. Billy Graham said it well. If God doesn’t judge America for its immorality, He’ll have to apologize to Sodom and Gomorrah. Who would ever have dreamt 20 years ago that this nation would have fallen to this depth? We are vomiting out tons and tons of pornography. Elementary school children today have access to pornography and this is having such a devastating effect upon the next generation of this country. And we haven’t seen the end of that. Young people who are into pornography today will grow into adulthood and then into marriage. You’re going to see such a turn for the worse in the American family that it is frightening. People cannot consume that filth without being affected.

Let’s go back 30 years when we as a nation began allowing abortion and we said life was no longer precious. We’re taking hundreds of thousands of lives every year. You have people in some states voting for the right to end their lives with the help of their doctor. And you have young people being raised in a culture of death going on shooting rampages in their schools.

When you violate God’s Word, God in His mercy, in His longsuffering and in His kindness gives us as a nation time to repent. But there will come a time when God will have to judge America. And God will hold the church responsible because the purpose of the church is to be the conscience to the world. If we’re not that conscience there is not another agency that will fill that role.

PE: Believers have a lot more responsibility for this nation than some might think.

TRASK: Yes, the responsibility for this country’s welfare lies at the door of the church and at the pulpit of every minister. Our responsibility as believers is to confront our culture with truth.

PE: You touched on this earlier, but the significance of the baptism in the Holy Spirit can’t be separated from the church’s mission. Talk about the importance of the Baptism to the local believer, to the local church and to the church as a whole.

TRASK: The Pentecostal experience is summarized in Acts 1:8. “And ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me.” The enduing of power was to be the means of living the Christian life and communicating that life to a lost world. The baptism in the Holy Spirit gives the believer power outside of his ability or her ability to be able to live for Jesus Christ, to be a witness. Your life will radiate; your life will be a witness of Jesus Christ.

The baptism in the Holy Spirit, being a Pentecostal church, the gifts of the Spirit in operation, people being empowered so that they can live for Christ — these are the keys to a vibrant body of believers who transform their society and their culture. Only one power can break the power of drugs, and it’s the power of Jesus Christ. The power of the Holy Spirit is able to set free and deliver. Whether it be alcoholism, whether it be a deviant lifestyle, whether it be bondage to pornography, the power of the Holy Spirit can break that chain and break that hold on any life.

God raised up the Assemblies of God to be a Pentecostal church. That we number some 51 million believers worldwide after these 90-plus years is not because of the Assemblies of God. It’s not because of our programs; it’s not because of our resources; it’s not because we’ve learned how to grow an organization. It is only because of the enablement of the Holy Spirit.

It has been the Holy Spirit’s empowerment that has brought this church to this point in our history and if we continue to seek and depend upon Him, He will continue to equip us to fulfill the Great Commission until Jesus comes.

E-mail your comments to pe@ag.org.

 

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