Our Greatest Work
By George Paul Wood
“To all my Pentecostal friends: You’d have a hard time convincing the apostle Paul that you’re ‘Spirit-filled’ if you never win anybody to Jesus.”
My friend Scott Camp, an Assemblies of God evangelist, posted that statement in his status update on Facebook awhile back. Those words grabbed me by my suit lapels (yes, I still wear a suit to work) and shook me good and hard. They dragged me back into the New Testament for confirmation and then in front of a mirror for confrontation. Is this what Scripture says? Is this what I do?
In 25 words, Scott laid bare the missional logic of Pentecostalism: To accomplish the Great Commission, we need the baptism in the Holy Spirit. This is what Scripture teaches, of course.
“[Y]ou will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you,” Jesus promised the disciples, “and you will be my witnesses … ” (Acts 1:8).
Jesus kept His promise on the Day of Pentecost (Acts 2), and the number of the saved has increased every day since.
The founders of the Assemblies of God, like other early Pentecostals, grasped this missional logic, both intellectually and in practice. That is why delegates to the 2nd General Council in Chicago, Ill., in November 1914 pledged themselves to do “the greatest work of evangelism the world has ever seen.” Like the Church on the Day of Pentecost, they received the Holy Spirit, and the Spirit filled their mouths with the gospel of Jesus Christ for the salvation of the nations.
This August, the Assemblies of God celebrates its centennial. Delegates from across the United States and around the globe will gather in Springfield, Missouri, to rejoice in our first 100 years and plan for the next 100 years. As an editor, I was tempted to take a retrospective look at our Fellowship, commissioning authors to write about what God has done for us so far. But I resisted that temptation strongly. Now is not the time to engage in historical reverie or get nostalgic for the past — however storied it may be. Now is the time to bring Pentecost’s missional logic to the forefront of our attention and challenge me and you and our entire Movement to remember our commitment to doing the “greatest work.”
Has the Assemblies of God grown in the past 100 years? Yes, magnificently so, and for the 67.5 million current AG worldwide adherents, all glory belongs to God. However, the world population has grown, too. Has our rate of growth exceeded its rate of growth?
Have we established indigenous churches throughout the world? Yes, the Assemblies of God ministers in 252 countries, regions, and territories, and once again, to God be the glory! But there are still — 2,000 years past Pentecost! — 7,000+ people groups who have never heard the gospel, who have no viable Christian witness within their own culture and language group. Alongside these unreached people groups are the people next door to our churches who have never heard the gospel from us. Apart from Jesus Christ, who loves them all, they are lost.
I don’t know about you, but when I consider the immensity and complexity of the evangelistic task on a global level, even on a national level, I begin to feel overwhelmed. When that happens, I go back to a sermon my dad often preached on the feeding of the 5,000, titled, “How to Be a Failure.”
“Look at the size of the task,” Dad would say. “Look at the little you have, and leave God out of the picture.”
That’s a sure recipe for failure.
But when you bring God into the picture — when you embrace the missional logic of Pentecost — all things are possible. This immense task, our greatest work, is doable because God empowers us through the Holy Spirit to accomplish the mission Jesus Christ gave us to be His witnesses to “all nations” (Matthew 28:19) and “to the ends of the earth” (Acts 1:8). All we need is Spirit power for the Jesus opportunities right in front of us.
On behalf of the editors, I offer you this Centennial issue of Enrichment as an aid to accomplishing your Spirit-powered, Jesus-focused work of proclaiming God’s good news to all humanity. The harvest is plentiful. Let not the workers be few!