A Life of Service, A Message of Hope, A Season of Change
by Thomas E. Trask
Thomas E. Trask has lived his life hearing from God. During his 13 years as general superintendent of the Assemblies of God, he has heard the voice of God on many occasions. But no other time in his more than 50 years of ministry has the voice of God been so lucid when it became clear to him that it was time for a change in leadership. In his final EJ interview as general superintendent of the Assemblies of God, you will hear his heart as he shares personal thoughts and reflections on the past, the present, and the future of the Assemblies of God.
Hearing from God has been a pattern in your life. Retell how hearing from God brought you to the position of general superintendent and to the decision to step down.
Trask: I never make a ministry move until I have heard from God. The faith journey that brought me to the position of general superintendent began in May of 1988. Ivar Frick was re-elected district superintendent of the Michigan district. At the time, I was pastoring in Michigan and also serving as assistant district superintendent. Previously I had served as the Michigan District superintendent but resigned from that office to return to the pastorate. In June, Superintendent Frick called me and said, “Brother Trask, I need to resign. My wife, Marian, is not well. Would you call a special session of the district council?”
I couldn’t help but think: Is it God’s will for me to return to the district office?
I prayed, “Lord, show me Your will.”
I went to Lansing, Michigan, to conduct the special district council session. Before going to the platform, Superintendent Frick asked me, “What are you going to do?”
I said, “If I’m elected on the nominating ballot, I will accept it as from the Lord. If not, I will withdraw my name.”
“You can’t do that,” he said. “You know everyone puts his own name on the nominating ballot.”
The vote was taken. I needed 300 votes to be elected; I received 287. So, I withdrew my name. I went home thrilled because I felt I had done the will of the Lord.
Two weeks later General Superintendent G. Raymond Carlson called me. He said, “Brother Trask, the Executive Presbytery is in session, and Ray Hudson, the general treasurer, has resigned. The Executive Presbytery has elected you to serve as general treasurer.”
I said, “Brother Carlson, I need time to pray about this.”
He said, “You have until 8 a.m. tomorrow. The Executive Presbytery needs an answer.”
He called at 7:45 a.m. the next morning. But in those intervening hours, God spoke to me and said: “This is My will for your life.”
We came to Springfield, Missouri, and served as general treasurer for 5 years. Brother Carlson retired from the office of general superintendent in 1993. I was elected general superintendent at the 1993 General Council in Minneapolis.
This was God’s hand and God’s direction.
I have made this current transition in leaving the superintendent’s office a matter of prayer. Even though I had 2 years left in my term, I did not wish to presume or assume anything. Some people may wonder, Why didn’t he finish his term? I have enjoyed being general superintendent. My reason is simple: I was praying and God spoke to me, and said, “Step aside.”
I prayed and checked my spirit to make sure I was obeying God because this transition impacts the Fellowship, and there is a great deal at stake. I did not want to miss God’s will. During this time of prayer and self-examination, God confirmed His will to me again and again. I have peace that I have done what the Lord wants.
For me, it is a matter of obedience, much like when God spoke to Abraham, and Abraham went out. This is a walk of faith. I have lived my life by hearing from God.
What have been some of your greatest joys as general superintendent?
Trask: I have had several joys. Establishing the Office of Ministerial Enrichment and publishing Enrichment journal brings great joy to me because they have fulfilled my desire to minister to our ministers. The journal does an excellent job addressing the needs and challenges facing our ministers.
Our affiliation with Convoy of Hope has given the AG opportunity to move with compassion in our communities and touch people with the gospel. The relationship that has developed with Convoy of Hope has been most gratifying.
I have also had the joy of watching AG Financial Solutions develop into a solid financial institution. Today, AG Financial Solutions has $2.4 billion in assets. What blesses me is that more than 23,000 churches and employees now have MBA retirement fund accounts totaling approximately $1.2 billion.
Another one of my great joys is the establishment of the national Prayer Center. We must be a people of prayer. Nothing will happen of any significance if we do not pray.
During your time in office, how has the secular and church environments changed? What do you see as some of the greatest cultural threats to the church?
Trask: The Word of God shows that the church is to affect the culture; the culture is not to affect the church. Nevertheless, the godless influence of secular culture is having an impact on the church. This is a major concern I have.
Prosperity may be the greatest cultural threat facing the people of God today. Throughout church history, prosperity has always had a negative influence on the church. People turn to God in hard times, not in times of prosperity. With prosperity comes the pursuit of pleasure as well as carelessness and indifference that brings a destructive cynicism.
Another great challenge facing the Assemblies of God is whether we will remain steadfast in our distinctive doctrine on the baptism in the Holy Spirit with the initial physical evidence of speaking in other tongues. The Assemblies of God must not waiver on this crucial Pentecostal doctrine.
Do you see change on the horizon for the Kingdom?
Trask: I believe the Church will experience a dramatic change soon. I believe there will be a separation of those who are godly — those who want the things of God, embrace the Spirit of God, and embrace the work of the Spirit — from those who simply want to go through the performance of conducting church. I believe the Assemblies of God will be challenged by these changes. But we need to remember the words of Zechariah 4:6: it is “not by might, nor by power, but by my Spirit, saith the Lord.”1
What are some of the church’s greatest opportunities?
Trask: As our culture deteriorates, Romans 5:20 says, “Where sin abounded, grace did much more abound.” Scripture also says, “In the last days, saith God, I will pour out of my Spirit upon all flesh” (Joel 2:28; Acts 2:17).
I believe the Church needs to prepare itself for two great world events. First, the Church must prepare for the great end-time harvest that will take place. Second, the Church must prepare for the Rapture that will follow the harvest. The conditions of the world will drive people to look for reality. If the church will be the Church, the days and years ahead can be the finest in our history.
After you leave office, what are your plans?
Trask: I am leaving the office of general superintendent, but I am not retiring. I will continue in ministry. I deeply love the ministry, the church, and working with the people of God.
I have not made any plans. I am waiting on the Lord. I want to be as deliberate about the next step as I was about this one.
As you leave office what are your hopes, visions, and dreams for the Assemblies of God over the next decade?
Trask: We must remain vibrant in the Spirit to have a place of leadership in the world. I wholeheartedly commit to our doctrine. It is the finest Christian doctrine you will find anywhere.
I believe in the polity of our church. We were not raised up to be a denomination; we were raised up to be a fellowship. A fellowship is a releasing agency. A denomination can become restricted as an agency.
If we remain a people of the Spirit, we will remain on the cutting edge of ministry opportunity. We will not be responding to the challenges we see with the naked eye, but to the challenges the Spirit helps us to see. We will respond to these challenges in the power of the Spirit.
We must be a church planting fellowship. The way to reach America is to plant churches, to win people to Christ, and disciple them.
We must remain a viable missions organization. That is the heart of Christ.
This is your last interview in EJ as general superintendent. Please share a final thought with our ministers.
Trask: I pray that our pastors and ministers will never lose their passion for the Lord, for His Word, for His work, for the lost, and for people. That sums up what must drive this church. Passion comes from knowing and loving Jesus.
1. Scriptures are KJV.