PROFILE Growing the Church, One Man at a Time
by Christina Quick
The Worship Centre in Fowler, Calif., started as a church plant with 22 people. Twelve years later, the largely Hispanic congregation numbers 1,200.
Lead pastor Rod Haro attributes the church’s remarkable growth to its commitment to reaching men. With 20 years of experience leading men’s ministries, Haro says he has long believed a strong outreach to men is the key to transforming entire communities.
“Every time men’s ministry grows, the church grows as well,” Haro says. “Most men who get saved influence their families to come to church, hear the gospel, and, in many cases, become Christians. We’ve seen this happen so many times we know ministry to men is vitally important — not only to the growing of a church but, more importantly, to the family.”
Situated in California’s agriculturally fertile Central Valley, Fowler is a diverse community of farmers, entrepreneurs, and executives, many of whom have no church background. The Worship Centre, located in a former casino, hosts a men’s dinner and church service every Monday evening.
“We have worship, teaching, and an altar call,” says Haro, who leads the weekly gathering. “It is essentially a Sunday morning worship service on Monday nights for men. Some men won’t come on a Sunday morning because they get this mental image of what church is about. But they’ll come to have dinner and hang out with a bunch of guys.”
About a third of the 200 weekly participants are from other churches. As a result, Haro says, the ministry positively impacts the faith community as a whole. “I know there have been at least 10 to 15 men’s ministries over the years in various churches that have started because men came here, got on fire, and then went and started ministries in their churches,” Haro says.
Haro follows a three-pronged approach to men’s ministry: connecting men to one another through meaningful friendships; leading them to a growing relationship with Jesus Christ; and challenging them to become godly role models in the church, their families, and the community.
“We’re seeing men going from indifferent and complacent to men who are involved, on fire for the Lord, and ready to be leaders, so we know it is making an impact,” Haro says. “That’s why I do men’s ministry: because of the lives that are ultimately changed. It is transforming not only families but this community.”
Haro recalls stepping to the pulpit one Sunday morning and seeing two men standing together, serving as ushers. It was an inspiring moment as he realized these individuals had been rival gang members before they came to know Christ.
“At one time they were enemies who would have killed anyone who looked at them in the wrong way,” Haro says. “Now here they were, loving Jesus, working in the church side-by-side, filled with the love of God,” Haro says. “I see things like that, and I’m reminded this is what it’s all about.”
Christina Quick, Springfield, Missouri
Wood has also written that it is the Holy Spirit who empowers, in light of the prophetic promise of Joel 2:28–30 that God will pour out His Spirit on all flesh — both men and women — which was fulfilled in Acts 2:17,18.5 These Scriptures, the premise for our distinctive doctrine on the purpose of the baptism in the Holy Spirit as an empowerment for service, are the same passages that affirm the Assemblies of God’s egalitarian stance on gender roles. While this doctrinal focus has been on women serving in ministry roles, the logic also lends itself to women serving as leaders in their homes and in society.
The Commission on Doctrinal Purity and the Executive Presbytery acknowledge that tradition, culture, and other assumptions about the meaning and application of some Scriptures have generated confusion regarding God’s will for men and women.6 As a result, our practice is murky. The Assemblies of God has not always been active in speaking out against assumptions that contradict our doctrinal position on the democratizing nature of the Holy Spirit to break down social hierarchies and create space for women’s full participation. The history of women pastors, evangelists, and missionaries is often celebrated in the sermons of Assemblies of God leaders, while many still express great reservations in private discussion regarding the hiring and credentialing processes, as well as how these roles translate in the home.7
Given this complexity, what do Pentecostal women want? More specifically, what do Pentecostal women want from men in the church, in the home, and in society? I believe what women want is for men and women together to practice mutuality, affirm calling, think “both/and” instead of “either/or,” and rethink their understanding of authoritative roles.
Women want mutuality. Pentecostal women are weary of gender-specific roles. We want men to view us as coservants — called of God to our marriages, vocations, and communities.
At home, women want men who are secure — regardless of circumstances. We want to see men who believe that being godly is more important than being “the man.” Our culture has sold men a bill of goods that emotion is feminine, so you emotionally check out of your homes and families. When you hide your emotions because you believe they are not masculine, they manifest in secret and have potential to ravage your life — by way of addiction, depression, work, pornography or other lustful thoughts, and even affairs.
Men, stop listening to the voices that tell you what it means to be masculine, and be who God created you to be. I believe that when you pursue godliness, a holy confidence will rise up in you. Then you will possess the courage to fulfill your roles. Whether God calls you to stay home and raise your children, work from a home office, engage in the marketplace, or pursue ministry, you can obey without fear of neglecting your manhood or being defined by what you do.
I have seen firsthand the destruction that denying emotion can do to a man and his family. I grew up in a home where anger, hurt, and rejection were not expressed in a healthy manner. Verbal and emotional abuse at the hand of my father was a regular part of my life from the time I was a small child. My father eventually left our family rather than face his own insecurities over failures in ministry, loss of a parent, and the effects of the Vietnam War. Rather than allowing God to bring healing and restoration, my father chose the cowardly path, leaving it up to others to define for his children what it means to be a man.
Mutuality also means rejecting what society dictates regarding what your struggles should be. While pornography and sexual exploitation are issues to which we as Pentecostals cannot turn a blind eye, I want to believe that most of you are men who live noble lives. It is demeaning to you as men for us to believe that you lack the strength or character because of your gender to do what is right.
Pentecostal men, rise up and be an example in your community of what it means to live a holy and set apart life. Acknowledge that God did not create the women in your lives merely for your pleasure, but for His kingdom purposes. Let the knowledge that God designed both men and women in His image and called them to His divine plan impact your relationships. Be the exception in your ministries, your families, and your communities. Model mutuality in every aspect of your lives.
Mutuality means men and women working together and not in competition or conflict. It means the practice of inclusivity, not exclusivity. God calls men and women to serve alongside one another rather than in isolation. While we are different in complementary ways, we need to hear women’s voices in leadership and see their participation in decision-making.
Women want an affirmation of their calling and gifts (inside and outside the church) and what they bring to the family and society. The distinction is less about male or female and more about what God has breathed into each of us. Women want to walk boldly in those inherently spiritual gifts.8 Women, like men, have a deep desire to be respected, encouraged, equipped, and empowered — regardless of their call. All of our attempts at trying to place men and women in gender-specific boxes leave a bitter taste in the mouths of those who do not fit neatly into those spaces.
I am weary of the perception that women are “suspect” and desire to tempt men or lead them astray. When men perceive women as suspicious and keep them at arm’s length, it objectifies both the woman and the man. The result is that we find ourselves unable to develop our potential. We feel our voices silenced. The mentality that the church is a “boy’s club” is reinforced, and a woman’s place is relegated to spaces specific to her gender.
If we truly believe the empowerment of the Holy Spirit removes gender hierarchies, you must be willing to treat women in the church with the same respect you give other men. There cannot be a double standard. Please, use wisdom and discretion when interacting with the women who serve alongside you. Stop treating women in the church as potential love affairs, and instead model what it means to be a man — perhaps a man who is not above changing diapers in the nursery, serving in the food line at the potluck, or leading the outreach to single parents.
Men, as I write to you I am keenly aware that we must guard against the tendency to assign mutual exclusivity to what we desire from one another. I am reminded again of the narrative in Judges 4 and 5 that tells of Deborah, “a prophet, the wife of Lappidoth … leading Israel” as a judge (Judges 4:4). Mary Ruth Stone writes that Deborah’s three roles of prophetess, wife, and judge were neither mutually exclusive nor destructive to one another. It was God’s favor, not the culture or Deborah’s desire to usurp authority, that gave her influence over Barak. It was God who accompanied Deborah to war even as she accompanied the male military leader.
A male and female team (with a strong supporting role from Jael) led the charge to victory that day. In Deborah’s fight song, both she and Barak sang blessings to the Lord. Deborah herself described the military victory (traditionally reserved for men) as a rising of a mother in Israel. The male role of warrior and the female role of mother, according to Stone, were not mutually exclusive. Neither were the roles destructive to one another.9
Often, talk on gender roles revolves around one specific issue: authority. Who holds the power to make decisions and be the leader? The question of authority underlies our assumptions about what each of our roles must be. The power of the Holy Spirit is empowerment for service. Mutuality, fueled by the Holy Spirit, changes the way we view authority. We, as women, do not desire to take away from you. We want to join you in ministry, to come alongside you in advocating for compassion and justice, and to have full partnership with you as our spouses or potential mates, each of us empowered by the Spirit. The warnings of the Apostle Paul regarding the usurping of authority serve as cautions to all of us to examine our motivations for desiring authority.
The outpouring of the Holy Spirit on the Day of Pentecost was, and remains today, a game changer, relativizing social stigma and strata. Social structures are secondary to the working of the Holy Spirit, and so the authority rests with Him. If the Holy Spirit is leading our lives, there is no question of authority. Rather, the Holy Spirit’s empowernent in a person’s life provides evidence of authority — and this takes precedence over all social standing.
I believe this is especially important in talking about what we, as women, want from men in our homes. It is dissonant when you say you believe women can lead in the church, business and industry, education or social service, but you deny that the same empowerment for service that breaks down gender barriers in society also breaks down barriers in our interpersonal relationships in the home.
How We Talk About Gender Matters
I believe our Pentecostal understanding of women’s roles is as unique as our belief in the initial physical evidence of the baptism in the Holy Spirit. We must preach this distinctive. We must hand it down to young women and men. We must demonstrate it in our hiring practices and in every level of our leadership. We must practice it in our marriages and model it in our homes.
Men, you do not have to sit down in order for women to be raised up. Neither should we have to silence the giftings and call placed upon us for fear they are usurping the place of a man. The power of the Holy Spirit is given to each as empowerment for service to the kingdom of God, and that is something both Pentecostal women and men should want and be encouraged to seek. We owe it to future generations to raise up men and women who live out their giftings and call without inhibition.
Men, we as Pentecostal women believe in you. We want to see you embrace who you are in Christ. We need you. We need men and women working together in service to the Lord, empowered by His Spirit, blotting away the gender lines that distort and separate.
1. Kimberly Ervin Alexander and James P. Bowers, What Women Want: Pentecostal Women Ministers Speak for Themselves, (Seymour Press, 2013), 46.
2. Edith L. Blumhofer, “Women in American Pentecostalism.” Pneuma: The Journal of the Society For Pentecostal Studies 17, no. 1 (Spring 1995): 19–20.
3. The General Council of the Assemblies of God, Constitution and Bylaws, 2007, 31, Flower Pentecostal Heritage Center, Springfield, Mo.
4. George O. Wood (general superintendent, General Council of the Assemblies of God), in discussion with the author, November 2007.
5. George O. Wood, “Exploring Why We Think the Way We Do about Women in Ministry,”Enrichment Journal,
6. Commission on Doctrinal Purity, “Feminism and Appropriate Roles for Women,” The General Council of the Assemblies of God.
7. Barbara L. Cavaness, “A Biographical Study of the U.S. Assemblies of God Women in Missions,” (working paper, Historical Events, Fuller Theological Seminary, Pasadena, Calif., 1999).
8. Ibid., p. 46.
9. Mary Ruth (Morris) Stone. “What They Believe About Family: A Response.” In What Women Want: Pentecostal Women Ministers Speak For Themselves, Kimberly Ervin Alexander and James P. Bowers (Seymour Press, 2013), 49–50.