Thriving in a Disordered World


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CHURCH OF GOD

Evangel JANUARY 2015

Thriving in a Disordered World ask for help • hope against hope give it away • die to live

Contents

january 2015

volume 105 n issue 1

RIDING A ROLLERCOASTER with its sudden drops, extreme curves, and loop-to-loops will fool your mind and body into wondering which way is up. Once you get your feet back on the ground, however, it usually does not take long to return to normal. Vertigo is different. Whether caused by inner-ear trouble or a virus, it hits suddenly and unexpectedly, making you feel like everything is whirling around you. This extreme dizziness might last for moments, minutes, or days. Spiritually, our world will leave us dizzy with confusion unless we plant ourselves deeply in the Word of God. If our “delight is in the law of the Lord,” we will “be like a tree firmly planted” (Ps. 1:2-3 NASB).

thriving in a disordered world 10 A Cup or a Crown? by Charles & Mary Hollifield Designed to serve 12 Break Financial Strongholds by Ken Davis Are we hoarders or givers? 14 Hoping Against Hope by Hannah Moore Between the “already” and the “not yet” 16 Weak Is the New Strong by Craig Groeschel Admitting our need for help 22 A Revolutionary Lifestyle by J. David Stephens Putting others first 24 The Privilege of Persecution by Craig Moeller & David Hegg Learning from the suffering church columns 26 Against the Current by Harold Bare Dying to live features

5 In Covenant, Mark L. Williams 7 On My Mind, Lance Colkmire 34 Church of God Chronicles, David Roebuck

departments 21 Devoted to Family Discipleship 4 Ministry Snapshot by Bob Bayles & Robert McCready 6 By the Numbers Parents leading their children 8 Currents 28 Bruno Spada: Connecting in 17 GlobalConnect Connecticut by Lance Colkmire 30 Viewpoints Interview with an effective pastor 32 People and Events

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PUBLICATIONS MINISTRIES DIVISIONAL DIRECTOR M. Thomas Propes DIRECTOR OF PUBLICATIONS Terry Hart MANAGING EDITOR Lance Colkmire

MINISTRY SNAPSHOT Pastor Mitch Maloney (center) at the Jamaican table for the “Taste of Nations” missions event (North Cleveland, Tennessee, Church of God)

CENTRAL DISTRIBUTION COORDINATOR Robert McCall CFO Wayne Walston PRINTING DIRECTOR Mike Burnett

EVANGEL STAFF EDITOR Lance Colkmire EXECUTIVE SECRETARY Elaine McDavid COPY EDITOR Esther Metaxas GRAPHIC DESIGNER Bob Fisher

EDITORIAL AND PUBLICATIONS BOARD Tony D. Cooper, Les Higgins, Ray E. Hurt, David W. Jarvis, Cheryl Johns, Antonio Richardson, T. Dwight Spivey

INTERNATIONAL EXECUTIVE COMMITTEE Mark L. Williams, David M. Griffis, J. David Stephens, Wallace J. Sibley, M. Thomas Propes

CHURCH OF GOD congregations meet throughout the United States and in more than 180 other countries. To find a church and times of services near you, access the church website, www.churchofgod.org, or fax your request to 423-478-7616. Publication of material in the Evangel does not necessarily imply endorsement of the Church of God. The Church of God Evangel (ISSN 0745-6778) is edited and published monthly. n Church of God Publish­ing House, 1080 Montgomery Ave., P.O. Box 2250, Cleveland, TN 37320-2250 n Subscription rates: Single subscription per year $17, Canada $24, Bundle of 15 per month $17, Canada $28, Bundle of 5 per month $7.50, Canada $11.25 n Single copy $1.50 n Periodical postage paid at Cleveland, TN 37311 and at additional mailing offices n ©2015 Church of God Publications n All rights reserved n POSTMASTER: Send change of address to Evangel, P.O. Box 2250, Cleveland, TN 37320-2250. (USPS 112-240)

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MEMBER OF THE EVANGELICAL PRESS ASSOCIATION AND THE INTERNATIONAL PENTECOSTAL PRESS ASSOCIATION

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If you have a ministry photo to be considered for this page, send it to [email protected].

Church of God DECLARATION OF FAITH WE BELIEVE: 1. In the verbal inspiration of the Bible. 2. In one God eternally existing in three persons; namely, the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. 3. That Jesus Christ is the only begotten Son of the Father, conceived of the Holy Ghost, and born of the Virgin Mary. That Jesus was crucified, buried, and raised from the dead. That He ascended to heaven and is today at the right hand of the Father as the Intercessor. 4. That all have sinned and come short of the glory of God and that repentance is commanded of God for all and necessary for forgiveness of sins. 5. That justification, regeneration, and the new birth are wrought by faith in the blood of Jesus Christ. 6. In sanctification subsequent to the new birth, through faith in the blood of Christ; through the Word, and by the Holy Ghost. 7. Holiness to be God’s standard of living for His people. 8. In the baptism with the Holy Ghost subsequent to a clean heart. 9. In speaking with other tongues as the Spirit gives utterance and that it is the initial evidence of the baptism in the Holy Ghost. 10. In water baptism by immersion, and all who repent should be baptized in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. 11. Divine healing is provided for all in the Atonement. 12. In the Lord’s Supper and washing of the saints’ feet. 13. In the premillennial second coming of Jesus. First, to resurrect the righteous dead and to catch away the living saints to Him in the air. Second, to reign on the earth a thousand years. 14. In the bodily resurrection; eternal life for the righteous, and eternal punishment for the wicked.

IN COVENANT mark l. williams general overseer

We must embrace students

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HE CHURCH OF GOD must allow the Holy Spirit to turn our hearts to the children and young people of the world. One-fourth of the world’s population is under the age of 15. In places like Uganda, Mozambique, Kenya, Malawi, Iraq, Ethiopia, and Afghanistan, the percentage rises to over 40 percent. Eighty-five percent of people who accept Jesus Christ as Savior do so between the ages of 4 and 14. One Barna study suggested that what you believe by the time you are 13 is what you will die believing. If you are a parent or grandparent, you should realize there is a strategic spiritual war being waged to capture the hearts, minds, and souls of this next generation. The headlines scream it: “12-Year-Old Boy Beats Toddler to Death, Police Say”; “Teacher Arrested After Offering Good Grades for Sex”; “Pregnant High School Students in Denver Ask for Maternity Leave.” The statistics reveal it. The target age for the movie industry is 12 to 24. By the time the average young person reaches the age of 17, he or she will have spent 63,000 hours engaging mass media, 11,000 hours in school, 2,000 hours with parents, and only 800 hours in church. A Lifeway Research study reported that 70 percent of teens leave church after graduation, and half of them never return. The Millennial Generation—those born between 1980 and 2000—number some 80 million in the United States. This generation is on track to be the most educated generation in history. They are racially and ethnically diverse and digitally connected. They value learning and are open to mentors in their lives. However, they are also the least religious. According to some studies, only 15 percent claim a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. It is not so much they are hostile to Jesus or to church; they just feel the church is no longer relevant.

Yet there is another story to tell. God made a promise to those who would live in perilous times: “In the last days . . . I will pour forth of My Spirit on all mankind; and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams; even on My bondslaves, both men and women, I will in those days pour forth of My Spirit and they shall prophesy” (Acts 2:17-18 NASB).

God is not giving up on this generation, and neither am I. I am praying for a revival that will sweep hundreds and thousands of students into the kingdom of God. We have not prayed for our children in vain. The Lord says to us, “Get ready! Sons and daughters are coming home!”

God is not giving up on this generation, and neither am I.

“Enlarge the place of your tent; stretch out the curtains of your dwellings, spare not; lengthen your cords and strengthen your pegs. For you will spread abroad to the right and to the left. And your descendants will possess nations and will resettle the desolate cities. Fear not, for you will not be put to shame; and do not feel humiliated, for you will not be disgraced; but you will forget the shame of your youth, and the reproach of your widowhood you will remember no more” (Isa. 54:2-4 NASB).

Over the past two years, Church of God Youth and Discipleship has ministered to more than 150,000 students through WinterFest, KidFest, and youth camps. More than 10,000 men and women have been trained in conferences to reach this last-days harvest. LEAD Institute is now training adult men and women, ages 18-25, for ministry through an intense discipleship program. Church of God, I want to see the passion of youth intersect with the mission of God. God is calling us to discover, develop, and deploy a new generation. We have an opportunity to ground them in a Christ-centered worldview, empower them in a transforming Christlike faith, and unleash them to live out Christ’s life in the world.

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BY THE NUMBERS

ONLINE AND OFFLINE FAITH IN AN AVERAGE WEEK, one in five Americans share their religious faith online, about the same percentage that tune in to religious talk radio, watch religious TV programs, or listen to Christian rock music. Nearly half of U.S. adults see someone else share their religious faith online in a typical week. These are among the key findings from a 2014 survey that asked adults from the Pew Research Center’s nationally representative American Trends Panel whether they had engaged in various kinds of religious activities during the previous week.

Percentage of U.S. adults who participated in each activity in the past week New media % Saw religion shared online....................................46 Shared own faith online........................................20 Old media Watched religious television.................................23 Listened to religious talk radio..............................20 Listened to Christian rock.....................................19 Offline participation Shared faith in real-life setting..............................40

NEARLY FOUR IN TEN AMERICANS “CHURCHLESS” RELIGION RESEARCHER David Kinnaman says 38% of Americans are “churchless”—“post-Christian” and “essentially secular in belief and practice.” This figure comes from 20 surveys based on 15 measures of identity, belief, and practice. The Barna Group research looked at church worship attendance and participation, views about the Bible, God and Jesus, and more to see whether folks were actually tied to Christian life in a meaningful way or tied more by habit or personal history. “We are far from becoming an atheist nation,” he said. “There are tens of millions of active believers in America today. But the wall between the churched and the churchless is growing higher and more impenetrable as more people have no muscle memory of what it means to be a regular at a house of worship.” The churchless come in several tribes, according to Kinnaman:  • 32% still identify as Christian. They say they believe in God, but they’re wobbly on connections. Kinnaman calls them “Christianized but not very active.” • 25% are self-identified atheist or agnostics. Kinnaman calls them “skeptics.” Highly educated and more mainstream than before, “this group is here to stay,” he said. • 27 percent belong to other faith groups such as Jewish or Muslim, or call themselves spiritual but not religious. Kinnaman predicts no change in direction. He concluded: “The younger the generation, the more post-Christian it is.”—RNS

Unchurched Adults are more likely to be . . . Unchurched

Churched

Percentage of American adults who shared something about their faith offline, in a real-life setting, during the past week Unaffiliated

18%

White Mainline Catholic Black Protestant

34% 38% 42% 59%

White Evangelical Total

40%

SOURCE: Pew Research Group, American Trends Panel (wave 4). Survey conducted May30–June 30, 2014

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*Have not gone past high school

© Barna Group www.barna.org/churchless

ON MY MIND lance colkmire editor

ONLY GOD IS AWESOME

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OUR OF THE ITEMS listed on the “1,000 Awesome Things” website are . . . • finding out someone has the same birthday as you • when someone pronounces your name right the first time • realizing you still remember the words to a song you have not heard in years • when your computer heals itself. Clearly, this website’s creator would love The Lego Movie’s theme song, “Everything Is Awesome.” “But,” says Megan Hill, “if everything is awesome, then nothing is” (Christianity Today). In a world where everything from athletic achievements to zombie movies is labeled awesome, God alone deserves “a fear of reverential respect mixed with fear or wonder” (as the Oxford Dictionary defines awesome). The late Rich Mullins’ anthem, “Our God Is an Awesome God,” lifts up God’s uniqueness—His creative power, perfect justice, incredible mercy, and amazing grace. C. S. Lewis said, “You can’t analyze God. He is too awesome, too big, too mysterious.” When Jesus Christ lived on earth, He revealed aspects of the awesomeness of God. God’s Awesome Authority In His first sermon, preached in His hometown of Nazareth, Jesus read about Himself from Isaiah 61:1-2: “The Spirit of the Lord is on Me . . . to preach . . . to heal . . . to proclaim liberty” (Luke 4:18 NKJV). Then He declared, “Today this Scripture is fulfilled in your hearing” (v. 21 NKJV). All “were amazed at the gracious words that came from his lips” (v. 22 NIV). Tragically, even though His hearers sensed the awesome authority of Jesus’ words, they did not accept His claim to be the Messiah. When He chided them

for their lack of faith, they forced Him out of Nazareth and tried to throw Him off a cliff! Instead, He did something awesome—“He walked right through the crowd and went on his way” (v. 30 NIV). Jesus immediately went to Capernaum, where residents were “amazed at his teaching, because his words had authority” (v. 32 NIV). There in the synagogue, Jesus was confronted by a demonpossessed man who said, “I know who You are—the Holy One of God!” (v. 34 NKJV). Jesus quickly cast out the demon,

“You can’t analyze God. He is too awesome, too big, too mysterious.” —C. S. Lewis

and all were “amazed and spoke among themselves, saying, ‘What a word this is! For with authority and power He commands the unclean spirits, and they come out’” (v. 36 NKJV). God’s Awesome Power In another place in Capernaum—an overfilled home—Jesus showed He was more powerful than sin and sickness by performing a double miracle. A paralyzed man was brought to Him, and Jesus healed his soul and body. When the man got up and walked out the door, “this amazed everyone and they praised God, saying, ‘We have never seen anything like this!’” (Mark 2:12 NIV). God’s Awesome Peacemaking When Jesus’ words halted a violent storm on the Sea of Galilee, His disciples were awestruck and said to each other, “Who can this be, that even the wind and the sea obey Him!” (Mark 4:41 NKJV).

God’s Awesome Justice As Jesus died on a cross, awesome events transpired in Jerusalem: • Three hours of darkness took over in midday. • The thick curtain of the Temple split in two from top to bottom. • The earth shook, boulders split, and many godly people rose from the grave. In response to these supernatural events, the hardest of men—the Roman soldiers who murdered Jesus—were “terrified, and exclaimed, ‘Surely he was the Son of God!’” (Matt. 27:54 NIV). God’s Awesome Presence When the resurrected Jesus appeared to an overwhelmed Thomas, he declared, “My Lord and my God!” (John 20:28 NKJV). Right now in heaven, beings who live in God’s awesome presence are crying out, “Holy, holy, holy, Lord God Almighty, who was and is and is to come!” (Rev. 4:8 NKJV). God is deserving of this neverending praise because of who He is and because of what He does: He is always exerting authority, doing powerful deeds, speaking peace, administering justice, and manifesting His presence. “The Lord Most High is awesome” (Ps. 47:2 NKJV).

Four ways to contact the editor: • [email protected] • 423-478-7592 • Church of God Evangel on Facebook • Box 2250, Cleveland, TN 37320-2250

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CURRENTS The purpose of CURRENTS is to inform readers of trends and events influencing the culture.

somali scholar faces threats

Mark Driscoll

after a megachurch pastor leaves n CAN A MEGACHURCH survive the  departure of its mega-known pastor? For Seattle’s Mars Hill Church, it is an open question. Mars Hill announced in November that it would dissolve the multisite network of 13 churches across the Northwest that took root under Mark Driscoll, who stepped down in October after supporters lost confidence in his leadership. For many megachurches, a pastor can become larger than the church itself— particularly for multisite churches where disparate congregations are connected by a satellite feed to a pastor’s sermon. Before his resignation, the name “Mark Driscoll” was more widely known than “Mars Hill.” The church grew to an estimated 14,000 people at 15 locations across five states under Driscoll. Attendance dropped dramatically after his departure. According to Mars Hill leaders, by the start of 2015, locations within the Mars Hill network would either become independent, self-governing churches, 8

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merge with another church, or disband completely. Megachurches across the country have faced similar drops once their popular pastor left. For instance, after Rob Bell’s controversial book Love Wins raised debates over whether hell exists, his Grand Rapids, Michigan-based church lost about 1,000 congregants. Current pastor Kent Dobson said the church now has some 3,000 attendees. Contrarily, attendance at Jerry Falwell’s Thomas Road Baptist Church in Lynchburg, Virginia, was about 4,000 when he died. Under his son, Jonathan Falwell, the church now boasts about 10,000 attendees. Similarly, Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, founded by D. James Kennedy, had an average attendance of about 1,000 (and a broadcast reach of about 3 million) when he died in 2007. After facing turmoil during the transition, under Tullian Tchividjian (Billy Graham’s grandson), the church’s membership is around 2,400.—RNS

n A SOMALI SCHOLAR is stoking Muslim anger after he published a book questioning the concept of the death penalty for apostasy in Islam. Now, he is being branded as “Somalia’s Salman Rushdie”—a reference to the British–Indian novelist whose book, The Satanic Verses, provoked worldwide Muslim protests and a fatwa from Iranian Ayatollah Khomeini in 1989. Abdisaid Abdi Ismail’s book, The Rule of Apostasy in Islam: Is It True? was published in Kenya in September. Ismail was following the Meriam Yahya Ibrahim case before starting work on the book. She is the Sudanese woman sentenced to death for converting to Christianity, but later freed. Her case outraged the world and drew attention to the growing abuse of apostasy in Islam. (Ibrahim said she has always been a Christian.) The book, written in the Somali language, is being read in Western cities such as London, Toronto, and Minneapolis, where there are large populations of ethnic Somalis. Ismail’s concern is that Somali Islamic militants, clerics, and other extremist groups in Muslim-majority countries are applying apostasy as a political tool, branding those with contrary opinions as apostates who need to be killed. He has watched Al-Shabab justify the deaths of Abdisaid Abdi Ismail

those who oppose their hard-line interpretation of the Koran by branding them apostates. Since the book’s launch, Ismail says he has received warnings not to return to Somalia, where his wife and three children still live. He has also been branded a devil and infidel on social media, with radical clerics calling for the banning and burning of his book. He went to Kenya to publish the book because he could not find a willing publisher in Somalia. “Every day, I fear fanatical supporters of Somali extremists here in Kenya and Somalia may harm me,” he said. “I have been warned they may even try to kill me.” Ismail’s book is selling secretly in Kenya and Somalia, after booksellers removed it from their shelves in the wake of Muslim clergy protests. It is available in the Somali language on Amazon.—RNS

when the holocaust’s last survivors are gone n AS AGING HOLOCAUST survivors gathered at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum to celebrate its 20th anniversary last year, a question hung in the air: How will the world remember the Holocaust— the Nazis’ systematic murder of 6 million Jews—when the last survivors are gone? It’s a question Joshua M. Greene, the writer and producer of Memory After Belsen, grapples with in his new documentary that premiered in late November at the Museum of Jewish Heritage in New York. The premiere commemorated the 70th anniversary of the liberation of the Nazi concentration camps. “The further we get away from the actual events of history, the more difficult it will be to stimulate interest, and the more difficult it will be to avoid the Holocaust fading into ancient lore,” said Greene.

Shiva Kumar, director of Memory After Belsen

That concern is echoed by Jews and Holocaust educators around the world. “There is nothing that can truly replace the impact of meeting with someone who has gone through this experience,” said Elizabeth Gelman, executive director of the Florida Holocaust Museum. “We see that every day here. Junior-high kids and high-school kids come in, wiggling and poking each other. It’s just an excuse to get out of school. And then when they sit down, and a survivor starts talking, they are laser-focused.” At its New York premiere, the 76- minute film was screened in its entirety. But Greene and director Shiva Kumar made Memory After Belsen so it can also be watched in segments, to make it easier for high school and college teachers to show it in parts to classes on the Holocaust that may stretch over days or weeks. The film follows Robyn Thaler Hickey, whose grandmother was the lone member of her family to survive the Bergen-Belsen death camp. Hickey’s journey to the camp, now a memorial, begins with her plane ride to Germany. Wearing jeans, hipster glasses, and a ponytail, she snaps pictures of the land below with her smartphone, wondering in a voice-over about the place where her grandmother’s family lies in mass graves. And she wonders about her respon-

sibility to get her personal history right. “If I have kids one day, what story am I going to tell them?” she asks. “And what if I got it wrong? It would be really upsetting if I got it wrong.” Holocaust educator Tracy GarrisonFeinberg explains, at the end of the film, why everyone—Jewish or not—should ask Hickey’s question. “I’m an African-American Southerner. I’m a Catholic . . . this is not my history,” Feinberg said, putting those last words in quotes with her fingers. But “we are capable of great evil, and we are capable of great goodness and grace,” she continued. “Ultimately it’s my history, because it’s human history.” Her answer raises a further question tackled by the film: Should the Holocaust be taught as a unique or universal experience? Does it stand alone, or with other genocides? Greene, whose own grandmother was one of two members of her family to survive the Holocaust—the others died at Auschwitz—said he believes the Holocaust teaches universal lessons. But the risk of universalizing the Holocaust “is to strip it from its particular horror” and perhaps fail to understand its breadth and scope, said Greene, who teaches religion at Hofstra University on Long Island.—RNS EVANGEL • jan 2015

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by charles & mary hollifield

a cup or a crown?

“Do not seek your own advantage, but that of the other” (1 Cor. 10:24 NRSV).

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HERE WAS TROUBLE in the camp! Salome, mother of James and John, was attempting to influence the King on behalf of her sons.

“Grant that these two sons of mine may sit, one on Your right hand and the other on the left, in Your kingdom” (Matt. 20:21 NKJV). She was requesting preferential treatment among the Twelve. She was looking for a crown; instead, Jesus offered a cup: “Are you able to drink the cup that I am about to drink?” (v. 22 NKJV). James and John said, “We are able” (v. 22), probably not realizing Jesus was talking about a cup of suffering (v. 23). When the other disciples heard about Salome’s request, “they were greatly displeased with the two brothers” (v. 24 NKJV). With the coals of ambition and jealousy being stirred—stoking fleshly desires for power, prominence, privilege, and position—Jesus gave them a principle that was foreign to the first-century world in which they lived. “Whoever desires to become great among you, let him be your servant. And whoever desires to be first among you, let him be your slave” (vv. 26-27 NKJV).

Jesus was giving a command for unity, not just for the Twelve but for everyone in His kingdom. Stop clawing at each other like crabs in boiling water. That is the way of the world. The way of the Kingdom is not based on power, but sacrifice; not position, but servanthood; not privilege, but service; not prominence, but submissiveness. Jesus did not come to establish an earthly throne; He had stepped down from a heavenly one. He did not come to be 10

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served by slaves, but to serve and “give his life a ransom for many” (v. 28). The contemporary corporate world functions on survival of the fittest. This attitude of self-building, turf-ruling, and influence-grabbing has no place in the Church or in the life of a Christian. As believers, we move to a different drumbeat—a biblical worldview of preferring one another. “Do not seek your own advantage, but that of the other” (1 Cor. 10:24 NRSV). “Do not set your mind on high things, but associate with the humble. Do not be wise in your own opinion” (Rom. 12:16 NKJV). When the church meal is ready and grace has been prayed, do the church leaders assume a place at the head of line . . . or

step aside and wait to be sure everyone is served and there are adequate provisions for all? When there is an election for office in the church and the voting results report a tie between you and a fellow believer, do you dig in your heels and demand another vote . . . or withdraw your name and affirm your brother or sister? Do you find yourself grasping for position and power, longing to move up the ladder by any means possible . . . or celebrate the position in the Kingdom where you have been placed to serve? Are you seeking a crown . . . or Christ’s cup? Jesus said, “The last will be first, and the first last” (Matt. 20:16 NKJV). For many years, I have worked with local churches, organizing their greeters and ushers—whom I prefer to call “gatekeepers.” Many people want to be on the platform, but no minister in the church is more important than a faithful usher. You may only briefly see these servants; however, their many duties will keep a pastor at peace, keep a service in order, and make a lasting impression on newcomers. Rarely acknowledged or celebrated, they serve in a vital ministry of the church. In Acts 6, the apostles were becoming overwhelmed with the mundane tasks of maintaining daily care of needy Christians. The essential duties of mentoring, discipleship, teaching, and preaching were in danger of being neglected. The decision? Seven spiritual men were chosen to take care of the daily menial tasks. These were not platform assignments; they were assigned servant duties. The results? “The word of God kept on spreading; and the number of the disciples continued to increase greatly in

Jerusalem, and a great many of the priests were becoming obedient to the faith” (v. 7 NASB). The cup of one of those deacons, Stephen, led to martyrdom. His crown would be received later. A dear friend of our family is a celebrated minister, a renowned teacher, conference speaker, and prominent staff member at the Azalea Garden Church of God in Virginia Beach, Virginia. The pulpit and the platform are familiar venues for Gloria, and with her take-charge personality, she leads with ease. However, on this occasion she was inconspicuous, unnoticed by most of the attendants; even those she was serving were at first unaware of her presence. Our family was standing at the front of the sanctuary, receiving over 700 friends who came to offer support and comfort at the memorial service for our granddaughter. Sitting close by, for over an hour, Gloria kept us supplied with tissues and mints. With that same quality of ease and grace she displayed in the pulpit, she repeatedly collected the used, dirty tissues and provided new and clean ones. No one had asked Gloria to do this. It was not expected. She simply saw a need and filled it. An unexpected irritation was removed because of her simple servanthood. She did not participate in the service, nor did she assume a place of leadership. This servant leader chose a cup, not a crown. Could it be that the size of your eternal crown will be based on the depth of your cup? The apostle Paul said it this way in Philippians 2:3-8: Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also the interests of others. Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus: who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be

grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death—even death on a cross! (NIV)

In the earlier scene with Salome and her two sons, as Jesus looked at His disciples, I can only imagine how He may have choked back His emotions. He knew what lay ahead for these two brothers. James would be the first of the Twelve to die as a martyr. John would be the last to die and would leave a revelation of the future.

Look for opportunities to serve. Don’t forget—someone else built the platform on which you are standing! Prefer one another; give in. You do not have to win every race, but you must finish well. Seek a cup, not a crown. Charles Hollifield is a retired pastor and director of Timothy Ministries (discministries .com); Mary is sole proprietor of ACTS III Ministries (acts3ministries.com). The Hollifields are members of the Enon Church of God in Chester, Virginia.

Quitting the Rat Race I HEARD ABOUT an Englishman who visited the United States years ago to see what made Americans tick. He made three different visits. After his first visit, he concluded we are driven by a compulsion for wealth. After his second visit, he concluded we are driven by a compulsion for power. After his third visit, he concluded we are driven by a compulsion for speed. He was right. We live in the fast lane. We are somewhat like the man who came dashing out of an office building, hailed a cab, and began to shout, “Go man! Go! Go!”

The driver looked around rather confused and asked, “Where?” The businessperson replied, “Anywhere, man, anywhere! I’ve got business everywhere!” In Luke 21:19, Jesus confronts our fastlane living: “In your patience possess ye your souls.” Somewhere along the line, we’ve got to come to terms with the value of patience. One man did and said, “I got out of the rat race. The rats won!” When Jesus said, “In your patience possess ye your souls,” He meant that patience is the power of self-control. The problem so many of us face is a lack of self-control. Circumstances control us. People control us. Environmental conditions control us. We seem to be pulled to and fro by a whole host of external forces and the whole time we are never in control of ourselves. We explode in anger without explanation. We say harsh words to the people we love and say, “I’m sorry. I don’t know what made me say that.” We awake in the middle of the night filled with worry, tension, and anxiety regarding some situation, conflict, or decision. It all spells lack of self-control. Patience means our motivation is internal, our inner strength is greater than external stress, and we are in control of our thoughts, feelings, attitudes, and actions. —David C. Cooper (Timeless Truths in Changing Times, Pathway Press)

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HY DO SO MANY Christians handle their money and possessions so poorly?

The Word teaches the borrower is servant to the lender (Prov. 22:7) and we should not become slaves of men (1 Cor. 7:23), yet many Christians are buried in debt and enslaved. Christian counselors identify debt as a major problem in marriages. Many Christians pay homage to the credit-card god and are unable to honor the God of the universe with worship in giving. Here are two ways our world is having an unhealthy impact on Christians and finances: 1. Lustful hoarding affecting giving to complete the Great Commission 2. Christ-less spending and incurring of unhealthy debt Why is our society so materialistic? Dallas Willard said, “There is a tendency with all material possessions to obscure the needs they cannot satisfy. A full hand helps us forget an empty heart.” The world needs Jesus Christ, but takes Satan’s bait and turns toward their lust for possessions. When Christians lust for possessions and fail to fund the Great Commission, it has to be because our relationship with Jesus Christ is lacking. Around the end of the 19th century, a tourist visited the home of the famous Polish rabbi Hafez Hayyim. He was astonished to see only a simple room filled with books, a table, and a bench. “Rabbi, where is your furniture?” asked the tourist. “Where is yours?” replied Hafez. “Mine? But I’m only a visitor here.” “So am I,” said the rabbi. Christians are not designed for this world; we are made for eternity. As strangers and pilgrims here, we should “abstain from fleshly lusts, which war against the soul” 12

EVANGEL • jan 2015

by ken davis

breaking financial

Strongholds (1 Peter 2:11) and not “set [our] mind on earthly things. For our citizenship is in heaven” (Phil. 3:19-20 NKJV). Yet, the way many Christians live in relationship to possessions and finances makes it appear they have been designed for this world and not the world to come!

Now he who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will also supply and increase your store of seed and will enlarge the harvest of your righteousness. You will be enriched in every way so that you can be generous on every occasion (2 Cor. 9:10-11 NIV).

The insidious pull of culture—through television, movies, and advertising—influences our view of success and possessions. The culture is secular, and thus operates in sharp contrast to God’s financial principles. That should not surprise us. “‘For My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways My ways,’ declares the Lord” (Isa. 55:8 NASB).

Consider how these following statistics fly in the face of those scriptures:

Jesus said, “It is more blessed to give than to receive” (Acts 20:35). Paul told the Corinthian Church:

• Giving by Christians is comparatively lower (2.5% of income) than that given in the Great Depression (emptytomb.org).

• 17 percent of Christians say they tithe, while only 3 percent do, reported Barna Research. (No surprise that a thief might also lie!) • 37 percent of those attending evangelical churches give nothing to their church (Barna).

• When people who regularly attend Christian church services were asked to describe the importance of various spiritual endeavors, a minority described evangelism and giving 10 percent or more of their income to their church as “important” (Barna). • If all Christians went on welfare and tithed, money available to ministry would increase 30 percent. There is only one conclusion to be reached: Christians are handling their finances and wealth immaturely. Obviously, most do not believe Jesus’ words in Luke 6:38: “Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you” (NIV).

These statistics are especially sad in light of two significant trends: 1. The accumulation of wealth by Evangelicals and Pentecostals in America is reaching levels never before seen. 2. Opportunities for the church to grow are greater than ever before. A couple in North Carolina had a lot of credit-card debt, but after they became Christians and attended a moneymanagement class at the local Church of God, they worked hard to eliminate their credit-card debt. As their son advanced in school, he made very good grades. It became obvious he needed a personal computer to continue doing well in school. The parents discussed how they were going to get a computer for their son. They considered using a credit card, but did not feel good about it. The husband, “Jim,” told his wife they should pray for God to provide a computer. She told her husband that since they were tithers and generous toward God and others, she felt they could go boldly to God. During the third week of praying, a knock came at the front door. A man from the church was standing there with a huge

box in his arms. He said, “I know your boy does really well in school, and I just won this computer in a drawing. I already have a computer, and I thought your boy might want this one. Does he need a computer?” Jim said he stood there with his mouth open for a few moments, unable to say anything. As he tells this story, he says he wonders why he stood there speechless since this was exactly what he had been asking God to do. Finally, the neighbor said, “I am not asking you to buy it; I am giving it to you.”

“Give, and it will be given to you” (Luke 6:38).

With a smile on his face and a tear in his eye, Jim said, “Oh yes, our son needs a computer. Would you mind coming inside and help us praise God for this miracle that has just happened?”

If you suspect you might not be generous, ask yourself seven questions: 1. Do you give 10 percent or more of your income to God? 2. Do you regularly give to help those who are impoverished? 3. Do you ever wonder if you are giving enough? 4. Have you ever thought about selling something you own so you can give more to missions? 5. Do you ever tell other people how much joy you get from giving? 6. When the pastor preaches on money and possessions, do you enjoy hearing the message? 7. Are you decreasing your indebtedness? If you answer “no” to most of these questions, you need to change. It is easy to tell you to start being generous to God. It is also easy to tell you how possessions and money are temporary and you should invest in sharing the gospel of Jesus Christ. However, you have heard those things in the past. Consider Joshua 5:13-15: Now when Joshua was near Jericho, he looked up and saw a man standing in front of him. . . . Then Joshua fell facedown to the ground in reverence, and asked him, “What message does my Lord have for his servant?” The commander of the Lord’s army replied, “Take off your sandals, for the place where you are standing is holy.” And Joshua did so (NIV).

You will never convince Jim that if he had used his credit card instead of praying, the computer would have shown up at the door. You will never convince his wife that their generosity toward God and others was not a factor in that answer to prayer.

What do we learn from that passage? First, Joshua worshiped. Second, he asked the Lord, “What do I need to hear from You?” Third, as soon as Joshua was told what to do, he did it.

When people are stingy toward God, they have a spiritual problem. They may have heard a lot of teaching and preaching on what the Bible says about money and possessions, but they do not change. The right attitude about finances requires a transformation of the heart.

Try looking at financial matters as God does. The Bible will guide you.

Worship. Ask. Listen. Do.

Ken Davis, D.Min., is vice president of institutional advancement at the Pentecostal Theological Seminary in Cleveland, Tennessee. [email protected]

EVANGEL • jan 2015

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by hannah moore

hoping against Hope Living between the “already” and the “not yet”

Hannah Moore “hopes against hope” despite the daily challenges of life with cerebral palsy and chronic pain. She presented this reflection on Romans 4:18-21 at the Azusa Lecture on October 28, 2014, in Cleveland, Tennessee.

i

THINK A LOT these days about the promises of God. Maybe many of us do.

All through the process of writing this reflection, I wondered, How honest do I want to be as I revisit my own experience with these promises? As tempting as it is to make everything sound lovely and nice, I’ve decided I cannot sit here before you like this without being real. So, at the risk that this is probably going to end up more like a “testimony” than a “homily,” here goes. My closest friends and family already know this, and they have been faithful to walk through it with me. The painful truth is this: For a while now, I’ve been in full-on combat with depression—some of the worst I’ve ever seen. Over the past year and a half or so, as the darkness keeps getting darker, I’ve spent a lot of energy trying to figure out why. Even though I should know better, my brain keeps insisting that maybe if I 14

EVANGEL • jan 2015

understood it, I could fix it, and I would get well.

Anyone—especially me—could have misinterpreted.

On the surface, it should be easy to identify why I’m depressed. I think partly, the relentless pain and disease in my body is simply taking its toll on my heart and mind.

Even if the promise is true, I’ve followed Christ long enough to realize He sometimes requires us to place that which we treasure most on the altar before Him.

But there’s something else—something deeper.

Again, I pose a question: Does He wish for me to place this promise on the altar?

Probably like many of us here in this room, I am waiting on the fulfillment of a promise from God. Yes, I try very hard not to insist that the fulfillment has to look a certain way. And I do not pretend to understand the specifics of what God has in mind. But I do know these promises go beyond anything I would ever dare to ask for.

I believe the answer to this second question is yes, because He wants me to die to my own ideas of what fulfillment of the promise should look like. In time, God might even call me to return to the altar and take up the promise once more. But I must hold it very gently, without grabbing or grasping.

Truthfully, I think much of my depression can be attributed to the sheer mismatch between the wholeness God has promised —in whatever form that may come— versus the profound brokenness I face. Every single minute of every single day. More times than I can count, I have asked God, Do You wish for me to let go of the promise? After all, perhaps it wasn’t even from Him! Maybe my vain imaginations are to blame . . . and those of the wellintentioned people who love me so dearly.

Back to the first question: Does God wish for me to let go of the promise altogether? This is how I would answer: Often, I meditate on what faith means. Sure, Hebrews 11:1 tells us “faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” But what does that actually look like? For a long time, like many Pentecostals, I tended to see faith as some mysterious, powerful force. If I could muster up enough of it, something miraculous would happen.

But slowly, I am learning there is more— so much more—to faith than this. For one, faith isn’t a force to be mustered up so something “big” will happen. On the contrary, faith is that which somehow holds on to God and what He has promised. Even when—especially when— nothing “big” happens. And you’re left just trying to make it the best you can, wading through the pain and the tears and the nitty-gritty of daily living.

“Every breath I take is a statement of faith. I choose to live.” Some in our helplessly earthbound culture might think it’s easy to cherish a crazy dream like this one. The harder thing, they say, is to knuckle down and do the “real work” of accepting things as they are. I see it differently. For me, it’s actually much harder to hold on to the promise. Because everything—my entire present reality—shouts the contrary. Just a few weeks ago, I received yet another troubling medical diagnosis. And I won’t try to use pretty words. It was like getting smashed in the gut by a heavyweight boxer. So once again, I asked the Lord, “Should I let go of the promise? Perhaps I’ve discerned it all wrong until now. Maybe this is Your final signal that I really should just give it up.” Yet the still, small voice in my heart said differently. I would have let go of the promise . . . but the promise—and the God who made it—

would not let go of me. Not even when everything around me screams—and believe me, it screams louder than you can imagine—that the promise cannot possibly be true. Upon reflection, maybe that’s a bit of what the apostle Paul meant when he wrote about Abraham “hoping against hope”: Against all hope, Abraham in hope believed and so became the father of many nations, just as it had been said to him, “So shall your offspring be.” Without weakening in his faith, he faced the fact that his body was as good as dead—since he was about a hundred years old—and that Sarah’s womb was also dead. Yet he did not waver through unbelief regarding the promise of God, but was strengthened in his faith and gave glory to God, being fully persuaded that God had power to do what he had promised (Rom. 4:18-21 NIV).

Can you imagine how Abraham and Sarah felt after God made the promise . . . and time kept passing? Year after year after year? Their bodies got older. Frailer. Still, the hoped-for child did not come. And they may have come close to forsaking the promise. I imagine Abraham laid this promise on the altar many times. Even before his son was born, God may have been preparing Abraham for when he would literally lay

the realization of that promise—Isaac himself—on the altar. Yet, the Scriptures tell us Abraham did not give up. Not even when he got so old that he knew his body was as good as dead. Indeed, Abraham did not let go of the promise. He may have faltered along the way, but he didn’t let go. Neither did God. After all, wasn’t He the One who “strengthened Abraham in his faith”? So perhaps I shouldn’t let go, either. Every breath I take is a statement of faith. I choose to live. And I choose to believe God is doing—and will do—what He has promised. Honestly, I often worry that my holding on to the promise for the future will impede my ability to serve God in the present. I’m coming to realize that perhaps in some way, my holding on to this promise for the future is part of my serving God in the present. By walking daily in the tension between the “already” and the “not yet,” I am bearing witness. For me, that is faith. Hannah Moore is a graduate of Lee University. She lives in Cleveland, Tennessee, where she is a member of New Covenant Church of God. [email protected] “If you openly admit by your own mouth that Jesus Christ is the Lord, and if you believe in your own heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved” (Rom. 10:9).

“Men have preferred darkness to light because their deeds are evil” (John 3:19).*

LIE

HATE LUST GOSSIP STEAL KILL COVET CHEAT

ABUSE

“Christ died for our sins . . . and rose again on the third day” (1 Cor. 15:3-4).

ETERNAL LIFE

*All scriptures are from the Phillips translation.

EVANGEL • jan 2015

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weak is the new strong by craig groeschel

O

NE TIME I was trying to shovel about 12 inches of packed snow off my driveway so I could get my car out and drive to church to preach. Knowing it was a big task, I started several hours early. With all my strength, again and again, I struck the snow with my shovel. Cracking through the icy snow took considerable more effort than I imagined. Within half an hour, my hands started to blister, my back started to ache, and my face started to turn red, partly from the cold air, but more from frustration. An hour later, I had cleared only about one-tenth of what I’d need to even get my car out of the garage.

1. Turn “I want it” to “I want God.” Whatever “it” is for you, as soon as you start to feel that tug, that gravity drawing you toward “I want it,” catch yourself. Resist the pull. Capture those thoughts and force them to be obedient to Christ (2 Cor. 10:3-5). What you really want is God— His strength, His daily power, His Word living inside you. You want Him ordering your steps. You want His Spirit convicting you when you sin, correcting you, leading you in the paths of righteousness (John 16:7-8; Heb. 12:6; Ps. 23:3). Some people say God is a crutch for the weak. Absolutely! I’m weak. I want God. I need His strength. And so do you.

That’s when my neighbor powered by, smiling joyfully on his tractor, moving snow like he was a child playing in a sandbox. “Need help?” he graciously (and miraculously) offered. (Angels in heaven sang. Not the ones playing harps. I’m talking about the massive singing-inbaritone type of angels.) In less than 15 minutes, my driveway and half my street was cleared—not a flake of snow on the concrete.

2. Turn “I deserve it” to “I deserve death.” Extreme? Maybe. But you know what? This is war. And when the stakes are eternal life—yours and the lives of others—we’re going to do whatever we have to do. We’re unholy men who have sinned against a holy God. The payment for our sin is death (Rom. 6:21-23). We deserve death. This is God’s universe; we just live in it. He doesn’t owe us anything. We owe Him everything.

I was struck by the contrast. My shovel and limited strength. Or a tractor and a skilled driver’s strength. Fighting life’s battles works the same way. You can fight using your own limited power. Or you can tap into the all-powerful, limitless God who wants to help you win every battle for His causes. Here’s how.

What did you make? Nothing. He made everything. For everything you have, you owe Him. When we were still sinners, God sent His Son to save and forgive us (Rom. 5:6-8). When we can be humble enough to admit the truth, it should make us bow down before a holy God, saying, “I don’t have to serve You. I want to serve You.”

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EVANGEL • jan 2015

3. Turn “I can handle it” to “I can’t handle anything without God.” If you aren’t a Christian, now is your moment to call on God. How are you doing without Him? Ask Christ to forgive you and be your Savior, your Lord. You can’t handle anything without Him. If you are a Christian, do you remember what your life was like before you came to Christ? I remember mine. And let me tell you, I simply was not capable of righteousness. The best I could have come up with on my own was shameful before God (Isa. 64:6; Phil. 3:79). I need God. Every time you feel that pride creeping back in, that “I can handle this,” remember what we deserve: death. We can’t handle anything without God. Again, I ask you, what kind of strength do you want to fight with? Your feeble strength? Or God’s unlimited, unmatched power? You are weak. God is strong. His strength is made perfect in your weakness. Satan loves to make strong men weak. God loves to make weak men strong. Will you let Him? Craig Groeschel is the founding and senior pastor of LifeChurch.tv in Edmond, Oklahoma. Taken from Fight, by Craig Groeschel. Copyright 2013 by Craig Groeschel. Used by permission of Zondervan (zondervan.com).

TIM HILL Director

The Power of the Message From the Director

JOHN CHILDERS Assistant Director

CHURCH OF GOD

WORLD MISSIONS

FUSING TODAY’S DREAMS WITH TOMORROW’S POTENTIAL.

Global Connect January 2015 WORLD MISSIONS LEADERSHIP Tim Hill, Director

Perhaps the earliest influence on my life for missions was my father, J.W. Hill. Now John Childers, Assistant Director retired, he served pastorates in Texas for many years. He regularly traveled to Mexico and Dee Raff, Missions Administrator other Spanish-speaking countries for evangelistic ministry, and I loved to hear about his adventures. EDITOR Bill George My dad and mom, J.W. and Mildred Hill, DESIGN EDITOR Brandon Spell recently celebrated their 70th wedding anniversary. CONTRIBUTING EDITOR Janet Polen Price Their faithfulness to each other and to the work of the gospel has been a constant inspiration to me and Paula. While Dad was the one who journeyed to other countries, Mom kept the home fires burning, taking care of the church and children until he returned. What a dedicated ministry couple! Probably my favorite missions story involving Dad is one I recounted in the book, Faith of Our Fathers, edited by Donald Aultman and Steven Land. Arriving at a crowded church in rural Mexico in the dead of winter, Dad discovered that no translator was available to interpret his sermon. Finally, a small, bent, elderly man speaking broken English volunteered to help deliver the message. The theme was “Because of Calvary,” but the man didn’t recognize the J.W. and Mildred Hill early in their marriage word “Calvary.” Dad changed it to “the Cross,” which the man could translate. At the end of the message, which was marked by a spirit of conviction, numerous people crowded the altar, seeking the Lord. As Dad was praying with them, he felt a tug on his sleeve. Looking down, he recognized his translator. In broken English, the man told Dad, “Me not saved.” Kneeling beside the penitent seeker, the preacher led his weeping interpreter to the Lord. In a real sense, the old man had preached the sermon The Hills recently celebrated their 70th anniversary. that won him to Christ. The missions lesson for me? The message of the Cross conveys power within itself! That message is preached around the world, 24 hours a day, in nearly 37,000 churches and thousands more missions by faithful missionaries and dedicated national men and women of God. It keeps going forth because of your commitment of obedience. Thank you for what you are doing, and —rest assured—the Lord of the Church keeps good records! Tim Hill Director global

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global Journal A Collection of Short Stories from the Missions Field Guatemala Orphanage Adds Worship Chapel Casa Shalom (“House of Peace”) Orphanage, near Guatemala City, is adding a chapel that will serve as the center of spiritual life on the campus. While worship services are central to the life of the children, no sacred space has been available until now, and worship has taken place in the dining hall or elsewhere. The new construction is on the highest point of the property, which overlooks the nation’s capital at a distance. Casa Shalom will celebrate 30 years of ministry in 2015. It was established by American missionaries Rick and Jan Waldrop in 1985 and was the first Church of God orphanage set up by missionaries. It presently cares for nearly 100 residents. The orphanage is one of 130 institutions related to the Church

Construction on new Casa Shalom chapel

that care for children.

Southeast Asian Nation Reaps Spiritual Harvest The story began in 2012 when Pastor Terry Harris and The Crossing Church of God in Chattanooga, Tennessee, covenanted with leaders in

established. They now average winning 540 people to the Lord each month, and they have 840 people in discipleship groups training for lay ministry.

Southeast Asia to finance the training of disciple-makers and church planters

The ministry of the newly trained pastors is multiplied when they can

for a “creative access” country (the designation for places where traditional

travel to other towns and villages. With that in mind, Harris and the Crossing

public evangelism and conversion is not possible).

Church have raised more than $20,000 that will be used to purchase a fleet of

Over the last three years, training has taken place for 37 pastors, some of

motorcycles for the pastors’ use.

it within the country and some in a nearby nation. In mid-2014, Pastor Harris and friends traveled to the country for a

The national leader in the country is ecstatic. He colorfully stated, “When those first churches were being established, we were like an airplane on

graduation ceremony when the 37 men and women received certificates of

the runway waiting to take off. Now, with these trained leaders at work, the

completion.

airplane has taken off, and we’re not going back to the airport!”

During the period of training, 34 new house churches have been

Honduras Island Overseer Offers Community Help Two humanitarian ministries are helping the Church of God on the island of Roatan, one of the Bay Islands of Honduras, to reach out to their communities, according to reports from Missionary Paul Dyar. While the church still strongly emphasizes evangelism, the medical and educational needs of the island have attracted the attention of the missionary and his team. Within the past couple of years, the efforts of the church and its friends have opened a medical clinic, Vessels of Mercy, and a school, Kingdom Bilingual Educational Center. The school has just successfully completed its first semester of operation. Although they envisioned an opening enrollment of about 60, they presently have 172 students registered in the English and Spanish educational program. The Vessels of Mercy Clinic, which was started some time ago, continues to expand. The medical center is now seeking donations of an X-ray and an ultrasound machine. With this equipment, the clinic will be able to better serve the community. The Dyar’s email address is [email protected]. 18

global

Indonesian Youth Commit to Missions Missionary Tommy Smith reported on an unusual response following a sermon he preached on “Divine Provision for Finishing the Great Commission” on a recent Sunday. The sermon was one of five in one day, all of them delivered to a church

and Light Company” and become salt and light in the world. Among the 20-something youth was a girl who was a recent convert from Islam. “I wish all of you who know about my ministry could have been in that small room, when these young people prayed together and the Holy Spirit fell

that meets in a large mall. “I spent 13 and a half hours in the mall, and hadn’t

on them all,” he said. “There’s something special about young people rejoicing

done any shopping at all,” he laughed.

in the Spirit!” Part of the missionary’s strong emphasis is to encourage a

Following the 2:00 p.m. service, a group of young people followed the preacher into a smaller room, indicating they wanted to become missionaries and asking for special prayer. Tommy had challenged them to join the “Salt

mindset that moves Christians from thinking of themselves as a mission field to considering themselves a mission force. Smith’s email is [email protected].

Biblical City Witnesses New Move of God In the New Testament, the city went by the name Lydda and, according to

but shortly before beginning, the Holy Spirit urged him to preach on a

Acts 9, it was the site of a notable miracle when Peter prayed for a paralytic

different theme. A woman in the congregation could not look at him, and she

who was healed. A few weeks ago, another miracle happened there when a

appeared agitated during the sermon. Following the service, they had a long

woman bound by an evil spirit was set free.

conversation, which resulted in her repentance, conversion, and complete

Now called Lod, the town was visited recently by Israel’s president, Reuven Rivlin. It is the location of one of Israel’s Church of God congregations,

deliverance from an evil force. Tears of joy were flowing all around. Church leaders are praying for revival in a Russian-speaking congregation

where Mousa Alawi is pastor. In a Friday night service (most people must

in Beit Shemesh, as well as in the Lod Church, and in Jerusalem. Keep Israel

work on Sunday, so Friday is the main time for worship gatherings), a guest

covered in prayer.

speaker, Abdalla Khuri, was preaching. The minister had prepared a message,

Jungle Hospital Celebrates Record-Setting Year According to Dr. Martin and Wendy Williams, medical missionaries of Healing Hands Global in Honduras, 2014 has been a banner year for their service in the mountainous jungles of their service area. They recently sent the following report to supporters:



Hosted a teachers conference for 80 teachers.



Continued development of the hospital.



Initiated a new women’s health screening ministry.



Consulted with more than 1,900 patients at the hospital.



Visited over 1,400 patients in community medical brigades.



Taught health/hygiene to more than 1,200 school students.



Hosted 18 mission teams and practitioners.

dental, and spiritual care and to bring health, hope, and healing to people of



Mentored seven missions interns.

the Third World. The accomplishments of the past year indicate they are doing



Furnished classroom supplies to 85 teachers.

an admirable job in their part of the globe!



Distributed 38,000 vitamins and over 1,200 parasitic medications to

The vison of Healing Hands Global is to provide comprehensive medical,

The website for the ministry is junglehospital.com.

children.

Mideast Nation Sees Growth in Converts A country where Christian church buildings cannot be built has recently

Open Doors USA. Included in the 10 are eight Islamic countries that have

witnessed a healthy increase in the number of house churches where friends

instituted Shari’ah law. The pressure on Christians in the Middle East has

gather to study the Bible and share the faith with people who are interested.

resulted in a dramatic decline in their population. Since the early part of the

This “Creative Access country,” so named because normal means and

twentieth century the Christian population declined from 35 percent to 5

methods of evangelism cannot be practiced and Christians are subject to

percent in Iraq, 15 percent to 2 percent in Iran, 40 percent to 10 percent in

harassment and worse, has seen the work grow from one location to four in

Syria, and 32 percent to less than 1 percent in Turkey.

a short period. The number of Christians last month increased from 121 to

U.S. believers are counseled to pray for this country—God certainly

131, this in a nation where anyone who converts is subject to persecution and

knows its name and location!—as well as the several other creative access

imprisonment.

places where persecution faces Christians.

The Church of God has a presence in 30 “creative access” countries, several of them among the top 10 “most persecuted” nations, according to global

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The FINISH Challenge: N Stands for “Nurture” World Missions continues its advance of the FINISH Challenge, using the letters of the word FINISH as an acrostic that spells out Find, Intercede, Nurture, Invest, Send, and Harvest. “Nurture” embraces all that is done to educate, train, and enhance the abilities of the men and women who preach the gospel, plant churches, teach discipleship, minister to the sick, care for orphans, and all the other activities that help move the Great Commission toward the finish line. Daniel Kasongo was born in the Congo, but moved to Zambia for security reasons. There he attended a Church of God Bible school. Because his leaders recognized his leadership skills, he was recommended for a World Missions scholarship to the Pentecostal Theological Seminary. Completing a three-year program in two years and a summer, he graduated with awards and returned to Zambia. Back in Africa, he developed the Loaves and Fishes Institute, a school that teaches Bible and theology half the day and farming skills the other half. Graduates of the school are able to support their families while they serve effectively as pastors. By the way, Daniel is fluent in English, French, Swahili, and two other African languages. Nurturing Daniel was a good investment in the Kingdom. It has long been noted that in the places where the church has effective schools, the church experiences better growth and expansion. In many countries, when the site of the training institution is pinpointed on a map, concentric circles can be drawn around it showing the location and strength of the churches in that country.

People who have been nurtured are able to nurture their followers, and in that manner the church grows. The “nurture” mission draws inspiration from 2 Timothy 2:2, “You have heard me teach things that have been confirmed by many reliable witnesses. Now teach these truths to other trustworthy people who will be able to pass them on to others.” More than 120 Christian service schools, Bible institutes and colleges, and seminaries have undertaken the mission of getting people ready to make disciples. They range from small classes of six or eight people meeting in a local church to impressive campuses with many edifices ranging over large properties, or high-rise buildings in metropolitan settings. Donors who support schools may, in a sense, have a more far-reaching influence than any other donors, since their gifts train students or support teachers who train students who win others, who then win others, and the echoes of that original gift continue to extend and expand. Despite the challenges of shrinking budgets, World Missions continues to emphasize the absolute necessity of supporting educational efforts. Nurture is vital to missions.

» visit us ONLINE

globalCONNECT updates are also online with extra content not found in this newsletter! Every week, a brief threeto five-minute video containing exciting stories, news, and a personal message from the Word by Director Tim Hill will be uploaded to www.cogwm.org. Just click “Media” and experience what’s happening in Missions!

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global

by bob bayles & robert mccready

to home-based family discipleship

T

HE GREATEST THREAT to the Christian home in the 21st century is not radical Islam or secular humanism. The greatest threat is the failure to train the next generation of believers to be solid, passionate Christ-followers with a biblical worldview. In Deuteronomy 6:4-9, God calls parents to disciple their children. The Hebrew verb translated as teach in this passage presents the imagery of sharpening a knife. The Hebrew parents were to instill within their children a love for God and His law, thereby producing a “razor-sharp knife” for God. One stroke across a whetstone will not produce a sharp knife, but repeated action will. Parents must teach their children about God and His Word continually and repeatedly. When Joshua told the people of Israel, “Choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve. . . . But as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord” (Josh. 24:15 NKJV), the people responded, “We will serve the Lord” (v. 21). Yet, two chapters later, we read, “Another generation arose after them who did not know the Lord” (Judg. 2:10 NKJV). So what happened between Joshua 24 and Judges 2? One generation failed to teach the next generation about God. After Jesus’ resurrection, He told His disciples, “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations . . . teaching them to observe all that I commanded you” (Matt. 28:19-20 NASB). This is not a great suggestion, but the Great Commission. All believers must make disciples. This is the central command of Christ.

Some 350 years ago, Richard Baxter was appointed as the new pastor of a small community in England. He quickly became aware of how little his parish knew of Scripture. He knew he could not preach biblical and theological sermons on Sunday if the people did not understand what he was saying. He set out on a quest to personally disciple each family (approximately 800 families) in his parish—and he did! Baxter said, “You are not likely to see a general reformation until you secure family reformation.” In today’s language, Baxter would probably say, “You are not likely to see a general revival until you secure family revival.” If discipleship is not being done in the home, how can we expect it to be done in the church? The mission of Devoted— a new resource from the Church of God Division of Adult Discipleship—is designed to help parents disciple their children. The Devoted initiative will be emphasized in local churches from Mother’s Day through Father’s Day in 2015. Every Church of God family—traditional, blended, extended, and single-parent—

will be asked to explore God’s Word together one day per week for six weeks. The resources will be web-based and free (www.devoted.cc). Families will be encouraged to continue having family worship time one day each week for a year. Both authors of this article have multiple stories of their own children asking them questions during a worship service. One of Bob’s children, age 6, heard the word Calvary in a song the congregation was singing. She leaned over and asked, “What does Calvary mean?” Great question; fortunately he was there to answer. Soon after one of Robert’s sons had confessed Christ as Savior, his church held Communion service. Robert was able to share with him how Christ instituted Communion and explained the symbolic meaning of the elements. Those teachable moments are powerful in the life of a child. Bob and Robert are extremely grateful to have their children in worship with them. As fathers, it provides a wonderful occasion to train their children. What would happen if all Christian parents led in the effort to disciple their own children? What if Christian families gathered around the Bible one night per week? Devoted is there to help you disciple your children. The church is there to supplement and help, but the primary responsibility rests on the home. Bob Bayles is a professor at Lee University, and Robert McCready is pastor of Cornerstone Family Church in Cleveland, Tennessee.

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by j. david stephens

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HEN JESUS CHRIST lived on earth, His followers viewed Him as loving, peaceful, and meek—a servant. However, the Romans saw Him as radical and rebellious—a revolutionary. Jesus caused unrest and discord in the first-century world. He demonstrated a lifestyle contrary to the principles of Roman society. He did not allow the laws of the land to alter His core values or personal behaviors. To the world, the life of Jesus during His ministry on earth was upside-down. Jesus did not live according to the world’s ideology. He refused to become selfabsorbed and self-serving. Instead, He was consumed with the needs of others. Indeed, Jesus had turned His own life upside-down when He left the throne of heaven to be born in a stable. To His disciples, He turned life as they knew it upside-down when He sacrificed Himself on the cross as the supreme sacrifice to save fallen men and women. Today, Christ is still turning lives upsidedown . . . and He wants us involved in this 22

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A revolutionary lifestyle process. When missionaries Paul and Silas went to Thessalonica, their opponents cried out, “These who have turned the world upside down have come here too” (Acts 17:6 NKJV). While we cannot change the whole world, we know the One who can! We hold “the keys [to] the kingdom” (Matt. 16:19) as “ambassadors for Christ,” charged to reconcile people to God (2 Cor. 5:20). Years ago, I saw a movie on evangelism called The Gospel Blimp. It illustrated the false concept that only big things make a difference in reaching people for Christ. Most of us can do more for one person than we can do for the masses. Remember, Jesus did not call legions of angels to initiate God’s redemptive plan for humanity; instead, He came alone and died alone on a Roman cross. It is God’s desire for us to strengthen the weak and not to be all about ourselves. Jesus told Peter, “When thou art converted, strengthen thy brethren” (Luke 22:32). This calls for upside-down living— to intentionally follow Christ’s example by focusing on others.

The apostle Paul amplified Christ’s command to live in ways opposite of worldly thinking: “We who are strong ought to bear with the failings of the weak and not to please ourselves. Each of us should please his neighbor for his good, to build him up” (Rom. 15:1-2 NIV). Paul understood that only strong Christians are able to look beyond themselves. It was true in his day, and it is true today. Many Christians are manipulated by the “me-first” philosophy of the world. Narcissistic behavior permeates our society, feeding a heightened sense of personal interests, esteem, and entitlement. It is with this understanding that Paul pleads for us to present ourselves as “a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is [our] reasonable service” (12:1 NKJV). Paul further challenges us to have the mind of Christ. God does not think for us. We are to commit our thoughts to His will, and to think like Him! We are not to “be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of [our] mind” (v. 2). This is a daily challenge, and reading the Word of God equips us for it. His Word is a living power that changes how

we see the needs of our neighbors, our present circumstances, and life in general. Our inclination is to distance ourselves from people who do not believe as we do. We easily write off people who think and act differently. We move past them quickly. We dismiss them as if we have little, if any, responsibility for them. Yet, Jesus said we are to be concerned and involved with them. We are to be “salt” and “light” among them (Matt. 5:13-14). The process begins with the personal commitment to actively look for opportunities to encourage and help others. Some talk about divine appointments . . . and there are people who cross our paths at a time when an encouraging word or deed will be prompted by the Holy Spirit. However, unless we are intentionally looking for these opportunities, we will not recognize them when they present themselves. There are few people, if any, who are not experiencing some type of personal struggle. Life is always a challenge, and Satan is relentless in his quest to destroy hope, love, and faith. Jesus seized every opportunity to help people, and He wants us to do the same. It may be a Zacchaeus looking for Jesus, or someone like the woman at the well. It may be a desperate person found in the act of sin. Perhaps it is a father who is confused because God has not healed his son, or a young disciple like Mark who needs another chance to fulfill his call to ministry. Every day our lives intersect with people who are in the throes of a battle or in a dark valley. They might feel hopeless and ready to give up on their faith. You or I may be the only person available for God to use, so we must be actively looking for these special opportunities. A fellow minister who needed direction in a difficult situation told me, “Well, I’m keeping my eyes open.” I replied, calling him by name, “There is a difference between keeping your eyes open and looking for something in

particular. Lots of people have their eyes open, but that is not the same as actively looking for God’s answer.”

conversation caused her to reevaluate her thinking about the situation and alter her approach in talking with her family.

Many years later, he told me my admonition totally changed his perspective and, ultimately, his future decisions!

I share these examples to encourage you to look outside yourself and seriously consider investing in others while you abandon acts for personal gain.

Recently, a parent was telling me about some challenges with her grown children. She said, “My husband and I feel our kids are making wrong decisions, and we are mainly concerned about their souls.” I expressed my understanding of their concern for their children’s souls. Then, being careful to communicate clearly, I asked if their concern did not also include anxiety about their children’s choices affecting the desired relationship with them and their grandchildren. Immediately, I saw a look of surprise on her face. A few days later, she thanked me for my insightful question. She told me that our

For even Christ pleased not himself; but, as it is written, The reproaches of them that reproached thee fell on me. For whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning, that we through patience and comfort of the scriptures might have hope. Now the God of patience and consolation grant you to be likeminded one toward another according to Christ Jesus (Rom. 15:3-5).

This is the example of Jesus. Will we follow it? J. David Stephens, D.D., is third assistant general overseer of the Church of God.

faithful ellen I WAS SITTING, sort of half-listening to a sermon, when the minister began to talk about a conversation he had with another pastor, and I perked up. The two ministers were discussing people in churches who faithfully use their spiritual gifts in service to the body of Christ. In the discussion, the other pastor indicated that if there were any person in her local church she would like to honor, it would be Ellen. She said that every Wednesday night for years, Ellen had come to

church early and laid out the dishes, flatware, and cups for the weekly fellowship dinner. Each week, Ellen did what God called her to do, and she did it faithfully. Since I have heard this story, whenever I start to think that my tasks of service are unimportant or are keeping me from “real” ministry, I remember Ellen. I am inspired to go out of my way to thank the “Ellens” in my life as I come into contact with them. —Latricia (from Encountering the Holy Spirit, Pathway Press)

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by carl moeller & david hegg

the privilege of

persecution P

The suffering church has much to teach us.

ERSECUTION, pressure, and pain seem to bring about differing results, depending on where they occur. In America, pressure and pain seem to drive people away from God. But in the global church outside North America, it tends to drive people toward Him, and there is often a genuine sense of honor that they get a chance to suffer for Jesus Christ. Pain as a Privilege The persecuted church sees pain as a privilege. How can that be? In the West, the deceitfulness of riches and the confidence of comfort can lead to spiritual dullness, which prevents us from knowing where the edge of danger really is, and we can fall right over the edge into the abyss. In the persecuted church—because of the constant threats and opposition of the enemy—believers stay crystal clear as to where the edge is; they understand that every aspect of their commitment to Christ is a battleground. We’ve become accustomed to tolerated sin and deceitful things in our lives, so much so that we often no longer recognize them as sin and deceit. Every human endeavor, when repeated over time, runs the risk of succumbing to an inevitable dulling effect, which means that the same can be true of prayer, worship, and generosity. These and other spiritual weapons—and our senses—can become rusty due to overexposure to the elements and lack of care. But the perse-

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cuted live in an abrasive environment. They are never allowed to get too comfortable. Their weapons of worship and prayer remain sharp through constant use and a supportive community, where iron sharpens iron. And, since they’re constantly being rubbed by the steel wool of their culture, the rust doesn’t ever have time to accumulate. If every time a believer shares his faith he could potentially be turned into the authorities—by the person he’s witnessing to—and thrown into prison, then the simple act of sharing his faith becomes a faith decision of its own. Each time will be real and meaningful. If every time a pastor or teacher shares the Word of God he runs the risk of arrest, or attack, or the threat of harm to his family and loved ones, then teaching God’s Word becomes a real, palpable faith decision as well. And each time we choose to obey God’s call on our lives, we get a little bit sharper, a little less rusty. Due to the constant honing and sharpening they experience, there really is no sense of discontent within the persecuted church for these simple disciplines of the faith, either among pastors or the believers themselves. Some of these pastors have been serving their communities for 20 or 30 years. Many have had to remain underground, some have been in prison, but there is no discontent. Because they constantly face new challenges or the same difficult challenges

over and over, they have learned that God’s great faithfulness can be new every morning. In the West, we struggle to understand how fellow believers in other countries can maintain their faith in the midst of such difficult trials, and indeed why they choose to do it. But there’s really only one explanation: The Spirit of God has come into their lives and revealed the truth to them. They regard that truth as a pearl of such great price that they would sell everything they have in order to get it. Perhaps we have become so enthralled— and weighted down—by many strands of cultured pearls wrapped around our necks that we’ve lost the ability to recognize a real pearl when we see one. As odd as it may sound, pastors and believers in the persecuted church have a great deal of compassion for those of us in the West. They often pray that all of our wealth and all of our distractions won’t draw us away from our faith, from our first love of Jesus, or from the mission God has entrusted us with. It can be difficult for someone who has been fully immersed in the culture of the persecuted church to relate to Western believers who think it’s a really tough day when their daughter doesn’t make the cheerleading squad. And yet, those in the persecuted church understand that they can’t blame somebody for not having had a more difficult existence. We must grow where we are planted.

They understand that the body of Christ is one body, and that the Enemy uses a large variety of individualized schemes to undermine and divide us. Satan never tests the Western church and the persecuted church using the same form of temptation, but the function of those individualized temptations is always the same: to separate and disempower us. But the blessings God brings in these times of trial are personalized as well.

A Lesson From the Lowly Artichoke As citizens of the United States, we don’t often look at it in this context, but the majority of our forefathers were persecuted Christians. They all came—the Puritans, the Pilgrims, the Catholics, the Quakers, and others—out of a sense of desperation, to find a place where they could practice their faith.

because the further in you go, the better it gets. The leaves grow more tender, more flavorful. And when you get to the heart—the slightly sweet, meaty center— that’s the best thing of all. We’ve allowed ourselves—and our churches—to accumulate a vast number of outer leaves. But as these things have attached themselves to our hearts, they have become an aggregate wall around the good, sweet meat of the gospel.

So we need to do what the persecuted church does. We need to worry less about the appearance and texture of our outside And yet, despite our humble beginnings, leaves—the things we “layer on” because we often completely misunderstand and we think they make our churches better underestimate the persecuted church. —and focus on the heart of things. And examining the attitudes and the practices of those in the persecuted church is a great way to do that. Their church life is way less convenient. They sometimes have to walk two and a half miles to church. They don’t have enough food or medical care. Many of their governments won’t even let them meet together. Some Afternoon prayer at the St. George Church in the historic Assyrian Christian town of them go to prison. But are of Alqosh in northern Iraq. The town was nearly overrun by Islamic fighters last they better off spiritually?

For example, to us, a promotion at work may seem like a blessing, but the Enemy will try to use it to bring added greed and temptation as well as reduced family time. Conversely, a jail sentence may seem like a curse to someone in a persecuted culture, but God may use it to bring the blessing of time to renew a tired faith. The truth is that there is much more commonality to be found in our experiences than the superficial assessment of what our relative statuses in this life may lead us to believe.

cally different God’s truth really is from the worldly culture, and how different we are called to be.

When we read the parables of Jesus with fresh eyes, we see that there is never a promise summer, and residents fled. Most have since returned. (Photo by Jodi Hilton) of material benefit to followIn all honesty, much of the ing Jesus. Believers in the persecuted When we look at it through our Western time they are. church know that truth from personal mind-set, we see it as under-resourced, The church in the developing and perseexperience, and yet millions every year undereducated, and therefore deficient. cuted world has much to teach us simply turn to faith in Christ in countries where But the persecuted church is like an because they still understand—and still it’s hardest to convert, places where there artichoke. remember—what it felt like to hear and are no social or economic or political receive the gospel. And that’s what we benefits to being a believer. In countries The outside of an artichoke is not very need to get back to. such as Pakistan and Afghanistan, the only reason people would take such a huge appealing, certainly not as eye-catching as the streamlined cucumber or the vibrantly So we must adopt again the motto of personal faith step is because God has colored tomato. In fact, it is hard to imagthe Christian Reformers: “The church revealed the truth to them, and the truth ine how anybody could have ever expected reformed, always being reformed accordhas set them free. it to be edible. But thankfully, someone ing to the Word of God.” But perhaps because we’ve grown up in a did. As you begin to eat it, you find that culture inspired by Judeo-Christian valin spite of their toughness, the outside Carl Moeller is president of Open Doors ues, and are largely surrounded by people leaves do have some flavor, and provide USA; David Hegg is senior pastor of Grace with an appreciation for them—even if some nutritional value. But the artichoke Baptist Church in Santa Clarita, California. they don’t believe in God or the Christian is all about delayed gratification. The real Excerpted from The Privilege of Persecumessage—we have forgotten how radibenefit comes as you get further inside, tion; used by permission of Moody Publishers.

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by harold bare

AGAINST THE CURRENT “For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain” (Phil. 1:21).

S

ALMON SWIM downstream into the ocean. Live their life. Return home—swimming against impossible currents— and then die.

As Christians, we die . . . and then swim against powerful currents in order to live. In the Sermon on the Mount (Matt. 5—7), Jesus articulates the against-thecurrent social rules Christians are to follow. He summarizes 4,000 years of civilization, or lack thereof, in laying out life principles that honor God and respect people. These chapters are also an incredible statement of righteousness battling the powerful currents of evil. Since the Garden of Eden, when sin contravened paradise, humanity has found it easier to let the current carry narcissism wherever it flows . . . until men and women are washed up on a forbidden distant shore desperately alienated from God. The struggle of the soul since then 26

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has been whether to find its way home upstream against the tides of carnality to reunite with God. Christian America? For about 200 years in America, we lived with a fiction that this great country was flowing in the cultural stream that deserved the title “Christian America.” It is true that many came to America because of their desire to follow Christ. It may be that my ancestors were part of the Waldensens (a 900-year-old Protestant group). However, it is also true that the Masonic Order and a host of other occult societies were imbedded in Colonial America. It is also true that many criminals came to America to escape punishment. And countless thousands came in hope of getting rich, while others came for romance.  True, the majority of early immigrants to America were from Western Europe, which had deep traditions in Christianity. In addition, among the English colonies

there were spurious efforts to militarily enforce church attendance.  However, it is also true that many of the early churches in America were socially liberal and theologically drifting. Awakenings and Renewals The First Great Awakening (1730s and ’40s), led by Jonathan Edwards and others, was a dramatic call for nominal churches to wake up to the call of the Holy Spirit and reform, once again embracing the Bible and evangelism. The warning was not heeded. The Second Great Awakening (17901840), which followed the Revolutionary War, challenged individuals to bypass the cold and formal liberal churches and act out their faith. This revival created a countercultural movement that invited preachers and other good folks to do what they could do for Jesus, even if they had no formal

training. Ministers who could not read would still preach, letting others read the Scriptures aloud for them. Common people took part in worship, singing, reading poems, praying, helping with offerings, and so on. Camp meetings were born. Crowds would gather in open fields and have preaching (“church”) for days. Ministers leading worship who had not been formally trained was a radical departure from Christian tradition. In the 1830s, the Holiness Movement began challenging people to read the Bible. Before then, Bibles had been rare and expensive; but printing was becoming cheaper and more available. The Methodist Church fielded thousands of itinerant preachers on horseback with the intent to reach every cabin on the frontier at least once each year. Annual pay was $75 plus profit from books, papers, and Bibles they sold.  By the mid-1850s, some of the richest people in America would open their homes at noonday for Bible studies with anyone welcome. The Holiness Movement, with its emphasis on sanctification, continued to expand. Pentecostals and Charismatics Between 1901 and 1925, the Pentecostal Revival was countercultural and birthed unknown numbers of congregations. Scores of tongues-speaking folks were excommunicated from denominational churches.    Organizations were formed. Many local congregations and associations of congregations died without leaving any history. Denominations that survived include the Church of God, Assemblies of God, Pentecostal Holiness, Foursquare, Church of God in Christ, and the Church of God of Prophecy. Most of these fledgling denominations had early growth among the poor and working folks. Pentecostalism was countercultural to most traditional denominations. Often there was open animosity, even violent opposition, from religious and community people who perceived Pentecostals as a sect or even heresy. 

Enter the dropping of the atomic bomb to end World War II and the shocking realization that humanity had the military potential to destroy the world. American soldiers came home. Babies were born in record numbers. The United Nations was born with the mandate to never have such a war again. The 1950s in America was a time of great prosperity. President Eisenhower pushed through Congress a plan to build interstate highways. The economy boomed. Cars . . . TVs . . . teenagers having their own cars . . . drive-in theaters. President Eisenhower commissioned a study of the American family. The findings were so shocking and negative he refused to release them. President Kennedy released the finds of the study. The American family was in trauma—on life support. 

The struggle of the soul is to find its way home upstream to reunite with God. In 1960, Dennis Bennett, an Episcopalian priest, publicly shared that he had spoken in tongues. He stayed Episcopalian, and the Neo-Pentecostal Movement took root. Drugs, sex, and rebellion characterized the 1960s. Love communes. Anti-Vietnam venom. Divorce got into the front door of the American family. Religion tanked. Folks were becoming wealthy. Church was low priority. In 1967, during a retreat involving students and faculty from Duquense University, a Catholic school in Pittsburgh, many of the students claimed to experiencing the baptism in the Holy Spirit. In 2012, the International Catholic Charismatic Renewal Services estimated more than 120 million Catholics in 238 countries have been baptized in the Holy Spirit.

Meanwhile, the strain between religion and politics in the U.S. did not decrease. By the 1990s, church attendance was struggling. The carnality of politicians licensed Americans to a new level of hedonism. President Clinton’s saying that his illicit relationship with a young woman was not sexual opened doors of justification in the minds of Americans to indulge shamelessly in fleshly pleasures. The cultural shift put God in His heaven, with man being his own god on earth. Need for Revival Here we are in 2015, when people go to the movies more often than they go to church. About 20 percent of Americans attend church on a regular basis. Unmarried couples who are living together sometimes sit together in Pentecostal churches and have no apology. Homosexuality is knocking on the door, and many Christians are sliding in the direction of believing (falsely) that homosexuality is a genetic condition. So many babies have been aborted that it has quieted our voices of protest. Public schools are passing out birth control to our junior-high kids and teaching all forms of sex is normal. In the same venue, belief in God is a person’s private decision, and a variable imposing on social relationships. Once again, the church needs revival—the Holy Spirit needs to awaken us. We need to preach the Cross—declaring that Jesus’ death was necessary to save us from sin. We need to decide whether we will die to live for Christ. Are we willing to be countercultural in our generation? I pray that we will swim against the current and live. “For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain” (Phil. 1:21). Harold Bare is lead pastor of Covenant Church of God in Charlottesville, Virginia, [email protected] EVANGEL • jan 2015

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by lance colkmire

evangel interview

bruno spada:

connecting in connecticut Bruno Spada is the vivacious pastor of the Potter’s House Church of God in the seaport town of Mystic, Connecticut, where he has served since 2001. I visited the church on a Thursday night last fall, where the pastor led a discussionfilled adult Bible study on James 5. When the discussion turned to healing (vv. 13-18), Pastor Spada said, “Christ heals spiritually, emotionally, physically, and intellectually. . . . When my wife suffered last year, you’ll never know how much your prayers and support helped her.” Pastor Spada, how did you become a follower of Christ? I was raised in a religious home in Middletown, Connecticut. My faith in God was more works-oriented than relationally oriented. I was a Catholic boy who went into the military. As a 19-year-old, I ended up 6,000 miles away from home in 1980. A staff sergeant invited me to a service at the [Church of God] Christian Servicemen’s Center in Giebelstadt, Germany. I had never been to a full-gospel service before. There were about ten people there, and eight of them played tambourine. It was one of those services. I was convicted. I actually crawled from the pew to the altar and accepted Christ as my Savior. The Servicemen’s Center of the Ministry to the Military provided a home away from home. They had fellowship and recreation during the week. You could stay there overnight. The center became a great component for overcoming loneliness. Ken Hall and his wife, Rose, directed that center. She was shot in the arm in 1981 while visiting Rome [during the assassination attempt made on Pope John Paul II in Saint Peter’s Square]. The Halls 28

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were great people who really helped me. It was there that I learned what it means to have a relationship with Christ. What happened after you became a Christian? A year after my conversion, I received the baptism in the Holy Spirit. I was in my room alone, by my bunk. Shortly after that, I received a call to the ministry. I began praying, “Lord, if You are calling me into the ministry, I need some type of training.” I asked for an Elijah/ Elisha type of situation. Pastor Terry Fairbanks visited the center and preached on Elijah and Elisha. About two or three months later, I wrote him a letter. He invited me to come live with him in Zion, Illinois, and go through the Ministerial Internship Program. I lived with him a total of five years, learning what it is like to be in the parsonage. I met my wife-to-be, Robin, when she came to a revival meeting and gave her heart back to the Lord. How did the mentoring from Pastor Fairbanks influence your ministry? Tremendously. I will take no one for granted. It doesn’t matter what background they come from—I see me coming through the door. If it is someone on drugs or a person who has given up hope, I don’t see them that way. I see them as someone I’m going to try to help because someone helped me. When Pastor Fairbanks went to the Garden City Church of God in Savannah, Georgia, I went with him. I became the associate pastor. I was there about three years when I felt the call to go back home. I had led my mom to the Lord when I came back from the military. She was hunchbacked, could

barely walk, and had a lot of emotional issues, but the Lord was dealing with her through letter writing. When I came home, I laid hands on her and prayed for her healing, and she’s been healed ever since! An aunt and uncle on my mother’s side also became Christians, but my dad’s side has been much more reluctant. They’re still holding on to Catholicism even though my father told me when my grandfather migrated from Italy to the U.S. in the 1940s, he would see street evangelists and tell his 11 kids, “There’s a better religion.” In the second generation, my brother and sister-in-law have accepted Christ, and their kids are serving the Lord. What has been the key in leading family members to Christ? I never preached against their religion and never criticized their theology. I showed them unconditional love. What about your wife and children? Robin and I could not have children for 13 years. A month after becoming pregnant with Simeon, she started hemorrhaging. The emergency-room doctor wanted to perform a D & C. She started screaming, “No, no, no! God promised me a baby, and you’re not doing anything like that.” A lady came in with a crucifix and said, “Hold this to your womb; this will keep the baby in place.” I said, “No, the One who died on that cross is in her heart.” The doctor pulled me aside and said, “In three days you’re going to lose this baby.” She didn’t lose the baby. She had to lay on her back the majority of the time because of her difficulty, but on December 25, 1999, Simeon was born.

We also have two daughters—Promise is 10, and Serenity is 8. Nothing is impossible with the Lord! When Robin tells her testimony, people develop the gift of faith, knowing that God is able. There is a spiritual aspect of learning to wait on God. Serenity plays the violin, and Promise plays the harp. They’re into ballet, and they’re part of a home-school network. Serenity plays soccer, while Promise is more into girly things. How did you come to Mystic? First, when the opportunity arose for me to lead the Christian Servicemen’s Center where I had been saved, I went. This was an act of God; no way man could have arranged it. After serving in Germany, I went to a Servicemen’s Center in England, spending a total of four years in Europe. Next, I evangelized in Connecticut for five years. Great things started happening in those revival meetings, especially in our Haitian churches. When the state overseer called me and offered me the pastorate of this church as well as being regional evangelism director, I said, “I don’t think I’ll ever pastor.” But then I called him back and said, “I believe the Lord wants me to do this.” I’ve been here ever since. Being a pastor has allowed me to put into practice the things I learned as I was being mentored. Pastor Fairbanks was unique in his approach to people. Even if they had wrong motives, he was “wise as a serpent” and as “harmless as a dove.” When people have said to me, “You need to bring down the hammer,” I don’t do that because that is not what I was taught. Describe your church’s outreach ministry. We feed the homeless every Monday in downtown New London by the pier. We feed 30 to 50 people. The church has done that for 15 years or so. We do a lot of work with New Creation—a halfway house. I’ve led a study of my book, Healing Shattered Lives, with the men there. The book deals with therapeu-

Marcus Knight (right) with Bruno Spada. Marcus said, “When you have everything and then lose it, you learn it really was a waste of time.”

tic ministry. I’m a firm believer that when God touches someone, He touches them body, soul, and spirit. This church has been supporting missionaries for 25 years. We support six or seven missionaries now. Testify about someone your congregation has reached for Christ. Eleven years ago, we met Marcus Knight, a karate instructor. He explained to us the requirements for our son to become a black belt. I told him our priorities were simple—Christ, family, and then martial arts. Without realizing the impact of that statement, my wife witnessed to him and my son gave him a Bible. Marcus eventually ran into difficulty. He went from making $100,000 a year as an 18-year-old instructor to everything falling apart. He came to my house about four months ago and said, “I need to know about this.” This thought of priorities had kept ringing in his mind. It caused him to come and ask questions. He accepted Christ as his Savior. He started attending our church, and his wife accepted Christ. They were baptized in water, and recently joined the church. He has the call on his life to teach. Now we are training him to teach the Word of God.

During a typical week, what takes place at your church? We have a Bible study on Thursday. On Sunday mornings, we have Sunday school and worship. We’re one of the few churches in the area that still has a Sunday-evening service. It is more of a contemporary setting. Once a month, we have an “expression night” where all the youth use their talent. They conduct the whole service. We also have speech and debate teams that meet here twice a month. They use our church to practice. Our church ranges in age from 3 to 90; there is a very good balance. Describe Pentecostalism in southern New England. There are a lot of first-generation Christians, so they can’t pull from the experience of Grandma and Grandpa, or Mom and Dad. When they get a hold of it, the experience captures their life. The negative side is, they don’t have the background to support them in the experience. So training and discipleship become very important. Personally, the Church of God has been to me a friend, a dad, and a counselor. If that Servicemen’s Center wasn’t in Europe, I don’t know what would have happened in my life. I am grateful.

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VIEWPOINTS

how can a church effectively welcome, engage, and retain young people? invite, focus, and embrace

GREG BAIRD is director of ministries for the Church of God in North Georgia. [email protected]



HOW CAN YOU welcome those you don’t invite? Over the past 35 years of student ministry, I have had the privilege to visit churches from coast to coast. Regardless of the location, I have found that healthy, life-giving churches are welcoming and engaging from the parking lot to the pew. There is an energetic environment, filled with action and activity. This enthusiasm seems contagious and fosters a natural gathering place—a sacred space. A short stroll through the church facilities touches all five senses. It is visually stimulating— monitors scrolling activities, choruses, and Scripture verses. Music fills every square foot of the building, including the perimeter, creating anticipation of worship. The aroma of coffee makes for a warm welcome. The taste of a snack or meal, especially for those who have not eaten, promotes fellowship and connectivity. The classrooms are colorful and occupied by friendly staff members. As the service begins, I notice it is structured to be “generationally friendly.” In other words, the service has been intentionally planned and is inviting to all age levels. How can you engage those who aren’t your focus? An engaging church will give attention, time, and resources to effectively disciple “attention-deficient Millennials.” An engaging church . . . • allows students to be involved in ministry (youth takeover days, holiday events, creative arts) • equips young people to discover, develop, and display their gifts and talents (participation in Junior Talent and Teen Talent) • plans activities to do together as a body (family camps, missions, community-service projects) • has a visible, known presence in the community (ministry in schools, hospitals, nursing homes, civic celebrations). How can you keep those you don’t embrace? Meaningful relationships are paramount in keeping students involved and active in service for the Lord. Churches with effective and consistent programs for their youth are based on buy-in and connectivity to adult leaders. Ministries lacking in relationships will result in friction, criticism, and failure. Ultimately,

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students will quit coming. It is vital for adults to have personal contact with the students. Embrace young people with . . . • safe hugs, handshakes, high fives, and fist bumps • prayer and the laying on of hands (1 Tim. 4:14; 2 Tim. 1:6). The story of Eutychus (Acts 20:7-12) gives a snapshot of the New Testament church ministering to the youth culture of that day. Word had gotten out in Troas about a gathering (food included) where Paul would be speaking. Eutychus was invited along with people of various age groups. The location was a cramped third-story room, with limited seating. Eutychus chose to sit in a dangerous place—the windowsill. Over the course of the long evening, he fell asleep. Even the apostle Paul couldn’t keep his attention! Because Eutychus was leaning the wrong way, he fell to his untimely death. How many of our churches are filled with students who are leaning the wrong way . . . away from the house of God? Throughout the passage, Paul gives us several matters to consider: • He preached truth with urgency—time was short (v. 7). • He spent time with Eutychus; in fact, all night long. (Perhaps this was the first recorded lock-in!) • He got down on Eutychus’ level. (He left the third floor and went down to Eutychus.) • Paul prayed for Eutychus . . . hugged him . . . and sent him home alive! I am convinced that young people will lean toward the house of the Lord and continue to attend if they experience a life change that affects their attitude, knowledge, and behavior. A church that is welcoming, engaging, and keeping its youth will one day send their students to heaven alive!

hello, my name is . . .

CHAD BERNARD is youth and discipleship director for the Church of God in the Heartland Region (Kansas and Oklahoma). [email protected]

THE BELL RANG loudly for what seemed like eternity. Many of the students in my auto-collision technology class chatted incessantly. Others sat silently, stiff as a board. Pausing for a few moments allowed me some time to take in all of it. Even though I was a new teacher, it did not take me long to figure out who the new students were. The young ones sitting silently had to be the new junior class. The squirming, chatting group in the corner must be the returning senior class. And the scattered and noticeably calmer crowd was likely the new adults returning to the Technology Center for retraining and career placement.

As I abruptly began class with a standard introduction of myself, followed by a roll call, something significant happened. As each student either boldly or timidly announced his or her home school and name to the class, one student stood out because someone else blurted “Wheel Juice” just as it was his turn to say his name. A good bit of laughter came from the returning seniors, while the posture of the offended student suddenly changed. I asked the young man his name again. He awkwardly said, “John.” After asking why someone had rudely answered “Wheel Juice” in place of John’s name, I learned that one day the previous year, John had simply forgotten what the proper name for a particular wheel solvent was. He honestly asked aloud, “Where is the wheel juice kept?” From that day forward, his new name was “Wheel Juice.” Seem trivial? Yes. But in too many cases, sadly, teachers let such behavior continue and this kind of damaging culture grow in their groups. When this happens in a church youth group, with no law guaranteeing a return visit, offended students are unlikely to return. “Hello, my name is . . . ” may seem like a normal and insignificant part of any healthy group forming. However, when this part of group formation is haphazardly handled, things go awry. Instead of being positively engaged, John was dejected and discouraged. Every time another student called him “Wheel Juice,” the pain continued. John was no doubt further humiliated when the former teacher, unthinkably, followed suit with the improper name-calling. John miserably failed every state-mandated test that year. However, a new teacher, a new year, and a swift and needed adjustment to the “my name is . . . ” exercise led to an astounding turnaround. John—not “Wheel Juice”—passed his state tests with flying colors. A properly conducted introductory exercise can lead to a much-needed positive connection between teacher and student. At times, it can lead to a much-needed course correction between a leader and a group. The old adage is true—“You never get a second chance to make a first impression.” Therefore, “Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer every one” (Col. 4:6 NIV). May we as youth leaders understand the importance of “Hello, my name is . . . ,” and may we all develop groups that are effective in welcoming, engaging, and keeping youth.

be authentic DWAYNE CULP is youth and discipleship director for the Church of God in Arkansas. [email protected]

WHEN I BECAME a youth pastor, I began to look at a lot of other churches and their youth ministries. I discovered a few common things among churches with growing youth ministries. First, they are authentic in love. Sounds so simple but often neglected. Someone told me years ago, “If it doesn’t feel right and is difficult for them to relate to, it will fail the authenticity test.” In a world with so much fake love or no love at all, our young people want to feel true love. They want to be loved through the hurts and pains of life. Love will make them feel welcome. Second, youth ministries are relational. The quality of the relationships our youth have with the church, the pastor, and youth workers will determine the quality of the youth program, and that in itself will engage them. Everything in our Christian life goes back to relationship. On the job, in our community, and at church, we like others to recognize what is going on in our lives, and so do our young people. Building relationships goes beyond the four walls of the church. We must recognize what is important to them, including birthdays, sporting events, school clubs, and graduations. Too often, we want young people who have not been brought up in church to just come into the church and somehow fit. That is not going to happen. We must engage youth where they are by being relevant (a term we seem to be scared of and that almost has become a bad word!). One area in which the church must be relevant to reach this generation is technology. I look cool with my electronic devices, but when I get frustrated trying to use one of them, my grandkids (ages 4 and up) will take it away from me and do it for me! I heard someone say, “If we run from technology we will lose, but if we will run to [engage] technology, we can reach a generation.” We must reach them where they are. Paul said, “To the weak I became weak, to win the weak. I have become all things to all men so that by all possible means I might save some” (1 Cor. 9:22 NIV). Third, effective churches have people of character and prayer. No young person wants to spend time in boring, empty spaces with no vibe or atmosphere. Students want to be where the action is. If we engage our youth in every part of the church and surround them with people of character and prayer, we can keep the next generation and build strong leadership for years to come.

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PEOPLE AND EVENTS

ohio initiates young adult retreat Columbus, OH—It started with a heartfelt conversation between a few ministers sitting at an Applebee’s Restaurant here in February 2013. The topic—ministering to young adults. With the pressures and temptations of our culture becoming increasingly more trying, and the church seemingly losing young adults easier than gaining them, it has become evident this area of ministry is critical. So these questions were asked: How do we turn our church dropouts into committed disciples? How can we offer friendship, fellowship, and life-changing discipleship all in one place? What would happen if we brought as many young adults together as we

could and gave them an opportunity to be in God’s presence? By the end of that day, “Encounter” was born. Encounter is a three-day retreat geared toward adults ages 18-30. Taking place on a campground, everyone is given a chance to unplug from our technologically overcharged world and reconnect with God. During the day, multiple breakout sessions— speaking directly to issues facing young adults, our culture, and the church—are offered. With intercessory prayer, powerful worship, and an impacting word, the evening services create a prophetic atmosphere where young adults can encounter God in impactful ways.

Not only is there great spiritual emphasis, but an environment of building relationships is encouraged as well. Canoeing, bonfires, and games provide young adults with an outlet to meet other people like them, building connections they are looking for. It gives them validation, knowing they are not alone trying to lead a godly lifestyle, when it may seem everyone else their age is looking for answers outside of the church. Through the leadership of Pastors Rich Boll (Cooley Avenue Church of God) and Brian Palmer (House of Restoration), and guidance of Pat Wright (Ohio’s director of leadership and development), Encounter has become an antici-

pated event in the state that continues to grow. Over 360 young adults’ lives have been touched in the past two years. People have been saved, delivered from drugs and alcohol, and accepted the call of God on their lives. Even a marriage engagement has come from this event! Ohio is not the first group to create an event for young adults. However, something has clicked for this time and is going beyond what was dreamed about that day at Applebee’s in 2013. As this ministry continues, it is the Encounter team’s prayer that it will not just be a retreat, but become a movement. For more information, visit encounterone.com.—Lindy Bonin

“jerry will be ok”

lung. The good news is the puncture did not go all the way through, so there is no leakage, and the breaks missed the vertebral column or they would have paralyzed him. He is broken, but he will be OK.” Before morning, Jerry’s condition took an unexpected turn and they placed him in ICU. His breathing and heart rate dropped dangerously, and all the blood work was bad. He was now critical. Fear gripped me, and I called our overseer, Don Walker, and asked him to please pray. I called my church requesting urgent prayer for their pastor. Within 10 minutes, his condition began improving.

They requested new blood work, and it came back good. My daughter came to me and said someone was asking to see me in the lobby. I stepped out of ICU and met a beautiful girl, Chastity, and her boyfriend. They had found Jerry lying in a ditch just after the wreck happened. Chastity said, “Mrs. Walden, when I found your husband, he thought he was dying. He even asked me if I was an angel and we were in heaven. I said, ‘No sir, we are on earth.’ He made me promise him that I would find his wife, Debbie Walden, and tell her I love her and I have always loved her.”

Bean Station, TN—August 16, 2014, was a sunny Saturday. I was driving home through Knoxville, and my husband, Jerry, was a half-hour behind me on his motorcycle. I turned on the radio and heard my favorite song—“There Is Power in the Name of Jesus.” At that moment, the Lord spoke to my spirit, Jerry will have a wreck, but he will be OK. I tried to call Jerry’s cell, but it went to voicemail. When I arrived home an hour later, I still could not get Jerry to answer his phone. 32

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Then my phone rang with a strange number. A nurse asked, “Is this Debbie Walden?” After I answered yes, she said, “Your husband has had a motorcycle wreck and was airlifted to UT Hospital in Knoxville. He is stable at this time. Can you come now?” I left immediately, holding onto what God had told me. When I arrived at the hospital, the emergency-room doctor walked in and said, “Mr. Walden has a broken neck and back, eight broken ribs, and a small puncture to the left

For daily news updates about what’s happening in the Church of God and Evangelical world, visit FAITH NEWS NETWORK, at www.faithnews.cc.

Chastity went into ICU and told Jerry she kept her promise, and I felt so blessed to have a husband that cares so much. I was also reminded that God loves Jerry and me so much that He gave me peace before the storm and sent help to Jerry while in the storm. That night around midnight, Jerry had one frightening setback, sending nurses and doctors rush-

ing into his room. Afterward, he began to get better each day. Jerry and I cannot find words to express our feelings for the people who prayed and showed love and compassion to us and our family during this time, especially the church we pastor—Bean Station Church of God—and Ron Demeline, for his dedicated service in Jerry’s absence.—Debbie Walden

ninety years of camp meeting Snowd Branch, NC—The Minutes of the 14th Church of God General Assembly (1919) listed a congregation at Snowd Branch with a membership of 39, and Fred W. Hardee serving as church clerk. It was soon decided there should be a meeting of area churches for worship and fellowship. The first Snowd Branch camp meeting took place September 13-24, 1924, in the Snowd Branch Church. Aulander L. Crisp was the host pastor, with Jack Heath serving as speaker. This meeting was a great success, and plans were made for future gatherings. In 1925 and 1926, camp meetings were held in a tent near the church.

J. O. Johnson, a local farmer and member of the Snowd Branch Church, deeded two acres for the purpose of erecting a facility for the camp meetings. The men of the area cut the logs and built the tabernacle, and the 1927 camp meeting was held there. The tabernacle’s building committee included Willie Crisp, Fred Hardee, Clem H. Deans, Walter Jackson, Dan Mizelle, David Leggett, Lee Pittman, Johnny Pridgen, John P. Hodges, Joe Griffin, J. Stancil Lilley, Lon Lilley, Luther Little, and Godfrey Little. Today, the same tabernacle is still being used for the annual camp meeting, which is one of the oldest in the Church of God.

Snowd Branch gathering around 1976

2014 camp meeting

DECEASED MINISTERS

n HEDGEPATH, Billy Ray; 85; ordained bishop; Alabama; Peggy Hedgepath (wife)

n ALLEN, Noah Asa; 94; ordained bishop; Tennessee; Paul Allen (son)

n KING, Horace Odell; 93; ordained bishop; North Carolina; Betty Goodwin (daughter)

n CORRAL, Steven Anthony; 31; exhorter; Arizona; Melissa Corral (wife)

n RASMUSSEN, Lars Rolene; 79; ordained bishop; Alabama; Patricia Rasmussen (wife)

n DAVILA, Ramon; 85; ordained bishop; Florida; Angela Davila (wife)

n SLOCUMB, William Paul; 95; ordained minister; Illinois; Ray Kingery (stepson)

n FREEMAN, James Earl; 63; ordained bishop; Oklahoma; Betty Freeman (wife)

n STURGILL, Jim, Sr.; 69; ordained minister; Ohio; Deborah Sturgill (wife)

n HAMM, Arnold Braxton; 80; ordained minister; North Carolina; Kim Cook (daughter)

n WILCOX, Richard; 66; ordained bishop; West Virginia; Patricia Wilcox (wife)

an asian pastor’s request Lake Indawgyi Region, KACHINLAND—Ours is a mountainous and landlocked country with abundant natural beauty, located at the southwestern end of Yunnan Province, China. Kachinland has 16 ethnic groups, but the official language is Jingpho. All the people of Kachinland are of TibetMongoloid origin, and are warmhearted and hospitable. Before the foreign missionary arrived here, all our ancestors were animist. Because of the terrible fighting between Burma and Kachinland, Church of God members were scattered and fled around the country. My family was also fleeing to Assam, India, and we lived there for many years. In June 1994, I arrived back home, and I again started the Church of God mission work here. Today, we are a few groups. By a

few amount of our tithes, we all together spread the message of God among the unreached people. I am not a salaried worker, but I am a fulltime worker of God among the scattered church members. During the wartime, I lost your address. Very recently, I found a very old issue of the Evangel magazine so that I could write to you. We all need your prayers constantly. We don’t know about tomorrow and what will happen. Whenever you have extra funds, please remember us in your mailing lists for sending Church of God Evangel.—Pastor Lazum Brang Donations are needed to respond to these and other requests (usually from prisoners) to receive the Evangel. You can donate by calling 800-553-8506 or writing to Evangel Care, 1080 Montgomery Ave., Cleveland, TN 37311. EVANGEL • jan 2015

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CHURCH OF GOD CHRONICLES by david g. roebuck

nora chambers

and the unseen guest

E

VANGELIST Nora Chambers must have been surprised when General Overseer A. J. Tomlinson approached her on a November morning in 1917. Earlier that month, the General Assembly had authorized a Bible Training School and placed the responsibility for the school in the hands of the general overseer. Working rapidly to have the school operating as soon as possible, Tomlinson informed the evangelist, “Sister Chambers, you have been selected to teach the Bible Training School (BTS), and we want you to begin January 1.” She later admitted, “I insisted that a man should be chosen for that position, but finally consented when all my suggestions met opposition.” Indiana-native Nora Chambers and her husband, Fred, joined the Church

of God at the invitation of R. G. Spurling, who licensed Nora as an evangelist in 1910. At that time, the couple was attending Holmes School of the Bible in Altamont, South Carolina, where Nora was also on the faculty. The next summer, the couple began two years of ministry in the mountains of western North Carolina and northern Georgia, along with E. J. Boehmer and his wife. Their team had no regular source of income, sometimes walked as many as 25 miles to their next appointment, and often experienced violent opposition. Opponents pelted their houses with rocks, burned their places of worship, and on one occasion beat Fred to unconsciousness. Accusing them of trying to destroy existing churches, one newspaper advised they be “tarred and feathered and driven out of the state.”

Despite these difficulties, Nora remembered, “We were all so happy. In persecution we are to ‘rejoice and be exceeding glad.’ This is why God was dearer to me than at any other time in my life. He was so precious to us and never left us alone.” After relocating to Cleveland, Tennessee, Nora became involved in many of the expanding ministries of the Church of God, including matron of the orphanage and numerous roles at the Publishing House. Over the years, she was a proofreader, edited the children’s page in the Lighted Pathway, wrote Sunday school curriculum, contributed to the Evangel, and served as clerk of the General Assemblies. Despite her initial reluctance to teach, by the time classes began on January 1, 1918, she had developed a spiritual burden for her new responsibility: “I felt such a load settle over me the first morning we opened the school. I didn’t think I could carry it, but as the students prepared their lessons, I prayed. Soon I felt the presence of an unseen Guest. He assured me that He would be with us and help us, and He did.” Today Chambers is best known for the six years she served as the first teacher at BTS (now Lee University). She wrote in the Evangel, “I feel that I have a little part in helping to train workers for the great harvest field.” David G. Roebuck, Ph.D., is the Church of God historian and director of the Dixon Pentecostal Research Center in Cleveland, Tennessee. droebuck@ leeuniversity.edu

Nora Chambers, sitting with open Bible, and students attending the fall 1918 term of the Church of God Bible Training School

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