Assemblies are dying?
The Assemblies are slowly dying according to many but why? Everyone seems quick to issue the death penalty to the Assemblies of God but no one seems to care about the anointing to raise the dead if the Assemblies if we are really dying.
Make no mistake about it: the cooperative fellowship is a mess and is a shell of the days that Roswell Flower and Smith Wigglesworth led General Council. In fact, one look at the speaker list at the General Council and you can see the problem: we have failed to be Pentecostal. We are happy with the label of it more than the reality.
If we want to be honest, we care more about the image of the Assemblies of God than we do the fire of God! We want to be accepted, we want to have important roles in our communities and we pray that someday we will have a President that is Assemblies of God in doctrine. We hate to admit to it but we have let the obsession of what people think of us rule our churches more than we realize. The problem is this is nothing more than passive dominion theology and most of us are too blind to see it.
We have churches over 30,000 members. We have many successful media ministries. We have very successful evangelists. We even have a former Attorney General in our pews. You would think we have every reason to claim that we are in revival but that is the very problem that blind us. We believe we are in the revival that we so desperate need! Thousands of people lacking regeneration and conversion just became they came prayed a prayer is not going bring the revival that people like Smith Wigglesworth prayed for, preached about and even prophesied.
Heritage of Assemblies of God
The heyday of the Assemblies of really from the 1950’s to the 1980’s with a renewal in the late 1990’s as a result of the Brownsville Revival. What thing that put the Assemblies on the national stage was the emergence of the healing revival in the late 1940’s. Despite the official condemnation of the Latter Rain revival; healing ministry blew up through some Assemblies of God ministries that set the nation ablaze.
It was during this season that protracted meetings (erroneously called “revivals”) would go for months at a time and the attendance could grow to thousands at a time. It was very common to have a twelve week long revival back in those days. Whole areas would be transformed by what was happening at one local Assembly. It was completely unplanned and it would go nightly until the Spirit of God didn’t come in power in a tangible way.
Every summer, churches would set up a gospel tent (many times old fire works tents) that they would use to have a healing revival for several weeks with evangelists from around the country. It was in these gospel tent meetings that many people were saved, healed, delivered and filled. There is no question that the baby boomer generation was reached by these tent revivals.
It was not just Oral Roberts, Jack Coe, A.A. Allen and a handful of other evangelists, either. There was dozens of nameless evangelists that were setting up tents in every small town in the country preaching the saving, healing and delivering message of the power of the Spirit to change lives. Every District had at least a few evangelists living there who was doing tent revivals with local Assemblies. It was how the harvest for that generation was being gathered for the Lord.
The problem is after the fall of Jimmy Swaggart, the Assemblies gave up on tent revival model and starting pushing the seeker sensitive movement that was emerging at that time. Pastors got rid of the tents and they started having sermons series instead of the old “revivals.” As time went on, people forgot all about the tents and the protracted.
This is why the Brownsville Revival was so odd to many in the Assemblies. They had never seen a meeting that went more than a week in their churches. It is reasonable to believe only the older people in the Assembly could remember the revivals that lasted months and went completely unplanned.
Why tent revivals matter?
There is something culturally that happens in a city or an area when a tent goes up. People start thinking about Jesus, talking about their walks with God and considering the work of the Holy Spirit. For whatever reason, there is some mystical connection between gospel tents in small towns in America and the Pneumatology of the denomination. When the revivals are happening in our fellowships, there seems to be open heavens over the Assemblies of God.
It might be that people, for whatever reason, let down their guard under the canva cathedrals. People are not as worried about what other thing about them. They worship as if only God matters and have unaltered faith for the Holy Spirit to do anything and He probably will. There is no logical way to explain it but people have more faith for miracles in a tent than in a church services. It has been this way since the days of Smith Wigglesworth in the Assemblies of God.
Prophesy as well as tongues and interpretation seems to flow more in these meetings under the canvas than in services on Sundays. I can not explain it but people just seem to hear the Holy Spirit speak more in these meetings. It is not that the Spirit is more active but that we are more open to hearing Him speak. People come to the tent revival expecting God to speak to them through prophecy and interpretation and He does!
Challenging our Ecclesiology
How we do church and how we view the church has taken a serious nose dive in the last decade or so in the Assemblies of God. In our Ecclesiology, there is little that is Pentecostal about it anymore. We look just as Baptist as we do Charismatic. If anything, we have allowed our Pneumatology to be informed by our Ecclesiology; not our Ecclesiology to be informed by our Pneumatology. To put it bluntly, our theology of church is void of the need for Pentecost in our midst in these days.
The concept of what we believe a local Assembly looked like in the days of Roswell Flower and even Thomas Zimmerman has radically been forgotten in our time. If they were to walk into most of our churches and hear our sermon series on “7 steps to be a better worker,” they would ask why Norman Vincent Peale was allowed to speak in the local body. They would not be concerned if read the latest study of pastors but have you heard from the Holy Spirit? This is lacking in the Assemblies of God.
A glance at the speakers that seem to be filling the spots at the District and General Councils are concerning from a position of Ecclesiology. Why are Pentecostals taking notes from people who don’t even believe in the Baptism of the Holy Spirit on how to do church in the power of the Spirit? I am sure Rick Warren and Ed Stetzer are solid believers and heaven bound but they are not Pentecostals. They should not be influences in how we lead Assemblies and prepare for the great end time harvest!
Ancient Paths of Pentecostalism
There is three things that should be of upmost importance to the people of the Assemblies of God. We must be people that take Pneumatology, Ecclesiology, and Eschatology very seriously. The primary question that we should be weeping over in intercession should be : What does a people completely baptized with power look like in the last days? When we can answer that question, the nation will be set ablaze and the greatest harvest we have ever seen will happen.
There are reports showing that the Assemblies of God has more people that are not filled with the Spirit in our pews than we have that are. Most of our members do not pray in tongues on a regular basis and this is alarming. How are we going to set the world on fire when we can’t even pray in tongues for a few minutes? The answer could change everything for us and the Pneumatology of the local Assembly.
Accepting that there has been a change is how we interpret what church life looks like in the last few decades in the Assemblies, the questions remains if we are willing to make the adjustment necessary to return us to the ancient path that changed America in the 1950’s. If we accept the challenge, there must be a putting away of church growth books and replacing them with the stories of Pentecost in our history.
The vision of the Assemblies of God is found in the early newsletters of the fellowship. Almost every single one of them ended with a focus on the end time revival. It was always a call to the harvest. Any eschatology that was completely rooted in the end time harvest of souls was completely foreign to the early leaders of the Pentecostal movement.
The Assemblies of God might be dying but the path for resurrection is clear if we want to walk in it. The question is if the cooperative fellowship is dead but do you want change the direction of it? If so, answer the call to Pentecost!