Church Growth or Holy Revival? : A response to Darrin Rodgers
One of the people I listen to is Darrin Rodgers. He is the general editor of Heritage Magazine, the mouthpiece of Flower Pentecostal Heritage Center in Springfield, Missouri. He is one of the few Pentecostal historians that I take seriously. They have in one hand the archives of Pentecostal history and in other prophecies of the coming end time harvest.
In the From the Editor article in Heritage 2014, he tries to take the case that the Assemblies of God is on the verge of a great revival. He uses some numbers from what some churches looked like in 1989, a year after Jimmy Swaggart happened, compared to 2013.
Before we look at some of what is happening, let’s be honest about something: a lot of people in the pews does not mean church growth. The success of a congregation is based on their sending capacity; not their seating capacity. It is no secret that the Assemblies of God has some rather large churches and many other megachurches are led by people trained up in our bible colleges.
As we go deep into what Darrin is giving us, there is some understanding that we need to grasp to answer the question: Does the Assemblies of God just want to grow in numbers or have true revival in our churches? As you will see, it is not as cookie cutter as some would think it is.
Darrin Rodgers & AG Stats
Let’s look at some good things, first. The article does say that the Assemblies is growing at .3% faster than the population of the United States itself is. This means if a town of a thousand (common in the Assemblies) goes by 2% over a decade, the local Assembly of God will go by 23 new people over the same time frame.
Now, according to the data that Darrin Rodgers gathered about the Assemblies of God (which I assume came from official district offices), there is some alarming trends that people are just overlooking because they send the spikes in attendance which is the highest of any major evangelical fellowship.
From 1989 to 2013, The denomination has grown over 46% and there was even a percent growth between 2012 and 2013. People are looking at these numbers and doing victory laps. The problem with this is the rest of the numbers that Darrin Rodgers have released to the public.
According to the data, churches claim an amazing 81% increase in conversion (What define conversion?) and 59% more people are following the Lord in water baptism. We even have a 42% increase in church membership in local expressions of the Assemblies of God.
In the same time range, people giving a testimony of the Baptism of the Holy Spirit with the initial physical evidence of praying in tongues increased by 17%. It seems that we are not becoming as focused on being people of Pentecost as we are being Pentecostal people.
Another number that is alarming to me is that we have only see a little under 20% more credentialed ministers to pastor and to lead the 81% rise in decisions.
Church Growth or Holy Revival?
Let’s get real about something, shall we? There has been a lot of people praying the “sinner’s prayer” but never really getting converted. If we was really leading them in true conversion and training them to walk out their salvation; we would not see the huge gaps in some of these numbers.
I am not saying that everyone that prays with a pastor is a false convert. However, I am going to say that many are and who knows how many duplicate converts are in these numbers from people who just think they need to get “saved” every service.
There is a clear disconnect between people making a decision for Christ at a service (conversions) and following the Lord in Baptism of water, Holy Spirit, and becoming voting members of the Assembly of God they attend.
One thing that should be a very serious concern is that 3 in 4 of these conversions (or decisions) is not receiving the Baptism of the Holy Spirit. If we are saying we are seeing 81% growth in decisions but 17% growth in seeing baptized in the Holy Spirit; something is seriously wrong with our preaching and our altar ministries.
As we look deeper, we see that more people are becoming members than are claimed be filled with the Holy Spirit. This should be something that every district official needs to address! It is expected of anyone in the Assemblies of God at any level of affiliation to be baptized in the Holy Spirit according to Acts 2:1-4.
Why does it matter to Pentecostals?
As we move closer to the end time harvest, it is going to be more painful clear who is playing games with God, who is flirting with Christianity to feel good about themselves and who is committed to revival by life or by death.
The one who are just in the pews to do the “Sunday thing” or become it makes them a better person will be offended when as we move closer to the catching up of the saints. As we see the greatest harvest known to humanity; we will see the greatest anger of hell as well.
People who are not baptized with the Holy Spirit and fire (Luke 3:16) will not make it in the coming days and it this is quite serious. The Assemblies of God seems to quite good at leading people to Calvary but forget to take them over to the Upper Room afterwards.
I want to make no mistake in what I am saying. I will stand before God for what I write. I believe firmly that Baptism of the Holy Spirit is not required for salvation. However, I believe it is just one step away in importance. I would even put more focus on being filled with the Spirit and praying in tongues than baptized in water.
The Assemblies of God needs more that just big churches. We need fiery flames of fires in our churches that are epic centers for regional revival!