May 27, 2015

Understanding the Assemblies of God Boom

The Assemblies of God (AG) denomination, a Pentecostal fellowship, has seen rapid growth in recent years, expanding at a rate several times that of the U.S. population with diversity proportions largely mirroring those of the United States. With major divisions and lowering adherent rates in many—make that most—Christian denominations today, one wonders what occasions the burgeoning of the Assemblies denomination.

The growth of the AG is demonstrative of a larger trend in the Church as a whole: the congregations that change their teaching with the times and try perpetually to mold a less offensive Bible are declining in adherents while those that stay true to historical, biblical teaching are rapidly expanding.

My recent interviews of congregants of New Life Assemblies of God, a rural Assemblies congregation based out of Farmville, VA, elucidated reasons for the church’s health.

New Life is my “home” church, the church of my collegiate home that is, so I know from personal experience that New Life deals with taboo issues candidly. In fact, before I came to New Life, I had quite different stances from what I do now on tithing, sex before marriage, and a myriad of other hot button issues. I had simply never heard these issues discussed in church before, despite years of Christian school and regular church involvement.

When asked how New Life’s dealing with “typically taboo issues such as dating, sex before marriage, tithing, etc.” shaped their view of their church, New Life congregants answered unanimously:

“The small…church I came from did not acknowledge that these topics even exist…but our leadership [at New Life] deals with these bluntly but gently and also teaches love along with it.”

“New Life deals with taboo issues…and other difficult topics the same way. Sin is sin. Jesus still loves the sinner as we should, but we do not have to love, nor tolerate the sin, nor should we judge others for sinning differently than us.”

“I am glad that [New Life’s lead pastor] is willing to speak about these topics from the pulpit. Too few pastors are willing to cover these topics.”

The result of New Life’s unabashed proclamation of truth? “[W]e have an active stream of people coming to Christ at New Life.”

A pastor at New Life told me that over the last two years, the average Sunday congregation at the church has grown more than 35%, from about 300 to over 400 people. Modeling the Acts church in its fellowship and offering an altar call for salvation every Sunday, New Life’s congregation is well on its way to being “added to daily” (Acts 2:47).

It stands to reason, then, that shirking tough topics or giving in to cultural pressure to compromise convictions encourages not health, but sickness. But is New Life a good representative of the Assemblies of God denomination at large?

A broader example of how denominations handle tough topics can be seen their public statements on those issues. Take the topic of sex before marriage, for instance. The Assemblies of God denomination has easily accessible, public statements on sex before marriage. The statements clearly detail biblical reasoning for participating in sexual relations only in “a monogamous, heterosexual, marriage relationship.”

Other denominations are less clear on the matter. The Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), for example, recently removed the “fidelity and chastity” ordination standard of its elders and deacons. Before the 220th General Assembly of the PCUSA (2012), the requirement read as follows: “to live a chaste and disciplined life, whether in the covenant of marriage between a man and a woman or in single life.” The 220th General Assembly adopted broader terms, saying that the PCUSA “does not have one interpretation of Scripture on this matter.” As a result, the PCUSA is locked into a rapid decline, losing 5.54% of its adherents  just last year.

It is clear, then, that the denominations that have confusing and changing opinions are seeing a great decrease in adherents while those that, like the Assemblies of God, are clear, open, and in line with biblical teaching on the tough subjects are expanding rapidly. Certainly numerical growth is not the only mark of church health, but new conversions to the faith—a principle aim of Christ in the Great Commission and a major contributing factor to Assemblies growth—are nothing to spurn.


6 Responses to Understanding the Assemblies of God Boom

  1. cken says:

    Sometimes those who appear to be the most candid and transparent are those who are simply better at covering their lack of piety and righteousness. It has become increasingly difficult to ascertain a persons character based on their words. Unfortunately in today’s world we rarely get to see the fruits of their works by which we could determine the state of their heart and soul. Big cities, lack of community and family, impersonal communication through social media, and other technology contribute to this dilemma.

    • Dave says:

      Does Farmville sound like a big city?? I think the whole point of this article is to inform of the fruit the AOG is seeing. 35% is tangible growth.

  2. Torin says:

    Well, I disagree a little with your conclusion. The growth of AOG is not due to holding firm to the principles which they might be doing. They have changed their Church service and the focus of their Sermons. I attended a AOG church in the 80’s. I recently went to a local inner city church that targeted they urban young. I was shocked at how AOG has changed. The service was more like a motivational rally than the old AOG church I attended. So, in fact the church has changed. Sermons no longer really focus on sinfully human nature and the redemption of Jesus, they focus on how to make your life run better. As a matter of fact, not one word was mentioned in the preacher’s sermon about current hot button issues of gay marriage. When I talked to him after church, he skirted the issue.

    I am not really sure that the members that go to the AOG churches even know what the AOG doctrines are except, Jesus loves you.

    • Dave says:

      Torin,

      To compare two different churches that you attended spanning 30 years apart and then conclude that an entire denomination has changed is pretty ridiculous reasoning. There are several big holes in your theology and ecclesiology that I think you may want to evaluate before making such broad stroked statements.

      Show me one scripture that tells us sermons should focus on the sinful human nature? Isn’t Romans 2:4 clear that it is the kindness of the Lord that leads to repentance.

      Why in the world would you go to a Pastor after he has just ministered and ask him about his stance on homosexuality? First of all what purpose is there in Pastors drawing hard lines on the same sin every service. Unfortunately many churches do this and alienate people when they are struggling rather than teaching them about a forgiving God who loves them and died for them even while they are still sinners. Did it occur to you that perhaps that Pastor thought you might be a homosexual and didn’t want to push you away by drawing a hardline stance without the context of grace? I think all to often ministers try to take the place of the Holy Spirit and bring conviction on people, but Jesus taught us something different. John 16:8 “…And He, when He comes, will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment; concerning sin…”. It is the job of the Holy Spirit, in fact it is part of his purpose to bring conviction not ours or Pastors.

      While I do agree with you on members not knowing the AOG doctrines, I would have to say that it is not the job of the church to teach “AOG Doctrine” but to teach the Bible and the context of the Bible. It is from Biblical principles that doctrine is derived, not vice versa.

  3. Leah Fultz says:

    I was a member of NLAG in Farmville for 12 years. I was very active in this church. For 11 years I headed up a lunch ministry after church and served coffee for years. With the arrival of our long awaited pastor came many changes. The program that was implemented was very similiar to the mega church models. Seeker friendly. Less about Jesus from the pulpit. Drinking was promoted, sex was the hot topic for most of the sermons. On one occasion we were told how “hot” his wife is from the pulpit. I’m not sure how this was supposed to edify me.
    I have been a widow for 10 years and to have the whole focus of my church become about sex and marriage was not helping me to grow in Christ. I voiced my feelings on this matter and was told I needed to leave. If I stayed I would never serve coffee in the church again and I could no longer attend the lunches after church that I had been a part of for 11 years because I was no longer trustworthy.
    I decided to get out. I have since found another church in my area that has not conformed to the world.
    Do not be deceived by numbers. Look at the fruit of the converts. How well do they know the word of God? It is the word in our hearts that keeps us from sinning, not an education on sex and marriage.

  4. SAMSON A. PAYCUAN says:

    I WANT TO READ MORE ON YOUR ARTICLES … LET ME KNOW YOUR PRINCIPLES ON TITHING … THE TRUE MEANING OF GIVING IN THE CHURCH.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *