I have not had the opportunity to write for many weeks. The last few months have been a whirlwind of travel and holidays. I’m also working on a Ph.D. which significantly limits my writing time outside of assignments and dissertation preparation.
Today I want to write about my love for our fellowship. Fellowship is a mark of Christ’s church. It moves beyond a mere knowledge of someone to a relationship with that person. Doing life together, if you will. I was born into an Assemblies of God (AG) family. The AG is not a denomination but officially a fellowship. As with any relationship, we may have disagreements, but as with a healthy family, those things fade away for the sake of unity and fellowship.
Growing up AG, attending AG colleges, pastoring an AG church, and now serving in AG leadership affords me a family beyond my physical one. This is a spiritual connection. The AG is now well over 80 million people worldwide. Some estimate that number in the 120-160 million range (we cannot accurately count in closed nations). Through the blood of Jesus Christ, the power of the Holy Spirit, and the fellowship of the body of Christ, I am connected to each one of these.
Now please understand that I do not assume there is no connection to other denominations or organizations. Nothing could be further from the truth. But God saw fit to place me in a tribe, a place of connection. As I sat at my desk contemplating a blog topic, I was overwhelmed with a deep sense of belonging. Because of my background and experiences, there is nowhere in the world that I do not know an AG global worker.
I have some good things going on in my life right now. As I read a book authored by one AG friend, I picked up a prayer card from another, and texted one of our national leaders. I was struck yet again by the sense of belonging and family that the AG has provided for me. Do I believe we are the only ship in the ocean? Of course not. Nor do I think we have a lock on salvation, missions, the work of the Spirit, or anything else for that matter. Thank God for that. I also appreciate the deep relationships with non-denom, oneness, independent Christian, and Methodist friends. We are all in the same body. Maybe just a different line in the family. That could be a blog for another day. This blog is meant to be a thank you to the AG.
So, thank you, Assemblies of God, for the summer camps where my life was transformed. For mentors that keep my life grounded and in check. Thank you to the professors who poured into my life at two AG colleges/universities. Thank you to my friends that serve around the world. You challenge my selfishness and my willingness to give it all to Jesus. Thank you to our local AG church, C3AG, Louisville, KY. It is an honor to serve as your pastor. Thank you to my AG parents and grandparents that set into motion finding Jesus at an early age, being filled with the Spirit at the altar of an AG church, and being called into ministry at Camp Crestwood. Thank you to my wife, who I meet at an AG college.
My purpose in this blog is not to be arrogant about the AG but to genuinely thank those who have significantly impacted my life. God chose to use the AG as one conduit of His blessing in my life. In our modern world, denominations are losing their former influence. Many are drawn toward the independent churches that they feel more closely model the early church. I get that, and I do not criticize those with that opinion. I just disagree. I am often asked by young ministers, why do I need credentials with the AG if God has called me? That too is a blog for a future time, but one aspect is belonging.
I have an opportunity to make deep and lasting connections. I love General Council (our national meetings are held every two years) because it is like a family reunion. It is a joy and a privilege to walk around the exhibit hall and see friends and those with a profound effect on my life. Somehow, I come away each time with a few new friends also. No, the AG cannot get you into heaven, and yes, it is just a small portion of the body of Christ worldwide, but it is my place of belonging. It is my tribe. As we often say in the AG, Our Church, Our Family. I am thankful.