Hurst Challenges Fellowship to Take the Gospel to the World
In a Christ-centered sermon full of biblical truths, Assemblies of God evangelism commissioner Randy Hurst Thursday night told the Fellowship that evangelism must be followed up with discipleship.
"The goal of evangelism is to make disciples who will make more disciples," said Hurst in a poignant, powerful message. "You cannot separate evangelism from discipleship. And discipleship isn’t a five-minute process. It involves work." Hurst, who has been an evangelist, pastor and missionary, strode about the Kansas City Convention Center stage, effectively alternating between hushed tones and rising shouts. The master storyteller had the crowd wiping away tears of laughter as well as joy.
At a moving altar time at the end of the service, General Superintendent Thomas Trask had national leaders of the Assemblies of God pray for Hurst in his new role as evangelism commissioner. Trask said it broke his heart that the U.S. Fellowship isn’t growing while Assemblies of God churches overseas are adding 3.3 million members annually.
Worshipers flock to the altar at the end of Randy Hurst's evening sermon about evangelism and discipleship.
In his sermon, Hurst recounted how in the first year of the Assemblies of God in 1914, the founders committed themselves to boldly go into all the world and preach the gospel, making disciples of all nations. Those commands of Jesus found in Mark and Matthew’s gospels have the common word "go" and they still hold true today, Hurst said.
"The lost of this world are not obligated to come to the church," Hurst said. "But we are obligated to go to them." Pentecostals need to build relationships with non-Christians and communicate on their level, in much the same way that foreign missionaries speak another language—even if it takes years for a breakthrough. "We must communicate the gospel in terms that individual people understand in their context," Hurst said. "They must be reached with their vocabulary, not ours."
Hurst reminded those gathered that the lost are everywhere. "The businessman driving down the freeway in his BMW talking on his cell phone is just as lost as the witchdoctor in Africa," Hurst said. "God doesn’t impart his power as a possession. He imparts it with a purpose."
Evangelism is not an option for Pentecostals, Hurst said. "Evangelism is not merely a religious enterprise," he said. "We are not inviting people just to join our group, a group of nice people with high moral standards."
Pentecostal evangelism, in particular, should be multicultural, transgenerational and worldwide, Hurst related. Yet it is also individualistic. The spiritually lost headed for eternity deserve more than a prepackaged evangelistic routine, he said. They deserve what people who met Jesus received – a personal response.
God uses committed, obedient disciples who rely on the Holy Spirit, Hurst said. "We must do what we can," he said. "And God does what we can’t."
It’s not the job of Christians to try to force salvation decisions, Hurst said. "God called us to be witnesses, not prosecuting attorneys." The Fellowship appointed Hurst to the evangelism commissioner post last year in part because U.S. growth has leveled off.
Alicia Chole gives her testimony.
Alicia Britt Chole, National Chi Alpha Missions Network and Mobilization representative, gave her testimony before the main address. She pleaded with the audience not to relent in praying for unbelievers, recounting the long journey she took before committing her life to Christ.
Chole, speaking in soft tones yet passionately as she paced the stage, urged the audience not to give up on non-Christian acquaintances. "I spent the first half of my life quite convinced that eternity was a socially useful myth," she said. "As an atheist I firmly believed that God didn’t create man. Man created God. For me, truth was dead."
As a teen-ager, Chole said she became argumentative and angry with anyone who suggested the existence of an all-powerful God who chose not to prevent pain on the earth. But when she moved to a new city just before her junior year in high school, God sent two classmates to befriend her. Initially she didn’t particularly like them. In fact, she resisted their evangelism efforts for two years, until she wore down. "They gave me what I needed the most," she said. "They gave me what God had given them."
In 1983, Chole committed her life to Christ at a small Assembly of God church. "There’s only one logical response when a God whose very existence you deny pursues and overtakes you not with judgment but with love," she said. "You surrender and you dedicate your life to gathering more worshipers for Him."
Two months later, as a first-year student at the University of Texas at Austin, Chole began telling everyone she knew everything she knew about Jesus. Yet she knew virtually nothing about Scripture – until Chi Alpha campus missionaries invested their lives in her. She thanked the Fellowship for supporting such a ministry.
"There were Assembly of God churches in that city that were convinced that the university wasn’t an evil to be avoided, it was an opportunity to be seized," Chole said. "And they partnered with God to send modern-day Daniels to that university of Babylon." Today, with her husband Barry, Chole is a nationally appointed home missionary, connecting college graduates with global opportunities to serve.