Trask, Betzer Urges Leaders to Seek Power, Creativity Through Holy Spirit in Memorial Service
Maintaining and birthing vibrant, creative churches is one of the greatest ways to pay tribute to the ministers who have blazed a trail for today’s leaders.
That was the message delivered at Friday morning’s Memorial and Communion Service by C. Dan Betzer, pastor of First Assembly of God in Fort Myers, Florida.
The founders of this Fellowship, he said, were men and women of vision, and with God’s help they could see things that had not yet come to pass.
“The stuff God uses to create is nothing,” said Betzer, who also serves as executive presbyter for the Southeast Area. “So if you say that you have nothing, you’re in business.”
Friday’s service blended celebration with commemoration – giving thanks to God for the dedicated men and women who have passed away over the last two years, while recognizing the absence felt by friends and family members.
“We know that the ministry of your loved one was made possible because of your support,” General Secretary George O. Wood told family members in attendance. “While we remember them, we also think of you, and thank God for you.”
That sentiment was echoed by author and speaker Beth Grant during a prayer after the time of congregational worship.
“For many of us, there is an empty place in our hearts, an empty place in our homes and an empty place in our lives,” she said. “But today, we pray by the power of Your love, that You would fill their empty places with Your love.
“For those who are hurting most, hold Your arms around them, and remind them that You are their God, and one day it will be worth it all.”
Friday’s service included a 20-minute video presentation of the names of all 803 Assemblies of God ministers who died between June 1, 2003, and May 31, 2005. Before the video, Wood read the names of 48 others who have died since May 31; their photographs and names will be included in the 2007 memorial service and booklet.
Wood noted that there are five ways a person’s name can leave the active roster list, including a lapse, a resignation, a non-renewal by the district and a dismissal.
The fifth way is achieved by the men and women who “serve all the way to the end,” and “finish well.”
“They leave the list as ‘deceased,’ but they’re actually swallowed up by life,” Wood said.
In his keynote message, Betzer used his engaging and humorous style of communication to drive home a serious message: God is a creative God, and He wants ministers to lead creative churches and ministries.
“God always breathes creative life,” he said, using Genesis 1:1 as his central text. “Pentecostal people ought to be the most creative, cutting-edge people on the planet” because of our reliance on the Holy Spirit.
Betzer recalled his early years in rural Iowa, where his family had to drive 35 miles on dirt roads to get to church in Sioux City. One night, at the age of 14, he responded to God’s call to be baptized with the Holy Spirit.
“I wanted what Jesus talked about, I wanted the power,” he said. “I did not want to go through life just as some mediocre guy struggling through.”
But he did not receive the baptism immediately that night. He spent hours at the altar. Eventually, his family had to leave. He told them that he was going to stay and wait for God, and that he’d spend the night at his uncle’s house in town. He continued to pray and seek God’s face.
And at 3 a.m., God’s presence arrived, and it was as if someone had ripped off the whole side of the church, Betzer said. Nothing in his life has ever been the same since that night.
“I really believe that whatever God has called me to do, I can do,” he said. “So can you, because the Bible says so.”
That level of faith and obedience has led Betzer to birth several churches in the Fort Myers area. But instead of launching the congregations and letting them grow on their own, each church is a satellite branch of First Assembly. This ensures that the mother church’s “spiritual DNA” will be maintained in all of the daughter congregations.
He urged pastors and other leaders to keep the Pentecostal message fresh, vibrant and potent, and to pursue the spark “that will touch people” and change lives.
Friday’s gathering concluded with the celebration of communion, led by General Superintendent Thomas E. Trask.
“The Church might change, but the founder of the Church won’t change,” he said. “His name is Jesus. Today we honor the One who laid down His life, but He won the battle. Today the Church celebrates victory because of Calvary.”
Trask encouraged people who need either physical healing or an emotional healing to respond to God’s presence during communion.
“This is a reminder that by His stripes we are healed,” he said. “It’s His provision for your healing. This isn’t a ritual or a tradition. It can bring about a spiritual and physical restoration in each of us by the power of the Holy Spirit.”