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Wood Encourages Legacy of "Leah"

General Superintendent George O. Wood preaches the opening rally of the 2009 General Council in Orlando, Florida.

“It is God’s great army of anonymous saints who build His kingdom,” General Superintendent George O. Wood told an opening night crowd of thousands at the 53rd General Council of the Assemblies of God Tuesday. Preaching “Your Life and Legacy,” he unfolded the story of Leah, the unloved wife of Jacob, to demonstrate life and ministry cannot be measured by your time span on earth.

The evening rally opened with Travis Cottrell and his worship band and singers leading the congregation in a spirited and upbeat version of the old gospel song “Victory in Jesus.” Cottrell told the crowd, “If the Lord has been good to you, to lift up a shout!” and followed with the praise chorus, “We Worship You (for Who You Are)”

After the call to worship, General Treasurer Doug Clay welcomed attendees and recognized the General Council executive leadership team. He also recognized members of the Executive Council of the World Assemblies of God Fellowship and representatives from other Pentecostal fellowships in this country and Canada.

A “State of the Assemblies of God” video, led into a focus on the AGTrust and an offering as an investment in the future. In the video, Dr. Wood reminds in current hard times that Assemblies of God people in the Great Depression did not know that the Great Commission had been cancelled. The Fellowship doubled in members, churches, and missionaries and missions giving climbed 47 percent between 1929 and 1939.

The AGTrust is an arm of the General Superintendent’s Office created to fund strategic initiatives to help plant new churches, invest in the next generation through educational assistance to high school and college graduates, and produce evangelism and training resources for all ages.

Parker Loy, 16, of First Assembly of God in North Little Rock, Arkansas, issued a challenge to become charter members of the trust. Quoting his father Pastor Rod Loy’s assurance, he said, “God will provide, but doesn’t God use us to provide.”

Loy gives monthly, as perhaps the youngest AGTrust member, he said, because he cares about the future of the Assemblies of God and his own future. He shared the examples of friends and youth pastors who had to forfeit plans to attend Assemblies of God schools and make great sacrifice to be missionaries and church planters as reasons we must give.

Representing AG teens, he promised, “We don’t plan to let this thing die. In fact, we’ve got plans to make it better. I may not dress like you dress . . . but I’ve got Jesus in my heart, I’m baptized in the Holy Spirit, and I speak in tongues . . . All I need is my Bible, my IPhone and some clothes . . . We’re going to share the good news in the public schools and all over the world . . . ” He asked this generation to “quit worrying about what’s going to happen when you turn this thing over to us . . . ” and to invest in our future.

Knowing you cannot “take an offering if you don’t give,” and with his parents’ permission, he drew on his own college fund to give the first $2,000 for the offering.

Assistant General Superintendent Alton Garrison followed Loy’s remarks. He said, “That’s the generation you are investing in. . . . There are a lot of Parker Loy’s, a lot more churches that need to be planted.” He added that each of the offerings taken during General Council will be used towards a specific ministry, not for convention expenses.

Garrison invited monthly contributions and $2,000 gifts within the next 60 days to match Parker Loy’s offering.

Students, standing ready in the aisles, received the offering, against the backdrop of Chresten and Bridgette Tomlin and the Ft. Myers First Assembly of God Choir singing “I Am.”

The Tomlins are veteran preaching and music evangelists and recording artists. Tom Matrone, music director at Central Assembly, Springfield, Missouri, led the choir comprised of 200 singers representing each of the five campuses Ft. Myers First.

Dr. Wood opened his message with three directories in hand: the current General Council directory and two volumes of a Book of Remembrance. The first was the current listing of Assemblies of God ministers and missionaries. The others are handwritten names of those credentialed since 1914 and now deceased.

He termed them the “book of the living on earth” and “the books of the living in heaven,” and pointed out that most present would not know many on either list. “The overwhelming majority of the Lord’s workers labor anonymously in His vineyard — often in lonely places.”

Referring to Leah as one of the most obscure persons in the Bible, he said her legacy plays out beyond the 10 chapters of her story in Genesis all the way to the Book of the Revelation. He appealed to Leah’s purity of faith both to encourage and to challenge. Despite the double indignity of being traded by her father and rejected by her husband, and despite a life of circumstances beyond her control, she trusted God. Wood walked through the Scriptures to show how Leah’s legacy ultimately fit into “long tapestry of God’s weaving.”

Without Leah, there is no Levi, no Moses, no first five books of the Bible, no Ten Commandments, no prototype high priest to model Jesus’ intercessor ministry for us.

Wood referred to Leah’s descendent Caleb and his determination at age 85 to claim God’s promise.

He declared, “I hope at 95 years of age the Assemblies of God is saying ‘Give us this country! Give us this city! Give us this community! Give us this church!’” He credited Caleb with the same spiritual genetics and tenacity as Leah — never give up, never give in, and never sit down in self pity, resignation or defeat

Summarizing Leah’s lineage through Judah and David to Jesus, Wood said the people of the Christmas story are mainly Leah’s kids. “Without Leah, we could not sing ‘Joy to the World the Lord Has Come!’”

In closing, Wood recounted the sacrifices of his missionary parents in an unyielding field for a church plant. Though they left the community in seeming failure, today a flourishing congregation of 3,000 worships there and has planted over 200 churches around the world. They had pounded on and weakened the wall but others saw the breakthrough. Wood encouraged those in current battle, “Keep knocking.”

The evening climaxed with extended time of prayer. Wood noted that we are different from Leah in that the Lord always has loved us. Hundreds streamed into the aisle and forward for an extended time of prayer as Tom Matrone and Fort Myers Worship Band sang and played “Jesus Be the Center.”

Mel Surface

The late Mel Surface (1946-2018) was a writer, pastor, and former staff member at the national and North Texas District Assemblies of God offices. A journalism graduate of the University of Houston, he served as a newspaper and magazine reporter and editor. The author of two books, his writings regularly appeared in a variety of print and internet publications.