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Compelled to Reach the Lost

A sobering vision led to creation of program that has raised millions for missions and changed countless lives.

EDITOR'S NOTE: This article first appeared in the magazine Pentecostals

In November 1914, just a few months after the Fellowship’s founding, Assemblies of God delegates gathered for the second General Council in Chicago, where they committed themselves to the “greatest evangelism the world has ever seen.” Historically, Pentecostals have felt a compelling personal biblical conviction to share Jesus with non-Christians.

Sam Cochran and the founding of Light for the Lost is one notable example of the Holy Spirit’s impact.

On a Sunday evening in 1953, as Cochran prayed in the sanctuary of First Assembly of God in Santa Ana, California, he reported seeing a vision that forever changed the course of his life, and the eternity of millions of others.

Cochran told of beholding a massive crowd of people from many countries reaching their hands upward, crying out desperately, “Give us the book!” Above them, slowly descending, came a hand from heaven holding a Bible.

Just before the Word of God reached the first outstretched hands, a trap door opened below the people. Pleas for “the book” turned into screams of terror and agony as they fell into an inferno.

Cochran knew the vision’s heartbreaking meaning even as he watched it unfold. For the desperate crowd, it was too late. The end came before they could hear about or read the gospel of Jesus Christ. For the rest of his life, Cochran spoke before men’s groups and congregations describing the screams and palpable smell of burning flesh, which he could not forget.

After the vision ended, Cochran and several close friends met to discuss it. They felt the Holy Spirit telling them to begin raising funds for evangelism resources for missionaries to use overseas.

In the first year, they raised $313. In the 70 years since, the ministry they launched became known as Light for the Lost, and more than $370 million has been invested to resource Assemblies of God missionaries for evangelism worldwide.

In 2023, Light for the Lost will celebrate 70 years of evangelism partnership with missionaries through five platforms: print, audio, video, internet technologies, and apps.

“For seven decades, the frightening vision that Sam Cochran had at First AG in Santa Ana has inspired and motivated people across the Fellowship to make sure our missionaries always have the evangelism resources they need to communicate the gospel,” says Light for the Lost National Director Rick Allen. “We remain steadfastly committed to our mandate to provide the resources and tools our missionaries need on the field, regardless of location, language, or cost.”

In the early years of Light for the Lost (LFTL), primarily men’s groups did the heavy lifting in terms of sharing the message and fundraising. Under the LFTL Councilman program, people contributed $15 monthly to underwrite the expense of the national LFTL office, which enabled more general offerings to reach the field.

Today, more than 1,000 councilmen continue to send in their “dues” each month. Additionally, women and young people from AG churches lend their support to LFTL. In 2022, a record $9,193,635 was invested in LFTL by people and businesses from many age groups and backgrounds.

The urgency for world evangelism that moved Sam Cochran and that core group of men to start LFTL 70 years ago is spreading. Our missionaries throughout the world look to LFTL for all kinds of evangelism resources, print and digital.

A 70th anniversary celebration for LFTL will be held at General Council in Columbus, Ohio, in August.

Dan Kersten

Dan Kersten is communications and development director for National Men’s Ministries and Light for the Lost. He is a writer, photographer, and ordained Assemblies of God minister. He lives in Republic, Missouri.