The Assemblies of Good
Years ago, when my father served as general secretary of the Assemblies of God, he received a letter misaddressed to the Assemblies of Good.
Dad always liked that name. Even if it was the result of an inadvertent spelling error, it captured an important biblical principle: Theology and ethics go hand in hand. Who God is shapes who we are and how we act.
We see two versions of this principle in 1 John 4. Negatively, “Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love” (verse 8). Positively, “God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in them” (verse 16).
The biblical principle has a missiological corollary: Ethics and missions go hand in hand. How we act shapes how people respond to the gospel.
Jesus articulated this corollary in the Sermon on the Mount when He said, “Let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven” (Matthew 5:16). Good living is a good witness.
But there’s a negative version of this corollary, too. Paul takes religious hypocrites to task in Romans 2:17–24, underscoring his point with a quotation from Isaiah 52:5: “God’s name is blasphemed among the Gentiles because of you” (see Septuagint). Bad living leaves a bad witness.
To head off a potential objection, I should point out that ethics and missions do not operate mechanically, as if ethical living always results in evangelistic success.
Remember, Jesus lived a sinless life, but sinners still crucified him. And experience shows that people can come to genuine faith through — or maybe despite — the ministries of bad preachers.
Even so, it’s better for theology, ethics, and missions to be moving in the same direction: a good God producing good works through people leaving a good witness to others.
All of which raises a good question: If the churches or ministries we lead stopped existing tomorrow, what effects would it have on our communities?
If the answer to that question is “very little” or “none at all,” then we’ve got work to do.
After all, shouldn’t the presence of a local church have a net-positive effect on the community it serves? Shouldn’t the poor find help, the sick find healing, and the lost find heaven? Shouldn’t our good works be a window through which nonbelievers see God?
If we’re going to be the Assemblies of God, we must also be the Assemblies of Good.
This article appeared in the Summer 2023 edition of Influence magazine. Used with permission.