Trask Urges Fellowship to be Spirit-Led
The Assemblies of God may need to rethink long-held traditions regarding church practices, General Superintendent Thomas E. Trask said in a passionately delivered opening keynote rally Tuesday night at the Pepsi Center in laying out the challenges—and opportunities facing the Fellowship.
Trask, now in his 12th year at the helm, noted how the Assemblies of God has grown from 300 people 91 years ago to more than 53 million worldwide today – including in excess of 2 million in the past year alone.
Yet Trask, speaking before a crowd of 9,300, noted that the church faces a daunting task in reaching an increasingly secular society. Citing statistics from researcher George Barna, Trask said while the U.S. adult population has increased by 15 percent in the past 15 years, the number of adults who don’t attend church has practically doubled – to 75 million from 39 million, a whopping 92 percent increase. During the span, the ratio of unchurched Americans has risen to one in three people instead of one in five.
It’s not a matter of simply inviting the unchurched to services, Trask said. Those who don’t attend church often have no understanding that Jesus was sinless, that Satan is real, that salvation is through grace and that God is the Creator and present-day ruler of the universe.
“They are wholly disinterested in church life – often passionately so,” Trask said. “Stirring worship music won’t attract them because worship isn’t even on their radar screen. More comfortable pews cannot compete with the easy chair or the bed that already serve the unchurched person. Church events cannot effectively compete with what the world has to offer.”
But the church does have one thing to offer that can’t be found elsewhere: a life-changing, authentic encounter and ongoing relationship with the living God.
“Until such a connection is made, focusing on features, programs and benefits other than such a life-changing encounter is more likely to lose ground than to gain it,” Trask cautioned.
One of the tests facing the church is that millions of young adults are more interested in authenticity, experiences, relationships and spirituality than they are in traditions, disciplines, institutions and religion, Trask said.
“The rapidly swelling numbers of unchurched people in America may be forcing existing churches to reinvent their core spiritual practices, while holding tightly to their core spiritual beliefs,” Trask said. “It will take radically new settings and experiences to effectively introduce unchurched individuals to biblical principles and practices.”
The Assemblies of God is uniquely positioned as a Spirit-empowered movement to offer solutions to those searching for meaning, Trask said. God raised up the Assemblies of God to become a people of Pentecostal power, not to just be another denomination, he said. Pentecostals need to resist Satan’s temptation to fade into the religious landscape and be consumed with religious activities, he said.
“It’s not about looks,” Trask said. “It’s not about a degree. It’s not about talents or gifts. It’s not about offices or titles.”
Those who lead others to God must themselves be in tune with the Holy Spirit, he said. A Spirit-led person has a personal relationship with God; prays and fasts; has integrity; is passionate about God’s Word and loves those who aren’t easy to love.
Trask noted that the Assemblies of God is in better position now than ever before regarding the quality of its institutions of Christian higher education. But he cautioned those who obtain learning to be on guard against pride and arrogance.
“It’s a tragedy for a person to have knowledge, but be void of the Spirit,” said Trask, who has been ordained for 47 years. “The greater tragedy is for a person to be void of both knowledge and Spirit.”
Trask admonished audience members to watch their lives and doctrine closely. In an era of growing moral relativism, it’s tempting to preach what is popular rather than what is biblical, he said. Walking in the Spirit also means living victorious upright, moral and godly lives, he indicated.
He also stressed the importance of not relegating the baptism of the Holy Spirit, with the initial physical evidence of speaking in tongues, to secondary status.
“If we fail to preach, teach and provide opportunity for men and women to receive this glorious Baptism, we as leaders will be held responsible,” Trask said. If those in the Fellowship neglect – or grieve – the Holy Spirit, God will find another group that will do His work, Trask said.
Although the Assemblies of God has hundreds of thousands of adherents who are full of the Holy Spirit, Trask said. He exhorted listeners to make an impact, as individuals, where they live.
“You can make a difference as a man or woman of God,” Trask said. “Let it be said, ‘There is a man of God in our city.’ ”
The anointing of the Holy Spirit should make a noticeable difference in the behavior and attitudes of people in the Fellowship, Trask said.
“We have been called given to be change agents,” Trask said. “Your pulpit will be changed. One pastor, one evangelist, one missionary, one teacher, one laity at a time.”
At the start of the service, U.S. Rep. Marilyn Musgrave, who is in her second term representing Colorado’s Fourth Congressional District, welcomed the crowd to “some of God’s finest creation.” Musgrave and her husband Steve attend First Assembly of God in Fort Morgan.
“Government doesn’t have all the answers,” Musgrave said. “Jesus Christ is the answer to every problem we face in our country today.”
The service was telecast on the INSP Network, as will the remainder of the evening sessions the rest of the week.