All the Gospel into All the World
Last week, thousands gathered at Allison Park Church in Pittsburgh. They came to celebrate the realization of a God-given dream. Lead pastor Jeff Leake was driven by a passion to bring the gospel to some of the most “unchurched” areas of the U.S. He made an audacious goal of planting 100 churches. The 100th church will become a reality later this year.
“The goal for us is never just church planting,” Leake explains. “It is reaching people with the gospel who need to be reached. It's about planting life-giving churches in the cities of the northeastern USA which is one of the most de-churched parts of our nation.”
Leake’s passion to urgently spread the gospel is a common passion in the Assemblies of God. The moniker “All the Gospel to All the World” has long characterized the evangelical, Pentecostal mission of the Fellowship. This mission, it appears, has not lost traction in the midst of a cultural upheaval.
Statistics released this week by the Assemblies of God show the Pentecostal Movement continuing on a countercultural trendline of continuous growth in U.S. adherents since 1989. The new 2015 stats show growth in the AG (1.4 percent) at a higher rate than the general population growth (0.7 percent). Since 1989, the U.S. population has grown by 23.3 percent. In the same 26-year time span, the growth represented by the U.S. Assemblies of God outpaced the population growth at 33 percent.
Internationally, new statistics show that the Assemblies of God throughout the world now accounts for 67,992,330 adherents in more than 365,000 churches. That’s a staggering 72.7 percent growth in worldwide adherents since 1989, making the movement the world's fourth largest Christian group.
Efforts like Leake’s vision to plant 100 churches have been fully embraced by the Movement. Many of the 100 churches were funded in part with matching fund grants made available by donations to Assemblies of God’s AG Trust.
The growth in the Assemblies of God is not confined to new churches, however.
Leaders like Oliver Lora Ovalles are seeing this growth reflected in their own communities. Ovalles began pastoring Eternal Rock Assembly of God in Detroit in 2013. A church and city in decline, they had gone through a loss of vision and the congregation wasn’t growing. After connecting with the AG’s Acts 2 Journey, Ovalles realigned his church to the Great Commission.
“We needed strengthening in our structure and how we conducted worship,” Ovalles recalled. Eternal Rock soon doubled in weekly attendance.
The trends of growth in the U.S. Assemblies of God have challenged many cultural assumptions. In an increasingly polarized culture, the AG has become one of the nation’s most racially diverse faith groups. Now, 42.8 percent of AG adherents are non-white, ethnic minority. More than half (53.8 percent) of the AG’s U.S. adherents are under the age of 35.
While the statistics may seem encouraging, George O. Wood, AG general superintendent, urges believers to not remain complacent. “Our mission never has been and can never be by might nor power, but by the empowerment of the Holy Spirit. The vast lostness of humanity — not favorable statistics — should compel us forward with greater fervor.”