All the Gospel to All the World -- Next Door
A century ago in the 1916 Pentecostal Evangel, readers saw an impassioned plea from H.C. Ball, pioneer leader in developing Assemblies of God ministry to Spanish-speaking people in America. He told of Mexican citizens “swarming” the Texas border towns. He was moved with compassion for them as he saw many struggling to eat and survive.
Ball called on every Assemblies of God church to consider supporting a group “of five or six Mexicans” because “their salvation may depend on us.” I knew first hand H.C. Ball’s compassion because after he retired he was my Sunday School teacher when I was a junior in high school.
The heart of H.C. Ball and the early leaders of our Fellowship still rings loud and clear today as we echo their passion for the greatest evangelism the world has ever known. And, with a bit of sad irony, we still face many of the challenges they did a century ago.
The U.S. AG today is 23 percent Hispanic. In both Hispanic and non-Hispanic churches, concern has risen about the current immigration crisis and the rhetoric surrounding it.
It is that same apolitical concern to reach every soul that led many of our U.S. AG district superintendents to convene to discuss the fear and confusion they were hearing following the 2016 presidential election.
- From a pastoral perspective, how would they handle homes potentially being split up from “mass deportations?”
- How could ministers continue to effectively reach the immigrants in their own communities who likely have significant fears — even unsubstantiated fears?
- How could the church be a source of healing in a divided land?
Then a unique opportunity presented itself as many of these superintendents were able to raise questions and concerns with President-elect Trump’s transition team. They received the following clarifications:
- The “deportations” mentioned by the Trump administration would only apply to criminal felons.
- The incoming administration would seek to protect children of immigrants by replacing Obama’s executive order (DACA) with official legislation.
- The president-elect intends to build a wall, secure the border, and end illegal immigration.
- Once the border is secured and e-verify components are incorporated within the workplace, Trump would work with Congress to legalize and integrate the "terrific, God-fearing, hard-working, undocumented individuals and families."
While these clarifications may prove encouraging to some and discouraging to others, the mission of the Assemblies of God has never been political and we do not advocate for anyone to break or subvert the law. This Fellowship clearly exists for evangelism, worship, discipleship, and compassion. As a church we are far more concerned with who is saved or not saved rather than who is documented or undocumented. Our mission is “that none perish.”
As we see refugees and immigrants in our communities, may the plea of H.C. Ball in 1916 echo in our hearts today, “their salvation may depend on us.” In the 100 years since, the Assemblies of God throughout the world has grown from 300 to nearly 68 million in 365,000 churches in nearly every nation. We may also find the refugees and immigrants in our communities being connected to that wide global Assemblies of God family.
May we follow the admonition of Scripture to pray for our political leaders and our country so that collectively we will respond to the Lord and others as the prophet Micah reminds us: “What does the LORD require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.”
George O. Wood is general superintendent of the Assemblies of God (USA) and chairman of the World Assemblies of God Fellowship.
EDITOR'S NOTE: The Executive Presbytery of the Assemblies of God adopted a statement on immigration in 2006.