Nearly 10,000 members of the Assemblies of God celebrated their world missions past, present, and future with a colorful procession of banners and joyful music from around the world on Thursday.
The World Missions celebration kicked off with the World Mission Executive Director L. John Bueno riding in a rickshaw and leading a parade of current missionaries working around the world a the Pepsi Center in Denver, Colo. The missionaries wore attire from the nations they serve and proudly carried the flags of their respective countries.
Later, 168 men and 58 women preparing to head to 55 countries formed a choir and orchestra to provide special music, and Thomas E. Trask, the AGs General Superintendent and top executive, commissioned new candidates heading to the mission field.
The keynote speaker of the mission event was Malawi Assemblies of God President Lazarus M. Chakwera, who thanked the American audience for sending full-gospel missionaries to Africa.
Malawi is just one of dozens of African countries where missions is sprouting and spreading like wildfire. Though the Assemblies of God began in Hot Springs, Arkansas, most of its adherents reside outside of the U.S.; of the 53 million AG members, only 3 million are American.
Malawi is a case in point. There are now 639,088 Assemblies of God members and adherents in Malawi meeting in 3,114 churches and preaching points. Only six years ago, the church had 63,500 members and 1,018 churches and preaching points.
Now, Chakwera said, the time has come for Africa to open its doors to sending missionaries as well.
Receiving fields are increasingly becoming sending forces, Chakwera said, who was elected general superintendent in 1989 at the age of 36. There is a realization that the African church, too, has a role to play in Gods worldwide mission.
Chakwera then cautioned the American church to examine policies and practices that may send wrong messages because of cultural differences. He also challenged the American church to give equal value or recognitions to partners who are not necessarily of equal weight, and urged them to continue with the Holy Spirit at the center of their mission.
When we cease to be a Spirit-led movement, we end up being like any other organization, he said. I therefore call on this church, in sharing strengths and resources, to think more in terms of collaboration, coordination and cooperation, and not competition. When we think in terms of Gods glory, we will not care whether we get credit for accomplishing certain things or not in order to get some reward.
The World Missions celebration was part of the Assemblies of God General Council meeting, held every two years, which is slated to close today.