Assemblies of God Makes Desperate Changes for Pentecostal Discipleship

The Assemblies of God made significant changes after revealing an alarmingly small increase in membership over the past decade. One of the changes included a new commission for Pentecostal discipleship, which the denomination found a desperate need for.

"There is no greater need in the Assemblies of God today than for personal, ongoing Pentecostal discipleship of believers," said Assemblies of God General Superintendent Thomas E. Trask, according to the Assemblies of God News Service. "Unless we, as a Fellowship, passionately pursue discipleship, the Assemblies of God will continue to lose millions of converts and, ultimately, our distinctive Pentecostal heritage."

Numbers were presented at the General Presbytery meeting last month. According to the report, only 25 percent of new converts followed Christ in water baptism last year with only 20 percent receiving the baptism of the Holy Spirit.

In the past decade, there were more than 5.3 million stated decisions for Christ in the Assemblies of God. However, Sunday morning service only saw a four percent increase of 222,000.

"We are failing to retain the people who make decisions for Christ through our ministries. I believe that our discipleship, at this point right now, is ineffective," said Charles Crabtree, AG Assistant general superintendent. "If we continue this trend, in 10 years, we will have a very small percentage of Pentecostals in the Assemblies of God."

Taking immediate action, the general secretary created the Commission on Christian Education and Discipleship under which a Small Groups and Discipleship Initiatives Department was established. Curricula and opportunities for Sunday School-style discipleship outside of the traditional Sunday morning setting, such as home Bible studies, are also being created under the new Commission.

Currently in the works are small group material, a new Web presence for discipleship, the promotion of establishing strategic small groups in the local church and other projects.

Crabtree stressed that the local church plays a critical role. "I pray that the Lord will awaken pastors and churches to the crisis," he said. "We can provide all of the best resources we want, but without spiritual insight in local situations and the willingness to obey the Lord's command of the Great Commission . . . without quality disciples, we simply aren't going to have quality churches."

The Commission members are set to be approved by the Executive Presbytery this month and their first meeting is scheduled for December. A report on the state of discipleship will be due to the General Council in August 2007.