The head of one of the largest Pentecostal denominations in the country encouraged struggling leaders not to be weary in their ministry work even if the harvest may not come in their lifetime.
"The breakthrough will come," George O. Wood, general superintendent of the Assemblies of God, told thousands of Pentecostals in Orlando, Fla., Tuesday. "God will not forget your work."
Relaying the story of an Old Testament character many could relate to, Wood spoke of Leah whose life circumstances seemed unfair but whose legacy has played out beyond her earthly life.
Without Leah, he pointed out, there would be no Moses and ultimately no Christmas story.
"Her circumstances may have brought her misery ... but her view of God continued to be one of trust," Wood said, noting that she never failed to look to the Lord and praise Him.
"Leah's story teaches us that the effect of your life cannot be measured within the time span you have on earth," he added. "You cannot measure the impact of Leah's life within her earthly time span. You cannot measure your own life that way either."
Wood's message during the 53rd General Council of the Assemblies of God was mainly directed at church and ministry leaders he knew were struggling and not experiencing the harvest they've been working for.
Wood's own parents had failed in Jeffersonville, Ind., where they planted a church. But today, that church is thriving with some 3,000 attendants.
Overall, the Assemblies of God is seeing growth even in the midst of an economic recession. Today, more than 8,000 people are being added to the global denomination every day, Wood reported.
And although growth in the U.S. churches is not keeping pace with that of overseas churches, Wood said the U.S. body has still experienced 15 percent growth over the past decade. He attributed the higher numbers to diversity. More than 38 percent of the nearly 3 million members and adherents of the U.S. Assemblies of God members are ethnic minorities.
But not all churches are growing, Wood noted, and many are experiencing decline. To help revitalize existing churches, the Pentecostal denomination is launching the Church Transformation Network. Test piloting will begin in several districts this fall.
Painting a bright future for the Pentecostal group, Wood encouraged members and leaders not to lose heart and not to draw back even in difficult financial times.
Noting that the Assemblies of God grew even in the midst of the Great Depression, he said, "We must not let the economic situation dictate our response. We must be spirit-filled people of courage who see this opportunity and demonstrate in both word and deed that we will go anywhere, do anything that the spirit directs."
Also urging prayer, he added, "We must work as if everything is dependent upon us; we must pray as if everything is dependent upon God."
The 53rd General Council, the Assemblies of God's biennial business meeting, is taking place Aug. 3-7 at the Orange County Convention Center. In what will be a historic move for the denomination, delegates are expected to elect a woman to the General Presbytery, the second highest policy-making body, for the first time. They are also set to elect an executive presbyter under 40 years of age.