The General Council vote: issues and predictions

The General Council vote: issues and predictions

52nd General Council of the Assemblies of God

Tomorrow, the 52nd biennial business-meeting for the General Council of the Assemblies of God begins. On Thursday, our next General Superintendent will be selected. Here are my thoughts on matters over which I have no input or influence, and which are probably inappropriate for me to publicly opine over. Unfortunately, that doesn’t stop me from writing! If you read this and think I’m an idiot for writing it, just remember: you read it!

[Skip all the blather and just see my pick for the vote, if that’s what you’re after!]

The Generational Exchange … Happens Now

Stop now. Before you go any further, before you cast your nominating vote, before you accept your nomination (as if anybody reads this), go listen to (or read) this incredible sermon from the last General Council delivered by Bryan Jarrett.

Done? Good. Great message wasn’t it? In case you didn’t catch them, I want to highlight a couple of quotes from the article/sermon.

First, Jarrett nicely sums up one significant aspect of the cultural gap between our elder leaders and our younger ministers and ministry candidates. Here, in his words:

There is titanic distrust among the generations. … The older generation is looking for someone in whom they can deposit their faith, or as Paul puts it, they are looking for someone in whom they can deposit the trust of the full gospel (1 Timothy 1:11; 1 Timothy 6:20). However, they are reluctant to make that deposit for fear that their faith, their church and the trust will be diluted, altered, or even forsaken.

On the other hand is the younger generation. They are as passionate as the pioneers of this Pentecostal church and have an amazing potential to expand the Kingdom in this world. But they have become weary with church as usual, with legalistic expectations and with conditional blessings.

Jarrett goes on to describe the need for the older generation to release the younger generation into ministry with their blessing without placing their generational baggage and conditions on that blessing. He describes the need for the younger generation to ground their feeling-based worldview in the Word and to honor the sacrifices of their forefathers. And he encourages the older generation to trust the youth. If the Assemblies of God doesn’t make this transition, if we don’t release the youth into ministry, they’ll depart. He says:

If the blessing is withheld, the blessing will die with the older generation in the next 20 or 30 years, and the Assemblies of God will never be what it was before. The younger generation will reform our Movement, or they will leave it and start another one like our forefathers did four generations ago.

But I want to really highlight the story he told from his days as an itinerant speaker and evangelist.

While still an evangelist, I preached a revival in a little town on the Arkansas-Missouri line. In my message that night I challenged the people to seek God for another great awakening in America. After the altar service an older man in his late 80s or early 90s walked briskly up to me. It was obvious he was weeping.

He passionately grabbed me by the lapel of my jacket and said, “Son, listen to this old man. I am a retired Methodist pastor. I came into the Methodist church when it was a revival movement. We were called the shouting Methodists. Over time, the Assemblies of God came along, stole the fire out of our stove, and left us with a cold, black stove. What happened to my church is happening to yours. If revival does not come to your church, when you are an old man, you will grab some young man by the collar just like this and weep the same bitter tears this old man weeps tonight.”

That’s enough to give one pause.

Chatter, Chatter, Chatter …

Since the announcement of Trask’s surprise resignation, the A/G-specific mailing lists and blogs have been full of chatter about who the next general superintendent of the Assemblies of God should be. Many of the discussions, especially at the FutureAG blog, wind up discussing the value and risk of a young leader versus the trust and track-record that comes with an older leader. Many great things have been said, and I was completely prepared to write one of my trademark behemoth explorations all the different issues involved in young vs. old leadership. But so much has been said that there simply isn’t time or space to cover all the subjects worth considering. For example, I was preparing to write the following subjects — which I now only mention in passing:

  • Centralization vs. flattening:
    Older leaders, having matured under authoritarian, CEO-style leadership models prefer, trust and expect rigid hierarchical structures. With these guys, their church organizational-chart (and there will be one!) looks like a finely detailed pyramid (with guys like me at the very lowest part, to be sure). However, younger leaders have grown up in a culture where relationships are being flattened. They enjoy instant access to everybody and they grant the same unfettered access, using various pieces of technology to do that. They’re wired, accessible 24×7 and resent chains of command that insulate them from access to leadership.
  • Absentee voting:
    Many feel that younger ministers low on the church totem-pole aren’t going to be given the opportunity to go to a General Council and vote. Their church maybe can only afford to send one or two people to Council — so the Youth Pastor stays behind. Or there are bi-vocational ministers and small-church pastors who simply can’t afford to go on their own dime. But it’ll be at least 2011 before absentee voting could become a reality because it would require a committee to study it, a resolution to pass it and the Constitution and Bylaws to be amended to allow it. It’s not happening any time soon and people on the fringes feel disenfranchised.

    There are arguments against this, of course, but it’s a discussion that needs to happen. Unfortunately, the last time this was raised in General Council (in 2003), the resolution was withdrawn.

  • Managerial skills vs. pastoral skills:
    There have been some calls to install a leader fresh from the pastorate, who can lead with a shepherd’s heart. Others point out that the GS position is really a CEO-style job including a busy agenda dealing with issues far from the pastorate. However, short of only voting in current District executives the selection process cannot take any of those qualifications into account. So, ministers and delegates will have to vote based on what they know about a nominee. Is he a good pastor with a good reputation? Is he a good communicator? Can he preach? Rarely will anybody know whether he’s a sound administrator, if he sets wise policy, if he can negotiate well, if he can be diplomatic and whether he can navigate legal issues gracefully.
  • Old vs. young
    The big topic this year is old versus young. (Trivia: The median age of ministers in our Fellowship is 51.) A GS will be likely to serve 10 or more years (we’ve only had three in the last 50), the job is highly stressful and longevity will be a concern for nominees already into their late sixties to early 70s. Plus there are concerns that the older ministers aren’t in touch with contemporary culture and cannot cast a vision to adequately reach that culture.

    On the other hand, younger ministers may have the stamina to last several years, but they won’t be as strongly rooted in the Assemblies of God’s traditions and history. They may be too culturally bound and not as resistant to current trends like the dread virus of ecumenicalism and the various oddities of the postmodern Emergent church.

    Whatever the case, younger ministers are typically not well-known and there are few young people in national leadership positions that would give the majority a basis for that kind of awareness (There are exceptions, of course, like Tom Green, director of the national Men’s Ministries program and former National Youth Director).

  • Male vs. female:
    Women are being welcomed into higher and higher positions of leadership in the A/G, but not quickly enough. There are no female district executive officials, despite that 19 percent of all our ministers are women. Out of 6,000+ female ministers, only 452 are senior pastors. Some think it’s time for the A/G to stand by its official position of egalitarianism and elect a lady GS. But there is still a strong segment of ministers within the A/G who hold to the complementarian view. (We have a position paper that comes down strongly on the side of egalitarianism, but position papers aren’t policy.)

    It’s unlikely that we’re either ready for it or that there are many female leaders in the A/G with enough visibility to pass nomination.

    Getting the resolution passed to open up a seat on the Executive Presbytery, though, will be a resounding success and a good next step.

  • Not white vs. white
    Our Hispanic and Asian districts have some of the largest churches in the nation, and whites are quickly becoming a minority in many parts of the country. Our leadership spectrum doesn’t reflect the actual diversity found in either our churches or the nation at-large. Further, the Assemblies of God in North America is quickly losing ground as the leading and largest Pentecostal sect. Our sister fellowships in Latin America, Africa and Asia are quickly becoming (if not already are) globally respected leaders of the movement. As one General Council employee wrote to me, “I wish Lazarus Chakwera could be nominated — I’d vote for him and be done with it.”
  • Church growth issues:
    As the A/G becomes more “mainstream” and viewed as less heretical, and as many of our churches toy with Saddleback and Willow Creek models for church growth, mega-churches are now on the rise. The mega-churches, of course, create mega-star pastors who become well-known by virtue not only of the size of their church and the money they bring to the District coffers, but because these pastors also wind up hitting the conference trail and penning books.

    Who knew church growth could be so profitable?

    Meanwhile the little-guy pastors of small and medium-sized churches go unrecognized. The church-growth virus/meme makes them feel like failures in their district meetings and they battle the herd mentality, consoling themselves by remembering the effective fellowship, discipleship and mentoring that’s going on in their smaller communities.

    Still, the attention goes to the church growth flock and it could well be reasoned that only a mega-church pastor would have the administrative/CEO-like skills to run a denomination.

    We have been blessed by the programs and the drive to growing and planting churches: we have more churches open today than we did at the last General Council — our highest number ever. But perhaps we’ve been cursed too: we have fewer converts today than we did then. Perhaps church growth and church planting should take a back seat to spiritual growth and new converts?

    Who we choose as a leader will have a strong impact on this philosophy.

  • The global South:
    Is anybody paying attention to this? Will any of our potential leaders help improve the bridges between the American A/G and the rest of the Pentecostal world? Is there any white leader who can fill the top slot who can be an effective bridge builder and earn the trust of the Global South? As George Wood reports, “our growth in the USA has slowed at the same time that our international growth is galloping ahead.” Clearly, there’s something going on there that isn’t happening here.

    But, wait, it is happening here! Some of our largest mega-churches are immigrant churches, and services are not being conducted in English and their websites are not, either. The global South is coming to us. Is our leadership prepared?

  • Liberals vs. conservatives vs. progressives:
    There has been concern expressed on a few blogs that there is a growing divide in our Fellowship between conservatives and liberals, or as they see themselves, progressives. (For what it’s worth, I consider myself conservative, but others reading my posts call me progressive. Go figger.) The Third-Wave Charismatic movement has transformed mainline churches so that there are now Episcopalian churches where you can hear tongues and see the laying on of hands. Some of those Charismatic mainliners have trickled over into the A/G (sometimes by accident, because we’ve stopped naming our churches “Assembly of God,” what James Bridges once called “stealth Assemblies”). And now many of our biggest churches are indistinguishable from a typical Evangelical church. The conservatives lament the loss of the active exercise of the charismata in our services. And the liberals/progressives have begun softening their teaching on initial evidence and other key doctrines. And then there is the confusion of traditional “holiness” values with conservativism. If you reject the old-school values, you’re labeled a liberal. So, who do you choose for the next GS? Someone sensitive to the current postmodern trends in our church? Someone who holds to the classical Pentecostal line? This isn’t necessarily an age-division, either. Some of our elder ministers look back with nostalgia on the good old days, but some don’t. Even Trask admits the church needs to adapt.
  • Charismatics vs. Pentecostals:
    In a similar vein, TBN and its charismatic hodgepodge of doctrine and heresy continues to be a staple television experience for many in our churches while others are happily reading the latest Harry Potter novel. (Disclaimer: my family owns a copy of every novel issued … and we call ourselves Pentecostal?) What has long distinguished the Assemblies of God as a classical Pentecostal denomination is fading in many of our churches, which are taking a softer, more Charismatic approach to “doing church” and are much more permissive about what constitutes good doctrine and good behavior.

    Very rarely, especially in larger churches, do you have altar calls, much less healing services. In the last ten years I’ve never seen a prayer line where people wanting to receive the Baptism of the Holy Spirit “run the gauntlet” with tongues-talking recipients coming out the end of the pipeline. Healing testimonies are rare and demon possession is hardly spoken of, except to say that perhaps somebody needs psychological help. Revival is the exception and evangelistic zeal has waned.

    Whether these are truly earmarks of Classical Pentecostalism can be debated. Whether they’re truly Biblical or merely culture-bound can be debated. What cannot be debated is that they are no longer widespread practices in our churches — especially megachurches. (They once were. You might actually find this in our smaller churches.)

    So, who do you vote for? A small church Pentecostal old-guard who will push for a revival of traditional Pentecostalism? Or a mega-church style Charismatic who will push for more church-growth practices and self-help preaching? One thing’s for sure, a traditional Pentecostal church is not a typical seeker-sensitive church.

  • The Emergent issue:
    Few among the older generation even recognize this as an issue and those that do see only the bad parts. Many among the younger set are fully aware of it and may even be embracing it uncritically. However, we need a leader who can find the balance between what is good about Emergent and what needs to be critically examined and rejected. The Assemblies of God has largely resisted the movement, but some would say we’ve ignored it, to our peril. Our younger church planters often see themselves as Emergent, and the old-guard doesn’t seem to know what to make of this. Not only is it postmodern, but it’s simply not being written about much in our publications. (The A/G’s website has a total of 29 articles mentioning “emergent” and “postmodern” in the same page. Compare that with 185 results from the somewhat Emergent-unfriendly Christianity Today.) Who will lead the Fellowship as this conversation continues to penetrate and subtly transform our churches?
  • The Bible and preaching
    Pentecostal churches are simply not well-known for their hard-line stance on expository preaching. Homiletics courses in our colleges and seminaries don’t have a standard Pentecostal homiletics text to refer to, or at least not one that is respected and trusted outside Pentecostal circles. Discussions of the “Pentecostal Hermeneutic” still flourish in seminaries and in academic journals, but how many pastors know or even care what that is?

    In our search for answers on the problem of discipleship in our Fellowship, will anyone take the lead and say that perhaps our preaching is part of the problem? Will anyone take the lead and say that perhaps our historic rejection of academic excellence has led to a failure to not only properly handle the Word of God in the pulpit, but to not even use it as the source of the sermon? (Though, admittedly, this is changing.) In every A/G church I’ve attended, save for one, the pastor used the text to “springboard” into a topical sermon. The doctrine was fine, but the handling of the text was not. And, in the end, the congregation takes its cues from the pastor and his is how they read their Bible.

    Which values in this arena will our next GS embody? Will he call our Fellowship back to the Word — and that preached well? Or will it be more of the same?

More discussion …

There’s more that’s being bandied about, to be sure. For some excellent discussions of these issues, see:

So What?

This question pops up frequently in these discussions. So what? What difference does the General Superintendent make to the local church, much less and individual believer?

More than you’d realize. Many of the resolutions that actually get passed at each General Council were not sponsored by pastors, they were sponsored by the Executive Presbytery. And, ultimately, you’ll see the GS’s fingerprints all over those resolutions. By the time one of these resolutions makes it to Council, it’s already gone through a significant vetting process by General Council leadership, and its chances of being approved are pretty good. These resolutions, in turn, have an effect on District Council policies, local church policies and ministerial requirements.

For example, until the last General Council in 2005, the only way you could get credentials in the Assemblies of God was to go through the formal process of applying through your District Office and meeting all the requirements of a General Council credentials holder. Now, however, your local church can credential you temporarily (up to two years) so that you can carry legitimate credentials while doing ministry, such as preaching, teaching, church planting, etc.

Beyond that, the less ephemeral stuff that you don’t see comes in the form of vision casting for the whole Fellowship. The personality, style and vision of the general superintendent gets communicated and is accepted or rejected by the grass-roots ministers over the years. The GS also provides leadership for the many ministries and efforts at a national level that have local impact, like the Convoy of Hope food program that has been effectively used in disasters like when Hurricane Katrina hit Louisiana. The GS has influence over editorial and content policies for all of our publications. He has influence over the curricula that the Gospel Publishing House provides. He builds bridges between denominations, speaks at conferences and preaches at local churches.

When Zimmerman was the GS, the A/G broke ground in broadcast media — and it was largely due to Zimmerman’s vision. When Carlson was GS, the Gormon/Swaggart/Bakker scandals could have soiled the A/G even more than they did were it not for the wise and capable (some say grandfatherly) way that Carlson led the Fellowship during that time. There could not have been a better man for the hour.

What mark Trask has made on the Fellowship as a whole remains to be seen, in retrospect, but I suspect one will be that we are more like a denomination now than ever before. For good, or bad. You decide.

Can the general superintendent be a change agent who fosters revival throughout our Fellowship? Nobody can say, many suspect not. I believe, however, that it could happen — especially if we have someone in office who calls our ministers back to preaching the Word and rejecting the winds of heresy that blow through our ranks from time to time.

I stand with all my brethren who are ministers (I am not) who characterize this as a momentous time and a pivotal moment. In realistic terms: a crisis is upon the A/G. Who we choose to lead us down the road we take from here is critical.

My Call

Finally, in light of all that I’ve read and processed on this, here’s how I see the next few days transpiring. George Wood will almost certainly get nominated. If he is nominated, I don’t see how any dark horse could surpass him in getting votes, unless somebody like Dan Betzer is nominated.

Alton Garrison, the director for the US Home Missions department, will almost certainly get nominated as well. I suspect he’ll wind up as the Assistant General Superintendent, and will likely move up to the top slot when George Wood finishes out the remainder of this term.

John Lindell, pastor of James River Assembly in Springfield, will probably get nominated, especially by the younger crowd, but I’ve seen many comments from the female contingent that they’d be hard pressed to elect him as his views on women in ministry are not perfectly egalitarian. (The Springfield News-Leader mentioned him as a possible candidate, by the way, along with Charles Arsenault, pastor of Evangel Temple in Springfield and a member the executive presbytery.)

Personally, I’d like to see my friend Gene Roncone, pastor of Aurora First Assembly in Aurora, Colorado (and son-in-law to Charles Crabtree), nominated for the General Secretary slot. I don’t think he’d accept it, but I think he’d be an excellent choice to have in national leadership. He helped the A/G revamp its Constitution and Bylaws and is considered our top expert on Roberts Rules of Order. I know, that’s an arcane thing to be expert in, but to operate our business meetings legally, that has to be followed. And Roncone is a fine preacher who eschews spring boarding. I like that.

John Bueno, director of the World Missions department, may elect to retire at this point, since that had been his plan earlier. So, that could leave the directorate of World Missions up for grabs, too. Some have suggested nominating him for GS, but HQ insiders seriously doubt he’d consider it at this point.

Nobody seems to be able to come up with any names for female nominations. I would love to see it happen, but there haven’t been enough prominent lady ministers to get the visibility needed to pass nomination. As George Wood notes, there are no district executives who are women.

Will we see some non-whites nominated this year? I dearly hope so. But I doubt it. If this Council were on the East or West Coast, maybe. But being here in the heartland makes it affordable for more Bible Belt ministers to drive and attend. I suspect this year’s Council will be pretty lily-white, and the nominations will reflect that complexion. Unfortunately.

So, that’s as far as my (ill-founded?) “prescience” takes me. Wood as GS, Garrison as Asst. GS and anybody’s guess as to General Secretary, Home Missions and World Missions.

I know, not very informative. But you’re the one who read this far, silly!

What about the Holy Spirit

I just want to say that, ultimately, it will be the Holy Spirit that superintends the voting process. God will select Trask’s successor, just as he selected Trask, and Carlson before him, and Zimmerman before him and all the others before them. I know that our pastors and ministers are praying about this. And I’m sure God’s sovereignty will still … be sovereign.

That said, there is still a need for wisdom in the process, and God has not called us to leave our critical faculties at the coat-rack when choosing servant ministers. These leaders are in top positions of authority, to be sure, but they are much like the deacons who were chosen in Acts. They are men (and someday women) who perform the business of the church, the “setting of tables” so that our pastors, evangelists, teachers, and missionaries can go about preparing themselves and their messages and their ministries. To that end, it’s critical that we choose candidates “full of the Holy Spirit.” The only way that can be done is to choose men that our delegates and ministers know, men whose ministries have become familiar with the voters. Thus, there is really no getting away from the aspect of the process that many complain is a popularity contest. It really cannot be any other way: You cannot realistically vote someone into this kind of leadership role if you haven’t seen the evidence of the Holy Spirit’s power in his or her ministry.

And that’s the biggest problem with the process, really. It’s impossible to know all 30,000 ministers. It’s impossible to know all of even one percent of that number. So, the voting process inevitably focuses on the one percent of the top one percent of whoever happens to be known to the delegates.

But, despite that, I pray God’s will be done, and that wisdom will prevail.

Some folks people are talking about …

I’ve compiled the suggestions for GS that I’ve seen around the blogosphere and in my email discussion groups. For more names that will likely be considered, you should see my A/G Mega-Church list. A lot of those names are prominent and well-known among the people who will be voting at General Council this week. There could be several nominees coming from that list.

  • Wood, George
    General Secretary, doctorate in jurisprudence, and licensed to practice law in CA. One commenter wrote: "Wood is well-educated enough, and progressive enough that he’d be fine." Another commenter wrote "Woods does have the education, the world-view, class, and authority to lead." Another wrote: "Wood is progressive and has a global perspective." Another wrote: "Brother Wood raised the I.Q. of the Executive Presbytery about 400 points when he joined it." Another wrote: "I was somewhat surprised how keenly aware he is of the needed changes in our fellowship. He has a real grasp on the younger generation which really took me back." Another wrote: "We need someone like Wood, who has a historic, profound grasp of what we really were as a Movement, and the ability to clearly see and understand where and how we need to change to reach this modern-postmodern culture without compromising the essence of who we are …. He has more than a superficial grasp of current books and cliches on reaching this ‘postmodern’ generation. He has a far deeper grasp of AG history and polity, the essence of our movement, the history of the church, Scripture and theology, the law, AND the culture, than most of the other ‘candidates’ combined.."
  • Bridges, James
    General Treasurer. One commenter wrote: "Bridges is way too conservative / fundamentalist, in my opinion." Another commenter wrote: "Bridges is indeed a godly man also, but some may find him to be too conservative.".
  • Klaus, Byron
    President of Assemblies of God Theological Seminary.
  • Clay, Doug
    Superintendent of the Ohio District. From one commenter: "strong, proven and respected by both ‘old school’ ministers and young alike." Capable.
  • Garrison, Alton
    Executive Director of US Missions and executive presbyter, former superintendent of the Arkansas District, and former pastor and evangelist. From one commenter: "He spent 45 minutes explaining to the crowd how to use a website. It was obvious by the discussion that someone had just tutored him and that he was not comfortable navigating a simple web page. I don’t think that our GS needs to be a computer geek but to me this has a sign of an underlying generational deficiency." Another commenter wrote: "many believe that Alton was moved to lead US Missions to position him for the Gen Sup job. He has really worked in innovative ways in US Missions to push for Reach America fund raising." Another wrote: "He is said to be a good administrator, good financial manager, and innovative.".
  • Batterson, Mark
    Pastor of National Community Church, Washington, DC. Not interested in the job: "I’ll definitely be praying but I definitely won’t be ‘running’ … I feel called to pastor one church for life." Church.
  • Bueno, John
    Executive director of the Assemblies of God World Missions, executive presbyter. Served as missionary for 25 years in El Salvador, also served as Latin America Field Director for the Division of Foreign Missions.
  • Trask, Bradley T.
    Church planter and senior pastor, Brighton Assembly of God, Brighton, MI. From one commenter: "Son of Tom Trask impressive young man. Humble, very good preacher, personable, articulate." Brighton.
  • Donaldson, Hal
    Chief Executive Officer and Founder of Convoy of Hope, editor of Today’s Pentecostal Evangel.
  • Huddleston, Samuel
    Nor Cal/Nev Asst. from one commenter: "Early fifties, missional, pastoral. …".
  • Braddy, James
    Superintendent of Northern California & Nevada District.
  • Leach, William
    Superintendent of the Michigan District.
  • Allen, Bret
    Senior pastor of Bethel Church of San Jose in San Jose, California, former District Youth Director of California. From one commenter: "Probably the most phenomenal leader I have ever known.".
  • George, J. Don
    Nonresident executive presbyter and senior pastor of Calvary Church in Irving, TX.
  • Bradford, Jim
    Senior Pastor of Central Assembly in MO Springfield.
  • Creps, Earl
    Professor of Doctoral Studies at AGTS, author, soon to be church planter. He has stated that he’s not interested in nomination.
  • Benson, M. Wayne
    President of EMERGE Ministries in Akron, Ohio. Former pastor at Grand Rapids First Assembly in Grand Rapids, Michigan, former president of Central Bible College.
  • Betzer, Dan
    Nonresident executive presbyter, and senior pastor of First Assembly Ministries.
  • Loy, Rod
    Senior Pastor of First Assembly of North Little Rock God.
  • Valimont, Randy
    Senior Pastor of First Assembly of God in GA Griffin.
  • Berteau, Glen
    Senior Pastor of Calvary Temple Worship Center in CA Modesto.
  • Palmer, John M.
    Executive Presbyter and World Missions Director of the Iowa Ministry Network, teaches at Evangel University. From one commenter: "has shown an ability to reach out to ministers and leaders.".
  • Lindell, John
    Senior Pastor of James River Assembly.
  • Davis, Maury
    Senior Pastor of Cornerstone Church in TN Nashville.
  • Anderson, Gordon
    President of North Central University.
  • Dubose, Rick
    Superintendent of the North Texas District.
  • Welk, Leslie
    Superintendent of the Northwest Ministry Network.
  • Wilkerson, Rich
    Founder of Peacemakers and Senior Pastor of Trinity Church.
  • Raburn, Terry
    Superintendent of Peninsular Florida District.
  • Barnett, Tommy
    Senior Pastor of Phoenix First Assembly of God in Pheonix, AZ, one of the largest and fastest growing churches in the A/G with over 15,000 reported in attendance. Barnett began preaching at age 16 and celebrated 50 years of ministry in 2003. He has several honorary doctorates.
  • McFarland, Lee
    Senior Pastor of Radiant Church in Surprise, AZ. Was working as Director of World Wide Operations at Microsoft when called to ministry in the late 90s. His church has been featured on the cover of the New York Times magazine and in an ABC news program and has been dubbed "the blue jean church" and has been called "the 18th fastest growing church in the country."
  • Jarrett, Bryan
    Senior Pastor of Sachse Assembly of God in Sachse, TX. Jarrett delivered a phenomenal message at the 51st General Council which you absolutely must read or listen to. He is a graduate of CBC and is currently studying for a Masters degree from Oral Roberts University.
  • Bosman, John W.
    Founder and president of SpiritWind International, a transdenominational ministry. Former pastor of Glad Tidings Church in Lake Charles, LA; former Assistant District Superintendent for the LA District Council, and also former General Presbyter."embracing the essence of building unity in the Body of Christ and facilitating the restoration of the five-fold ministry in the Church." From one commenter: "He may very well be the outsider that will surprise everyone. I believe he is between 50-60, but is a strong leader with a servant’s heart. A great preacher and a man of vision, innovative.".
  • Northrup, Dary
    Senior Pastor of Timberline Church in Ft CO. From one commenter: "He is deeply committed to the organization and its history but extremely forward in his thinking. He has also served as Assistant Superintendent of his district and understands the system." Collins.
  • Blackburn, Wayne
    Pastor of Victory Church in Lakeland, Florida, on of the A/G’s largest megachurches with over 2,500 members.
  • Rutland, Mark
    President of Southeastern University and President and Founder of Global Servants. From one commenter: "He is where he is because the Methodist church saw potential and invested in him to create a better leader. He changed denominations after being groomed by the Methodist church (and a realization of the Holy Spirit’s work in today’s world). He is a a phenomenal communicator, and has his pulse on this generation as a college president. mentor".
  • Dresselhaus, Richard
    Pastor, homiletics professor (AGTS and Fuller Theological Seminary), and chaplain (Azusa Pacific University). Is currently a nonresident executive presbyter. Dresselhaus has more than 45 years of ministry experience, much of it pastoral. He graudated from Luther College in 1957, earned his MA from Wheaton Graduate School in 1960, and earned his D.Min from Fuller Theological Seminary in 1991. He has authored several books and writes frequently for A/G periodicals.
  • Hurst, Randy
    Director of Communications, AG World Missions. Has edited of the Missions World edition of the Pentecostal Evangel, served as evangelist, pastor and missionary to the Samoan Islands. One commenter wrote: "Hurst would make an interesting GC official. He is a missionary and is also over the Commission for Evangelism.".
  • Green, Tom
    National Director of the Men’s Ministries. Previously served as the A/G National Youth Director and national Speed the Light Director and served for 12 years as the Oklahoma District Youth director. One commenter wrote: "He raised the level of excellence in the National Youth Ministries. Is currently renovating the Men’s department to a place that a church planter, for the first time can be proud to be apart of and its events — not ashamed to promote. I believe he is among the most well-rounded and innovative leaders of today. He is professional in leadership style, doctrinally grounded, innovative in thinking and missional in approach. And although he has worked within the a/g headquarters building for a few years now, he has managed to stay outside the ‘church bubble’ and still clutches to a passion and ability to connect and reach the ‘un-churched’. He still serves on the rouged plans of ministry in both personal and ‘business’ practices.".

As usual, please feel free to comment. I write for you. Will you write for me? What are your “predictions?”


[tags]age, tbn, aog, ceo, tom-trask, mega-church, megachurch, legalism, global-south, discipleship, 52nd-general-council, general-council-of-the-assemblies-of-god, leadership, Assemblies-of-God, assembly-of-god, general-superintendent, reverend-tom-trask, superintendent, heresy, baggage, blogrodent, rich-tatum, indiana, indianapolis, religion, holiness, voting, vision, christianity, thomas-trask, john-lindell, evangelical, evangelism, alton-garrison, church-culture, church-growth, george-wood, emergent, emergent-conversation, charismata, charismatic, spirituality, pentecostal, pentecostal-holiness, youth, culture[/tags]

30 thoughts on “The General Council vote: issues and predictions

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  4. Mike

    I appreciate your comments and blog.  — Keep up the good work.

    The continuing issue in the AG that bothers me is the discipleship issue. To give you an example a recent Pentecostal Evangel had a little byline about Wayne Benson that when he was a pastor in Grand Rapids that his church experienced 17,000 conversions during a time of revival but the church itself was 5000 people.

    Where did all these people go? To the Methodist Church? I don’t think so! What bragging rights can anyone have if we are not really discipling the people we convert?

    Yes, pray for God’s man as the new GS.

  5. Jay C. Anger

    Well as far as “guesses” go, here is the “local” scuttlebutt:

    • Gen: George Wood (and Lindell will pull his name when not elected on the nominating ballot, and will pull his name from consideration of any other post)
    • Asst: Alton Garrison
    • Sec: Randy Hurst (although I have my personal doubts about this)
    • Home: John Palmer (although I have my personal doubts about this)
    • Foreign: Mike McClaflin

    Again, this is not out of thoughtful prayer or “Spirit-Inspired” . . . nor are any of these individuals my “personal choice” . . . this is just if the local scuttlebutt holds true.

    Personal opinions:

    Having had George Wood as interim pastor at Central Assembly, I think he would be a tremendous “interim GS” to bring the A/G from the “current” MOA to a new paradigm. He was ALMOST single-handedly responsible in bringing James Bradford to Central Assembly, and Central is a radically different church than it was four years ago. Wood is cutting edge in his thinking, Christocentric in his preaching, and is a true scholar of the Bible. He has the age and respect of the “older” generation while being fully connected to the “younger” generation; he also has a gentle, warm servant-leader style combined with the brains, charisma, and oratory skills of a high-powered attorney (meant in a good sense.)

    It “seems” like Alton Garrison wants to be GS someday — it’s just a feeling I get. Now a disclaimer: I personally don’t know much about him. In large measure, he is the one individual that kick-started me down the path to salvation — and for that, I am eternally grateful for his influence.

    Secretary and Home are really anybody’s guess.

    Foreign missions? If John Bueno steps down, it is either Africa or Northern Asia — they are the two “hotspots” in foreign missions. Personally, I call “Uncle Mike” a friend — I grew up “just down the road” from him, and he is one of the most kind and giving individuals I know — so I am probably TOTALLY biased. Although I would hate to see him leave the Africa field, I think he has the goods to lead AGWM into further growth . . . but then again, a good half of his area directors could as well!

    Now, I don’t have a dog in this race; neither can I affect the outcome in any measure. But as a wise, godly academic dean once told me at a dinner back in 1992, “The view will only change for the lead dog.” And boy was he ever right! I do hope and pray that we begin to lose this rigid heirarchy and return to something that more reflects the original intent and purpose of the national officers from this General Council forward.

  6. Rich Post author

    Actually I was wrong. General Council does offer at least one blog. It’s the Today’s Pentecostal Evangel blog. Check it out! It comes with podcast included!

    Though, I not with some humor, that it’s running on Blogspot/Blogger, and note the blog/website technology offered by the A/G for churches to use (AGWebServices).


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  8. Rich Post author

    Carl has written a great post on this subject, not calling the vote, but calling for revival. Good read.

    From: Revival Blog – “Where are the Apostles and Prophets?

    What does the AG need? Decentralization. Right now, churches operate within the structure of the organization. The national structure needs to be cut back to the point of only supporting missionaries. Tell the congregations to seek the Lord as to the direction He is leading and then come back in 10 years to see what structure is needed. Determine that religious spirits will be cast out of the fellowship and declare that we are moving forward in revival. …

    Get a fresh move of God. Open the door to let congregations that really just want to be a slightly more spiritual then Calvary Chapel to leave. Rebuild a fellowship of churches that want revival and move on in that path.

    In the end, the AG needs to decide if it wants to be a cooperative fellowship of ministries born in the fire of the Holy Ghost or just the new Methodists.

  9. Rich Post author

    Trask’s final keynote message as General Superintendent of the Assemblies of God was interesting and is well worth watching (summary here). In it, surprisingly, Trask highlights many of the problems with the Assemblies of God and contemporary culture that have been highlighted on this blog and elsewhere.

    The most telling conclusion, really, is found in Trask’s prayer (begins at 01:09:00):

    “Father, we come to you tonight … I thank you for your Word. I thank you because your Word stirs us, it shakes us, it moves us, it helps us, it brings us to our knees and brings us to the realities of which you know. As the Church at Sardis, you said, “I know they works, I know that you have a reputation that are alive — but you’re dead.” I pray, oh God, oh God, please don’t let it be said about the Assemblies of God, “They have a reputation of being a Pentecostal church alive,” but while what I see, Lord, you’re saying we’re dead.

    Don’t let it happen, I pray in the powerful name of Jesus Christ our Lord. I pray, oh God, that you will bring this church into the fulfillment for which you raised us so that we, under your unction, under your anointing, under the energies of the Spirit, we will accomplish and will impact our world. I pray this in the mighty and the powerful name of Jesus.”

    Did I hear that right? Did Trask just say, during his prayer, that he hears God saying that the Assemblies of God is dead? Perhaps I mis-heard him. At any rate, he’s certainly concerned about it, given the context of his message, and his prayer not to let it happen.

    Watch, listen, or download here.


  10. Rich Post author

    I tuned in to the business session late, so there may be names that should be struck from this list that I didn’t hear. I’ll update as I know more.

    Current Candidates as of 2:36 PM CST, 08/09/2007

    Gordon L. Anderson (asked to be removed)
    Tommy J Barnett (declined since he could not simultaneously pastor his church)
    M. Wayne Benson
    C. Dan Betzer
    James T. Bradford
    James K. Bridges
    John L. Bueno
    H. Franklin Cargill
    Douglas E. Clay
    G. Robert Cook, Jr.
    Charles T. Crabtree
    Charles E. Crank
    L. Alton Garrison
    J. Don George
    Thomas W. Greene
    Larry H. Griswold
    Byron D. Klaus
    John E. Lindell
    Ronald F. McManus
    Dary R. Northrop
    John M. Palmer
    Terrell R. Raburn
    H. Robert Rhoden
    Randal L. Ross
    Mark Rutland
    Jolie L. Smith, Jr.
    Randy L. Valimont
    George O. Wood

    I had wondered if my pastor, Randal Ross, would be nominated. I didn’t have the guts to make the call.


  11. Rich Post author

    These names were removed from consideration for the second round of voting.

    Gordon L. Anderson
    Tommy J Barnett
    Ronald F. McManus
    Dary R. Northrop
    Mark Rutland
    J. Don George
    James K. Bridges

    Going into the second round of voting are the following nominees:

    M. Wayne Benson
    C. Dan Betzer
    James T. Bradford
    John L. Bueno
    H. Franklin Cargill
    Douglas E. Clay
    G. Robert Cook, Jr.
    Charles T. Crabtree
    Charles E. Crank
    L. Alton Garrison
    Thomas W. Greene
    Larry H. Griswold
    Byron D. Klaus
    John E. Lindell
    John M. Palmer
    Terrell R. Raburn
    H. Robert Rhoden
    Randal L. Ross
    Zollie L. Smith, Jr.
    Randy L. Valimont
    George O. Wood


  12. Rich Post author

    Results of the first round of votes:

    3,687 ballots cast
    15 votes invalid
    Needed to elect: 2,448
    No election

    Current votes after the first round:

    884: George O. Wood
    733: L. Alton Garrison
    412: John E. Lindell
    391: Charles T. Crabtree
    236: Douglas E. Clay
    144: C. Dan Betzer
    120: John M. Palmer
    106: John L. Bueno
    95: M. Wayne Benson
    78: Terrell R. Raburn
    70: Thomas W. Greene
    35: G. Robert Cook, Jr.
    34: Randal L. Ross
    33: James T. Bradford
    32: Charles E. Crank
    21: Larry H. Griswold

    Couldn’t catch these numbers, but they were less than 50 votes each:

    Zollie L. Smith, Jr.
    Randy L. Valimont
    H. Robert Rhoden
    H. Franklin Cargill
    Byron D. Klaus


  13. Rich Post author

    Okay, going into the third round. Here are the results of the second round:

    Candidates for the third round, and the votes they received from the second round:

    1366: George O. Wood
    1011: L. Alton Garrison
    543: John E. Lindell
    250: Charles Crabtree
    216: Douglas E. Clay
    198: M. Wayne Benson
    58: C. Dan Betzer
    46: John M. Palmer
    32: John L. Bueno
    18: Randy L. Valimont
    17: Zollie L. Smith, Jr.
    11: Thomas W. Greene
    8: H. Robert Rhoden
    7: Byron D. Klaus
    6: Terrell R. Raburn (tie)
    6: G. Robert Cook, Jr. (tie)

    These nominees didn’t make it into the third round of votes:

    5: Randal L. Ross
    5: H. Franklin Cargill
    4: James T. Bradford
    4: Larry H. Griswold
    2: Charles E. Crank

    John Lindell asked to remove himself from the candidacy since he didn’t realize you couldn’t pastor a church and be general superintendent at the same time (he could if he were elected to a district superintendency). His request was denied, since once you’ve accepted nomination, you have to see the election through to the end.


  14. Rich Post author

    2,328 votes were needed to elect in the last round of votes. There was no election, so it goes to a final round, and the candidate list is reduced to the top three nominees so far.

    1788: George O. Wood
    1302: L. Alton Garrison
    192: Douglas E. Clay

    The other nominees received these votes in the last round:

    76: Charles Crabtree
    38: John E. Lindell
    18: C. Dan Betzer
    15: M. Wayne Benson
    13: John M. Palmer
    13: Randy L. Valimont
    12: John L. Bueno
    5: Thomas W. Greene
    5: G. Robert Cook, Jr.
    5: Zollie L. Smith, Jr.
    4: Byron D. Klaus
    3: H. Robert Rhoden
    2: Terrell R. Raburn


  15. Rich Post author

    The business meeting is closed and will resume tomorrow morning at 9 am, where, presumably, the next GS will be announced.

    Anybody want to hazard a guess that it will wind up being George Wood?


  16. Jay C. Anger

    IMHO – without question Rich. There were not enough outstanding votes with Doug Clay to sway the election.

    Wow! Did the “locals” make a **generally** accurate call the actions of John Lindell?!?!?!?

  17. Rich Post author

    Right, Doug Clay had more votes when there were 16 nominees to choose from.

    Funniest moment in the business meeting: the attempt to amend the resolution clarifying the roles of the Superintendent to allow a back-door for General Superintendents to simultaneously serve in the pastorate or other ministries. With Tommy Barnett removing his name due to his desire to continue pastoring, Trask’s reaction to the amendment, the general hubub in the background, the ensuing debate, and the need to call the meeting to order — twice — were priceless.

    The locals called it pretty good.

    Which is a little frightening and saddening, actually. If we can armchair prognosticate the results, then that means we have a sense of what our ministers are thinking. Their ways are not beyond understanding. But what about God’s design?

    Not that God always has to be surprising and unknowable. But it would have been interesting and assuring to see both a unanimous first vote rather than the usual “weeding out.”


  18. Jeremy Farmer

    The AG has always been predictable. The sermons, the discipleship books, the campaigns, the preaching style, the focus on doctrinal issues, the election results, the crescendo and decrescendo during the middle of the message among a ton of other stuff.

    I saw a guy today in a gas station getting a coke. He was on his cell phone and was talking about “Wild Wednesday” — by his voice and that phrase, I told myself, “I’ll bet he is an AG youth pastor.” Sure enough, he youth pastors in a church about 30 minutes from here where I was going to my meeting.

    I am incredibly concerned about the future of the denomination that I grew up in. I am concerned about its predictability. I am concerned about its unwillingness to go a new direction, but talk about it all of the time.

    I am hopeful that whoever the new GS is (and without question, it will be George Wood), that the AG is taken in a new direction. Stop talking about how good change is, stop talking about how much new methods need to be implemented, and just start freaking doing it. Start doing something that will make people look to that denomination and say, “there’s something happening there…” instead of saying, “there they go again…”


  19. Jeremy Farmer

    Case in point:

    Altar call song Wednesday night: “Learning to Lean”

    Altar call song Thursday night: “Only Believe”

    (I just watched Wednesday’s message)…

  20. Jay C. Anger


    Well I confess that I can armchair pontificate with the best of them about all the things that are wrong – but that is just because it is SO EASY to pick out weak spots in individuals – especially when we struggle with the same weaknesses ourselves. When we see “signs” of underlying symptoms in others that we ourselves have struggled with and tried so hard (for years sometimes) to hide ourselves, we can easily snipe off that individual a mile away. But the words of Jesus ring true: “By the same measure you judge . . . .”

    I do have to tip a hat to Charles Crabtree tonight. There were some powerful points in that sermon that were simply pure gold.

  21. Rich Post author

    George Wood was elected General Superintendent this morning.

    In the bid to get younger ministers on the executive committee, resolution number four failed. The change would have been:

    “The Executive Presbytery shall select 30 members to serve a 2-year term based on ratios of approximately 25 percent ordained females and 75 percent ordained males under the age of 40.”

    There followed much was discussion about rescinding the vote and reconsidering. One pastor was concerned that denying this resolution sends the wrong message to the Fellowship. Another concerned that there are too many mega-church pastors on the committee and that’s why he voted against changing the composition.

    The current general presybtery includes only six ministers under age forty. The median age is 61, the average age is 62.

    As I write this, the debate continues regarding Resolution four.

    Nominees for the first electoral ballot for the Assistant General Superintendent:

    M. Wayne Benson
    C. Dan Betzer
    H. Franklin Cargill
    Douglas E. Clay
    Robert G. Cook, Jr.
    L. Alton Garrison
    A. Elizabeth Grant
    Thomas W. Greene
    Larry H. Griswold
    Byron D. Klaus
    John M. Palmer
    Terrell R. Raburn
    Zollie L. Smith, Jr.
    Randy L. Valimont


  22. Rich Post author

    Here’s how the vote counted out:

    1188: Garrison
    686: Clay
    226: Grant
    173: Palmer
    141: Betzer
    86: Benson
    77: Smith
    77: Raburn
    62: Greene
    51: Valimont
    44: Cook
    41: Klaus
    40: Cargill
    30: Griswold

    Going into the next round of votes now.

  23. Jay C. Anger

    Could it be that Beth Grant could become our first female executive in the office of Treasurer?

    I don’t recall a female candidtate ever making it into the top three (and staying in the top three) for Assistant!

  24. Rich Post author

    Jay, it’d be exciting to see Elizabeth Grant get that slot, very exciting. I suspect, however, it’ll be a tight finish and Doug Clay will get the nod.

    Hey, shoot me an email this afternoon and tell me how it went. I won’t be able to watch the proceedings after lunch. I have family visiting.


  25. Jay C. Anger

    Wait a minute Rich! You forget that Doug is now the top seed for the office of General Secretary! That’ll leave Beth as the next viable candidate for Treasurer. It will be interesting to see the underlying dynamics of the GC play out in public. If we see the majority of the vote begin to go to John Palmer over Beth for that slot, we will know how the majority of the GC REALLY feels about women in leadership.

  26. Rich Post author

    Interesting, I hadn’t read yet that Bridges was retiring. Well, in that case, it could prove very interesting. I’m sorry I won’t be able to watch it live!


  27. Sarah

    Here is what one writer in Fort Collins thinks of the Senior Pastor of a “mega-church” there:

    “Jesus may be Lord at Timberline Church, but Dary Northrup and those he favors are the greatest individual financial beneficiaries of that franchise. Dary Northrop assures the congregation continuously that Timberline’s leadership is accountable and sober. But, ask to look at the books and the inquiry will be treated like sin on Sunday. Dary Northrop, and his friend Jeff Lucas, live lavishly like few of those who attend Timberline each week. Jesus loves you Dary. He also loves you to show us your compensation and expense package. And, while your at it, show the corporation’s provisions for distribution of its assets upon dissolution. Toto, where are you?”

    The men who run these churches have turned them into their own private franchises. They do not model Jesus who preached poverty and the spiritual mischief caused by wealth. Jesus had no place to lay his head and owned no beast for transportion. He taught as much or more by example than he did by flapping his gums. The particular pastors referred to in the post above are millionaires. The Senior Pator, Dary Northrop, shows up part-time to preach. Not a bad gig. The motto of Timberline Church is “Let Love Live”. But, the love that Jesus spoke of did not have a dollar sign in front of it.

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