Back to the Altar: Returning to the Place of Divine Encounters

Maybe you’ve noticed a trend in Pentecostal churches—a shift away from altar calls and congregations yearning for an encounter with God. Samuel Rodriguez has.

Rodriguez is the founding and lead pastor of New Season Christian Worship Center (AG) in Sacramento, California. He also serves as the president of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference, the world’s largest Hispanic Christian organization.

He writes about the need for the altar on the Open Bible website. It’s well worth the read! Click HERE.


2018 FCA International Convergence

If you missed the 2018 Convergence — or if you attended and want to revisit some of the highlights — check out the links below.

VIDEOS — Presented at the convention

PICTURES — A gallery of photos from the week in Winnipeg. Have Winnipeg photos of your own to share? You can add them.

RECAP — Roger Armbruster gives a moment-by-moment overview of the people, the events, the speakers, and the atmosphere of the gathering in Winnipeg.

Report on the International Luncheon — Tuesday, May 1 at The Wave Church. Of interest to missionaries and those involved with international connections both in Canada and the United States.

TEACHING — Notes (provided by convention speakers) plus AUDIO of sessions:

Miracle Invasion

So many of the stories we hear about God’s miracles occur in distant lands or happened years in the past. That’s all well and good, but what is God doing today? Miracle Invasion: Amazing true stories of the Holy Spirit’s gifts at work today (Broadstreet Pub Group LLC, 2018) answers that question in dramatic fashion.

If you’ve ever wondered, like Gideon did, “If the Lord is with us…where are all his wonders that our ancestors told us about?” (Judges 6:13), Dean Merrill’s latest book may be exactly what you need. 

This is not an over-the-top account of a single supernatural event that occurred in one person’s life. Rather, this is a collection of “everyday” miracles (can we call them that?)—God at work in the lives of ordinary people: healings, words of knowledge, deliverance, abundant provision, and more. Each story underscores a simple truth: the gifts of the Holy Spirit are still at work. Today.

The stories come from many places, but Merrill drew on experiences within the Fellowship of Christian Assemblies for a couple of them. This excerpt is from Miracle Invasion by Dean Merrill and is used by permission.

Lest anyone think that spiritual gifts flow only through pastors, evangelists, and super-saints, consider the cases of two different youth groups—one in western Canada, the other in central United States—that illustrate what the Spirit can do through “just teenagers.”

The Rolling Prayer Meeting

Fort McMurray, Alberta, sits far up in the northern forests—another 435 kilometers (270 miles) northeast of Edmonton, the provincial capital. But it’s no sleepy outpost; it’s the throbbing center of the Athabasca oil sands, where some 2 million barrels of petroleum are extracted every day—much of it headed to the U.S.

Outside of town, however, it’s a long drive through the vast stretches of pine and spruce and birch trees to other population centers. That explains why McMurray Gospel Assembly’s youth group ended up chartering a coach bus a few years back to go to a winter weekend retreat at a sister church in Fort Saint John, British Columbia—eleven hours away. They would roll out well before sunrise on a Friday morning, arrive in time for the evening kickoff, have Saturday meetings, stay through the host church’s two Sunday morning services, and then begin the long trek back east again, not getting home until around midnight.

Paul Vallee, youth pastor at the time, had worked hard to sign up forty-some young people for the trip, plus half a dozen adults. He couldn’t quite convince one sixteen-year-old named Kelsey [pseudonym], however. “I really wish I could go,” she said wistfully, “but every time I take a long trip, it seems I get one of my migraine headaches. And once they start, they just kill me for three days or even four. I can’t risk it.”

The youth pastor thought about the fact that she had gone forward in the church more than once to be anointed with oil and prayed for. Still, her pounding pain and nausea kept coming back. Now he could only say to the girl, “Well, we’ll just have to trust God about that.”

Her girlfriends did some arm-twisting about the retreat, to the point that she finally caved in to their pleading. She happily boarded the bus that early morning with the rest.

However, about an hour and a half down Provincial Highway 63, sure enough … someone came up the aisle to where Paul and his wife, Patty, were sitting in the front row. “Kelsey’s having problems,” the person said. Paul went back to find the girl in excruciating pain. Her eyes had rolled back in their sockets as she gripped her head with both hands. She softly moaned. Concerned teens on all sides leaned up on their knees to see what was unfolding.

Now what? Pastor Paul knew they were still more than an hour from the nearest gas station where her parents could be called (in this pre-cellphone era) to come pick her up. Her suffering was intensifying by the minute. There had to be a better solution.

“Listen up, everybody,” he said suddenly. “She told me this might happen. But we’re going to pray. We’re going to believe God for a miracle.” He then began to lead out in prayer, with the teenagers joining in fervent pleas for divine intervention. From the front to the back, the chorus swelled: “Oh, God, help Kelsey! Please stop this terrible headache! We believe you can do this.” For the next twenty minutes, the bus became a rolling prayer meeting.

In time, the girl’s body seemed to relax slightly from its earlier tension. She slumped back into her seat as the voices subsided, although kids kept praying quietly around her. Paul returned to his seat up front.

It was not long afterward when there was a tap on his shoulder. He looked up, surprised, to see Kelsey herself with a calm demeanor. “This is a miracle, Pastor Paul,” she uttered. “This has never happened in my life!”

She went on to explain: “Once these migraines start, they run their course. But … but … I’m better!” The entire bus broke out in rejoicing and thanks.

Ripple Effect

The Fort McMurray group had much to celebrate when they arrived at the retreat site. Paul Vallee spoke that Friday night on the baptism in the Holy Spirit. God’s presence seemed especially strong in the meeting. “I was done speaking by eight-thirty or nine,” he remembers, “but kids were still at the altar at eleven-thirty, being filled with the Spirit, speaking in tongues, awash in the flow of God. Some said, ‘I don’t even know what’s happening to me’—though I thought I’d done a good job of explaining in my message! It was pretty dramatic.

“The Holy Spirit’s move was so strong throughout the weekend that when we got back onto the bus Sunday afternoon to start home, kids were still weeping as we drove. They came home and began starting their days on their knees before the Lord. Parents said to me, ‘What’s happened to my kid? I go by his room in the early morning and see a light under the door. If I knock and he says, ‘Come in,’ he’s there with his Bible open, and he’s praying!”

Some youth group members began voluntarily tossing out unhealthy media they’d collected, without any sermons on the subject. The Holy Spirit was doing his own deep, internal work in their hearts.

Soon the senior pastor asked if some of the teens might want to share their recent experience with a Sunday night audience of adults. Paul Vallee thought they might be intimidated—but when he put the question to the group, a total of thirty-two hands went up. It turned out to be one of the most memorable services the church had ever experienced.

Kelsey and her family ended up moving back east to Newfoundland but stayed in touch with their Fort McMurray friends. Several years later, her update came through: “Since that day on the bus, I’ve never had a single migraine.” God had done a permanent miracle in her body.

Dean Merrill, long-time member of the FCA, is a former magazine editor and writer best known for his award-winning collaborations with such Christian leaders as Jim Cymbala (Brooklyn Tabernacle), Wess Stafford (Compassion International), and Gracia Burnham (Philippine missionary hostage survivor).

Want to read more? You can order a copy of Miracle Invasion at, or

Finding Progress in 2018

“Such a person is double-minded and unstable in all his ways.” — James 1:8

2018 is a good time to “un-commit” to everything we are not sure or confident of.

By Tom Yerman

Throughout this year we will be faced with a variety of situations, ideas, and needs that will tug on our hearts: “Do this. Fix that. Do something!” As worthy as each of them might seem to be, over time they can accumulate…and weigh us down.

As these tasks and obligations accumulate, we can find ourselves mentally, emotionally—even spiritually—struggling over one or more of them, causing us to become bogged down. We may even find ourselves wrestling with doubt, doubt not just in what we should or should not do, but also in how we might do something.

The word doubt in James 1:6 is defined as being in strife with oneself, i.e., to doubt, hesitant, or waver.  In James 1:8, the person who doubts is described as being “unstable in all his ways.” The Amplified Bible adds specific detail: “in everything he thinks, feels, or decides.”

The beginning of a New Year is a good time to put aside things about which we are unsure or hesitant, trusting God for clarity and provision at the proper time.

A brother reminded me, “we can’t be totally committed to one thing if we reserve some commitment to things we are unsure of.” As we “un-commit” to everything we’re not definite about, we will find ourselves in a better position to totally commit to that about which we can be fully certain.

In other words, replace doubt about uncertain things with faith in what we know for sure. Faith must embody everything we do!

It is by faith we are saved, and it is with faith that we move forward. Faith is having a settled trust and confidence in God. It’s a practical matter that expresses itself in our daily lives—especially in the way we respond to all kinds of trials.

The stability of our faith affects the stability of our entire person, life, and ministry. As we move forward in the coming year, we must continue not only to maintain a sincere faith, but also to grow a stronger faith.

James helps us understand the importance of developing such a mature faith.

  • Faith produces perseverance when it’s tested.
  • Perseverance builds maturity when we let it finish its work.
  • In maturity, we lack nothing spiritually.

As we strive to live a life of faith distinctively expressed (not vague or doubtless), we must establish our faith, keeping it precisely focused. Our focus must remain on that which is stable and unchanging—something we can fully rely upon, something we can love with all our heart, something we can have an undivided devotion for, and something that is always good.

Let me give some color to that word good:

  • Good provides confidence.
  • Good is precise, flawlessly established with truth.
  • Good promotes a healthy self-image.
  • Good produces high standards.
  • Good points to an unmistakable path and future.
  • Good is proven, limitless, the best—in other words, perfect.

This “something” that is always good is better described as someone—namely, Jesus Christ. He is the one person in our lives who must matter most! Spiritual progress demands his kind of love, devotion, and drive!

Jesus is certainly the only one we can always rely upon to meet our needs and know without hesitation that God is with us: God cannot deny himself; he is faithful. As we keep in step with Jesus, we will find ourselves equipped for every good work—everything we exercise our faith to do. This is why we must consciously keep our mind, our energy, and our faith in Jesus—the one whom we can be definite about.

James 1:16-18 (ESV) states, “Do not be deceived, my beloved brothers. Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change. Of his own will he brought us forth by the word of truth, that we should be a kind of firstfruits of his creatures.”

Every good and perfect gift is from God. In his sovereignty and will he has given us a new birth. We are the first fruits, the initial harvest, who live anticipating the redemption of creation. Jesus Christ was born to die that we might live out the why he died—with, for, and in him. Let us “hold the faith in our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory” (Jas. 2:1) as we put aside the things we are unsure of and move forward in the things we are certain about.

In him, we find the inspiration and ability to progress both inwardly and outwardly. May our steps be firm and our faith rich as we progress and grow in bringing glory to him who loves us most!

The blessing and honor and glory and power are forever his. He is the Creator of heaven and earth and our Maker, who is absolute and infinite Lord over all. He is the Almighty and All-Sufficient One who is Sovereign and King. He is our Banner, our Victory, and our Covering, the completely Self-Existing One who is the great I Am. He is God, and our advantage is in knowing: God is!

I’ve shared my heart in this writing, but I would also like to share this video, which comes from John Piper. I took a moment to sit back, close my eyes, and be refreshed in the awe of the simple but profound fact that, God is. I trust you will be refreshed by it as well.

Tom Yerman is an FCA Pastor ministering at Living Hope Church in Elk Grove Village.



How to Pray When Tragedy Strikes

By Scott Neubauer

There have been no shortage of heart-wrenching tragedies in just the past few months. 2017 has been the deadliest year for mass shootings in modern history, with Las Vegas and now Sutherland Springs, Texas, being the most recent. In addition, hurricanes Harvey, Irma, and Maria wreaked havoc in Houston, Florida, and Puerto Rico; a major earthquake devastated part of Mexico.

After each one, you’ll undoubtedly begin to see the photos emblazoned with, “Pray For (Insert Location of Latest Disaster or Tragedy)” begin to flood social media. These will be followed by another chorus of those saying thoughts and prayers are meaningless in light of such tragedy.

If we believe that our God is, “a hearer of prayer,” as Psalm 65 says, then true prayer is not trite or inactive: it’s powerful and an entirely appropriate and necessary response in the face of tragedy. But while it’s easy to post, “Pray for Texas,” it’s harder to actually do it.

“How do I pray?”
“What do I pray for?”
“Who do I pray for?”

I’d like to offer just a few ways I believe we can pray biblically when disaster or tragedy strikes:

1. Pray that those affected receive God’s comfort.

Many Scriptures speak of how God comforts the brokenhearted (Ps. 34:18, Ps. 147:3, Ps. 94:19, Matt 5:4, Is. 43:2), but if you’ve ever been around someone experiencing grief, you know that they need to be willing to be comforted. The question is not whether God will comfort the grieving, it’s whether the grieving will be open to receive it.

2 Corinthians 1:5 tells us the more abundant the suffering, the more abundant God’s comfort. So when you pray, pray that those affected would be open and ready to receive the comfort and peace that only God can provide.

2. Pray against fear.

Scripture is clear that the enemy comes to, “steal, kill, and destroy,” and one of the ways he does that through tragic events like these — beyond those directly affected — is by bringing a spirit of fear.

If we are not prayerful and confident of who we are in Christ, we can easily become crippled by a spirit of fear. Afraid to go to the mall, afraid to board a plane, afraid to go a large city. Pray for courage, confidence, and peace to prevail over fear, especially in the hearts of Christians. If our Savior has truly conquered death, then there is nothing to fear, not even death.

3. Pray for restoration.

Few people in all of humanity have faced an onslaught of disaster and tragedy like Job, and yet, in Job 42:10, we read,

“And the LORD restored the fortunes of Job, when he had prayed for his friends. And the LORD gave Job twice as much as he had before.”

Our God is a restorer. Our God takes the broken pieces left from tragic situations and turns them into something beautiful. We can be confident in this, and pray towards this end for those facing their darkest hour.

4. Pray for the attackers.

This may be the most difficult prayer to pray.

In situations where an terrorist or attacker has embodied pure evil by taking innocent lives — and survives — we are called to pray for them. Why can Jesus say with such confidence to, “love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you”? Because our battle is not with them. They are not the enemy.

The evil powers and principalities at work in the supernatural realm are the true enemies. When we are praying in situations like these, we must ask God to open our eyes to see the spiritual realm where the real battle is taking place.

How to Pray When We Don’t Know How to Pray

Still not sure how to pray? The disciples didn’t know how to pray. They asked Jesus and He answered. I believe the Holy Spirit will teach us, if we just ask.

“The greatest tragedy of life is not unanswered prayer, but unoffered prayer.”
—F.B. Meyer

Scott Neubauer is pastor of Watershed Church in Elgin, Illinois. Read more from Scott’s blog here.