by John D. Sprecher, U.S. Lead Elder
Last week I was given a January 1943 copy of “Herald of Faith” the publication of the Independent Assemblies of God which became the Fellowship of Christian Assemblies in 1973.
For me there was a bit of nostalgia as I read the pages with names of many that I had met or heard of—E.C. Erickson (from Duluth), A.F. Johnson (who taught me the Pastoral Epistles at Seattle Bible School), Kenneth Solberg, my wife’s uncle-in-law Olaf Bakken, A.W. Rasmussen, Martha Ramsay (an early missionary to Liberia), Lewi Pethrus (from Sweden), and many others. I think that everyone whose name was listed is now with the Lord, but they have left us a great legacy of faith and passion for the gospel.
Perhaps most striking was what was NOT recorded in the magazine’s 32 pages. There was almost no mention of the World War that was raging in Europe and the Pacific. While I am sure it could not have been far from anyone’s mind, their primary focus was on church planting and missions.
A six-week intensive Bible Course had been held in the fall of 1942 at the Philadelphia Church in Chicago with about 20 students, some who were already missionaries but who wanted to increase their knowledge. The purpose was described as follows: “For the past few years the Independent Assemblies of God have put forth a renewed effort to thrust laborers into the harvest, and thus fulfill the command of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Many are called to preach the Gospel, but need the help of the local churches to encourage them to take the final step into the ministry of the Gospel.”
There was a report from part of the convention the fall before, when an apparent open forum discussion focused two questions “What are the means of God’s way of revival?” which was then wrapped into the question regarding “Home missionary work,” which we would define as church planting. This was of particular interest to me as the FCA USA had dedicated Pentecost Sunday this year as “Church Planting Sunday” in our fellowship, asking our churches to take an offering for this purpose.
In the discussion 75 years ago there was the pragmatic—“If we put money into our home missionary work, we will have more means for foreign missionary work” (H.A. Gross); the impatient from a veteran church planter—“Why cannot we have more home missionary work?” (A.F. Johnson); the practical—“Need the experience of those who are seasoned veterans in the Gospel work. Need someone to visit the various assemblies and encourage the small workers” (Jason Hall); the principles—“Home missionary work must center in the local church…. The church in any given locality is responsible for the evangelizing of the immediate territory surrounding it…. Suggest that the local church have someone who could travel and put his full time into the matter of home missionary efforts in the territory surrounding the local church. Other churches in home territory could co-operate” (E.C. Erickson).
In 75 years, God’s plans for his kingdom have not changed. The church is still his Plan A—and we have the opportunity to continue to expand his kingdom as we work together.
(Reflections, 5-20-2018). John D. Sprecher, lead elder for the U.S. FCA, pastored churches for 45 years, most of them at Rock Church in Rockford, Illinois.