The Vision for Transformation--
an interview with the general superintendent
An in-depth interview with Assemblies of God General
Superintendent Thomas E. Trask concerning the Vision for
Transformation of the Assemblies of God originally sent to all
A/G ministers. Covers a wide variety of topics, from defining the
vision to how it may affect areas of the church at the local,
sectional, district and national levels.
"A/G News" has obtained permission to reprint the interview in its
entirety. It is our hope that this will assist in providing
laypeople and ministers (who may have missed the supplement)
insight into what lies ahead for the Assemblies of God.
--Dan Van Veen
Editor, "A/G News"
Q: What is the Vision for Transformation?
TRASK: Over a year ago, I approached the Executive Presbytery and
said, "Let's take an honest look at ourselves, put everything
except our doctrine on the table, and ask, 'Are there ways we can
be more effective in reaching our rapidly changing culture?'"
That's the question behind the Vision for Transformation. It's a
comprehensive examination of our structure, operation and
outreach. It is not, however, a reevaluation of our doctrine,
which this church has held dear for 89 years.
Through the Vision for Transformation process, we are asking the
grassroots where the Spirit is leading this Fellowship. The
Assemblies of God was the third-fastest growing religious body in
the United States during the '90s. The growth overseas has been
even more dramatic. But we can't be satisfied with past successes.
To whom much is given, much is required. God has certainly had His
hand on this Fellowship, but we can't be content with where we
are. Millions of people still don't know Jesus as their Savior.
Q: What distinguishes the Vision for Transformation from the
Decade of Harvest?
TRASK: The Decade of Harvest was a program, a set of goals
established by this church in the '90s. Goals were set for
planting churches, adding ministers, and more. The goals were
certainly good for this Fellowship, but we can't be driven by a
program; we must be led by the Spirit. We would be fooling
ourselves if we thought the Vision for Transformation alone could
change the spiritual climate of this church. It can't. It won't.
Four words characterize what I believe needs to happen: renew,
release, resource, and realign. Most importantly, we must have
renewal--a passion for the things of God: prayer, evangelism,
discipleship, worship, missions, and more.
Our message will never change, but we must pursue the most
effective methods possible to propagate that message. That's where
the Vision for Transformation comes in. My prayer is that it will
help bring fresh vision to the Assemblies of God so more people
can be reached for Christ. That is God's desire for this church,
that we would follow the example of the New Testament church and
have a greater burden for our communities.
Q: What have you seen or heard thus far that indicates the Spirit
is leading the Vision for Transformation process?
TRASK: We've had more than 250 meetings across the nation and
heard from thousands of ministers and leaders. Repeatedly they
spoke of their support for changes that would increase the
effectiveness of the local church and our district and national
offices. At these meetings we also had marvelous times of prayer
and seeking the mind of the Lord. We sensed God's presence
I also believe the Lord is pleased by our renewed focus on the
local church. It would be easy to follow the path taken by others
and become a hierarchical denomination, but we have to realize
that one of the reasons God has blessed this Fellowship is it has
given priority to serving the ministries of the local church.
One of the strengths of the Assemblies of God is that it is a
grassroots movement. Significant changes can't be made to the
Fellowship unless voted upon by the General Council and those who
represent the local churches. It's comforting to know that the
Spirit is leading this Fellowship and speaking to the hearts of
those who make up the General Council.
Q: Is there a biblical basis for the Vision for Transformation?
TRASK: Proverbs 29:18 says, "Where there is no vision, the people
perish." The NIV puts it this way: "Where there is no revelation,
the people cast off restraint." Our goal should be nothing more or
less than seeing God's vision for this church and fulfilling His
desire for it. This is mostly done through patterning our lives
and ministries after the New Testament church--which was
characterized by a love for God's Word, prayer, unity, sacrifice,
and evangelism. They loved one another. They sold their
possessions and distributed them to people in need. They were in
love with Jesus and in love with His followers. And they loved the
lost--devoting themselves to personal evangelism.
It's my prayer that the Vision for Transformation will help us
sharpen our focus and eliminate anything that would hinder vision
and curtail passion. It would have been easier not to pursue the
Vision for Transformation. Change is painful, but it can also
bring results that will benefit the kingdom of God.
Q: Was the Vision for Transformation launched due to a concern for
the Fellowship's survival or was it prompted by a sense of urgency
to reach a changing culture for Christ?
TRASK: The Assemblies of God will exist until the Lord returns.
That's not the question. The question is will it exist for the
purpose for which God raised it up? Many denominations have
drifted from their original purpose. This church, empowered by the
Holy Spirit, was birthed to proclaim the message of Christ to a
desperate world. If we devote ourselves to building an
organization or fraternity, then we've drifted from our mission
and become elitists. First and foremost, we must commit ourselves
to seeing lives transformed and the kingdom of God built. I'm
convinced that if we will focus our attention on building the
kingdom of God, God will take care of the Assemblies of God.
God has given this church enormous talent, facilities, funding and
more, but if these gifts are not being used to reach people for
Christ then we have no reason to exist.
Q: Once the Vision for Transformation process is finished, what
could the Assemblies of God look like?
TRASK: I believe we will eliminate some speed bumps and obstacles
that slow us down on the road to accomplishing our mission. There
will also be a recommitment to our core values and vision. And, I
pray, many will find it easier to articulate our mission and begin
to seek the Spirit's guidance for new methods in fulfilling that
mission. In addition, I pray that our national office will find
more ways to effectively facilitate the ministries of the local
church and create greater synergy among the local church and
district and national offices.
Incredible ministry is taking place in local churches and the
district and national offices, but we must continue to seek
excellence for the kingdom of God without extravagance.
Q: What organizational changes could take place through this
TRASK: The Assemblies of God has an army of wonderful, dedicated,
godly ministers who are, frankly, more interested in relationships
than they are organizational structure. They want relationships
with other ministers who will sharpen them spiritually and
vocationally. So, it's important for us to look at how we function
at the national, district, and sectional levels--including the
monthly sectional meetings, which in some areas of the country are
no longer a high priority in this fast-paced world. We have to ask
ourselves if there are better ways to achieve the goal of building
relationships. The national headquarters must be a resource center
that helps provide our ministers with the tools and forums that
will strengthen their ministries.
God raised up the Assemblies of God to be a movement--not a
denomination. Our founding fathers never intended for this church
to become a denomination. But over time--as more procedures,
policies, and bylaws are put into place--a Fellowship can become a
denomination. Without realizing it, these policies can thwart
vision and passion. Bylaws are necessary, but it's important that
we find a balance so God's work can move forward. The church is
like a set of lungs--it has to be able to expand and be flexible.
The Assemblies of God must continue to be a Fellowship--a
Fellowship that embraces men and women of vision and allows them
opportunity to follow the leading of the Spirit.
Q: Could there be changes to the ministerial credentialing
TRASK: Yes, it's entirely possible. George Bullard, a renowned
student of denominational structure, has concluded that the
farther credentialing is moved away from the local church, the
fewer ministers a church like ours can expect to have. We need to
find a way to facilitate the call of God on people's lives. If
we're going to reach more people for Christ, we need more men and
women serving as pastors, missionaries, associate pastors,
evangelists and teachers. The Holy Spirit does the recruiting--not
us. Jesus said to the Church, "Pray the Lord of the Harvest to
send forth laborers into His harvest" (Luke 10:2, NKJV). Our
responsibility is to pray; it's His responsibility to call. But we
must provide opportunities for men and women to fulfill their
calling and help provide the training they need to be effective
for the sake of the Kingdom.
We live in a diverse country; people from every nation live in the
United States. We need to have flexibility for those coming to our
shores, who have been credentialed Assemblies of God ministers
overseas, to be ministers in this country without compromising
essential standards. I think the Lord would have us put our arms
around these brothers and sisters without asking them to
completely start over in the credentialing process.
Q: Could you see changes in our approach to planting churches?
TRASK: Yes, I can. The New Testament church gave a priority to
church planting. They had house churches. If we're going to reach
the masses of people in America, we must plant churches where the
people are. We must be serious and intentional about this. Every
church should be either a parent or a partner in church planting.
The best way to plant churches is to mother them or for several
churches to work together to plant or help revitalize a church.
We need to send a message that this church will not tolerate
territorialism. Every denomination that has tolerated
territorialism has experienced decline. Historically Assemblies of
God churches were started when God called men and women to a
community. We cannot allow obstacles to discourage ministers from
following the leading of the Spirit.
Q: As we approach the General Council in Washington, D.C., do you
have any words for our ministers?
TRASK: This entire matter of the Vision for Transformation, with
specific resolutions, will come before the General Council in
Washington, D.C. I would like to enlist this church to pray that
we will capture Christ's heart and that God's will would be done.
Our theme for the Vision for Transformation is "Pray the Way."
Please commit yourself to prayer. We must be a Spirit-filled,
Spirit-dependent and Spirit-driven church.
Where is God leading the Assemblies of God? I'm confident that the
Spirit will speak to our hearts and guide our steps as a
Fellowship. Another question is equally important: Where is God
leading you and me? May our answer be that He is leading us to a
place of greater intimacy and spiritual renewal. Let's agree
together that the 50th General Council will be remembered as a
time we sought the face of God, heard His voice, and obeyed.
May 24, 2003 - We have republished this for you as received from the A/G News Service