the shape of leadership

The Influence 10

How AG church planters are reaching America

George O Wood on August 7, 2017

The focus of our cover story in the August/September 2017 issue of Influence is church planting. “The Influence 10” is a representative cross section of the many outstanding men and women church planters in the Assemblies of God who are expanding the kingdom of God though church multiplication. Church planting is part of the DNA of our Fellowship.

Indeed, church planting is part of my family’s spiritual DNA.

In 1914, the same year the Assemblies of God began, a 24-year-old, Spirit-filled preacher felt called to start a Pentecostal church in Jeanette, Pennsylvania. His name was Ben Mahan. Without any funds or backing, he started the church by preaching on a street corner on the main street of town, Clay Avenue, on Saturday nights. Soon thereafter, with a small congregation gathered around Mahan, they moved to rented quarters above a butcher shop on Clay Avenue.

A few years after that, the congregation bought the former Presbyterian church a few blocks away. By 1924, this Assembly of God was one of the larger congregations in the Fellowship, with about 300 people, and a church that had both a local and global vision.

Why is that church important to my family? Because my grandmother, Clara, came to faith there, with her three daughters, and finally her 16-year-old son. That son grew up in a very dysfunctional home. His biological father died when the son was 2 years old. My grandmother subsequently remarried a widower with six children, bringing the number of children in the home to 10.

The stepfather drank and was abusive — especially toward the only son of his wife. The stepfather put the boy to work in a glass factory when he was in the fifth grade, and pulled him out of school permanently when the stepson was in the eighth grade.

We must be more aggressive than ever in our church-planting efforts.

By the time he was 16 years old, that boy was rebellious and running with the wrong crowd. But one Sunday morning, his mother asked him to walk her to church. When they got there, he agreed to her request to come inside. That day the boy responded to an invitation to accept Christ, and within two weeks he received the baptism in the Holy Spirit, and a call to be a missionary to China.

That boy would later be my dad. I never met Pastor Ben Mahan, but my family — now into the fifth generation — owes him an immense debt of gratitude. He planted a church that ultimately brought the gospel to my dad. I’ve often wondered, Would we even exist as a family were it not for Ben Mahan obeying the Spirit? Would the four churches my dad planted exist today were it not for Ben Mahan?

Ultimately, that’s what church planting is all about. It’s reaching people like my grandmother, my aunts, my dad — and the generations that follow.

I wish I knew the story of every Assemblies of God church planter who, like Pastor Mahan, listened to the Holy Spirit and brought the good news of salvation to lost people. Heaven alone will tell all the stories.

We may plant churches differently today than standing on a street corner, but plant churches we must! Thousands of communities in the U.S. do not have the witness of a Spirit-filled, Spirit-empowered church. Therefore, we must be more aggressive than ever in our church-planting efforts.

It is my prayer that these stories of church planters inspire your faith and help you discern if God is calling you to plant a church in a community that desperately needs a healthy, Spirit-filled congregation.

This article, which was adapted for online use, originally appeared in the August/September 2017 edition of Influence magazine.

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