A Missionary As General Superintendent?

The way the Assemblies of God works, our next General Superintendent will almost certainly be or have been the pastor of a megachurch (I add “have been” because district officials come primarily from these ranks).

In fact, some are clamoring for changing our leadership model to require that our General Superindendent be required to serve as pastor while serving as our national leader. There’s merit to the idea, but I’ve always had a notion in the back of my head that I’ve wanted to see tried instead: elect a missionary as General Superintendent.

The Assemblies of God is exploding worldwide, partly due to the leadership of our missionaries. Turning to these proven and capable leaders seems like common sense to me, especially since we are increasingly realizing that America is a mission field just like any other. We need someone who is able to separate the way they want to do things from the way things need to be done – the very essence of an effective missionary.

Why not someone who has led a nation to revival? None of our stateside leaders has that kind of resume, but several of our missionaries have relevant experience.

Why not someone who has proven that they can function with leaders they did not select themselves? This, after all, is a key aspect of the General Superintendent position to which megachurch pastors are unaccustomed.

Why not someone who is accustomed to training and coaching leaders on the ground instead of trying to run the whole show themselves?

The only other candidate I think is as well-suited for the job is a district superintendent who has led his district to health and growth. I expect that Leslie Welk (Northwest) and Don Gifford (Indiana) will both receive nominations on this basis. Jim Braddy (Nor Cal / Nev) might also – but I’m a member of his district and so I don’t have a good sense of how he’s perceived outside our narrow little world.

However, I’m betting that Alton Garrison (former Sup of Arkansas) is ultimately going to get the nod. He’s led a megachurch, led a district, and is providing leadership on the national level as the director of AG US Missions.

So there’s a good chance that we’ll get someone from AGUSM into the top spot – but not because of his connection with missions.

As to the other spots I have no idea. In addition to the nominees I mentioned above, I’m pretty sure John Lindell will get nominated. He may even let his name stand (although I suspect this depends on whether or not he can continue to pastor at James River). Dary Northrop will probably be nominated. Dan Betzer will be nominated. Bret Allen might get nominated but he will decline. I would not be surprised at all if John Palmer gets nominated (especially for the AGUSM leadership role if Alton is elected Gen Sup), but I have no idea if he will accept.

Beyond that, I really don’t know. There are a lot of potential candidates out there, and our desire to avoid the appearance of politics means that we never know for sure who will be nominated and who will allow their names to stand.

Speaking of avoiding the appearance of politics – the only way to really avoid politics is to select our leaders randomly. Any solution involving voting is extremely political and the only question is whether or not those politics will be public. In our movement we’ve decided that hidden politics are preferable to transparent ones, and more and more of us are unhappy with the result.

However it shakes out, the Assemblies is in for a wild ride at General Council this year. Too bad I’m going to miss it…

Electing A New General Superintendent

A friend of mine (Jay Newland) just sent me a fascinating site talking about the future of the Assemblies of God: Future AG.

Sites like these are controversial in our movement because we wish to avoid the appearance of politics – it seems too tawdry for us. But our goal is not to be non-political (as though that were possible), but to be wise in our selection process. Conversations such as those at Future AG can help us make wiser choices, and are therefore a good thing.

One post was extremely helpful to me, and so I share it in the hope it will be helpful to others as well.

Here is how it will work. When we arrive we will be asked to nominate someone for the position of general superintendent followed by the assistant general superintendent, general secretary, AG World Missions executive director and members of the Executive Presbytery. Any ordained minister can be nominated.

In the past this has been done by writing someone’s name down on a piece of paper, however, voting this year will be conducted electronically. This should speed up business considerably. For example, following an election results should be available in 10 minutes rather than the hour or more it has taken in the past.

With these changes, it is important that you register early. Go to www.ag.org and you can register online before August 3rd. If you miss that date make sure to register immediately upon arrival.

Voting will require: Registration, Voter ID Badge, Voter Guidebook

Voting delegates will receive a voting number on the back of their registration cards, which will give them access to the voting machine.

If one nominee receives two-thirds of the ballots cast by the delegates at the general council, a winner will be declared. That is what happened in 2001 and 2005 when Trask was re-elected.

If no one receives the two-thirds majority, the voting is limited to the top 15 vote-getters.

If that doesn’t produce a winner, the field is cut to the top three.

You might also wish to check out http://www.agleadershipchange.blogspot.com/

Information Overload?

Every so often I’ll hear someone mention in passing that we are overloaded with information compared to our ancestors. I’m sure that’s true if you measure “information” in a very specific way, but I’m not sure it’s as true as people think it is.

Augustine, the 4th century bishop, left behind over 5,000,000 words in writing.

That’s 5 million words.

Many novels have 50,000 (the range varies depending on the genre).

He left behind the equivalent of 100 novels. And he’s just one author.

For the educated elite, the ancient world was rife with information. And, by and large, the stuff they read was more important than the “information” we’re so proud of. Most of what we devote our brainpower to processing is from newspapers, magazines, and television… the knowledge equivalent of empty calories.

For all the “information” we each have at our beck and call, not many of us could muster up 5 million words.

And since our point in saying that we’re so overloaded compared to the ancients is that we’ve got so much more stuff to process than they did, maybe we shouldn’t be so smug. After all – we don’t really process the “information” that bombards us. We rush through it and promptly forget as much as possible to get ready for the next deluge.

The ancients were reading and rereading and rerereading substantive works and actually understanding them. And so Augustine was able to write 5,000,000 words that people still mull over today.

We have no idea what information overload feels like. If we canceled our newspaper subscriptions, threw away all our magazines, and replaced all that reading time with rereading a handful of solid books until we understood them thoroughly, then we’d have some inkling of what true information overload is.

And since we’ve got so many years of insights beyond Augustine to avail ourselves of, and the modern peer-reviewed system of journals to draw from, we’d be very justified in saying that we wrestle with information in a way that the ancients never did.

But not now.