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…

4 thoughts on “A Missionary As General Superintendent?”

  1. Hey Glen–

    Good presentation here– as we would expect.

    I think you raise an interesting proposal. I was wondering the past day or two if we might see someone like the head of AG World Missions step into a post like this. While the current candidate in that case, John Bueno, would represent the old guard, still it might lead to a new era of bringing the “two Assemblies of God” movements together.

    They say there have always been 2 movements– one led by Thomas Trask and the other led by John Bueno.

    As it is I think you are right that Alton Garrison will be the most likely choice. I base that on my observations of how these kinds of things have gone in the past and the fact that he is very highly visible in the movement as pastor, evangelist and youth evangelist for years.

    The thing with great guys like Les Welk is that they are NOT from the “heartland” of the Assemblies of God. I believe geographical location of the GC has always playing into critical issues and elections. I also believe this is a reason the GC rarely makes appearances on the West Coast.

    This raises another issue that we, as a kind new guard of AG leaders should consider– is it time to change the way we elect leaders and move to a form of distance balloting? By mail or even internet?

    I feel this would be considered a dangerous proposal for all those that like status quo (I’m supposing that means those in “the heartland”) because of the fact that I mentioned regarding location of GC’s.

    Distance balloting would bring everyone into the process that for one reason or another can not or are not allowed to travel (church staff) . It probably is the only way we would ever really see significant change in our movement. It would also force us to do what the bloggers are now doing– giving us more information to consider and a chance to process dialogue.

    Anyone want to sponsor a bylaws proposal for 2009?

  2. Interesting idea. It would be unlikely that John Bueno could do the job, as his health is not great and he is a bit old. Some of the younger missionary leaders might be interesting choices.

    I found your blog today. I am enjoying it.

  3. Glen, I like where this conversation is headed. Technology and populism are making a fundamental impact on the world and our fellowship needs to position itself, if not for relevance, then at least for the opportunity to dialog with the outside world. A missionary well-versed in life outside the Springfield vacuum would suffice.

    (sidebar: Did Jim Braddy emerge from a mega?)

  4. I am in total agreement that we should have a missionary in the top seat of the movement. I’ll be honest, I was in SGF while getting an MDiv from AGTS and I am not too keen on the idea that Alton Garrison will the be the next Sup. It just doesn’t sit well with me and I was not too keen on his preaching abilities either — I’ll stop there. Indeed we are a missionary movement and we need to maintian that focus. btw, I came to your site via the future ag site. I agree with others that cnadacy should be based on skills and abilities as well as calling — not visibility in the movement or having been from the “heartland.”

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