We're Number 10

Just noticed that the National Council of Church’s 2009 Yearbook was recently published (found via MMI). Here are the stats on the 10 largest religious groups in America.

  1. The Roman Catholic Church, 67,117,06 members, down 0.59 percent.
  2. The Southern Baptist Convention, 16,266,920 members, down 0.24 percent.
  3. The United Methodist Church, 7,931,733 members, down 0.80 percent.
  4. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 5,873,408 members, up 1.63 percent.
  5. The Church of God in Christ, 5,499,875 members, no change reported.
  6. National Baptist Convention, U.S.A., Inc., 5,000,000 members, no change reported.
  7. Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, 4,709,956 members, down 1.35 percent.
  8. National Baptist Convention of America, Inc., 3,500,000 members, no change reported.
  9. Presbyterian Church (USA), 2,941,412 members, down 2.79 percent
  10. Assemblies of God, 2,863,265 members, up 0.96 percent. dangerous beauty divx online bluetoes the christmas elf movie download download homeward bound ii lost in san francisco online

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So.… yeah. We’re number 10, we’re number 10, we’re number 10! Maybe we can chant that at General Council.

Sadly, we’re the only Christian group (in the top 10) that is growing. And even sadder, when you get into our internal numbers you realize that a few parts of our movement are growing rapidly but that there are huge swaths undergoing slow decline. For now, the explosive growth is offsetting the decay.

I’m grateful that I’m on a winning team and that our movement is growing when so many are stagnating, but I must confess that a 0.96% growth rate is not exactly the sort of thing that stirs the pulse.

We need divinely-sparked revival to which we must respond with organizational renewal, or else we’ll soon be celebrating the fact that we shrunk least.

But hey — for now I’ve got a handy fact I can share with people who say, “The Assemblies of God? Never heard of it.” I can now shoot back, “Hey — we’re almost as large as the Presbyterians. Nearly. We’re only off by like 80,000 people. That’s the size of a good South American church. We haven’t quite figured out how to do that in North America, but it can’t be that hard. So we’re basically one missiological insight and then one good church plant away from being number 9. So there.”

George Wood — From Great To Awesome

I was very surprised to see this

in my news feed when I logged onto Facebook this morning.

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Dr. Wood, you are officially awesome. I previously suspected that you might be, but now I know with certainty.

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This Just In: George Wood is on Facebook

It’s truly a new day in the Assemblies of God. George Wood is on Facebook. For those of you from another world, he’s the General Superintendent of the Assemblies of God. So he’s kind of like our Pope. Just with a lot less authority. And without the cool wardrobe. Or a Popemobile. He’s basically in charge, though.

I noticed it by accident earlier today and I thought it had to be a mistake. Once I realized it really was him and not some Bible college kid playing a joke, I emailed him to ask if it was okay to share this publicly — I thought perhaps he had accidentally left his privacy settings too open.

It turns out he’s available on purpose. He accepts friend requests from peons like me (and presumably you).

And on top of that, Dr. Wood has been podcasting like crazy with two separate podcasts: interviews with leaders and studies in the book of Mark


And he’s not the only one savvy to the digital age. The General Secretary, John Palmer, has a blog

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. Not only that, his blog is hosted on an official Assemblies of God installation of WordPress MU supergirl online download : who knew we had come so far?

Not to be outdone, the new (as in beginning his term of office today) General Treasurer, Doug Clay, has been blogging on Blogger for quite a while.

My head is spinning. I don’t know if I can handle all this digitization of our leadership at once.download legionnaire dvdrip it s pat dvd

Notable Pentecostal Leaders from Secular Universities

It struck me the other day that there are a lot of Pentecostal/Charismatic/Third Wave leaders with degrees from secular universities instead of Bible colleges/Christian liberal arts schools, so I started putting a list together.

The list is heavy on the Assemblies of God because those are the circles I run in, and it’s also minister-heavy for the same reason. I’d love to add some business leaders. I’m leaving out Chi Alpha missionaries because we’d swamp the list.

In alphabetical order:
For Their Undergrad

  1. Bret Allen (pastor, Bethel Church of San Jose) – Eastern Washington University
  2. John Ashcroft

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    (politician and author) – Yale for undergrad, University of Chicago for law school

  3. Rocky Barra — (pastor of Connection Church in Canton, MI) — Eastern Michigan University (for both undergrad and master’s)
  4. Glen Berteau (pastor of Calvary Temple in Modesto, CA) – Louisiana Tech
  5. John Bevere (author and conference speaker) – Purdue
  6. Brady Boyd (pastor of New Life Church in Colorado Springs) — Louisiana Tech
  7. James Bradford (pastor of Central Assembly in Springfield, MO) — University of Minnesota (all the way through Ph.D.)
  8. Frank Cargill (district superintendent of Oklahoma) — Oklahoma State University (undergrad), University of Oklahoma (master’s),and the University of Central Oklahoma (another master’s).
  9. Dennis Cheek (pastor/church planter & Vice President for the Kaufmann Foundation) — Towson University (undergrad), another undergrad from Excelsior College, a master’s University of Maryland Baltimore County, a Ph.D. in curriculum and instruction/science education from Pennsylvania State University, and a Ph.D. in theology from the University of Durham.
  10. Alicia Chole (author and conference speaker) – UT Austin (through her master’s)
  11. Earl Creps (church planter, author, educator) – University of Pittsburg for undergrad, Northwestern for Ph.D.
  12. Mark Driscoll (pastor of Mars Hill in Seattle) — Washington State University
  13. Denny Duron (pastor of Shreveport Community Church in LA) – Louisiana Tech
  14. Jonathan Gainsbrugh (evangelist and author) — University of Virginia
  15. Randy Garcia (pastor of Fortress Church in San Antonio, TX) — University of Texas at San Antonio
  16. Paul Goulet (pastor of International Church of Las Vegas) — University of Ottowa
  17. Wayne Grudem (theologian) — Harvard
  18. Stanley Horton

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    (theologian and author) — B.S., University of California, S.T.M. from Harvard

  19. Roger Houtsma (founder of World Outreach Ministries) — UC Berkeley
  20. Tim Johnson (Congressman) – University of Illinois – Champaign/Urbana
  21. Steve Lim taming of the shrew the download (Academic Dean at AGTS), UC Berkeley
  22. Mike McClaflin (Africa Regional Director for Assemblies of God World Missions) — University of Wyoming
  23. Lee McFarland (pastor of Radiant Church in Surprise, AZ) — University of Colorado
  24. Marvin Miller (director of Rayne Project Ministries) — Whitter College
  25. Donnie Moore (evangelist) – University of the Pacific
  26. J. P. Moreland (apologist and scholar) — University of Missouri
  27. Marilyn Musgrave (Congresswoman) — Colorado State University
  28. Rich Nathan – (pastor of Vineyard Community Church of Colombus, OH) – Case Western Reserve University
  29. Sarah Palin — (politician) — University of Idaho
  30. Ray Rachels – (Southern California District Superintendent) – Troy State University
  31. Cecil Robeck (scholar) — San Jose City College (for his AA)
  32. Mark Rutland – (president of Southeastern College) – University of Maryland
  33. Anthony Scoma (pastor of Southwest Family Fellowship) — University of Texas (Austin)
  34. Charlie Self — undergrad and Ph.D. from UC Santa Cruz (break for Graduate Theological Union in the middle)
  35. Sean Smith (evangelist) – University of the Pacific
  36. Zollie Smith

    (Executive Director AG US Missions) – Florida State University

  37. Sam Storms — University of Oklahoma
  38. James Watt (politician) – University of Wyoming

For Grad Work Only

  1. Chris Carter (scholar — APTS) — PhD from Aberdeen University
  2. John Carter (scholar — APTS) — PhD from University of Illinois in educational psychology
  3. Roli dela Cruz (scholar, APTS) — PhD in textual criticism from Birmingham University
  4. Gordon Fee (scholar and author) — Ph.D. from USC
  5. Richard Hammar (AG legal counsel) – Harvard Law
  6. Rich Israel (scholar) — Ph.D. from Claremont
  7. Todd Labute (scholar — APTS) — PhD from Marquette University
  8. Everett Wilson (scholar) — Ph.D. from Stanford University
  9. George O. Wood (General Superintendent of the Assemblies of God) — Law degree from Western State University College of Law in Fullerton, California
  10. Amos Yong (theologian) — M.A. from Portland State and Ph.D. from Boston University

Why compile a list like this?

First, if you’re a student at a secular school don’t assume that you can’t go into vocational ministry. As this list shows, some of the most well-known ministers in the Pentecostal world come from the same place you do. And the trend isn’t abating — when I was in seminary I learned that half of my classmates at AGTS had gone to non-Christian schools for their undergrad just as I had.

Second, if you’re a youth pastor (or a parent) don’t be scared to send your kids with a ministry calling off to secular schools to major in business or physics something. Bible colleges aren’t the only route to ministerial preparation — and for many people they’re not the best route.

Third, don’t feel alone if you’re in ministry and graduated from a secular university. At least in the Assemblies of God it’s pretty easy to feel isolated, because they have all these Bible college alumni reunions at every big minister’s gathering and there’s never a gathering for “went to a pagan school.” You may feel alone, but you’re not even close to alone.

Anyway, there are no doubt dozens more who aren’t coming to mind right now. I welcome contributions to the list — leave any updates in the comment section or email/facebook me. (If you’re reading this on Facebook, by the way, you’re only reading a copy. Click on the link at the top to go to the original where you can leave a comment). When you make a suggestion, please indicate your source (personal conversation, published bio, heard them mention it in a sermon, friend of a friend, etc).

edit 3/20/2008: first update is Mike McClaflin — thanks to Dennis and Jen for this!
edit 3/21/2008: Rich suggested Roger Houtsma along with Gordon Fee and George O Wood (I’m leaving those two off for now because only their doctorates that came from a secular school — trying to decide what to do with that). I’m also leaving off Mark Batterson for now because he started his undergrad at University of Chicago but finished at a Bible college. I also added a third reason for the list.
edit 3/21/2008: Charlie also suggested several Ph.Ds, so I’ve started a second list of those who did grad work at non-Christian schools.
edit 3/28/2008: Brady Boyd, Marvin Miller, JP Moreland, Mark Driscoll, Sam Storms, and Wayne Grudem added
edit 6/18/2008: Frank Cargill, Dennis Cheek, Randy Garcia, Jonathan Gainsbrugh added
edit 7/1/2008: added Anthony Scoma — doh! How did I overlook my bud?
edit 7/9/2008: added Rocky Barra — thanks to David Moore for the pointer
edit 7/24/2008: removed Doug Peterson and added Roli dela Cruz, Chris Carter, Todd Labute, and John Carter per Ekaputra Tupamahu’s suggestions in the comments below. I haven’t tracked down a bio on each person, so their undergrad degrees might also be from secular schools.
edit 8/29/2008: added Sarah Palin, governor of Alaska and VP nominee.

Chi Alpha Coast to Coast

I just read a great article about Chi Alpha nationwide

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. It’s full of encouraging testimonies — including stories from several of my friends.

There’s one story I remember from my undergrad days:

Ministry real estate can be scarce on a secular campus. When Treuil came to Lafayette, Chi Alpha had no facilities.

“I inherited a two-drawer file cabinet,” he says.

Today, the Lafayette chapter owns property estimated at $1 million and completely paid for.

A local businessman paid the rent on a house for about 5 years. A non-Christian group was poised to buy the house in 1993 when the landlord offered to sell the property to Chi Alpha. The catch — Treuil had to raise $90,000 in 90 days.

“We didn’t have the money, but we took a step of faith,” he says.

In 90 days God provided more than $90,000 in cash from individual offerings. Pastors opened their pulpits to Treuil. One man donated a Rolex watch. A woman gave Treuil eel-skin purses to sell. About 600 people contributed.

It was pretty amazing to watch God provide like that — and now the ministry there owns not only the original property, but almost an entire block across the street from campus that they use for ministry. God is doing stuff like that through Chi Alpha ministries on 250 campuses! Read the full article.born divx

Congratulations, George O. Wood

While I was busy touring Monterey Bay Aquarium with my family and eating durian, most of the rest of the Assemblies of God was in Indianapolis for our biennial ministerial gathering.

George Wood has been elected General Superintendent of the Assemblies of God. I honestly didn’t think he had a chance — our movement is still pretty anti-intellectual and he has two earned doctorates. In addition, I thought he might be perceived as part of the “old guard” in a time of great change. I’m delighted that I was wrong — he’ll be a great leader. He’s a very flexible thinker and sees both the strengths and weaknesses of our movement pretty clearly.

Alton Garrison was elected the new Assistant General Superintendent (I expected he would take one of the two top spots) — and he’s a very savvy leader. He’s much more well-read and innovative than most people expect an evangelist from Arkansas to be. He’ll be a great voice to have at the table.

John Palmer is the new General Secretary — I had expected him to become the executive director of AG US Missions instead. I’ve never met him, but I’ve heard nothing but good things. Tim and Julie Smith in particular have given me very encouraging reports about him. He seems like a great addition to the team.

Zollie Smith was the most surprising election. He’s my new boss’s boss (director of US Missions, taking the position I expected John Palmer to land), and I’ve been hearing good things about him for years. His election was a milestone for the Assemblies of God — he’s our first non-Caucasian executive officer.

I’m very excited about the leadership team that came out of this General Council. It bodes well for our future as a movement. We picked some extremely competent people.

Oh — and the business sessions were feisty this year. If you’re into that sort of thing, you might want to check them out


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/

Who Will Let The Dog Out?

Duane Chapman, aka Dog the Bounty Hunter, was arrested earlier today for violating Mexican law while tracking down a wealthy serial rapist.

I have to confess that I’m bummed. Bounty hunting is a noble profession that helps our legal system function more effectively, and Dog was always entertaining. Plus I just learned that he’s the kid of an Assemblies of God missionary (Barbara Chapman, whom I never met and who is now deceased) which gives me a certain kindred affection for him.

I understand that he broke Mexican law, but surely there are higher priorities for the Mexican legal system than arresting someone who helps catch fugitives. Almost anything rather than devoting effort to extraditing an American bounty hunter for catching a vile man who had done despicable things.

The one thing about the reports so far that really puzzles me is that the Chapmans evidently broke bail themselves. Maybe they know something about the Mexican legal system that I don’t, but given their line of work that seems pretty stupid.

Georgetown Evicts Evangelical Groups

Georgetown University just kicked six campus ministries off campus.

Campus Ministry Removes Affiliates — The Hoya (campus paper)
Georgetown Rejects Evangelical Groups — Inside Higher Ed (college news blog)

Chi Alpha was among the groups banned. Pray for God’s peace and wisdom to attend the leaders of the group as they decide what to do next.

At Stanford we are fortunate to have a very strong relationship with the Deans for Religious Life. However, the news from Georgetown is a reminder that this isn’t the only possible state of affairs.

Paul was very wise when he reminded Timothy to pray for his imperial overlords.

“I urge, then, first of all, that requests, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for everyone—for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness.”
1 Tim 2:1–2, NIV

I often tell students that this is the foundation of a separation of church and state. We want the government (and any other bureaucratic bodies) to leave us free to worship without onerous oversight or regulation — because external involvement never works out to our advantage in the long run.

In any event, my prayers are with those just booted from Georgetown (and with the Chi Alpha folks in particular as several of them are close friends).