The Assemblies of God (AG) denomination, a Pentecostal fellowship, has seen rapid growth in recent years, expanding at a rate several times that of the U.S. population with diversity proportions largely mirroring those of the United States. With major divisions and lowering adherent rates in many—make that most—Christian denominations today, one wonders what occasions the burgeoning of the Assemblies denomination.
The growth of the AG is demonstrative of a larger trend in the Church as a whole: the congregations that change their teaching with the times and try perpetually to mold a less offensive Bible are declining in adherents while those that stay true to historical, biblical teaching are rapidly expanding.
My recent interviews of congregants of New Life Assemblies of God, a rural Assemblies congregation based out of Farmville, VA, elucidated reasons for the church’s health.
New Life is my “home” church, the church of my collegiate home that is, so I know from personal experience that New Life deals with taboo issues candidly. In fact, before I came to New Life, I had quite different stances from what I do now on tithing, sex before marriage, and a myriad of other hot button issues. I had simply never heard these issues discussed in church before, despite years of Christian school and regular church involvement.
When asked how New Life’s dealing with “typically taboo issues such as dating, sex before marriage, tithing, etc.” shaped their view of their church, New Life congregants answered unanimously:
“The small…church I came from did not acknowledge that these topics even exist…but our leadership [at New Life] deals with these bluntly but gently and also teaches love along with it.”
“New Life deals with taboo issues…and other difficult topics the same way. Sin is sin. Jesus still loves the sinner as we should, but we do not have to love, nor tolerate the sin, nor should we judge others for sinning differently than us.”
“I am glad that [New Life’s lead pastor] is willing to speak about these topics from the pulpit. Too few pastors are willing to cover these topics.”
The result of New Life’s unabashed proclamation of truth? “[W]e have an active stream of people coming to Christ at New Life.”
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