The Assemblies of God is among the most racially and ethnically diverse denominations in the United States. From time to time, members contact my office seeking for me to issue a statement on particular policy matters. On occasion, the suggestions I receive from our members do not agree on what policy statement I should issue – whether for or against a particular public policy. Such is the case with recent order of President Trump placing a temporary halt to providing visas to seven countries.
Rather than making a public policy statement, on which there are different perspectives from within our own Fellowship, and realizing that even a general superintendent should not assume to speak for the entire Fellowship on issues where opinion is divided and where the issue involved is one in which believers have opinions that do not agree, I felt it wise to remind us of what our real mission is as followers of Christ.
We are to pray for our leaders – federal, state, and local. We are to love those who do not agree with us (our “enemies”). We are not to swerve from our fundamental responsibility to bear true witness to Jesus so that lost people can find salvation in Christ. We are to express ourselves in public and in private with appropriate language. The tenor of our language also should always bring honor to our Lord. We are a spiritual body of Christ and not a political party.
Our fundamental task is to reach people for Jesus – whether they are legal or undocumented, whether they are citizens or refugees. We are to have a heart for the poor, the marginalized, the abused, the needy, and the stranger.
I encourage all those within our Fellowship and in the broader Christian community to recognize that this is the moment to let our light shine for Jesus. Do you have a political opinion on immigration and refugees? Well and good, you have a right as a citizen of our country to express that. But, more importantly, do you witness and show love to immigrants and refugees?
Last week in an Assemblies of God church I witnessed the baptism of a medical doctor and his wife who came as refugees from a Muslim country (one of the ones listed in the executive order). They had been Muslims, but my grandson reached out to their son in high school and welcomed him to our church youth group. The parents decided to visit the church and were warmly welcomed. It took a year of witness and loving this couple before they came to faith. Their testimony at baptism was this: “Jesus is the hope for peace in the Middle East.”
Today I became aware of the testimony of one of our Assemblies of God lay members. She walks her neighborhood and prays for the people in the homes she walks by. She lives in one of the most diversified neighborhoods in America. The Spirit prompted her to go up to a particular house and speak to whoever opened the door. She didn't want to. She would walk a short distance away and the Spirit would tell her to go back. Finally, after several promptings, she stood on the sidewalk across the street and told the Lord she would pray for the family in that house from where she stood. But, the Spirit told her again to go to the door. She finally went with fear and trembling and knocked on the door. It cracked open just a little and a young Muslim mother, wearing traditional Muslim head covering, answered. Our Assemblies of God woman opened her mouth to speak and found herself saying, at the Spirit’s prompting, “I just want to tell you I am so glad you live here.” The young mother broke into the most beautiful smile and said, “You have made my day, my month, my year.” A friendship contact has been made that our Assemblies of God laywoman believes will lead to further open doors of witness.
For over 10 decades the Assemblies of God has sent missionaries around the world. In the sovereign purposes of God, the mission field has now come to us. The very spiritual awakening we have been praying for could be on the brink of happening with the immigrants and refugees leading the way. As Assemblies of God people, let’s not get so involved in the politics of immigration and refugees that we fail to reach the people the Lord has brought right to our neighborhoods.
Could we become agents of peace and reconciliation in the midst of all the loud and angry voices that are clamoring in the public square? I believe we can! Let’s keep our hearts right, our witness credible, our words kind, our actions welcoming, and our prayers fervent.