I love to attend anniversaries for our PAOC churches and ministries. And, when asked, I love to speak at them. I love the family atmosphere, the sense of celebration, and the telling of stories that range from hilarious to serious. It’s moving to hear how God has made a difference in people’s lives. What I really love, though, is when the focus turns from the past to the present and into the future. Remembering the past is a good thing. But realistically appraising the present and then picturing the future with a gift of faith is a great thing. Leaders who understand the value of past, present and future always impress me.
At our General Conference in Victoria, B.C., May 7 to 10, we will kick off our centenary year. The conference theme is Picture This! We will look into our PAOC family photo album and reflect on 99 years of faithful and fruitful ministry. We will tell our stories—both the hilarious and the serious—reflect on our present, and envision our future.
At the conference our Picture This! centenary book will be distributed to each registrant. Picture This! is not an institutional history in that it does not focus primarily on historical dates and data, nor does it chronicle the development and fruitfulness of every departmental ministry over 100 years. Rather, it’s a narrative that offers representative stories, snapshots of our Pentecostal family, past and present. These illustrative stories emphasize the priorities we have consistently focused on. They invite us to consider the vision, values and tenacious faith of the people, churches and ministries highlighted in the stories. Following General Conference 2018, Picture This! will be distributed to all of our credentialed leaders and made available for order by any individual or church.
As I prepared for this General Conference, wrote and reviewed chapters for Picture This!, and helped plan events and initiatives for our centenary year, my heart was filled with gratitude for the PAOC family values I encountered. Here are some words and phrases that portray our Fellowship, past and present:
- Passionate hunger for Jesus and His holiness
- Longing for God’s presence and intimacy with Him
- Openness to the Spirit’s empowerment and gifts
- Clear calling and belief that God leads and directs
- Sacrificial service and a willingness to go anywhere and do anything
- Faith that God fulfils His word and provides what is needed
- Trust in God’s Word and its promises
- Proclaiming the good news in both word and deed
- Loving, caring and, yes, imperfect community
- Ordinary people from every walk of life faithfully doing the Father’s business
- Fruitful legacies we see all around us.
Once we have reflected on the snapshots of our past and present, we must begin to clearly envision the future God has for us. As we enter our 100th year and the last stage of our 2020 Initiative, we envision an ever-increasing spiritual, theological and missional vitality. For those who have ears to hear, the Spirit is calling us back to a passionate hunger to know Christ and to a life marked by a sincere love for God and people. The Spirit is calling us to return to our first love, where we abide in Jesus and experience intimacy with the Father. With a deeper dependence on God comes openness to Spirit-empowered living.
As we move into the future, we must continue to worship God in spirit and in truth. When His Word is in us, its truth sets us free. When we trust His Word, we experience its transformative power, not only in our own lives but also in the lives of those we share His truth with. Continually looking into the mirror of God’s Word will keep us from theological drift. Rather than shaping the truth to conform to our way of thinking, we must let the truth shape us by the renewing of our minds.
“Rather than shaping the truth to conform to our way of thinking, we must let the truth shape us by the renewing of our minds.”
By being faithful witnesses in word and in deed, we are living true to God’s mission. With faith we will build on the legacy of fruitfulness we’ve received from those who have gone before, and with God’s help bear much fruit in the days ahead.
“Father, as we look to our future, this is what we picture: renewed spiritual lives; revitalized churches; Spirit-empowered witnesses filled with grace and truth; increasing numbers of disciple-making communities; and countless transformed lives. Grant the gift of faith to everyone praying this prayer right now. For Your glory. Amen!”
*Note: Throughout the coming year, communications will be sent out regularly to our PAOC churches, ministries and leaders. On Pentecost Sunday 2019, there will be a nationwide celebration of our 100th anniversary. Then, from August 27 to 30, 2019, the Pentecostal World Fellowship and Empowered21 churches in Canada will host the 25th Pentecostal World Conference in Calgary, Alta. The PAOC’s 100th anniversary will be commemorated there as well. Plan to join us!