Thomas E. Trask, leader of the “vision for transformation” Assemblies of God evangelism initiative was elected General superintendent of AG in August, 1993. Trask not only serves as the chief executive officer of the church, but also as a member of the board of administration and Executive Presbytery.
Trask, ordained in 1958, has spent 45 years in the ministry. Over his 25 years in the pastorate, Trask and his missions minded congregation helped mother seven new churches.
Trask also served as assistant superintendent of the Michigan District and was superintended of the district for 3 years. He was the district youth and Sunday director for 4 years as well as the general treasurer for the denomination.
Trask, a graduate of North Central Bible College serves presently on the boards of the Assemblies of God Theological Seminary, Central Bible College and Evangel University.
Trask is chairman of the Assemblies of God Foundation board of directors and the board of the Ministers Benefit Association. He is chairman of the Pentecostal World Conference, a member of the board of administration of the National Association of Evangelicals, a member of the board of directors of the National Religious Broadcasters.
In addition, Trask co-authored a number of books including Back to the Altar, Back to the Word, pThe Battle, a book on spiritual warfare, and The Blessing, a book on the power of the Holy Spirit today. He also is one of the editors for The Pentecostal Pastor.
The following is an interview with the A/G news service concerning Trask’s “Vision for Transformation.”Q: What is the Vision for Transformation?
TRASK: Over a year ago, I approached the Executive Presbytery and said, "Let’s take an honest look at ourselves, put everything except our doctrine on the table, and ask, ‘Are there ways we can be more effective in reaching our rapidly changing culture?’” That’s the question behind the Vision for Transformation. It’s a comprehensive examination of our structure, operation and outreach. It is not, however, a reevaluation of our doctrine, which this church has held dear for 89 years.
Through the Vision for Transformation process, we are asking the grassroots where the Spirit is leading this Fellowship. The Assemblies of God was the third-fastest growing religious body in the United States during the ’90s. The growth overseas has been even more dramatic. But we can’t be satisfied with past successes. To whom much is given, much is required. God has certainly had His hand on this Fellowship, but we can’t be content with where we are. Millions of people still don’t know Jesus as their Savior.
Q: What distinguishes the Vision for Transformation from the Decade of Harvest?
TRASK: The Decade of Harvest was a program, a set of goals established by this church in the ’90s. Goals were set for planting churches, adding ministers, and more. The goals were certainly good for this Fellowship, but we can’t be driven by a program; we must be led by the Spirit. We would be fooling ourselves if we thought the Vision for Transformation alone could change the spiritual climate of this church. It can’t. It won’t. Four words characterize what I believe needs to happen: renew, release, resource, and realign. Most importantly, we must have renewal—a passion for the things of God: prayer, evangelism, discipleship, worship, missions, and more.
Our message will never change, but we must pursue the most effective methods possible to propagate that message. That’s where the Vision for Transformation comes in. My prayer is that it will help bring fresh vision to the Assemblies of God so more people can be reached for Christ. That is God’s desire for this church, that we would follow the example of the New Testament church and have a greater burden for our communities.
Q: What have you seen or heard thus far that indicates the Spirit is leading the Vision for Transformation process?
TRASK: We’ve had more than 250 meetings across the nation and heard from thousands of ministers and leaders. Repeatedly they spoke of their support for changes that would increase the effectiveness of the local church and our district and national offices. At these meetings we also had marvelous times of prayer and seeking the mind of the Lord. We sensed God’s presence and guidance.
I also believe the Lord is pleased by our renewed focus on the local church. It would be easy to follow the path taken by others and become a hierarchical denomination, but we have to realize that one of the reasons God has blessed this Fellowship is it has given priority to serving the ministries of the local church.
One of the strengths of the Assemblies of God is that it is a grassroots movement. Significant changes can’t be made to the Fellowship unless voted upon by the General Council and those who represent the local churches. It’s comforting to know that the Spirit is leading this Fellowship and speaking to the hearts of those who make up the General Council.
Q: Is there a biblical basis for the Vision for Transformation?
TRASK: Proverbs 29:18 says, “Where there is no vision, the people perish.” The NIV puts it this way: “Where there is no revelation, the people cast off restraint.” Our goal should be nothing more or less than seeing God’s vision for this church and fulfilling His desire for it. This is mostly done through patterning our lives and ministries after the New Testament church—which was characterized by a love for God’s Word, prayer, unity, sacrifice, and evangelism. They loved one another. They sold their possessions and distributed them to people in need. They were in love with Jesus and in love with His followers. And they loved the lost––devoting themselves to personal evangelism.
It’s my prayer that the Vision for Transformation will help us sharpen our focus and eliminate anything that would hinder vision and curtail passion.
It would have been easier not to pursue the Vision for Transformation. Change is painful, but it can also bring results that will benefit the kingdom of God.
Q: Was the Vision for Transformation launched due to a concern for the Fellowship’s survival or was it prompted by a sense of urgency to reach a changing culture for Christ?
TRASK: The Assemblies of God will exist until the Lord returns. That’s not the question. The question is will it exist for the purpose for which God raised it up? Many denominations have drifted from their original purpose. This church, empowered by the Holy Spirit, was birthed to proclaim the message of Christ to a desperate world. If we devote ourselves to building an organization or fraternity, then we’ve drifted from our mission and become elitists. First and foremost, we must commit ourselves to seeing lives transformed and the kingdom of God built. I’m convinced that if we will focus our attention on building the kingdom of God, God will take care of the Assemblies of God.
God has given this church enormous talent, facilities, funding and more, but if these gifts are not being used to reach people for Christ then we have no reason to exist.
Q: Once the Vision for Transformation process is finished, what could the Assemblies of God look like?
TRASK: I believe we will eliminate some speed bumps and obstacles that slow us down on the road to accomplishing our mission. There will also be a recommitment to our core values and vision. And, I pray, many will find it easier to articulate our mission and begin to seek the Spirit’s guidance for new methods in fulfilling that mission.
In addition, I pray that our national office will find more ways to effectively facilitate the ministries of the local church and create greater synergy among the local church and district and national offices.
Incredible ministry is taking place in local churches
and the district and national offices, but we must continue to seek excellence for the kingdom of God without extravagance.
Q: What organizational changes could take place through this process?
TRASK: The Assemblies of God has an army of wonderful, dedicated, godly ministers who are, frankly, more interested in relationships than they are organizational structure. They want relationships with other ministers who will sharpen them spiritually and vocationally. So, it’s important for us to look at how we function at the national, district, and sectional levels––including the monthly sectional meetings, which in some areas of the country are no longer a high priority in this fast-paced world. We have to ask ourselves if there are better ways to achieve the goal of building relationships. The national headquarters must be a resource center that helps provide our ministers with the tools and forums that will strengthen their ministries.
God raised up the Assemblies of God to be a movement––not a denomination. Our founding fathers never intended for this church to become a denomination. But over time––as more procedures, policies, and bylaws are put into place––a Fellowship can become a denomination. Without realizing it, these policies can thwart vision and passion. Bylaws are necessary, but it’s important that we find a balance so God’s work can move forward. The church is like a set of lungs––it has to be able to expand and be flexible. The Assemblies of God must continue to be a Fellowship––a Fellowship that embraces men and women of vision and allows them opportunity to follow the leading of the Spirit.
Q: Could there be changes to the ministerial credentialing process?
TRASK: Yes, it’s entirely possible. George Bullard, a renowned student of denominational structure, has concluded that the farther credentialing is moved away from the local church, the fewer ministers a church like ours can expect to have. We need to find a way to facilitate the call of God on people’s lives. If we’re going to reach more people for Christ, we need more men and women serving as pastors, missionaries, associate pastors, evangelists and teachers. The Holy Spirit does the recruiting––not us. Jesus said to the Church, “Pray the Lord of the Harvest to send forth laborers into His harvest” (Luke 10:2, NKJV). Our responsibility is to pray; it’s His responsibility to call. But we must provide opportunities for men and women to fulfill their calling and help provide the training they need to be effective for the sake of the Kingdom.
We live in a diverse country; people from every nation live in the United States. We need to have flexibility for those coming to our shores, who have been credentialed Assemblies of God ministers overseas, to be ministers in this country without compromising essential standards. I think the Lord would have us put our arms around these brothers and sisters without asking them to completely start over in the credentialing process.
Q: Could you see changes in our approach to planting churches?
TRASK: Yes, I can. The New Testament church gave a priority to church planting. They had house churches. If we’re going to reach the masses of people in America, we must plant churches where the people are. We must be serious and intentional about this. Every church should be either a parent or a partner in church planting. The best way to plant churches is to mother them or for several churches to work together to plant or help revitalize a church.
We need to send a message that this church will not tolerate territorialism. Every denomination that has tolerated territorialism has experienced decline. Historically Assemblies of God churches were started when God called men and women to a community. We cannot allow obstacles to discourage ministers from following the leading of the Spirit.
Q: As we approach the General Council in Washington, D.C., do you have any words for our ministers?
TRASK: This entire matter of the Vision for Transformation, with specific resolutions, will come before the General Council in Washington, D.C. I would like to enlist this church to pray that we will capture Christ’s heart and that God’s will would be done. Our theme for the Vision for Transformation is “Pray the Way.” Please commit yourself to prayer. We must be a Spirit-filled, Spirit-dependent and Spirit-driven church.
Where is God leading the Assemblies of God? I’m confident that the Spirit will speak to our hearts and guide our steps as a Fellowship. Another question is equally important: Where is God leading you and me? May our answer be that He is leading us to a place of greater intimacy and spiritual renewal. Let’s agree together that the 50th General Council will be remembered as a time we sought the face of God, heard His voice, and obeyed.