(Moved over from previous faculty website; originally written in 2000)
Moving Forward with Pioneer Vision - by Louis F. Morgan
Pioneers are individuals who brave fierce obstacles to enter new territory and prepare paths for others to follow, and "Aunt Mollie," as she was affectionately known, was truly a pioneer. At 105, she was the oldest Christian I knew. She was also the oldest Pentecostal in my hometown.
One of the first people to receive the baptism in the Holy Spirit in the area where my family and I lived, Aunt Mollie was a Pentecostal pioneer who blazed the trail for multitudes that followed. Eighty years later she was still overflowing with zeal for the Lord and a passion for souls. She spent countless hours in intercessory prayer and constantly told others about Jesus.
What was the secret to Aunt Mollie's maintaining her pioneer vision and press-forward mind-set, even at her advanced age? I have no doubt that it was because she constantly walked in a fresh encounter with God.
At a time when many had grown cold in their experience with God and had settled for tradition rather than relationship, one woman could not forget her initial encounter with God in a meeting under a brush arbor. Indeed, it was so powerful she could not be content to let it end there. She frequently explained that God continually drew her nearer to Himself and revealed even greater truths and understanding as she walked obediently before Him.
Although she most humbly submitted herself to the godly counsel of those over her in the Lord, Aunt Mollie was not governed by the philosophies of individuals. Rather, she searched the Word, devoted herself to prayer, and sought to be led by the Holy Spirit in all her actions.
Revering the Past
We are right to look back on our heritage with genuine respect and admiration for the profound way those before us served one another in love. But we must not, we dare not, fall into the trap of attempting to live in the blessings of yesterday.
The Holy Spirit directs men and women now just as He has in the past, and He wills that men and women continue to move forward in the freshness of His Spirit--a freshness that produces clean hearts and equips the church to reach the harvest.
At the turn of the century when R. G. Spurling organized numerous churches in the mountainous regions of North Carolina and Tennessee, he was moving against the current of organized religion's lethargic creeds and the status quo ideology of many of his neighbors. He pressed forward and broke new ground as directed by the Holy Spirit.
Insisting on the importance of fellowship within a local congregation and the New Testament as his only rule of faith and practice, Spurling was as a voice on the mountainside crying for a revival of unity and love within the Body. His vision included returning to the basics of the Bible and maintaining a personal relationship with God.
The Holy Spirit used Spurling in carrying out His plan to move the church forward in spiritual liberty and truth--much like the Anabaptists, martin Luther, John Wesley, and others before him. Had Spurling felt less passionately about his God-ordained mission, the Christian Union, which gave birth to the Church of God, probably never would have been established.
God found in Spurling an obedient servant; consequently, other men and women received the vision and continued to press forward against the tendency to exchange relationship for inert religion.
Appropriating the Example
Learning from the powerful examples of the past, the church must continue to move forward with the life-transforming message of Jesus Christ until all have heard the wonderful story of His grace. Just as the pioneering R. G. Spurling did for his generation more than 100 years ago, it is imperative that the church move beyond the focus of yesterday's tradition and align our sights on Christ.
As we enter a new millennium, it is necessary for us to gain an appreciation for diversity in all areas of ministry--which may not look or sound exactly as it did yesterday. But neither did it at the beginning of this century when our forebears embraced holiness and Pentecostalism. neither did it when the Charismatic renewal spread throughout the world during the 1960s.
It is evident, however, that each brought renewal to the body of Christ, and together they are now the fastest-growing force within Christianity. Sincere seekers must never be satisfied with tradition that has become stale, for it is in the freshness of God's Spirit that transformation is accomplished and the Great Commission fulfilled.
We cannot afford to remain still and become lost in this era of constant change. By reaffirming our dependency on God, obedience to the Word, consecrated devotion, Spirit-led living and earnest prayer, the body of believers known as the Church of God must rise to the task that lies ahead.
Through proper training, godly counsel, and walking in unity and love, the ministry (both laity and clergy) can be better prepared to overcome any physical or spiritual obstacle that would hinder the work of the Lord.
Aunt Mollie has since passed on to her eternal reward, but she left a powerful testimony and example for others. The Church of God, to which she was devoted, can gain from her testimony.
A Fresh Encounter
It is good for the Church of God to reflect on its past blessings, but past blessings will not sustain us! We must be thankful for the powerful way God has revealed Himself to us in the past while moving forward in the power of the Holy Spirit. Like the pioneering vision that birthed our fellowship and has victoriously guided us until now, we must maintain the compelling force to move forward.
Our future ministry of effectively winning souls to Christ depends on the decisions we make today. We must not allow ourselves to become sidetracked in the routines of yesterday or by debating nonessential issues. Rather, let us maintain a movement mentality, walking in a fresh refilling of God's Spirit and pressing forward with the goal of winning the world for Jesus Christ.
Editor's note: Louis F. Morgan has a keen appreciation for the church's heritage while welcoming the refreshing winds of change brought by the Holy Spirit today as he serves as archivist at the church's Hal Bernard Dixon Jr. Pentecostal Research Center.
(Published in the September 2000 issue of the Church of God Evangel.)
I am a professor, author, librarian, historian, and speaker living in beautiful Cleveland, Tennessee-- but I will always call Mississippi "home." I enjoy my work at Lee University and my hobbies include traveling, being outdoors, hiking, fishing, gardening, writing, reading, and movies.