"If the Assemblies of God doesn't remember its early history and the call to missions, we're not going to make it," says Jerry Cassell, pastor of Parker Christian Center, Parker, Colo.
Cassell isn't trying to be sensational. His words of warning come from a heart that is passionate about missions. For 4 years, he served as a foreign missionary in Brussels, Belgium, before returning home in 1991. He has since instilled into Parker Christian Center this same enthusiasm for missions. In fact, the church raised so much money for foreign missions it was recognized at the Assemblies of God's 1999 General Council in Orlando, Fla., for being one of the top churches in per capita foreign missions giving.
How did Cassell mobilize a 3-year-old church plant to out-give older churches with larger congregations? The answer may not be all that surprising.
When Cassell returned from Brussels, he once again joined the pastoral staff of First Assembly of God in Aurora, Colo., where he grew up. He was thrilled to find himself surrounded by people who had a strong missions-giving ethic.
First Assembly of God in Aurora regularly promotes home and foreign missions through literature, classes, and videos. However, nothing makes missions come to life for church members the way personal visits from missionaries can. As a result, the church is committed to bringing in missionaries throughout the year as well as to a 3-week missionary crusade. Several missionaries participate in services held during the week and talk to cell groups of 10-15 people. At the end of the crusade, a large banquet is held in the missionaries' honor.
While Cassell reveled in a church passionate about missions, he began to feel a call to start a new church in Parker, a Denver suburb.
"I felt a burden for Douglas County, which is one of the fastest growing counties in the United States," Cassell says.
Unknown to him, Pastor Howard Cummings of First A/G in Aurora also wanted to plant a church in Douglas County. He told Cassell. Cassell shared how God called him to do the same thing. As the two worked together to plant Parker Christian Center, Cassell sensed a new calling.
"I only intended to help plant the church," says Cassell. "However, I decided to become its pastor--but only after a lot of prayer."
With Cassell as its pastor and First A/G in Aurora supporting it, Parker Christian Center was destined to have a strong missions focus. In fact, the church already sponsors a missionary crusade every September. "We make it a point to bring a missionary to the church every 6 weeks or so," says Cassell.
Parker Christian Center has developed its own approach to missions by alternating missions trips once a year between domestic and international missions.
"Missions trips have been to Mexico, Kenya, and inner-city Chicago," Cassell says. "We are already making tentative plans for a trip to Europe later this year."
Parker Christian Center also reaches out locally by doing a monthly food outreach at Five Points, a poverty stricken area in inner-city Denver.
"It's a very poor area, so we try to do an outreach with musicians and a speaker," says Cassell.
Parker Christian Center supports other churches in the Rocky Mountain District. Cassell is also looking forward to the church starting new churches. The goal is to plant the first church in the next 5 years and then plant a new church every 3 years after that.
Cassell believes all pastors who want a more missions-minded church need to ask themselves whether they are serious about Jesus' command to go into all the world with the gospel. If they are, they can begin by supporting at least one missionary and then go from there.
"If the Assemblies of God doesn't remain true to its original calling to be a missions agency, why exist?" Cassell says. "We're not going to make it if we don't."