Growth & Changes

Several intentional and strategic goals were acknowledged at the Converge21 event:

An Increased Breadth of Organizational Involvement. The keynote speakers for this event included denominational leaders, youth evangelists, pastors and scholars. Among them: Anne Gimenez, Senior Pastor of Rock Church; Nick Hall, founder and chief communicator of PULSE, the largest student-led prayer and outreach effort in America; Jack Hayford, author and Chancellor of King's University; Alex Hurt, pastor and community leader from Boston; Cheryl Johns, a professor at the Pentecostal Theological Seminary; Ron Luce, Founder of Teen Mania Ministries; James Robison, Founder and President of LIFE Outreach International; Dario Lopez Rodriguez, the President of the National Evangelical Outreach of Peru; Samuel Rodriguez, President of the NHCLC; and George Wood, General Superintendent of the Assemblies of God.  

In his keynote address in the Thursday morning session, Wood cited "Seven Challenges Facing Pentecostals Today." His areas of concern included: evangelism, compassion, holiness, religious freedom, unity, civility, renewing Pentecostal identity, and the overreliance upon technology. While Pentecostals face "many challenges in the twenty-first century," he said, "our movement is not a setting sun, but a rising sun."

A Broadening Dialog. In addition to discussing the future of the Spirit-Empowered movement in the USA, C21 delved into more controversial areas. One general session was devoted to the issue of the Palestinian community in Israel and the challenges for obtaining peace in the region. Sami Awad, a Palestinian Christian and Executive Director of Holy Land Trust in Bethlehem, was the keynote speaker on Thursday night. The Trust is an organization that "seeks to strengthen the Palestinian community and build a future in which the Holy Land is a model of understanding, respect, justice, equality and peaceful coexistence." In the scholarly sessions at C21, papers were also presented on a wide-range of subjects including: "Pentecostalism in the Hispanic World," "Pentecostal Spirituality," "The Pentecostal as Activist," "Pentecostals and Justice," "Gender Justice" and "Creationism in Pentecostal Thought."

A Focus on Social Justice. Paul Alexander, a Pentecostal scholar and organizational leader for SPS, was responsible for selecting the theme for this year's SPS event: "Pentecostalisms, Peacemaking, and Social Justice/Righteousness." Alexander noted in an interview that "to actually think about peacemaking and social justice intentionally is new territory for [Pentecostals]. Perhaps the most newsworthy part of this event was that a Palestinian Christian from an evangelical background actually had the opportunity to share his story and received a standing ovation from a diverse audience including denominational leaders, scholars, and others."

One New Big Sweeping Goal. In his opening welcome to the E21 attendees, Wilson presented what he called the "21 Vision." The goal is: "That every person on earth would have an authentic encounter with Jesus Christ through the power and presence of the Holy Spirit by Pentecost 2033." This date is significant as it arguably represents the two-thousandth anniversary of the original outpouring of the Holy Spirit in Jerusalem as recorded in Acts 2. Wilson added that all eleven E21 Regional Cabinets had already endorsed the "21 Vision." When asked about the enormous scope of the vision, Wilson said, "We asked, 'What is something big enough that it could only happen if we truly work and pray together?' The promise of Joel 2 is that God will pour his Spirit upon 'all flesh.' We truly believe that every person needs a Spirit-empowered moment in order to bring the knowledge of his glory into their lives. We see this as an opportunity to mobilize the church so that every person has a chance."