Faye Davis admits to being biased.
The longtime member of Fort Wayne's First Assembly of God says, “I love our church so much. ... We rejoice in what God has brought to pass in his time.”
Beginning Saturday, and continuing through Oct. 14, Davis will join with other congregation members, staff, special guests and visitors in a weeklong celebration of First Assembly's 75 years of ministry in Fort Wayne.
The congregation will welcome Gordon Anderson, president of North Central University in Minneapolis; the Rev. John Kilpatrick; and evangelist Michael Livengood, along with former pastors and church members to commemorate “Living the Legacy.”
“The first weekend, we will celebrate our past by honoring current and past senior pastoral leaders,” says Bob Parrent, the church's fine arts pastor, who will oversee the creative elements of music, drama and video production that will enhance the services. “The second weekend will be a series of revival services with John Kilpatrick.”
The Pentecostal movement was born in Los Angeles in 1906 during a revival on Azusa Street. By 1930, the movement had migrated eastward, and Jesse and Alice Funderberg established Trinity Pentecostal Assembly during prayer services in their Fort Wayne home. Within two years, they merged with another group, forming First Pentecostal Tabernacle on South Calhoun Street.
In 1937, the church transitioned to affiliation with the National Organization of the Assemblies of God, a cooperative fellowship of Pentecostal churches, says current Senior Pastor the Rev. Ron Hawkins. Membership in the organization facilitated a coherent doctrinal stance, encouraged cooperative missions outreach and established institutions of higher education to train church leadership.
Despite the difficulties and deprivations of the Great Depression, the small congregation flourished, outgrowing several locations before moving to a newly constructed building on Coliseum Boulevard East in July 1980.
By 2007, the church relocated to the former Calvary Temple building on West Washington Center Road, a move that increased ministry opportunities for the nearly 2,000 people attending services and activities.
A distinct heritage
“Pentecostals believe that every gift of God demonstrated in the New Testament — such as healing of sickness, casting out of demons, speaking in languages that are unlearned and giving words of knowledge or ... wisdom prompted by the Holy Spirit — are still active and should be evidenced in the church today,” explains Hawkins, who has served as senior pastor since 1991.
“We encourage every expression of worship or gift to be absolutely based on the objective Word of God,” he continues, “and every experience must reflect Christ, his nature and his character as revealed in the Bible. We also believe that explaining all expressions is essential.”
“The church's mission statement is 'Lifting people through the power of the cross,'” says Davis, a grandmother of eight and a Detroit native who began attending First Assembly as a teen. “You will find First Assembly engaging in loving worship toward God with efforts to touch hearts ... and to know the presence of God.”
“We believe that our church exists to lift people to their fullest potential in life,” adds Hawkins, “and that full potential begins in a restored relationship with God ... through Jesus Christ, his death and resurrection, and the deliverance that he brings to us.”
Called to action
First Assembly ministers through traditional channels of worship, fine arts, small groups, youth and children's ministries, and community outreach. The church's influence is felt beyond its walls, however, as members reach out to international immigrants and students, those with disabilities, and those in need of counseling, care and encouragement. They support five international congregations, including Burmese, Chinese and Hispanic ethnicities.
“We are a multigenerational church reaching to as many strata of our region as possible,” says Hawkins. “We live in a growing and diverse community and believe the church is to impact every aspect of our community and culture.”
“Discipleship and evangelism are the core of (our) vision,” says Davis. “People are engaged in small groups (and) there are special times of ... intercessory prayer — reaching out to God for all bodies of Christ, our city, our region and our world.
While the opening weekend of Living the Legacy will honor those who contributed to the church's growth and outreach, the closing weekend will look to the future.
Kilpatrick, known for oversight of the Brownsville Revival in Pensacola, Fla., and Livengood will cap the celebration with a revival weekend, “Re-digging the Wells of Azusa Street.”
“Michael Livengood is an evangelist but has also been called a prophetic revivalist,” says Hawkins, “opening the door ... to the tangible sense of the manifest presence of God.”
“We are specifically praying for a fresh outpouring of God's Spirit on our church,” he says, “thus, the designation of 're-digging the wells of Azusa Street,' where a nondescript mission in Los Angeles gave visibility to the emerging Pentecostal movement.”