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Don J. Immel

One Team

Although the term “team” may not be found in the Bible, the concept is consistently exemplified.

Jesus assembled a team and called them disciples.

Peter assembled a team and called them deacons.

Paul assembled a team and carried the gospel to the corners of the Roman empire.

Every good leader knows that if they want to have maximum effectiveness, they will have to assemble or develop a team. 

In Good to Great, researcher Jim Collins spends an entire chapter discussing leadership. In the very next chapter he discusses assembling the right team.

Ed Stetzer (Comeback Churches) noted the major habits of churches that were able to make a comeback after experiencing plateau or decline. One of the key characteristics identified was they “launched a team-oriented vision; implemented team strategy in everything.” Stetzer went on to say, “The study made it clear—you cannot turn around a church alone. It takes a team effort.”

Whether we are building a church or a ministry, to be effective we need a team.  

This afternoon I watched the men’s final at Wimbledon.
In what seems to be a highly individualistic sporting match, both the winner (Novak Djokovic) and the runner-up
(Kevin Anderson) thanked their teams. No matter what discipline you explore, whether sports, military, corporations or education, you will likely find that success involves more than one particularly gifted leader or intellectual. Sustained effectiveness almost always involves a team.

One of the most impactful events that I’ve ever attended was Tommy Barnett’s “Pastor’s School.” Although Barnett had both the finances and relational connections to bring in any top-tier speakers to inspire participants, he did something quite different. He allowed us to benefit from his ministry team. We were able to hear their stories, benefit from their experience(s), and see their context. I was so inspired at Pastor’s School that I returned three more times, often with my pastoral staff and deacons. Our team grew in vision, passion, and our church grew in ministry effectiveness.

How are you doing as a team leader, member,
or developer? 

This year at Ministers’ Enrichment we are asking our Network ministry team to share inspiration and information that we pray will enhance and enlarge your vision for effective ministry. Although it’s not possible for every team leader to speak, we have asked several of our full-time staff to speak broadly enough to include everyone present, yet specifically enough to represent the focus of ministry which they lead.

A Conversation with Pastor Steve

What was it like growing up in Pastor/Professor
Tourville’s home?

“It was normal to me. I just figured that everyone’s father studied a lot and loved (reading) books. Due to Dad’s occupation, there wasn’t much money. But that was normal
to me as well. I didn’t realize until later that we were rather poor. I just figured that Dad was tight!”

Tell me more about your dad. How did he come to faith?

“I’m not sure exactly. He was just inclined as a young man to serve the Lord. When he was in Guam he was an airplane mechanic. He didn’t hang around soldiers who caroused and lived that kind of a lifestyle. His friends were those who shared the faith. In fact, although there wasn’t an atmosphere on base where religion was cultivated, Dad was able to get his commanding officer to provide a building for worship.”

How were you called into ministry?

“I was called into ministry during my junior year in high school. My call to ministry was more of a process than an event – some people have that critical moment when God speaks to them at the altar or as a result of an evangelist or missionary’s ministry. That wasn’t the way it was for me. I was processing my faith and what I believe (“Do I believe what I believe, or do I believe what I believe because my parents believe it?”). It was during this time that I came to the conviction that God was calling me into the ministry.

What was the most outstanding “pastoral” moment that comes to mind?

“Without a doubt the special times around the altar. The most prominent memory that comes to mind is at the altar at Trinity in West Chester. A man named Scott was literally pounding on the floor while at the altar. I went over to him and said, ‘Scott – is everything alright?’ Scott looks up and says, ‘I’m free – I’m free.’ I didn’t know that he had been struggling with an addiction. That night he was delivered. What’s more is that to the best of my knowledge – he lived it out.”

How about the worst moment?


“I think that I’ve shared it so many times most people will know…there was a guy who protested me by carrying a cross around the perimeter of the parking lot of our church.”

How did that situation resolve?

“I was encouraged by some to dismiss him from the church. But he had a teenage daughter that would have been deeply affected by that, so I just prayed that the Lord would take care of it. Although he had threatened to never leave the church, within a few weeks he left and never came back.”

Do you have a dream for PennDel after you retire?

“Early on in my role as Superintendent, I had a picture in my mind (a “vision” if you will) of the water level rising, and hoping that all the ships (our churches) would rise with it. I believe that the dream that God has for our Network goes far beyond me. I have been a small part of it, but that “dream” involves reaching the people of our district, our country, and the world for that matter. I think of the scripture that says, “…when David had served God’s purpose in his own generation, he fell asleep…(Acts 13:36, NIV).” I don’t plan on dying soon, but I feel that I’ve served God’s purpose for the time I’ve been superintendent.”

“The dream I have is that the water will keep rising, and that all of our churches will rise with it.”

TURNAROUND CHURCHES

Although the term “church revitalization” has not commonly been in use for more than a few decades, the concept of churches needing to reverse their course and do a turnaround is as old as the New Testament scriptures. Jesus conducted a church health assessment of the churches in Asia in Revelation chapters 2 and 3. In five of the seven churches addressed, Jesus issues warnings that indicate they must take corrective action or risk the consequence of discipline or closure. Stanley M. Horton observes:

Each letter begins with a revelation of Jesus and a commendation, usually followed by a warning and a challenge. However, Jesus commends the churches’ virtues even more than He warns them of their faults. He knows exactly what is going on in each church. He knows their successes, their failures, their victories, their problems, their difficulties. More than that, He knows exactly what each one needs.

Another important observation in the letters to the seven churches is to whom they are directed. Each letter starts out with the same addressee: “To the angel of the church in…” The Greek word “angel” (angelos) is defined as a messenger, and is commonly interpreted to mean the pastor or leader of that church. Horton comments, “Like a watchman walking among them, He subjects them to rigid inspection. His purpose, however, is to encourage, preserve, and challenge them.”

Research indicates that approximately 80 percent of churches in America are either plateaued or in decline. Thom Rainer of the Rainer Research Group states, “Eight out of ten of the approximately 400,000 churches in the United States are declining or have plateaued. Of the churches for which we have data, 84 percent are declining or experiencing a growth rate below the population growth rate for their communities. The latter is defined as a plateaued church.” Although the Rainer Research Group gives a cross-denominational perspective, the same general trends are reported within the Assemblies of God. According to Alton Garrison, Assemblies of God General Assistant Superintendent and Director of the Acts 2 Journey revitalization initiative, 25.6 percent of Assemblies of God churches have plateaued, and 43.1 percent are in decline. Garrison notes that the rate of declining churches is at its highest in almost twenty years.

Despite the sobering statistics, here are four reasons for hope and optimism!

  1. First, the church belongs to Jesus Christ. We are His, and He takes special interest in His bride’s success and future. Jesus makes it clear: “I will build my church…” (Matthew 16:16) Jesus is determined to see His church move forward and has given us the necessary gifts and empowerment to enter into an effective partnership with Him in His mission.
  2. Secondly, there is a plethora of resources available to assist pastors and leadership teams to change their course from plateau or decline to growth and greater effectiveness. The Acts 2 Journey has seen measurable success in our Network and throughout the nation. Thom Rainer’s book on “Breakout Churches” and Ed Stetzer’s book entitled “Comeback Churches” are two must-reads for the pastor who is determined and committed to coming off a plateau or reversing the spiral of decline.
  3. A third reason for optimism is increased effectiveness that can be derived using a coach or mentor. Both Gene Woods and Thom Rainer identify that having outside input can be a significant benefit in leading a turnaround church. In his intensive study of thirteen “breakout” churches, Rainer states “at least eleven of the thirteen breakout churches had leaders who indicated the impact of ‘Positive Outside Influences’ in the turnaround in their churches.” Trained, certified coaches are now prepared, and a financial pathway is available to utilize this resource through a plan of underwriting and cost sharing through the PennDel Ministry Network for credentialed ministers (contact Tom Rees for more information at Tom@penndel.org).
  4. A final reason to be optimistic is optimism itself. Research identifies that when optimism was embraced, a willingness to change, consider future realities and prospects rather than idealizing the past, and openness to new methodology was also experienced in congregations. As Paul said, “Hope does not disappoint [us]” (Romans 5:5).

At some point, every church or ministry will face the prospect of plateau or decline. If this happens to be your context, please know that you are not alone, and you do not have to navigate these challenges by yourself. God most certainly cares, and we most certainly care. As a Network we are available and continue to explore, develop, and offer assistance to helping your church or ministry experience a turnaround.

The Roma Project

The Roma people are experiencing a dynamic move of God. Many are coming to faith in Christ. The transformational work of the Holy Spirit has gained the attention of local community leaders. Marian Kaleja, lead pastor of The Pentecostal Church in Sabinov, has mentored pastoral leadership for the church in Kendice. Land has been purchased, and construction plans are under way. 150 believers in Kendice are now in need of a worship facility to extend the work that God is doing. However, due to extreme poverty, they do not have the resources to move forward with the project. Will you join us in partnering with the Roma people to see this project forward? You can send your offering/pledge to 4651 Westport Dr., Mechanicsburg, PA 17055, or give online at penndel.org. Thank you for your participation!

Roma Project Resources

Promotional “communication” pieces are available in hard copy (upon request) and online at penndel.org.

Don Immel, PennDel Missions Director, is available to do a missions window for the Roma Project or to present missions at missions conventions.

Fares For Missions

In 1982 Harold Crosby introduced a significant helps program for PennDel missionaries. The program was designed to reduce the growing itineration demands placed on our missionaries due to increased budget demands. Fares For Missions targeted two areas to assist missionaries preparing to depart for their field of calling:

  • Infuse $5000 into a missionaries “00” account to avoid drawing that living expenses account into the red while obtaining financial support. Once a missionary reached certain benchmarks of support, the $5K would be released into their living expenses account.
  • Purchase missionaries departure airfare when they were cleared by AGWM to go!

For the past several years, there has been greater demand than income on the Fares For Mission fund.

Missionaries Itinerating

The following PennDel Missionaries are currently itinerating for their first-term & would appreciate an opportunity to share their vision and heart for their World Missions assignment:

  • Ben & Jessica Bock (Europe)
    benjabock@gmail.com, mikendjessb@gmail.com
  • Mike & Jess Brown (Latin America)
    mikendjessb@gmail.com
  • Tom & Brooke Harshberger (Europe)
    tomharshberger@gmail.com

*Quick Reference: www.penndel.org (Ministries/World Missions/Itineration List)

Take advantage of this resource available for you!  Look ahead to the remainder of 2017 and all of 2018 and see which of our PennDel Missionaries are scheduled to come home on furlough.

Good Grief!

It’s probably Charlie Brown’s most notable saying: “Good Grief.” It comes at times when he is exasperated. We have these sayings to give expression to moods and feelings. We say them when there’s really nothing more to say.

Along with Charlie’s notable saying is the song, “Christmas Time,” which really goes along with the mood. It’s melancholy and gray – anything but the expected anticipation and celebration that comes with Christmas. Of course, in the animated classic, the whole story line takes an upturn when Linus quotes Luke’s Christmas narrative.

Unfortunately, in many cases, the Christmas blues are not so easily resolved.

Our Grief

Put simply, grief is a response to loss. Most often grief is associated with death. However, we have observed people grieve over many different types of losses. The loss of health, a job, a marriage, or even an opportunity are among a long list of circumstances that can elicit a grief response. David McGee identifies, “No two people will grieve the same, but there are similarities. As individuals, we can complicate the grief experience by a lack of understanding concerning grief and how loss interacts with our present lives.” (McGee, “Living After Death”) Here are a few thoughts about processing loss.

Bad Grief

Although there is not a set pattern for proper grief, we can see several ways that grief can be considered “bad:”

Denying/avoiding grief: occurs by immersing oneself in activity or distracting oneself to the extent that they don’t consciously think about their loss.

Premature termination of grief: is urged by people who try to determine for a grieving person when enough time has passed, and that the grieving person should now move on or get over their loss.

Unresolved grief: can be experienced when one lives in unabated depression or by building one’s identity on the loss they have experienced.

Good Grief

Some might ask “can grief be good?” I believe the answer most definitely is “yes.” Grief is a necessary expression to help us process our loss. If we grieve well, we have a better chance of regaining emotional and spiritual homeostasis. We can make the most of grief if we:

Let it out: in the book “ToughLove,” David & Phyllis York identify a principle that resonates with experience: “To postpone a crisis is to intensify it.” So it is with grief. If we delay or deny our need to grieve, we do ourselves harm in the long run. I think the words of Jesus, taken quite literally, are worth considering: “Blessed are those who mourn.”

Share it with a trusted friend: the best kind of friend during grief is one who listens patiently, offers advice rarely, challenges only when necessary, and is empathetic consistently. Some grief work will of necessity be done alone, while another side of grief work is done in companionship, absent platitudes and clichés. In his transparent journey through the loss of his wife, C.S. Lewis wrote “Talk to me about the truth of religion and I’ll listen gladly. Talk to me about the duty of religion and I’ll listen submissively. But don’t come talking to me about the consolations of religion or I shall suspect that you don’t understand.” (C.S. Lewis, “A Grief Observed”) I think that Lewis is referring to religious clichés that fail to bring comfort because the hearer is either emotionally numb or in pain when they are spoken. A good friend has more substance to offer than trite truisms.

Give yourself permission to have bad days: there is no timetable for grief. Memories and the emotions that they elicit are as unpredictable as a breeze. A holiday, a phrase or sound, and even a scent can bring an unexpected memory crashing into our consciousness. I was at Walmart a few weeks back and was knocked back on my heels when I saw a woman pushing a cart who looked like my mother. I was unprepared for the dry throat that a glimpse of a stranger would bring. A file that I thought was closed had been reopened, and my grief work continued for an hour. In a strange way I welcomed the grief as it refreshed my memory…grief is unpredictable and unusual.

Give yourself permission to have good days: at times people feel bad for feeling good again. But a new normal will and should emerge, and that new normal will include the memories and the absence of the loved one. It’s ok to be ok with these realities.

As we enter the Christmas season, it is inevitable that some will be facing the holidays with a sense of loss. Our prayer is that you may find comfort and peace during a time of year that seems unsympathetic to your grief. May you experience the dawning light* of His presence (Matthew 4:16).

*I have to say that this metaphor used by Isaiah resonates with me. Dawning light is gradual, not uncomfortably sudden. It brings warmth and comfort. It brings hope. It is set in the context of “those who sat in the region of the shadow of death.” It’s a good thought, and a good promise.

May you experience the dawning light of His presence (Matthew 4:16).

An Escape from Romania

Dascalescu Wedding Mike and Ana Dascalescu were miraculously delivered from communist Romania in 1981. Their escape began one night when Mike, a merchant-marine officer, heard God tell him it was time for Ana, her brother and him to flee. As they navigated their way to the ship headed for Greece, God’s miracles began. Even though the entryway was guarded, they walked through the gate without being seen. For the next step in their nighttime journey, Ana (who was pregnant) and her brother had to jump into freezing waters so Mike could hoist them up to the deck using ropes. Ana recounts, “With the rope tied around my waist, Mike began pulling me out of the water. When I was only 15 feet in the air we both saw a searchlight from a patrol boat. At the moment it would have spotted us, the rope snapped, and I was dumped back into the water while the patrol boat changed direction. We knew that God was fully involved in every detail of our escape!”

Mike had a hiding place prepared for them once they were on the ship, but before he could take them to the closet located in the bottom level, Ana and her brother needed to hide in an empty oil tank while a final search of the ship was performed before setting sail. Ana remembers, “While remaining perfectly still, kneeling in a thick layer of sludge, my brother and I could hear the soldiers walking on the oil tank and see the beams of their flashlights penetrating through the cracks, but God again protected us. Soon, I heard a whistle from Mike indicating the coast was clear.” They were able to crawl out of the oil tank and sneak to the small, dark closet that was their cocoon for the next eight days.

Dascalescu-Article3When they arrived in Greece, the three snuck off the ship at night and sojourned across Greece into Yugoslavia where they were caught by police and sentenced to three weeks in prison for crossing the border illegally. They were then released with instructions to travel to Italy. Once in Italy, the American Embassy graciously granted political asylum for them to come to the United States which became their home for over 33 years! In 1989 Mike and Ana began serving at GT in Reading, PA.

After their harrowing escape from Romania, why would Mike and Ana want to ever return? Ana simply but passionately says, “Since the fall of communism we feel compelled to take the gospel of Jesus to the Romanian people.” They have done many missions trips back to the very country they had fled and were struck by a shortage of ministers to disciple new converts. It was this need for leaders that prompted them to answer the call to full-time missions. Leaving their secular jobs of business and nursing, leaving their three children and grandchildren, Mike and Ana returned to Romania and are planting churches, training leaders and serving in the unreached region of Southeast Romania.

A Century of PennDel Missions

For one full century, the Eastern District (now PennDel Ministry Network) has been sending missionaries to engage in “the greatest evangelism the world has ever seen!” In December of 1916 Christopher and Inez Hines went to Guatemala and would become the Eastern Districts first recorded missionaries. That same month W.W. & Martha Simpson left for China, and would represent the District’s second missionaries.

A total of 131 missionaries have been sent from our District over the years, with 38 fully appointed missionaries and 18 missionary associates presently engaged in global ministry. Their stories are as inspiring as they are diverse. Personal sacrifices were sometimes monumental. Their experiences were legendary. Some would bury their spouse on their field of service (Margaret Baltau in 1919 and Isabelle Mueller in 1922). Some would find their helpmate on the field (John & Bernice Burgess, India 1926-1953). Others would find their efforts interrupted by world events (George & Helga Hemminger had to return from Africa during World War II because travel had become so dangerous). Others, like Annie Bailey (’44-’86, China/Hong Kong) would so impact their place of service, that dignitaries would honor them in their passing.

As the United States was exiting the Great Depression and entering World War II, the Eastern District continued to advance the cause of global missions by giving $131,185 to missions (an equivalent of $2 million dollars today). World Missions has always been at the heart of the Assemblies of God. Reaching the lost both at home and abroad has been a driving force and a central purpose in who we are as a fellowship. “We’re better together” is nowhere better exemplified than in our cooperative effort in sending missionaries, compassionately ministering to lost people, and leading these lost to saving faith in our Lord Jesus Christ.

Missionary: Bernice F. Burgess (Wife of John H. Burgess)

“My early life was lived in a strict adherence to the Roman Catholic faith as was that of my entire family. It was an unusual experience for me to visit the Pentecostal Church on Parrish Street, Wilkes Barre. At that time there was a great revival in progress. Having never seen anything of this sort, this was indeed a revelation to me.
At the close of the second service I was invited to the altar. I was told I was a sinner and needed salvation. This upset me, for I had been very faithful to my Catholic Church. Romans 3:23 was quoted to me; the Holy Ghost then gripped my heart with conviction, which prompted me to call upon the Lord for salvation and I was gloriously saved. Ten days later, I was filled with the Holy Ghost. At that time God called me to India as a missionary. I went to Bible College and in 1927 sailed for India and upon arrival there, I was married to Rev. John H. Burgess. In 1927 Bethel Bible School (Punalur, India) was established.”

Network Notes of Interest:

  • First District Missionaries – Christopher and Inez Hines (Guatemala, 1916-1919)
  • Most recently fully appointed missionaries: Steve & Sophia Getchel to Eurasia and Ben & Jessica Bock to Spain
  • 31 single women have served as missionaries
  • 2 sisters served together as missionaries to China (Bernice & Thelma Hildebrand, 1936-1957)
  • Over the past 5 years, Network churches have contributed over $750,000 to District projects in India, Africa, and Israel
  • In 2015 PennDel churches gave 6.7 Million dollars to Assemblies of God World Missions

PennDel Centennial Churches

For almost 100 years churches have been established under the banner of being “Pentecostal” or “full gospel.” Many started out as independent churches. Others started out in the mainline denominations, but had to find a new fellowship that embraced the fullness of the Holy Spirit. Here are 13 churches that have or are reaching the centennial mark. We have included a brief description of their origins and when they connected with the Assemblies of God. A fuller expression of their story can be found at www.ag100stories.org.

1894 Highway Tabernacle, Philadelphia, PA

Highway Mission Tabernacle, once known as Union Highway Mission of Philadelphia, was founded in November, 1894, by Rev. Frederick Reel, a member of the original group and also the first pastor. They started as a prayer group, conducting gospel outdoor services (attracting some 35,000 people with their “gospel car”) and then opened a Gospel Hall in North Central Philadelphia with seventy-seven charter members. The church was incorporated in May 1899. The first revival held was Thanksgiving Day week in 1897. Mark & Debbie Boucher now serve as lead pastors.

1902 Bethel Assembly, Chambersburg, PA

Bethel Pentecostal Church of the Assemblies of God was founded in 1902 by several Christian people under the leadership of Rev. D. M. Hench who became the first pastor. The first revival was held in 1902. The work started with prayer meetings, house-to-house visitation, jail services, and street meetings. Garry & Kelly Kipe presently serve as lead pastors.

1906 New Hope (Calvary Assembly), Clairton, PA

Mission Hall was the original name of New Hope Assembly of God Church, Clairton, PA, founded in 1906. It was chartered in 1924 with twenty-four members. Rev. Whiteside and Rev. Frank Casley began the work along with many other works in Vandergriff, Pittsburgh, Braddock, Turtle Creek, Pitcairn, Glassport, Horning, and Jeanette. The church affiliated with the General Council in 1948, changing it’s name to Calvary Assembly. Sharon Lopez now serves as pastor.

1906 Calvary Assembly, Waynesboro, PA

Calvary Assembly of God, Waynesboro, was founded in 1906 as a Christian Missionary Alliance church. Rev. Perry, pastor, invited Sam and Ezra Patterson (evangelists) for a tent meeting. They brought the Pentecostal message. In 1908, Rev. D. H. McDowell was the pastor and encouraged the Pentecostal experience. There were thirteen members at that time. From 1908 to 1910, the Biblical evidence of speaking in other tongues was revealed and the Holy Ghost poured out upon the people. In July 1930 the church became affiliated with the Eastern District Council. Dwan & April Newsome are the lead pastors.

1908 First Assembly, New Castle, PA

In 1908, a number of Christians in New Castle heard about the outpouring of the Holy Spirit at the Azuza Street Mission in Los Angeles, California. This small group of believers began to hold prayer meetings in various homes. As a result, one of the most remarkable outpourings of the Holy Spirit occurred. There were about a dozen individuals in this group with many miracles of healing reported. The group held their first tent meeting in 1916, and purchased their own property in 1919 making plans to build. Chad & Michelle Steoker are the lead pastors at New Castle First.

1911 Abundant Life, Bradford, PA

In 1911, the Bradford Assembly of God, then known as the Pentecostal Assembly, was brought into being by Rev. E. Samuelson. He opened his home for church meetings. They later moved to a store front at which time Rev. Earnest Williams held evangelistic meetings and later became pastor. It is believed that Pentecost first came to Pennsylvania in Bradford shortly after the Azusa street revival through Emil Samuelson, via his work on the Buffalo-Rochester and Pittsburgh Railroad. Abundant Life is now pastored by Phil & Penny Palutro.

1912 Emmanuel Assembly of God, Allentown, PA

Emmanuel Assembly of God had its inception in prayer services held in the home of Mrs. Annie Stauffer Beisel as early as 1912. Among the very first in the Lehigh Valley to pray for the sick and encourage believers to tarry for the Baptism in the Holy Spirit, many hungry hearts were attracted through these ministries during the years. From 1911 to 1954 the church met in the Beisel home! In 1954 Emmanuel Home Mission was incorporated and affiliated with the Eastern District of the Assemblies of God. Jason & Wendy Gornicz have recently become the lead pastors of Emmanuel AG.

1914 First Assembly, Lancaster, PA

A small company of people led by Reuben L. Buchwalter founded the First Pentecostal Church of Lancaster, PA in the fall of 1914, in a little hall over the Southern Market House. The group continually grew until 1922 when the church was chartered and incorporated as the First Pentecostal Church of Lancaster. Hymn writer Ira F. Stamphil, author of Mansion Over The Hilltop, was the pastor in 1966. Kris & Darlene Newman have served as lead pastors at First AG in Lancaster for nearly two decades.

1914 Green Ridge Assembly, Scranton, PA

The Pentecostal Assembly of God Church of Scranton, PA had its inception in the home of Jeremiah Swingle of Dunmore. The church was incorporated in 1914 and became affiliated with the newly formed Assembly of God organized in 1916. Rev. David McDowell became the first pastor and served until he was called to be the Assistant General Superintendent of the Assemblies of God in 1923. David & Laura Twiss are the lead pastors of Green Ridge AG.

1914 Jeannette Assembly of God, Jeannette, PA

Jeannette Assembly of God was founded in 1914 when Reverend Benjamin E. Mahan came to Jeannette and began holding “street meetings” in the downtown business district of the city. Converts from this ministry resulted in the establishing of this church. The church was incorporated in 1919 as the Pentecostal Church of Jeannette and became affiliated with the General Council of the Assemblies of God in 1923.

1914 Hamlin Assembly of God, Hamlin, PA

The First Pentecostal Church at Hamlin was begun in 1914, through cottage prayer meetings. Emery Woodruff and Zacharias Swingle felt a need for more of God and the fullness of the Holy Spirit. They had heard of the Pentecostal experience with the evidence of speaking in other tongues. A church was
built in Gravity, PA, and meetings were held in a hall in Hamlin. The Assembly moved to its present location in 1946. Ken & Melanie Claflin are lead pastors in Hamlin.

1916 First Assembly, Wilkes-Barre

First Pentecostal Assembly of God was founded in 1916 in the home of Will Matthews of Ashley, PA. The services were going well and were being attended by so many that they decided to buy property for a church building. The second pastor of the church, Brother Byron Jones, had been saved at the age of 38 after being instantly healed of tuberculosis, and shortly afterwards began pastoring, bringing the church into the Assemblies of God in 1932.

1916 First Assembly, Wilmington

In 1916, a small group of believers had received the Baptism of the Holy Spirit and wanted to start a Pentecostal church in Wilmington. In 1918 they contacted John Cox, the Superintendent (then called “Chairman”) of the Eastern District. Brother Cox had pastored the Wilmington Christian & Missionary Alliance church from 1911-1914. He had received the Baptism of the Holy Spirit which dramatically changed his life and ministry. After serving just one year as Superintendent, Brother Cox pursued other ministry endeavors including evangelistic work and planting the church in Wilmington Delaware. “WFA” is now lead by pastor Eric & Tiffany Spanier.

A Legacy of Leadership

Leadership has always been an integral part of God’s plan. In the Old Testament we see men and women ordained by God to lead His people, Israel, and in the New Testament we see Jesus investing Himself in the Apostles to carry forward the task of building His church. The Apostles in turn invest themselves in growing leaders as can be seen in the relationship of Barnabas and Paul, Paul and Timothy, etc. These leaders would guide the church through its formative stages as new believers were added and discipled.

When the General Council of the Assemblies of God was formed in the first quarter of the twentieth century, regional councils were developed under the General Council umbrella. David McDowell was chosen as the General Presbyter for the Northeast region and was asked to form a District Council east of Ohio and north of the Mason-Dixon Line. A call was extended to Pentecostal believers throughout the Northeast to meet at Glad Tidings Tabernacle in New York City in June 1917 for this purpose. Fifteen spirit-filled ministers met and signed the roster. This meeting became the first District Council of the Eastern District, and from that meeting began an incredible legacy of leadership that would guide our fellowship through a century of effective growth and development.

Reflect with me for a moment how much change has occurred during the past 100 years! These leaders guided a movement through a century of modernization, two world wars (and several other significant military conflicts), a Great Depression, civil unrest and civil rights movements, and a technological expansion that is unrivaled in history. It is in this context that God has sovereignly poured out His Spirit, and entrusted that outpouring to believers and their leaders for the propagation of the Gospel. The Assemblies of God has been a key player in the Pentecostal movement, and the PennDel Ministry Network has contributed significantly to our region and to our national “General Council.” As you look at the photos and brief captions of each of our District Superintendents, you will see the legacy of 10 men who have been leaders and servants to our churches, ministers, and the Assemblies of God fellowship.

“Then Moses spoke to the Lord, saying: ‘Let the Lord, the God of the spirits of all flesh, set a man over the congregation, who may go out be fore them and go in before them, who may lead them out and bring them in, that the congregation of the Lord may not be like sheep which have no shepherd.’” (Numbers 27:15 – 17; NKJV)

John Coxe

John Coxe

John Coxe (1917) – served as the first District Superintendent for the newly formed “Eastern District.” The District was comprised of Pennsylvania and Delaware, New Jersey, New York, and the New England states. Coxe would serve only one year due in part to evangelistic meetings that he was holding in the mid-west.

Robert Brown

Robert Brown

Robert Brown (1918-1922) – Pastor of Glad Tidings in New York, was elected as the next “chairman” of the Eastern District. He would continue to pastor during his tenure of leadership, and would assist the fellowship in navigating the Oneness issue, sanctification as a second definite work, and women in ministry.

Joseph Tunmore

Joseph Tunmore

Joseph Tunmore (1922-1930) – after one year as both pastor and Superintendent, Joseph Tunmore was asked to do this work on a full time basis. Thus, Tunmore became the first full-time superintendent. Tunmore led the way for a basic constitution & bylaws to be adopted (written by J. Roswell Flower, and implemented before the General Council had such an instrument available). District “Home Missions” would begin under Tunmore, with the Great Depression posing challenges to the endeavor. Nevertheless, new churches were opened, and the work of the gospel continued.

J Roswell Flower

J Roswell Flower

J. Roswell Flower (1930-1936) – having exceptional organizational abilities, would lead the District in establishing a campground and Bible school (Maranatha, 1931). Under his leadership, district departments for young people, Sunday School, and foreign missions were established. Additionally, six “zones” (sections) were defined, and Presbyters were appointed to lead in their respective areas. An assistant superintendent was elected to assist Flower in his duties (Flem Van Meter of Highway Tabernacle, Philadelphia). Flower was elected as Assistant General Superintendent at the 14th General Council, and would eventually move to Springfield to fulfill those responsibilities.

Fleming Van Meter

Fleming Van Meter

Fleming Van Meter (1936-1943) – under Van Meter’s leadership, the District Secretary and Treasurer roles were combined into one full-time position. Despite the hardships of WWII, new churches were opened, and foreign missions giving continued to increase. A parsonage was built to house the District Superintendent.

Wesley Steelberg

Wesley Steelberg

Wesley Steelberg (1943) – was elected as Superintendent to lead the process of dividing the Eastern District into multiple districts. Pennsylvania-Delaware retained the legal name, and Wesley Steelberg became the Superintendent for the New York-New Jersey District. Steelberg eventually became the General Superintendent of the Assemblies of God.

A. Newton Chase

A. Newton Chase

A. Newton Chase (1944-1959) – saw the creation of a full time Sunday School/Christ’s Ambassador Director. Also during his leadership the Women’s and Men’s Ministry departments were created. A new office building was erected for the District, and parsonages for full-time staff were either built or purchased during this time.

Russell Williams

Russell Williams

Russell Williams (1959-1978) – wrestled with issues regarding having an accredited Bible college. Northeast Bible Institute became Northeast Bible College, and eventually moved to Phoenixville, presently the University of Valley Forge. Consolidating the camps, initiating a retirement home, and developing a district “building and loan fund” were hot button issues during William’s tenure of ministry. Property was purchased in Shippensburg to host a retirement home and central camp.

Philip Bongiorno

Philip Bongiorno

Philip Bongiorno (1978-2002) – initiated the “PennDel Loan Fund,” (now HIS Fund) which made financing church construction projects a much easier and friendly proposition. Bongiorno also led the way to consolidate the eastern and western camps into one central well-appointed conference center. A full time “assistant to the Superintendent” was added to the District staff to oversee Home Missions. Additionally, a new District Office was constructed under his leadership.

Steve Tourville

Steve Tourville

Stephen R. Tourville (2002-present) – initiated the motto “We’re Better Together,” as exemplified in the “C3” concept. Catalyst, Coaching, and Connect groups were formed, revitalizing fellowship and mutual encouragement for PennDel pastors. Although the term District is still functional, “Network” better describes the interrelationships and resourcing that are shared. Reproduction is another functional value that has driven a church planting movement throughout the Network. For the first time in our history, PennDel has crested the 400 mark, and presently lists 434 churches.

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