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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.

Our Pentecostal Heritage Can Help Us Move Forward

My earliest childhood memories center around an Assemblies of God church in Harrisburg, PA. I am thankful for the solid role models God has placed in my life—primarily my parents—but also pastors, youth leaders and many others. My Pentecostal heritage has not been perfect, but the positives have greatly out-weighed any negatives. I am grateful to those who went before me and planted the churches I have called home, built the Bible College I attended and established the denomination that facilitates our calling today.

Every church and ministry exists because of the sacrifice of others who have gone before. We have all built upon the foundations laid by others; whether it be their groundbreaking apostolic ministry, financial sacrifice, faithfulness to God or mentoring of our current leaders; we are their debtors. Our present ministries have much deeper historical roots than we realize.

In diverse cultures around the planet, our Pentecostal pioneers had a handful of transcendent practices that well-served their callings. Remembering, re-examining and renewing these same practices today will undoubtedly position us to move forward in our respective ministries. There were certainly some temporary methods or structures based upon culture, chronology, or geography that have expired; however, the five transcendent practices mentioned below are just as relevant and critical today as in the days of the original Apostles.

Why is it so important for us to reflect upon and renew our Pentecostal practices? The world desperately needs to powerfully encounter their Creator, God. The more we conform to the book of Acts model espoused by our forefathers, the better equipped and empowered we will be to move forward in mission.

Emphasis on Participatory Prayer

Our forefathers had little systemic or financial support; they planted churches and spearheaded new ministries often with nothing to rely upon but God; so they prayed. Fervent prayer—both personally and corporately—brought about countless miracles. Today we may be tempted to enjoy the fruit of their early labors while not continuing the biblical practice of prioritizing participatory prayer times in our regular services. Do we give enough time for our people to actually pray in the house of prayer?

There is a direct correlation between regular corporate prayer/altar time and the amount of miraculous, supernatural power expressed in our churches. Acts 4:24ff shows us that more prayer = more miracles. We all know the importance of prayer, but may we make a renewed commitment to model it consistently in our services—fulfilling the commandment
of Jesus that His house would be defined as a
house of prayer.

Reliance on the Holy Spirit’s Gifts and Power

It is a fact; some churches are downplaying the ministry of the Holy Spirit today. It is most certainly because of fear; likely, the fear of having to deal with human excess or pride or perhaps the selfish fear of leader embarrassment. Paul warned the Galatian church of the error of beginning with reliance on the Spirit and trying to finish by relying on the flesh (Gal 3:3). The people we serve need the full, healthy expressions of Acts in their lives. It is entirely possible to have healthy, consistent expressions of the Spirit’s gifts and power if we take some time and teach with a positive, enabling tone. Spiritual leaders nurture what they teach. We must once again lead the way by relying and facilitating authentic Holy Spirit gifts and power.

Culture of Participation

New Testament church life is thoroughly participatory in Acts. In fact, the Pentecostal groundbreakers of the early 1900’s met a deep need of the mainline, formal churchgoer. They created an atmosphere where everyone could interact with the presence of God—rather than merely watch His representative perform distant ceremonies. This happened again during the Charismatic renewal of the 1960’s-1970’s and again in recent years. We need to watch our people carefully during every stage of our services—are they merely an audience or are they spiritually engaged and participating? Then pray to ask God what to tweak in order to enable greater spiritual participation.

Commitment to the Word

Today, our secular culture seems to have no tolerance for biblical standards or truth. Paul warned Timothy about this—and reminded him that he was not to operate in a spirit of timidity. Our communities still need the bold, unpopular-to-the-flesh proclamation of God’s Word. We cannot round the corners that our forefathers so accurately and righteously sharpened. God help us to continue to throw life-preservers of truth to the drowning instead of anesthetizing them with spineless, Word-less speeches. We must continue to be true to the standards of scripture while still expressing genuine love and compassion.

Passion for the Lost

I have yet to meet a pastor without a passion for souls, but I have met many who are so overwhelmed and distracted that this passion gets put on the back burner. Honestly, I have encountered this in my own priorities. Our Pentecostal forefathers were driven with urgent conviction that every person is eternally lost without Jesus, but that Jesus is here now to save. May we recommit ourselves to the urgency and priority of the lost.

All In For Prayer

We were delighted to have Pastor Jim Cymbala at this year’s MinistrieSummit. Here are some words of encouragement from Fresh Wind, Fresh Fire.

PASTOR-CYMBALA-SIDE-ForPrintPRAYER IS THE SOURCE of the Christian life, a Christian’s lifeline. Otherwise, it’s like having a baby in your arms and dressing her up so cute— but she’s not breathing! Never mind the frilly clothes; stabilize the child’s vital signs. It does no good to talk to someone in a comatose state. That’s why the great emphasis on teaching in today’s churches is producing such limited results. Teaching is good only where there’s life to be channeled. If the listeners are in a spiritual coma, what we’re telling them may be fine and orthodox, but unfortunately, spiritual life cannot be taught.

“Does anyone really think that America today is lacking preachers, books, Bible translations, and neat doctrinal statements? What we really lack is the passion to call upon the Lord until he opens the heavens and shows himself powerful.”

Pastors and churches have to get uncomfortable enough to say, “We are not New Testament Christians if we don’t have a prayer life.” This conviction makes us squirm a little, but how else will there be a breakthrough with God?

jim-cymbala-Fresh-Book-CoverIf we truly think about what Acts 2:42 says—“They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer”— we can see that prayer is almost a proof of a church’s normalcy. Calling on the name of the Lord is the fourth great hallmark in the list. If my church or your church isn’t praying, we shouldn’t be boasting in our orthodoxy or our Sunday morning attendance figures.

In fact, Carol and I have told each other more than once that if the spirit of brokenness and calling on God ever slacks off in the Brooklyn Tabernacle, we’ll know we’re in trouble, even if we have 10,000 in attendance.

Copyright © 1997, Fresh Wind, Fresh Fire, The Zondervan Corporation.


We had to have a visitation of the Holy Spirit, or bust.

“I haven’t been trained. All I know is that Carol and I are working in the middle of New York City, with people dying on every side, overdosing from heroin, consumed by materialism, and all the rest. If the gospel is so powerful …” I couldn’t finish the sentence. Tears choked me.

Then quietly but forcefully, in words heard not with my ear but deep within my spirit, I sensed God speaking: If you and your wife will lead my people to pray and call upon my name, you will never lack for something fresh to preach. I will supply all the money that’s needed, both for the church and for your family, and you will never have a building large enough to contain the crowds I will send in response.

“Visiting Brooklyn Tabernacle and seeing the many lives that have been changed by the power of God makes you want to raise your voice and sing ‘Lord, Your grace is so amazing. Wonderful! Wonderful!’ Whether it is a Tuesday night prayer meeting or a Sunday service, you sense such reverence and awe as people from all walks of life gather to meet with the King of Kings!

When times were hard and the struggles many, God was faithful to Brooklyn Tabernacle and to its pastor, Jim Cymbala. God met him and told him to lead the people to pray, and he was ‘not disobedient unto the heavenly vision.’ The miracle-working prayers of his faithful congregation are evidenced by the life-changing testimonies that have not only been proclaimed in Brooklyn but have traveled around the world.” – Rev. Penny Wheatley – PennDel Ministry Network


Extravagant Care

The Caregiver’s Story…

By Walter Smith – Lead Pastor, SCW Presbyter

September 29, 2012—7:12AM… The men’s fellowship meeting was into the second worship chorus. My wife Lynn texted me—her blood pressure was dropping- rapidly. Usually my cell phone is turned off during men’s meetings, but that Saturday morning was different. It was on vibrate. I rushed home to find my wife in adrenal crises. We administered a prescribed shot of dexamethasone sodium phosphate, rushed her to the emergency room and was told that several more hours Lynn, the love of my life, could have died.

So along with Lynn’s psoriatic arthritis, fibromyalgia, coronary microvascular disease, from which she had suffered for years, she now was suffering from Crohns disease since early 2012. On top of all those prognoses, her adrenal glands were now not functioning properly; thus, the adrenal crises. Since that frightening September morning, we have also faced several mini-strokes. Currently, as I write this article, the possibility of multiple scoliosis or even Parkinson’s disease are possibilities on top of the other diagnosis. Yet, God has given us assurance that He is walking with us through these uncharted waters. Our church family has been remarkably supportive through days of prayer and fasting, laying on of hands, giving prayer cloths, handkerchiefs and even a ‘prayer quilt’ [each piece of the quilt being prayed over by individuals in the church and then sewn together to make the beautiful quilt] Lynn lays under her prayer quilt each night!!

I have had to learn to be the caregiver for my wife and assist her with a host of things, each one reminding me of the vows we made to each other back in 1976 at our wedding. The most prominent vow being the one where I promised to love her “in sickness and in health.” Because I have always been so much in love with her, it isn’t really too hard to do!

Through our entire year and a half of facing the challenges of change in our lifestyles, GOD has shown me that “He and only HE, grants to us the grace that is needed for each new day.” Thank you Lord for Your grace and thank you, Lynn, for your love!

The Patient’s Story…

By Lynn Smith – Wife, Mother, Grandmother, Former Administrative Assistant

Serious illness is not pleasant. Sometimes I laugh; at other times I cry. I laugh when I am asked to walk a straight line, and it is anything but a straight line. I cry knowing that ‘Depends’ do not make pretty
diapers. It seems that everything I have identified myself with has dramatically changed in the last year and a half. I used to work administratively at our church office; now I sleep a lot and can barely get out of bed. I used to travel everywhere with my husband, Walt; now I stay home most of the time except to go to doctor appointments. People come to visit me now where I once visited them. Change is challenging. However, I am thankful for a God and a husband that are caring, selfless and committed to caring for me.

Rx for Caregivers

One in every 3 households has a member who is a caregiver. The USA Today says there are over 44 million caregivers in the USA at the present time. Most are women; yet, they also comprise men and children—even young children. These precious caregivers are looking after someone who can’t fully take care of themselves. At times it is a temporary illness; in other cases, it is a progressive disease, and in many instances, it is terminal. Caregivers assist parents, spouses, sons or daughters, other family members and even friends. In almost every situation the caregiver makes a huge sacrifice in giving the proper care to the individual in need of care. Caregivers are remarkable people exhibiting love and compassion, giving needed assistance and help, yet they are individuals who often overlook their own personal care.

  • So who cares for the caregiver?
  • What should the caregiver ‘do’ to take care of themselves?

Here’s a brief Rx prescription:

  1. Daily devotions and time alone with the Lord to recharge spiritually.
  2. Proper attention to one’s own physical health, eating right, personal doctor’s appointments, exercise and much needed rest.
  3. Take time to rest, relax and find some respite. Read or have a hobby.
  4. Find a support system and join online caregiving groups for encouragement.
  5. A dear friend of mine says ‘Be sweet in your soul’— a must for every caregiver!
  6. Laugh and laugh some more.
  7. Don’t stop caring!
  8. Invent a 25-hour day!

A care-free life is not realistic. Caregiving is a challenge. We are all caregivers in some degree as we journey through this life. We never walk alone. We must navigate the various obstacles that come our way. So let’s walk faithfully—with God and with others by taking care of ourselves.

As printed in the Fall 2013 Network Connexions

Extravagant Generosity

Last Christmas Liz and I went to see the movie, “The Impossible.” The movie was about a family of five on vacation in Thailand who survived the infamous 2004 tsunami. The movie brought back many memories for me. I remembered where I was on that fateful December Sunday. I was visiting my son Steve’s family, who was living in Oklahoma at that time. I remember seeing on TV the devastation and loss of life. I remember thinking that Morning Star needed to do something – at the very least take an offering the following Sunday.

 “What you make happen for others – God makes happen for you!”

We did take that offering and I was blown away by the congregation’s generosity as they gave thousands of dollars to help the relief efforts. I remember being amazed at how ready they were to give, even without an email blast or any prior prompting or forewarning. They were just ready. That’s extravagant giving!

I’ve seen it happen again and again in our thirty-one years of leading this awesome congregation. That generosity has also taken the form of releasing people to plant new churches, loaning staff to other churches, sharing resources, and giving away our own material goods that we no longer use. It makes me realize that this kind of generosity is truly contagious as I see the percentage of our people giving more generously growing.

One of our slogans at Morning Star is, “What you make happen for others – God makes happen for you!” I believe God gives us opportunities to practice this kind of extravagant giving every day. God is looking for the kind of people the Apostle Paul described in 2 Corinthians 9:9 who, “…throw caution to the wind, giving to the needy in reckless abandon. His right-living, right-giving ways never run out, never wear out.” (The Message)

Here are five ways to cultivate extravagant giving:

Embrace the standard: Paul not only talked about extravagant givers, but he talked about an extravagantly generous God. He said, “This most generous God who gives seed to the farmer…is more than extravagant with you.” (2 Corinthians 9:10, The Message)  I’m striving to be like my Daddy. The goal of my life is to be and live like Him.

Lead the way: In the book “Contagious Generosity,” Chris Willard and Jim Sheppard state that, “Generous churches are led by generous pastors. Period.”

Make a plan: Isaiah said that; “A generous man devises generous things, and by generosity he shall stand.” (Isaiah 32:8, New King James)  At Morning Star our giving has actually increased during this recession. Why? We resolved beforehand that that was who we were going to be – a people who stand firm in our generosity.

Refuse to play it safe: Willard and Sheppard said, “It’s no accident that leaders who chose generosity rather than playing it safe reproduced that same response within their people.” Knowing the nature of her Savior, Mrs. Beaver, in the Chronicles of Narnia said, “Of course He’s not safe, but He is good.”

Enjoy the results: Paul said, “His right-living, right-giving ways never run out – never wear out.” A generous man or a generous church cannot be stopped!

As printed in the Fall 2013 Network Connexions

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