Thomas E. Trask
Looking back, looking forward
After announcing his resignation, General Superintendent Thomas E. Trask sat down for an interview with Editor in Chief Hal Donaldson. Trask served as general superintendent for 14 years.
tpe: With two years remaining in your term, why did you feel this was the time to leave office?
TRASK: First, I want to say that I love the work of the Lord, the church, the national headquarters and the people I’ve had the privilege of working with. I’ve never been unhappy in this office. But throughout my years of ministry, I’ve endeavored to be sensitive to the will of God. Once you know the mind of the Lord on a matter, you are held accountable for being obedient.
I began asking the Lord last year about my length of service. I didn’t want to presume the Lord wanted me to finish out these two years. I was praying and the Lord spoke to my heart that it was time. I can say that He has reconfirmed this is His will. It’s not about Thomas Trask; it’s about what God wants for the Kingdom. I am simply being obedient to the voice of the Spirit.
tpe: Do you know your next ministry assignment?
TRASK: I haven’t really concerned myself with that. I’m going to take some time to wait on the Lord. All I know is I’m not going to retire. I love ministry, I love people, I love the church and its mission, and I love the Lord. My wife, Shirley, knows my disposition: I’m not one to just sit. But the Lord knows me better than I know myself, so I’m going to trust Him to give me His next assign-ment — whatever it may be.
tpe: How does your family feel about your decision to step down?
TRASK: The family has been very supportive, but not without some tears and wrenching of our hearts. We love this church, but the family has confidence I wouldn’t make this move if I hadn’t heard from the Lord. The office of general superintendent carries with it tremendous responsibility. But the weight of it has never bothered me because I’ve known I’ve been in the center of God’s will. With that assurance comes confidence, faith and the ability to carry out a task.
tpe: What will you miss most about your role as general superintendent?
TRASK: I love the people at our national headquarters. They’re so committed to serving our churches and touching lives for Christ. I’ll also miss some of the larger gatherings where, as a body, we’ve come together to seek the Lord. I’ll miss working with our executive presbyters, district superintendents and pastors. And, again, I’ve really enjoyed the contact I’ve had with the laity of this church.
tpe: You have a long list of achievements during your tenure, but can you highlight one or two that you feel are especially significant?
TRASK: Well, one is the relationship we’ve forged with Convoy of Hope. And I say that not because of the role you’ve played, Brother Donaldson, but because it has encouraged believers to get out of their sanctuaries and into our communities to touch hurting people who need Jesus.
The churches that are touching hurting humanity are enjoying the blessing of the Lord. Jesus went where the people were. He saw their needs and met their needs. It thrills my heart to see the Fellowship reaching out to millions of people in the United States and around the world with the compassion of Christ.
The formation of Assemblies of God Financial Services Group (now AG Financial Solutions) was also significant in that it provided a way that our people and churches could be served and millions of dollars could be channeled into the work of the Lord.
tpe: How have you changed over these years as general superintendent?
TRASK: Allow me to approach that question from this angle: When I was elected I was fearful I might become calloused. An office like the general superintendent can either harden you or it can soften you. In large organizations like the Assemblies of God, you have to deal with a number of challenges and problems.
It would be easy to become hardened or calloused. So, I’ve had to guard my heart and regularly take a spiritual inventory of my life. You have to be firm at times and make some difficult decisions, but even then you have to make those decisions with the right spirit and the right attitude toward people.
The church is a people business. If we ever lose sight of that we’ll lose the blessing of the Lord. Through the years, I’ve watched leaders who were once pliable and people-focused become rigid and isolated. They lost their spirit of humility because of a title or particular role. God’s not impressed with our titles or offices. He’s looking for men and women after His own heart. What did God see in David’s heart? He saw a man who was tender and wanting more of God.
tpe: In an office like yours, it seems like it might be easy to lose your passion for personal witnessing. But you’ve earned a reputation in this city as one who isn’t afraid to share his faith.
TRASK: We must never lose our passion for personal evangelism. I spoke recently to our district superintendents from the Book of Philemon. The apostle Paul won Onesimus to Christ while he was in prison. Paul never lost his passion for soul winning. I challenged our leaders, apart from their offices, to stay connected to the lost and to take steps to reach the unsaved on a personal level. True leaders are soul winners.
tpe: As you leave office, are there tasks or projects you feel are unfinished?
TRASK: We began the Vision for Transformation six years ago to strip away any policies, practices and bylaws that were limiting innovation and hindering our effectiveness in reaching our world for Christ. God raised up the Assemblies of God to be a mobilization or releasing agency. So, I pray the church would continue to see transformation as a process and not an event. We must constantly look at how we can be more effective and relevant in a changing culture. That said — we must also be wary of the culture infecting the church, rather than the church influencing the culture.
tpe: One of the themes of your ministry has been prayer and fasting. As you leave office, do you sense the Fellowship has taken hold of that message?
TRASK: I do. When I came into office I felt the Lord gave me a mandate to emphasize prayer and fasting and the work of the Spirit. Through the establishment of the National Prayer Center, we’ve been able to establish satellite prayer centers across the Fellowship. And, as I’ve traveled across the country, I’ve seen congregations making prayer a priority. When the Church prays, God blesses.
tpe: You’ve received some criticism for your willingness to work with other denominations and groups. Why is that spirit of cooperation important to this church?
TRASK: As I’ve said before, we have to remember that it’s not about the Assemblies of God; it’s about building the kingdom of God. We’re not the only church God is blessing. He blesses us so we can be a blessing to others. How can we bless others if we stay within our own circle? Once a month, I participate in a phone conference with about 10 denominational and ministry leaders. I believe I’m the only Pentecostal. We pray together for the nation and our world. We never discuss doctrine, and no one is asked to compromise one’s beliefs. We pray for one another. It’s just the right thing to do.
As my Southern Baptist friend Bob Reccord said, “We need to pray together and win the world for Jesus together.” As much as we love this church, we have to remember that when we get to heaven we won’t be issued Assemblies of God badges.
tpe: What are the most significant challenges facing the Fellowship in the next five years?
TRASK: We must continue to embrace our Pentecostal practice — that which has propelled the number of Pentecostals to more than 500 million worldwide. Churches in other countries are openly Pentecostal, and they are experiencing remarkable growth. In the American culture, it’s easy to think we can build the Church apart from the work of the Spirit. But history shows us where that leads.
Churches that once had the touch of God have lost it because they did not rely on the Holy Spirit. We too can lose the touch of God. What we value, we take steps to guard. What we don’t value, we let go. We must not let go of our Pentecostal experience.
tpe: You still have great hope for the future of this church, don’t you?
TRASK: Yes, and I’ll tell you why: The vast majority of our ministers and laity want to be led by the Spirit, want to follow Jesus, want to share Christ with the unsaved, want to learn from God’s Word, and possess a deep love for the church. Our lay-people are the finest you’ll ever find, and they are hungry for more of Jesus.
tpe: Do you have any words of encouragement for your successor?
TRASK: He needs to know he has an army of people praying for him. I’ve heard thousands of people, through the years, say they were praying for me and praying for this church. He also has a host of people at the national headquarters who will stand with him. They want him to succeed and want to see this church advance.
tpe: How do you hope you’ll be remembered?
TRASK: I would hope that I’m remembered simply as a man of God. Anything else doesn’t matter.
tpe: Is there anything else you’d like to say to the Fellowship?
TRASK: I believe we are very close to the return of Jesus. The Church must be ready because it could happen today. We can’t allow our possessions or aspirations to take the place of our anticipation or expectation for Christ’s return. May God give each one of us a sense of urgency for reaching people for Christ because someday it will be too late. I believe time is short, and we all have to be ready.
E-mail your comments to email@example.com.
4873 - 9/30/07