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100th Anniversary

Fruitful & Faithful

ACOP Centennial Message by Rev. Wes Mills
October 25, 2021

Find encouragement for ACOP’s second century here!

Introduction:

John 15:5-8

“I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.  If you do not remain in me, you are like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned.  If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you.  This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.

100 years ago today the Apostolic Church of Pentecost was Incorporated by the Dominion of Canada.

The eight incorporators were:

  • Franklin Small
  • Harry Sweet
  • William E. Booth-Clibborn
  • Harold A. Goss
  • Andrew D. Urshan
  • Clarence L. Cross
  • William Philips

These incorporators envisioned the establishment of a church for the purpose of:  

  • Worship
  • Instruction
  • Foreign missions work
  • Philanthropy
  • the publishing and distribution of Christian literature
  • Holding of property
  • And the receipt and distribution of funds for these purposes

The Apostolic Church of Pentecost was founded in Winnipeg, Manitoba

In 1921 Winnipeg was Canada’s third-largest city after Montreal and Toronto – it was known as the Gateway to the West.

Canada’s population in 1921 was less than 9 million, and Winnipeg’s population was 180,000 people.

Over the past 100 years, ACOP has grown from a single church in Winnipeg, Manitoba – to a global movement of 1500 churches with partner organizations in 26 countries.

ACOP has gone from 8 incorporators to over 400 credentialed ministers in Canada.

ACOP was birthed with a tremendous missions vision.  In 1926 the Zion Apostolic Church gave $32,000.00 to global missions that is the equivalent of $450,000.00 in 2021!

Over the past 100 years over 330 missionaries have been sent out by the Apostolic Church of Pentecost.

A few years ago, one of our newer credential holders – Peter Chu was reading Streams of Grace – on page 274 he came across the name of Vernet Mills – in the list of missionaries that ACOP had sent out.  Vernet may be a relative of mine – if so a distant one – but all we knew about Vernet Mills was that he was a missionary to China.

Peter is originally from Hong Kong and was familiar with Vernet Mills ministry, and he brought me a biography entitled:

Dr. Mills – The Father of Orphans

  • Vernet (John Russell) Mills was Born in Birmingham England – May 12, 1913
  • His family moved to Winnipeg, Manitoba when he was 6 years old
  • At age 18 he completed high school and was planning to follow his fathers career path and work for the Canadian National Railway.
  • But God had a different plan…
  • A missionary on furlough was preaching at Zion Apostolic Church about the desperate need for the gospel to be preached in China
  • Vernet was the first to respond to the altar call at that service and he also responded to God’s call to become a missionary to China.
  • Oct 1, 1931 – his family saw him off at the train station in Winnipeg.
  • With a bible, an extra pair of shoes, two changes of clothing and $5.50 in his pocket he took the train to Vancouver and set sail for China.
  • Upon arrival he began his language study and his immersion into the Chinese culture
  • After several lonely months in China – Vernet wrote to his fiancée Miss Alma Kenny and invited her to join him in China. 
  • She arrived in China April 2, 1932 – they were married in a traditional Chinese ceremony.
  • A short while later God used Verner to deliver a demonized man – and it opened a whole village to the Gospel
  • During this time period the Mills’ encountered many testing’s of their faith.
  • One of those testing’s was “Financial support from churches in Canada was variable.”  — If you were to ask most ACOP missionaries and they would likely tell you that things haven’t changed much in that regard.
  • In 1937 Japan invaded China – and then in 1939 WWII broke out.
  • During this time of war, Vernet spearheaded a relief effort with 21 soup kitchens feeding 14,000 people per day
  •  During this same time, he established five orphanages that were caring for 700 children
  • Along the way, he got introduced to General Chaiag Kia-Shek – who helped him secure food for orphans from the military supply chain.
  • By 1948 Mills had established 42 orphanages and was caring for over 5000 orphans in China
  • In 1949 the Communist Revolution led to the seizure of the 42 orphanages – and all of Mills staff was replaced by communists workers.
  • Eventually the Mills’ along with other Western Missionaries were kicked out of China
  • But by 1951 Vernet is assisting 4000 orphans in 23 orphanages on the Korea peninsula and 6000 orphans in 60 orphanages in Japan.
  • In 1952 he returned to Hong Kong, where through a series of miracles he acquires 28 acres of land to establish an orphanage there.
  • By 1958 he has established the Chinese Children Fund and is helping 250,000 orphans in Asia
  • Vernet Mills efforts to assist children were recognized by:
    • Chiang Kai-Shek – President of the Peoples Republic of China (Taiwan) – Honored Mills for his humanitarian efforts in China
    • The President of S. Korea conferred on him the country’s highest civilian award – the Order of Cultural Merit National Award
    • Ewha University in South Korea conferred a honorary Doctor of Humanities on him
    • In 1974 the Emperor of Japan conferred on him the Third Order of the Sacred Treasure in recognition of his efforts on behalf of Children in Japan
    • In 1980 – Pope John Paul II awarded him the Golden Medal – As a Benefactor of Mankind.  He was the only protestant minister ever to receive such a recognition from the Vatican.

Vernet Mills died on November 21, 1996.

His Biography ends with these words:

“Dr. Mills had lived a life of faith.  By faith, he responded to God’s call to go to China.  By faith, he overcame cultural barriers and established churches and a bible school there.  By faith, he endured incredible hardship during the war and reversed the devastation of famine in the Sy Yup area.  By faith, he responded to another special calling: taking care of suffering little children, victims of senseless wars, violence, and human conflicts in China, Korea, and worldwide.  For this, he was affectionately called “The Father of Orphans”.

This is the story of fruitful ministry and a story that most of us in ACOP are not aware of.

But this story illustrates—this side of eternity, we will never know the full impact that our ACOP Fellowship has had.

We can’t take credit for all that Vernet Mills accomplished.

But what we can take credit for, is that a missionary on furlough tells the compelling story of the need in China – and a young man senses the call of the Holy Spirit to go to China – and becomes a world changer.

In the passage from John 15—there are two overriding themes – fruitfulness and faithfulness.

We should be grateful for all that God has accomplished through ACOP over the past 100 years—but we should not be content.

As we stand on the precipice of a new century – I believe that we need to rededicate ourselves to greater fruitfulness in our second century.

Because through fruitfulness we bring Glory to our Heavenly Father.

10 Keys to Greater Fruitfulness in Our Second Century

1. We Must Lean Young:

If the majority of the people in your church have hair the colour of mine – I have a prophetic word for you—in 20 years your church will be dead.

We need to be thinking about what kind of inheritance we will leave for future generations.

The ancient Greeks had an axiom that said “Society grows great when old men plant trees in whose shade they will never sit”

As leaders, we have the opportunity to plant seeds that will grow into trees that will bless countless people that we will never know.

This is both a privilege and a responsibility.

The influence you have, on the people that you lead, will echo for generations to come.

As you model what generous trustworthy leadership is – and they do the same for the people they lead – then they do the same for the people they lead – and they do the same for the people they lead – generations from now people will be influenced by you and you won’t know them – but they will be sitting under a tree that you planted.

A bad leader’s influence dies with them, a great leader’s influence echoes for generations to come.

Leadership is not the great work that you do, but it is the work you unleash others to do.

If we want to experience greater fruitfulness in our second century – we need to plant trees in whose shade, we will never sit.

2. We need Longer Tables and Shorter Fences:

The reason we put up fences is to keep something or someone out.

If we are going to be more fruitful in our second century, we need shorter fences so that we can become more inclusive.

We must be inclusive of Canada’s First Nations communities—we have heard a lot about truth and reconciliation—as followers of Jesus, we have been given the ministry of reconciliation.

We must be inclusive of the ethnic groups in our communities – we are nearing a point in our Canadian culture when more Canadians speak a first language that is something other than English or French.

Our churches for the most part do not reflect the ethnic diversity of our communities.

We must be inclusive of the poor and the marginalized.

The LGBTQ community must find the love of Jesus in our churches.

Not only do we need shorter fences – but we need longer tables.

Shauna Niequist – Bread & Wine:

“We don’t come to the table to fight or to defend.  We don’t come to prove or the conquer, to draw lines in the sand, or to stir up trouble.  We come to the table because our hunger brings us there.  We come with a need, with fragility, with an admission of our humanity.  The table is the great equalizer, the level playing field many of us have been looking everywhere for.  The table is the place where the doing stops and the trying stops, the masks are removed, and we allow ourselves to be nourished, like children.”

If we are going to be more fruitful in our second century, we need shorter fences and longer tables.

3. We Need a Bigger Tent:

100 years ago Pentecostals were focused on how we were different from one another.

I am grateful that we live in a day where we are more concerned about how we are the same and what we agree on with our Pentecostal and Spirit-filled brothers and sisters—rather than allowing our distinctives to divide us.

I have a friend who says “you can be married, or you can be right.”  Sometimes enjoying the relationship is more important than being right.

We must “seek to keep the unity of the faith in the bond of peace” – and if do, we will enjoy the benefits of a bigger tent, and we will be more fruitful in our second century.

4. We need to Recognize that we Are Better Together:

Jeff Christopherson says:

“The Kingdom of God prefers collaboration, interdependence, and community.

The Kingdom of Darkness prefers autonomy, independence, and individualism.”

The bible says—that one can chase a thousand and two can put ten thousand to flight. So just think of what 120 churches cooperating together could accomplish.

If we want to be more fruitful in our second century – we need to reject autonomy, independence, and embrace collaboration and interdependence.

Because we are better together!

5. We Must Embrace Change:

The message of the gospel does not change – it’s the same in the 21st Century as it was in the first century – “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners.”

However, no flourishing church today is presenting the gospel the same way they did 100 years ago.

While remaining faithful to the unchanging gospel we must present the gospel in a relevant way to an ever-changing world.

If we choose not to change our methodology and we are making a tacit choice of slow death.

Robert Weber—Ancient-Future Evangelism:

Christianity is practiced within specific times and locations.  It always takes on some of the characteristics of its environment.  However, its essence is timeless.  The term ancient-future means that as our faith adapts to the needs presented by time and place, it remains rooted in “that which has at all times and in all places been believed.” Christ’s Church must be committed to both our faith’s timelessness and its relevance.                                    

If we as a Fellowship are going to be more fruitful in our second century, we must be willing to embrace whatever change is necessary in order to effectively present the gospel to our 21st Century world.

6. We Must Welcome the Power and Presence of the Holy Spirit:

ACOP was birthed in a powerful move of God. In any move of God, you will have the Holy Spirit, the Flesh, and the enemy.

Somewhere along the way we became a little too cautious and were concerned with the works of the flesh, and the enemy’s ability to distract us.

If we are going to be more fruitful in our second century, we need to go back to our roots and welcome the power and the presence of the Holy Spirit in our lives and in our churches.

Jesus said “If you being evil give good gifts to your children- how much more will your Heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit”

In order to be more fruitful in our second century, we need to welcome the power and the presence of the Holy Spirit to our lives and to our churches.

7. We Must Change the Scorecard of how we Measure Success:

 Most churches measure their success by how many people they draw in.

I would submit to you that in order to be more fruitful in our second century, we need to measure our success by how many people we send out as disciple-makers.

It doesn’t matter if we send them across the street to make disciples of their neighbour, or around the world to disciple unreached people groups—we need to measure our success by how many we send out on mission.

To be more effective in our second century we must change the scorecard of how we measure success.

8. We Must Prioritize Training and Leadership Development:

Thank God for Eston College, and all the other Bible Colleges that have served our Fellowship over these past 100 years.

Thank God for Eston College Online.

Bible College in and of itself is not enough – every ACOP member and every ACOP church must realize that they have a vital role to play in raising up the next generation of leaders.

Every ACOP member needs to be engaged in apprenticing younger leaders, and every ACOP church needs to welcome interns.

In order to be more fruitful in our second century, we must all be part of the process of training and developing the next generation of leaders.

9. We Must Become An “Ephesians 4:11 & 12” Movement:

Ephesians 4:11 tells us that Jesus has given five gifts to the church – Apostles, Prophets, Evangelists, Pastors, and Teachers.

We benefit when Apostles exercise their apostolic gifts, when prophets are prophetic, when evangelists are evangelistic, when pastors are pastoral and when teachers teach.

Ephesians 4:12 says that the primary role of the 5-fold ministry gifts is to “equip God’s people for works of service.”

But to be more fruitful in our second century we need the fivefold ministries to more fully embrace their role of equipping the saints for the work of the ministry.

10.  We Must Continue to Extend Grace and Ignite Hope:

If ever our world needed the message of the Grace of God – it’s now.

If ever our world needed hope – it’s now.

In order to be more fruitful in our second century, we need to extend more grace and ignite more hope.

Those are keys to greater fruitfulness in our second century.

Fruitfulness must be coupled with Faithfulness:

I Kings 14:25-28

In the fifth year of King Rehoboam, Shishak king of Egypt attacked Jerusalem.  He carried off the treasures of the temple of the Lord and the treasures of the royal palace.  He took everything, including all the gold shields Solomon had made.  So King Rehoboam made bronze shields to replace them and assigned these to the commanders of the guard on duty at the entrance to the royal palace.  Whenever the king went to the Lord’s temple, the guards bore the shields, and afterward, they returned them to the guardroom.

When Solomon was king, he had 500 gold shields made for his elite bodyguards.  The value of the gold that was used to make those shields today is $137 million dollars.

Rehoboam succeeded his father Solomon on the throne of Israel – but did not inherit his father’s wisdom and nor did he walk with God.

When the Egyptians laid siege to Jerusalem, Rehoboam gave Shishack all the treasure out of the temple as tribute—including the gold shields.  As a result, Israel became a vassal state of Egypt.

To save face Rehoboam replaced the gold shields with shields made out of bronze.  He didn’t have the resources, the wisdom, or faith of his father.

When polished, Bronze is shiny and glints in the sun – but it is not the same as gold.

Today, you can make a bronze shield for about $80.00—a pittance compared to the cost of the quarter-million dollars of a gold shield.

Rehoboam was pretending that nothing had changed – when in reality everything had changed.

We have inherited some gold shields from our forefathers:

  • Message of the Grace of God
  • The Baptism of the Holy Spirit
  • The fullness of God in Christ
  • Healing in the the name of Jesus
  • And the imminent return of the Lord Jesus Christ

As ACOP enters its second century we must preserve these “gold shields” that have been handed down to us, and not settle for a cheap imitation.

In our second century—let us determine to be more fruitful—but remain faithful to the timeless truths we have inherited.

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