The Assemblies of God (AG), the world's largest Pentecostal denomination, is celebrating the 100th anniversary of its first Hispanic convention this week – and for good reason. In addition to marking the anniversary, the denomination is rightly recognizing that Hispanics have driven AG growth since the mid-1970's.
Melissa Alfaro, an executive presbyter and senior pastor in the denomination, says the Hispanic growth is influencing AG ministry around the world. "We are no longer the mission field – we are the ones sending and going out," she told CBN News. "There's just been such a shift where we're not just the recipient of the message – we are the carriers of the message."
In the US, Hispanics make up 23 percent of the AG population. Worldwide, 33 million of the 69 million in the AG are Hispanic.
Dennis Rivera, director of the AG's office of Hispanic Relations, says immigration has driven much of the growth in the US. "Latin American immigrants have had a major impact," he explained, "with the largest group coming from Mexico and many from Central and South America. The Assemblies of God continues to grow because of immigration and the growth of ethnic churches."
Worldwide, Alfaro says she sees Hispanics ready to receive the Holy Spirit moving in both their lives and their churches. "They're not skeptical. They're very open, very sensitive," she said.
Alfaro also believes the cultural value of family serves as a contributor to the phenomenal AG Hispanic growth. "Because we're so family oriented we bring in families," she said. "We come in packs. We come all together – cousins, grandparents. That's the way we do life."
Alfaro is one of the featured speakers at the AG's Hispanic Centennial in Houston, August 1-3.
Other speakers include: Rev. Samuel Rodriguez, president of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership; Dr. Nino Gonzalez, senior pastor at Calvario City Church in Orlando; AG CEO Doug Clay; executive presbyter and pastor Danny de Leon of Templo Calvario in Santa Ana, California; and executive presbyter and senior pastor Wilfredo de Jesus of New Life Covenant Church in Chicago.
The Assemblies of God says its first Latin American District Council began in January, 1918 in Kingsville, Texas when seven ministers representing six churches came together to form a Hispanic convention.