Authors: Fanar Rofoo, Johan Hafner
History and Foundation
The Assemblies of God is a network of Pentecostal communities in the United States, founded in 1914 in Hot Springs, Arkansas. It emerged from a split with the predominantly black Church of God in Christ. Each community keeps its full autonomy, but unites with others to promote Christian fellowship, mutual support, and reading and preaching the Bible as an “authoritative written revelation.” In 2018, the AoG was present in 190 countries and had an estimated 70 million members.
The AoG in Ankawa was founded in September 2003 by Ghassan Yousif Audish with 20 other members, and was located in a small house at another location. In its brochures, the AoG uses the name “The Church of Evangelicals in Ankawa.”
 Cf. https://worldagfellowship.org/Fellowship/Overview (accessed on November 24, 2019).
Location and Building
The church is included in a row of houses. A sign at the front indicates that a church is located there as shown in the photo below, yet few of the neighbors know about it.
The ground-floor consists of several rooms for the congregation: An office and a common room (“love hall”) to the left of the aisle, a library, a seminar room (“peace hall”), bathroom and a kitchen on the right side. In the lobby are shelves for brochures, Bibles and other books including The Spirit-Filled Believer’s Handbook, a kind of evangelical catechism.
The rectangular assembly-hall on the ground floor can host around 200 people. It is furnished with pews; eventually chairs will be added. From a room in the back, the service can be observed through glass windows. The translator and technical staff sit in a cabin on the gallery above. The ceiling is constructed like a roof with a ridge in the middle (see photos). Several crosses without the corpus are fixed on the side walls between the windows.
The altar-stage is elevated by three steps and covered with red carpet. The band (drums, e-piano, guitar) is stationed on the left side, with singers and a keyboard in the center, and loudspeakers in the front corners. Two monitors set up on the right and left display the texts of the songs and the relevant Bible verses. The front side is covered with wooden panels forming the shape of a zikkurat – the symbol often used by Christians in Iraq. In front is the preacher’s pulpit made of transparent plexiglass and bearing a black emblem (a golden cross with a white dove) and two vessels for water and oil.
In the main aisle is a table covered with white lacy cloth and several candles. It is used for offering the tithing of the congregation and for the bread-and-wine ritual twice a month. These gifts are served in tiny plastic cups.
 Field trip in the neighborhood on November 11, 2019.
 Prince, Derek, The Spirit Filled Believer’s Handbook (Creation House, Kingsfield, UK, 1993), in Arabic.
 Symbolizes the main theological tenets: the redeeming death of Jesus Christ and the gifts of the Holy Spirit (e.g. charism of prophecy, healing, speaking in tongues).
Prayer and Worship
According to the Senior Pastor Ghassan Yousif, around 250 people participate in the service on an ordinary Sunday evening. Yet some Facebook photos show only around 150 people, and on one occasion in September 2021 around 120 were present (about 50 men, 50 women, and 10 children, plus 10 foreigners). In his sermon, the pastor shared his observation that church attendance has decreased in recent years.
The service observed on September 26, 2021 lasted for about 90 minutes. The band consisted of several female singers, a lead singer and a guitarist, a drummer, and a pianist. During the first devotional songs (“How beautiful is your name Jesus … Nothing will separate me from you”) the faithful stood up and join spiritually by raising their arms. Meanwhile, pictures of Jesus – as he is often depicted in evangelical Christianity – were displayed on the screens. A rather rhythmic, march-like song, “You are our leader … our weapon” and free prayers concluded the first 25 minutes of praise.
The sermon in Arabic (ca. 35 minutes) started with personal addresses in which the congregation was asked to greet one other in the pews, to introduce new members and guests, to pray for departing members, and to congratulate graduates of Bible courses. The theological focus was on a classical evangelical topic: The futility of the works of man versus the undeserved grace of God. From the main text Rom 4 (justification by faith), the argumentation leads to Gen 15 (vocation of Abraham), to James 2 (good deeds come from grace, not from law), to Ps 32 and to the ineffectiveness of Jewish rituals (circumcision, animal sacrifice). The main message: Deeds are a sign of faith, but never a guarantee for grace.
The sermon leads into a free prayer by the pastor (“God calls us tonight … do not rely on deeds. God will change your life, and will justify you”). This worship is accompanied by background music. The congregation participates while standing with bowed heads (on September 26, 2021: for not losing the faith, although the community is not as vital as it used to be, asking for revival, asking for God’s blessing).
The service is concluded by reciting the Lord’s Prayer together. People leave amid sounds of the band, greet each other, stand and chat in the lobby and on the street. Christian pop music plays a central role in enhancing devotional emotions. The prayers show their participation by raising an arm. During devotional prayers, the faithful spread both arms and close their eyes. A handout in the pews explains how the rituals and gestures in this service – prayer by loud singing, collections for others, simple prayer, raising arms and closing hands during prayer, using musical instruments – are all based on biblical verses.
Twice a month, the service includes the blessing and distribution of bread and wine. In addition to Sunday ceremonies, every Tuesday there is a prayer service, in which the Sunday readings and Sunday sermon are discussed in case of any ambiguity; on Wednesdays a women’s group meets, while Thursdays are for youth ministry and services. On Fridays, children and discipleship services are held, with readings and discussions.
Christmas and Easter are on the same dates celebrated by other churches (“following the majority to celebrate on the same date, the majority of Christians in Ankawa,” Senior Pastor Ghassan Yousif said).
Baptism is not carried out for the newborn or children; only the holy chrism is applied to them. Once these children reach adulthood, they are baptized only if they decide to stay in the church.
 Interview with the Senior Pastor Ghassan Yousif on November 12, 2019.
 Cf. www.facebook.com/ankawaAOGevangelicalchurch (accessed on November 24, 2019).
 English-speaking visitors receive headphones, through which they can follow the translation.
 Participation in Sunday service, September 26, 2021.
 Interview with the Senior Pastor Ghassan Yousif on July 15,2021.
Community and Activities
Visitors come from in and around Ankawa, but also foreigners from as far away as Switzerland or Ghana to join the service. Some members have converted from Islam to Christianity, still keeping their Muslim names but hesitating to make them known, because conversions are not accepted by the public, neither legally nor emotionally.
The pastor was born Catholic and converted to evangelical Christianity. He received his education not in a traditional seminary, but in Bible and preaching courses. He started by reading from the Bible, especially the New Testament, and took teaching and preaching courses in Jordan in April 2003. Church elders and guest pastors also preach.
The senior pastor described the mission of his congregation as a balance of spiritual and social commitment. “We preach the gospel,” he said. “We help everybody, be they Muslims or Christian.… If one accepts Jesus Christ, he will be led from hate to love.” The pastor is very critical about the mass of Muslims who migrate to Europe often pretending to be victims, because this will lead to social unrest in their host countries.
In the backyard of the church, a large space has been used to build an institute where meetings, open discussions, and other activities are held. In addition, there is a small church inside the institute to hold prayers for the small groups.
Members of this church are considered as such only if they are only active in the church and attend Sunday prayers. There are currently 250 active members. “The believers are increasing daily and many are being baptized,” said the main pastor. To become a member, one must show true willing and belief and after several classes and training, the individual is baptized and becomes a member of the church.