Gene M. Roncone carries a burden for the lost. As superintendent of the Assemblies of God Rocky Mountain Ministry Network (RMMN) since 2019, he sees Colorado and Utah as fields ripe for harvest. But, as Jesus observed nearly two millennia ago, the workers are few.
The solution, Roncone believes, involves following Jesus’ solution: pray for more laborers. So he organized the Called Initiative, a prayer movement focused on those who sense God’s call to ministry.
The idea started last year, when Roncone created a paperback from podcasts he had recorded years before. Titled Explore the Call, the book helps participants discern God’s will for ministry. It has become the centerpiece of the Called Initiative.
In June 2021, a deep discouragement came over Roncone, prompted by the country’s godlessness and the closure of four churches in the Rocky Mountain network as a result of COVID-19.
However, God led Roncone, 55, to Matthew 9:37-38, where Jesus comments on the challenge of the harvest.
“Jesus didn’t say, We really need to get a cultural study here. We need to get a budget. We need facilities, we need training, we need a blog,” Roncone says. “Heaven’s go-to resource with the enormity of the harvest is praying for divinely called people.”
Roncone emailed the nearly 600 RMMN ministers and asked them to join him in prayer, seeking to identify people interested in pursuing ministry. The pastors submitted nearly 230 names, and Roncone prayed over them daily.
When Roncone met with the network presbytery in July 2021, he presented his plan and list of names. With tears flowing, those gathered prayed over each name and witnessed an outpouring of the Holy Spirit in their midst.
After more than 30 minutes of intense prayer, presbyters brainstormed for 90 minutes, and the Called Initiative came into being. Plans included Roncone’s team touring the network’s 13 sections, pastors preaching sermons or sharing their testimonies on the call to ministry, and follow-up mentoring with Explore the Call.
So far, 247 people in the RMMN have responded to consider the ministry as a vocation.
That includes Canaan J. Lamberth, who attends Praise Church in Pueblo, Colorado.
“Ministry wasn’t something that crossed my mind, and yet God was working through these people to speak to me,” Lamberth says.
After Lamberth, 22, went through Explore the Call with his pastor, Steve G. Chavez, he enrolled in Pathway to pursue full-time ministry.
Suzette M. Mackert, 45, is going through Roncone’s book and plans to work in youth ministry at New Life Christian Center in Hurricane, Utah. The program crystalized the passion she has long felt to minister to children and teens.
“I didn’t understand what it was until we got the book,” Mackert says. “This is what God is calling me to do.”
Roncone explains that Explore the Call doesn’t push people into ministry. In fact, it clarifies if an inner stirring is just a passion for ministry or an actual call to serve. For instance, one man who read the book discovered he had no beckoning to full-time ministry. But he has dedicated himself to be the best deacon possible in his church.
“That’s a win for the Kingdom,” Roncone says.
Roncone plans to continue the Called Initiative and pray for more laborers. The key to harvesting lost souls still is the burden of his heart.
PHOTO: Gene Roncone (right) meets with one of those who responded to the call,Jim Winterswolf from Bethel Church in Grand Junction, Colorado.