Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Thanking God for making it through this year

We’re only a few days away from Christmas and I’ve just been thanking God for making it through this year. This has been a very difficult year for Carol. She lost a childhood friend, an aunt and her father . Back home in St. Louis, there were a few more losses with some of our friends and spiritual children losing parents as well.

Then there have been the most heartbreaking tragedies one could imagine with the devastation of earthquakes, tsunamis, tornadoes and hurricanes across the world and the country. This year, we got a little taste of everything here in Pennsylvania. An Earthquake, a hurricane, tornadoes and flooding have impacted this area in some way or another.

We’re still very thankful that the Lord has sustained us in spite of massive layoffs and job losses all around us. Carol and I are both still employed. Our family is living comfortably in a townhouse apartment. We cannot complain at all.

What we are most thankful for is how the Lord is moving in our church family. We held our first baptism service in the history of our church. We also held only our third new member confirmation. Those were landmark moments for us.

For a while, the attendance went down again, so we decided to start meeting in one of the smaller conference rooms within the United Church Center. That setting was very comfortable and made for a better atmosphere in which to teach and answer questions.

Gradually, the attendance picked up again and we’ve had to move back to the dining hall. More important than the attendance has been what God is doing in hearts and homes. Over the final three months of this year we’ve seen one person get saved, another return to the fold, and a visitor or two who have said they will definitely return.

God is moving in miraculous ways. The praise reports have been awesome as the Lord is providing for our church family. Our prayer has always been that God would bless the people of Urban Life Church and not just the pastors. In fact, we felt badly that we were being blessed, but we didn’t see very much happening with the people. Now we’ve seen a powerful outbreak of blessings amongst the people. Now that makes us happy. We didn’t come to Harrisburg just to be blessed. We want to see the people of God blessed.

When we hold our first gathering on Sunday, New Year’s Day (January 1st), we plan to allow everyone to testify what God has done in their life during 2011. It’s going to be a great day.

Now we’re about to spend some quality time with our family during this Christmas holiday before we’re scattered for a while. David returns to college for his final five months before graduation. Jonathan will be off to school in January. Chris continues his process to getting back in school as well.

What does 2012 have in store for us? Lord, may you get the Glory out of our family in 2012!

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

We've Hit Our Stride

We feel like we’ve hit our stride for the first time since we’ve been in Pennsylvania. One of the prophetic words that came to us through our Bishop almost exactly six years ago was that the Lord was going to adjust our pace.

A lot has happened to bring that into our reality. Now we’re in that certain stride that you recognize as a distance runner that will carry you throughout the remainder of the race. I know it well because I used to jog almost every day in the summer heat of St. Louis, Missouri. That was back when I was only 16 and 17 years old. I would set a pace that flowed with the rhythm of my heart, lungs and legs. Often I would have a tune in my head as I ran. It was an awesome feeling.

Today, even though the body can’t do what it used to do, in the spiritual realm I feel that same way. The last few adjustments seemed like minor things, but they have become major factors. One adjustment was moving our weekly meetings from the cafeteria to the conference room that sits next door to our ministry office.

We first used it for our Breaking Free weekend with John and Kerry Shuey. The Friday evening and all day Saturday sessions were so comfortable and cozy that we decided to stay there for our Sunday gathering. Well that day was so perfect that we carried it over to meeting there for the next Sunday. That little adjustment has become a major way to set the atmosphere for a close family encounter with the Lord every week.

The other adjustment was to go back to teaching Bible basics. We are literally walking through what it means to be saved, what it means to be filled with the Spirit and what it means to be empowered to live for God. We absolutely love this. The response has been really wonderful. We have reached near capacity in just three short weeks. We only had two vacant seats in our last gathering.

The significance of that gathering was that it was on the heels of a snow storm that roared through our area on Saturday. I had to fight the thoughts that no one was going to come to the Sunday gathering following a snow storm. However, the street crews plowed the streets and roads and everything was clear by Sunday morning. Six years of experience in Harrisburg told me that cleared streets would not make any difference. Yet, we were wonderfully surprised and thankful to have a tremendous turnout. We even had a visitor.

So we’ve hit our stride. We’re meeting once a week, and connecting with everyone in some way or another throughout the week through the internet. This is just so completely different from anything we could ever have planned and it is working. It’s working because this is what the Lord wants and the WAY He wants to do it. Carol and I are just following Him.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

In the Purpose of God

We’re into our 31 days of prayer and consecration. Carol and I have also started taking some online seminary classes and I must say that we are really enjoying them. One of the challenges of any leader is to stay sharp through professional development. These classes have provided the professional development opportunity for which we were seeking.

Our overseer, Bishop Raphael Green, made us aware of these classes and they are exactly what we need for this season in our lives and ministry. Already, new and fresh vistas are opening before us. I’m gaining the proper words and perspectives to more accurately articulate the hidden truths in the Word of God.

I’m also gaining better skills in how to dismantle the arguments and logic of this postmodern, anti-God mindset that is attacking the 21st century church. I only hope that I’m picking up this knowledge and wisdom in time.

Right now, I’m taking one online seminary course by accessing classes three nights per week. I’m incorporating them into my regular Bible reading/study time. Returning to school, even if only online, is not a chore. I know why I’m taking every course. I see God and His purpose in every class.

God has so orchestrated our lives that we can now work fulltime jobs, take classes, and still minister on the weekends. It gets pretty stressful sometimes when emergencies and urgencies hit us, but even then, the Lord continues to provide the grace and strength to see us through.

I guess that’s why we encourage our church family to keep pressing forward in the thing that they KNOW God has given them to do with their lives. There’s really no other way to live. Anything else is just mere survival and existence.

We don’t want to live in that mundane pattern in which one just goes to work and comes home with nothing to look forward to beyond paying bills and having weekends off. We don’t want to just live for the weekend and lay around watching movies. Carol and I must live for something greater than us.

I love the life that I have. I have a wonderful wife, outstanding sons, a solid career, a fulfilling ministry, and a new zest for learning and growing. I’m in the purpose of God.

Monday, October 3, 2011

An Encouraging Phone Call

One of my best friends in the whole world, called me last night (Sunday night) to encourage me. Pastor Mark Lawrence is my brother from another mother. We go way back to college days.

He told me that he’s been watching our video clips and said the short 5-10 minute messages have been right on time and life changing for him. He said that he would click on a video from his iPhone just to watch a few seconds, but would find himself watching the entire clip. He said God has used the videos to answer questions and give him wisdom. He also said the videos were excellent from a professional level as well.

Mark has his master’s degree in Communications, so he’s very familiar with video and audio technique. He complimented the quality of the audio, clarity of picture and overall presentations. He said he would tell me the truth if the quality was poor, and I know him... He definitely would tell me.

I told him I had just confessed to my family (Saturday night) that I was wondering if what we are doing is really working. He said that if no one else is being impacted, that we should know that the Word is being received in Virginia.

He urged me that we must not stop what we're doing. He said the church, Sunday Cafe' setting is perfect, the delivery is perfect and everything about what we are doing is perfect for this generation. He said we would probably never know, on this side of eternity, how many people are being affected by our online video ministry.

All I could do was just thank him and say, “Praise God!”

This was a very timely phone call because I really honestly, did not feel like it was worth it to continue doing this any longer. It takes a lot of time to set up every week, minister and record every Sunday, download and edit the videos, and then post everything online. Hours and hours have been invested to make this happen. I was preparing to shut things down by the end of the year.

Thanks, Pastor Mark. I love you man…

Saturday, October 1, 2011

It's Not About Me!

There was a time when the loss of church members would have sent me into several days of discouragement and self-doubt. I can honestly say that the Lord has done a lot inside of me. He’s “grown me up” a little so that I can see things from His point of view.

I have come to realize that when a person is in survival mode, and they have made up their minds to trust their own efforts and plans to get through life, it doesn’t matter how much you preach, teach or even lay your hands on them to pray for them, even God is not going to override their will or their decisions. It has nothing to do with me as a pastor.

It amazes me how many people can leave our meetings and one person is raving about how much they needed the teaching and received the prayer, while others can walk out without receiving anything because the Word and prayer was not what they wanted to hear that day.

I recall how one young lady, in what was to be the last time we were to see her, told us at the end of the service that the she did not like the message that day. She said God had been dealing with her about moving to a certain city and the Word that came forth confirmed what God had told her, but she simply didn’t want to do it. Hopefully she went on and obeyed the Word because she never came back to our church.

Another man told me that he was struggling within himself and didn’t want to come to our church anymore. He said he didn’t like sitting under this kind of teaching, while within himself, he wasn’t ready to change.

I’m realizing, more and more, that many people don’t come to church to encounter God, and thus allow Him to change them. They come to church to try to change God’s mind. When HE doesn’t budge and He doesn’t answer their prayers the way they want them answered, they’re out the door.

What I’m learning, as pastor in this era, is that the response of people is no reflection on me. Even when the responses are positive it is no reflection on me. This is all about the choices that people must make concerning God.

I thought that if I fasted and prayed, spent more time in consecrations and travailed in prayer, that it would bring a breakthrough for everyone in our gathering. What I have learned is that it brought forth breakthrough for me personally, for my family, and for all who are WILLING to open their hearts and obey the Lord’s voice.

So this has been a great lesson: It’s Not About Me!

Monday, September 26, 2011

I Live for This!

We just experienced one of those moments that causes you to appreciate why the Lord sent us to Harrisburg. I was honored to baptize my son, my nephew and one of our very dear spiritual daughters (and her daughter), this past Saturday evening.

We united with Christ Community Church in a joint baptism celebration. One of their pastors assisted me with our people, and then asked me to help him with the folks from his church.

As the praise went forth from the worship team, we were baptizing people as the congregation praised God and celebrated. I love the CCC family. They have always made us feel so welcome ever since we first moved here.

I couldn’t help but think back on the long journey that brought us to this moment. Seemingly endless disappointments and setbacks were pushed aside because I could recall many of the battles each person has faced to bring them to that moment in the water.

I felt the presence of God as this symbolic act was turned into a spiritual reality. Each person buried their past and the old man as they arose to a new life, hope and future in Christ.

In that moment, I kind of related to the sports commercial where the various athletes are shown battling through adversities and challenges on the field or behind the scenes in practices and workout. They turn to the camera and say, “I live for this!”

That’s how I feel today. The past few weeks have been filled with discouragement, grief, sorrow, and more disappointment. But standing in that baptism pool, watching people crying and embracing one another, and finally experiencing something that we have longed to do for more than six years, I can only say, “I live for this!”

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Our Hearts Were Broken (9/11 Tribute)

Ten years ago today our hearts were broken.
In horror we watched, no word could be spoken.
Time stopped; Could this be really happening?
My eyes can’t believe what I’m seeing.

Did the news flash really say what I'm hearing?
Sirens and screams in the background searing;
Cannot imagine what people are feeling,
As loved ones perish, while thousands are fleeing.

Overwhelmed with grief, sickened by sorrow.
It’ll just be a nightmare when I wake up tomorrow.
How could something so evil be unleashed on the world?
Snatching the innocence of every boy and girl.

We’ll never forget the moment the second plane flew in.
The exclamation of the commentator, "O my God, It happened again!"
And panic begin to set in as we learned the terror plot wasn’t done.
Another plane had also been crashed into the Pentagon!

We’ll never forget the thought as we watched events unfold.
Is this the fulfillment of Biblical prophecies, foretold?
Is it just the random deed of some religious maniac?
Is it the start of world war three; Is our nation under attack?

We’ll never forget the moment when those towers came crashing down.
Our hearts were crumbling with it, knowing lives were being snuffed out.
I wanted to scream, I wanted to cry, But I could only kneel down.
I prayed to God, where peace and solace could be found.

God will always avenge the taking of innocent lives.
For the husbands who left behind grieving children and wives,
For the sons and daughters who faded away with no warning,
For the brothers and sisters who did not see the next day’s dawning.

It’s taken me ten years, to put words on these thoughts.
Ten years of processing feelings of profound sadness and loss.
I don’t think I’ll ever be able to express what happened to us that day.
Except, I know we came to understand the pain on God’s face.

For ions of time He has watched mankind destroy one another.
He stepped in from the beginning after one brother killed the other.
What religious view is so important that so many lives would be shattered?
What political agenda means so much that nothing else matters?

America, America, God poured out His grace on Thee
As crying and wailing rang out from sea to shining sea.
Ten years ago our hearts were broken, but I have to wonder somehow.
Where will we be within our hearts, in another ten years from now?

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

One Size Does Not Fit All

I couldn’t sleep last night so I followed my own advice and got up to pray.
Sometimes I like to go downstairs to our living room, but most times I go into our bedroom closet. It’s a walk-in closet, so it’s perfect for seclusion.

Lots of things have been on my heart. I feel like I’m burning bridges with some of my pastoral colleagues. I don’t mean to, but I’ve spent so much time trying to be accepted and understood in the church community of Harrisburg, that I stopped being who I really am.

Part of accepting who I am has meant accepting the role God has given Carol and me. Since I work in the Department of Education, I’ve gained a very important perspective about the role that we play in the church community.

Since I’ve been in this position, I’ve learned that all children are not educated the same way. Some children, because of their mental or physical disabilities, are placed in the Special Education system. Within the Special Education system there is an Individualized Education Plan (IEP) that designs an educational plan specifically for that student. Other children, because of behavioral challenges, are placed into the Alternative Education system. Still other children, who do not speak English, are placed into the Limited English Proficiency (LEP) or the English Language Learners (ELL) systems. Parents and students can also opt for Charter schools or Cyber schools for their education.

I guess what I’m getting at is that there is no one size fits all method in education. So, I think I’m struggling with the one size fits all approach to ministering to people that attend church gatherings. In the last couple of years, Carol and I have come to realize that Urban Life is like a Special Education version of the church. Sometimes we’re like the Alternative Education system or the LEP.

Many times we have been asked to bring our church family to attend other events and conferences being hosted for ALL to attend, but they don’t understand. You cannot always bring Special Education students in to the “regular” education system. You cannot readily bring Alternative Education students into the regular classroom. You certainly can’t expect Limited English Proficiency Students to understand what’s going on.

We love the people whom the Lord has led to Urban Life. They are vibrant and excited about being there. We are excited about them being there. Our ministry is completely different. It’s like nothing we’ve ever seen before. I can hardly wait, from one week to the next, to see what God is going to do. It’s just hard to explain why it has to be THIS way in the life of this church family. The education diversities came to me in prayer and now I understand a little better why Urban Life is so different.

There is often a stigma placed upon the students who are not part of the “regular” education system. I guess that’s also why we’re so protective of our church family.
The problem is that the same kinds of people are in the “regular” church setting and they are dying there. Their need is not being met, but they don’t want to be identified as a special needs student or an Alternative Education student. But the truth is that they need to be in that kind of setting so they can get healed and delivered.

Lord, help the church leaders to see people where they really are.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Sent to Build People

Almost five years ago, my mother called me from St. Louis to share a dream that the Lord gave her about us. She told me that in the dream, Carol and I were leading a small group of people through a heavy, thick forest or jungle type area. She said we led them to the bank of a river and I told everyone that we were going to cross the river and get to the other side. She said Carol and I went out into the river and stood in waist deep water and kept encouraging everyone to come on and cross the river.

Two things stood out to her in the dream: First, the water was very clear. It was so clear that she could see our feet on the floor of the river. Secondly, we stayed in the river until we were able to get everyone across. There were some who were very hesitant to cross, but we kept encouraging them until they all made it.

When she woke up from the dream she said the Lord brought to her remembrance the story of Israel, crossing the Jordan River to come into the land of promise. She said the Lord made her to know that we were in Harrisburg to bring this small group of people out of bondage and into the land of promise, more specifically, into their deliverance.

She wanted to know if I thought the dream represented a literal or a spiritual land of promise, and if this was our true assignment in Harrisburg, to lead this small group of people out of the bondage they were in, or even possibly out of Harrisburg. She said she did not recognize the faces of the people. She only knew that she had never seen them before.

Mom shared the dream with my brother (Bishop Raphael) who told her to share it with us because it would be very encouraging to us.I cannot answer the questions that she asked because I honestly don’t know. I only know that what God showed her was very accurate. It is, indeed, a small group of people and I know we are standing in the middle of the flow of the Holy Spirit and the Word of God. We are trying to live what we are teaching, so that we are presenting more than lip service, but a life service.

We are no longer assuming that we were sent to build and establish a big church here. What I mean by this is: I believe God sent us to Harrisburg to build a group of people, not to build a ministry. The best part is that I'm at peace with that. We just know that we are to stand in the river and lead this small group of people out of the jungle they are familiar with, and to cross over into the land of promise.

Mom wanted to know if we are going to return to St. Louis one day. Again, I don’t know what the future holds. God’s reason for sending us to Harrisburg, PA has been manifold and a big part seems to have more to do with our personal restoration, family reconciliation and emotional healing, than anything else.

We recall that GOD called us catalyst for this community. I know from my studies in chemistry that catalysts never become a part of the reaction that they cause. The catalyst just starts a thing, but it never becomes a part of the substance. I see and understand, now, that it is possible that that's all we were sent to Harrisburg to do, as far as reaching the community goes. I’m beginning to accept that possibility.

Right now, I can’t concentrate on all of those questions and scenarios. I’m just concerned about getting this precious group of people to cross the river and come into God’s purpose for their lives.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

When a Plan Comes Together

Today, parents across America are enrolling their children in kindergarten to 12th grade online courses, sometimes known as cyber schools. Higher education institutions and many progressive churches and ministries have been doing this for many years. In our view, we are still lagging behind the times. As a church, we should have been offering this a long time ago. We’ve been recording our sessions since we first started and we’ve been posting videos on our website since 2006.

However, only within the last couple of weeks did we begin to organize the various videos into teaching series and Bible lessons that our members can access like online classes to help them in their personal pursuit of God and His purpose. We are adjusting the ministry to help them search out the matters in their lives. (Proverbs 25:2) Online educators are adjusting their systems to help people reach graduation. We’re just providing a similar service. Finally, we have a seamless connection between our Sunday Café, the Friday night pastoral sessions, our books, and our online teaching.

Moving forward, we can add some of our guest speakers like John and Kerry Shuey of Kingdom Quest Ministries, to our online teaching series on prayer. Other guest can be included in online series about marriage or faith. We are very excited about the endless possibilities. For those among us who don't have internet access, they can pick up the weekly teachings from the FREE DVD's and FREE books on our display table at the Sunday Cafe'.

Sometimes we wonder why we didn’t think of this sooner, but we know the reason is simply because this wasn’t our plan. It was God's plan. All along, the Lord has been systematically guiding us, step by step. This strategy has come forth out of what we have been doing over the past five years. Don’t you just love it when a plan comes together?

Monday, August 1, 2011

No Fame or Acclaim

A couple of weeks ago, one of our intercessors reminded me of a song the Lord gave me while I was a youth pastor, serving in obscurity, with no ambition or desire to receive notoriety and fame. I just wanted those inner city teenagers to know the Lord in a very personal way. I wrote the song from actual testimonies that were shared privately with Carol and me. The lyrics were:





Carol and I still treasure those words in our hearts. We just want to impart that same kind of attitude and mindset to our church family: Be a faithful husband, wife, mom, dad, grandmother, grandfather, sister, brother, aunt, uncle or cousin. Be a faithful employee, supervisor or manager. Be a faithful friend.

I find myself drawn back to this simple principle. The Lord has been moving on my heart and the next thing I know, I’m in tears of intercession. I’ve been in church and around the ministry all of my life. I’ve seen one wave after another and one fad after another. I find it difficult to put into words how pointless the annual conferences, revivals and events really are. Nothing changes while families fall apart. I want no part of it. I’m desperate for the presence of the Lord.

I’ve had a message prepared every Sunday for the past four weeks, but every week the Lord moves in a completely different way. We haven’t recorded most of what happens and in many ways, that’s good. We’re not trying to capture, package or market what God is doing. I can’t explain it. You just have to come and experience it for yourself.

Friday, July 29, 2011

Still an Author, Still a Songwriter

Well, it’s done. We’ve completed our 9th book and it’s going to be an eye opener. Carol and I talk about our mistakes and bad choices as we shed light on a few things that we did, that no one has ever known. I actually published it on Carol’s birthday, July 15th and the official release was July 27th.

I’m sure that some of the things we shared in this book are going to be very uncomfortable for many people. However, we are living in perilous times; desperate times. We feel that people need to know that God can bring you back from the depths and make something beautiful out of your life.

We are the least of the least and the last of the last, but God still chose us for this unique assignment. I don’t know how many people will even pick up this book. We are in the unenviable position of being like the voice of wisdom that is portrayed in the book of Proverbs. She goes around calling out to everyone to listen to her, but most people don’t. It seems I’ve always had the task that no one wants. I have to keep remembering that I’m still an author even if no one reads my books and I’m still a songwriter even if no one sings my songs. I just had to be faithful and release it here on the earth.

So, we fight discouragement and keep releasing the books anyway. Like anyone else, we’d love to have a respectable following who read our material, but we don’t have the distribution and the networking right now. Not sure we’ll ever have it. It doesn’t matter though. As long as our sons get it and our little church family receives it, I’ll be satisfied and fulfilled.

In fact, I sense a great deal of fulfillment in just knowing that we have been able to complete so many books at all. We're just a couple of ghetto kids that God touched. It’s hard to believe; nine books. There’s at least one more book in me to complete and then it’ll be time for my sons to carry on the assignment. I always tell our sons that they must be prepared for the once in a lifetime opportunity that will come their way. I tell them to prepare, prepare, prepare. It may feel crazy to write things and draw things that no one will ever see, but it’s preparing them for the one thing that will launch them forth into their purpose for being born.

Monday, July 4, 2011

A Dream Come True

Seven years ago we moved to Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. Ever since we've been here, we have desired to connect with our family here. Carol left home 32 years ago and due to various divisions and barriers between various family members, there has been a lot of lost years.

After being sent here to start a ministry, our top priority was to get acquainted with family. Yesterday, our house was filled with family. From our ULC family, to Carol's relatives, our home was filled with people. Kids were running around, conversation every where, a movie was rolling, teenagers playing video games, laughter, fun, fireworks, a little bit of serious discussion, more jokes and laughter, brief UNO battles, made plans to attend the upcoming family reunion (to meet more of Carol's family), and a late night departure.

One cousin said, "We really needed this." But if the truth be known, We needed it just as much. Now that we look back over the past seven years, we realize that we needed that time to get healed and prepared for what lies ahead. This July 4th holiday season is the beginning of a new era for our family.

We are declaring our independence from all of the generational curses and sins that have dominated our family. We were so excited after everyone departed that as we cleaned up the kitchen and living room, we just kept saying, "I'm so excited, I don't know what to do." It took a while to go to sleep last night even though it was about 1:00am when we went to bed. We could hardly believe how wonderful the day had been.

It was a dream come true.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Where did all this fire come from?

Two Sundays in a row, I found myself preaching. Man, where did all this fire come from?

I look back over the years and I guess I always was a bit fiery. I know that I’ve pulled back on all of that because when we first moved here, all that passion and fire seemed to offend people. This is such a conservative community, at least the people we have encountered. What many consider to be excitement is more like a polite applause from a subdued gathering, compared to where we come from. I’m accustomed to letting it all out at full blast with praise and shouting. Besides, I’m a musician and as a drummer, that’s just part of your make up.

Well, the fiery words seem to be slipping out more and more each week. I can’t help it. Yesterday, I couldn’t find my power point notes, so I just went ahead and began teaching from what I remembered in my studies of the scripture passages. The next thing I knew, I was preaching about things that have been a passion in my heart for years.

Now I know why I couldn’t find my notes. The Lord had a completely different perspective to bring out this time.

Man, this is great. There’s nothing like living out the dream that God has for your life. We’re not doing anything to make it come to pass. We’re just living it out.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Covenant Connection

Carol and I have been on vacation this week. It's been a wonderful week of rest and relaxation. This week was intentionally planned to coincide with the church schedule and our job schedules.

We just completed our first new member confirmation ceremony since March of 2008. What a joy it was to officially confirm family into the Urban Life Church.
When I say family that includes a nephew, second cousins, and a spiritual daughter that God brought into our lives five years ago.

I can't find the words to express my joy. I feel like I could burst into tears as I think of each person who has decided to identify their connection to the Body of Christ with us.

All I know is that we can do something great for God and these are people who can help us do it.

The ceremony ( was brief and straight forward. We only ask that each member promise to live a Godly life, read the Bible and pray. We vow, as leaders, to be examples for them to follow and to do all that we can to equip them to serve their families and one another.

Then we vow together to allow God to do something great in us, so that we can fulfill the vision to rebuild, restore and renew hearts and homes in the urban community.

Then we prayed for each new member and presented them with a certificate of membership.

I realize that I say this all the time, but I feel so strongly that God is preparing this church family for something wonderful.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

That Special Place Called Home

This past Sunday, we celebrated Mother's Day with family as well. Our attendance was very low at the Sunday Café, but we still moved forward anyway. It proved to be a very special God-ordained day.

Angela Hodges, wife and mother of two children (7 and 3) and second cousin to Pastor Carol, shared openly and honestly about Meeting the Challenges of Motherhood in the 21st Century. Then Carol continued the message by talking about the challenges she faced raising three teenage sons into adulthood. It was an outstanding message that came through both of them.

However, the best part was all the fun and fellowship that followed. The ministry sponsored the mothers of the church family for a Mother’s Day Brunch Buffet at the Hilton Hotel in downtown Harrisburg. Unfortunately, three moms, who had previously planned to attend, were not able to make it, so we’ll have to do something special for them at another time.

Yes, the food was wonderful, but the fun and laughter was even better. Big shout-outs: To Marilyn Walker, Chris Dennis, Maurice, Angela, little Maurice and Mayah Hodges, Ilecia Buckner, AJ, and of course, the Green clan. We shared a great meal and had even greater conversation.

After dinner, we sat in the hotel lobby and talked for more than an hour. We swapped stories and, for the first time, really got to know each other a little better. Many questions were answered for us and a deep longing in our heart was filled. You see, ever since moving to Harrisburg, what we have desired more than anything else, was to get to know our family.

Even though we seem to talk about the ministry and the vision most of the time, we really want everyone to be clear that none of it means anything if we don’t have genuine relationships. We are not interested in building a church made up of strangers and loners. This has to be about family, and since God sent us to establish a ministry of restoration and healing of families, it has to begin in our own family. After spending such quality time together, we are thrilled beyond words.

Something has been broken over our family. Something has been broken over this church. Whatever negative or demonic influence that had been set against us, God has shattered it. It’s funny that the breakthrough didn’t come by way of a powerful move in a church building. We experienced it by simply talking and sharing in a hotel lobby after a wonderful dinner.

When we returned home for the evening, we felt like we had been in a church service in which there had been a great outpouring of God’s presence. Even though there were no healing lines, we had a healing time. Even though there were no prophetic words, we were edified and encouraged. We have waited over six years for moments like this. If home is where the heart is, and if the heart is with family, then for the first time, we’re feeling that special place called home.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Building a Congregation that is Strong in the Lord

Something special is happening in this church. We can see it! We can feel it! More importantly, we KNOW it! Our congregation continues to grow, the finances continue to increase, and the most amazing thing is that we aren’t doing anything to make it happen. We never solicit members and we never ask for money, yet God is moving in our midst.

We mentioned to everyone last Sunday that we are looking forward to the church anniversary celebration in March because we will probably get our first look at our entire church family, all together in one setting. Due to the various work schedules of those who attend this church, we have never seen everyone attending on the same Sunday.

From our perspective, we have a nearly different group of people each week. Yes, we have those who are able to attend every week and that group never waivers, but the majority have to deal with many factors in their lives that prevent them from attending every Sunday. Since the fall of 2005 we have been under 10 members. We would see slight increases and slight decreases, but remained unchanged. Since the spring of 2010, our attendance has more than tripled, and we can feel the rumblings of a coming wave.

Since we’ve been in the Pennsylvania United Church Center, not only have we seen growth, but we have seen growth in a particular way. God is touching the lives of families, beginning with OUR family. Ranging from cousins to a nephew, we are experiencing an answer to prayer. Other families are coming as they hear about the ministry or as they discover it on the internet.

Families are coming who are seeking freedom from religious bondage or deliverance from the carnal whims of church leaders who are in pursuit of fame and fortune.

Carol and I simply refuse to raise up a congregation that looks to the pastors for all their answers. We refuse to establish a church where the pastors become mini-celebrities. We refuse to raise a congregation that lives day to day, week to week, month to month, and year to year, always wondering if they are ‘saved’ or not. It’s ridiculous to create an atmosphere where people can never know if they are pleasing God, and never be sure if whether they are holy enough, or if their mistakes and decisions have cost them their salvation.

For some of our members, these are non-issues in their life, but for most of the people to whom we have been sent, these are major obstacles and walls. Many seem to have been so rooted and steeped in works-based teaching, that what they are hearing now is like fresh air and new life.

By focusing on the law, many pastors have turned people away from grace and they preach another gospel. Galatians 3: 1 reads: "You foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you? Before your very eyes Jesus Christ was clearly portrayed as crucified. I would like to learn just one thing from you: Did you receive the Spirit by the works of the law, or by believing what you heard? Are you so foolish? After beginning by means of the Spirit, are you now trying to finish by means of the flesh?"

We refuse to become pastors who use people’s uncertainty about their standing in God to manipulate them into church attendance and tithing; causing them to try to maintain their salvation and righteousness by giving their time, talents and treasure to the church.

We desire to raise a congregation made up of families that are strong in the Lord. So we’ll continue to teach about the commitment the Lord has made to people. As we behold and understand the Lord's commitment to us, we are empowered to commit our lives to Him and our families.