It’s the last day of what has been, another year of tremendous losses in the midst of incredible gains, opportunities and victories. The Lord called home some powerful generals and tremendous soldiers in the Kingdom of God in 2014. Dr. Myles Munroe and his wife, along with his senior pastor, youth pastors, and others died in a plane crash. In our home church in St. Louis, major pillars who helped lay its foundation, passed away. We called her mom Charlene Burris. She passed away in April and her husband, Pastor (dad) John Burris, passed away in December just before Christmas. It is a profound loss for all of us. We had a few Urban Life members to leave in order to join other churches, but they still remain our brothers and sisters in the Body of Christ. All of those membership separations were made on good terms and that in itself speaks of the strong relationship-centered church that we have become.
Now we’re moving into another year and the Lord has been speaking to us about the theme for the New Year for a long time. In fact, we have been telling you about it for at least three months.
God has impressed various Bible scriptures upon our hearts that reveal HIS heart about lost souls. Like never before, the Lord has been stirring our hearts to set our eyes on the fields that are ready for harvest. We believe the harvest begins in the field of our closest relationships; in our homes.
We spoke to my brother, Bishop Raphael Green a couple of weeks ago. He had tremendous words of encouragement for us. He told us that many of the leading pastors and churches in America are now saying that they have been focusing on the wrong thing the last 30 years. They are now saying that they should have been focused on the development of the families. They are now saying that they should have been teaching couples how to minister to one another. They should have been teaching parents how to minister to and teach their own kids at home. They are saying they should have working on family growth, not just church growth.
Our Bishop wanted to let us know that we are doing it the right way in Harrisburg. He said for us to not be concerned that so few people are attending right now, because eventually, even the bigger churches are going to realize that they need to be focusing on the families. He said that by the time they realize this, Urban Life will have already been doing it for so long that we will have the credibility to address these family issues when the time of exposure comes to us.
That’s what has happened to him. When God brought national media exposure to him, he had already been doing a great work in St. Louis for 28 years. Even though there are several ministries that are much bigger in St. Louis, God shined the light on our home church because they had already been working on the front lines of those issues in St. Louis, long before they became headlines in the main stream conversation.
So he encouraged us to keep moving forward with our emphasis on the family. And that’s what we’re going to do.
As we roll into the New Year, we’re going to keep moving in the NEHEMIAH STRATEGY to rebuild the walls of our cities (families). We’re going to provide you a tool in one hand and a weapon in the other hand. The tools will be the teachings to build our families and the weapons will be the prayers to guard our families.
We will alternate Sundays, with Carol leading us in prayer (our weapon) one week, and Chris will come forth with teaching (our tools) the next week. We’ll alternate back and forth, from week to week, throughout the year, with a constant and consistent pattern of fighting and building, fighting and building, week after week after week. We’re not equipping people to perform in a church building. God has led us to equip everyone for the harvest season that is now upon us.
In 2015, marriage ministry will begin in your own house. Children’s ministry will begin in your own house. Teen and youth ministry will be in your own house. Prayer ministry will begin at your bedside. Worship will begin in your living room. In 2015, we are emphasizing the truth that there’s no place like home. Every ministry in this church must begin at home.
We realize that not everyone who visits this ministry will be comfortable or in agreement with this strategy, but this is what God gave us, so we’re running with it.
If people are looking only for a church that meets their personal checklist of requirements, they probably won’t find what they're searching for at Urban Life.
But for those people who are looking for a place where people are seeking God and desiring His presence in their homes, on their jobs, at their schools, and in their neighborhoods, then we trust that they will connect with that purpose and vision in the Urban Life Family Center.
With great excitement, we invite you to 2015 because in this year, it’s all for the harvest!
We love the holiday season because of what it means to our immediate family. Ten years ago we moved to south central Pennsylvania and discovered a part of the country that still celebrates the holidays in traditional ways. It was a pleasant surprise to find ourselves in a region where decorations were going up all over the city and people still placed candles in their windows.
Having grown up in a big city where many people, for personal safety, had stopped greeting one another with “Merry Christmas!” and the cynical air of commerce had choked out the giddy excitement of family get-togethers, I found myself a bit ashamed that I had grown so callous about Christmas.
Being in this part of the country brought back those days of growing up in the 60’s when our parents piled up their children in the family car and we drove around the city just to look at all the homes decorated with sparkling lights, along with extravagant displays on the front lawns.
However, as the years went by, people found their lawns raided and their homes vandalized. Crime began to sky-rocket in the city during the holidays until most of the lights were no longer put up and the only place to see lawn displays were the in the exclusive gated communities, which we could not enter.
Massive lay-offs and urban sprawl changed the holiday landscape until the season became, for many, just three or four weeks to endure the tension between gift-giving expectations and the fact that they had no money for anything beyond the basics: shelter, food, and heat. Christmas is a distasteful time of year for a lot of people.
However, we always had a great time in the Green household which always included getting together at grandpa and grandma’s house for a massive assembly of relatives from all sides of everyone’s families. Christmas with the Greens was like a Broadway production, only with no script or choreography. It was incredible and indescribable.
Some of the warm memories from my childhood were stirred again as we came upon our first Christmas in Pennsylvania. Since we were away from our closest friends and family, it drew us closer with our sons. We were able to spend quality time together, especially since we were aware that these would be the last of those times for us. We made a few trips back to St. Louis for the holidays, but time was dictating that a new phase of life was quickly coming to our family.
During our final Christmas together, we went to a local mall to take family photos. We told our sons this was going to be important because this would be the last time we’d be together in this way. We told them that in the future, the photos would include their wives and children. They didn’t believe us at that time, but that’s exactly what is happening.
As we come upon Christmas, tomorrow, our youngest son, David Matthew lives in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada with Michelle, his wife of 18 months. Our middle son, Jonathan Mark, is in his final year of school and he’s only home for breaks and holidays. Our oldest son, Christopher Michael, lives in Tulsa, Oklahoma and is preparing to marry Antonette Simmons in three months.
We have wonderful Christmas memories with our children from our years in St. Louis as well as our years in Harrisburg. It’s just that the years go by so very fast and we are thankful that we made memories instead of making regrets.
We set out to be very intentional about making sure we didn’t have any regrets as parents. That doesn’t mean that we were going to be reckless and throw caution to the wind. No, that simply meant that we were going to seize the moments that God was granting us every day, every week, every month and every year with each other and with our children.
A lot of Christian Believers spend the holiday season debating about how Christmas is celebrated or even if we should celebrate it. One day they will look back and realize that they missed golden opportunities with their families and friends.
In the end, it won’t matter if whether you did or did not have gifts, toys, trees, or decorations. All that will matter is if you spent time with the ones who are dear to you. Just ask the people who are missing their loved ones during this holiday season. They’re not interested in a debate about Christmas. They would just like to be with their mom, dad, sister, brother, cousin, uncle or aunt, one more time.
So, Carol and I encourage you to stay focused on the people and things that matter most. If your family is living in three different time zones, like ours is right now, make sure you take some time to make a connection.
Immediately after the holiday, we’ll get back to our jobs and the daily task of making a living. But during this holiday we encourage you to continue in the mission and vision that God has placed in our hands; to rebuild, restore and renew hearts and homes.
We’re getting closer to the holiday and as usual, we are taking advantage of another opportunity to present the gospel. This Sunday, we’re going to present the third and final film in our Hope for the Holidays campaign. This time we’re going to show the film, “THE CROSS”which features the stories of Christian rapper Lacrae and singer Lacey Sturm. This is the perfect opportunity to invite young people because they will definitely relate to these two young adults in this presentation.
As most of you know, in the past we have encouraged the Urban Life family with at least five ways to respond to the controversy that surrounds the pagan traditions of December 25th. Did you know that December 25th is not the actual birth date of Jesus Christ? Did you know that this was a date that was established by the Roman Catholic Church when they initiated a Mass during the same season that pagans were already engaged in various winter solstice celebrations? That's how the term Christ Mass was established.
It was all part of an effort to covert people to Christianity. However they failed to steer the people away from the sun god rituals in spite of the new church-initiated Mass to celebrate the Son of God.
We share this with you because many skeptics use this well established historical fact to attack Christians who are ignorant of church history. They feel that this discrepancy concerning the birth of Christ, gives them leverage to deny the Bible and the Son of God.
Many Believers already know that the Bible never says that Christ was born in December. The point is that it doesn't matter that He wasn't born on December 25th. That’s the reason we believe this church-initiated celebration should no longer attempt to celebrate December 25th as Christ's date of birth. Now it can be used to celebrate the REALITY and PURPOSE for His birth.
Since millions of people have come into the Faith as Protestants, they have never been aware of the history behind Christmas. Most of that history is very negative and even involves an annual persecution of Jewish people on that day.
According to one reliable online source we learned: The Christmas (Christ Mass) celebration has embraced many not-so Christian-like traditions and those traditions have become disconnected from historical facts and understanding.
Of course the history is far more complicated than this, but we really don't have space to cover every detail in a simple newsletter. Hopefully, this will get you started in pursuing answers in your own personal study.
As a side note, many Biblical historians believe that Jesus was actually born at a much more significant God-ordained time (perhaps the Feast of Tabernacle). However, for most Jewish people, Christmas is directly connected with a negative history of persecution, and it is a 24 hour celebration declaring that Jesus Christ is the only way to come to Jehovah God; so they want no part of it.
Pagan rituals, like the evergreen tree, mistletoe and December 25th itself, have had attempts by many generations of the church to be Christianized and set apart from the original wild, sensual and wicked celebrations.
For instance, many songs (Christmas Carols) have been written to point the celebration away from other gods to Christ. Christian meanings of the evergreen tree were reassigned and it was declared to be a symbol of new life in Christ and not an actual god to be worshiped. Some church leaders vehemently rejected these ideas and they are still rejected by many to this day. Since tree worship is firmly forbidden in scripture (Jeremiah 10), many Believers cannot, in good conscious, celebrate the season with an evergreen tree.
Still there are others who desire to use this holiday, with its many pagan attachments, as a way to connect with their non-believing family and friends, for whom Christmas has no religious or spiritual meaning at all.
Over the past few years we have been offering five very important points for us to consider for making a Godly response to the pagan origins of December 25th.
As pastors, we have decided to provide practical answers and solutions for you and your family. Here are the five points we asked you to consider for responding to people who are caught in the midst of this controversy:
1.) Become all things to all men - 1 Corinthians 9:18-23 (NKJV)
2.) Don’t cause your brother to stumble - 1 Corinthians 8:4-13 (NKJV)
3.) Use the opportunity (holiday) to bless others - Matthew 5:43-45 (NKJV)
4.) Continue steadfast in the early church lifestyle of giving - Acts 2: 40-47 (NKJV)
5.) Partake of the Lord's Table in remembrance of Christ - Luke 22:14-20 (NKJV)
Today we’re going to emphasize the fourth response.
Continue steadfast in the early church lifestyle of giving: In the early church, they developed a lifestyle of sharing with others and making intentional efforts to help those in need.
This was not a practice that came out of the pagan rituals or Christmas. The church did this as part of the overflow of the life of Christ within them. Never think of this practice as a Christmas thing. It's simply a Godly response. Christmas just happens to be a great time to do what should come natural for Believers.
We are simply trying to communicate that in spite of the historical facts, controversies and conflicts, Christ must truly become YOUR reason for this season and all year round.
The world will continue to celebrate the sun god (in all its many names and forms) as part of their annual winter celebrations. We must celebrate the Son of God and give a Godly RESPONSE to our non-believing family and friends, and to our Christian brothers and sisters who may not have this knowledge.
It is one thing to expose all the problems with Christmas, but it is another thing to actually offer a way for people to RESPOND to this season and bring Glory to God the Father. That is why, as a church family, we are offering the opportunity for people to receive Christ. This is the best gift we could ever offer. That’s what our Hope for the Holidays campaign really means for us.
So, invite your family or a friend and we’ll see you Sunday morning.
Greetings Urban Life family, Last week we received a
phone call from someone who was searching for a church. We had none of
the things that they were looking for in a church. Unlike times past,
the fact that we could not meet their requirements did not discourage us
or make us feel like we were lacking in some way. Instead, a fresh revelation
came to us. We didn't have what this person was looking for because
that's not what we were placed in Harrisburg to do. We're not here to
meet the needs of church searchers. We're here to build people. We're
here to build families. We're here to fulfill the great commission.
We're here to make disciples of all nations. We're here for the people
who have a desire to be part of those things. Then the Holy Spirit quickened
our thoughts with the realization that over the last ten years, we've
been more like a ministry training center. But we're not a ministry
training center in the clergy sense of training.
We're a FAMILY MINISTRY
training center. We're training people to minister to their families,
friends, neighbors, coworkers and classmates. Most of the people that we
will train will not stand in a pulpit. They will be apostles, pastors,
teachers, evangelists and prophets in their homes and neighborhoods.
They won't be famous or well known, but they will be effective in their
circles of influence. They will be mighty warriors in the Kingdom of
God, in everyday life.
After that phone call we updated the official ministry description to read:
"Urban Life is a fellowship and family-ministry training center that meets once a week to instruct and teach Christian Believers how to focus their time and energy on the great commission. We are providing practical ways to make disciples of all nations. However, we begin this effort with our closest relationships. We encourage in-home gatherings with our families, along with group activities with friends, neighbors and people within our circles of influence. Urban Life provides the tools and training for you to go into your world and change it by allowing the love and power of God to flow through your life every day. The Urban Life Family Center is dedicated to the restoration of the urban community through the healing of hearts and homes." This narrative best describes the mission, vision and strategy God has given us in this era in America. After making a serious attempt to start a church, restart a church, and then settling into a weekly outreach from the Pennsylvania United Church Center, we have surrendered to the molding and shaping of the Holy Spirit. It's amazing to look back over the last 5 years of our weekly ministry from a dining hall and various conference rooms. God simply would not allow us to venture into the traditional or the modern methods of holding church services. So far, we haven't been able to establish a worship team, a children's ministry, a youth ministry, a men's group, a women's group, adult small groups or do any of the things that are supposed to draw people to a church. Over the last twelve months, it has become very clear that God was not structuring us in the traditional or contemporary understandings of a church. He had obviously drawn very specific people to this ministry and it was obvious that He was drawing us together for something other than what we had in mind.
Why is it important that we talk about these things in this week's email? Mainly because this understanding will bring much unity and agreement as we each discover and lock in to the various roles and responsibilities we will each embrace on the Urban Life Ministry team. Everyone on our team has had a wealth of experience in life and we believe God wants to tap into those experiences so that you can help us train the next generation and build them up. Many people have huge dreams that involve making money and becoming famous. However, they don't have the internal fortitude to deal with the relationships in their lives. They are still hurting from how they were reared as children. Many don't know their parents and they are strangers to the true ways of God. We have a wonderful opportunity to make a difference in someone's life through the FAMILY-MINISTRY training center that the Lord has placed in our hands. Just check out the Urban Life website and you'll find tons of videos that mainly involve marriage, family and relationship issues. When you explore the site and the history of this ministry, it's as if though God was preparing us to become a family-ministry training center all along. We just needed to launch it with the right people at the right time. So, what's next? We just want you to take some time in personal prayer. Seek God about your role in this training center. Very soon, we want to get together and share more details with everyone. We're very excited about the holidays and the New Year because God has already given us our Christmas gifts and our New Year's resolution when He sent each and every one of you. It's all for the harvest, Chris and Carol Green
In the months and weeks to come, we will be sharing some of the nuggets of wisdom in the Apostle Paul’s letters to Timothy and Titus. He gave them very specific things to address and teach so that the Believers in those days, would stay on target with the will of God.
Titus 3: 8 reads, “…these things I want you to affirm constantly, that those who have believed in God should be careful to maintain good works. These things are good and profitable to men.”
When we go through this series of teachings, we will discover that the things many church leaders should be teaching have nothing to do with most of the doctrine that is being offered today.
That’s the reason so many American Christian Believers are frustrated and never experiencing the breakthroughs that are promised by many TV preachers and the false teachers who are declaring these empty and vain promises from their pulpits.
THE BIBLE says in Proverbs 28:9, “One who turns away his ear from hearing the law, Even his prayer is an abomination.”
In other words: We cannot turn away from the law of God (His Word, His priorities, His principles, His practices and His purpose) and expect God to answer our selfishly motivated request that often have nothing to do with winning souls, making disciples, confessing and repenting from sin, or seeking the purpose and will of God for our lives.
That’s the reason we are returning to the fundamentals in this ministry.
And these are the fundamentals:
* Fulfill the purposes of the church: Go and make Disciples of All Nations
* Preach and teach about the Kingdom of God
* Preach and teach about the righteousness of God * Help the poor, orphaned and widowed
* Mentor and prepare the next generation to continue with the mission of the church
Since, in our opinion, many Christian Believers do not actually know the true purpose and mission of the church and its leadership, they come to our church gatherings with expectations for some things we simply cannot give them.
In Acts 3 we read this account: Now Peter and John went up together to the temple at the hour of prayer, the ninth hour. And a certain man lame from his mother’s womb was carried, whom they laid daily at the gate of the temple which is called Beautiful, to ask alms from those who entered the temple; who, seeing Peter and John about to go into the temple, asked for alms.
And fixing his eyes on him, with John, Peter said, “Look at us.” So he gave them his attention, expecting to receive something from them. Then Peter said, “Silver and gold I do not have, but what I do have I give you: In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, rise up and walk.”
And he took him by the right hand and lifted him up, and immediately his feet and ankle bones received strength. So he, leaping up, stood and walked and entered the temple with them—walking, leaping, and praising God. And all the people saw him walking and praising God. Then they knew that it was he who sat begging alms at the Beautiful Gate of the temple; and they were filled with wonder and amazement at what had happened to him.
What do we see in this story?
We see a man begging for charitable donations. He had to beg for money since he was crippled and could not earn a living.
We also see two men of God telling him that they didn’t have any money, but they were completely willing to give him what they had.
So the big question is: What did they have?
They had the authority and ability of God to bring healing into this man’s life. They were not willing to merely give him what he requested. His request would only supply a temporary solution. If they had given him money the man would have been able to purchase food or pay some bills for perhaps a day or two. But soon he would be right back in the same position, begging for more money.
So what do we see as the role of the church and its leaders in people's lives?
Our role is to bring deliverance. Our role is to bring the healing. Our role is to provide a permanent solution and not just temporary relief.
Please make a mental note that the man could have rejected what they had to offer. As soon as they declared that they didn’t have any money, the man could have just told them to “keep on stepping.”
Do you realize that’s exactly what many people do when they approach genuine Christian churches and leaders?
The false preachers and prophets have so deceived people that they have convinced the crippled beggars to make a contribution first. They promise the crippled beggars that if they give money to God, then God will heal them.
When people come upon the real apostolic anointing, they are told that money isn’t coming their way. In fact they are told, “We don’t have what you’re asking for!” They are told HEALING is coming their way instead of money.
Many people walk away disappointed with ministries like Urban Life because we don’t give them what they are demanding. Instead we offer healing. We offer healing for the various areas where they are crippled.
In a few weeks, we’re going to launch a series that will uncover what church leaders were actually instructed to do. You will be surprised. Our expectations of a church are often very far away from the actual responsibilities of the church and its leaders.
To be honest, the Church in America is partly to blame for those errant expectations because various ministries have become so involved in power-seeking politics, glory seeking schemes, financial prosperity scams, and people-pleasing entertainment that we have only a shadow of the former glory that once rested upon us by the power of God.
So that’s why we’re getting back to the fundamentals. We’re getting back to declaring, “Silver and gold I do not have, but what I do have I give you: In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, rise up and walk.”
Greetings Urban Life Family and Friends, This has been one of the most difficult seasons we have experienced in our lives. Since the death of one of my brothers in October of 1999, there has been September 11, 2001, losing our building in December of 2005, losing our home in June of 2007, losing dear friends in a long stretch between 2008-2009. Since then, two of my brothers have had heart attacks, my mother has had serious health battles, and more dear friends have passed on. In the last few months, our hearts have been ripped by the events in Ferguson Missouri. Then just before the verdict, a wonderful brother, friend and mentor, Dr. Myles Munroe, passed away in a plane crash. While still reeling from that loss, the verdict came forth regarding the killing of the teen by a police officer and insult was added to injury. Since then, as part of my processing, we've vented through our weekly blog, trying to put into words how important it is for our White brothers and sisters to try to understand why so many Black Christians in St. Louis are so upset about the verdict. As a man born and raised in St. Louis, it is very hard to put into words what it is like growing up there. We actually lived in the Canfield Green Apartments in Ferguson, where this tragic event took place. The racism and struggle there is like something out of a Twilight Zone, horror movie. Outsiders simply cannot understand it and even when told, they rarely believe it. They honestly think that this level of oppression is not possible in this era in America. But St. Louis is where the infamous Dred Scott decision took place. This is where a federal decision, that considered Black's voting value as 3/5 of a person, was upheld. Dred Scott was not granted freedom with this declaration, 'THE BLACK MAN HAS NO RIGHTS THAT THE WHITE MAN IS BOUND TO RESPECT." And St. Louis lives, thrives, and functions under the foundation of that statement to this very day. Just let that declaration sink into your thoughts before you move on. Imagine trying to accomplish anything under that atmosphere. So, many of us had to leave that area if we were going to see any success for ourselves and our children. The past few days, I've seen wonderful post like the one by the football player of the New Orleans Saints. I've read Facebook post that were combative, racist, insensitive, clueless, annoying, irritating, thoughtful, criminal and Biblical. This is another one of those critical moments where I have to ask myself, What would Jesus do? How would the King of kings and the Lord of lords respond to what is happening in America right now? He did a lot of great things in those amazing three years of His ministry. But I see that it all was leading to a date on the cross for all of our sins. I look at the cross and I see Jesus, horribly disfigured by the sins of us all. He died for Michael Brown and Officer Darren Wilson, too. So what would Jesus do? We believe He would walk up to Michael Brown's parents and He would hug them. He would cry with them. He would sob and wail with them. We believe He would go to Darrel Wilson and his family, and He would embrace them, too. He would meet with them behind closed doors. Only officer Wilson knows what really happened and God is well able to get to the bottom of all of this. He did that with a guy named Zacchaeus. The Bible doesn't tell us what happened in that private conversation. We just hear Zacchaeus' response to whatever happened between him and Jesus. So, we're praying that these people, the ones who are directly involved in the whole situation, will have personal encounters with the King of kings and the Lord of lords. The rest of us, who are responding out of our negative experiences with local police, Black people, White people, Latino people, Asian people, young people, old people, church people, government people, corruption, racism and violence, need our own personal encounters with God as well. We admit that we need one. We need a fresh encounter with God. Clearly there is still a lot of hurt and anger buried deep inside of us and God is shaking all of our foundations. Just look at what He says in Matthew 5:23-24, "Therefore if you bring your gift to the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar, and go your way. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift." We want our hearts to be right toward our brothers. We don't want to allow the racial tension in our nation to continue to tear us apart in the Church. It's all for the harvest, Chris and Carol Green
Following the sudden and unexpected death of Dr. Myles Munroe, Carol and I have been taken to a new level of sobriety in our responsibility as Christian leaders in the 21st century. In the final months of his life, Dr. Munroe declared some things that are earth-shakingly important for us to consider in the remaining years of our journey.
Back in July of this year, he prophesied over his own nation, that they were going to experience dramatic change in leadership. He actually spoke that there would be sudden and unexplainable deaths, which would usher in a new generation of leaders.
On another occasion, he said that true leadership prepares people to take their place. He urged all leaders to begin to mentor others, so that their organization, business or church would not die with them. He said true leaders don’t invest in buildings, programs and projects; but true leaders invest in people.
As you guys know, for ten years, that’s what Carol and I have tried to do in this city. However, what we encountered was a city that did not want a ministry that focused on people. Most people seemed to prefer being in a church that places the focus on buildings, programs and projects.
That’s why, as pastors, we became so discouraged in this city. How can you pass on a baton to a people group that does not want the responsibility? So yes, we considered moving on to find those who actually wanted to be mentored.
When we say mentored, we don’t mean "churched". Again, we are not interested in church as usual. That’s why we were having open discussions, inviting people into our home, and setting up more fellowship opportunities. That’s the reason our teaching centered on the relationships of marriage, family and parenting. This year, God sent more people, even as others left. However, the new people that came and those who stuck with us, have become our ministry team. They are the ones we will pour into from this day forth.
Now we’re moving into another season and another year and we don’t know what God is going to do. We know HE’s not going to allow us to die with the baton still in our hands; not when we are actively engaging with those who are willing to take it and run.
We were extremely pleased when the Urban Life family gathered and kept things going while we were in St. Louis a couple of weeks ago. That’s how a leader measures success: Can the TEAM operate and prosper without the leader?
We must be honest and admit that at one time, we had become willing for God to take us out of the pastorate and place us in a whole new arena if that was what it was going to take to help us mentor others. We were just that desperate to find the person or the people group who would take the baton and run.
Dr. Munroe revealed that he had a dream that a famous man died and he saw the man in a coffin still holding his baton. He died without ever passing it on to a successor. I don’t want to be that man. And we have prayed and asked God to do whatever it’s going to take in order to prevent that from happening to us.
Recently, a couple in our hometown has requested that we mentor them as they launch forth into a new ministry there. We have begun meeting with them on a regular basis via Skype. Other mentoring and life downloading opportunity have suddenly become available as well. All of this is a dream come true for us. That’s what we truly desire to do. So, like this special couple in St. Louis, if you want the baton, or if you want to learn how to pass on your baton to your successor, meet us at the Urban Life Family Center as often as you can. If you can’t get there, meet us online.
As we close out this year and move into 2015, we’re going to download and download and download.
We don’t want to stand before God with failure, because success without a successor is failure. There must be someone to carry on after we are gone.
By now you have heard about the tragic plane crash that took the lives of our dear friends and ministry colleagues, Dr. Myles Munroe and his wife, Ruth in the Bahamas this past Sunday evening. Also killed was his right hand man, Dr. Richard Pinder, who was the senior pastor of Bahamas Faith Ministries. They also lost their newly appointed youth pastors.
I broke down in tears as I watched my friend and brother, Pastor Dave Burrows, fight to stay strong as he read an official statement about the tragedy to the media during a press conference.
The loss is extremely difficult to handle and even more difficult to explain. These were people who have had a direct impact on our lives. God connected us with Dr. Munroe as far back as 1976. He spoke at our home church back in 1991, a few months before he became a household name in the American Christian community. He and my brother, Bishop Raphael Green, have been friends for nearly 40 years.
Back in 2008, Dr. Munroe ministered at the Worship Center in Lancaster, PA and we drove out to see him and took several members of our church family from Harrisburg. We'll always remember that time because he introduced us to the congregation there by asking us to stand. After the service he literally grabbed Carol and me and began to pray strongly for our personal and ministry breakthrough in Harrisburg. Our sons were so impacted by him that they began to read his books about Purpose.
We are still very close to several people in that ministry. Two of them are Pastors Dave and Angie Burrows, who stood strong as their first youth and young adult ministry leaders for over 30 years. Now they must carry on without their beloved leaders.
Please allow us to tell this one story to put things in perspective for you.
By 1996, we had been serving as the teen ministry pastors in our home church in St. Louis for 4 years. It had been a very tough year because several teenage girls got pregnant and we came under heavy criticism for what was happening amongst the teens. We were also taking criticism for our ministry style which included using music tracks, dance and rap in our praise and worship. We were very discouraged because, even though the youth ministry was growing, it seemed to be going in the wrong direction.
That's when youth pastor friends, Pastor Mark and Dawn Lawrence, invited us to Nassau, Bahamas to attend a youth conference called Youth Alive. They told us that our mutual friends from college, Dave and Angie Burrows, were the youth leaders at Dr. Myles Munroe's ministry. Since we were so discouraged, our senior pastor consented for us to go and our home church sent us.
On the very first night of the youth conference, God began to heal us. We walked into a 2,000-seat auditorium that was filled with teenagers and young adults. They were cheering and clapping with excitement as the session began with praise and worship. The music started and they were using music tracks, just like we did back in America, in St. Louis.
I turned to Carol and said, "So we're not crazy after all." They also used dance and rap. They were doing all of the same things we had been doing. We realized we were actually on the cutting edge of a new move amongst young people in the 1990's.
By the end of that praise and worship session, I was on my knees, tears streaming down my face, with my hands lifted high. All of the disappointment and discouragement was melting away. That was just the first hour of the first night.
That week, we received practical instruction and teaching about youth ministry. We bought Dave Burrows' books and several videos of the speakers during the conference. We took what we received in that conference and implemented the wisdom they gave us. We were given the freedom to just be ourselves. We could hardly wait to get back to St. Louis.
One day, after a morning session, Pastor Mark invited us into the ministry's board room to reconnect with Dave and Angie, whom we had not seen since our days at Oral Roberts University.
After that conference, we charged back to St. Louis on fire and encouraged. We wrote songs that became the most impactful in all of our years as youth pastors. Many of those tunes came directly from the impartations we received at Bahamas Faith Ministries in 1996.
We also purchased Dr. Muroe's books on Purpose and The Kingdom of God and they became a big part of our personal library even as his teachings became a driving force in our lives. We became much more effective youth leaders as we began to train people in the proper roles of leadership, authority, success and succession. We learned how to give the teenagers and youth volunteers personal ownership of the ministry. It's a practice that we still employ to this day.
Little did we know that God was connecting us to Bahamas Faith Ministries for the rest of our lives. A year later, in 1997, we were united again in a youth conference in Norfolk, Virginia. It was at that time that Dave and Angie asked me to come to the Youth Alive Conference in 1998 to be one of the guest speakers. That year solidified our relationships at a new level. Not only did I preach to 2000 young people, but we taught them two of our songs. Several of the youth connected with us and began calling us 'mom and dad'. One of them died in the plane crash.
Dave Burrows and I discovered that we had a lot in common. He eventually became the publisher of my first book through a company he started in the Bahamas.
For a short period, I served as a vice president on their board of International Third World World Youth Leaders.
They invited us back one more year to train and speak to youth leaders from all over the world. It was during that conference that I found myself giving a public exhortation to Teen Mania's leader, Ron Luce. After giving the word, Dr. Myles Munroe pulled me to the side to tell me that the prophetic word was confirmation of what the Board planned to say to Ron the very next day. During that season, I was starting to get bolder and stronger in the call and gifting of God on my life.
Later that week, one of the staff pastors of Bahamas Faith Ministries prophesied to Carol and me about God establishing us in our own ministry. We had no idea it would be Harrisburg and Urban Life.
So, as you can see, our ministry today has direct ties to Dr. Myles Munroe and the Bahamas Faith Ministries in Nassau, Bahamas. They became friends and family to us. We had personal connection with some of those who died Sunday afternoon.
We admit that we needed some time to grieve and recover. Right now we can only say that we will carry on even more determined to fulfill God's purpose in our lives. We are here in this world to Make Disciples of All Nations and that's what we're going to do. We might be in tears sometimes, but we're going to go forth anyway.
Proverbs 11:30 reads, “The fruit of the righteous is a tree of life, And he who wins souls is wise.”
This is our week to invite family, friends, coworkers and classmates to our first MY HOPE film that we will present this Sunday at 11:00AM in the Pennsylvania United Church Center.
Carol and I have invited a couple of our coworkers. One of them told us that not only does she plan to attend, but she is extending the invitation to people that she knows who are having a real hard time right now. One of her invitations is going to someone who has just received a very negative cancer report. Another one of her invitations is going to someone who practices acupuncture and sees many clients who are facing serious and terminal illness. This person recognizes the need for people to have a spiritual element involved in their physical healing. One of Carol’s invitations went to someone who recently had a death in the family and is having a hard time with life right now.
These are the kind of situations that are all around us. People are hurting and they are doing their best to just simply cope. They don’t know they can do more than just COPE and it’s our job to offer them HOPE. As your pastors, we are trying to lead the way in offering HOPE to people in this community. We can’t merely TELL you to invite people, but yet avoid inviting people, too.
If the people that we invite do not attend, the results of their decision are not placed upon us. Our job is to, at least, give people an opportunity. And after we give them the opportunity, we must pray for them. That’s what we have been doing over the last month.
We realize many churches and pastors are attempting to draw people to their ministries by offering them a promise of prosperity and blessings. Some offer special titles and positions. Others offer people a place to display their gifts and talents.
And there are thousands of people who are flocking to those opportunities. It’s more important for them to seek money, blessings, titles, positions, and opportunities to stand on a stage and perform, rather than truly pursue the heart of God. We boldly proclaim that the heart of God is for souls.
2 Peter 3:9b declares that the Lord, “….is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance.”
Therefore, at Urban Life, we are offering HOPE and the once-in-a-lifetime chance to rebuild, restore and renew hearts and homes by the presence and power of Jesus Christ.
From Harrisburg, Pennsylvania to Duhok, Iraq, the Lord has expanded our hearts and sharpened our vision. Today, it’s all about going into the entire world and preaching the gospel to every nation. God has assembled a TEAM, here at Urban Life, that will work together to accomplish that vision. We are finding our places and positions to do the work of the ministry in these last and evil days.
When the bridegroom makes His surprise entry, we want to be found working and ready for Him.
It’s good to be back in Harrisburg, where we can continue to go forth with our God-given assignment to rebuild, restore and renew hearts and homes. We were so pleased to learn of your very successful and uplifting Urban Life Sunday gathering.
It brings a leader the greatest pleasure to know that the church family can carry on without them. No true leader wants to settle for a group of mind-less robots who can’t do anything without their leader. True success is being able to develop and release successors who can carry a group, organization, team or church even further than the leader can take them. This past Sunday encouraged us because it told us that you guys are more than able. It confirmed that we have the right people in the right season.
You know, of course, that this means Carol and I want you guys to continue in those roles once we move into the New Year. We’ll talk about that later, but we just wanted to let you know what the future holds.
Our weekend in St. Louis can best be described as an action-packed, holy spirit-led, prophetic assignment. Not one single moment was wasted or idle. God set up everything so well that we are able to spend almost the entire weekend with our son Christopher and his fiancée Antonette Simmons. How wonderful it was to be able to get to know our next, future daughter in law (love).
The wedding of our niece was awesome. It was very emotional for us because we remember when she was first brought home from the hospital after she was born. My voice cracked several times as I took them through the ceremony. Her husband, Larricus Brown, had a daughter and our niece, Ariel, had a son. She also adopted two boys (cousins) who would have been placed in the foster care system. So, we even conducted a family vow ceremony as well, and that part was really emotional. The Lord gave me a prophetic word for her husband in the closing prayer, and a prophetic word for their new family.
Afterwards, we spent some time with Chris, Antonette, and three of our spiritual daughters at a St. Louis downtown restaurant. From there we were off to the wedding reception where we were mobbed by several people that we haven’t seen for many years.
Even as the reception ended, we found ourselves praying for a dear relative who is in the midst of a marriage crisis. It was another Godly appointment.
The next day, Sunday morning, Bishop Raphael asked us to share a few words with the congregation before the youth and young adults ministered. Carol gave a powerful exhortation about never taking what we have in God, for granted. Then I shared about the journey the Lord has taken us on over the last few months and how we came into the real reasons why God sent us the Harrisburg. I talked about Unite to Restore, the invitation to go to Kurdistan with the Living Hope Alliance team (http://www.iraqrefugeefund.com/medical-facility-project.html) and the call upon the Church in St. Louis to prepare for a season of exile, like the exile mentioned in Jeremiah 29. I closed by asking the church to pray for us.
Then the Elders and leaders came forth and prophesied over us for the next 40 minutes. The Spirit of God totally interrupted the day’s agenda. I don’t think the words we shared were recorded, but the prophetic words were captured. The audio is a bit distorted, but you can still hear enough of the speaking to understand what was being said. Here is a small sample:
We plan to play those prophetic words during our next prayer gatherings. We want you to share in those powerful moments of prophetic confirmation.
After the service, we met with several people. We got a chance to pray for two of the daughters of our spiritual son who passed away last year. One just fell into my arms weeping. Their mother has desired this moment for a long time, but that was the right time. It’s always about God’s timing.
Our home church blessed us with a love offering and several people gave us an offering as well. It was enough to pay for our upcoming passport renewals so we can start making international trips. We simply didn’t have the money. The passport renewals were going to cost more than $200. So God not only sent the confirming words about international travel, but He’s already begun to pay for it as well.
God is truly preparing Urban Life for something special. More and more we are convinced that HE sent us to Pennsylvania to connect with the right people for the right season, in order to fulfill His purpose and plan. What an honor it is to serve the one, true and living God.
This week’s letter is being sent to you even as we prepare to go home to St. Louis, Missouri. As many of you have been following in the news, St. Louis has become the epicenter of a major power-struggle in our nation.
Following the shooting of an unarmed Black teen by a White police officer, thousands of people have converged upon St. Louis organizing protest and street marches and leading the charge in civil disobedience strategies. However, within the mix of all of this, another teen was shot and killed, which led to even more uprising where people have been burning the American flag.
The unrest has now shifted and spread from the suburb of Ferguson, to a city-wide movement of protest and outbreaks. The situation has been escalating quickly, as various special interest groups, each with their own agendas and initiatives have descended upon the city.
All of St. Louis is bracing for the expected decision by a grand jury, to not prosecute the officer. The chaos and rioting that could result from that decision, could easily lead to some serious violence and bloodshed, along with the implementation of martial law. The decision is supposed to be made today or tomorrow, so we have no idea what kind of situation we are about to enter when we get there Friday morning.
PLEASE, PLEASE, PLEASE PRAY FOR US!
We know that months ago, when we wrote about this and talked about this, it seemed far-fetched and unreal. But things are happening just as we told you. We just had no idea that it would start in my own home, and that we might actually BE THERE when it started.
Those warnings still stand. What’s happening in St. Louis will spread throughout the country. It will happen in Harrisburg, too. No, we may not see riots, but we will see military police patrolling the streets of Harrisburg. We will see the government dictating our days, nights and weekends. It’s coming. It’s just a matter of time, now.
We’re actually going to St. Louis to perform the wedding of our eldest niece. God has given us powerful prophetic utterances for her and the blended family that is coming together under the bonds of holy matrimony. This trip is also giving us the opportunity to spend some time with my parents, siblings, and all of the other nephews and nieces. We'll also get to meet our next daughter-in-law (love). Beyond that, we don't know what will happen.
We share all of this with you so that you can join with us in prayer. We really don’t know what to expect this weekend. We rest in the peace of God because HE knew that we would be going into the hot spot of the nation at this time.
We know that God will direct our steps throughout the weekend and we’ll see the people we need to see and be able to minister to those who need a word. We are also going to release a word of encouragement, comfort and a call to war for the people of God. We don’t know how all of that will take place, but we know God will work out all the details.
This is a multipurpose trip. It’s a family connection. It’s a dangerous assignment. It’s a response to the call of God that has been upon us for many years.
Please pray for us as we embark upon this secret mission.
Remember, there is NO Friday night prayer this week, but our Sunday Gathering is still on the schedule. We know you guys will do well this Sunday. Even though we’ll be in St. Louis, the Urban Life family will still gather in the PA United Church Center as usual. We still expect you to welcome any visitors, to pray for one another, and to receive more instruction in the plan of God for our ministry.
If you go to Google and ask about the attention span of a gold fish, it will tell you this: The average attention span for adults in 2013 was only 8 seconds The average attention span for adults in 2000 was 12 seconds The average attention span of a gold fish is 9 seconds Conclusion: People now have a shorter attention span than a goldfish.
It goes on to say that attention span is the amount of concentrated time on a task without becoming distracted. Most educators and psychologists agree that the ability to focus attention on a task is crucial for the achievement of one’s goals. It’s no surprise attention spans have been decreasing over the past decade with the increase in external stimulation. The average length watched of a single internet video is about 2.7 minutes.
This data comes from the National Center for Biotechnology Information, U.S. National Library of Medicine.
So why is this, the topic of discussion this week?
Well, because it is an alarming revelation that people are now so easily distracted that it makes it very easy for the enemy of all of mankind to keep millions of people on the planet from thinking about the reality of eternity. Even when ministers and churches like Urban Life, bring up the subject of ‘What happens after death’; we basically have only 8 seconds to hold someone’s attention.
Over the past few years we have posted over 1200 video and audio clips, along with the release of several devotional books, but the best we can hope for, according to these latest statistics, is that most people will spend less than three minutes watching the videos, listening to the podcast or reading the books. That’s if we can hold their attention long enough to get them to engage at all.
Wow! What can we say in 8 seconds that will hold someone’s attention about their eternal destiny? How do you communicate the seriousness of being eternally separated from God? How do you get the message across, to the millions of people who hold the title “Christian,” that their hearts are far from God and they are not on their way to heaven? How do you explain that living a double life of willful sin, unforgiveness and disobedience, will not qualify them to enter the Kingdom of Heaven? How do you make it clear that just because they recited the sinner’s prayer, it does not mean that the Spirit of God lives within them?
I tried to think of a few phrases and the best I could come up with was, “You’ve got 8 seconds to eternity!”
Or consider this question, “If you had 8 seconds to live, what would you do?”
Perhaps these are the type of questions we need to ask to get our family and friends to STOP and THINK about their lives and what follows AFTER this life. Maybe this is what it will take for Christian Believers to STOP and examine themselves. The Apostle Paul wrote, “Examine yourselves as to whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Do you not know yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you?—unless indeed you are disqualified.” ---2 Corinthians 13:5 (NKJV)
This is why we are so thankful for the Holy Spirit within us. He helps us to stay focused and to not become so easily distracted by the cares of this life, the demonically inspired entertainment or the fear inducing news about wars, pestilence or religious heretics.
The Lord brought a powerful word of exhortation through our brother Michael Smith last Sunday, about staying focused in spite of the distractions of this era. We just wanted to rehearse that exhortation in this week’s letter.
As we gather to pray this Friday evening and again on Sunday morning, we are seeking God for wisdom in how to break past the distractions, to impart seeds of His Word and promises.
In everyday life, each of you has been given an assignment by the Lord Himself. On our jobs, in the neighborhood, in our schools, and in our families, God is giving us priceless moments to impart the reality of eternity to people who don’t really know Him.
In spite of the distractions of demons or life itself, we are trusting God, that somewhere in those 8 second intervals, we will be able to impart, declare and demonstrate the good news (the Gospel) of Jesus Christ and how He opened the way for us to have eternal life in the Kingdom of God.
Very soon we’ll have some postcard invitations available so you can invite people to the film about Heaven on Sunday, November 9, 2014. In the meantime, please submit the names of people that you are praying for as we anticipate this time of sharing the Gospel. We’re praying for all of the names on the prayer list when we gather this weekend. We’re simply trusting God.
For since, in the wisdom of God, the world through wisdom did not know God, it pleased God through the foolishness of the message preached to save those who believe. ---1 Corinthians 1:21 (NKJV)