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.”