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5. Return to basics spurs growth

Sometimes sticking together isn’t the best solution. Greeley (Colo.) Assembly of God proves that philosophy the last Sunday of every month when church members gather in 40 different homes for evening “lighthouse” prayer cell groups, which began meeting this year. The groups — designed to bring the church’s focus back to prayer and reading the Word — have brought about positive changes. Sunday morning attendance has grown to 1,500, and the church recently purchased an adjacent one-acre lot to expand the sanctuary and add classrooms.

Each lighthouse prays through the same prayer list, which includes the nation, U.S. government, every school and college in Greeley, the church’s pastoral staff, Assemblies of God missionaries, peace in Israel and the end of abortion.

“We know we should be praying more and getting into the Word more,” says Rigo Magaña, pastor of Greeley Assembly, one of 1,918 A/G Spanish-speaking churches. “But many times, it’s not until we’ve made a conscious effort to go back to the fundamentals of seeking God that we realize the power of prayer.”

The idea behind the lighthouses, Magaña says, is to carry out spiritual warfare against the enemy on several fronts.

“Satan knows we’re going to be in church every Sunday,” Magaña says. “But if we have different groups throughout the city, he can’t attack them all at once. Just when he’s ready to attack one group, another one is starting to pray somewhere else.”

Rachael Chavez, 22, has attended Greeley Assembly for four years. She says the lighthouses have helped her remember how interesting prayer and God’s Word can be. “I can pray on my own time,” Chavez says, “but there’s just something that happens when a group of people get together and pray for the same thing.”

6. Women pastors answer call of God

More than a decade ago Maria Khaleel pioneered New Life Assembly in Pembroke Pines, Fla. Though being a female senior pastor has not always been easy, it’s a position to which Khaleel sensed a calling since age 11.

“At the time I didn’t know what obstacles I would face as a woman in ministry,” she says. “But God has been faithful to fulfill the calling He has for my life.”

Khaleel served as Miami Evangel Temple’s associate pastor for more than six years before pioneering New Life in 1992. Evangel Temple mothered the church in Pembroke Pines, a city of 150,000 southwest of Fort Lauderdale.

Eighty percent of New Life’s 700-member congregation are first-time converts. The church is home to 30 nationalities.

Jules Derosier, who learned the ways of voodoo in Haiti, worships at the church weekly. His wife, Rosemarie, visited New Life in 1996 and received Christ as her Savior. She asked the congregation to pray for her husband, and soon he committed his life to Christ and received the baptism in the Holy Spirit.

“My life changed and I wouldn’t have anything else,” says Derosier, now a deacon who leads a door-to-door evangelism ministry. Rosemarie is children’s pastor.

Robert Pacheo, a native of Nicaragua, and his wife, Gladys, accepted Jesus together at New Life Assembly in 1993.

“My wife desired more of God and I just went to keep her company,” Pacheo says. “I didn’t expect the Lord to get a hold of me, too. From that day, everything has been different.”

7. The fast pace of Church on the Move

Like a little boy eagerly anticipating Christmas, Jim Sinclair can’t wait for Sunday morning to arrive. It’s not so much that he plays lead guitar on the worship team or even that he is pastor of Church on the Move in Plains, Mont. He just loves being with God’s people.

The Sunday morning service is really a small part of what constitutes ministry at Church on the Move. Virtually everyone in Plains — population 1,126 — knows Jim Sinclair; 250 residents call Church on the Move their church home.

Those who aren’t regular attendees know about the church’s reputation for meeting needs. For instance, a state trooper called at 2 a.m. recently to alert Sinclair that an elk had met its demise in a collision with a car. Sinclair, 47, rounded up volunteers to process the meat for the church’s food bank.

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Plains is located amid the majestic forests and snow-capped mountains of northwest Montana. Sinclair and his wife, Reneé, assumed the pastorate in 1997 when the church had only 17 members, including themselves. At the time, Sinclair made three times as much money cutting timber for a living.

Sinclair, at 6 feet 4 inches, is an imposing figure, a rugged outdoorsman who is skilled at not only sawing logs, but crafting custom knives and helping at the construction site for a new church building. He also preaches with passion, blending humor and poignancy. Throughout the sermon, the crowd responds with clapping and cries of “amen.”

“In this area, people are measured by how hard they work,” says Sinclair, who is most comfortable in blue jeans and a T-shirt. “To really reach people you have to get relational.”

Many in the region struggle financially and work more than one job in an effort to make ends meet. Without nurturing from the Sinclairs, many of those helping in ministry likely wouldn’t even be in church, let alone serving others. But the Sinclairs empower members to act upon their desires to fill ministry needs. Most of the free services provided by the church — including woodcutting, haircutting, a clothing bank, pregnancy care and a soup kitchen — started because someone had a passion that led to action. This certainly isn’t a church where 10 percent of the people do 90 percent of the work.

“We’ve told our members they can only be sheep for so long, then they must become ranch hands,” says Reneé, who is also the worship leader.

In his first few days as pastor, Sinclair and a few faithful followers went door to door around the town giving away bread. The following week, attendance at the church more than tripled. He found that several elderly residents skimped on food in order to pay for medicine.

Now, a dozen regulars volunteer at the church’s state-certified Shekinah Soup Kitchen, although much more than soup is provided. Twice a week, free home-cooked lunches are served featuring meat, vegetables, bread, drink and dessert. A total of 1,100 meals are served monthly at the kitchen.

Some come not so much because they are hungry, but because they are lonely, and that’s fine with Sinclair. “We’re not just here to serve food but to minister,” he says.

In addition, more than 150 families are fed each month from the church’s pantry, which offers more than outdated leftovers. “We don’t say, ‘Are you sure you need this?’ but rather, ‘Is this going to be enough?’ ” says Shannon Allen, 44, food bank coordinator. Recipients have a choice of what kinds of meat, beans, soup and snacks they prefer. Each month, an average of 4,500 pounds of food is given away. The food bank has five freezers, containing everything from pot roasts to bear burgers. The food bank also provides pet food, because Allen learned that some people gave away their goods to feed their hungry animals.

Eleven members of the church are involved in a wood ministry that helps the elderly, single mothers and the disabled to heat their homes in an area where freezing temperatures can occur nine months out of the year. Last year, volunteers cut, split and delivered 100 cords.

Ed Johnson, 49, is as involved as anyone at Church on the Move. He leads worship in the first Sunday morning service, then drives to a nearby hospital’s long-term care unit to lead a service and finally returns for the second church service to run the sound system. The good-natured Johnson has been playing guitar and giving a short teaching to elderly residents at the facility for 27 years. “They need encouragement because it can be a lonely, desperate life,” Johnson says. “We try to bring some joy and laughter, and keep them focused on the Lord.”

Currently, the church conducts its on-site ministries in six buildings in a one-block area. The new 20,000-square-foot Church on the Move building, including a 450-seat sanctuary, should be finished by August.

The new church will be a dream come true for the visionary Sinclair and contain the latest computer-generated screen graphics, as well as technologically advanced sound and lighting systems. With the nearest movie multiplex theater 75 miles away, Sinclair likes to preach illustrated sermons, not as drama for entertainment’s sake but as an evangelism tool.

The new 60-foot-wide platform will contain three trapdoors in the floor and seven overhead, from which everything from angels to paratroopers can drop. The stage also will have a large garage-like door at one end. When the circus next comes to town, Sinclair plans to rent an elephant. He’s not sure yet what spiritual connection he’ll make, but it’s bound to make an impact.

8. The Seven Project is turning numbers

To achieve goals you’ve never achieved, you have to do things you’ve never done. That’s the motto The Seven Project has adopted to share Christ with youth throughout the United States. As part of Youth Alive, an Assemblies of God outreach to students, The Seven Project performs school assemblies with a positive, multimedia-enhanced message for teens. Six relevant issues — including abstinence, peer pressure, suicide and self-esteem — are addressed head-on at the assemblies.

“Seven got me to think about my goals and dreams for the future,” says Kendall Alfaro, a high school junior, who e-mailed the Seven Web site.

Nearly every aspect of The Seven Project is linked to the number seven. Seven weeks prior to a Seven Project assembly, students from area youth groups begin promoting the event by engaging in relational evangelism. They use Student Action Boxes filled with resources — seven invitations, seven posters, seven copies of the Book of Hope, a mini-CD and a T-shirt to be worn once a week for each of the seven weeks — to help them initiate conversations about Christ. Each issue at the school assembly is dealt with in seven-minute segments. The seventh solution (Hope in Jesus Christ) is saved for 7@night, a rally students are invited to attend.

The goal?

“To mobilize 7 million presentations of the good news of Jesus Christ to students across the United States,” says Jay Mooney, national Youth Alive director. “That’s our purpose.”

9. After tragedy, Holy Spirit transforms lives

The People’s Church in Salem, Ore., lost its pastor to cancer in May of 1999. With broken spirits and without a senior pastor for 19 months, church members frequently struggled with painful questions.

When Scott Erickson accepted the pastorate he began to emphasize the power and presence of the Holy Spirit. A revival blessed the church, and more than 300 people have been baptized in the Holy Spirit since.

“The presence of the Lord has been clearly evidenced for the last 30 months,” Erickson says. “People were broken. We just pointed them to Jesus.”

The evidence is powerful and inescapable. The sick are healed, prayers are answered, people are ravenous for the things of God and new souls enter the Kingdom every week. Ole Person, an active member for 15 years, attributes this to the Holy Spirit working among people who submit to Him.

“I realize that the more we depend on the Holy Spirit for direction, inspiration, love, vision and compassion, the greater the results for the Kingdom,” Person says. “The church is experiencing revival because we are becoming more like Jesus, and His kingdom is becoming more important than our selfish desires.”

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