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
“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.
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
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.
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.
“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
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.”