model lasts a lifetime
Volunteers Lori Phillips and Rhonda
Cramer have collectively spent 60 years in the infant ministry center at Bethany
Assembly of God Church in Adrian, Mich.
As infants, Phillips and Cramer
received care in the nursery; as teens they began ministering in it. Both
are representative of the vital role dedicated volunteers fill in A/G churches.
“It’s rewarding to
see busy parents return after service having been spiritually replenished,”
says Phillips, explaining why she serves.
Besides providing a needed break
for parents, volunteers minister to the children in their care and provide
time for the gospel to impact the children’s parents.
“If you make the nursery
a secure, friendly, loving place, you can reach a family for a lifetime for
Christ,” Cramer says.
ministers to troops in Iraq
Because his grandfathers and uncles
served in World War II, the Korean War and the Vietnam War, Gregory B. Walker
wanted to be a soldier. Ever since boyhood, he loved to dress in fatigues
and imagine he was in the U.S. Army. But Walker, who had a grandfather who
pastored, also wanted to be a preacher.
Not until he attended Central Bible
College in Springfield, Mo., did Walker realize he could combine the callings
of God and country by becoming a chaplain. On weekends, Walker became part
of a CBC student-led ministry that traveled to Fort Leonard Wood, Mo., where
a total of 2,600 soldiers responded to their ministry with a profession of
faith. After obtaining two master’s degrees from Assemblies of God Theological
Seminary, Walker entered active service a decade ago and has been overseas
three times. In April, as a brigade chaplain deployed with the 4th Infantry
Division from Fort Hood, Texas, Walker arrived in Udairi, Kuwait, for what
likely will be a seven-month Middle East stay. Walker, now a major, supervised
nine ministry unit teams and assumed responsibility for religious services
for the entire camp. Four days after arrival, Walker preached and supervised
Palm Sunday services for more than 13,000 soldiers.
“I finally get to be the
senior pastor of a megachurch,” Walker, 37, joked.
Walker currently is based in Ba’Qubah
northeast of Baghdad. “As we moved into Iraq, more soldiers saw the
need for God in their lives,” he said. “A lot of soldiers are
seeking out their chaplains.”
Walker and his wife
of 16 years, Roxanne, have two sons: Joshua, 12, and Caleb, 8.
exec leaves business world to plant church
Lee McFarland, pastor of Radiant
Church in Surprise, Ariz., thinks and lives outside the box. In fact, he doesn’t
even know what the box is when it comes to pastoring a church. On Sunday mornings
worshipers are served free Starbucks coffee and Krispy Kreme doughnuts. A
worship band plays rock tunes overlaid with Christian lyrics. When McFarland
preaches he does so in jeans and a Hawaiian shirt.
Ever since Radiant was planted
by Evangel Church in nearby Sun City, where Mel Holmquist is pastor, it has
been on the front lines of culture ministering to unbelievers.
McFarland’s credo goes something
like this: If you’ve never set foot in a church and think lightning
would strike you if you did, grab a doughnut, a cup of coffee and find a seat
— you’re more than welcome here.
But don’t get McFarland wrong.
He’s not trying to be trendy. He’s just doing church similar to
Microsoft, his former employer,
does business: Strive for excellence, empower the customer and keep the atmosphere
casual. Where Microsoft sells software, McFarland touts Jesus.
“We want a college atmosphere,”
says McFarland, 44. “But our vision is that our church will be a lightning
rod in the community where many people come to accept Christ.”
In many ways it already is. More
than 2,500 worshipers attend the church weekly. McFarland estimates that nearly
40 percent of those accepted Christ as Savior at the church. Though the church’s
style and approach to ministry are unusually laid back and intensely passionate,
McFarland says it is effective.
“It’s a miracle church
because we don’t try to control it,” he says. “We just say,
‘God lead on and we’ll try our best to be good followers.’
We’ve seen God do some incredible things here already, but the journey
has just begun.”
Commission fosters spiritual passion
Many people say the church is always
one generation away from extinction; so training future leaders is imperative.
This is where Master’s Commission comes in.
Jeremy DeWeerdt, MC
coordinator in Rockford, Ill., says that training young people
now will ensure the church’s health and longevity. “This
generation is searching for purpose,” he says. “I
believe MC helps them find their purpose in God and then directs
them to fulfill that purpose in either the marketplace or ministry.”
Rockford’s MC program began
in 1993 and aimed to build young leaders and give them a passion to use their
talents and gifts for ministry. The program had only 16 individuals then,
but has grown to 165 today.
Post-high school students come
to MC for nine months to develop personal devotional habits and train in various
ministries. An emphasis on strengthening conviction and passion, while seeking
to nurture Christlike attitudes and motivations are also key ingredients,
DeWeerdt says. “It is like tithing one year of one’s life to God
and allowing Him to do whatever He desires.”
Kim Schoonover, an MC student beginning
her third year in the program, says she has been challenged in many ways to
stay connected to God. “Master’s Commission helped me understand
the importance of what a true, intimate relationship with Jesus Christ really
is. I have been challenged not to walk, but run after God.”
Like Schoonover, MC students are
learning to give everything to God.
“These young adults are passionate
about servanthood, evangelism and knowing God,” DeWeerdt
says. “That alone will impact youth groups, churches and
Help Center: a home for the homeless and more
Ear-to-ear grins and captivating
salvation stories are the norm at Christian Help Center in Vallejo, Calif.
Here, staff members, most of whom used to be homeless, smile because they
remember what their life was like before they accepted Christ as Savior. Guests
beam because — besides having a bed to sleep in and food to eat —
they sense God’s love and feel hope.
CHC, a ministry partner of Lord’s
Fellowship Assembly of God in Vallejo, is a homeless shelter that houses 65
people — men, women and families. Soon the facility will add 16 beds
to the adjacent building, a former bar that stood alongside the center for
20 years. The majority of the 15-member staff live on-site, where they provide
120 daily meals for guests beyond the three squares offered to the residents.
Saturday is “community food giveaway day” when as many as 100
people converge on the center to receive provisions donated by local grocery
“Anybody from anywhere can
come in,” says Rey Bernardes, pastor of 300-member Lord’s Fellowship
and CHC executive director. “But they leave with more than food.”
On this Saturday, 13 homeless people
sit outside on folding chairs listening to Patti Francis, 44, share her testimony.
The testimony is part of a half-hour service that precedes the grocery giveaway.
“I became homeless about
three years ago,” says Francis, who lost her home and car after a child-custody
battle and divorce. “I had never been out on the streets and I thought
I would probably die. It was humbling to become homeless and ask somebody
Francis says she came to CHC seeking
shelter, and found God as well.
“I used to call on Him only
when I needed Him,” Francis says. “When I came to the Christian
Help Center, this is where I began to see that I needed a relationship with
Him.” Today, Francis serves as an outreach case manager at CHC and is
working toward a college degree.
Jose Salazar, 48, moved to the
United States from Mexico in 1978. After listening to Francis’ testimony,
he takes his two bags of groceries and a cake and heads for his bicycle. “I’m
jumping from place to place,” he says, explaining how intermittent drug
abuse, a divorce and a work-related injury left him homeless in January. “I
didn’t want to ask for help, but when you don’t work, you never
know what’s going to happen to you the next day.” Salazar, who
once worked as a seafood chef at a restaurant in Mazatlán, Mexico,
says he lost his $300,000 home and construction company in Vallejo. “I
never accuse God for my life being like this,” he says. “We live
the way we choose. Someday I will change.”
Anyone is eligible for shelter
at CHC, provided there are beds available. But overnight guests cannot be
under the influence of any kind of illegal drug or alcohol. Those under the
influence are referred to Southern Solano Alcohol/Drug Council, a recovery
center directed by Carol Roberts, a CHC graduate. Roberts, who began drinking
at 14 and shooting intravenous drugs at 27, spent five years homeless, sleeping
in motels, parks or cars in Vallejo. She says she chose CHC because of the
change she saw in her brother after he went through the program.
“He came to find me when
I was sleeping in a car in south Vallejo and I told him what he could do with
his God,” Roberts, 54, recalls. “But I remember he had this light
in his eyes. It kind of haunted me, but it also let me know that if I ever
got ready to get sober, that’s where I needed to go.”
In 1989, Roberts accepted Christ
as Savior at Christian Help Center and began using SSAC as a safe place to
“hang out.” Two years later, she landed a part-time job at SSAC
and has since worked her way to director, where she has served for seven years.
“God grabbed me from out
of hell and changed me with His love,” Roberts says. “Everything
I learned the hard way I use today to tell other people they don’t have
to take the hard road unless that’s what they choose.”
Back at Christian Help
Center, to ensure guests choose the easier road, house rules are
simple yet stringent. Guests must search for work each morning
and take afternoon classes — such as money management, résumé
writing and credit repair — at the Success Center, also
operated by Lord’s Fellowship. Located on nearby Mare Island,
a U.S. Navy shipyard established in 1854 now serves as the meeting
place for Lord’s Fellowship. The congregation — comprised
of Filipinos, Caucasians, African-Americans, Hispanics and Africans
— began meeting in the chapel in 2001 after outgrowing its
old building, which now serves as a Discipleship Center and houses
Center is the ‘graduate program’ of the Success Center,”
says Bernardes, noting that self-sustaining residents pay rent
and help minister at the church’s other facilities. Bernardes
says volunteering church members are crucial to the outreaches
Lord’s Fellowship operates.
But what compels them
to roll up their sleeves?
“This is not
a megachurch,” Bernardes says. “These things happen
because members experienced a miracle and want to give back.”
What’s more, Bernardes says, Lord’s Fellowship is
doing what God instructed the church to do.
doing here should not be unusual; it should be the norm,”
he says, noting God has given Lord’s Fellowship favor because
of its visibility in Vallejo. “Non-Christians may not understand
spiritual things, but they can see, feel and understand compassion.
Then, as we share the gospel with them, how can they not listen?”