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10. Servanthood 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.

11. Chaplain 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.

12. Microsoft 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 the way

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.”

13. Master’s 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.

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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 ministries.”

14. Christian 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 stores.

“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 for help.”

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 six people.

“The Discipleship 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.

“What we’re 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?”

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