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Chain reaction

Located on the main drag of a small bedroom community of Tulsa, Okla., Coweta First Assembly of God is effectively reaching families and individuals one at a time.

But it was not always so. Senior Pastor Gary Rogers responded to a call to the struggling church in 1993. At the time Rogers was a full-time fireman (in Tulsa) and part-time youth pastor (at Sand Springs First Assembly). He left a youth group of 100 to make a congregation of 60 his first senior pastorate.

The church began to grow gradually, primarily by word of mouth. Salvations seemed to cause chain reactions. It became a pattern for whole families to come to Christ.

The Hutchins family is an example. Kelly Hutchins, 37, usually spent her Friday nights smoking dope and drinking, but six years ago she wandered into this church and was saved. Since that time, her children, husband, mother, father and sister have all come to Christ and attend the church. Today, Kelly serves as the Women’s Ministries president; her husband, Kevin, 36, is a deacon.

Also a deacon is Kevin’s brother, Greg, likewise a former drug and alcohol abuser. When Greg was burned badly on a construction job, he cried out to God, "If You will just get me out of this mess, I will serve You."

"Well, He got me out," Greg says, "and I started serving Him." Today he remembers vividly the November 1996 service when he ran to the altar.

Jay Mahon, 41 was part of another chain reaction. With a $300-a-day drug habit and a desire to die, Jay was introduced to Jesus by a cousin. In 1998, "I crawled into this church not knowing anything about God," he says, "and gave my life to Christ." Two brothers, his mother and father followed. Jay now feels a call to full-time ministry.

By 1996, the chain reactions had grown the church to about 270, and it moved to its current, larger location. On a weekly basis, links were added to the chain. Today the congregation is approaching 600.

Next to the main sanctuary, a large sign identifies "Frontline Youth Ministries," which meets in a recently acquired second building. As traffic streams by, people see easily into the youth building, which has intentionally been left without curtains and tinted glass, so people can see in. Many young people wander in out of curiosity and eventually get saved. Youth Pastor Steve Lee, here since 1994, has seen the group grow from 12 to more than 100.

Three weeks prior to my visit, a young person in the community committed suicide. Christian youth formed prayer pockets throughout the high school, and one student from First Assembly seized an opportunity to give an impromptu gospel message. Fifteen students came to Christ that day.

The Sunday of my visit, there are more men than women in the congregation. Also unusual is the fact that an estimated 75 percent of the membership of First Assembly has received the baptism in the Holy Spirit. Why? Pastor Rogers says, "We believe in getting them saved, getting them water baptized and getting them baptized with the Holy Ghost."

Indeed, there are 24 people baptized in water this night, including another chain reaction — seven from one family, the Hunts, and two friends they brought to church.

Following the evening service, Children’s Pastor Steve McPherson prays around the altar with young children, ages 5 to 12, to receive the baptism in the Holy Spirit. "It’s a fallacy that young children cannot be baptized in the Holy Ghost," he says. Many children have received here.

The church also participates in community outreach and special evangelistic events regularly.

First Assembly in Coweta has taken the ordinary aspects of the Christian life and seen God turn them into extraordinary results. Each soul saved adds one more link to the chain. And sometimes that soul begins one more chain reaction.

– Ken Horn

 

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