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A New Beginning

Larry Huch used to be a violent man who smuggled drugs into the United States from South America. Today he and his wife, Tiz, pastor one of the fastest-growing churches in the nation and have helped hundreds of wounded pastors find restoration.

There was a lot of activity in the sanctuary of New Beginnings Christian Center when the church hosted its seventh-annual World Leadership Conference in Portland, Oregon, last August. But it wasn't the electric guitars, saxophones, synthesizers or the worship band's smooth urban sound that caught the audience's attention. And it wasn't the multi-ethnic choir's stellar performance and gospel rhythm, either. It wasn't even the youth group's flawless original multimedia rap number or their impeccably choreographed techno-dance selection.

No, what really caught their attention was when dozens of pastors flooded the altar after Larry Huch, pastor of New Beginnings Christian Center (NBCC) and host of the World Leadership Conference (WLC), encouraged all ministers who were dealing with feelings of failure to come forward to get their vision back. Or when he got choked up while talking about street children in Portland who needed somebody to love them. Or when he called an older ministerial couple onstage and told them they wouldn't have to worry about their retirement because his church would take care of their financial needs.

What caught their attention was a man who didn't allow the applause and accolades of 4,000 conference attendees to distract him from noticing the needs of that one pastor in the crowd who might be hurting or have a special need.

Eric Thomas is one example. When he received the invitation to attend last year's WLC, he thought for sure there must be a catch. The 24-year-old pastor of Bethel Christian Church in Gainesville, Florida, was told that if he and his wife, Natasha, came to the six-day conference, all of their expenses would be paid--including registration, airfare, hotel accommodations and food. It sounded too good to be true.

But it wasn't. What Thomas didn't know is that Larry Huch and his wife, Tiz, planned to pick up the tab for 800 ministers at the August 2000 conference, spending almost $500,000 on these sponsorships alone.

Although Thomas wondered if the offer was a gimmick, he and his wife hopped on a plane to Portland, joining more than 4,000 leaders from around the world who attended the weeklong event. It didn't take long for his suspicions to disappear. The Holy Spirit ministered to the couple in the very first service, and they quickly recognized that the conference was an answer to prayer--saving their marriage and ministry.

"I was just about ready to wave my flag and say: 'I quit. I'm not going to do this anymore,'" says Thomas, admitting that both his marriage and ministry were on the rocks before attending the conference. "But this has been a time of reconciliation for me and my wife."

Bringing reconciliation and healing to hurting pastors is exactly why the Huchs started WLC, which was first held in 1994 with 100 ministers and their spouses. The conference has grown annually and was attended last August by delegates from almost 200 cities across the United States and more than a dozen other countries, including Brazil, Indonesia, Ukraine and Ghana. Keynote speakers included T.D. Jakes, Keith Butler and Marcus Lamb.

"We had to turn down 200 applicants because we just had no more room," Huch told Ministries Today. "And there were 193 churches from Africa that couldn't get out of the country. Our goal is to eventually get up to 5,000 delegates whom we can bring in and touch."

WLC was birthed out of NBCC, the Huch's inner-city, independent charismatic church in northeast Portland. NBCC has grown from 10 people in 1990 to more than 5,000 members today, including 1,200 children and 400 teen-agers. The church is racially diverse and is known for its comprehensive ministry to street kids, drug addicts and prisoners.

That same passion for reaching the down-and-out in Portland is what drives the Huchs to find pastors who are on the verge of giving up and to bring them to the WLC each year for a time of healing and refreshing--all expenses paid. The 49-year-old pastor and author of the recently released book, Free at Last: Breaking the Cycle of Family Curses (Albury Publishing), believes the return far outweighs the investment. At the August 2000 conference alone more than 30 couples canceled their plans for divorce after the first service.

"The curse in our marriage and ministry was broken at this conference," Eric Thomas says. "I told my wife that next year when we attend, I want to sponsor 20 people. I want to continue with what's been done for us."

Ministries Today met with Larry and Tiz Huch on the 60,000-square-foot ministry campus of NBCC to find out why the busy pastors of one of America's fastest-growing churches invest so much time, energy and money in other church leaders they don't even know. In characteristic candor, the Huchs talked about their struggles and successes, their love for hurting people and the vision God has given them to bring healing and deliverance.

"People ask us, 'Why would you care about us?'" says Tiz, who co-pastors NBCC with her husband, Larry. "It's because we know what it feels like to be out there struggling and feeling the strain of having no one to turn to. We just want to build a bridge for them to come across, so they don't have to feel what we felt for so many years [in our own ministry]."

HEALING WOUNDED PASTORS

Building bridges one person at a time is the Huchs' modus operandi and how the WLC first started. Larry Huch was attending a meeting for pastors in the mid-1990s when, he says, the Lord dropped Galatians 6:1 into his heart. The verse reads: "Brethren, if a man is overtaken in any trespass, you who are spiritual restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness, considering yourself lest you also be tempted" (NKJV).

At first Huch wasn't sure why the Holy Spirit directed him to the verse. But as he pondered it, he felt the Lord speak to him.

"God said that He wanted me to take 10 percent of our church's money, as part of our missions giving, and then find pastors who may have fallen or stumbled, or were just hurting and out there by themselves," Huch says. "Tiz and I knew what it felt like to be by ourselves, to be afraid, to not know who to talk to, who to go to, or who to trust."

Then, on a break during which Huch was greeting people, he noticed a man standing off by himself. Although he did not know the man, he could tell by his expression that he was having a difficult time. In his typical friendly fashion, Huch approached the stranger.

"I went up to him and said: 'Listen, I'm going to have a Bible conference up in Portland. I'd love for you to come.'"

The man, who recognized Huch from his Called to Conquer TV program on Trinity Broadcasting Network, told Huch that although he would love to come to the conference, he wasn't doing well and couldn't afford it. Then he asked when the event would be held.

Huch's reply was a shock. "Well, first off, I don't know when it is because God just told me to do it a few minutes ago," he answered. "And second, we will pay for your airfare and hotel room. We just want you to come and get a touch from God." The man began to weep.

Thus began NBCC's annual World Leadership Conference, which has remained a priority for the Huchs since its inception in 1994 and has grown in attendance each year. The growth has occurred almost entirely by word of mouth.

"Many pastors whom we've flown here in the past recommend friends or others they have heard about," Tiz says. "Or members of our congregation or one of our pastoral staff members may hear of somebody. We just hear of a need, and we try to fill it."

>And there are plenty of needs in the pastoral community, Larry Huch observes.

"Ministry is the greatest job, but in many ways one of the toughest jobs there is," he says. "There are people pressures, and the stress on you and your family is tremendous because you're fighting the devil. On top of that, if you're not getting the breakthrough you need in your own life, if you're not seeing the victories you want, that adds to the stress. It just wears these guys out."

Pastors seem to be wearing out in record numbers. "Statistics show that 1,500 pastors per month roll up the carpet and quit," he says. And where are they turning?

"We get phone calls from people who have attended WLC who say that at first they thought it was some kind of cult," he continues. "Think about that--they were here, thinking it might be a cult. So I've asked them why they came if they thought that. Their reply: 'Nobody else was reaching out. I have fallen; I've messed up; I'm hurting.'"

That's why the Huchs are striving to create an environment where pastors from any denominational background can feel they have a safe place to run to and get healed. Ministers in need of God's touch are simply too important to let fall through the cracks. "James told us to confess our sins to each other," Larry Huch says. "There is power in finding somebody you can trust to tell your stuff to without it making the church bulletin the following Sunday. That's the beginning of the cleansing and healing process."

"The biggest thing we see is the discouragement that comes from working in the 'people business,'" Tiz adds. "But who helps the hurting pastor? If you stop caring, or if you get hard and calloused, you become totally ineffective. So we try and show people what we have learned--that you can still care, you can still love people, you can still open your heart to them, but you can live above the pain. You can tap into God's resources and receive grace to continue to care, even in the midst of bad things that happen.

"We want to equip more and more pastors so they will have the tools needed to stay in the ministry," Tiz continues. "They need the tools that will help them to stay in the fight, to stay on the front lines, to pastor effectively and to stay victorious in their personal lives."

The Huchs speak from their own experience.

OVERCOMING THE PAST

Perhaps it is Larry Huch's unconventional background that gives him the compassion and understanding needed to reach out to those who are facing their own challenges and struggles. After all, he wasn't always the designer-clad picture of prosperity that people around the world see today. As a kid he never even went to church--unless it was to rob one. "The only time I had been in [a] church [was] when the doors were closed!" he jokingly recalls. "So when I became a Christian, I didn't know anything about what denominations were or who Jesus was."

But he did know about the narcotics underworld. Huch grew up in St. Louis and was surrounded by crime and violence as a child. He became a heavy drug user--including heroin, cocaine, marijuana and LSD, to name a few--and in fact overdosed just a year before he found Christ.

By his early 20s, the young man had become a full-fledged drug smuggler, secretly transporting drugs into the United States from Colombia, South America. He had also become very rich. He owned a ranch in the Andes Mountains, was surrounded by chauffeurs, servants and bodyguards, and typically, he says, carried around $60,000 in his pocket just for fun.

But it didn't take long before his reckless lifestyle took its toll. He became a strung out addict, mainlining up to $10,000 worth of cocaine a day. After only eight months in Colombia, he went from 215 pounds to 145 pounds. His life was spinning out of control, and he knew it.

Huch also knew, however, that there had to be more to life than this. And even though he did not have a relationship with the Lord, he recalls crying out, "God, don't let me die until I find out what happiness is."

The answer to that prayer would come about unexpectedly.

>It started when Huch found out that the man to whom he had been selling drugs was actually a narcotics agent. Sensing that his days were numbered in Colombia, the desperate smuggler packed a few necessities and fled to Flagstaff, Arizona, to hide out for awhile. It was there, at the age of 26, that he would encounter Christ.

"It was a setup from the Holy Spirit," he says. "I ran from the arms of the law right into the arms of God."

It happened on a day when the young outlaw was smoking dope on the front porch of a run-down house he shared with two female friends. But he wasn't so high that he didn't notice a young Mexican kid walking back and forth past the house. "He walked past about six times," Huch remembers. "I thought he wanted to come over and buy some drugs, or maybe rob the place, but finally he walked up to me and said: 'I've never done this before, but Jesus told me to tell you that He's who you are looking for. Jesus saved me, and I know He's gonna save you.'"

Intrigued, Huch accepted the boy's invitation to visit a small inner-city church that was showing the film Gospel Road, starring Johnny Cash. The truth presented in the film penetrated his heart.

"I just knew Jesus died for me," Huch says. At the end of the service he went up to the altar to receive Christ. He was instantly delivered from his drug habit.

But that pivotal night left an impression on the young man for another reason, too. He says that because of how he looked--T-shirt, old jeans, ratty ponytail and beard, needle-marked arms--nobody in the church would pray with him. And when one of his Christian friends did find out he was saved, the first question she asked him was what denomination he had become.

"That has always stuck with me," Huch says. "So when Tiz and I formed WLC, we decided there would be no denominational barriers. One of the neat things is seeing the unity God brings."

That spirit of openness and unity is the foundation of the Huchs' ministry.

DREAMING BIG

Larry and Tiz Huch met in a small Pentecostal church in Arizona the same year Larry was saved, and they got married shortly thereafter. A lot has happened since those early days together. Besides raising three children--Anna, 22; Luke, 18; and Katie, 13--the Huchs have pioneered six churches in their 20 years of ministry, including two in Australia. They are familiar with the ups, the downs, the blessings and the demands of pastoring.

Although the dramatic growth of New Beginnings Christian Center and its impact in Portland have been astounding, the couple are careful not to take it for granted. That's why plans for NBCC's new facility in Gresham--a suburb of Portland just a few miles from the church's current location--include a special focus on meeting the community's social and economic needs. The new ministry complex, which will comprise 30 acres, is scheduled for completion by August 2002 and will be built debt-free.

"We're not just building a church," Larry Huch says. "We want to build a center, more than just a place used on Sundays."

Plans include a multimillion-dollar youth and children's facility with free video games, movies, rides, sporting activities and weight rooms, all with adult supervision. The facility will be open every day before and after school hours. But that's only the beginning.

"There will be people who will help them learn English, help them with their homework and counselors they can talk with about drug problems or domestic abuse," Huch says. "We already have safe homes for women who need to escape abusive situations, and we're going to have more." An office complex that will provide medical and dental services is also being considered.

The impact of such outreaches for the kingdom of God could prove to be extraordinary. That's why Huch encourages other pastors to stay in the fight and to dream big for God. It's why he goes after those who have become weary or weak and does what he can to help them find renewed vision in the power of Christ. He knows that to win a battle, you need strong warriors.

"We are not in competition with each other," he says. "We ought to be partnering. If I help build another pastor's church for Jesus, then Jesus will help me build my church. If the church would quit fighting with each other and start to work together, I really believe we would see a massive revival."

Preventing Ministry Burnout

According to some studies, 1,500 pastors per month quit the ministry. You don't have to be the next statistic.

Ministries Today asked Larry Huch what he believes pastors can do to prevent burnout. Here's what he had to say:

Keep your priorities straight. God comes first--if I don't have a relationship with Him, I can't minister for Him. Second is my wife. If I lose her, I lose my destiny. Third is my children. Why do we work so hard to get other people into heaven and then ignore our own children? Fourth is your staff, and fifth is your church.

Enjoy life. Jesus says that His yoke is easy, and His burden is light. This doesn't mean you don't work hard--you just don't work "worried." You have to believe you are going to win and keep the victory. One of the ways you do that is through the right fellowship with others.

Don't give everything away. Don't sacrifice everything for the church. God does not need that. I know of one man who wants nothing to do with Christianity because even though his father was a pastor and everyone thought he was a great man of God, he had a mistress. If the mistress needed carpet, furniture or money, it was there; but if the man's wife or family had a need, it wasn't there. The "mistress" wasn't a woman--it was the church.

Don't let everyone dump on you. You cannot let people call you 24 hours a day. My job is to motivate and teach. I have trained my staff to handle various areas of responsibility; they don't come to me with everything. You have to guard the anointing. Know when it's time to step up to a new level. When you're pioneering a church, you do everything. But as the church grows, you have to train people to do the work of the ministry. As a pastor, you need to stay fresh in your relationship with God so you can bring a fresh word to the people.

Don't put people in a position to win their loyalty. Pastors spend too much time trying to lure people in, or back into, the church, when these people aren't going to make it anyway--they just want to manipulate you. Quit baby-sitting Christians and win souls, and you'll stay fresh. If somebody backslides, I'll go after them. But not if somebody leaves because they're mad nobody called them. I'm not here to baby-sit. If you're three weeks old, we'll change your diaper; but if you're 30 years old, we have a problem.

Know your calling. Many people who are pastoring churches are doing something they are not called to do. Maybe they're called to be pastors, but not senior pastors. If you are not on the right position on the team, it will wear you out. Take Joe Montana, one of the greatest quarterbacks of all time. If you give him the same ball, the same place, the same game and the same team, but change his number to a linebacker, not only will he not be the best, he'll die. He won't make it because he's in the wrong position. You have to know your calling. And no matter how good you are, you have to build the right team around you.

Get good training and mentorship. In addition to biblical knowledge, you also need to have other skills, such as people skills and hands-on ministry experience. I like the pattern of some of the large churches in South America. First, you have to be saved; then filled with the Spirit; then able to win people on the streets; then able to build a cell group, and out of that birth other cell groups; then you start a church that becomes self-supporting; then you are brought home, and leadership lays hands on you; then you are called a pastor. There must be a mentoring process for ministry.

Embrace God's love. God is a good God. He is more interested in you, the worker, than He is your work. You are not alone. God will build relationships--we are in this together. You will see visions and dreams that were stolen given back. This is the greatest era the church has ever seen.

What a Pastor Needs to be Successful

During the World Leadership Conference in Portland, Oregon, last August, Ministries Today asked several pastors representing various church backgrounds and church sizes to identify what they see as the top needs of ministry leaders.

Inspiration. "You need someone who will inspire you to try new things so you won't just keep doing the same old thing," says Dwayne Shigg of Holy Bible Way Christian Church in Compton, California. "Maybe you have an idea that sounds crazy. You need somebody to say, 'That's a good idea; tweak it here, tweak it there, and go for it,' as opposed to someone who says, 'You can't do that.' You've got enough people telling you that you can't do it."

Fellowship. "We intermingle with people from different denominational backgrounds at this conference," says Joseph Lephiew of Praise Chapel Christian Fellowship in Phoenix. "Pastor Huch organizes fellowship times. We get to know each other, encourage each other, and we exchange cards and e-mail addresses and develop relationships. The camaraderie is stimulating. You need that."

Mentoring. "I was looking for mentorship," says Eric Thomas of Bethel Christian Church in Gainesville, Florida. "My wife and I felt so alone, like we were doing this on our own. We knew God is with us, but where are our fathers? Where are the people to teach us? We didn't have that. But pastor Huch has begun to father and mentor us. I'm going to have something to take home to my congregation."

Accountability. "You've got to have somebody you can go to," says Steven West of AWANA Bible Fellowship in Long Beach, California. "I need to be able to pick up the phone and say, 'I'm struggling, pray with me.' And I don't mean casual accountability. I mean accountability where I'm going to allow you to get in my face and say: 'Man, how are you doing with your sexuality? Your finances? Are you paying your bills on time? How are you really doing?' We're kind of in this situation nowadays where everybody's like, 'I'm alright; me and the Holy Ghost are alright'--be real!"

Family. "The relationship with your spouse and kids is so important," says Sam Resendez of Victorious Life Christian Center in Wichita, Kansas. "I go and preach in other pastors' churches, and I see their wives and children hurting. I don't know how we fall into the trap that if we give more attention to the ministry and neglect our wives and children, then we're going to get more money. It doesn't work that way. Four years ago I failed in this. But thank God, He opened my eyes so that my wife and I could help others."

Encouragement. "I know a lot of pastors I've talked with say it seems like people don't encourage them," Steven West says. "After a service at one church where I spoke, a deacon came up and said, 'Pastor West, I want you to know you're message really hit home.' That encouragement carried me for another three months. Encouragement is a big need for pastors, but a lot of people don't think we need it." Charles Pringle, a pastor who is pioneering a church in Tacoma, Washington, is a testimony to the importance of encouragement. During the ministry time on the first night of the conference, T.D. Jakes gave him a prophetic word that released a dramatic emotional healing for the struggling pastor.

"A warm glow went over me," Pringle says. "All I know is, I was on the floor when I woke up. My life has really changed. I'm not the person I was before I came here. I am taking home a clearer understanding of the Holy Spirit. This has been a training session to get me ready for what is to come. I feel all the trials and tribulations I've been through were getting me ready for this time."

Rest. "You need to get away," Joseph Lephiew says. "You need to get fed, develop relationships and get in touch with yourself."

"Jesus did that," Eric Thomas adds. "He went into solitary places--away from the disciples, the training and the imparting. It was good for Him."


For more information on New Beginnings Christian Center or the annual World Leadership Conference for pastors, contact Larry Huch Ministries, P.O. Box 66700, Portland, Oregon, 97290; call (503) 256-6050; or log on to www.newbeginnings.org.
Bill Shepson is managing editor of Ministries Today and associate editor of Charisma magazine. He lives in the Orlando, Florida, area. read more

Breaking Down the Barriers

Pastor Randy and Maribel Landis are living proof that God can use ordinary people to shatter the racial, cultural and denominational barriers that typically divide the church.

At first glance, it looks like a picturesque postcard. Posing as America's little getaway, this town is complete with historical museums loaded with 17th-century European paintings and unique sculptures. In the spring, its tree-lined streets and cobblestone roads exude warmth and friendliness. In the winter, blankets of snow beckon children to play.

But Allentown, Pennsylvania, is anything but the typical, off-the-beaten path Small Town, USA. As thousands of travelers rush through Allentown's bustling Lehigh Valley International Airport, many of the city's 106,000 residents scurry to their daily routines.

Allentown boasts a multicultural society. Even Billy Joel, in his hit song, "Allentown," sang the city's praises. Allentonians pride themselves on their rich, ethnic diversity, and the thriving medical industry keeps the flourishing economy strong.

City life, however, isn't the only thing moving at warp speed in this place. People in search of a church moving in the Spirit head south on Airport Road and turn left on Union Boulevard. They proceed seven blocks and stop at the corner of Maxwell and East Cedar Street, arriving at Church on the Move (COTM).

COTM has spent years moving through the hearts of Christians and unbelie vers alike. While the ministry is building bridges of unity in the body of Christ through the power of the Holy Spirit, its message of hope draws people by the droves. The church motto frames its mission as "The Gathering Place" for the downtrodden, the disenfranchised and the wounded.

What seems to resound the loudest, however, is its heart for racial reconciliation among blacks, whites, Asians, Hispanics and other ethnic groups. And no one knows this any better than the church's senior pastor, Randy Landis, and his wife, Maribel. As an interracial couple--he is white, and she is from the Dominican Republic--the Landises have sown seeds of unity in the hearts of their racially diverse congregants.

Randy and Maribel seek to model the love of Christ by precept and example. Randy reflects that his interracial marriage is just one of the reasons the ministry attracts the kind of people it does.

"It takes being very sensitive to the ethnic diversity and cultural differences that are among us," he says. "It is a great challenge to help others move from a position of tolerance to a position of acceptance while embracing our differences and celebrating them." Landis knows it is a process and that people go through the journey at their own pace.

Married for 15 years, the couple doesn't flaunt their distinction. Instead, they exemplify the biblical principle that marriage is symbolic of the church. As with other interracial marriages, it is not uncommon for this husband and wife ministry team to experience obstacles that are a direct result of their color. But they say it's a challenge they are willing to take on.

"God ordained marriage, and we know He is faithful to protects us," Maribel says. The couple is used to stares and whispers, but they have weathered people's comments and reactions well.

Conservatively speaking, 60 percent of COTM's members are people of color, and 40 percent are white. But something happens to people as they rush through the doors of the 11,000-square-foot sanctuary. With uplifted hands, they seek God together through Spirit-led worship and passionate praise, regardless of racial background.

Maybe that's why Tanya Brown finds it easy to come here. "I love this church because you can get totally lost in the presence of God here," she says. "It's really interesting--when I come here, I don't even notice whether the person standing next to me is Asian or white." And as far as the Landises are concerned, that is the way God intended it to be.

Ministries Today spoke with the Landises about their ministry in Allentown and racial reconciliation in the body of Christ. Their story is inspiring and offers hope to those who are willing to yield their lives to Christ.

BRINGING PEOPLE TOGETHER

Randy Landis was born and raised in Allentown and says starting a church in his hometown was his greatest challenge. "It had nothing to do with the racial makeup of the city nor its economic status," he says. "It was just the thought of growing up here as a child, as a teen-ager and then being transformed because of Christ."

But the young pastor rose to the occasion and started mapping out ways to draw people to the Lord. He decided to call his ministry Church on the Move because of the positive impact a good friend, pastor Willie George, had on his life. George started a church in Tulsa, Oklahoma, and called it Church on the Move, and Landis followed suit. The two ministries are not affiliated.

Landis says COTM is a "no labels" ministry. It is considered transdenominational because it transcends cultural, ethnic and denominational barriers--sort of a "many streams, one river" church. The uniqueness of the church draws people from different streams--charismatics, Pentecostals, evangelicals, Word of Faith adherents and purpose-driven ministries--as well as prophetic and seeker-sensitive worshipers.

The pastor says the concept is considered a genuine expression of God's nature.

"The church strives to somehow extract the pureness of God from all the streams, and allows them to flow and make one life-giving river," he explains.

One goal of the ministry is to build what reflects the kingdom of God. That is why COTM places major emphases on the value of people from different backgrounds and all walks of life.

Accessible to residents in Lehigh Valley, the church is positioned between Philadelphia and Harrisburg. Once people walk through the doors of the sanctuary, they receive teaching that is both practical and relevant.

During Sunday worship services, attendees hear challenging messages such as the pastor's recent series titled, Life Was Never Meant to Be Boring--Live It on the Edge. Strategically planned, all the services are designed both to feed believers and to attract nonbelievers.

In June 1990, COTM opened its doors with great expectations of what God would do in the city. And members say "something great" is what God did. Since that first Sunday in June, the ministry has catapulted to a 1,500-person membership and has experienced a tremendous move of the Holy Spirit evident by changed hearts and lives.

It is not uncommon for affluent people, single moms and recovering drug addicts to share pews together. Neither is it unusual to see well-known speakers such as Cathy Lechner, Latin evangelist Carlos Annacondia or Bernice King--daughter of slain civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr.--ministering at COTM.

Why? Because the church knows that people from all walks of life will seek out a church that doesn't focus on the color of their skin or the size of their income. They know that Jesus Christ is Lord of lords at COTM.

Says longtime member Tanya: "COTM is sensitive to people. I like it because you don't have to give up your culture. We celebrate diversity."

As the minister of music and the pastor's wife, Maribel Landis is one of three worship leaders at the church and oftentimes leads worship in Spanish and interprets the songs. But ministering to spiritual needs is not the only thing COTM does. The community is grateful to COTM for sacrificing buildings owned by the ministry so low-income children can receive a quality Christian education at The Kings Way Academy. The academy is designed to offer children the best possible educational experience while instilling a strong biblical foundation.

The church staff knows that sacrifices will be made for the benefit of ministry, and Maribel says she is willing to make those sacrifices for God. She gave up a promising career as a bilingual oncologist nurse educator and a comfortable salary to help her husband in ministry.

Her own personal experience with a child who has special needs has made her extra sensitive to the needs of others. And she knows the best way to relate to them.

"It is important to be who I am," she says. "I like to be real. I am the same person at church as I am at home."

THE IMPACT OF AUTHENTICITY

It is such authenticity that drew Ruth Alpha to the church in 1991. Although Alpha's mother was already attending COTM when she decided to attend, she says it was the realness and genuine love that the Landises showed to hurting people that caused her to stay.

Alpha, 48, was living in the pain of a troubled past and needed a way of escape. Her problems began as early as the 1970s. When she was 16 years old, Alpha, who is white, had an interracial baby with an African American man. With heroin as her drug of choice, she was arrested and convicted for the possession of a narcotic substance and sentenced to 3-1/2 to 5 years, though she only served 1-1/2 years.

"Ruthie," as she is affectionately called at the church, says the birth of her interracial baby is one factor that led to her drug addiction.

"I was wounded from the way I was treated because of my baby," she says. "I felt rejected and judged by society." Her newborn son was immediately taken from her care and placed in a foster home. Alpha spent the next year in a juvenile home.

Today, Alpha is the director of Women of Destiny, the women's ministry at COTM. The ministry focuses on five major areas that meet the needs of the spirit, soul and body.

Her interracial son, James, is now married. He and his wife, Angie, have three children: Michael, Shiann and Zion David.

"I am free from the pain of my past," Alpha declares. "The ministry at Church on the Move has impacted my life in many ways."

Carmen Renden would say the same thing. She recalls the time when, as a 19-year-old college student who did not know Christ, she decided to abort the child she had conceived out of wedlock. But there was one problem with Renden's decision: Her boyfriend did not want her to abort their child. As Renden was nearing the end of the eighth week of her pregnancy, her unborn baby now had a beating heart, arms and legs, and fingers and toes.

While contemplating abortion, Renden's boyfriend, Jesús, who is now her husband, was not a Christian. But "G," as he is known among church friends and family members, grew up in a Christian home and could not imagine doing it.

"After a lot of heartfelt conviction, I asked Christ to come into my heart. Since that time, I've had no regrets," he says.

After his conversion, Jesús, now 30, encouraged Renden to attend a Friday night revival service at the local YMCA. The young preacher delivering the message was Randy Landis.

Although she had made up her mind to carry out her plans to end her pregnancy, Renden accepted her boyfriend's invitation. "I did not grow up in a Christian home," she says. "I sat in my seat, and my hands and feet felt like they were tied by the enemy."

But as Maribel Landis prayed the sinner's prayer with Renden, the young woman literally felt the spiritual shackles that felt like weights fall from her body. With uplifted hands and tears streaming down her face, Renden told God: "Lord, I'm giving you two weeks. If You will change my life, I will be Yours forever."

Today, 11 years later, the Rendens enjoy the Spirit-led life at COTM with Briani--the child they had once considered aborting. The couple also has three other children: Krielle, Cheyanne and Marlynn.

Briani says she would someday like to be a child evangelist. She started pursuing her goal earlier this year when she led a classmate to Christ in the bathroom of her elementary school. Says Briani: "I asked God for a little space to tell a friend about Jesus Christ."

The youngster also prayed a prayer of healing for a friend who was diagnosed with cancer. "The friend is recovering nicely," says her dad.

FACING THE CHALLENGES

Although Randy Landis graduated from Rhema Bible Training Institute in Tulsa and was employed by Kenneth Hagin Ministries for a short time, it was his travels as an itinerate minister that strengthened his teaching skills. During his years of travel, he was exposed to more than 200 churches.

Landis has experienced firsthand the challenges of building a ministry. And in one respect, his success is ironic: He recalls saying he would never pastor a church. But in May 1989 in Hickory, North Carolina, he says the Lord impressed upon his heart to start a church.

The pastor believes quality leadership is critical. "The church today is literally crying out for authentic leadership," he says. "They want their leaders to be real. They want to know that leaders have the same struggles and issues as they have." It is that type of conviction that keeps people coming to the church.

Mayor William Heydt of Allentown is a frequent attendee. "Church on the Move has had a tremendous impact on the city," he told Ministries Today.

"The church is growing dramatically, and it encompasses all ethnic groups. What amazes me are the young people. They are in church because they want to be there and not because their parents force them to come."

Adopting a unique approach to ministry, COTM operates from a team concept. With nine pastors on staff, each pastor is assigned the oversight of a group of ministries, and each ministry has a department leader. Landis meets with the pastoral team to review the effectiveness and strategy of each department.

"We are a purpose-driven church. We try to keep everything in the context of our mission and vision statements," he says. "Most of the ministries at the church have a clear and defined mission and vision statement printed in brochure-form for members and visitors to view."

Everyone at COTM is needed to support the ministry for the cause of Christ--and young people are no exception. "The media may have labeled our youth 'Generation X', but we are a generation with a purpose," says associate pastor Bill Cummings.

Highvoltage Youth Ministry affords students the opportunity to express themselves through Christian activities and group meetings. Activities include a youth band, a drama team, street witnessing and many others. The purpose of the ministry is to change trends in the community.

The Landises are committed to racial unity in the church, but old strongholds die hard. Although residents of Allentown do pride themselves on ethnic diversity, the city is one of only a few cities in the United States that do not recognize Martin Luther King Jr.'s birthday as a holiday.

"That's obviously been a war," Mayor William Heydt said during a telephone interview. "I continually talk with the local NAACP and explain that my people who work with the city have slated certain holidays as a personal day; they want the flexibility of work, and the same thing applies to Dr. King's day."

According to COTM's "core values" statement, racial harmony begins with a respect for all of God's people. So, with or without recognition of a Martin Luther King Jr. holiday, Randy and Maribel Landis embrace the fundamental principles of what King stood for.

A church that is on the move for God, COTM does not focus on the color of someone's skin. What matters the most, they believe, is the people's willingness to look beyond race, denomination, gender and cultural barriers to see a God who cares about one race: the human race. *

Vanessa Lowe Robinson is a free-lance writer. She lives in Queens, New York.


Pastor Profile: Randy and Maribel Landis

Age: Randy, 41; Maribel, 39

Family: Randy and Maribel have been married for 15 years, and they have two children, Natalie, 12; and Olivia, 10. Randy has two sons from a previous marriage, Randy Jr., 20; and Isaiah, 19.

Education: Randy attended Christ for the Nations Institute in Dallas for one year and then transferred to Rhema Bible Training Center in Tulsa, Oklahoma, where he received a diploma and his ordination.

Church Background: Raised in a Christian home, Randy accepted Christ at age 19 and six months later accepted the call to ministry. After completing his seminary education, he worked briefly with Kenneth Hagin Ministries. The experience he gained during his travels as an itinerant minister was needed during his service at his home church, Grace Fellowship, in Tulsa. In obedience to the Lord, Landis stopped traveling and returned home to Allentown to plant Church on the Move.

About Church on the Move: Slightly more than five years ago, Church on the Move purchased the former United Weslyan College for $765,000, which was valued at $2.4 million. Located on eight acres of prime property, the church is situated in a garden-like setting. With a huge sanctuary, education facility, an administration building and a resource building, residents see the ministry as both a church and a community center.

Pastors and Family: "As a pastor or minister, you must learn to prioritize your life," Randy Landis says. "If you work in ministry, you must make sure you're doing the important things that bring you a return. There is no return like your children."

Landis enjoys spending time with his family and playing basketball with his daughter, Natalie. The entire family constantly showers daughter Olivia, who has Down's syndrome, with love and attention. Randy has two young-adult sons from a previous marriage, with whom he spends time and dispenses fatherly advice.

"I unwind by working out in the gym with my wife, and I enjoy playing golf," Landis says. He says Maribel is his best friend and greatest support. He describes his wife as a "very strong gracious leader," not only to the church's women's department, but to the community as well.

Mentoring: Landis says mentoring is very important in the church today. While mentoring, he focuses, among other issues, on two areas: "I want them to walk life with me. I want them to see how I relate to my wife, how I relate to my kids. I really allow them to 'do life' with me. Then I focus on the ministry aspect," he explains. "We work on character issues and developing a Christlikeness."

The late John Osteen of Lakewood Church in Houston impacted both Randy and Maribel. It was Osteen's well-known heart for people that continues to reverberate with the Landises.

The Future of COTM: Landis says the future is ever present in his mind. Aside from cultivating the current church and the relationship it has with the community, he often considers the possibility of satellite churches in various locations across the country. Autonomous in nature, each church would have the freedom to meet the specific needs of their community.

Landis believes his desires are simply prophetic words coming to fruition. He says that he received a prophetic word on May 3, 1998, from Cathy Lechner: "God is going to give you prime property at the gate of the city with lots and lots of land." read more

The ‘Write’ Direction

From brainstorm to book deal—a pastor’s first-person journey to ‘getting published.’

When I was in seminary I had two dreams. One dream was planting a church and seeing it grow from the ground up. I've been living that dream for the past 10 years serving as lead pastor of National Community Church (NCC) in Washington, D.C. But the other dream gathered dust for more than a decade.

I feel as called to write as I do to pastor, but my writing dream took a lot longer to fulfill. In fact, there were moments when I wished God hadn't even given me the passion to write because the dream was like a pebble in my shoe, a constant source of irritation and frustration. The longer I went without turning that dream into reality, the longer the shadow it cast on the rest of my life.

Then in 2002 I took one small step in the "write" direction. I started turning my weekend messages into an Evotional that I sent out via e-mail to subscribers. That weekly exercise forced the writing habit. And it proved to be an important part of my digital ministry. Exponentially more people read my Evotionals than listen to my messages.

The next step in my writing journey was self-publishing my first book, ID: The True You, with Xulon Press (xulonpress.com). The driving motivation was proving to myself that I could actually write a book. I self-imposed a deadline, invested $1,500 into the project and the book was released in November of 2004.

I wish I could tell you that ID was a New York Times bestseller. It wasn't. In fact, it sold 57 copies its first month in print. My first royalty check was a whopping $110.43.

Let's just say that I didn't start making early retirement plans!

Shortly after ID was listed on Amazon.com, I decided to get a little more proactive in pursuing my writing dream. I started working on another manuscript that I titled In a Pit With a Lion on a Snowy Day. I started praying for favor with publishers. I e-mailed my friend Brian McLaren and asked if we could grab lunch.

Brian is the author of several paradigm-shifting books including A New Kind of Christian. I asked him a thousand questions about publishing, and he was patient enough to answer all of them. Then he went the extra mile and introduced me to an author agent named John Eames. John and I had several conversations. He liked my writing style. I liked his experience and expertise within the publishing industry. And I signed John as my agent.

After helping me craft a book proposal, John began shopping it to seven publishers that he thought would be a good fit. Several publishers expressed interest, but a five-hour meeting with Kevin Marks and David Koop from Multnomah Publishers sealed the deal.

One thing they said impressed me: They said they weren't looking for an author. They were looking for a relationship. I felt like they "got me" and I "got them." And I respected their team of authors that included the likes of Andy Stanley, Louie Giglio and Bruce Wilkinson. After three months of conversational negotiating, I signed a deal to write four books over a two-year span.

As I look in the rearview mirror, I have several observations about my writing journey. I can see the way God answered my prayers for favor. I can see how perseverance eventually pays off. But the thing I marvel at the most are the supernatural synchronicities.

God is in the business of making sure we meet the right people at the right time. My book deal was the byproduct of divine networking and divine timing. And if God has called you to write, then He'll open the right doors at the right time.

I'm not going to lie. Writing, editing and marketing a book is hard work. It involves a lot of early mornings and late nights. And it won't simplify your life. But the last time I checked, the reward for good work in the parable of the talents wasn't an early retirement or extended vacation. The reward for good work was more work.

If you're not called to write then don't write. But if you are called to write, then you need to develop a writing discipline. And pastors have a distinct advantage. You're already writing a sermon every week. And with a little tweaking, you can convert that message into a chapter of a book. For what it's worth, my mentor in ministry, Dick Foth, once told me that the average pastor of a church with three weekly services preaches the equivalent of nine novels every year!

Writing will not only expand your sphere of influence, but the primary beneficiary will be your congregation. Writing books will help you preach better sermons. Your books will become discipleship resources for small groups and sermon series. And I even view my books as 200-page evangelism tracts. They are one way I share my faith with neighbors, unchurched friends and people sitting next to me on airplanes. I have no idea what my writing future holds. I hope In a Pit With a Lion on a Snowy Day sells more than 57 copies its first month, but I can't control how many books I sell. Only God knows what will happen when the book is released on October 2. All I can do is write like it depends on me and pray like it depends on God.

Here are seven writing tips for aspiring authors that I picked up along the way:

Write for intrinsic reasons. If you write for the wrong reasons your dream will short-circuit. I often ask rookie authors if they are willing to write a book even if it doesn't sell one copy. That is the litmus test because it reveals whether they are writing for extrinsic reasons or intrinsic reasons.

Writing for intrinsic reasons is like singing in the shower. You write, first and foremost, because you love to write. In fact, you can't not write because you feel called to write. Every author who believes in what they write wants to sell as many books as possible, but that can't be the driving motivation. Don't write because you want people to read. Write because you've got something you have to say.

Find a writing rhythm. Half of writing is rhyme. The other half is rhythm. My peak writing hours are 6 a.m. to 9 a.m. In fact, I get more accomplished before my official workday starts than I do the rest of the day. I hit a point of diminishing return around noon. My mind is too cluttered to write straight. I also find that sometimes I need to walk away from whatever I'm writing for 24 hours to regain my perspective.

Keep reading. Writers are readers. I read approximately 150 books per year. Granted, I have an unfair advantage as a preacher, because I slot about 25 hours of study time per week. But I've also learned to be a good steward of my time. I have a book with me wherever I go. And the truth is that everybody could read at least one book a month if they simply kept a book in their bathroom.

Find your voice. Writing a book is baring your soul. You feel intellectually and spiritually vulnerable. Writing forces you to come to terms with who you are and who you aren't. Unfortunately, many authors hide behind their words. You don't feel like you know them any better at the end of the book than you did at the beginning. I try to write as if I'm having a conversation with someone over coffee. Keep it real. Keep it personal. Don't just share your thoughts. Share your life.

C.S. Lewis said that every life consists of a few themes. Finding your voice is giving expression to those themes—your core convictions and core passions. Write about the things you're passionate about. And dare to be different. Don't be afraid to express your personality and originality in what you write.

Know your writing strengths. Writers need editors because all of us have blind spots. A good editor understands an author's weakness and complements an author's strengths. I know my strength is saying old things in new ways. I juxtapose truth in creative ways. I'm insatiably interested in everything, so I import knowledge from a variety of disciplines—everything from physics to business to philosophy to neurology—to add density and variety to my writing.

I'm good at conceptualizing truth in creative ways, but my weakness is application. And I recognize that in my own writing and preaching. I'm a 30,000-foot thinker. I tend to fly circles around the airport, so I need editors who help me come in for a practical landing.

Tie off the umbilical cord. I'm a perfectionist by nature. I will keep revising a manuscript 'til kingdom come if I don't have a deadline, but at some point you have to tie off the umbilical cord so a book can take on a life of its own.

According to Parkinson's Law, the amount of time it takes you to complete a project depends on how much time you have allotted. If you have a month, it'll take a month. If you have six months, it'll take six months. One way that I've overcome my perfectionism and procrastination is the 80-percent rule. I send my chapters to my editors when I feel like I'm 80 percent of the way there. It relieves some of the pressure I feel to make sure every chapter is perfect.

Pray like it depends on God. We have a core value at NCC: work like it depends on you, and pray like it depends on God. That is a pretty good modus operandi when it comes to writing. Writing is hard work. There is no way around it. But prayer is what helps a book come to full-term.

I actually had a prayer team that was interceding for me while I was writing In a Pit With a Lion on a Snowy Day. The prayer team prayed for every person who would pick up the book and read it. They prayed for my editors. And they prayed that I would write exactly what God wanted me to say. Those prayers give me a sense of destiny. I can't wait to see the way God answers those prayers in the lives of readers.


Mark Batterson serves as lead pastor of National Community Church (theaterchurch.com) in Washington, D.C. He is the author of the soon-to-be-released book, In a Pit With a Lion on a Snowy Day, and he blogs at markbat terson.com. Mark lives on Capitol Hill with his wife, Lora, and three children. read more

The Heart Of the Matter

People sometimes fall into a 'performance mentality,' in which they become so busy doing good works for God that their hearts never really change. How can we encourage people to let God mold their hearts and be transformed by His power?

Ministries Today recently met with Juanita Bynum, author of the best-selling book Matters of the Heart, and asked her to share why allowing God to mold our hearts is so important, and how we as leaders can help others realize the benefit of submitting to His deep work in our lives.

Ministries Today: What prompted you to write your book Matters of the Heart?

Bynum: I was dealing with some issues in my life. When I pulled my car into my garage one day, the Lord just spoke to me, "You need a new heart." He began to show me areas about my personality that were not pleasing to Him. I began to rend my old heart, and I told God: "I want You to take this religious heart that I have. I want to give it to You, and I want to experience Your heart."

That's what initiated the writing of the book, though I didn't even know it was going to be a book. I was just processing something the Lord was ministering to me, and eventually He began to tell me, "I want you to write this."

Ministries Today: Was this a process or something you saw change overnight?

Bynum: When I asked God to give me a new heart, that was an instant thing that happened; I was in that car for hours. Immediately I began to see things about me change. Weeks came, and days went by, and with some of the things I would do, I would hear the Holy Spirit say: "Now, that right there is what I'm after. This right here is what you have to bring to Me in prayer." I can hear Him now really challenge my character in every area because I had received that new heart experience in that garage.

Ministries Today: The book has quickly become a best seller; it seems to have really struck a chord. Why has this message hit home with so many people?

Bynum: People really want to be sure they're not just having a church experience but a real experience with God. I think one of the things causing the book to sell is the fact that it is confrontational. It challenges you to stop and ask yourself, "Where is my relationship with the Lord?"

With 9/11 and the war, I think a lot of people now are starting to say: "Wait a minute. Am I really saved? Am I really where God wants me to be?"

Ministries Today: You encourage people to get a new heart. Can you explain what exactly that means?

Bynum: The Scripture says, "'Then I will give them one heart, and I will put a new spirit within them, and take the stony heart out of their flesh'" (Ezek. 11:19, NKJV). I'm only encouraging people to ask for what God promised to give us. Jeremiah 17:9 says that the "'heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked.'"

Ministries Today: How could a pastor learn from this book?

Bynum: Make sure your heart is right with God. And preach to the congregation about their hearts.

Your heart betrays who you really are. You cannot, for example, go around the church, and give everybody a hug and a kiss, and tell everybody that you love everybody, and then go up to somebody you really don't like and though you just said, "I love you," on the inside the love of God has not really been birthed in you for that person.

Ministries Today: How could the body of Christ, more broadly, be changed by this message?

Bynum: When they embrace the heart of God, they will begin to see and feel about sin the way God feels about sin. We in Christendom have a dislike for the devil, a bad taste in our mouths to the point we don't want to sin, but we don't have a hatred for Satan.

Since I got this new heart experience, I'm beginning to hate the devil the way God hates him. I think when you begin to have this new heart experience, you will begin to feel what God feels. You will begin to love what God loves and hate what God hates.

Ministries Today: What do you feel God is saying to leaders in this hour?

Bynum: Because of the hour we're living in, I believe the Lord is really trying to show some leaders that it's time now for them to stop majoring in minor things and minoring in major things. The major thing right now is that every leader has been given a responsibility to carry people in the spirit realm, and they have been assigned to a particular group of people. Their responsibility is to cultivate those people's lives to make them ready to stand before God in judgment, to hear Him say, "Well done."

Now is a very crucial time for every leader to preach the gospel to their people, to get them ready to walk in the Lord and meet the Lord. That's why I believe this book can become such a tool for leaders.

Ministries Today: What causes you the most concern when you look at what's going on with the body of Christ?

Bynum: My passion is to make sure the people of God are not having a church experience, but a God-relationship experience. A church experience doesn't cause your character to change. It doesn't provoke integrity. It doesn't provoke commitment. It doesn't provoke submission to God.

But a relationship with God will provoke a person to walk in integrity and character. My real concern is that the people of God would really begin to have a one-on-one relationship with the Lord.

Ministries Today: What gives you the most hope?

Bynum: In the natural sense, the fact that the book has sold so many copies in record time says to me there is a nation of people who not only have passion for real relationship, but who have relationship because they want it. There's a nation of people out there who have an appetite for this message, and that gives me hope. If enough leaders, preachers and evangelists begin to preach this kind of gospel, there's already a people out there who are waiting for it, who want it.

Ministries Today: About what do you think leadership should be most prayerful?

Bynum: There are so many things really, because you are a leader. I don't think you can pick one. But if I were to choose, one of the things a leader should be most prayerful about is that the word that he gets will be a timely word and received by those who have heard it, and that there will be an impartation that will provoke change.


Juanita Bynum is a sought-after speaker and author. Her new book, Matters of the Heart (Charisma House), is available at bookstores across the country or online at a special discount. Log on to www.charismahouse.com. read more

The Power of Forgiveness

As every pastor knows, the root of many people's problems is unforgiveness. So we asked R.T. Kendall, best-selling author of Total Forgiveness, to tell us more about the power of forgiveness and how leaders can help others experience the freedom it can unleash.

Ministries Today recently sat down with respected church leader and author R.T. Kendall to talk about forgiveness and the important message he shares in his book Total Forgiveness.

Ministries Today: What prompted you to write a book such as Total Forgiveness?

R.T. Kendall: My book was born in the darkest hour of my life. The story can never be told. But I did in fact share it with an old friend from Romania, Josif Tson. I did it thinking he would say to me, "You have a right to be angry; get it off your chest."

But instead he looked at me and said: "R.T., you must totally forgive them. Until you totally forgive them, you will be in chains. Release them and you will be released." Nobody had ever talked to me like that in my life. "Faithful are the wounds of a friend," Proverbs 27:6 says.

I once wrote a book called God Meant It for Good. One chapter in that book was titled "Total Forgiveness." The book Total Forgiveness is a detailed elaboration of that chapter and deals with every question I could think of.

Ministries Today: The book's message has really struck a chord. Jim Bakker even said that it not only changed his life, but also saved his life. Why has this message hit home with so many people, including church leaders?

Kendall: I think the answer is, we all have a story to tell--whether we are church leaders or have no profile whatsoever. We have all been hurt by someone.

In the case of Jim Bakker, he read God Meant It for Good, and the chapter called "Total Forgiveness" was partly what moved him. When you have spent time in prison over an injustice, you have a lot to be angry about. Jim instead chose to forgive--totally.

But apart from Jim, there is not a church leader under the sun who has not had his or her share of strained relationships in the church, marital tensions, people falling out with you, deacons not speaking to each other, being lied about--the list is endless. Church leaders have feelings too! And they, too, need to forgive.

God will not bend the rules for any of us. The funny thing is, most of our problems tend to be with those closest to us or even fellow Christians. As the saying goes, "Living with the saints above, O that will be glory; living with the saints below, well, that's another story."

Ministries Today: You use the term "total" forgiveness. What is that?

Kendall: First, it is the way God forgives us. The blood of Jesus Christ washes away all sin. God will not hold our sins against us. He will never bring them up. He will not allow us to feel guilty once we have confessed them and turned from them.

He will not let anyone know what He knows about us. He will not let us be afraid of Him. He will not allow us to feel guilty. He will let us save face; He protects us from our deepest secrets and fears and--best of all--He keeps on doing it!

Second, total forgiveness is forgiving ourselves. I deal with that in the book, too. It is not total forgiveness just to know we have been forgiven, but it is to forgive ourselves--the hardest thing of all for many of us.

Third, it means to forgive another person in such a manner that you absolutely do not hold it against him or her any longer; you will keep no record of wrongs; you let them off the hook and even ask God to let them off the hook! That is total forgiveness, it seems to me.

Ministries Today: How do you know if you have totally forgiven?

Kendall: You know you have totally forgiven when you stop reminding people about "what they did." Telling people what they did is our effort to punish those who hurt us. First John 4:18 says that perfect love casts out fear--and fear has to do with punishment. When we tell what they did, it is our way of punishing those people--so we look better, they look worse and will be discredited and not admired.

God doesn't like that. He won't tell what we did. He does not want us to tell what they did either. We therefore know we have totally forgiven when we stop talking about our hurt, refuse to let people be intimidated by us, and we will not let them feel guilty.

This means we do not wait for them to repent (nobody was repenting at the cross, and yet Jesus prayed that they be forgiven--Jesus, not the old covenant, should be our model). We let them save face. We know we have totally forgiven when the people who hurt us don't even find out it was a problem.

And, yet, perhaps, the most neglected thing of all is, we keep doing it. It is not enough to say, "I did it yesterday." I have to do it tomorrow. Day after tomorrow. Next week. Next year. Forever. Like God does.

Ministries Today: What can a pastor or church leader glean from this book on a personal level?

Kendall: That God does not bend the rules for us church leaders. We have to forgive just as those to whom we preach. Sometimes our hurts are very great indeed. But God won't let a single one of us off the hook. If anything, He is tougher on us, according to James 3:1-3.

Ministries Today: In what ways would this book's message be helpful to a pastor's congregation?

Kendall: It will increase his own anointing. It will set the Holy Spirit free to work ungrieved in the congregation.

It is my opinion that totally forgiving one another will bring us closer to true revival than 1,000 people engaging in a 40-day fast. Why? Because if there is bitterness in our hearts at the beginning of the 40-day fast, there will be bitterness afterward--if God does not somehow break through to us. I can almost guarantee this.

God is sovereign and can bring revival anytime and anywhere He may choose; but, generally speaking, a lot of praying and fasting will not compensate for bitterness in us.

Ministries Today: Give us an example of an instance in which you had to practice this message in your own life.

Kendall: I will never reveal names or details. All I can say is, it is probably the best thing that ever happened to me. I totally forgave those people. And guess what? I never told them! We never talked about it.

It has to happen in the heart. Don't ever go to people and say, "I forgive you for what you did." They will say, "What did I do?" And then you will say, "You surely know." They'll reply, "Well, I don't," and now you've got a fight on your hands. Most people you would have to forgive (even if you were to hook them up to a lie detector) sincerely do not think they have done anything wrong.

Ministries Today: What happens when a person chooses not to forgive?

Kendall: The consequences are horrible. The person grieves the Holy Spirit, loses anointing, risks becoming yesterday's man or woman, often develops health problems and stays moody and hard to live with.

Even many non-Christians are discovering the value of forgiving. It puts Christians to shame. The bitterness some choose to live with is always counter-productive, and the people who do not forgive will one day be very sorry.

Ministries Today: Is forgiveness a one-time thing or a process?

Kendall: It is both. You have to do it at a point in time, but you also do it in stages. You think you have done it and realize later you hadn't, and then you renew your forgiving spirit. The main thing: You have to keep on doing it.

Ministries Today: What would you say to encourage the pastor out there who is struggling and facing a tough time in ministry or has been wronged?

Kendall: You just described 99 percent of all church leaders. We have all struggled. We have all been hurt. Most of us have had our eras of bitterness. I did. And I still keep reading Luke 6:37 every day because I am tempted to point the finger. But, God won't allow it! So I read Luke 6:37 every day to remind me of the best way forward for a greater anointing.

Speaking personally, I would rather have a greater anointing than anything else in the world. Luke 6:37 promises this--by totally forgiving all who have hurt me, no matter what they did. And remember, God will not bend the rules for any of us.


R.T. Kendall was the pastor of Westminster Chapel in London for 25 years. He is well-known internationally as a speaker and teacher and has written more than 30 books including Total Forgiveness (Charisma House). Log on to www.charismahouse.com. read more

Young Blood

Ed Young comes from Baptist Bible Belt royalty. That hasn’t stopped him from breaking down the walls of ‘traditional’ ministry.

Joel Osteen did it. So did Franklin Graham, Richard Roberts and Robert A. Schuller. Each faced the daunting task of following in the shadow of his father's larger-than-life ministry.

For Ed Young, however, the shadow cast by his father wasn't just big, it was megachurch big, from a dad with a worldwide broadcast ministry, the largest singles ministry in the United States and a church (Houston's Second Baptist) that now numbers more than 45,000. Add to that a pair of brothers in high-profile ministry positions—Ben is associate pastor at Second Baptist; Cliff is the lead singer for well-known Christian band Caedmon's Call. High standards? Imminent comparisons? Most definitely.

Yet more than 17 years after the younger Young broke away from the elder, Dr. Ed Young, to start Fellowship Church, one thing remains obvious: Doing things big—Texas-size big—runs in the family.

Fellowship Church (FC), located in four Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex campuses and one in Miami, now has more than 20,000 people enter its doors every weekend. Young (hereinafter referring to the younger) can be seen daily on television throughout the world, has written 11 books and is one of the premier creative pastors in the body of Christ.

And his style couldn't be more different than his father's.

"The great thing about going to Dallas," Young says of his move from Houston in 1989, "was that I was able to cut the cord, so to speak. Of course people knew who my father was up here. But the biggest thing for me to go through as I became my own man was developing my own style. I had to learn how to be myself."

I Am Me

Becoming comfortable in his own skin wasn't automatic for Young. During his first few years of pastoring he naturally took after his father's preaching techniques and style. Mission church Las Colinas Baptist hired Young to serve as senior pastor, but shortly after he came on board the church not only went through multiple name changes, it also shifted to a seeker-sensitive style modeled after Willow Creek Community Church. That didn't go over too well with the initial 150 people attending.

"Basically, after about four or five months I wanted to quit," Young admits. "Irving, at the time, was probably the worst place you'd want to start a church. There were churches everywhere, on every corner. There was no bloodshed on the church floor or anything like that, but after the first year about 85 to 90 percent of the original people who started FC left. There was a lot of negativity and criticism. Those were very difficult times that made me question: Did God really say Irving? Maybe He said Irvine—as in California."

The turning point for both Young and FC occurred on July 4th weekend of 1990, when he first preached about the church's vision and that of his own life. Having drawn a line in the sand, the then-29-year-old pastor looked up to find seven families still standing with him. Today each of those families is still represented on FC's staff. And what Young outlined back then remains essentially the same.

"Our vision hasn't really changed," says FC executive pastor Preston Mitchell, one of those original members who stayed. "It's pretty much the same thing on a bigger basis. ... Logistics are a little different now that you've got so many more people on campus. [But] when we had 100 people, we had parking lot guys, and we had ushers and greeters. We just have more of them now."

Freedom to Fail

Along with more parking attendants, bigger buildings and a larger staff come more stories of success—and failure. Young is quick to allude to the numerous mistakes he's made along the way while attempting to keep his ministry relevant, engaging and innovative. In what has become almost legendary at FC, the pastor once attempted "simultaneous services" after the church expanded to an arts center across the parking lot. For several weeks, he preached at one site while the worship team led at the other—and the two groups would switch at some point during the service. The idea, by Young's own account, was "a miserable failure."

The majority of other mishaps revolve around Young's onstage creativity. To show how worship isn't compartmentalized, he's cut through cubbyholes with a chainsaw—as boards flew everywhere. While illustrating how we often jump from emotion to emotion, he narrowly missed a fall as he leapt from the platform to a rope swinging across the congregation. Yet such laughable experiences go hand-in-hand with Young's unorthodox but ultimately memorable teaching style.

"We've tried from the get-go to create a culture that makes mistakes but isn't afraid of trying things," he says. "The higher the unpredictability, the more you communicate. ... If you look at the life of Jesus, He used different methodologies to communicate the same theology. His message was the same, but His methods were constantly different. We in the church should spend time thinking about how Christ communicated, how we can take technology and things of our day and use them as illustrations and word pictures so people can get it. That's all we're doing—it's nothing new. It's as old as the New Testament."

Young stresses, however, that FC's goal is not to "put on a bigger and better show each and every weekend. Sometimes the most creative element can be the most simplistic, the most basic; it can be a very dialed-down service. Other times it can have a lot of different elements that can even borderline on sensory overload. We just try to change it. Christianity is all about change. Whenever you have change, you've got conflict, and with conflict, you've got growth. It's the spin-cycle of growth."

Growth Beyond the Numbers

The 46-year-old pastor certainly knows a thing or two about growing through creativity, which is why he began a series of conferences and a Web site dedicated to helping other pastors and church leaders find similar success (see "Tapping Your Inner Genius"). That doesn't necessarily mean a larger church or ministry, however. "Some of the greatest churches I've seen in my travels are the smaller churches," Young points out. "Usually the giant ones are the ones we hear of, yet some of the lesser-known churches are probably some of the most effective."

For all his ingenious methods of communicating, Young's message to pastors—whatever the size of their congregations—is essentially the same: "Every church should be growing because living things grow." To keep a church healthy, active, creative and maturing, he offers these seven keys:

1. Say it and spray it—often. Leaders love to pull out the old "Where there is no vision, the people perish" (Prov. 29:18, KJV) card. And yet churches typically perish just as rapidly when a vision exists but is never declared by those who lead. Asserting what your church is about and why it does what it does from the pulpit is a must to discover who is truly on board.

"I've discovered that people forget why they do what they do after about three weeks," Young says half-jokingly. "When it comes to changed lives and evangelism, it's all about the vision. We want to say it, spray it, wheel it, deal it [and] make them feel it for the purpose of the church. And the purpose, of course, is to glorify God and to share Christ."

2. Go gospel. There's a reason why fellow megachurch pastor Rick Warren describes Young as one of the country's "premier evangelistic preachers" and "a pro at capturing the mind-set of the guy who hates church." Under Young's leadership, FC saw more than 2,300 new believers baptized last year alone. Sixty-two percent of those were age 18 or older, while 70 percent had no church background. In addition, more than 95 percent of those who enter FC's doors do so at the invitation of a friend, proving that at least two-thirds of FC's mantra of "reaching up, reaching out and reaching in" rings true with the congregation.

At the core of every activity within church, Young believes, must be the simple message of the gospel. "It's always about the gospel, no matter if it's about marriage and family, whether you're going through the Book of Romans, whether you're doing a character study or talking about being comfortably uncomfortable as a Christian. It's all about Jesus, and we have to point people to the cross because if we're not, we're just talking about good things and nice things. There has to be that focal point."

>3. Pastor your future church. Young often tells leaders to pastor their churches as if they were three or four times their present size. This isn't just for pastors' own sake, but to prepare the entire congregation for future growth. FC staff members can attest to the wisdom behind this directive as they've seen their church increase a hundredfold.

"Ed knows 'church' better than anyone I have ever met," says Troy Page, FC's communications pastor. "I think his experiences with his dad prepared him for the quick growth we have experienced. I remember him telling us, 'Get ready [because] this and that will happen in the future as we grow.' Sure enough, it did!"

4. Use what you've got. For a congregation as large as FC, the church's staff remains surprisingly—and intentionally—lean (the Grapevine "headquarters" has 206 full-time and 66 part-time workers). The reason is twofold: Young is cautious when appointing the title of ministry leader to those who will shepherd; and he believes the church body should be comprised of active contributors rather than "La-Z-Boy Christians." Because of this, FC is renowned for its "all-inclusive" approach to ministry—more than 6,000 individuals help out at least once a month.

5. Do only what only you can do. Every pastor knows the feeling of being overwhelmed with responsibilities, expectations and a "to do" list longer than Leviticus. We're good at taking on burdens, whether we have the ability or gifting to resolve them or not. Yet as multitasking as Young is (even by a pastor's standards), he learned early on that the effectiveness of his ministry would be determined by his discipline in limiting his scope. Find those things that you're good at, he believes, and assign the rest to those who are more qualified.

"As far as my schedule as a leader, I still put about 70 to 75 percent of my time in weekend message preparation," Young says. "I did that 17 years ago, and I do that today."

Easy for a megachurch pastor to say, right? What about bivocational pastors or those who are just starting churches and have no staff? Having experienced this, Young emphasizes that any pastor in any situation can use delegation. "Use the laity and treat them like staff," he advises. "Even though you can't pay them, delegate to them. God has, I believe, a leadership core around everybody, but we have to have discernment to see who's around us to utilize their giftedness. ... Too many pastors are trying to do too much stuff. What happens is that you get stuck in the superfluous and miss the significant."

6. Be your own best critic. FC plans every service, ministry and activity using creative teams. Even Young's messages are group efforts. The same approach is used in critiquing everything from segues to sermon illustrations. "I can only have so many original thoughts or cool ideas," Young says. "But, someone else can double my thinking; another person added can triple it. Starting this creative team approach has been the greatest thing that I've done in ministry next to starting Fellowship Church."

7. Grow with subtraction. "A church develops and grows as much by subtraction as by addition," Young says. "When you make the key decision to delegate rather than take on everything, you're going to see subtraction. Every time you take a hill, you will have casualties. Every time you go to the next level, there's going to be a new devil, and people are going to go by the wayside. So don't tell me who's coming to your church, tell me who's leaving your church. Because whenever you talk about vision, people will bolt—and that's OK, because when they bolt, more will be added."

Obviously, that has been the case at FC, which continues to face the challenges of growth. Last year the church added a Miami campus, and additional ones are in the planning. Regardless of FC's size, Young is determined to stay true to the core vision that he believes God gave him almost 17 years ago, even if that means breaking from tradition just as he did then. "Back then I knew God was going to do something awesome," Young says, "but I had no idea that it was going to be what it is today."


Marcus Yoars is the editor of Ministry Today.

Has Ed Gone Charismatic?

His father may be a traditional Southern Baptist pastor who twice served as president of the Convention, but Ed Young has continually and intentionally kept one foot in the Baptist world and the other amid the smorgasbord of interdenominationalism. He's a frequent speaker at of denominational conferences, and his buddy list spans the faith spectrum with names such as Rick Warren, Bill Hybels, Mark Driscoll and Erwin McManus. Still, it's his association in recent years with the likes of T.D. Jakes, Joyce Meyer, Tommy Barnett and Creflo Dollar that's raised eyebrows and drawn harsh criticism from fundamentalists.

Young, in typical manner, deflects the negativity with his clear-cut passion to grow in both ministry and education. "I have a lot of great friends in the charismatic-Pentecostal world," Young says. "I've learned so much from them and their churches and gained so much from their friendship. Our church has been heavily influenced by charismatic and Pentecostal churches. I love their openness, the expectancy of those styles—that God is going to do something great, something big. I like the encouragement, the positivity, obviously the worship and the music, and the entrepreneurial vibe in many of those churches. I like the structure; many of those churches have a great view of some of the authority issues that our culture is trying to process.

"I can learn from everybody whether their church has five people or 50,000. Leaders need to ask the right people the right questions to get the right answers. But the tough thing is finding the right people to ask the right questions—and to do that, you got to ask the wrong people the right questions and discover who the right people are." read more

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