Let us share your perspectives and insights surrounding our monthly discussion theme. Watch the video to get started.
Let us share your perspectives and insights surrounding our monthly discussion theme. Watch the video to get started.
The Takin’ It to the Streets Inc. team in Shreveport, Louisiana, ministered July 19 to about 2,500 Shreveport-Bossier City residents with items of necessity and resource information to improve residents’ quality of life and to build strong spiritual foundations. The host was the Ernest’s Orleans Restaurant annex, Orleans Field, where 150 ministries and service agencies pooled their resources to provide for the poor and needy of the city.
Takin it to the Streets Inc. — founded by Pastor Ron Hampton of New Vision Community Church-Shreveport, a Gulf Coast Conference church-planting project — coordinated the event, and the Free Methodist Church presence was in the forefront of this heavily attended event. There were 30 salvations, more than 1,000 prayed for and several reunited with churches that were represented. As a result, 19 visitors came to New Vision Community Church-Shreveport the following Sunday along with 12 people who traveled from Washington, D.C., and Pennsylvania to join the event. It was an amazing day of praise and worship.
Thanks to all Gulf Coast Conference churches that contributed with clothing and finances to help with this mission. To God be the Glory.
God accomplished some amazing things at FMYC. I can’t thank the HFM church enough for all of your support making it possible for us to go to this conference. I want to share about my incredible experience.
First, I was struck by the connections and fellowship that are fostered in the network of the Free Methodist Church. It amazes me how the body of Christ and the body of Free Methodists are so united in Jesus. Even among teenagers, this conference felt like one giant family gathering.
And God was an integral part of that gathering. His presence was evident in every aspect of the conference. Each speaker brought us the word of God in a way that challenged and stretched us. God was consistently present in every worship service. The main speaker was Phil Manginelli, whose heart for Jesus is extremely contagious.
I think it was Monday night, after a very spiritually intense service, our youth group experienced something very special. I don’t even remember exactly what Phil talked about that night, but I know the Holy Spirit was working in all our hearts. As we all climbed into the stuffy, smelly church van to ride back to our dorms, someone asked if we could sing. We put on music and began with “How Great is Our God.” No one really intended to spend an hour driving around praising Jesus with song after song, but that’s what happened. I can’t speak for everyone else, but that night, in the most unlikely setting, I truly worshipped God for maybe the first time ever.
I will be the first to admit that not all of our voices are exactly angelic, but to God we sounded like the sweetest chorus of angels. He loves the sound of our off-key singing when it comes from a heart that recognizes its inadequacy and chooses to praise the God of grace. We continued to sing and Pastor Dave [Turner] just eventually drove outside the town of Fort Collins until he found a dead-end, dirt road. He finally stopped in what felt like the middle of nowhere. The black night formed a backdrop for the even darker mountains, and thousands of stars lit up the sky. Dave read a verse to us and wisely reminded us that we were on a mountaintop spiritually, and he challenged us to continue our pursuit of Jesus when we returned home. I will never forget the atmosphere of that night for as long as I live.
The most important experience for me personally at FMYC came in the last couple days of the conference. One of the morning speakers was Linda Adams from ICCM, and many of the things she said tugged at my heart. One thing she shared was: “The quality of our worship or the feeling of nearness is not what it means to know Jesus. Jeremiah 22:16 says: ‘He defended the cause of the poor and needy. … Is that not what it means to know me?’ declares the Lord.’”
To know God means to love and care for His sheep. God’s heart is for His lost and hungry, hurting and broken children to know him. The need is great, and God has given me a passion for children. That day God confirmed my call into children’s ministry. But He went even further and during the last session of FMYC, something special happened in my heart.
Let me backtrack for a minute. I have felt since I went to Guatemala three years ago that missions was something I would love to do, only I didn’t know if it was God’s will or mine. It wasn’t that I was really afraid or uneasy about it. I just didn’t know what God wanted. So on that last night of the conference, I was certain about going into children’s ministry, and I knew that I would love it to involve missions, but God hadn’t made that part clear.
As I sat there in the auditorium listening to Phil Manginelli, God started a fire in my heart. That’s the only way I can describe it. The speaker began asking for responses to certain calls on our lives. It was such a powerful atmosphere. He first asked who among us had received a call at FMYC to go into missions work. As Phil spoke about those whom God had chosen and set apart to send to the nations and spread the light of Jesus, I was still not sure completely if my heart and desire to go into missions was from God or myself. But an amazing (but simple) thing kept stirring in my soul, and I knew, without a doubt in the world, that the Holy Spirit was prompting me to stand up in that moment and accept my call to missions.
I am so excited to be standing here in front of all of you and committing my future to Christ. Wherever He sends me and whatever He calls me to do, I am saying yes. I will spend my life serving Him. All I can do is celebrate now that I have heard from God so clearly. I can’t wait for whatever comes next.
Thank you once again, HFMC family, for sending our group to FMYC. God was present throughout every minute of it and went beyond my expectations to change my life through the experience.
It was just over three years ago that Mark Willett, church delegate from King’s Church (Penwortham Free Methodist Church) responded to Bishop David Roller’s call at the U.K. Annual Conference to take risks and try out new things to reach our communities. After pioneering the area’s first church-based work club in October 2011 in Penwortham meeting every Thursday morning. Willett and his team partnered with Christians Against Poverty in April 2013 to establish Lancashire’s first CAP Job Club. One of Willett’s volunteers also established a church-based Work Club at St. Thomas Blackpool.
Then, later in the year, Willett was contacted by Calvary Christian Fellowship to ask if the church would help it deliver a Job Club in Lostock Hall. Willett successfully applied for funding from S Ribble Partnership and Job Centre Plus and trained their volunteers.
On May 2, 2014, the new Job Club was opened. The location delivers a community drop-in/coaching from 10 a.m.–12:30 p.m. each Friday and will host the Steps to Employment course from 1:30 –3 p.m. Thursdays servicing both locations. The Job Club Team now has 10 volunteers from five different churches working to support the two locations, and, since 2011, has helped over 140 residents take steps back to work. In June, Willett started a CAP Money Course to help job club members manage their finances and stay clear of debt.
CAP nationally now has 83 Job Clubs U.K.-wide and the vision is to have 500 by 2021, one in every major town and city. CAP also has Debt Centres in Canada, Australia and New Zealand.
“When the bishop spoke at the 2011 conference, the Holy Spirit stirred up within me a passion for those who were struggling in the recession, who were being made redundant or were struggling to get back into the labour market. After the conference, I shared with the leadership my plans, and, with three friends, we started the club,” Willett said.
“Unemployment can destroy families and can be a cause of people slipping into debt and poverty, but getting a job can make a massive change in individuals and their families. Besides helping people back to work, we have had the privilege of praying with people, sharing our lives as Christians with many who have no contact with church, developing a language of love and compassion. Working with Calvary has been an amazing journey; they have been involved with CAP as Debt Centre for a number of years and working together is a great witness in the community, so much so that the local council members are asking advice how we can help them reach other communities in the locality.”
If you are considering similar efforts in your community, you can contact Willett at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit the website theworkclub.org.uk for more of the CAP Job Club’s story and information on how to start a work club/job club. “
by Hope Brookens
In the beginning of 2013, our church — Central Michigan Free Methodist Church in Mount Pleasant, Michigan — was approached by Isabella County Restoration House (ICRH) about attempts at opening a homeless shelter in Isabella County.
ICRH is a nonprofit organization that has been behind the scenes for years prior, trying time and time again to get some sort of shelter for those who find themselves in the vicious circumstances of homelessness. The funding could not be secured. Enter in the church, the Lord’s bride, the body of believers to be the hands and feet of Jesus. CMFMC was approached by ICRH asking if our congregation would be willing to house homeless individuals for a week in the coldest months of winter. Of course, this proposition went before the Board of Ministry and was met with an amazing response: “If we believe in the Bible, how can we say no?”
That is where it all began. Yes, yes, yes, the church was in, but now a coordinator was needed to oversee the project. “Well, I don’t know about a coordinator position,” I said, “but I can surely go to the first meeting to make sure we get the information we need and know what the next step is.”
Little did I know that going to that first meeting would land me a co-coordinator spot for our church’s turn of housing the homeless, which I quickly found out are considered our “guests.” They were guests in our spiritual homes, as one of the people on the ICRH board liked to put it, to help get us into the kind of mindset necessary to sincerely try and look beyond the stereotypes, prejudices and initial impressions of people who live in homelessness. While awkward at the first meeting, this perspective was not difficult to have by the end of that first night. Each person was so unique in his or her story, journey and hopes for the future.
All we had to do is be prepared to house and feed about 20 guests each night (plus volunteers) for one week, just seven days and nights. Sounded easy enough, right? I quickly became overwhelmed with the amount of planning and scheduling and organizing that was to be required. Meal plans, snacks, people to cook those meals and provide the snacks; greeters, servers, clean-up crew; someone to do laundry, volunteers to stay up all night long in case of a need or emergency, and people willing to transport enough mats, bedding, totes, hygiene items, cleaning supplies and first aid supplies from one site to another (enough to fill a wall of a gymnasium – no joke). Oh my! That thought is a gross understatement of where my mind was at, but as I worked with another lady who felt it a crucial service that CMFMC be a part of, we just broke it down piece by piece.
People signed up to make the meals, provide the snacks and even come and serve and socialize and do all the other tasks that were necessary. It was an amazing outpouring of service and love. People who were not even part of our congregation asked if they could help because their co-worker or their friend goes to our church. It was a tremendous community effort and an amazing opportunity to represent the love that Christ has for all people. One of the most amazing complements, in my opinion, was in the county paper’s section for people to voice their opinions with one individual saying that it was about time the church did something nice. Even skeptics were on board. Amen!
Night after night, we set up, served and socialized. After seven nights, the rotating homeless shelter moved on to its next host site. I would be lying if I said I wasn’t relieved. It was an overwhelming, exhausting experience, but then there was a sense of loss, like I was missing a bit of the purpose that had been driving me the previous week. What an awe-inspiring message that was to me, to not continue to let weeks at a time slip by without feeling like I am living and serving to my full potential.
I can’t say that means I should be running a homeless shelter or organizing those efforts. We will have to see what this winter brings, but I do know that it means I have to stay keenly aware of the opportunities around me to serve. It means I have to be willing to move forward, even if it is in baby steps, when I get that little nudge from God. Well, I call it a nudge. Some call it hearing from the Lord or feeling God’s presence. Some simply call it conviction (sorry for the scary churchy word) – but whatever you call it, let it be in the lead.
Article Written by: Martha Evans Sparks
After several years of pencil chewing, prayer, planning and patient giving and saving (we now have about $2 million in our piggy bank), Wilmore [KY] FMC is digging a hole in the ground. We hope it will become a new building with more space for our church to grow and help others.
“Honestly, I don’t get tremendously excited about building buildings,” said Senior Pastor Daryl Diddle. “I get excited about building people up in the Lord, and sometimes buildings can really help do that. The Lord is simply blessing our efforts in building people, and we’re very grateful.”
After we started digging, some governmental powers made us stop. We waited a long time for Jessamine County Kentucky to approve digging the hole. Then when we got it dug, the engineers said the soil was “unsuitable.” They meant it wouldn’t support the foundation for our new building. So we had to redo some plans and spend extra money to fix things. No doubt there will be other hitches and hangs. Does this mean that the Lord does not want us to go ahead with this project? No, it means we live in an imperfect world.
By this time next year, we hope the new construction will connect our sanctuary building with our activities building making one glorious structure where no adult Sunday school class has to meet in a roped off end of the basketball court as it does now. The youth pastor will have a real office, not the used-to-be supply closet she now uses. We praise God for the church growth that created these needs. Many of our church attendees are students at Asbury University and Asbury Theological Seminary. They are training for ministry all over the world. Our humble prayer is that the new building not only will have a firm physical foundation. It will create space for teaching, worship and learning that all of us can carry to the ends of our several worlds.
This story was submitted by Ronnie Hampton, pastor at New Vision Community Church-Shreveport. Ronnie’s vision and the church’s ministry in the Shreveport area provides a great example of the Free Methodist strategies to “Engage Urban” and “Embrace All“.
By: Ronnie Hampton
After a great focused and informative Gulf Coast Annual Conference, Bishop David and Yvonne Roller visited the new local church plant in Shreveport, Louisiana New Vision Community Church-Shreveport under the leadership of Pastor Ron Hampton. The new church plant facility is also headquarters for Pastor Hampton’s non-profit community outreach ministry “Takin it to the Streets, Inc.” It was an awesome day of worship as the Bishop shared a Word with the congregation and the Shreveport-Bossier Rescue Mission Choir offered song service. The Bishop was presented with a Hebrew prayer cloth and they were given the official Takin it to the Streets event staff t-shirt.
This story was submitted by Marilyn Bahena, a retired hospital chaplain who currently attends Detroit Hispanic House Church. Her story is a great example of how to “Go Global”
I’m a retired hospital chaplain. I recently interpreted for a wonderful group of physicians and nurses from Hope Clinic International as they provided medical care in Jesus’ name to children in Jinotega and Esteli, Nicaragua. We cared for 60-100 children a day often praying with families for physical and spiritual needs. Many of the children lived in houses with dirt floors and wood burning cooking stoves which can lead to an increased risk of asthma. The team was a beautiful group of Christians from several denominations that desired to show Jesus’ love in concrete ways. You can read more about Hope Clinic International at their website: Hopeclinicinternational.org
Brian Warth is the founding pastor of Chapel for Change, a multi-ethnic, city-focused church that is a catalyst of restoration and an instrument of God to impact the world with the Gospel.
This is an inspirational story, a big story within the Free Methodist Family.
Light & Life North Long Beach has been on the front lines of church planting for 20 years now. Pastor Larry Walkemeyer’s vision of being a river church drives the church to give more than they receive.
In 2012, Light & Life launched what has become the strongest church plant in FMCSC’s history, Chapel of Change Christian Fellowship in the Paramount/Long Beach area. Chapel of Change is lead by Pastor Brian and Laura Warth and a group full of fired up believers.
Since its launch, Chapel of Change has been dedicated to being a multi-ethnic, city-focused, river church. Over 300 people have surrendered to the Lord and 500 service hours have been given to help beautify the city. Chapel of Change has recently launched a Spanish service and has just recently went multi-site with a second campus in the Bixby area of Long Beach.
“Our fruitfulness goes back to Pastor Larry Walkemeyer being willing to sacrifice leaders from his church to start this new community of faith,” Pastor Brian shares.
About the Author
Kelli Wommack directs SERVE Ministries and Leadership Development at Christ Community Church in Columbus, GA. They’ve started Led to Lead to encourage and strengthen church leaders in the greater Columbus area.
Leadership Development can sound so corporate, so theoretical, so…like something else to add to our already full plates of ministry. That’s what many churches think.
And so it was with our church. We are a dynamic, growing church that has the by-product of a tired, overworked staff with a growing span of care of volunteers. We thought we were doing it right by simply recruiting and placing volunteers in ministry. Occasionally, we would promote a “leader-type” to leader, but only of a function…not necessarily as a leader empowered to lead and develop other leaders. Why did we maintain a level of care for over 25, 50 or sometimes a hundred volunteers instead of empowering other leaders to lead? I recently came up with a few reasons:
These are valuable, and sometimes difficult, lessons we have learned over the years. We are preparing to share those lessons, and more like it, at our first church leadership conference.
Christ Community Church is hosting a Led to Lead church leadership conference on March 20-22, 2014 in Columbus, GA. Lead Pastor, Keith Cowart, will be the keynote speaker and the Christ Community staff will be offering up to 18 different breakout sessions. The purpose of the conference is to encourage and strengthen church leaders in the greater Columbus area. Leadership in the church is so much more than merely scheduling and executing events or managing and directing people. God wants to use church leaders to influence and shape the culture of a faith community in ways that maximize its ability to live out its values and realize its mission. To that end, Led to Lead will offer main sessions and workshops that will not only inspire, but offer concrete examples of that kind of leadership in action. Because the content will be driven by principle rather than doctrine, it will have value for churches of all denominations. Because it grows out of the experience of a church plant that began in a living room, but now draws more than 1,000 in weekly attendance, the content will be relevant for churches of any size. For more information, contact Kelli Wommack at 706-565-7240.
Not once but twice, the youth from the Spring Arbor Free Methodist Church have traded in their weekends of relaxing and enjoying their comfortable nights in front of the television to take the Plunge out of the suburbs and into the inner city of Omaha. The Urban Plunge: forty eight hours of working with the poor, feeding the homeless, visiting the jail, and serving, serving, serving.
They have had the experience of a life-time, stepping out of their suburban lives to discover what life is really like for so many less-fortunate in and around their own community.
“It made me realize that I can do all sorts of stuff like this in my town; it makes me feel good to help others” commented Hannah Shearer, one of the students who stepped out of her comfort zone during the latest weekend.
“It changed me; I will complain less and be more optimistic; I didn’t realize how many people were in need” said Justin Pariseau, another team member.
The team visited 8-9 different faith-based organizations that are working among the poor, discovering what their passions and gifts are, and how best to use them in their local area.
The Urban Plunge, operated by Christ For the City International, does not provide a ‘tour of poverty’, but instead, helps participants to grasp how they can use their talents and passions to assist faith-based social-service agencies who already work alongside those who are in great need. They therefore aim to meet needs, offer practical love and assistance, and ignite lasting passions to help back home.
And with this group, they were successful. And it’s kept them coming back.
“It helped me get a new perspective about homeless people, and made my relationship with God stronger. I have so much, and now I know how people feel with nothing” said Madison Whiting.
“It made me open my eyes, and God showed me what homeless people in need are really like, and that they can be REALLY SWEET! You would not believe how many tears I’ve shed for the abused, abandoned and the homeless” commented Briana Laughlin, about her Urban Plunge experience.
“It changed me forever, because I realize people need people; people need to be prayed for and prayer makes a difference” said Savanna Durocher, about how the urban Plunge changed her life.
The Urban Plunge operates all year round, in Lincoln, Omaha, Kansas City, Dallas, Des Moine and Sioux Falls.
For more information visit: www.urbanplunge.com>
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All Scripture quotations are from the New International Version unless otherwise noted.