Posts tagged ‘Word-Faith’
I’m a firm believer that you won’t truly understand something unless you take the time to become involved in whatever that “something” is doing. I see the error of not doing this a lot in our contemporary Christian culture. Unfortunately, a lot of division takes place that really shouldn’t. I used to look at denominations in this light. That is, until I went out and experienced a few of them.
If you’ve read just about any of my other blog posts, you may know that I spent many years involved in the Word of Faith movement. What you may not know is that I was raised in a small United Methodist church. My mom and I used to attend every Sunday until I stopped going at about age 16.
For many years, I resented this aspect of my upbringing. Word of Faith churches tend to tout themselves as being more anointed than other churches; specifically those who don’t believe in a separate infilling of the Holy Spirit with proof of speaking in tongues. They take a lot of pride in being charismatic and “on fire for Jesus” and mock churches like the one I grew up in. When talking about my old church, I would call it things like “dry” or “lukewarm” because of it’s lack of excitement, lack of attendance, lack of, well, anything we did better than them.
Obviously, my perspective on the Word of Faith doctrine has changed dramatically. The main reason I blog the way I do about my journey is because I’ve been a part of something that I am convinced is false teaching. The pharisaical viewpoints I once held about some of these denominations that I used to curse couldn’t have been further from the truth. This fact hasn’t been any clearer than it is now that I’ve actually attended a number of different denominations in recent years.
Take the Assemblies of God church I attended for 4 months, for example. It was a very well known church in the area with a good reputation. They believed in things like prophecy and speaking in tongues, but they never allowed those things to occur outside of the biblical context of 1 Corinthians 14:26-40. The worship services were more charismatic than many of the other denominations I attended, but it was always done in a intimate and respectful way.
Seemingly polar opposites from that church, was the Southern Baptist church that we attended for a couple months. They taught that spiritual gifts like praying in tongues had ceased with the Apostles. I may have not seen a whole lot of charisma during the worship service there, but I did see a whole lot of charisma in the way they treated one another. It remains quite obvious to me that biblical teaching on loving God and loving others was not lacking in that environment… and that is something that you can’t have enough of.
Then there was the Acts 29 church plant that gave me a great deal of hope for the future of the American church. I’d estimate that about 80% of the members were college-aged singles and young families. I don’t think I’ve ever witnessed such a tremendous thirst for biblical knowledge and action. Even though we chose not to make this church our home after nine months of attending there, we value this experience so much because of the teaching we received and the lifelong friendships we made.
When we arrived there, they were in the middle of a teaching on the Book of Acts that would end up lasting a few more months. For those of you who are unfamiliar with expository teaching, I can’t stress enough how vital it is in our churches. In a time where so many things in the Bible can be pulled out of context, going through the Bible verse by verse in our sermons would avoid so many problems.
We also attended a Evangelical Presbyterian church for about 4 or 5 months which we also grew to love for a number of reasons. These folks really understood youth ministry and missions. It was the lifeblood of the body and seemed to drive everything they did. This was also an environment where I learned the difference between “closed-hand” issues and “open-hand” issues.
For example, some of us may be interpreting scripture to say one thing about something while another may be interpreting it a slightly different way. In the vast majority of cases, our love walk with those people we are in disagreement with trumps whatever “thing” it is that we fail to agree upon. When I began looking at tolerance through this lens, it inspired me to search the Bible for those things that were “closed-handed,” or non-negotiable. I will tell you that, so far, I haven’t found a whole heck of a lot of them.
Finally, we come to our new church home. As I write this blog post, I realize that it is a really even mixture of all of the things I grew to appreciate about the other churches we attended. It’s funny because people began inviting us to this church almost as soon as we had begun to transition out of our former Word of Faith church. I let a little thing like location keep me from going there. It is downtown. It’s incredibly hard to imagine where someone might find a parking spot. It’s so far from ideal in so many ways, until you actually visit there, that is…
You know what else is really awesome about this? I honestly don’t think I would have appreciated our new church if we had just visited there right away. By attending all of these other churches, we were able to make an informed decision about where our family would end up beginning the next chapter of our church life. It’s not only given me tremendous hope for the future, but a greater respect for God. After all, He knew the journey our family needed to take before we did.
For months, Dino Rizzo’s church campus looked like a war zone—bodies, blankets and beds everywhere. Dazed men meandered the hallways, haunted by the uncertainty of their future. Mothers rested with their children on tiny cots in the sanctuary, passing time with card games, nursery rhymes or anything that could get their minds off the nightmare they’d just endured.
Sixty miles away, New Orleans lay almost entirely underwater after the city’s levees collapsed under Hurricane Katrina’s 2005 onslaught. Here in Baton Rouge, La., tens of thousands had fled to the neighboring city in the late August heat. And overnight, Healing Place Church (HPC), the church Rizzo founded, transformed into a literal refuge for displaced Louisianans as it housed, fed, clothed and cared for anyone who needed help. Though this outreach-minded community of believers was prepared—they’d prepped thousands of meals before the hurricane and had gathered a citywide army of volunteers for everything from tree removal to medical aid—still, there wasn’t a member who wasn’t physically, emotionally or spiritually stretched to the limit by Katrina.
Amid the families grieving over their losses and volunteers pulling 50-hour shifts, amid the destruction and exhaustion, Rizzo couldn’t help but marvel at the beauty underneath this chaotic scene. The vision God had birthed in this pastor 12 years prior—of a church that would be a healing place for a hurting world—wasn’t just being expressed through his congregation, but among the citywide church that for years had been divided by racial walls, denominational lines and high-profile scandals.
“I look back and don’t know how we got through that,” Rizzo says today. “But it was the best time I’ve ever seen in the body of Christ. I could go to heaven and say I saw the book of Acts. A group of about 15 to 20 pastors made a covenant that whatever money we had, we all had. It was Acts 2—we all put it together and said, ‘What do you need?’ And there was literally millions of dollars distributed from this group of churches. I’d never seen that in my 20-something years of serving God.”
Seven years removed from Katrina, Rizzo is still witnessing an unprecedented gathering of churches transforming their communities by using no-strings-attached acts of kindness to share God’s love. It’s a revolution of service—a “Servolution,” Rizzo calls it—that’s run wild among the 8,000-plus members of HPC’s eight campuses spanning Louisiana, Texas, Mozambique and soon Honduras. And though Rizzo is quick to point out that he’s not trying to lead a new movement (“This is Jesus’ movement, and it’s been around forever”), his church has become a prime example of how a revolution based on—of all things, compassion—can spread like wildfire.
How Can I Serve You?
Rizzo is a pastor’s pastor, which is why it takes him 30 minutes to go 30 feet after a Sunday service. Our tour of HPC’s new facility has been continuously interrupted by a steady stream of handshakes, high-fives, hugs and heartfelt conversations. As an outsider, it’s given me a chance to verify the rumors I’d heard about “Pastor Dino.” It turns out they’re true: The man possesses a genuine, unconditional love for others.
“He loves people in a way I’ve never seen before,” says Claudia Berry, who leads the strategic planning and development for HPC’s 80-member staff.
At the heart is Rizzo’s uncanny way of making everyone feel like part of the family, which he credits to his Italian roots. And as I watch the 47-year-old interact with his core staff over lunch, it’s as if I were at a family reunion rather than a church leadership meeting. The room stays loud, jubilant and filled with life amid the multiple conversations, and at the foot of the table sits Pastor Dino, ensuring that everyone has been served and any guests have been showered with gifts.
“He’s a giver,” countless people tell me, with most offering personal accounts of when Dino and his wife, DeLynn, surprised them with an unexpected or generous gift. The reason, I discover later, goes back to the couple’s early years of ministry.
As a 23-year-old Dino worked under Baton Rouge icon Jimmy Swaggart as a youth pastor and ran the televangelist’s $300,000-a-month, 30-vehicle bus ministry. He’d been saved in a Word-Faith church in Myrtle Beach, S.C., and at Swaggart’s Bible college, Dino began to merge the bold faith he saw modeled around him with the burning passion he’d always had to reach those less fortunate.
“He’s always had a heart for those who nobody else wanted to love on and care for,” DeLynn says. “We never thought we’d pastor a church; he just thought about helping those kinds of people.”
But in 1993 the Rizzos faced a major crossroads. They’d turned down multiple job offers to become youth pastors of some of the nation’s largest churches, though they couldn’t explain why other than they didn’t sense a clear direction from God. Amid their uncertainty, a district overseer for the Church of God (Cleveland, Tenn.) approached Dino about helping with a dying church that he was shutting down and restarting under a different name.
“We don’t even know why, but we said we’d help,” DeLynn recounts.
Three weeks later, the overseer handed Dino a $100 check and the church, explaining that he’d been commissioned elsewhere.
On his first Sunday as pastor, Dino became so nauseated before preaching that he left to walk around the mall.
“It was horrible,” he says of those first few weeks. “I could barely preach. We didn’t have music, we didn’t have a facility, we didn’t have youth or videos. We just wanted to help people—that whole Acts 10:38 deal where Jesus ‘went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed.’ We only had 12 people, so we just sat around and thought of ideas. We started reaching widows and single moms. That developed into a helps ministry, cooking meals and visiting people.”
Get to Give
Within four months, the church—then called Trinity Christian Center—grew to more than 70 people. And already the Rizzos were beginning to sense the unique calling and identity God had given them. Their first offering was a $400 check written in the living room of Lakewood Church founding pastor John Osteen, who wanted to be the first to sow into their ministry after listening to Dino’s plans to reach the poor and hurting.
That vision took on new meaning when, after a “free garage sale” unexpectedly went viral, the congregation became known around town as “the church that gives stuff away.” Soon businesses were calling to offer pallets—and eventually trucks—filled with everything from rat bait to bananas to bottles of Snapple to lingerie. Other ministries, such as Joyce Meyer Ministries, came alongside the church with additional resources to reach the poor.
“We just started giving away whatever we received, and the more we gave away, the more we were given to give away” DeLynn says. “It became a part of who we were, and we loved it. God would just drop this stuff in our laps, and we knew we had to give it away.”
The couple has not only upheld this open-handed principal of stewardship, they’ve embedded into their church’s DNA the fundamental belief that everything is a gift from God to be used to reach people. That includes a stunning $44 million main campus with a state-of-the-art media center and a community sports complex open year-round to the public. For a couple used to getting their hands dirty in outreach, the new 127,000-square-foot facility isn’t just a quantum leap from their old one, it’s emblematic of the world of contrast in which the Rizzos now live as their ministry sphere has grown.
“It’s only a space,” Dino says of the new facility. “Space serves the vision for being a healing place for a hurting world. First, it’s about God’s heart and the vision He gives you; and then you have space to serve. And if you don’t have the space, you find creative ways to make it work.”
Having always found ways to “make it work” regardless of space, the church and its pastor aren’t taking for granted their new opportunity to reach more people via the expansion. During the 3 1/2-year construction of the campus, for example, Dino made sure the sports fields were completed first so HPC could host communitywide events such as little league baseball or soccer.
The result: Hundreds of people came to know the Lord and joined the church before its new doors were ever opened.
Reaching for a Dream
The new space is also allowing HPC to better equip other churches around the world that have joined the “Servolution.” To date, more than 700 churches, ministries and small groups have come together in person and online to exchange outreach ideas, share resources and work together for more effective ways to impact their communities.
This past February, HPC launched a Greater Things Compassion Coalition and hosted a gathering of major compassion-based ministries, with the intent of sharing more practical ideas for local outreach. The HPC team, among other ministries represented, brought an astounding breadth of outreach experience to the table: block parties, bicycle giveaways, water bottles for drivers in traffic, foster-care programs, cancer-prevention programs, gift-wrapping at the mall, nursing home tea parties, flowers for prostitutes, haircutting services, special-needs care, dental clinics … and dozens more programs they’ve tried.
“If it lines up with the vision of the church and it’s something we can facilitate, we will at least give it a shot,” says J.P. Brumfield, HPC’s outreach coordinator. “Because reaching people is creative; it’s not a magic formula.”
To that degree, the Louisiana church continues to make its mark with sheer creativity, having been consistently recognized by Outreach magazine among the nation’s most innovative churches. While HPC pushes the envelope with new ways of serving, almost all of these ideas are birthed within the congregation, not just at leadership meetings.
“HPC is one of those rare places that helps to facilitate the dreams, purposes and ideas that God births in the hearts of people—and then takes it to another level through a church dedicated to serving” says Craig Boutte, HPC’s pastor of the Baton Rouge Dream Center.
Boutte knows all about turning dreams into reality, as his downtown ministry center imparts hope to thousands of inner-city residents’ lives each year. Located in a 70805 zip code that ranks among the nation’s top five for murders and violent crimes, the Dream Center and its sister ministries have been so consistent and effective in helping the community that today local, state and even federal government officials—from police officers to politicians to state attorneys—regularly call upon HPC for assistance. This, in turn, has opened remarkable doors such as working with the state to link foster children with foster parents, or receiving more than $10 million in grant money over the years.
Berry, who is also the church’s resident grant writer, believes the key to HPC’s favor with government agencies has been staying focused on the cause of Christ rather than running pursuing government connections simply for financial aid.
“Churches and the government run in parallel lanes, and they’re both trying to help, though from a different perspective,” she says. “We just do what’s in our heart, use what’s in our hands to try to serve the community, and God grants influence. The Word says His gifts will bring you before kings, so we just use the gifts He’s given us and it takes us in places where there’s influence. Then we’re able to say, ‘This is what’s happened—look what the Lord has done—and we just want to do more.’”
For a Bigger Cause
As I sit in a worship service after seeing multiple angles of HPC in action, I can’t help but marvel over the same phrase Berry used: Look what the Lord has done. Given the default self-centeredness of today’s American culture, it’s astounding how God has drawn thousands into a selfless “Servolution.” Yet the Lord has also given this unique church a voice not only to speak life into its local community, but also to the global body of Christ that is once again bringing active compassion into the forefront rather than relegating it to a side ministry.
Matthew Barnett, founder and pastor of the Los Angeles Dream Center, has been a leading proponent of this move since the early 1990s, yet he recognizes the Holy Spirit’s unique work with Dino and HPC.
“When I first met Pastor Dino, I knew I had met a man who lives to be a miracle in everyone’s life on a daily basis,” Barnett says. “He has shaken up the American church by allowing us to see that church is so much bigger than Sunday service; it is a lifestyle of service.”
That “Servolution” lifestyle goes beyond one-time outreaches and trendy “social justice” efforts. It’s a lifelong commitment to showing and sharing God’s love, whether by helping to fix a pimp’s car or sitting with a dying cancer patient.
“We’re not serving for service’s sake,” Dino reminds me. “We serve for the cause of Jesus Christ. We’re not humanitarians; we’re not building a charity. It’s not even social justice. Our social justice comes out of a compassion for the cause of Jesus Christ. We do the Great Commission—we’re on a mission from God because He commissioned us. We feel like our bent is compassion, but the compassion is for the cause of Jesus Christ.”
“Everything we do is through the love of Christ,” DeLynn adds. “It’s not just, ‘Well, here’s a plate of food.’ We don’t push the church down their throat, but we do tell people, ‘God loves you, and He’s thinking about you today.’”
Some are surprised this simple approach works in Baton Rouge, where people are as familiar with hardships as they are the Bayou blues. Yet even as the effects of Katrina, a recession, high crime and harsh poverty linger, HPC has watched life after life transformed via the Holy Spirit’s work through a few simple words or a simple gesture.
As the worship service ends, the campus pastor urges people to sign up for one of the kazillion outreaches listed on the bulletin for the upcoming annual “Servolution Week.”
“Really, what’s listed here for Servolution this year is just another week at Healing Place Church,” he explains. And whether HPC members realize it or not, that’s part of the true miracle taking place in this revolution.
In true Louisiana fashion, Marcus Yoars was treated like a king while filing this story from Baton Rouge. Unfortunately, he ate like one too.
Source: CHARISMA NEWS.
By Marcus Yoars
Rosella Ridings didn’t question God’s wisdom. When the Lord spoke to her heart in April 2011 to begin raising funds for Pastor Bill Wilson’s Metro Ministries, she wasn’t about to make excuses for herself.
More than a year later, Ridings, an associate pastor at Word of Faith Orlando in Florida and the director of special events for Charisma Media, is diligently heading up Metro Hope for Kids. The project’s mission is to renovate a condemned hospital that encompasses an entire city block in Brooklyn, N.Y., to become the headquarters for Wilson’s Metro World Ministries Center.
Working for Wilson certainly wasn’t in the plan for Ridings’ golden years. Her husband of more than 50 years, Howard, passed away in 2008. The two had begun pastoring at Heart of Orlando Worship Center prior to Howard’s death.
Sometime later, Ridings heard God’s voice loud and clear.
“I had always told God I would do anything that he wanted me to do,” she said. “One morning, I woke up to His voice. He said, ‘I want you to make a difference in the building.’ When He tells you to do something, you do it.”
The fact that Ridings took on such a huge project came as no surprise to family members. Joy Strang, Charisma Media CFO, said her sister has always been a multi-tasker.
Along with pastoring at Word of Faith Orlando, Ridings also serves as Florida director for Evangel Fellowship International and is host of a radio show, REAL LIFE with Rosella. She also travels around the world to minister, including trips to Singapore and Hong Kong in the past 18 months.
Strang has helped her sister with Metro Hope for Kids in an advisory position. With degrees in accounting and finance, Strang has been able to advise Ridings about money matters for the ministry.
“Rosella has always had incredible energy. She’s just that kind of person,” said Rebecca McInnis, office manager at Charisma Media for the past 22 years. “With her, everything has got to be 100 percent, the best. She is like the Pied Piper. People simply want to rally around her. I want to be like her when I grow up.”
Through her late husband, Rosella has known Wilson for nearly 20 years. The couple financially supported the pioneering ministry—established in 1980—and Ridings has traveled to New York every December for the past several years to help distribute Christmas gifts to children that have benefited from Wilson’s ministry.
The morning she received God’s revelation, Ridings texted Wilson, who was in Germany spreading the gospel, about the message she received. Wilson responded almost immediately, welcoming Ridings’ offer to help.
The downturn in the economy had taken a financial toll on Wilson’s ministry. He knew this was divine intervention.
“When I texted him, I told him God told me to make a difference in his building,” Ridings said. “He knew me, and he told me he knew I could do this. And so I have.”
Upon completion of the renovation, Metro World Ministries Center will “allow Metro to accomplish many goals.” Among them are:
- Opening a café to feed underprivileged families and the homeless in the area.
- Providing tutoring programs for children, GED classes for teens and life skill classes for adults who are recovering addicts or ones that never learned basic skills.
- Providing a clothing distribution program.
- Having apartment facilities for donors, visitors and guests who visit Metro.
- Expanding the facilities for Metro’s “Won by One” sponsorship program, in which donors can sponsor a child living in unfavorable conditions, through contributions, letters and gifts.
Ridings has no plans to slow down, especially when it comes to raising money for Metro.
“This is my heart, my passion,” she said. “It has to be because I’ve seen God do so many miracles. I call them God connections.
“I heard a comedian ask recently, ‘How do you eat an elephant? You do it one bite at a time.’ I heard in my head that we need to rebuild this building one room at a time. I know we will see it done. It’s a God thing.”
To make a donation to Metro Hope for Kids, please visit the ministry’s website at metrohopeforkids.com.
Source: CHARISMA NEWS.
By Shawn A. Akers