Wednesday, October 8, 2014

A Community—Building Church

As the Lord continues to guide us into this new phase of the ministry, we’re receiving confirmation everywhere we turn.

As we told you a couple of weeks ago, we came across an article by Rod Edmonson, a pastor and church leader who has a passion for church planters. He provided 7 Ways to Be a Community-Building Pastor. We know that finding that article was not a coincidence. It was confirmation that we are moving the right direction. 

In the article he writes: How can a pastor—or ministry leader—be a community builder? I don’t have all the ideas, but I have some suggestions:

1. Know key leaders - I think you should know who the leaders in the community are and know as many of them personally as possible.
2. Listen to concerns - Wherever you are, wherever you go, whatever you do in the community—whether at city hall, a school meeting or the grocery store or barbershop, listen to hear the things people are talking about around you.
3. Love what they love - I am intentionally trying to love the people to whom God has placed me to minister—and part of that—as I would do for any family member—is learning to love the things they love.
4. Learn the community - make appointments with people who are known in the community for their years of service to the community.
5. Build your community network - I’m consistently asking people to connect me with people I should know in the community.
6. Serve somewhere in the community, besides your church - we need to lead the way so that others in the church will serve in the community also.
7. Lead your church to be community builders - This isn't something we do in a campaign once a year. This must be a lifestyle—getting the church into the community—being community builders—so we can eventually be Kingdom builders.

As we are making intentional plans to become much more of an evangelism-focused church, we want to provide opportunities for each of you to invite your family, friends, co-workers and classmates to special times to hear the gospel presented in unique ways that will touch their lives.

We also want to adequately prepare you to disciple someone in the ways of God. That’s why, over the years, we placed so much emphasis on rightly dividing the word of God. We want to help each of you to know how to give the right words at the right times.

For instance, if a co-worker has lost a loved one or is having a battle with a sickness, we shouldn't tell them, “God won’t put on you more than you can bear.” Not only is that a misquoted scripture, but it is not the word of comfort for someone who needs encouragement. It would be more appropriate to say, “God wants us to bring every burden that we have to Him. Do you mind if I pray with you?” Or “Until I committed my whole heart to God, things like this in life were always overwhelming me, too. Do you have a minute to let me pray for you?” 

A couple of weeks ago, I stood on a microphone and preached the Good News in an outdoor setting for the first time in over ten years. We have desired to do that ever since we first moved to Harrisburg. I must admit that the Spirit of God came upon me in that strong and heavy anointing that I always felt many years ago, on the streets of St. Louis or during altar calls in my home church. It was awesome to be back in that flow again.

Following that evangelistic outreach in Harrisburg’s Hall Manor, we realized we must really become much more serious about ensuring that we all know how to share our faith and how to lead people who are new to the ways of God. We want to become faithful and competent stewards of God’s word. We want to be faithful as He sends us out into the harvest in these last days.

Most of us are already in the trenches regarding evangelism due to the positions God has given us on or jobs. As your pastors in this season, we want to be faithful to always equip you for your daily assignments. 

Over the last couple of weeks, the Lord has been dealing with us strongly about getting back to preaching the pure, uncut, uncensored truth about God’s love, heaven, hell, and even about Christians who have been deceived into thinking they are going to heaven even though they are living double lives.

I openly repent of any and all messages that I have preached that allowed anyone to feel comfortable in sin, prayerlessness and settling for the pursuit of personal goals rather than seeking God with all their heart. I denounce any and all teachings that I have done that reinforced a carnal lifestyle and the harboring of secret sin. From this day forth, Carol and I are preaching and teaching the whole truth of God’s Word.

Carol and I have been convicted by the Holy Spirit for trying to rebuild, restore and renew hearts and homes without placing the main emphasis on SALVATION, first.  People have got to get saved. Christians have got to come out of carnality and sin. There’s nothing else to say!

Even in these modern times, with all of our impressive technology and information, it all still comes down to that same old ancient message that Jesus Christ commanded His followers to give to the world:

And He said to them, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature."  Mark 16:15 (NKJV)

And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in all the world as a witness to all the nations, and then the end will come.  
Matthew 24:14 (NKJV)

If we truly believe that these are the last days, then we must live like it is so, and we will preach like it is so. 

We’ll see you Friday for our next Prayer Watch and Sunday for our next Equipping Families session.

It's all for the harvest,

Chris and Carol Green

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Responding to the Cry for Help

Two nights ago, I attended a town hall meeting in Harrisburg. It was organized and hosted by Harrisburg Hope, an initiative from the office of Representative Patty Kim. The purpose of the meeting was to discuss some of the ways Harrisburg can avoid becoming the next Ferguson, MO. The meeting had a panel which included several key players of the Harrisburg landscape.

One the panelist was a young minister from St. Louis. Of course I was pleasantly surprised. He graduated from the same high school as the police shooting victim, Michael Brown. It is the same high school where one of my sisters-in-law teaches. This minister graduated from there in 1998 and came to Pennsylvania for college.  After his college graduation, he moved to Lancaster, PA.

His comments, during the discussion, kept taking the conversation back to the realities of an American system in which our nation profits from the poverty of the least of its citizens (minorities, children, elderly, disabled, etc). I was very impressed with him and I was also impressed with Representative Kim because she boldly called out and challenged the Dauphin County leadership for how they have treated African American men and boys.

Up until that meeting, I have always wanted to learn who are the people that genuinely have the best interest of Harrisburg in their hearts.  That night I discovered some of them. In the midst of the typical posturing and rhetoric, these two stood out, head and shoulders, above the group. I must admit that I don’t know these people and I have never been involved in their organizations, so I cannot make a judgment concerning any of them. But from the comments that were made in that meeting, I have a much clearer understanding of Harrisburg.

The largest portion of the meeting was given to allow comments and questions from the audience. Obviously, there was a lot of frustration and anger expressed from most of them. They challenged the unfair treatment of community by the police and the horrible practices within the school system that includes drugging the children and criminalizing the behavior of the Black male children in particular.

Some people stood and expressed desperate pleas for funding and volunteers in their individual efforts to provide activities and programs for youth and children. All throughout the session, I kept hearing a consistent theme: We need someone to help us!

After the event, I made my way to meet the young minister and to meet Representative Patty Kim. I expressed to both of them how much this was needed. I asked one of the panelists if this meeting was the first one with true intention to bring everyone to the table for solutions and he confirmed that my assessment was true. I told Representative Kim that if this kind of meeting had been offered in St. Louis, then the Ferguson incident might never have happened.

I didn’t hand out my business cards to anyone that night and I made no political or religious contacts or connections. My purpose in going was to watch and observe. I came away from that meeting with clear vision. It gave me an understanding of our times and the wisdom to know what Urban Life must do.

I heard a community crying out for help. I saw disconnected and disjointed efforts by many individuals to provide help. I saw all kinds of people with all kinds of strategies to meet all kinds of needs. Each one, in his own way was saying, come over here and help me provide the help. Not one person said, "I will connect what I’m doing with what you’re doing." Not one person said, "I’ll connect my program with your program and pool our resources to make a bigger impact." Instead I observed the continuation of the problem in which everyone wants to be the boss, but no one wants to follow. Some call it the Messiah Syndrome because each one wants to be the savior for Harrisburg.

So now I have a better understanding of why God has us here in Harrisburg at this time. God has allowed my hometown to become a central theme of major problems in our country and right here in Harrisburg, people are crying out for help to try to avoid a similar social upheaval. Now we're all faced with the one question: How will we do it?

OUR first order of business is to establish an Urban Life Ministry Team that can respond to that cry for help. Right now, we’re going to prepare ourselves by alternating Sundays between intercessory prayer, one week, and worship/ teaching the next week.

I don’t know when we’ll make connections with the various people on that panel. I certainly desire to do so. In the meantime, we are getting ourselves prepared. We are doing what we can for now.

We’re going to do our part in the upcoming street outreach in south Harrisburg and we’re going to prepare ourselves for harvest. We’re going to prepare out nets for a great catch of fish. We’re going to be ready to serve and minister to others in these perilous times and we’re going to fulfill God’s purpose for Urban Life in this community, in this nation and in this world.

Are you ready to respond to the cry for help?

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

I Always Saw More

The Lord gave me a life-altering experience over four years ago. It was about three weeks after the 2010 earthquake in Haiti. You may recall that the 7.0 magnitude quake that rocked Haiti on Jan 12, 2010 was the biggest urban disaster in modern history.  More than 200,000 people were killed, and another 1.5 million were left homeless.
I was lying awake after a restless night of constantly seeing the TV images of Haiti running through my mind. I find myself always deeply affected by various events going on around the world. I began to pray in the spirit and instantly fell into a kind of sleep, but I wasn’t asleep.

I felt a powerful wind come upon me and I was taken up out of Harrisburg and carried way up above the earth. Then from what seemed to be a satellite view of the earth, my vision was focused upon the United States continent.

I was carried down out of space and another great wind came and carried me through city streets. At a speed, faster than sound or light, I was being carried from one city to another. The wind was carrying me through the streets, around buildings and through neighborhoods.

I recognized certain parts of north St. Louis, but then I realized it was not just St. Louis, but I was seeing many cities all at the same time. I was flying on the wind through one city after another, in a flash of time. It’s difficult to describe how fast it was happening and how I was in many places all at the same time.

I had a simple question, "Lord, what do you want me to do?"

Suddenly the wind carried me high into the sky and I was rocketed towards the Midwest. I realized I was flying toward St. Louis. As I was descending, I saw the stadium, but I did not quite reach the city. I stopped before I reached the boundary of the state line.

I asked the Lord, “Where do you want me to go?”

Suddenly, I was being pulled backwards. I thought: “Am I going back to Harrisburg, going to Philadelphia or New York?” But the wind suddenly shot me back up into a satellite type position, high above the Earth.

I looked straight down and my view changed to that of a satellite image. It was as if though I were looking down upon a city through the lenses of a camera. I heard the sound of a camera shutter and the image changed to another city; then another city; then another and another. The images begin to change faster and faster until it was moving at rapid-fire speed.  It was far more cities than I could possibly count.

Then the wind carried me back to the Earth and into my body. I lay there still feeling the wind and the Lord said: “I’m going to put YOUR name in the wind… when I do; you are to put MY name in the wind.”  Then I came out of the vision.

Last year, on the first Sunday in September, I revealed this vision to the Urban Life family for the first time. It was the first time I publicly spoke about it. I have never had this kind of experience in GOD. Remember, this happened four years ago.

Today, I share with you something that has been in my heart for many, many years. Through all of our training and experiences over the past 27 years, we have been prepared and groomed for a very specific latter-day ministry. And that ministry is starting to come alive.

For the past 10 years in Harrisburg, I have always told my wife that from the time we first moved to Harrisburg, I have not seen just a church or a church building for our ministry. I ALWAYS SAW MORE. That vision happened to me four years ago, and I have waited for the right time just to begin talking about it.

I can’t say that I have fully understood it, but the last three months have brought much of that vision into focus for me. For instance, in the vision, the sudden emphasis on St. Louis has now come to pass. I didn’t know what that part meant four years ago, but it’s pretty clear now.

In the vision, after that brief moment of being focused on St. Louis, God launched me into a position to reach the world. And now, as you all know, the Lord has connected us to people who also have a heart to reach the world. 

He has connected us with other like-minded pastors and leaders who do a lot more than just TALK, but they are people of ACTION, like us. They do not procrastinate and they do not take months and years to finally decide to make the necessary steps to obey the voice of God. They are not allowing the precious time they have left on this earth to be wasted with the petty pursuits of money, fame and security.

We are sensing that the next part of our journey is coming upon us. Almost 34 years ago, we sensed God’s timing to move from Tulsa to St. Louis to work and serve with my brother. After serving in our home church for 17 years, the Holy Spirit spoke to us about moving to Harrisburg. Now after 10 years in Harrisburg, we sense the Lord shifting us and connecting us with these special people, who have the same call to turn our nation and our world to Christ.

At this same time last year, the Lord gave us a promise that HE was going to Open Doors for us in 2014.

"And to the angel of the church in Philadelphia write, ‘These things says He who is holy, He who is true, “He who has the key of David, He who opens and no one shuts, and shuts and no one opens. I know your works. See, I have set before you an open door, and no one can shut it; for you have a little strength, have kept My word, and have not denied My name.”

It is becoming more and more evident that a new season is upon us and a very significant door is being opened for Carol and me; and for those who have joined to us, who can answer the call, too. We have some very special things that we want to share with our entire church family and even for those who have not officially joined this ministry, but have felt connected to us.

NO, don't worry, Urban Life is not about to close, but it is about to CHANGE and we want to share our hearts with you THIS Sunday.

We’re excited about our future and we look forward to what God has in store for us.

We are overcomers, moving into a new season,

Pastor Chris Green

Friday, August 15, 2014

Hands Up for our Youth, Hands Up for our Future

Christopher Green

Opinion Editorial

For historical perspective, I'm writing this in response to the recent wave of protests that are taking place in my home city of St. Louis, MO. These protests followed the encounter between Michael Brown and a Ferguson police officer that resulted in Micheal's death.

Now as people continue to march, pray, sing and call for justice, let’s also make an intentional effort to connect with the next generation. In addition to the protesting we need to think about how we're going to educate the next generation.

We need to add some Civics studies in our church Bible classes, so they can learn and understand how government is supposed to work. A future mayor of Ferguson could be sitting in your youth group.

Let’s add some math and reading tutorials so they can get prepared for the real world. Let’s add some etiquette and conflict resolution training in our Sunday schools, BTU and YPWW curriculum. Teach some checkbook balancing and financial management along with life-trauma counseling.

It’s time for change in the church, too. Otherwise, we pastors are no different than the St. L County police in ignoring the real needs and cries of a generation that is drowning in anger and frustration.

Yes, we can still cast out demons and call down fire from heaven, but our youth are still going to need to learn how to deal with their pain and make wise, solid decisions, which means the adults, their true role models, are going to have to make some changes, too.

Adults have to learn how government and politics work. Votes can change the tide on who is the next mayor of a city or the president of a school board.

Adults have to know more than the latest plot on Scandal and the favored singers on Sunday Best. Adults have to help with homework and stop keeping up with Jay-Z, Beyonce, the Housewives, and the Preachers of LA.

If we truly honor the family of Mike Brown, then start preparing our kids for the future, the way his family was trying to steer him in the right direction.

Hands Up for our youth, Hands up for our future….