What happens when an American church walks in obedience to God?

“One of the scribes came near and heard them disputing with one another, and seeing that he answered them well, he asked him, ‘Which commandment is the first of all?’ Jesus answered, ‘The first is, “Hear, O Israel: the Lord our God, the Lord is one; you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.” The second is this, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” There is no other commandment greater than these.'” Mark 12:28-31

First Pentecostal Church (FPC) in Phoenix, Arizona not only is a congregation that worships together on Sundays; it also is a consistent source of restoration, healing and blessing for people in need.

Linda Morris (right), the church’s outreach director and a trainer of trainers with the Harvest Foundation (a DNA affiliate organization), has been part of the congregation for 33 years and leads several initiatives to help the church embody a biblical worldview and reflect Jesus in word and deed.

Year-round, Linda trains church members to “move from a solely spiritual worldview to a biblical worldview that expresses God’s full agenda and plan for His creation.” She uses training material from Harvest for a 90-minute class on Thursdays and an abbreviated session during the church’s Christian Education hour Sunday mornings. Each set of trainings is eight sessions long.

Walking in love

Regularly, Linda and her Harvest USA colleagues provide structured opportunities for church members to be salt and light, engaging in wholistic ministry to those outside the church community. “An important duty of the ministry,” Linda says, “is to seek those who are in need of love, hope, and encouragement while addressing many spiritual, social, and physical needs so that all might receive the promise of eternal life.”

In 2015, the church partnered with multiple sectors of society–schools, businesses, government, law enforcement, other local churches, families–to meet a felt need of the surrounding community: a safe place children to play and a peaceful place for the community to gather.

This playground adjacent to the church includes a basketball court and is used frequently by community members and an after-school program. “The whole community came together,” Linda says, with the effort led by her local church.

 

Many months before, a small group from Linda’s church, having been trained on the role of the local church, asked God to show them how to put what they’d learned into practice. Kingdom math followed, Linda says.

Kingdom math is the idea that God takes our weakness, multiplies it, and turns it into strength for his glory. No person or nation is too small, poor or weak to be used by God (learn more).

 

“It was far beyond anything we envisioned that could happen,” says Linda. To make sure the community had a say in the final product, the church held a “design day” when children were given newsprint and told to design a playground. Then, the community came together and voted on which designs should be developed.

A local construction company donated a basketball court, and an artist from another local church guided community members in creating a giant mosaic with donated tiles on one wall. Hands from all walks of life made that wall come to life: Pastors, moms with babies, children, even police officers took turns pasting their little piece of ceramic to create a dynamic image–reflecting their Creator by turning a plain wall into something beautiful.

On the days of the playground’s construction, dozens of people from all over the expansive Phoenix valley worked side-by-side, with FPC’s pastor leading by example. “God’s Garden” was beginning to take shape.

(From left) David and Pauline Eddings lead FPC, where David currently serves as the lead pastor. The church was founded in 1947 by his parents, Bishop AC and Lelar Mae Eddings. On the right is Linda Morris, and behind the three is the mosaic wall assembled by the community.

 

Pastor David addressed the volunteers who constructed the playground, and the group praised God in English and Spanish–languages both commonly spoken in the community.

 

None of this would have happened without that small group of church members asking for God’s guidance, hearing his voice, and responding in faithful obedience.

Strategic community support

FPC also operates a Community Resource Center with the goal “to empower families and build strong communities, and to bring the whole gospel to the whole person spiritually, physically, socially and economically.” This center provides people in need reliable avenues to food, health care, housing, education, vocational training, employment, and life skills including parenting, healthy eating, computer literacy and financial empowerment.

At the first job fair, a Muslim immigrant family who didn’t speak English (but had an interpreter) came to the job fair and connected with a woman at the church. The children of the two families got together and played, and the mothers exchanged phone numbers.

Recently, FPC became the first church in Arizona to host a job fair. Partnering with FlourishNow, the first fair brought together employers and job seekers, and of the more than 200 people who came looking for jobs, 40 had interviews and 22 were hired before they left or immediately after the event. The church provided all the volunteers to pull off the event, even serving lunch to everyone who came.

“Employers said they had never experienced a job fair that was so nice, so well done and with such loving care,” says Linda.

The congregation at FPC loves its neighbors by volunteering on a weeknight to meet the practical need for employment. So far, it has hosted two very successful job fairs inside its sanctuary.

The second fair was just as successful. “People got jobs on the spot,” said Andy Myers, city director at FlourishNow. “Women were outfitted for work by Dress for Success. All the Bibles were distributed. Refugees came and found options. A mom who needed work as part of her reunification plan with her kiddos, found it. The Church showed up. Hope happened. God was glorified through actions that awakened dignity in all people.”

To learn more about FPC’s outreach, contact Linda Morris at mlmorris@loveliberates.com or (602) 821-6065.

 

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