Two Lost Brothers (a preacher and a criminal)

Today is July 6, 2018.  Earlier today, my brother and I were waiting for our order of twelve tortas (lunch for the family) to get done at a bodega in Cypress Hills, Brooklyn on the corner of Jamaica Ave and Hemlock Street.  We have an AirBnB  with our beautiful wives and wonderful (usually) children. As we waited, we talked for the first time about the incident that led to our friendship being broken for several years. Jesus worked in both of our hearts and restored the relationship between two brothers. I had never heard the story from his perspective. The story is the preface to his book Increase Your Favor. The book has been finished for years but he had not found the right time to ask me if he could share our story so he waited to release it. As we wept over the chess board, I said, “Sure man. You can share that. It’s a beautiful story of redemption.” God is faithful. Jesus is the only hero to this story of two lost sons– one outside in a pig pen and the other inside the father’s house.  -John Alarid

Preface to the upcoming book by Brian Alarid, Increase Your Favor

What I need you to understand about me is that I am not the hero of this story—far from it, as you will clearly see.

“Pastor Brian…uh…I don’t know how to say this, but…uh…”

I could tell my youth pastor and lifelong friend Jason was struggling to get the words out, so I decided to let him off the hook. “What bro? Just say it.”

“Um…did you get arrested tonight?”

“What are you talking about, Jason? No, I didn’t get arrested. I’m at a church party. What’s the punch line?”

“Well…I was having dinner with my parents and we heard the news on the television in the living room say, ‘Brian Alarid was arrested this evening breaking into a commercial building near downtown Albuquerque.’ And my parents were like, ‘Hey, isn’t that your pastor?’ And I was like, ‘Yeah, it is. What the heck?’ So I ran into the living room and it had your name on the screen, but the man they arrested didn’t look like you.”

“Shut up! Are you sure they said, ‘Brian Alarid’?”

“Uh…yeah, pretty sure.”

It was Father’s Day 2007 and I was celebrating with some friends from church. We were fourteen months into our church plant. Passion Church had grown from seven adults to over 200 people in a few short months and over 400 people had made decisions for Christ. My three-year-old daughter Chloe was playing next to me. My son Colin, who was born the day we started our church, was sitting on my lap making a mess all over my designer jeans with his bowl of carrot puree. Overcome with emotion, that I ran into my friend’s office.

I tried in vain to calm myself down. I called 911 and told the operator that I thought I was the victim of identity theft. I explained that someone using my name was arrested within the last hour. She patched me through to the arresting officer.

“Hello, officer. My name is Brian Alarid. I am the Pastor of Passion Church here in Albuquerque. I just heard on the news that someone was arrested using my name. But I want to assure you that I am the real Brian Alarid. What do I have to do to clear my name?”

“Hi, Mr. Alarid. I thought something was odd when we arrested this guy and he quickly offered up your name and social security number but didn’t have any identification on him. So, we ran his finger prints. Do you know a John Alarid? Is he related to you?”

Atomic bombs of anger went off inside my head. “Yes, I know John. He’s my brother.”

“Well, I don’t know how to tell you this, but your brother has used your name and social security number in 27 arrests dating back to 1993. Fortunately, we have either his photo or fingerprints from all those arrests. I can prove that you are innocent, but it is going to take me a few days to process the paperwork for you to sign.”

I was so furious I could have cussed. I didn’t, but I sure came close. I wasn’t sure if I could ever forgive John. I mean, how could my own flesh and blood betray me like that? I had always supported him through his years of addiction to alcohol and drugs. How could my brother jeopardize me and my family like that? Didn’t he care about me at all?

The officer continued, “You will need to go down to the FBI center and get fingerprinted to prove you are Brian Alarid. But don’t drive yourself. Do you have someone who can drive you there?”

“Yes, of course, my wife Mercy can drive me. But I don’t understand. Why can’t I drive?”

“Because if you get pulled over, the police will think you have escaped from jail and arrest you, and then you will have to stand trial to prove you are the real Brian Alarid.”

“But you said you have proof that my brother stole my identity. Can’t you change the name in the system from John to Brian?”

“Unfortunately, I can’t just change your name in the computer. I have to file the police report to prove you are a victim of identity theft. Then I can change your name. I’ll send an officer to your house in a few days for you to sign the paperwork. So until then, try to stay low and not get arrested.”

“Gee, thanks! I’ll try not to.”

Just like that my whole life had changed. The laid-back take-life-as-a-it-comes, jovial guy who was living life to the fullest turned into a raging volcano of anger. Hulk smash!

I couldn’t eat or sleep. I was short with my wife and kids. I didn’t even feel like talking, which was a first for me. To be honest, it was even hard to pray and read my Bible. This was beyond ridiculous. How could my brother do this to me? And how could God let this happen? What are people in my church going to think about their new pastor? Not cool, Lord…not cool.

A few days later, there was a strong, forceful knock on my front door. I thought to myself, I bet that’s the police. Sure enough, I opened the door and two Albuquerque police officers were standing there. But something didn’t feel right. They had their guns drawn. I started freaking out.        Why would they have their guns drawn if they are coming just to have me sign some paperwork? That doesn’t make any sense. Oh my God…they are going to arrest me in front of my kids! Mercy isn’t home right now, so will they take our kids into protective custody?

“Are you Brian Alarid?”

“Yes, Sir.”

“Can we come in?

“Yes, of course,” as I gingerly opened the screen door. Once they were inside my living room, they put away their guns.

“We have some paperwork for you to sign to finalize your case of identity theft.”

“Are you going to arrest me?” I whimpered.

“No, no, so sorry about that. Your brother John has a list of known associates who are some pretty rough characters, so we just had to make sure your home was secure before we entered it.”

“Oh, good Lord! You scared me half to death. I thought you were going to arrest me in front of my kids. Well, that’s a relief!”

I signed the paperwork and they said that was all they needed to finish my case. “Now, I don’t want to press charges against my brother. I told the arresting officer that. You do understand that, right?”

“Yes, we understand that. You’re not pressing charges. This police report just enables us to clear your identity. The arresting officer is going to testify that your brother gave him your name and social security number and that he signed your name when we booked him. Your brother is going away for a long time. You won’t have to worry about him causing you any more problems.”

      Oh, man! I was furious at my brother and was struggling to forgive him, but I didn’t want him to go to prison. I mean, I still loved him. After all, he’s the only sibling I have. Later that week, my Mom asked me if I wanted to go with her to visit my brother at the county jail.

“No Mom, I’m not ready to see him.”

“But honey, he’s your brother. You need to go see him.”

“I will Mom, but not yet. When I see him I want to be able to tell him that I love him and that I forgive him. I want to mean it from the heart. And I’m just not there yet. So please just give me some space.”

I’m embarrassed to admit this, but it took me six weeks of prayer, fasting, and counseling and a whole lot of Dr. Pepper to process through my feelings of betrayal. By the grace of God, I finally was able to forgive my brother and go visit him in jail. I had preached scores of sermons on the power of forgiveness and how forgiveness starts with a decision—and yet here I was struggling to forgive. It was hard to silence the deafening voice of condemnation inside my head. You really suck at this whole forgiveness thing, Brian. Who are you to get up and tell other people they need to forgive those who’ve hurt them? You should give up pastoring and go do something else.

I was an absolute mess, both emotionally and spiritually. If Jesus died for my sins and forgave me, why couldn’t I just forgive my brother? Why was it so hard? Every Sunday when I gave an altar call at the end of my sermon and asked people to repent of their sins and confess Jesus as their Savior, I felt the conviction of the Holy Spirit exposing my deep need for forgiveness. I felt like such a hypocrite. If it’s true that unforgiveness is like drinking poison and expecting someone else to die, then I died ten thousand deaths during this dark chapter of my life.

Things are about to get better,I told myself. I’m going to visit my brother in jail, look him in the eye, and tell him that I forgive him. Surely John will be overcome by emotion, begin weeping and ask me to forgive him on the spot. We will make up and go back to being best friends like when we were younger. There is light at the end of tunnel.

Until there isn’t.

My Mom, my daughter Chloe, and I walked into the Bernalillo County jail. I picked up the telephone attached to the video monitor and there was my brother in his orange jumpsuit. Chloe was sitting on my lap trying to get high enough to see her uncle.

“Hi John, how are you doing man?”

“Well, not that good. Obviously.”

My heart felt like it was about to burst, so I just let it out. “Hey bro, I just want you to know that I love you and I forgive you. I am going to stand with you through this trial and be there for you every step of the way…”

John rudely interrupted my well-prepared speech. “Dude, did you press charges against me? Did you tell on me?”

“Uh…no. I didn’t press charges against you.”

“Well, my attorney says you pressed charges against me for identity theft and that is going to make things worse for me.”

“Dude, I filed a police report to clear my name because you used my identity when you got arrested. And the officer told me you have done that 27 times dating back to 1993. How could you do that to me?”

And then the bomb dropped.

You’re not my brother. You’re dead to me. Don’t ever come see me again. You’re a traitor!” And just like that, John hung up the phone phone used for inmates and visitors to talk through a monitor and walked away.

Are you stinkin’ kidding me? I’m a traitor? You’re the traitor! You’re the one who used my identity 27 times like your own personal get-out-of-jail free card.

      I was furious. I could have condemned my brother to all of Dante’s nine circles of hell. It took me six long weeks to finally forgive my brother and only two seconds for all that anger, unforgiveness, and hurt to invade my heart all over again.

Like a good brother, I went to all of John’s court appearances over the next few months. He refused to even so much as look at me. On the day he was sentenced to eight years in prison (with two of those years being suspended), my heart broke for him. I thought to myself, Don’t worry, once he gets to prison, he’ll realize how wrong he’s been and he’ll beg you to forgive him.

      Sadly, I momentarily relished the idea of him groveling back to me, pleading for my forgiveness. I know you have never had a revenge fantasy, but please don’t judge me. I was bitter and you probably would have been too.

In my despair, I ran to the story of Joseph in the Bible since he was betrayed by his brothers. His life is a story of a man who felt forsaken and abandoned by God. It’s a story of family strife, jealousy, betrayal, deceit, false accusations, shattered dreams, and wrongful imprisonment—all the stuff that makes for a good soap opera and a great telenovela.

I connected with Joseph’s story on a very deep personal level because of my own journey through betrayal and unforgiveness. When my situation looked hopeless, Joseph’s testimony prodded me to believe that God could somehow redeem my unholy mess and make something beautiful out of it. It turns out Solomon was right, God really does make everything beautiful in His time.

As I read through the record of Joseph’s life time and time again, I commiserated with him. I would wonder out loud what Joseph was feeling at each juncture of his journey. When I felt like giving up, I could almost hear Joseph cheering me on, encouraging me not to quit. I began journaling my thoughts and it was quite therapeutic. It was almost as if we became pen pals, separated by some mere thirty-seven-hundred years. Kind of like the movie, The Lake House, except that Joseph didn’t write me back. And my wife Mercy says that I’m way hotter than Keanu Reeves. She always was well discerning.

I was drawn to Joseph because of shared pain, but what I discovered was far more than just betrayal and redemption. The life of Joseph is a story of unusual favor and it reveals five timeless principles of favor. From his life, we learn how to createfavor, releasefavor, increasefavor, stewardfavor, and sustainfavor.

Forgiveness protects your heart from being poisoned by bitterness so you can enjoy God’s favor on your life. When Joseph had the opportunity to exact revenge on his brothers who had so unmercifully betrayed him and sold him into slavery, by the grace of God, he chose to forgive them. By showing them mercy, Joseph persevered a lifetime of favor and protected his heart from bitterness, revenge, and hatred.

I began studying Joseph to comfort my wounded heart, but through it God surprised me with a life message on favor. The overarching theme of this book is favor, but before you can reap the rewards of favor, you first have to pay the price for favor. In between the promise and the payoff is the dreadful process, which always involves more pain and sacrifice than we could ever imagine. The favor of God on Joseph’s life cost him everything.

You need to catch this—God’s favor is free, but it isn’t cheap. Favor will cost you everything and then some, but it will also reward you with far more than you ever sacrifice, as long as you don’t quit. You have to play the long game.

The long game for me was painfully dark and lonely. Several months after John was sentenced to prison in the fall of 2007, my mother asked me if we could celebrate Thanksgiving together as a family on Wednesday evening. She wanted to get up early the next morning to go visit my brother in prison four hours away in Hobbs, New Mexico.

“Of course. We’ll eat our Thanksgiving meal Wednesday evening and I’ll drive with you to Hobbs the next morning. That’s a long drive and I don’t want you to go alone. I’ll get us a hotel room and we’ll drive back together on Friday. It will be a great mother-son date.”

“I’m sorry, Son, but you’re not on John’s guest list so you can’t go with me.”

“So call him and tell him to add me to the guest list.”

“Honey, you don’t understand. John told me he doesn’t want to see you. He still hasn’t forgiven you for what you did to him.”

“What! He hasn’t forgiven me? Are you kidding me? I didn’t do anything to him. He’s the one who betrayed me. Forget him!”

My mother lived with us at the time, so that made for an awkward Thanksgiving. My wife Mercy made an immaculate meal, my Mom bought gifts for my kids to open, and we watched family holiday movies. But there was this anger eating away at me like toxic waste. It was hard to enjoy anything, even the beautiful smiles of my kids and the sweet embrace of my smoking hot wife.

I read a book on forgiveness thinking it would help me. Nope, it made it worse. I still had all my preaching and leadership duties to keep up with as the Pastor of Passion Church and our leadership school. I tried to stuff my calendar with meetings to avoid my pain. That didn’t work so well either.

We had a fantastic Christmas church service in the Cottonwood Mall theater. Over twenty people responded to accept Jesus as Lord and Savior. I live to see people get saved—it’s my biggest thrill and joy in life. Sadly, even something as magnificent as twenty names being written in the Lamb’s book of life couldn’t snap me out of my funk.

A few months later, my Mom walks into my office with a letter in her hand. “Brian, your brother wrote to you. Please read it.”

“I’m sorry, Mom. I can’t do it. I love John, but right now, I really don’t want to have anything to do with him.”

She left my office in tears. Five days in a row, I read my Bible and prayed and worked on my laptop with that letter laying on my desk, almost like it was staring at me, taunting me. I finally worked up the courage to open it.

“Dear Brian, I just wanted to write you to tell you that I have rededicated my life to Christ in prison. And I just want you to know that I forgive you for betraying me and filing that police report against me…”

What are you smoking, man? You forgive me? I didn’t betray you. You should be asking me to forgive you.

All the unforgiveness and bitterness that I had worked so hard to release to God came rushing back into my heart in an instant, but with interest. I was angrier than I had ever been. Mercy tried to comfort me, but I was inconsolable.

Sleepless nights, tear-soaked prayers, and distracted date nights became my new normal. My heart was numb. I had been reading my Bible regularly since I was twelve, but now it seemed like it was written in a foreign language. Nightly family devotions, which had been the highlight of my day, were now brutal. I felt like God was a million miles away.How can I lead my kids to Jesus when I felt abandoned by Him? How do I teach them about the love of God when I no longer feel His love?

Three weeks after receiving my brother’s first letter, my Mom walked into my office with an envelope in her hand and a big grin on her face.

“You’ve got to be kidding me, Mom? Please don’t tell me that letter is from John.”

“Honey, your brother has really changed. You should read this letter. I think it will be different from the last one he wrote you.”

“Uh, no thank you! I’m done with allowing him to hurt me. I’m serious this time, Mom. I’m not going to read it.”

“Brian, don’t be like that. Jesus told us that if we don’t forgive others, He won’t forgive us. You need to forgive your brother or God won’t forgive you.”

“That’s really not helpful, Mom. I know what the Bible says. Have you forgotten that I’m a Bible teacher by profession? I’ve forgiven John. I just don’t want to read his letter or have anything to do with him.” And I took his letter and threw it in the garbage.

I made my Mom cry again. Although to be fair, sometimes my mother cries when she sees butterflies. So, I’m not a complete jerk.

The next day, I was in my office trying to write a sermon for Sunday but no matter which portion of Scripture I read, it was completely dry. I tried to pray but felt distant and disconnected from God. I had an uncomfortable feeling that God was going to try to convict me to read my brother’s letter. I thought I would beat God to the punch and take it outside to the garbage. But as soon as I picked it up, I came undone.

      Why does this hurt so much, Lord? Why did you let my brother do this to me? I don’t want to live with this pain any more. Please make the hurting stop. I can’t take it anymore.

I opened his letter as slow as a snail, but not quite that fast, bracing for more judgment. What I read blew me away. “Dear Brian, I’ve been praying, and I’ve realized that I was the one who betrayed you. Please forgive me for using your identity and hurting you. Will you come visit me? I really want to see you…Love, John.”

      Knock me over with a feather. Wow, Jesus! I can’t believe it. He’s really changed. You are so faithful, Lord. I take back everything I said about him.

I went to see John a few days later. Two grown men embraced and wept over each other that day. We both asked each other to forgive the other and pledged our undying love and support for life. The devil nearly succeeded in dividing us, but Jesus won. Water always beats rock. Love always overcome hate.

What I came to realize is that John’s feeling of betrayal was just as real as mine. He really felt like I had betrayed him by filing that police report. In John’s world, a traitor was worse than a drug dealer.             When we were newlyweds Mercy said something to me that was so profound that I’ve never forgotten it—she said, “It may not be real to you, but it’s real to me.” Just because I didn’t think John had a reason to be angry at me, didn’t mean that his feeling of betrayal wasn’t real to him. The love of God enables us to see life from the other person’s perspective and empathize with them.

Today we are best friends and there is no man that I love or respect more than John. He got out of prison in June 2010 on fire for God and has never looked back. He is married to an amazing woman, Hannah, and they have a beautiful daughter, Brooklyn. (We love you sweet Brookie!) He graduated from seminary with a Master’s degree with honors and is now completing his Doctorate degree. John is the Senior Pastor of CityReach Springfield in Missouri. Last year, he lead over a thousand people to Christ at his weekend services, the county jail, and the state prison.

John is a powerful preacher, passionate soul-winner, devoted husband, loving father, brilliant Bible scholar, and I am so proud to call him my big brother. You can read his riveting story of redemption and innocence restored in his book, My Prison Became My Palace. I love you with all my heart, John. Keep plundering hell and populating heaven. Stay gold, Ponyboy. Stay gold.

This is the story of two brothers—divided for many years by hurt, betrayal, and unforgiveness—but restored by the grace, mercy, and love of Jesus Christ. The only hero in this story is Jesus. It was Jesus that forgive my brother’s sins, delivered him of drug addiction, healed him of Hepatitis C, restored him, equipped him, anointed him, and launched him into ministry.

It was that same Jesus who healed my broken heart and delivered me from unforgiveness and anger. I came to understand that my internal sins were just as offensive to God as my brother’s external sins. My pride and self-righteousness were actually worse in the eyes of a holy God than my brother’s addiction to drugs and alcohol. Jesus helped me see that I was not the only one who was hurt. It was Jesus who picked up both my brother and I in His nail-scarred hands, forgave us, and restored us to each other.

And it is Jesus who can help you right now. If you will just come to Jesus, He can heal your broken heart and release you from the prison of unforgiveness and enable you to do what you can’t do in your own strength. His grace will empower you to forgive those who have betrayed you. I’m betting that just like me, you have your own story of hurt and betrayal that is just as brutal and raw as mine. And I’m betting that you need the grace of God just as desperately as I did. And I’m excited to tell you that Jesus can become the hero of your story too.

I know that right now you might think that the hurt will never go away, that you will never be able to forgive, that the hole in your heart will never be filled. And you are right. In your own human strength, it will never get better. There are some wounds time can’t heal. But here’s the thing—with Jesus, all things are possible. Jesus declared in Matthew 19:26,“With man, this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.”Drop the mic.

The very thing that you are cursing right now is the very thing that will become your greatest force of favor. The darkest trials unlock the greatest favor. Dream a new dream, a bigger dream, a better dream. Give yourself permission to live again. Laugh again. A new day is dawning. Jesus is bringing you into a new season—and oh baby—it’s going to be glorious!

 

Brian D. Alarid

PHARMEKEIA: DRUGS, THE DEMONIC REALM, AND BABYLON THE GREAT

BY
John Caleb Alarid

Drugs are the gateway to the demonic realm. The word pharmacy is derived from the Greek work, pharmakeia. The word is translated in the King James Version of the Bible as sorcery (or witchcraft, in the New Living Translation). At the time of the writing of the Bible, in the Greek speaking world, there was a strong connection between drugs and witchcraft. Strong’s defines the word as medication, magic, sorcery, and witchcraft. Thayer’s Greek Lexicon defines pharmakeia as “the use or administering of drugs, poisoning, sorcery, magical arts, deceptions and seductions of idolatry”. According to Vines Expository Dictionary, phamrakeia primarily signified, “the use of medicine, drugs, spells;” then, “poisoning;” then, “sorcery.” In “sorcery,” the use of drugs, whether simple or potent, was generally accompanied by incantations and appeals to occult powers. The word, pharmakeia, is found several times in the New Testament. In addressing church at Galatia about the deeds of the flesh, the Apostle Paul states,

“Now the deeds of the flesh are evident, which are: immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery (pharmakeia), enmities, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, disputes, dissensions, factions, envying, drunkenness, carousing, and things like these, of which I forewarn you, just as I have forewarned you, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.”

The word is also mentioned in the book of Revelation chapter nine, “and they did not repent of their murders nor of their sorceries nor of their immorality nor of their thefts.” In Revelation 19 the word is mentioned in connection with Babylon,

Then a strong angel took up a stone like a great millstone and threw it into the sea, saying, “So will Babylon, the great city, be thrown down with violence, and will not be found any longer… for your merchants were the great men of the earth, because all the nations were deceived by your sorcery. And in her was found the blood of prophets and of saints and of all who have been slain on the earth.”

Babylon is symbolic of the world system, energized by Satan and opposed to the Kingdom of God. The word pharmakeia is also mentioned in the Septuagint, the Greek translation of the Old Testament, in Isaiah 41:9,12 in reference to the fall of Babylon. The text states that there will be an increase of this type of witchcraft in the end times. There is a connection between drug use, the satanic one world government (Babylon) and a new age of heightened consciousness. At the tower of Babel, mankind was united to become great apart from God. They would reach the divine their own way. Mystery Babylon is a united world system in the last days opposed to the God of the Bible. Pharmakeia is a tactic, the sorcery, used to influence and deceive mankind into following this satanic system. The United States is facing epidemic proportions of addiction that is widespread across all races, cultures, and socioeconomic backgrounds. Despite tough anti-drug laws, a recent survey shows the United States has the highest level of illegal drug use in the world. Addiction to drugs is a scheme of the enemy to steal, kill, and destroy humankind. However, this is the same ploy Satan has been using since the beginning.
In Genesis chapter 2, we see that “the Lord God planted a garden toward the east, in Eden; and there He placed the man whom He had formed.” God put man in the Garden of Eden to watch over and tend it. The Lord God warned Adam that he may eat from any fruit from any tree in the garden, except the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. For if he ate of this tree he would die. Later, the serpent comes into the garden in Chapter three and seeks to entice Adam and Eve to eat the forbidden fruit. This tree was not needed to sustain them naturally. It was called the tree of the knowledge of good and evil because it had to do with the expansion of consciousness. The serpent pointed them to the one tree that was forbidden. In chapter three the crafty serpent raises doubt by asking Eve, “Did God really say you must not eat the fruit from any of the trees in the garden?” Eve responds that they may eat fruit of any trees in the garden, except the tree of the knowledge of good and evil or they will die. Eve goes one step further than God, stating that “they may not even touch it,” (which is the birth of legalism). “You will not die!” the serpent replied to the woman. “God knows that your eyes will be opened and as soon you eat it and you will be like God.” The serpent directly contradicts the command of God. The serpent is related to Satan as we see in Revelation, “The ancient serpent called the devil, or Satan, the one deceiving the whole world.” The serpent is a being that was used by Satan to deceive Adam and Eve. Satan masquerades as an angel of light.
The serpent contradicts God by saying they would not die and they would be like God. Eve saw the tree was beautiful, the fruit looked delicious, and she wanted the wisdom it would give. So she ate and gave some to Adam, who was standing there with her. Then their eyes were opened and they felt shame at their nakedness and tried to cover themselves with plants. Satan deceived Eve by saying they would not die; but rather, they would be like God (or be their own god). However, this was deception for they ended up fearful and ashamed. There are several lies here regarding eating the forbidden fruit—they won’t die, they will be like God, and to tap in to mind expansion (hidden god-like knowledge). Her eyes were opened but only to realize her shame. She did not become omniscient as God; she became shameful of her disobedience.
Just as Satan got control of Adam and Eve through deception, he is trying to do the same to the human race on a mass scale. This offer of mind expansion through a forbidden fruit is happening today. As stated above, drugs are mentioned several times in the New Testament, especially in connection with the final hours before the second coming of Jesus. The verses prohibiting mind expanding drugs in the New Testament are found mostly in Revelation, except for one in Galatians. In Galatians chapter five it states that those who partake in pharmakeia will not “inherit the kingdom of God.” In Revelation chapter nine it speaks of the people that were not wiped out by the plagues continued to “worship demons and did not repent of their murders or their witchcraft (pharmakeia) or the sexual immorality.” The use of drugs is always connected to the worship of demons and sexual immorality. Furthermore, those who partake of mind altering drugs will not inherit the kingdom of God, according to Galatians chapter five. Their end is the lake of fire. Those whose robes are washed in the blood Jesus will enter heavenly Jerusalem and eat of the tree of life. However, “outside the city are the dogs—the sorcerers, the sexually immoral, the murderers, the idol worshippers, and all those who love to live a lie.” Hence, mind expanding, altering substances are clearly forbidden in Scripture.
Throughout history medicine men, shaman, voodoo priests, and brujos have used drugs to enter the spiritual realm. In fact, to this day, the Native Americans take peyote for spiritual purposes. They claim it connects them with God. Timothy Leary, a professor from Harvard began to introduce young people to the psychedelic drugs, LSD (lysergic acid diethylamide) and DMT (N,N-Dimethyltryptamine), in an effort to expand their minds. Leary has been referred to as the “pied piper of the 60’s moral revolution”. There are more people using drugs now than in the 1960’s. Leary started what he referred to as a new religion, the League for Spiritual Discovery (LSD), with LSD as its sacrament. Leary was the main instigator. He handed out drugs on Harvard and other college campuses to naïve kids. The mantra of the 1960’s, coined by Leary, was “turn on, tune in, and drop out.” These drugs were never intended as party favors. Their intention is mind expansion and spiritual experiences.
Timothy Leary was a follower of Aleister Crowley, the most highly regarded Satanist of the last century. The Law of Thelema is summed up as “Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the law.” This “law” is the exaltation of self over God. This view is related to moral relativism of our day. The Law of Thelema was developed in the early 1900’s by Aleister Crowley. Crowley believed himself to be the prophet of a new age. A being, or demon, by the name of Awiass dictated the text known as the Book of the Law to Crowley. It is the view of this writer that the being was a fallen angel or Satan himself. In chapter two of this Book of the Law, the entity told Crowley,

“I am the Snake that giveth Knowledge & Delight and bright glory, and stir the hearts of men with drunkenness. To worship me take wine and strange drugs whereof I will tell my prophet, & be drunk thereof! They shall not harm ye at all. It is a lie, this folly against self. The exposure of innocence is a lie. Be strong, o man! lust, enjoy all things of sense and rapture: fear not that any God shall deny thee for this.”

This was the foundation for a religious system known as Thelema. This was in the early 1900’s, even before the drug revolution. The entity that spoke to Crowley claims to be the Snake that gives knowledge and pleasure. This is reminiscent of the snake in the Garden of Eden. The use of drugs and alcohol is said to be worship of the snake, or Satan. Awiass, just like the ancient serpent, seeks to exalt self and sensual desires over the commands of God. Crowley’s disciple, Timothy did an excellent job of carrying on his mission. The work of Crowley is clear on the inside cover of his book, Magick, it states, “For establishing contact with extraterrestrial entities, spirits, demons for the purpose of extending human consciousness and expanding life to cosmic proportions… the whole of Crowley’s doctrine is based on the Book of Law in which the future of humanity, the establishment of a new world order is outlined.” This new world order, contacting demons and raising consciousness was the mission of Crowley. One of the wasys to raise consciousness is through the use of strange drugs It is clear that the use of drugs is much more sinister than we are led to believe. It is not simply about doing your own thing. Drugs, following sensual desires, and worship of demons go hand in hand, according to Crowley. In his poem, Leah Sublime, published in 1920, Crowley states,
Leah Sublime,
Goddess above me!
Snake of the slime
Alostrael, love me!

Our master, the devil
Prospers the revel.
Stab your demonic
Smile to my brain!
Soak me in cognac
#### and cocaine.

Crowley makes a clear connection in his writings the connection with drugs and the demonic realm. He associates cocaine with demons getting into his brain. Cocaine can give one a euphoric, invincible almost God-like feeling. Leary believed he was completing the mission of Aleister Crowley in ushering in a new age of human consciousness where everyone would “do their own thing.” Crowley’s teaching, “Do What Thou Wilt” and propagation of drug use for mind expansion are widespread. In the United States, our government leaders and politicians are influenced by this satanic teaching.
Robert Anton Wilson, a friend of Timothy Leary, was the editor for the Playboy Magazine forum. Wilson was also a follower of Crowley. In his book, Cosmic Trigger, “In Switzerland, during his exile, Leary was shown a deck of Crowley’s tarot cards. To test his divinatory powers, Leary asked, ‘Who am I and what is my destiny?” Then he cut to a single card and got the Ace of Discs. The Greek words for “the great beast” appear in the center of this card and the number 666 shows in this card. Leary called himself “the beast” since childhood. Leary believed this meant he was Crowley reborn and he was to complete the work that Crowley began to prepare humanity for cosmic consciousness. Leary believed he would follow this Satanist to usher in a new world order. Lying signs and wonders and pharmakeia would be a big part of this in the end times.
The battle cry of the hippie movement of the 1960’s was, “If it feels good, do it.” With no standard of morality, unrestrained passion led to debauchery, free sex, and drugs. Doing their own thing and following their own desires to be like God was the same temptation the serpent used in the Garden of Eden. By introducing the young masses to drugs in the hippie movement, Leary believed he would usher in this new age of consciousness in opposition to the God of the Bible.
In fact, the Church of Satan was started by Anton LaVey. Lavey wrote the Satanic Bible, published in 1969, which was just a reworking of the Crowley’s “Do What Thou Wilt” philosophy. LaVey became frustrated with the teachings of Christianity and its high moral values. He could not repress his carnal desires, and so decided that carnality should be given full reign. It is a religion rooted in hedonism. The view that one can choose their own morality and be their own God goes back to Genesis chapter three. God had told Adam and Eve not to eat from the tree in the middle of the garden. Satan caused Eve to have doubt regarding the clear command of God. Satan went on to lie to her regarding the consequences and told her that God was holding out on her. She could be her own god if she ate the fruit of the tree. The desire to be self-sufficient apart from God, the lust of the eye and flesh caused the fall of the human race. Hence, it is no surprise that the mantra of modern day Satanism is, “Do what thou wilt.” Satan is a liar. He has been lying from the beginning. King Solomon’s word ring true, “There is nothing new under the son.”
These drugs were used to make contact with the demonic realm. Albert Hofman is the Swiss chemist that discovered LSD in 1939. In his book LSD: My Problem Child, he describes an experience being demonized while using LSD,

“The dizziness and sensation of fainting became so strong at times that I could no longer hold myself erect, and had to lie down on a sofa. Everything in the room spun around, and the familiar objects and pieces of furniture assumed grotesque, threatening forms… Even worse than these demonic transformations of the outer world, were the alterations that I perceived in myself, in my inner being. Every exertion of my will, every attempt to put an end to the disintegration of the outer world and the dissolution of my ego, seemed to be wasted effort. A demon had invaded me, had taken possession of my body, mind, and soul. I jumped up and screamed; trying to free myself from him, but then sank down again and lay helpless on the sofa. The substance, with which I had wanted to experiment, had vanquished me. It was the demon that scornfully triumphed over my will. I was seized by the dreadful fear of going insane…”

The man that invented LSD claimed that it opened the door to him for demonic possession and led him to the edge of insanity. It is apparent that this drug opened the door to another realm and demonic activity.
Rick Strassman, a medical doctor specialized in psychiatry with a fellowship in clinical psychopharmacology research, was a Professor of Psychiatry for eleven years at the University of New Mexico. He was permitted to administer DMT (N,N-Dimethyltryptamine) to humans for research from 1990 to 1995 at the University of New Mexico’s School of Medicine in Albuquerque. DMT has been used by Amazonian Indian cultures in religious rituals for thousands of years and 1931 DMT was first synthesized in a lab. This was the first legal study of psychedelic subjects in twenty years. He studied over sixty people who volunteered for the study for a monetary compensation. Strassman wrote about his experiences and those of the volunteers in his book (and later the film by the same name), DMT: The Spirit Molecule. The most striking similarity is the subjects reported contact and communication with what they believed were real intelligent beings. Another similarity is that subjects come into contact with an alternate reality or another plane of existence. These consistencies of other worlds and their inhabitants were reported regardless of age, gender, language or religion. Rick Strassman stated that both he and the volunteers in the DMT studies he conducted felt that the “most intuitively satisfying” explanation of these experiences was that DMT somehow allows a person to perceive genuine “parallel realities” inhabited by independently existing intelligent beings. Psychedelics such as DMT, magic mushrooms and LSD open the door to that realm. Marijuana is also a mild psychedelic. Cocaine, meth and other drugs are mind expanding drugs as well. These drugs fall under the category of psychopharmaceutic drugs that open the gate to the demonic realm. It is interesting that spiritual names are given to these drugs. LSD is sometimes called “Instant Zen”, PCP is called “Angel Dust”, Mushrooms are called, “Divinatory Fungi”, and alcohol is called spirits. Even marijuana causes us to have thoughts that are not our own and alcohol gives a propensity to do things that we would not do if we were sober.
Marilyn Ferguson, is considered the Apostle of the New Age Movement. Her book, “The Aquarian Conspiracy” written in 1980, is considered to be the bible of the New Age Movement. This movement is pantheistic as they do not seek God as revealed in a sacred text or as exists in a remote heaven; they seek God within the self and throughout the entire universe. Universal religion is another one of their beliefs. Since all is God, then only one reality exists and all religions are different paths to that ultimate reality. They maintain that as this New World Order, the Age of Aquarius, unfolds it will increase in power, influence, and membership. They believe that a profoundly mystical experience will lead to the acceptance and use of New Age beliefs and practices. This experience is brought on through hypnosis, meditation, and use of psychedelic drugs. The goal is a utopian, one world government that will put to end wars, disease, hunger, pollution and poverty. Furthermore, they believe that all gender, racial, religious, and all other forms of discrimination will cease. People’s allegiance will not be to a certain religion, tribe or nation; but rather, replaced by a concern for the entire world and its people.
The New Age is modern day occult based practices and philosophies seeking to bring about a one world religion. This is reminiscent of the Tower of Babel where the world came together as one to reach God on their own terms. Its purpose is to discover the god within us all because everything we need to know is within us. This is the same lie Satan told Eve in the garden- you can be god-like. In her book, Ferguson points out the importance of the use of psychedelic drugs in the 1960’s to initiate people into New Age consciousness and world view, from a Christian world view to an Eastern religion world view. She states, “For a great many the trigger has been a spontaneous mystical or psychic experience.” She goes on to say that it is impossible to underestimate the use of drugs to bring people to this new age of consciousness. The people of the hippie generation, that were influenced by this “Aquarian Conspiracy” in the 1960’s, are now running the United States. Through drugs these individuals were opened up to the New Age mindset and Eastern mystical thought.
It is the authors experience that drugs open up the user to the demonic realm, which leads to insanity, which leads to suicide (death). “When men ignore God’s warnings and enter a forbidden realm, they may witness materializations, levitations, and luminous apparitions, as well as experience spirit rappings, trances, automatic writing, magic phenomena, clairvoyance, oral and written communications and other forms of spiritist phenomena. Such are not miracles. I grew up in a Christian home but fell completely away from the God of my father’s when I started at the University of New Mexico in 1991. I began selling acid, pot and cocaine. We would drop lots of acid and smoke marijuana all day long. I noticed that my world view began to change through my interaction with the other realm. I thought I had been set free from the small minded view of one religion. Each time I would do acid, I would enter right back into that other world where I had left off the previous trip. One time while I was on acid, I thought I was invincible. I was driving my red sports car at a high speed. I would run through red lights believing that if I hit another car, I would simply go right through it. By the grace of God I did not die that night.
Soon I began to snort cocaine, then free basing it, and then using it intravenously. I would hear metallic crickets after shooting cocaine. I would see shadow creatures and people following me. I became extremely paranoid and even slept with a pistol. To ease the paranoia and hallucinations, I began using heroin and valium. This led to a ten-year addiction leading to incarceration and losing everything. I ended up spending two years on the lam, running from the law for a stabbing charge. During this time, I was using lots of cocaine and heroin. I experienced out of body experiences and unintentional astral projection. Many times I would awake with sleep paralysis and see the face of a demon. I could not move or say anything. At other times, after shooting cocaine, I would see little demons with the voices of little children laughing at me. Things would move in my room. Shadow creatures would follow me around. I would repeat the voice in my head that said, “I hate my life.” Many times I would put a pistol to my head and want to blow my head off.
After about five years of addiction, I was taking one hundred and thirty milligrams of methadone daily, plus heroin and cocaine. I became very sick. I was barely able to walk to my car and drive three blocks to the methadone clinic. For several weeks, I would go to the methadone clinic, come home, and lay down all day in pain. Eventually my father came to see me. He was shocked. I was a skeleton of a man and looked deathly sick. He convinced me to go to my brother’s house. My mother was staying at my brothers at that time. I stayed in her room. Unable to get out of bed, I was forced to withdrawal from opiates. However, I continued to be sick for several weeks. I did not sleep for days and would sweat profusely. I was unable to get up out of bed. My mom would change the sheets daily because they would get drenched with sweat. At night I would see and feel demons pulling me down into hell. During this time there was a thin line between this world and the next. I felt that if I died, I would spend eternity in hell. Finally, my sister in law decided that they needed to take me to the emergency room. At the emergency room they found that I had endocarditis and my blood had gone toxic. The doctor said that if I had not come in that day, I would be dead by morning. I spent seven months in the hospital with a pic line shooting antibiotics right into my heart. Upon my release from the hospital, I started using drugs again.
Years later I walked into a Christ-centered recovery home, where I was set totally free from addiction and the torment of demons. After graduating the program and attending the school of ministry, I was a sent as a missionary, church planter to Manila, the Philippines. In Manila we encountered many demonized people. The Lord used me to walk people through the process of liberation from demonic torment. I have an unusual boldness and authority in dealing with demons. I understand the reality of it because I was once there too. The connection between the demonic realm and demonic experiences is widespread.
Mariah Freeman is the former executive assistant for Don Wilkerson, brother of David Wilkerson-founder of Teen Challenge. This is part of her story regarding demonic activity.

I began using drugs at 12 years old. The major demonic activity started pretty much instantly. At 13 I attempted suicide, due to feeling worthless (I wasn’t on a drug at that specific time). I was diagnosed with a lot of mental illnesses (bipolar, depression, borderline personality disorder). I was put on a lot of psychotropic medication, which I believe caused even MORE demonic activity and more suicide attempts.

One night while laying in my bed I felt a cold, strong presence. A deep voice started talking to me. He said I was worthless and that God wasn’t going to save me. I was so scared. This was when I maybe 18 years old… trying to get sober.

I have many suicide attempts in my past, and all of them I believe were demonically led. Sometimes I just felt this urge so strong to kill myself. It was my mission in life to die. Sometimes I would hear a voice tell me what to do and how to do it.

While getting clean at the Walter Hoving Home (my final rehab!) I experienced major oppression. Every night I would lay in my bed and know what was coming for me. Demons would jump on my bed and take my pillow and try to suffocate me. I would wake up gasping for air and literally feeling the weight on my body. One time I saw a demon with a cape while I was using the bathroom. He was standing right behind me and it was like I was stuck and couldn’t move.
Mine and Mariah’s stories are all too common. The enemy comes to steal, kill, and destroy. Drugs lead to demonic possession, which leads to insanity, which leads to suicide. The enemy tells the same lies he did in the garden. First, “You won’t die.” Drugs sometimes make the user feel invincible. The new world order does not believe in death but rather in reincarnation. Secondly, “You will be like God.” People use drugs to become connect with God or nature (pantheism). Thirdly, “The knowledge of good and evil.” This expanded consciousness brought on by eating the forbidden fruit. This paper has shown that drugs are used to expand consciousness. Finally, “You will be like god.” The enemy told them they did not need God telling them how to live. They were their own god. While on drugs, many people feel like they invincible. Sometimes they have super human strength. Some jump off buildings or drive into other cars, believing that they are omnipotent. The devil is a liar and he has been lying from the beginning.
The world system, mystery Babylon, is set up against the Kingdom of God. In Revelation eighteen the Bible says, “And the light of a candle shall shine no more at all in thee; and the voice of the bridegroom and of the bride shall be heard no more at all in thee: for thy merchants were the great men of the earth; for by thy sorceries were all nations deceived.” Sorceries are the drugs that are the tool of the Babylon’s merchants. Through this sorcery they deceived the nations. The world is addicted to drugs, legal and illegal. Pharmaceutical companies and drug cartels are among the richest and most powerful organizations in the world. “America is the most medicated nation on earth, with some 70 percent of Americans taking prescription drugs—yet we have worse health outcomes than other industrialized countries.” Only ten percent of the population uses illicit drugs in the United States. Most of the country is on some sort of drug. There is no doubt that there is a connection between the use drugs, demons, and a Babylonian one world religion/ government. Let us walk in the light as He is in the light. And the God of peace shall shortly crush Satan under your feet.

Contact us for the list of sources.

A TERM PAPER
SUBMITTED
TO DR. DON McCURRY
IN PARTIAL FULFILLMENT OF THE REQUIREMENTS FOR
MCSM 639 FOLK ISLAM AND POWER ENCOUNTER

Springfield, MO
October 2016

No Longer Slaves; The Pauline Theology of Adoption

No Longer Slaves; the Pauline Theology of Adoption

By Hannah Alarid

            The first Sunday service of our church we sung the song “No Longer Slaves”. Together—this congregation of ex-convicts, ex-prostitutes, addicts, outcasts, orphans, foster children, and the like—belted out the simple, two-line chorus together:

I’m no longer a slave to fear,
I am a child of God.

Over and over, we repeated the chorus until the melody and words were branded in our minds for the days following. After service a young lady, who had been battling a meth addiction shared her experience with us. During that song she felt all her fears and insecurities about herself fall away, as the realization that God accepted her as his daughter broke through her chains and bondages. It doesn’t take a theologian to understand why that concept would be compelling to the out-casted criminal, the enslaved addict, and the fatherless gang-member. To find that you can be free, and yet belong at the same time, is one of the most compelling gifts of the gospel. The apostle Paul writes of this amazing gift called adoption in his letters written to various churches during the New Testament era.

Chronologically, Galatians is the first letter in which Paul introduces his theology of adoption. He writes in Galatians 3:23-26, 29: “Now before faith came, we were held captive under the law, imprisoned until the coming faith would be revealed. So then, the law was our guardian until Christ came, in order that we might be justified by faith. But now that faith has come, we are no longer under a guardian, for in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through faith…And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to promise. ” Here is the beginning of a contrasting language we will see continually throughout the metaphor of adoption—captive, imprisoned, law, enslaved versus offspring, heirs, and promise. In just the next few phrases Paul begins to reveal in more clarity this relationship we have with God the Father through Christ.

In Galatians 4:4-5 he continues: “But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons.” The Greek word that Paul uses in this Scripture, and continually from this point on when referring to this metaphor, is huiothesia. This word is translated to adoption or sonship. There has been debate or which translation is more accurate. When compared to ancient Greek lexicography dating back to the New Testamental era, it becomes evident that “adoption” is the expression that Paul wanted to convey. The reason becomes clearer as when we understand the Greco-Roman practice of adoption.

In the Greco-Roman world of Paul and the Galatian church he wrote to, adoption of children was a familiar practice. The following rights of an adopted child are unequivocally liberating when applied to our personal relationship with God the Father: “(1)…an adopted son was taken out of his previous situation and placed in an entirely new relationship to his new adopting father, who became his new paterfamilias; (2)…an adopted son started a new life as a part of his new family, with all his old relationships and obligations cancelled; (3)… an adopted son was considered no less important than any other biologically born son in his adopting father’s family; and, (4)…an adopted son experienced a changed status, which his old name set aside and a new name given him by his adopting father” (72, Longenecker). What a magnificent picture of the Father restoring a lost humanity! Paul adds on in verses 6-7, “And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, ‘Abba! Father!’ So you are no longer a slave, but a son, and if a son, then an heir through God.”

The doctrine of adoption is a miracle and a gift. To be adopted by Christ implies not only a change of situation, but of status, belonging, and identity. To have been lost, and then found…to have been a slave, but now called a child of God. I thank God that we, the once out-casted, the once imprisoned, the once abandoned, and the once fatherless, can sing together:

I’m no longer a slave to fear,

I am a child of God…

 

 

 

 

 

 

Works Cited

Longenecker, Richard, N. “The Metaphor of Adoption in Paul’s Letters.” The Covenant Quarterly 72.3-4 (2014): 71-78. ATLA Religion Database with ATLASerials. Web. 29 Mar. 2016.

Hawthorne, Gerald F., Ralph P. Martin, and Daniel G. Reid, eds. Dictionary of Paul and His Letters. Downer’s Grove: InterVarsity, 1993. Print.

The Holy Bible ESV: English Standard Version. Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2001. Print.

 

MISSIONAL HELIX and CITYREACH SPRINGFIELD CHURCH PLANT

The Missional Helix is an intentional strategy for ministry formation and an essential component of successful church planting. Developing practice of ministry is “understood as a helix because theology, history, culture, and strategy build on one another as the community of faith collectively develops understandings and a vision of God’s will within their cultural context”.[1] In defining ministry formation we may look at it as a spiral made up of the local church and the Holy Spirit. As the spiral moves upward it crosses four distinct points—theological reflection, cultural analysis, historical perspective, and strategy formation. The spiral grows to new heights and repeatedly crosses the four points, as ministry understanding and experiences develop. In this paper I will use the Missional Helix to develop a strategy to reach northern Springfield, Missouri with the good news of Jesus Christ through a church plant, residential discipleship homes and community outreach.

THEOLOGICAL FORMATION

The first and foremost for any ministry formation is theological reflection. All ministry decisions must be rooted in sound biblical theology. Many church planters are more concerned about being culturally relevant than biblically accurate. “Too many church planters, while acknowledging the Bible as the Word of God, allow culture rather than Scripture to shape their core understanding of the church”.[2] Theological reflection will cause the ministry to be focused on the mission of God in the world rather than the latest fad of popular culture. We must do the hard work of biblical exegesis and the application to our cultural context. The principles will remain the same but the application may change. We must always start with and return often to Scripture in the task of ministry strategy formation.

The church exists to glorify God by enjoying Him and calling all the peoples of the world to faith in His Son Jesus Christ. The Bible is a missionary book revealing God’s plan of redemption in history through Jesus Christ. The unifying central theme of the Bible is the glory of God through the advancement of His Kingdom.  The theme of Kingdom is woven throughout the Old and New Testament. “The Bible tells this story of an advancing Kingdom, the mission of the triune God: providing redemption, finding the lost, and then using them to mediate kingdom blessings to those yet lost.”[3] The Old Testament reveals the failures of Israel and the futility of the human race to live for God until Jesus Christ comes to break the power of sin in the believer’s life. Throughout Scripture we see the world is for the favorite, the rich and the powerful; but God is on the side of the underdog.

God’s chosen instrument to bring deliverance to his captive people was Moses.

Moses was born into a Hebrew family but through divine intervention is adopted into the house of Pharaoh as a baby. He grows up as a prince in Egypt and got the best education available at the time— trained at the Harvard and West Point of his day. “Moses was learned in all the wisdom of the Egyptians and was mighty in words and deeds.”[4] His adopted grandfather, Pharaoh, was considered a god. He was a member of the most powerful family in the most powerful nation of his day. At age forty Moses chooses to be identified with his captive people and knows he is called to set them free. In fact Moses looks like the deliverer; however, God sees a proud, self-sufficient man who needs to have complete dependence upon God.  In his zeal to bring justice to his people, he kills an Egyptian. The penalty for killing an Egyptian is death. Pharaoh finds out and tries to kill Moses, so he flees as a fugitive to the desert.  He spent the next 40 years on the backside of the desert caring for sheep and goats. This was a humbling situation for Moses, as the Egyptians despise shepherds. God used the next forty years to work out humility in the life of Moses. “God reserves the greatest victories for the vessels that have known the greatest brokenness.”[5] God’s priority in the lives of his people is fruitfulness rather than comfort. Through the prophet Isaiah God said, “See, I have refined you, though not as silver; I have tested you in the furnace of affliction.”[6] This time in the desert was Moses’ furnace of affliction and training ground.

It is a Biblical principal that God delays His promises and uses desert experiences to prepare His man/ woman for the greatest victory of their lives. After forty years on the backside of the desert, Moses’ dream of being a mighty deliverer had died. Now eighty years old, Moses was not much to look at from a human perspective. After the dream to be a mighty deliverer was not only unlikely but dead, God looks down and sees potential in this underdog. Out of obscurity arises Moses—God’s champion. God uses Moses and by mighty signs and wonders he delivers the Hebrews from captivity. God intervenes in history to preserve the people from whom the Messiah would come.

God chooses the unlikely and unqualified because then he alone gets the glory. Sometimes God’s heroes have gone through much pain in preparation for their call. In his classic work, The Pursuit of God, A.W. Tozer states, “It is doubtful whether God can bless a man greatly until He has hurt him deeply.” God’s raising up the underdog is a common theme throughout scripture— for example: Joseph, the prisoner; Rahab, the prostitute; Jephthah the son of a prostitute.  God is not necessarily interested in increasing our giftings and abilities to the point where we are fit for the task to which He has called us. He is more interested in getting His servants to the point where they realize their own lack and inability to do what He has called them to do. When Moses was great in his own eyes, God could not use him. However, after forty years of preparation in the “furnace of affliction” Moses comes to an end of himself and only then is he ready.

The promised Messiah and King of heaven and earth did not enter earth in pomp and grandeur. The gospel of Luke portrays the humble surroundings associated with the birth of Jesus. In Luke’s portrayal of the birth of Jesus attention is given to Mary and the shepherds who were told by angels that the Messiah was born. The emphasis upon a woman and despised shepherds would have shocked the reader of that day. The account of Jesus humble birth is consistent with the rest of Luke’s gospel. “For the focus is on those who were least expected to be recipients of God’s salvation: the powerless, the poor, the sinners and the outcasts.”[7] Another example of the emphasis on the social outcasts and the powerless is apparent when contrasting the Beatitudes of Mathew and Luke. Mathew’s gospel declares, “Blessed are the poor in Spirit.”[8] However, Luke states, “Blessed are you who are poor.”[9] For Luke, the message of Jesus focuses on the economically and socially poor. The first century society regarded the rich as those blessed by God while the poor were supposedly outside of God’s favor. Jesus included those who were excluded by society.

Jesus begins His ministry by quoting Isaiah 61:1-2 which expresses that His ministry would include the poor, the prisoner, the blind and the oppressed. Jesus entered the synagogue in Nazareth, the city where he was raised, and stood up to read from the scroll of the prophet Isaiah. He deliberately found a specific passage and proclaimed, “The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”[10] Jesus touched the leper and paralytic. He ate with tax collectors and sinners. He offered the free gift of salvation to those who were least expected to receive divine favor—a sinful woman, a tax collector, and a criminal that was executed next to him on the cross. “The world of the 1st century, like the world of the 21st century, based its security on certain things: human commodities, social status, family and ethnic ties, power and human accomplishment. Jesus challenged the human tendency to find security in such things.”[11] Reliance on wealth and social status is the problem. Some wealthy and powerful people were also followers of Jesus. The Lord’s offer of forgiveness and salvation was for all regardless of their social or economic status.

In Luke 15 Jesus offers a defense of His gospel to the outcast. This follows after the parable of the Great Banquet in Luke 14:15-24 which speaks of the entrance of the outcasts into the kingdom and the exclusion of the religious elite. In Luke 15:1-2, the religious leaders                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                               of the day ridiculed Jesus because He sat down to eat with the outcasts of society. They said, “This man welcomes sinners and eats with them.”[12]  Table fellowship is a serious matter anywhere in the world and this is especially true in the Middle East. To invite someone to a meal was a great honor. “It was an offer of peace, trust, brotherhood, and forgiveness; in short, sharing a meal meant sharing life.”[13] In the East at this time, much like today, a nobleman may pay to feed the poor and hungry but he would not sit down to eat with them.[14] The religious leaders were scandalized by the fact that Jesus sat down to eat with blatantly immoral people. The religious leaders thought, “If He (Jesus) is who He claims to be, he would be with us instead of these scoundrels because we are the religious leaders of this community.” Jesus shares three parables in response to the complaints of the Pharisees: the lost sheep, the lost coin, and the gracious father. “Jesus underscores the joy of finding something precious that has been lost.”[15] Jesus attracts sinners while the Pharisees are too self-righteous to associate with them. According to Luke 19:10, Jesus came to seek and save those who are lost.

In the first two parables, Jesus uses the examples of a shepherd and a woman— two of the second class citizens of the day.  “Together the three parables form a tightly knit unit with a single, strongly Lukan theme—God’s love for outcasts and sinners.”[16] The first parable deals with a shepherd who lost a sheep. In the Old Testament the figure of a shepherd was a noble symbol. Moses and King David were shepherds and God is considered a shepherd in Psalm 23. However, in the 1st century Jewish society shepherds were part of a proscribed trade. They were considered unclean. “For the Pharisee, a ‘sinner’ was either an immoral person who did not keep the law or a person engaged in one of the proscribed trades, among which was herding sheep.”[17] Jesus addressed the parable to the Pharisees and states, “Which one of you?”[18] This would have been offensive to the Pharisees to be referred to as a shepherd. Jesus points out that a shepherd will search for a lost sheep until he finds it. The lost sheep of Israel are being found.  The second parable deals with a woman who loses a coin in her house. The village woman searches diligently until she finds the coin. Again there is much rejoicing over the lost coin that is found. Jesus intimates that the Pharisees should rejoice that lost sinners are found. In both cases there is much rejoicing just as there is much joy in heaven over one sinner who repents.

The third parable is about a loving father and two lost sons. The younger son asks for his inheritance and the father grants his request. The younger son converts his inheritance into cash and heads for a distant land. Once there he squanders all his money in reckless living. Then a famine comes to the land and the young Jewish boy is forced to work for a Gentile who sends him to feed swine. The boy comes to his senses, repents, and goes back to his father. The father receives the prodigal son back and restores him to full sonship. However, the older brother vehemently objects to his father’s love toward his outcast brother. Unlike the other parables this one ends with the older son outside the house refusing to rejoice in the lost that has been found. Jesus uses this parable as a defense of his ministry to the outcast as well as an invitation for the grumbling Pharisees, like the older brother, to join in the celebration for the lost that has been found.

The mission of God is to seek and find the lost. Many times the ones that are most receptive to the good news are the outcasts of society. God uses the foolish and poor of this world to do great things in accomplishing the Missio Dei. When God uses the outcast and the marginalized, He alone gets the glory. Proper orthopraxy (i.e. ministry to prisoners, addicts, the poor, and other marginalized groups) should and will flow out of an orthodox Christology. Know and believe who Jesus is and then do what Jesus did.

Every believer has been brought out of darkness into the light of Christ and is commanded to go back and share the good news with those still lost. “The concluding commission of Mathew 28:16-20 places the Christian mission firmly within an eschatological framework: mission is the church’s primary task between Christ’s first coming and his return.”[19] Our only reason for being in this “already and not yet” time period is to make Christ known. In western Christianity many are more concerned more about their family, career, comfort, and hobbies then reaching the masses of lost and dying humanity that they see every day. This is not the model for Christianity that we see in the New Testament. The priority for the church and theology is mission. There is much work to be done in the Lord’s vineyard.

The preceding theological reflection gives the basis for reaching north Springfield. North Springfield is the poorest and most crime ridden of all neighborhoods in the area. The focus of this church plant, a CityReach Network church, will be to reach the unchurched and marginalized in this zone. This will be a church deliberately geared toward reaching the addict, ex-convict, prostitute, poor and other marginalized groups that are sometimes overlooked in Springfield. The CityReach church plant will reach this demographic and then train and equip these new disciples to be agents of change in this community and beyond. God uses unlikely people, in overlooked places to do extraordinary things.

CULTURAL ANALYSIS

The second element along the Missional Helix is cultural analysis. “Cultural awareness enables missionaries and ministers to define types of peoples within a cultural context, to understand the social construction of their reality, to perceive how they are socially related to one another, and to explain how the Christian message intersects with every aspect of culture (birth rites, coming of age rituals, weddings, funerals, etc.).”[20] Springfield, Missouri is in the Bible Belt. Statistics show that 56% of the Springfield population is affiliated with religious congregations. More than half of the adherents belong to large evangelical denominations—Southern Baptist Convention (39%) and the Assemblies of God (14%).[21] Although many residents claim to be Christians, their daily lives do not bear witness to this profession. There has been just enough religion to inoculate from a genuine encounter with Christ. The world view of most residents of northern Springfield is theistic; however, a secular world view is on the rise.

The drug and crime culture is dominant in north Springfield. The culture has been conducive to production of illicit drugs since moonshine was cooked in the Ozark Mountains during prohibition.  Now methamphetamines are cooked instead of moonshine. Missouri has held the infamous title of “Meth Capital” of the nation off and on for many years. This is based on the amount of methamphetamine lab busts.[22]  Missouri is also number seven in the list of states in the nation for deaths related to drug overdoses.[23] Also, heroin addiction and possession arrests were on the rise in 2014. According to law enforcement there has been a massive increase in heroin on the Springfield streets. Much of the heroin is coming from Chicago via St. Louis or directly from Mexico. Springfield police seized more heroin in the first six months of 2014 than in the previous four years combined. Captain Millsap says, “Our two major issues we deal with in narcotics right now is still meth– and now heroin.”[24] Meth labs in the area have nearly disappeared as “Mexican meth distribution has grown exponentially.”[25] Federal authorities say that addicts prefer buying the more potent and less expensive meth produced in Mexico’s super labs then producing it themselves. Mexico drug organizations are flooding the Springfield streets with their better, cheaper product in an attempt to completely take over the market.

Violence and property crimes are also on the rise in Springfield, which coincides with the increase of drugs on the city streets. More drugs always mean more crime. This past year on November 15, 2014, three people were shot and killed at a north Springfield hotel.[26] Also, 97% of the more than thirty thousand incarcerated inmates will return to our communities throughout the state. “Each year there are approximately 20,000 inmates released back into the community.”[27] National statistics show that 50% of those released will reoffend and be sent back to prison within three years. Many of the twenty thousand released prisoners will end up in Springfield. Springfield was recently listed as number five of the top ten most violent small cities of the world.[28]

Since my arrival in Springfield nearly five years ago to attend Central Bible College, I have seen a drastic rise in violence on the streets of Springfield. There have been dozens of violent deaths in that past few months due to domestic violence, drugs, and crime. I have lived in Northeast Springfield, specifically the Midtown Neighborhood in the 65803 area code, since my arrival in town. In the 65803 zip code 41.3% of the population had income below the poverty level in 2011 and 17.3% were 50% below the poverty level. Like the rest of Springfield and Missouri, the population is at least 85% white. Also, childhood hunger is higher in Springfield than any other city in Missouri. More than half the students in the Springfield public schools receive free or reduced lunch. There are actually seventeen elementary schools where the statistic is over 70% and seven elementary schools above 90%. According to Byran Klaus, president of the Assemblies of God Theological Seminary, “The unholy trinity of meth, poverty, and domestic violence is in intense form in north Springfield.”[29] The mission of City Reach Church is to engage and transform the culture in north Springfield.

 

HISTORICAL PERSPECTIVE

Historical perspective is the third component of the Missional Helix. It is common for North Americans to ignore this aspect because of their short national history. However, this is a mistake, as an understanding of the history will provide many insights that will assist in the development a church planter’s strategy. There is much to the famous quote of Edmund Burke, “Those who don’t know their history are doomed to repeat it.” Springfield was founded in 1830 by a Tennessee homesteader, John Polk Campbell. In 1838 Cherokee Native Americans were forced off their homelands onto reservations. The infamous Trail of Tears passed through Springfield, Missouri.

During the Civil War much of the Missouri population was divided in its sentiments. Missouri was a border state which had two state governments during the Civil War, one seceded and joined the Confederacy while the other remained loyal to the Union. Missouri supplied soldiers to both sides—at least forty thousand joined the Confederate South and over one hundred thousand joined the Union North.[30] In April of 1906, only forty one years after the American Civil War, three innocent African American men were lynched on the square.

Horace Duncan, Fred Coker, and Will Allen were forcibly taken from the jail by a lynch mob, including thousands of people, despite the attempts of the sheriff to stop them. The men were dragged to the square where they were hung and burned, as the elated crowd watched the savage murders. The next day, Easter Sunday, brought thousands of onlookers in their Sunday best to view the remains of the slaughter from the night before. [31] Racial tensions culminated at the 1906 Springfield Town Square lynching. Prior to 1906, many prominent people in the region were black; including, lawyers, doctors, minister and police. However, after the lynching much of the black population left changing the racial makeup for years to come. The black families that stayed stuck together. The Hispanic population in Springfield is less than 3%.  Although there is still a lack of racial and ethnic diversity there has been progress in recent years. In Revelation, John states that he saw “a vast crowd, too great to count, from every nation and tribe and people and language, standing in front of the throne and before the Lamb.”[32] Christ-followers should lead the way in and be a model of racial harmony and diversity. In this way we make earth look like heaven.

The Assemblies of God and several other Pentecostal denominations emerged from another happening in 1906—The Azusa Street Revival. The revival took place at a little mission on the poor side of Los Angeles. It was led by a one -eyed, African-American by the name of William Seymour, a student of Charles Parham. The distinguishing mark of this movement was the belief in tongues as the initial evidence of the Baptism in the Holy Spirit. The revival went on for three years with incessant meetings, day and night. “The revival transcended all boundaries and brought together men and woman form diverse religious, ethnic, and national backgrounds.[33] Blacks, Whites, Hispanics, and Asians worshipped God together in complete unity. This revival led to the founding of the Assemblies of God in Hot Springs, Arkansas in April of 1914. Evangelism and mission has always been central to the identity of the Assemblies of God. “The second General Council, held in Chicago in November 1914, resolved to achieve ‘the greatest evangelism that the world has ever seen.’”[34] Today the Assemblies of God is the sixth largest international Christian group and the largest Pentecostal denomination in the world, with over sixty-six million adherents. Pentecostals were historically outcasts of religious and secular society. “One reason for this rejection was that most of the first Pentecostal churches were planted among the poor and disinherited classes.”[35] The other reason is the Pentecostal belief in Spirit Baptism with speaking in other tongues and the supernatural aspects of the gospel; such as, divine healing and prophecy. Today the Assemblies of God in the United States has great racial diversity. “Its Hispanic percentage of over 21 percent is greater than the nations, and its black membership, nearly 10 percent, almost equals the national percentage.”[36] There is also four percent of the fellowship which is Asian. In fact forty percent of the denomination is non-white.

The prophetic history of the Assemblies of God is nothing short of amazing.  Rachel Sizelove came to Springfield in 1913 to visit her family. One day as she was praying she had a vision of “a sparkling fountain in the heart of Springfield. The fountain sprang up gradually and began to flow to the east, west, north, and south until soon living water covered the entire land.”[37] The following year the Assemblies of God was formed in Hot Springs, Arkansas. The headquarters was first started in Ohio, then moved to St. Louis, Missouri until it finally moved to its permanent location in Springfield. This year the Assemblies of God celebrated one hundred years of existence. It is one of the few denominations that is growing in the United States with twenty four years of continual growth. [38]  Rachel’s vision has indeed come true. By the grace of God the next one hundred years will be even greater (if the Lord tarry) and the fellowship maintains its historical dependence on the Holy Spirit and manifest presence of God.

PERSONAL PERSPECTIVE

In this section I will use the first three elements of the missional helix on myself. A church planter must know himself/ herself as much as he/she understands the place in which they will plant. As was stated in the Theological Reflection at the beginning, the Bible describes a loving and seeking God who reaches the most despicable of sinners and transforms them into vessels of honor to mediate salvation and Kingdom blessings to those yet lost. God humbles the lofty and raises the lowly—saving both. However my passion is for the unchurched and marginalized of society.

My passion to reach out to the marginalized of society stems from my own struggle with addiction to heroin and crack cocaine. My parents were missionaries to Latin America when I was a child. My father grew up in Mexico, and my mother is from San Diego, California. They met at Elim Bible College in New York. After graduation, they went as missionaries to Costa Rica. After several years on the field, my family returned to the United States, and my parents got divorced several years later. I grew up with my father’s side of the family in the Southwest portion of the United States and Mexico. My heroes were my uncles, who drove luxury cars and had lots of money.  I later followed in their footsteps. Through my affiliation with Chicano gangs and connections with the Sinaloa Cartel, I quickly became a major player in the “dope game” in Albuquerque, New Mexico. We were responsible for sending large amounts of heroin, cocaine, methamphetamines, and marijuana to the Midwest and East Coast. However, like my uncles, I was continually in trouble with the law because of criminal activity and heavy drug use.

In 1998 I stabbed a guy who attacked me at a 7-Eleven convenience store in Albuquerque, New Mexico. At the time, I was on probation for other charges, and it was likely that I would be sent to prison for many years. I fled to Phoenix, Arizona where I heard about a Christian recovery home by the name of Victory Outreach. I went into the rehab with the intention of “kicking” my costly heroin addiction and then moving to Mexico in order to avoid prison time. However, the Lord had other plans.

The home was structured with work, prayer, fasting and teaching.  After three months, I surrendered my life to the Lord in a radical conversion experience. Several months, later I was baptized in the Holy Spirit and received my call to ministry at the Southwest regional men’s rehabilitation home conference. To this day, I remember the service. The evangelist’s name was Philip Lacrue, and the title of the message was, “The God of Second Chances.” At the end of the message, the evangelist invited all those who felt the Lord was calling them to full-time ministry to come forward. Although many went forward, I did not. I obstinately told the Lord, “I am not going up there unless you speak to me.” At that moment, the presence of God came upon me, and I began to weep from deep within. Tears rolled down my face like never before. I said, “Yes, Lord, “and stepped out of my seat and began walking down to the altar which appeared to be covered with a gray mist. When I stepped into the mist, I began to speak in tongues for the first time. The tongues came out like a waterfall; I spoke in tongues for three days. This was the early part of 1999, and my life has had many ups and downs since then but I will never forget the night God empowered and called me to the ministry.

After graduating the year-long program at Victory Outreach, I became the director of the men and boys home. A year later, I went to the Urban Training Center in Los Angeles. Upon graduation, I was asked to join a missionary team headed to Manila in the Philippines for two years. In Manila, I trained national recovery home directors and served as assistant director of the Urban Training Center, the school of ministry. I also led a church planting team that started a work in the Tondo barangay (neighborhood) of Manila. Tondo is known to be the most dangerous section of metro-Manila. In fact, I mentioned my plan to plant a church in Tondo to Steve Long, an Assembly of God missionary in Manila at the time. He told me not to do it because it was too dangerous. Many foreigners that go into that neighborhood are kidnapped or killed. I took this as a confirmation for me to go and plant a church there, as I want to go where no one else is willing or able to go.  At the end of two years, I returned to Los Angeles to attend the Victory Outreach world conference in Long Beach, California. After the conference, I planned to go to Phoenix, to be on the pastoral staff and work as a national evangelist for the organization. Instead, I was arrested at LAX on a fugitive warrant out of New Mexico for the stabbing in Albuquerque years before. I became discouraged and eventually fell away from God for two years.

I was sent to prison in 2007. My first year in prison, I was sent to solitary confinement for suspicion of smuggling narcotics into the facility. In a lonely prison cell in Santa Fe, New Mexico, I got down on my knees and asked the Lord to forgive me and come back into my life. I said, “Lord, I no longer have any aspirations of doing great things for you. I just want the peace and joy I once had in you. Would you forgive me and come back into my life?” The Lord gloriously returned. I was in solitary confinement for five months. During that time, waves of what felt like electric liquid love flowed over me. The presence of God was tangible. I read my Bible and prayed eighteen hours a day. Also, the Lord began to restore my call and showed me some things he would do through my life in the future. I said, “No way, Lord! You got the wrong guy. There are people out there are who are more faithful, talented, and righteous than I. I am a failure.” The Lord responded from Mathew 20:15, the Parable of the Workers in the Vineyard, “Don’t I have the right to do what I want with my own things?” I responded tearfully, “Yes, of course, Lord. You are God.”

While in prison, I served as the inmate church pastor. God moved in incredible ways, and many came into the Kingdom. Upon my release, I finished my parole in Santa Fe, New Mexico. In late 2010, I was speaking at an Assemblies of God camp meeting. After one of the services, an old pastor came up and said, “You need to go to Central Bible College.” I had never heard of CBC nor had I ever been to Missouri. However, the Lord confirmed it, and I came to CBC in 2011. I met my wife Hannah at CBC, a graduate of the Long Island Teen Challenge program. Later, I graduated with a B.A. in Church Leadership and an A.A. in Bible, summa cum laude. I am twelve credits from completing the MA in Intercultural Ministries Master of Arts program at the Assemblies of God Theological Seminary.

One of the things the Spirit whispered over and over while I was prison was a statement from the book of Judges, “Then the Lord raised up deliverers.”  I believe the Lord will raise up an army of outcasts in these last days out of the prisons and off the streets to preach the unadulterated Gospel of Jesus Christ with great boldness and evidenced by signs and wonders. These outcasts who were once committed to their addiction, gangs, and sinful lifestyles will be even more dedicated and sold out for the cause of Christ. The CityReach church plant and Hope Homes will train up men and women just like me to go out and change their world for the honor and glory of Jesus Christ. This is not just another church plant—this is a God-given mandate.

I have taken several personality tests. The widely used personality test, DISC Profile, identified me as a “D.” This type of personality is a determined doer who is result-oriented and takes authority. According to the Myer-Briggs personality test, I have an ENTJ personality. The ENTJ’s are natural-born leaders whose life motto is “Everything’s fine—I’m in charge” and “Let’s make it happen.” These personality types makes great church planters. According to Myer-Briggs, the ENTJs are efficient, energetic, self-confident, strong-willed, charismatic and strategic thinkers. However, they can also be impatient, intolerant, stubborn and even dominant. I need to be cognizant of my weaknesses and surround myself with a team to make up where I lack.

When everyone had given up on me, the Lord came to my rescue. After the Lord met me in prison, He began to speak to me about an army He will raise up out of the prisons of the world to preach the unadulterated gospel of Jesus Christ with boldness and power. Vincent Vangogh, the post-impressionist artist had applied to be an evangelist among poor and depraved coal miners. His application was denied. Van Gogh said, “One of the roots or foundations not only of the Gospel, but of the whole Bible is, ‘Light that rises in the darkness.’ From darkness to light. Well, who will need this most, who will have ears for it? Experience has taught that those who walk in darkness, in the centre of the earth, like the miners in the black coal mines, are very much impressed by the words of the Gospel, and believe it too.”  Those who have been marginalized by society: the poor, the prisoner, the addict, and prostitute are often more receptive to the gospel message. Sometimes you don’t know that God is all you need until God is your only option. “The common people heard him gladly.”  Truly he that is forgiven much— loves much. My own struggle with addiction and search for the Divine and meaning in life has developed in me a compassion to reach out to those in the same position I once was. Although, many of my friends from Bible School and seminary have taken positions on staff at affluent churches with a large base salary, I am compelled to reach the addict, criminal, prostitute and other hopeless people. I was a hopeless dope addict, but now I am a dope-less hope addict.

 

STRATEGY FORMATION

            The final aspect of the Missional Helix is Strategy Formation, which is the ministry praxis for the given environment. The strategy is “the practice of model formation for ministry shaped by theological reflection, cultural analysis, and historical perspective and by the continued practice of ministry.”[39] In order to develop solid ministry strategies that work in Springfield, Missouri, the team at CityReach Church will continuously return to the four elements of the Missional Helix. The question should not be, “Does this work?” but rather, “Does this model “reflect the purposes of God within this historical, cultural perspective?”[40] The four elements will work together to inform our ministry practice. The Helix Metaphor forms an intentional model for making decisions and forming ministry patterns. The Missional Helix process will eventually become instinctive, as we bridge the gap between theology, theory, and practice. The pastoral team of CityReach Springfield will utilize the Missional Helix as an organic aspect of our ongoing strategy formation and self-evaluation.

In light of the theological reflection, history and culture our strategy formation will focus on three areas: recovery houses (Hope Home), community outreach, and life giving worship gatherings. The mission of CityReach is to reach the one who is far from God and to help them become a passionate follower of Jesus. The Hope Home will provide a place of hope and freedom for people dealing with life-controlling issues and/ or those recently released from prison. The focus is spiritual discipleship and life disciplines. We are currently raising funds to start the home this summer (2015).

The Springfield Hope Home is not just a rehab or halfway house; it is a training center for future world changers—urban evangelists, church planters and Hope Home directors. God is preparing an army of outcasts, out of the prisons and off the streets, to go across this land boldly preaching the unadulterated gospel of Jesus Christ with signs and wonders following. The marginalized will be the unlikely deliverers in these last days. An individual that comes out of a gang and/ or addiction understands how to be totally dedicated to something. When God reveals His love and mercy to one of these outcast, they will be bold and fully committed soldiers in the Lord’s Army. God is able to turn a negative attribute into a positive for His glory. Truly, those who are forgiven much are that much more grateful and loving.  Furthermore, someone who has been marginalized by society for years and even decades is not afraid to proclaim the good news of the Kingdom of God in the face of opposition. The culture may attempt to silence and intimidate them in the name of political correctness or relative truth. However, a person who has been marginalized by society and/or spent years in prison will not fear speaking the truth in the face of verbal attacks and even threats of prison. Like Paul, they understand, “To live is Christ and to die is gain.”  These world changers have nothing to lose and only heaven to gain. My personal testimony is evidence that these homes work.

Community outreach will also play a major role in the success of this church plant. CityReach Springfield (CRS) exists to reach the ones that are far from God. We do not want to grow through transfer growth. The church can’t expect lost people to come to church. We must engage our communities. CRS will impact the community through outreaches: Rock the Block, Live Dramas, Day of Hope.

The most important aspect of strategy formation is to have a relationship with the Lord that is vibrant and active. Guidance comes in our times of prayer and meditation. We must have discernment and hear from God in the formation of any strategy. My journey to start this church began seventeen years ago when the Lord set me free from aN intravenous heroin and rock cocaine addiction and called me into ministry. The Lord led me to come to Central Bible College. In 2010, after speaking at an Assemblies of God camp meeting, an old pastor came up to me and said, “You need to go to Central Bible College.” I had never been to Missouri but the Lord confirmed that this was his will. I came to CBC the following year. At CBC I met and married the love of my life, Hannah-Rose. Several years ago we began to feel a burden for the north side of Springfield, Missouri where we now live. God has opened the door for us to plant a new church here.

I am partnering with CityReach Network (CRN) and the local Assemblies of God district to plant a church in north Springfield, MO in March 2016. My wife and I are fruit of Christ-centered recovery homes. In 1999 I graduated from a Victory Outreach men’s home in Phoenix, Arizona. My wife is a graduate of the Long Island Teen Challenge. We know from personal experience that the Hope Home can transform broken lives. We are excited to see what God will do in the next few years.

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[1] Gailyn Van Rheenen, “MR #26: The Missional Helix: Example of Church Planting.” http://www.missiology.org/?p=157 (accessed November 2, 2014).

[2] Van Rheenen, “MR #26: The Missional Helix: Example of Church Planting.”

[3]   John V. York, Missions in the Age of the Spirit (Springfield, MO: Gospel Publishing House, 2000), Kindle location 272.

[4] Acts 7:22 (NIV).

[5] Bob Sorge, The Fire of Delayed Answers: Are You Waiting for Your Prayers to Be Answered? (Kansas City: Oasis House, 1996). 121.

[6] Isaiah 48:10 (NIV)

[7] Richard Thompson “The Social Outcast in Luke’s Gospel,” Master Tool Kit, December -February 2015, 68, accessed March 15, 2015, http://www.mastertoolkit.com/vcmedia/2375/2375512.pdf.

[8] Mathew 6:20 (NIV).

[9] Luke 6:20 (NIV).

[10] Luke 4:18-19 (NIV).

[11] Thompson, 68-69.

[12] Luke 15:2 (NIV).

[13] Kenneth E. Bailey, Jesus through Middle Eastern Eyes: Cultural Studies in the Gospels (Downers Grove, IL: IVP Academic, 2008), 143.

[14] W. Gundmann. Theological Dictionary of the New Testament (Volume II) (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans Pub Co, 1964), 57.

[15] S.W. Lemke, “The Academic Use of Gospel Harmonies,” In Holman Christian Standard Bible: Harmony of the Gospels (2007): 139.

[16] Robert H. Stein, Luke (Volume 24) (Nashville, TN: Holman Reference, 1993), 400.

[17]  Bailey, 147.

[18] Luke 15:4 (NIV).

[19] Andreas J. Köstenberger and Peter T. O’Brien, Salvation to the Ends of the Earth: a Biblical Theology of Mission (Downers Grove, IL: Apollos / Inter-Varsity Press, 2001), 108.

[20] Gailyn Van Rheenen, “MR #25: From Theology to Practice: The Helix Metaphor.” http://www.missiology.org/?p=203 (accessed November 10, 2014).

[21] City-Data. http://www.city-data.com/city/Springfield-Missouri.html (Accessed April 28, 2105).

[22] Mike Landis. “Missouri Will Likely Remain Nations ‘Meth Capital’ in 2013”. Ky3.com. (accessed November 16, 2014).

[23]  Trust for America’s Health. “Missouri has the Seventh Highest Drug Overdose Mortality Rate in the Nation”. Healthyamericans.org. (accessed November 12, 2014).

[24] Lindsay Clein. “Heroin Use on the Rise in Springfield”. www.Ozarksfirst.com (accessed October 7, 2014).

[25]Jess Rollins, “Meth: From Mexico to the streets of Springfield,” News-Leader, June 9, 2014,

www.news-leader.com (Accessed May 10, 2015).

[26] Stephen Herzog. “Police identify victims in triple homicide”. www.newsleader.com

(accessed April   17,2015).

[27] Missouri Department of Corrections. “Missouri Reentry Process”. www.doc.mo.gov

(accessed April 17,2015).

[28] McCormack, Simon. “The Most Violent Small Cities In America: Law Street.”

www.Huffingtonpost.com (accessed April 21,2015).

[29] John Alarid. Interview with Dr. Byron Klaus. Personal Interview. Springfield, MO. March 25, 2015.

[30] Missouri Civil War Museum. http://mcwm.org/ (accessed April 20, 2015).

[31] Jenny Filmer, “1906 Lynchings Grew From Racial Tensions,” News-Leader, April 14, 2006,

http://archive.news-leader.com/article/20060414/NEWS01/604140328/1906-lynchings-grew-from-tensions-racism (accessed March 20, 2015).

[32] Revelation 7:9 (New Living Translation).

[33] Gary McGee and Darin J. Rogers, “The Assemblies of God: Our Heritage in Perspective,” iFPHC.org, https://ifphc.org/index.cfm?fuseaction=history.main (accessed May 14, 2015).

[34] ibid

[35] Vinson Synan, “Reviving the Classics,” charismamag.com, http://www.charismamag.com/site-archives/1491-212-magazine-articles/features/14836-reviving-the-classics (accessed April 12, 2015).

[36] Mark Tooley, “Assemblies of God: A Growing U.S. Denomination.” Christianpost.com, http://www.christianpost.com/news/assemblies-of-god-a-growing-u-s-denomination-121681/ (accessed May5, 2015).

[37] AG.org, “History of the General Council National Office,” http://ag.org/top/about/headquarters/historyHQ.cfm (accessed May 5, 2015).

[38]  Darin J. Rodgers, “Assemblies of God 2013 Statistics Released,” iFPHC.org, https://ifphc.wordpress.com/2014/06/17/assemblies-of-god-2013-statistics-released/ (accessed April 12, 2015).

[39] Van Rheenen, “MR #26: The Missional Helix: Example of Church Planting.”

[40] Ibid.

Emmanuel Totty

Although I grew up in a Christian family, I strayed for a time in my life until I surrendered to Jesus. I graduated from Central Bible College with an AA and Evangel University with a BA in Psychology. 
I met John Alarid at Central Bible College. We would dream about bringing the Gospel to the cities of the world. John has been a great mentor and friend, encouraging me to pursue the heart of God. We have a heart for lost and broken people. I am looking forward to being a part of CityReach Springfield to reach the ones far from God in north Springfield. 
We believe that God is on the move.
Join the movement!!
Emmanuel Totty