What happens when you set aside your differences and focus on building relationships for God?
What can God do with a soccer ball, a basketball, a Haitian Creole community, a Spanish speaking community, an African American community, a bunch of bikers, and the Apopka Calvary Church of the Nazarene? When you trust in Him, He can do far more than you can imagine!
A unique ministry was born from this mixture of elements. We call it Better Together, and our purpose statement is “though our backgrounds, cultures, and ministries may vary, our love of Christ is the same.” Each leader involved in this ministry serves as a pastor to one of the satellite congregations and as an associate pastor at Apopka Calvary, the central hub. Each pastor accepts the idea that Better Together means we operate in a spirit of humility and cooperation.
From the Better Together “tree,” many branches have begun stretching far and wide. AC/BC Biker church, under the direction of Keith Hullinger, launched not only a ministry to bikers but also started a Celebrate Recovery program. Jesse Lugo and Ronda Rieves started a Tuesday night Hoops Church where well over 70 people (and counting) have been saved and four new Hoops churches launched. Jose Matamoras of Casa del Rey Church launched a ministry in Haiti to help orphans. Nicholas Jaimes faithfully leads a Futsal (indoor soccer) Church which led 38 young people to the Lord in one service.
Our Haitian church, under the capable direction of Phane and Farrah Lormeus, has grown from six members to over 50. Springhill Church, through the direction of a powerful preacher, Willet Riley, fed over 120 people in an impoverished community for Thanksgiving. Better Together is also associated with the Apopka Christian Learning Academy (CLA) which has close to three hundred students. The principal of CLA and his staff have truly been inspirational in working with Better Together. Apopka Calvary Church of the Nazarene is the “hub” for all these churches/ministries and has set its sights on launching 10 new churches in the next 10 years. It really is amazing what God can do.
In the Better Together movement, no ministry serves alone, and the synthesis of ideas and opportunities are overwhelming. Each ministry tries to understand the purpose of the other which allows us to work together.
Better Together leadership meets monthly for a leaders’ meeting and we hold joint services four times a year. Usually, one of the satellite pastors will preach as our praise teams are joined and we worship together in English, Haitian Creole, and Spanish. These group services conclude with a meal during which all attendees sit with people from other congregations and develop relationships.
Working in a ministry that encompasses 20 nationalities and seven churches brings unique challenges.
But while it seems like the culture we live in struggles to understand the differences between us, Better Together is embracing our differences and working toward developing relationships.
A core tenet of the relational aspect to my ministry was born from a Men’s ministry mentoring service I began years ago. I meet with anywhere from seven to 10 men every morning in order to develop a new generation of leaders through mentoring. The mentorship program typically focuses on three areas: Bible reading, prayer, and tithing.
My main goal is to help position mentees under the favor of God. We read the Bible in order to gain wisdom and knowledge so that biblical principles can be lived out day-to-day. The second area, prayer, seeks to develop intimacy with God. How can we serve Him if we are not intimate with Him? We also address tithing and ask questions like, “Do you trust God to resource you or not?” and, “Are you willing to live without the fullness of your income as a sign of obedience to the Lord?”
In some ways, I am afraid we are teaching a gospel that makes great church attenders but poor Christians if we fail to read our Bibles, pray, and tithe.
It is not about checking boxes, but rather putting the principles of the Bible into action and truly living by our faith.
Once the men have spent a year in the mentorship program with me, they go on to mentor another man, thus continuing the cycle of generations of mentors and building relationships that stand the test of time.
The parallels between the mentoring program and Better Together are many. What they both boil down to is really in the name: we are simply better together. True holiness of heart and life should produce in us a spirit of humility and a willingness to cooperate with each other. People and churches intentionally serving together, saving money, and sharing talented people leads to building a collective kingdom under the Lordship of Christ.
By investing ourselves in others and humbling ourselves before God, we are able to do Kingdom work from a different perspective than the world typically sees. When believers do not care who gets the credit or who has the greatest idea, the church becomes a fruitful garden with many branches of multi-cultural people working together in step with the Holy Spirit.
Garry Proehl is senior pastor of Apopka Calvary Church of the Nazarene in Apopka, Florida, USA.
Holiness Today, Mar/Apr 2019