Thank You Relevant Church

September 11, 2014 — 1 Comment

Over the past year Impact! Church has been blessed with amazing generosity from other churches, individuals and organizations.  When you reach predominantly the poor there is not much offering…if any. The realization is that – without outside financial help – we can’t make it. With that in mind I want to start using Thursdays to thank those amazing folks that help Impact! Church love God, love people and make an impact!

Our first installment of “Thank You Thursday” goes to Relevant Church of Ybor City. Pastored by my good friend Paul Wirth, Relevant is a growing church in one of the most culturally diverse areas of Tampa.  They are seeing many people far from God come to Christ each month.  They are meeting the needs of the impoverished in their community.  They have adopted a public school in an economically depressed area of Tampa and are seeing children’s lives forever changed.  They work tirelessly to reach people in their city that do not have a church home.  On top of all of that they have been incredibly generous to Impact! Church.

In June things were really tight for us.  It didn’t look like we would make the rent on the building, much less any of the other fixed expenses (no one gets a salary – I’ll blog about that next week). When Paul Wirth found out, he got with his leadership and in a matter of days presented Impact! Church with a sizable check.  The amount not only met our need…it helped us make it through the rest of the summer.  Lives have been changed, people have come to Christ and the love of God has been shown to the Parker Street community of Lakeland because of the financial contribution of an awesome church in Ybor City.

Relevant Church and Paul Wirht – from everyone at Impact! Church – thank you!  Heaven will be more crowded because of you!

To find out more about Relevant Church, please click here.

To find out how you can support Impact! Church, please click here.

FInding The Ghetto Voice

September 10, 2014 — Leave a comment

“Where’s Walter?” I said. Back came the reply from Mark, ‘Haven’t seen him in a few days…we better go check on him!” Mark is a middle-aged black man that slept in our field until we realized his untapped leadership potential.  Walter is a younger black man that lives in the neighborhood with his sister and hangs around our building a lot.  Walter is also a walking encyclopedia of Scripture knowledge.

Mark and I jump into the 1993 300,000+ mile Jeep Cherokee that I drive and headed the few blocks over to Walter’s home.  On the way I was commenting to Mark that I was having trouble preaching with all of the “feedback” from the audience.  When we moved to “the hood” I had been used to preaching to middle-class suburban white folks.  They rarely say anything during a sermon, move around or respond…they just take notes.  However, preaching to a multi-cultural church in the middle of an impoverished neighborhood is another story entirely.  The sermon has become rather  participation-friendly.  Folks talk back, they “amen”, some testify (which takes several minutes) and others try to co-preach by adding their thoughts on the topic. The one I had the most trouble getting used to is when folks holler, “say it again preacher” they really expect you to say what you just said…again.  I am ADD…a gnat belching gets me distracted…imagine what this 3-ring-circus we call a sermon at Impact! Church does to me?  Squirrel…

Mark said, “The problem is that you don’t use your ghetto voice.” “I don’t use my what,” I replied? “You ghetto voice,” Mark continued. “It’s the voice that comes from deep down and gets loud.  It is from the gut and lets whoever you are talking to know that they need to be quiet, be afraid and listen to what you have to say without interrupting or saying a word. The ghetto voice will get their attention, Pastor.”  I said back to Mark, “But I am white…how can I have a ghetto voice?” “It’s not about black or white,” Mark responded, “it’s about location…about being in the hood.  If you are in the hood you can have it…and Pastor…you are in the hood.” Pondering his reply for a second I said, “Mark how will I know the ghetto voice when I hear it?”  “You’ll know…trust me…you’ll know when you hear it!’ answered Mark.

Just then we arrived at Walter’s house.  We stepped out of the Jeep, climbed onto the porch and knocked on the door.  No response.  We knocked again.  No response.  We knocked a third time…only a little louder.  From inside the house – just beyond the door – we heard a voice that was deep, threatening and not quite from this planet holler, “Who the f**k is it and what the h**l do you want?” I replied in a shy, quiet voice, “It’s Pastor Chris from Impact! Church and I’ve come to check up on Walter.”  All of a sudden the door opened, a small, sweet-looking woman was standing in the doorway and in a mild. meek voice she said, “Oh hello Pastor Chris, so good to see you. I will go get Walter.”  It was at that moment that I realize that BOTH voices came from that same woman.  Mark looked at me with fear on his face and said, “That first voice…that was the ghetto voice!”

If you would like to learn more about the ministry of Impact! Church, please go here.

The world was in shock yesterday as a video surfaced of NFL running back Ray Rice hitting his girlfriend (now his wife) in an elevator knocking her out. The contents of the video were disturbing, horrifying and unfathomable.  For the staff and leadership of Impact! Church we, unfortunately see it all too often in our neighborhood.

Ray RIce doesn’t live in Lakeland or go to our church – but there are many “Ray Rices” living in the Parker Street neighborhood surrounding Impact! Church.  Seldom does a week go by that we do not find a broken, battered and bruised woman sitting on the sidewalk in tears.  Some are drug addicts, some are prostitutes and some are just impoverished women trying to get through life. All of their stories are the same – “he beat me”, “he gets so angry”, “I don’t know why he doesn’t love me” or “I deserved it.” It always ends with us comforting her, getting her to the emergency room, contacting law enforcement and trying to convince her to file charges.  Quite often – in the middle of the night – we’ll get a call from one of the police officers that patrol our area.  They’ll have a woman – fresh out of the emergency room – that has been abused and needs a temporary place to stay.  Most of the shelters and facilities are closed at that time of night and local law enforcement know that we will provide comfort for a few hours.  We’ll take her in, make sure one of our female leaders is with her for the night and provide a safe haven for her sleep.  We provide toiletry products and a change of clothes as most leave their home with nothing.  Some want prayer.  Some want to talk. Most just want to be held by one of our female leaders until she cries herself to sleep.  The next morning we make sure she’s fed a good breakfast and then begin working with some of the amazing local organizations so she doesn’t ever have to go back to that life again.

Domestic violence and abuse happens way too often in America,  For the Parker Street community of Lakeland, Florida it is an unfortunate way of life. That is one of the many reasons that God called Impact! Church to move here.  I am glad we answered that call.  I am glad that we love God, love people and make an impact! I am glad that God allows us to constantly see lives changed and wounds healed – both spiritual and physical.

If you would like to be a part of making an impact, please click here.

If you would like to financially support the mission and ministry of Impact! Church, please click here.