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African-American churches reunite


Fall is the season for homecomings and gatherings with family and friends. A week before Thanksgiving, the Association of African-American Churches (AAAC) of The Christian and Missionary Alliance gathered in the Cleveland suburb of Maple Heights, Ohio, for a powerful weekend of seminars and worship. The theme for the conference was “When All of God’s Children Get Together, Acts 2:42–44.” As African-American pastors, wives and members gathered from around the country, it became apparent that this would be a historic weekend of love, laughter and learning.

A Homecoming

Cleveland was a fitting location for the conference. Throughout the history of the C&MA, this city has been a haven for producing some of our most devoted and well-known leaders.

Alliance pastor Dr. Howard Jones, missionary and associate evangelist with the Billy Graham Crusade, is a former pastor of Union Avenue Alliance Church in Cleveland. At the mature age of 105, the church is one of the oldest in the C&MA. Most of the members of the popular Cleveland Coloured Gospel Quintet worshiped at Union Avenue Alliance Church. In addition, C&MA Board of Directors member Cora Phillips was raised in Cleveland as a member of the church.

The conference, hosted by Rev. Ronald Morrison, chairman of the Board of Directors for the C&MA, was held at the Hope Alliance Bible Church. Today, the Lord has blessed the Cleveland area with nine African-American churches. The conference was definitely reminiscent of a homecoming.

During the conference, warmth and wisdom were generously served from some of The Alliance’s most seasoned servants. Rev. Calvin Brown and Robert Ross spearheaded a multicultural presentation about Destiny Church in Twinsburg, Ohio. Pastor Brown, who is African-American, and Ross, who is Caucasian, grew up in the same neighborhood and have been lifelong friends. Brown came to know the Lord at a backyard Bible study conducted by Ross’s mother.

The two have followed the Lord’s leading in establishing a new type of ministry that is reaching hundreds in this middle class, multiethnic suburb of Cleveland. More than 50 percent of the churches led by African-American pastors in the C&MA are multicultural congregations. And church plants within the past decade have been increasingly multicultural. The conference attendees were challenged to minister to those around them regardless of color, age or background.

Partnerships Make Us Stronger

As pastor of New Hope Church Community in Vallejo, California, and president for the AAAC, I shared how the association churches can develop “sizzlin’ summer youth ministries” by partnering with nearby churches. Since most AAAC youth groups are small, partnering with other churches can be a catalyst in bringing spark to youth ministries.

However, the benchmark that I used was to collaborate with an ecumenical group of evangelical churches in San Francisco’s North Bay. I led the planning team, which was made up of 20 youth pastors from various churches. For more than eight months, our team planned a three-day, four-night conference that offered contemporary seminars based on four developmental areas of teenagers: academic, social, physical and spiritual.

A prime draw was a seminar called “There Is a Message in the Music,” taught by nationally renowned gospel artist Eugene Cole. The Youth Summit attracted more than 300 teenagers each day and was lauded on local television news channels as a solution to teen violence. More than 100 youth received Christ and more than 50 rededicated themselves to the Lord. Approximately 220 took an oath of abstinence, committing to refrain from sexual activity until married. All local youth groups involved have shown increases in youth attendance and spiritual fervency. The dream of collaboration will work anywhere, especially in Cleveland among the nine African-American C&MA churches.

Nontraditional Ministry

The last seminar was taught by seasoned and sensational Rev. Gus Brown, pastor of Akron Alliance Fellowship in Akron, Ohio. Pastor Brown shared about the benefits of developing day care centers within the framework of existing ministries.

Through their experiences with day care ministries, the Akron Alliance Fellowship congregation has reached out to a myriad of families in the community. The day care center has hired unemployed members of the church, providing them with needed skills and self-esteem. The ministry has assisted the church in purchasing additional property that fits into their future vision for serving the community. Overall, the day care ministry has been a tremendous blessing to the church and the community. Rev. Brown’s daughter, a licensed day care provider and trainer, serves as the director of the day care ministry.

Pastor Brown guided conference attendees through the process of applying for grants and presenting business plans for ministries. He also led attendees in reading the “personal empowerment” statement, encouraging them to leave the conference committed to making a difference in their communities.

Other dynamic aspects of the weekend included two challenging lectures by Rev. Michael Jones, former president for the Orchard Foundation and currently the co-owner of Omnus by Design, a ministry focused on wholistic lifestyle stewardship. Jones shared powerfully about the importance of African-American churches taking ownership of their dreams and destinies.

Rev. Kelvin Walker, campus pastor for Nyack College, ministered in praise and worship each session. He also prepared a mass choir of singers who beautifully sang on Saturday night. In closing, I preached a message entitled “An Indescribable Power.” I challenged the delegates to seek all the power that is available to them through the gospel of Jesus Christ in order to reach African-Americans and others for the Kingdom.

At the end of the weekend, cars were loaded, planes were boarded and the delegates went back to Birmingham and Brooklyn; Seattle and San Francisco; Cleveland and Colorado Springs. All left with a sense of pride and power, vision and voice, help and hope.

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