Category Archives: outreach

Pastor overcomes tragic accident, paralysis, to lead vibrant ministry

harold and mona warner door tucsonHarold Warner was driving back from a failed pastoral assignment when he hit a new patch of asphalt sprinkled with fresh rain, and his orange Dodge Colt spun out of control, went off the side of road and rolled down an embankment.

The car roof caved in, paralyzing him. Within nine months, the 23-year-old ex-hippie shifted into a new, dynamic pastoral assignment, this time in a wheelchair.

beginnings of ministry of pastor harold warner“Everything in my life was disrupted permanently. My world was turned upside down,” says Warner. “But my relationship with God didn’t change one bit. His grace, His presence never wavered. I had confidence that God was in control in my life.”

Today, Pastor Warner’s church, which he charged into as an idealistic young man, has grown to over 1,000. The Door Church in Tucson moved from a humble stucco and adobe building to a massive facility.

Affiliated with Christian Fellowship Ministries as a church planter, Warner and his leadership team have planted 750 churches worldwide.

pastor harold warner bicycleHow did he avoid the trap of blaming God for the inexplicable tragedy?

“A lot of things happen in life that you don’t have control over,” Warner says, as he considers the destiny he might have missed. “I kept going forward with a combination of faith, naiveté and confidence.”

When he was a young man, Warner liked hockey so much he went to the University of Connecticut specifically to play for the team. But, like so many other young people of the 1960s, alcohol and drugs beckoned, and he dropped out of school, grew his hair long, wore torn jeans and hitchhiked to Woodstock.

Being a hippie didn’t live up to “the propaganda of love,” he says. “The one thing that prevailed was the aimlessness.” Read the rest of Harold Warner The Door Church Tucson.

Send a missionary to Sierra Leone during its Civil War? It made no sense. But it created a wave of church planting.

Sierra Leone ChristianityTo many observers, it appeared foolhardy to send such a fruitful worker to such a hopeless nation. A lot of church planters in the Christian Fellowship Ministries, following prevailing wisdom, looked to plant churches in resource-rich England and South Africa.

But Pastor Harold Warner didn’t flinch when he launched firebrand preacher Alvin Smith into Sierra Leone in 1989. He had heard from God. And nearly three decades later, the results are dumbfounding.

The original church in Freetown has exploded to 80 churches. The nation that once was classified as the second poorest in the world now has planted churches in Liberia, Guinea, Gambia, Senegal, Togo, Benin, Congo, Burkina Faso and Ivory Coast.

African missionaries in Europe

Pastor Desmond Bell, from Sierra Leone, in Marseille France.

They have even sent three missionaries to Europe.

“To take people, to take young men and women from one of the poorest countries in the world and (for God to) say, ‘I’m going to shape and I’m going to fashion them because they are going to accomplish my purpose not only in their own nation but also beyond the boundaries,’ is one of the greatest privileges of life,” says Warner in a 2018 conference video. “I just sit back and chuckle because this has to be God.”

Not even the African pastors could believe how God would use them when, as young men, they converted to Christ in a ramshackle school building with no lights where they listened intently to Pastor Smith preach his heart.

pastor harold warner tucson door church

Pastor Harold Warner from the Door Church in Tucson

“Pastor Smith was instilling into our spirit that we were going to all the world to preach the gospel. In the minds of many of us, we were like, ‘This is an impossible dream,’” says Edward Saffa, who took over the headquarter church in Freetown. “All of us were from nothing — nothing.”

Sierra Leone was a diamond rich nation racked by government corruption and successive civil wars. The average life expectancy was into the 30s, and people ate only one meal a day. The worst kind of malaria wreaked havoc on the population, and the guerrillas chopped off limbs of civilians to sow terror.

That’s the milieu into which Alvin Smith, a retired US Air Force helicopter pilot, injected himself with his wife Renee.

“We owe something to Pastor Smith who left America. He came in the time during the war. That was a lot of sacrifice,” says Aruna Bangura, now pastoring in Marseille, France. “When people are too educated, they become logical when it comes to serving God. But for us, we were just explosive. We want to go to church everyday. Whenever it is time to go to church, we were running to go to church. We were coming from distance.

“I can still remember that old rugged, dirty building. All the windows were battered. We were using candles. But there was a life coming out of that building. That’s how God works. God likes to do things the way man cannot do it.”

The young men who attended Smith’s sermons often lacked adequate clothes, but they didn’t lack zeal. Or maybe it was the absence of material distractions that helped them to center all their attention on God.

They had nothing, so they had nothing to lose when they put their faith in God. Pastor Smith challenged the youth to get married, regardless of their financial situation. Some of the leaders today set up cardboard partitions in their parents’ living rooms to consummate their wedding. Read the rest of the story of improbable revival from Sierra Leone.

Burning Man evangelism of a different kind

160907084704-burning-man-art-cars-5-super-43It’s not the tie-donning, Bible-toting crowd that heads to the Nevada Desert to evangelize at Burning Man, the art hipster festival that draws more than 50,000 for a blistering week on the dry alkaline lakebed.

No, it even draws Christian iconoclasts who flout church conformity. Styled on the born-again hippies of the Jesus Movement, these guys see beyond the largest pagan cult gathering in America. They see misguided souls thirsting for truth.

jesus-crossBurning Man, for the uninitiated, is religion for the religion-less. From Aug. 27 to Sept 4, “Burners” camp in Black Desert and revel in alcohol, drugs, biking, electronic dance music and unbridled hedonism. The bacchanal culminates when a gigantic wooden centerpiece – or temple – is burned in effigy on Saturday night.

The celebration has elements of religion: ritual, a code of conduct and a sense of community. But there is no clear focus on a deity.

phil wyman

Phil Wyman, aka Gandalf/Indiana Jones

This is where Phil Wyman comes in. A Christian pastor who reaches out with love and acceptance to the witches at the Halloween fest in his native Salem, Massachusetts, Wyman is long-haired preacher who’s been described as a cross between Gandalf and Indiana Jones.

Wyman, like other Burners, erects an interactive art display with a message that seeks to activate a quest for true spirituality. In 2011, his Pillars of the Saints honored Simeon Stylite, the ascetic pole-sitter who sought to connect with the Spirit through a radical disconnect with this world.

746984168Wyman’s messages are suggestive, not authoritative, which is why they resonate with the lost souls at Burning Man but they also raise eyebrows among straight-laced Christians who want a more orthodox message. Wyman employs the Socratic method and gets people thinking by asking questions.

“I wondered why Christianity had not typically embedded itself into these festivals, why we weren’t among the leaders of new cultural developments and wildly creative thought,” Wyman wrote in Christianity Today. “Certainly God is wildly creative—enough to find his way into human hearts in other cultures around the world.”

burning-manOne church from Ohio became famous for passing out waters, which is pretty handy in the scorching heat and dust of the desert. It was a way of showing the love of Christ in a practical way.

There have been Christians who dress like Jesus and carry the cross.

Burning Man is a ripe harvest field for out-of-the-box evangelism. Read the rest: Christians at Burning Man.