In December 2016, I moved my family from Valencia, CA, to Davenport, IA, to be part of the Grace Fellowship Church family and to transition my evangelistic ministry from a parachurch ministry to a ministry of a local church.
From California to Iowa
It has been quite the transition from sunny (all the time) Southern California to Eastern Iowa where you can experience all four seasons in a single day. More than 10.1 million people live in Los Angeles County. The entire State of Iowa has a population of 3.1 million. The Quad Cities (my neck of the woods) has a population just shy of 240,000. Part of the transition has been adjusting my approaches to street evangelism ministry to fit the environment where I now live. There have been challenges along the way, but I believe the Lord has used them to make me a more rounded evangelist.
Grace Fellowship Church
The transition from parachurch ministry to local church ministry began the moment I decided to move my family to Grace Fellowship Church (GFC). GFC is a small, Reformed Baptist (1689) church in the west-end of Davenport, IA.
Since early 2017, my evangelistic ministry has been under the authority, leadership, and shepherding of my church’s pastors and deacons. Accountability in all its forms, both in my life and ministry, comes directly from the leadership and other members of my church.
Last Step of the Transition
The last step in the transition of Cross Encounters Ministries from a parachurch ministry to a ministry of Grace Fellowship Church has been in the area of financial accountability.
Since the inception of Cross Encounters Ministries in July 2012, Revival-USA (DBA Ministry of Unification) has provided the ministry with tax-exempt status, as well as financial accountability and reporting. To date: all tax-deductible donations to Cross Encounters Ministries have been sent to Revival-USA. My church family and I are very grateful to Bill Adams (SFOI) and Revival-USA for their support–not only in the area of financial accountability, but also Bill’s leadership, friendship, and the evangelism opportunities he has made possible for me, over the years.
Effective (October 1, 2019), Cross Encounters Ministries, as a ministry of Grace Fellowship Church, will come under the church’s tax-exempt status. Financial accountability and reporting will be the responsibility of my church’s deacons.
Any fundraising efforts will be at the direction of my local church.
While the church does support my family and evangelistic ministry, this support will remain largely founded upon the donations received from those outside the church who support the ministry.
Parachurch or Local Church: Why Does It Matter to Me?
In the Church with Nomadic Tendencies
I’ve been involved in full-time ministry, in one capacity or another, for the last 20 years. Since the earliest days of my Christian life in 1988, I’ve been a member of a church. Arguably, I’ve been a member of too many churches–seven in all during the last 30 years, if you include the church plant I pastored for two years at the turn of the century. In addition to pastoring, I’ve served as a worship leader, small group leader, junior high pastor, elder, and evangelist.
Much of the last 20 years, certainly between 2004 and 2016, although always a member of a church, I exhibited nomadic tendencies in my street evangelism efforts.
To be clear: I wasn’t a nomad, but I had nomadic tendencies. I was a member of the church(es). I submitted to the authority of the pastors/elders of the church(es). I regularly attended church services and financially supported the work of the church(es). I enjoyed fellowship with my Christian brethren who were also members of the church(es). My pastors knew I was on the streets preaching the gospel. On a few occasions, pastors joined me in the work.
At one church, the elders publicly laid hands on me and commissioned me as an evangelist of the church.
At another church, after an 18-month process, the elders affirmed my call to serve the Lord as an open-air preacher, but suggested I do it somewhere else because open-air preaching didn’t fit into that church’s philosophy of ministry. Yet, the same elders said I was welcome to stay at the church and continue my street ministry, but without any official endorsement from the church.
A few of the pastors at another church also affirmed my call to serve as an open-air preacher, but explained it would be unlikely that the full counsel of elders would endorse the ministry. That being understood, I was allowed to continue my ministry on the streets and tell people I was a member of the church and sent out by my pastors to engage in ministry.
The above should not be read as complaints about the before-mentioned churches. Not at all. I thank God for each of them. Again, to one extent or another, leaders of each church affirmed my call to preach in the open-air. Leaders of each church allowed me to engage in public ministry. And again, I was a member in good standing of each of these churches. I had access to the pastors of each church and there was a willingness on the part of the pastors to meet with me, talk to me, and provide me with counsel when I wanted it or when they thought I needed it.
I am truly grateful for that; really. But I was still operating independently of my local church while being a member of the church. I was running ministries that were not immediately accountable to the local church. I was raising funds independent of the local church. I was in effect the CEO, CFO, COO, Chairman of the Board, Auditor and Controller, and Secretary of ministries I created independent of the local church–all the while as a recognized member of the local church. When it came to my evangelistic ministry, I was an unintended nomad inside the church, not outside of it. As such, there simply wasn’t for me enough accountability and attachment to the local church.
In Pursuit of a More Biblical Way of Doing Things
And that’s why three years ago I moved my family to Davenport, IA, to be part of the Grace Fellowship Church family. This is not to say I have found the perfect church. On the contrary: my church is imperfect. Everyone (including the pastors) in my church knows it, too. After all, I’m a member. That, in and of itself, is enough to account for the church’s imperfection.
Are there other churches with open-air preachers who function entirely under the authority and accountability of the local church? I’m certain there are. My personal pursuit of a more biblical way of engaging in open-air ministry and other forms of public evangelism, under the umbrella of the local church, brought me to Grace Fellowship Church in Davenport, IA. The Lord could have taken me elsewhere in this pursuit, but He didn’t. He brought me here.
Eventually the name “Cross Encounters Ministries” will fade to little more than the name of a blog and a newsletter. The evangelistic work will continue, but it is now under the name of a small, Reformed Baptist church in Davenport, IA–Grace Fellowship Church.
Churches Supporting Churches
The New Testament and 2,000 years of church history, supports the practice of Christians and churches supporting churches. Here are just two examples:
“And you Philippians yourselves know that in the beginning of the gospel, when I left Macedonia, no church entered into partnership with me in giving and receiving, except you only. Even in Thessalonica you sent me help for my needs once and again” (Philippians 4:15-16).
“Now concerning the collection for the saints: as I directed the churches of Galatia, so you also are to do. On the first day of every week, each of you is to put something aside and store it up, as he may prosper, so that there will be no collecting when I come. And when I arrive, I will send those whom you accredit by letter to carry your gift to Jerusalem” (1 Corinthians 16:1-3).
From here on out, if/when you support my evangelistic efforts you are supporting the ongoing evangelistic work of Grace Fellowship Church. You are partnering with our church to bring the gospel of Jesus Christ to the Quad Cities and beyond. Please do stay with us if you already partner with us, or join us anew in the work. There is still a lot of work to do!
- Local and Regional Evangelism
- Open-Air Preaching
- Sign Evangelism
- Campus Ministry
- Law Enforcement Ministry
- Gospel Tract Distribution
- Didache Institute (training Kenyan pastors)
- Partnering with Churches near and far by providing evangelism training and assisting churches in their local evangelism efforts.
Your support will go to these ministries through a local church–a church that sends an evangelist by the name of Tony out to the highways and hedges compelling people to come in, that the Master’s house may be filled (Luke 14:23).