Today’s episode of “Church Rescue” brought the Church Hoppers; Rev. Kev, Gladamere and Doc to their home town of Charlotte, N.C. to help out the Jesus Christ Full Gospel Church at the request of Pastor Michael Hedgecoe.
It is a Sunday morning as the Church Hoppers arrive at the church. Full Gospel Churches believe in laying on the hands to heal the sick, speaking in tongues, and they also believe there is a Second Coming of Jesus Christ. Their services are laced with plenty of outward expressions of praise. As they pull in to the parking lot, the sign has the name, and services as Sunday 10:30 a.m. & 6 p.m., with Wednesday as 7:30 p.m. Everyone Welcome and Experience Acts 2:38. They immediately agree that the sign is too cluttered with too much information.
As they enter, it is dark and there is a lot of noise going on as the people chant and yell. When the lights went on, the music started and the singing proceeded and the energy level increased from the primal scene a few moments ago. When the music stopped, the pastor began his hellfire and brimstone sermon making the people feel doomed, rather than lifted up.
When the service was over, they questioned some of the congregants. One man loved the message, another said it puts the fear of God in them. When a man was asked if the church needed help, he said it needed a facelift and was too cluttered. When the men spoke to Pastor Mike, his associate pastor, James Locklear questioned who they were, as he was not advised that they were called. James was frustrated and a bit suspicious. He explained his role in the church; keeping the books and taking care of the music. Then Pastor Mike stated that he tried to keep the books; to which he replied, that had he not kept the books; they would not get done. They went on to explain their relationship with each other, as James was like a son to Mike, who never had children of his own. James had some rough times growing up, with gangs and drugs. Then James left.
Before they can fix this church, the men will have to get to the bottom of the conflict between the pastor and his assistant. Looking around, the place is very cluttered, and the stark white walls show no warmth. Outside is a horse trough where people are baptized, but some would rather be baptized in the river. Tomorrow some people will be baptized in the river, and the Church Hoppers asked if they can come along.
The next day, they went to the river for the baptism. As they were singing and getting ready for the first baptism, the police showed up to stop the ceremony. One worshiper was prepared to go to jail, rather than had it stopped. When they were told it was private property, and they required a permit to perform the baptism, Mike reprimanded James for not taking care of the permit.
As the guys left to get a shave and haircut, they spoke of the problems between Mike and James and how they could rectify the situation. The baptism is a fundamental belief of this church, and they must address it, along with the problem between the two leaders and to bring more people to the church; Mike has to tone down his sermon with a more positive hopeful one.
When the five men met, Rev Kev explained how there were over 100 organized gangs in the area, and with James’ previous experience, they could bring the word of God to them through outreach. He also wants Mike to rewrite his sermon giving hope to people rather than the dire consequences he has preached about in the past and start treating James like an equal.
The building proceeded, and the interior of the church was beautiful and outside, was a baptistery where congregants could be baptized ceremoniously with the church members in attendance.
The five men met at the Gaston County Jail where they started a prison ministry. They met with a prisoner named Rondell, who James could relate to. He wanted to put his past aside and make sure his son did not follow in his footsteps. He was in gangs from early on, and James did all the talking to him about his past. The man showed a picture of his wife and son, and all in attendance were tuned in to what he was saying. When Rondell told them that a friend died in prison two days ago, James related that nobody knew, but his brother was released from prison two days ago, as he wept in front of them all.
Mike was very impressed that James could preach the word of God so well. Then he had an opportunity to speak to an entire cellblock. At first, he was nervous, but he soon found the words to speak to them all and even received applause for his message of hope. When the two returned, they spoke man to man, and Mike turned over the prison ministry to James.
On Saturday, the permits were received and the congregation was brought to the river bank to baptize another soul into their kingdom. On Sunday, when Mike and James arrived, they were welcomed by the new bright sign. The interior was warm, friendly and inviting. As the congregation was arriving, they saw a renewal of energy. Then Kim Johnson from the County Jail arrived with a surprise, Rondell’s wife and son and one more surprise; James' brother was there and came to be anointed.
Now the congregation is growing as Pastor Mike performs more baptisms than ever before. Brother James plans to continue prison outreach all over North Carolina, and his brother Clifford has stayed out of jail and is a regular congregant at the Jesus Christ Full Gospel Church, thanks to the Church Hoppers; Rev. Kev, Gladamere and Doc.
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