God has recently opened up some awesome new doors of ministry for us, and we’re excited to share what He’s doing. All of you know I'm long-winded so please be patient. Allow me to give a little background history first.
A little History
When we moved out here from Las Vegas in Fall of 2010 we came with the intentions of planting a church. We failed. Plain and simple. I now have in my possession a “Failed Church Planter’s Club” T-Shirt with all the stink and blood stains. Just kidding. Now that some time has gone by since then I’m able to look upon that failure with less embarrassment and shame and more wisdom. I’m thankful that I was able to try something for God and fail and learn some lessons than to never have tried at all. As individuals and as a family we have learned some wonderful lessons about the faithfulness of God to work all things together for good to those who love Him, and to always lead us in triumph in Christ Jesus.
Over the past 5 years God has done many things to establish us in the community of Raleigh and the Body of Christ here. God has given me a great job working for a local air conditioning company and Angela has been able to stay home with the boys. We have been attending a small Christian church here in the area and both Angela and I have been personally discipled by the pastor, elders and their wives. A failed church plant can leave you a wounded soldier and I thank God for the healing and grace of His precious people. Last year we purchased a home here in Garner, NC. And over the past 5 years I have been actively sharing the Gospel at the college, downtown and throughout the community. We are planted, we have roots, and by God’s grace we are growing and bearing some fruit.
When we moved out here from Las Vegas to plant a church we had many generous financial supporters from Las Vegas who were investing in God’s kingdom through our lives. Because the “church plant” was not taking off as we had hoped we decided to take ALL the financial support and put it into a “Ministry Savings Account.” We continued to save and add to that account over the past 5 years having faith that one day God would bring us to a place where we could serve Him full time and invest the support of His people wisely. That time has arrived, praise God!
Over the past year, through the local church leadership, Body of Christ, financial provision, family support, a renewed sense of calling and passion, and countless other confirmations God has released us to serve Him as full-time missionaries specifically in the area of evangelism. To many of you it is no surprise that what God has called me to do is what He has always had me doing: preach the Gospel, preach the Gospel and preach the Gospel.
This past Spring I put out some “feelers” to see if God was really beginning to move me into this area full-time. Whether it was open air preaching of the Gospel on college campuses and answering questions and objections from students, or preaching downtown in front of the courthouse, or pleading with people outside of the abortion clinic, or encouraging our local church and other churches in evangelism and leading teams downtown on the weekends to share Christ, God was in it all! There was no question in my mind or the minds of my wife and other godly leaders in the church that this is what God was calling me to do. Now it was all a question of “God’s timing.”
As the summer was drawing near I began to sense a renewed urgency for publically proclaiming Jesus Christ and the Gospel. I imagined myself in heaven one day surrounded by saints from all ages asking me, “So, where did God have you live on earth, where were you born, what nation, what time, what generation???” My answer, “Well, I was born in America, from 1976 till 2015…” And then the saints pause with shock and reply, “What?! Did you say, “America!” Wow! Awesome! Wait! Did you say 1976 to 2015?! That was back when you guys had freedom of speech wasn’t it! I bet you were out sharing the Gospel all the time everywhere weren’t you?!” And then that’s when I pause with shock and reply, “Well, um…uh….well, kinda.” And that’s when their excitement turns to concern and they say, “What do you mean, “Well…um…uh…kinda? Don’t you know that freedom of speech was gone in 2017 or 2019…? What were you doing all that time?” And my sad response would be, “Well, we were very busy, very busy with all kinds of things.” Friends, I don’t want to have regrets when I get to heaven, and God in His mercy has providentially had me born in a country where I can freely proclaim the Gospel of Jesus Christ with little or no persecution. I really have no idea how long we’ll have the freedom of speech to speak about Jesus publically, but I don’t want to miss out on such a wonderful opportunity. No doubt those saints who live in so called “closed countries” where Christians are tortured and martyred just for speaking up about Jesus would give anything to be able to preach Christ openly here without persecution. These are urgent and wonderful times we live in. So after seeking God at the beginning of this summer I decided to give my boss a 2 month’s notice of my last day and take the entire “Ministry Savings Account” and invest it into the next 3 months through publically proclaiming the Gospel. If it is God’s will for me to continue beyond the next 3 months preaching the Gospel and equipping the saints then He will provide financially. God has blessed me with the ability to fix an air conditioner if needed, but God has called me to preach the Gospel.
This summer I believe that God gave me a 3 fold mission and I am passionate about it. The Mission is:
1- Preaching the Gospel Publically with courage, compassion and clarity.
Courage: I find that biblical, loving on-fire public preaching of the Gospel has the power to impart courage into the hearts of the hearers. Often times I see on campus weary, discouraged, beaten down Christians students traveling from one class to the other and whenever they hear the passionate preaching of the Gospel of Jesus Christ their heads are lifted, they’re refreshed, revived, and receive a renewed sense of mission for ministering to their fellow students. Often times it is the college campus open air preacher that draws a crowd for the on campus Christians to minister to and disciple. Courage is contagious! It is something the first century Christians had, something Christ gives and something we all need.
Compassion: The public street preacher and campus open air preaching ministry unfortunately has the stigma and bad reputation of being a bunch of angry preachers who feel it’s their calling to tell everyone that God hates them. This “God Hates You” angry preacher image over the past 50 years has high-jacked the biblical, Christ-like calling and ministry of public preaching so much so that the Church as a whole is embarrassed to even associate with those who might do it well. Whenever people find out I’m an open air preacher I recognize I’ve already got 10 strikes against me before I ever open my mouth. I know that we’re a dying breed, hated by the world, killed off by the church, but we’re still loved by God, and we’re an essential part of the Body of Christ. Whenever we find bad teachers, pastors or worship leaders we don’t just eliminate the ministry all together. No! Instead we should be raising up great teachers, well trained pastors and awesome worship leaders. This is exactly what we must do with the open air preaching part of the Body of Christ. We can’t just amputate it and say, “You’re not part of the Body because you don’t look like me or do it my way!” We should strengthen, heal and restore the ministry of open air preaching and make it a strong and vital part of the Church just as God intended. For this to happen we need preachers with broken hearts of compassion, not hardened hearts of hate. Jesus saw the multitudes and was moved with compassion, not aggression, because He saw them as sheep without a Shepherd. Public preaching must be driven by the compassion and love of God to reach people and rescue them from hell. Compassion is also contagious!
Clarity: I believe that in the Bible the Main things are the Plain things, and the Plain things are the Main things. Everything in the Bible is important, but not everything in the Bible is equally applicable. It is my goal to be faithful to preach the Gospel of Jesus Christ and the historical Christian faith with clarity. When it comes to publically preaching the Gospel it is no time to get distracted by side issues, pet doctrines or in-house Christian debates regarding other things. Those are great topics for coffee talks and follow up discussions, but my 1st Mission is to preach the Gospel and by the grace of God remove obstacles to faith in the Gospel. In summary, “Christ died for your sins and rose from the grave. Trust in Him and you shall be saved!” The Gospel of Jesus Christ is the power of God to salvation for all who believe, not my particular “brand” of Christianity. This simplicity can be very refreshing to some and very offensive to others, but my goal is to always bring it back to the Gospel of Jesus and a person’s relationship to Him.
2- Partnering with the local Church to receive believers and unbelievers.
A direct fruit of publically preaching the Gospel is that believers who are not plugged into a local church feel challenged to grow in their relationship with God and be part of a church. Also I have found that interested unbelievers need somewhere they can go to continue their journey and experience the community of God’s people. My passion is to partner with local Christ-centered churches, creating a “Halo” of churches around the Raleigh area that I can recommend to people. I want to be a resource on the streets God can use to help individuals become discipled and grow in the context of God’s family. Also, on college campuses I desire to partner with campus ministries to help facilitate follow-up with those whom God touches through the campus preaching ministry. As a guest on campus I realize that it is the college student ministries that do the heavy lifting when it comes to discipleship and follow up. I want to partner with them in good relationship to create a united front for expanding the kingdom of God on campus.
3- Preparing Christians to share and defend their faith
Equipping the saints for the work of ministry is a responsibility of an evangelist, pastor and teacher. Beginning in my home church I want God to use me to encourage, equip and empower Christians to overcome the fear factor of sharing their faith and become active soul-winners for Christ. Many of us have heard great teaching on evangelism, but how many of us have actually been “trained” and taken out onto the Battlefield to experience the Lord use us to win others to Himself in fresh and exciting ways? It is this “training” rather than just teaching that I have found is the most effective way to energize and equip disciples to boldly share Christ not just on the streets, but at work, class, with friends and family. I’m convinced that when Jesus said “Go!” He knew that would make us grow. I will be prayerfully seeking God as to how I can best serve my home church and the local churches in Raleigh by training and equipping Christians of all types to actively share Christ. I long to see God raise up a new generation of on-fire soldiers for Christ, who are not just unashamed of the Gospel, but able to present it and defend it with great courage, compassion and clarity.
Well, there you have it. Preach the Gospel, Partner with the Local Church and Prepare Christians to share and defend their Faith. Is this something new and revolutionary? Nope. This is the same old thing Jesus has been doing in His Church since the very beginning. I’m just thankful to be a part of it, have a calling to it, and a passion for it. I can honestly say that this is truly my heart’s desire and dream. “Delight yourself also in the Lord and He will give you the desires of your heart.” -Psalm 37:4
After presenting this vision and mission to my pastor and the elders of my home church they were overwhelmingly supportive and encouraging. They have prayerfully committed to providing me with accountability on all levels: Spiritual, Marital, Family, Financial, Personal, and Ministerial. My home Church, “Garner Christian Fellowship” has offered to take me on as a “local missionary evangelist” and receive tax deductable donations for the ministry. I am so grateful for our local church, and I’m convinced now, more than ever that the local church is the best place to conceive a ministry, nurture it in the womb of the local Body of Christ, and if God wills for it to grow and become its own independent ministry identity then it can be birthed into the world with love and support and accountability. Should the ministry fail to grow and “miscarry”, I’m also convinced that a good local church is still the safest place to fail, heal and get back up pursuing God with your gifts and life. Thanks be to God who always leads us in triumph in Christ Jesus and works all things together for good to those who love Him!
So, this Fall and Winter here is an idea of what I’ll be doing:
I’ll be preaching, passing out tracts, talking one on one with people weekly at UNC Chapel Hill, North Carolina State University, Downtown and at various local events here in Raleigh. I will be meeting with college students personally for follow-up discipleship and also mentoring other preachers in open air preaching and evangelism. I will be outside the abortion clinics some mornings pleading with those who are about to abort their children, offering hope for them and their child as well as training other believers in how they can minister at the abortion clinics. Friday nights I will be training a group of youth in evangelism and taking them to the streets that night. I will be taking my family downtown to pass out tracts and minister to people at the bus stop and local park. I will be networking with local churches in Raleigh and college campus ministries to help facilitate follow up for those God touches through the evangelism ministries. I will be actively connected and serving in my home church as needs arise. Basically, I’m doing missionary work in America, and I love it!
That’s it. That’s the end. So now’s the time where I ask you if you want to partner with us financially, right? Nope. Now is when I beg you to keep us in prayer, that God would move through the public proclamation of the Gospel, that people would get saved, that Christians would be encouraged and trained, that babies would be saved from abortion, that God would raise up new laborers for the harvest fields of souls and babies, and that God would continue to make a way for us to boldly preach Christ while “freedom of speech” is a present reality and not a fading memory! Please pray for us!
If you want me to include you in my “preaching prayer team” text, please text me @ 17022752817 and I will text you before a preaching ministry begins. I personally experience and see the power of those prayers!
You can also email me at: firstname.lastname@example.org
Eventually we hope to have a website for the ministry, but until then I will continue to provide more ministry updates and encouragements through our current family blog @ www.StephensFamilyNC.Blogspot.com and Google+. We’ll start there and see what happens. I’m also hoping Angela will post a few blogs about how God continues to use her.
If you do want to help support financially, you can give a tax deductable donation to the ministry through our local church here in Garner.
Make Check out to:
Garner Christian Fellowship
P.O. Box 744
Garner, NC 27529
You can place a piece of paper in the envelope with our name on it, “The Stephens Family”, or you can write “Evangelism/Outreach” in the memo section of the check. All the money is guaranteed to go directly to this ministry, and the church will provide you with the tax receipt at the end of the year. They’ll let us know who gives so we can get you a “Thank You card.” We greatly appreciate any donation and prayer!
If you have any questions you’d like to ask our local church and its leadership about us you can email them at:
Thanks again for taking the time to read this. We would not be able to take this step of faith without the loving support of our friends, family and the Body of Christ! God is good!
Living in Time, For Eternity!
The Stephens Family