An Open Door - The History of the Potter's House Christian Fellowship
The fourteen month stay in
The church had never been able to pay the salary of a pastor. For over a month he preached on tithing and finances and saw the spirit of poverty broken. There was never another problem in that church with finances. Not only did he see this release the church in money matters, but more importantly, it released something in the congregation's spirit. Here was a truth that had impact for the world. A major block to revival was simply the covetousness of people in the church. Their fear of giving stopped a flow of grace. Faith and giving are interlocked. One can't exist without the other, yet most pastors were scared to even approach this sensitive subject. When it came to truth, though, Mitchell had the sensitivity of a Mack truck doing 80 mph. For Mitchell this was a law of spiritual nature. From that point on, whenever he took a church, it was only a few weeks until he began to push praise and giving. Even when he went to other nations, he knew that only liberality and worship could tear down the fortress of mammon, regardless of how poor the people were.
Another event took place
in Emmett that would affect hundreds of future ministers. Dick Mills had come
for revival. Though the meeting was good, the most important thing that happened
was the opening of a whole new world of study to Mitchell. Years had been spent
in college without ever hearing of the most basic tools for study. Mills had
been discovering for himself all the rich meaning hidden in the words and
language of scripture. He took a special offering to buy Mitchell a Strong's
Concordance, Vine's New 'Testament Word Study, A
In revival meetings that followed, these two men began to really look at the meaning of words together. Mitchell had always studied and read extensively, but now he began to really become a student of the Word. His time released by the small size of the community and the church, he saturated himself in scripture and filled his spirit with a tremendous reservoir of truth that he would draw from in God's time.
Through this was laid an unshakable foundation of doctrine and key Bible truths. He came to a point where he could honestly say his beliefs were not because of what a denomination had taught him but because the Bible and the Holy Spirit had taught him.
If only one word were allowed to describe Mitchell it would be "preacher". In the resonance of his message there is a chord struck that speaks to hungry hearts. It's not just in the words or the thoughts that are expressed. They are not always revolutionary or put into the latest phraseology, but when he speaks the Holy Spirit causes his words to connect straight with the heart. Something about him makes it impossible to ignore his message. It must be received or rejected. No matter how nice he tries to be, if someone's not excited about God, the force and delivery of his sermons ruin any attempt at diplomacy. While others attuned themselves to the spirit of the times and delivered a low key talk from a stool, Mitchell learned how to thunder. He knew that he wasn't called to share a low commitment message, but "to reprove, rebuke and exhort, in season and out of season".
Emmett brought preaching into the forefront of his ministry. It happened almost by accident. He always had enjoyed study and worked hard at the Wednesday night Bible studies, yet with all of his effort these traditional religious affairs refused to come alive. One week he decided to do something different. He preached. Up until this time there had been a minimal response, but when he began to preach there was an immediate reaction. Within weeks the attendance had quadrupled, and he discovered that if a man will preach people will come to hear him.
The church was doing well. Attendance was around 125 with many more than that in Sunday school. These were days when a church of that size would put you on the map. It was self supporting and the office of divisional superintendent was tied to it, yet Mitchell felt the need to move to an area of greater potential. He was discouraged with the smallness of the town and wanted to find a place where his life could count.
He didn't want a large church as much as he wanted to find a place where there was a building that could be grown into so he could avoid a massive and draining building campaign. He started looking around. He tried to get others who had small works and wanted financial security to trade churches with him. He scouted cities and tried to work through the denomination. He even looked at pioneering but there was no financial support available in those days. Finally he called the district supervisor and told him that he had resigned that morning and he had better send in another man.
When asked what he wanted
to do, Mitchell said he didn't know. The supervisor pointed him towards
Mitchell agreed to go but made it clear he wouldn't stay. He had been to the church before and it was exactly what he wasn't looking for. The building looked as if it had been built by a madman. It consisted of a maze of strange and useless little rooms and it couldn't hold more than 72 people. Added to this was a crummy little parsonage stuck onto the back of the building and a dilapidated store building that added a final touch of uselessness to the whole affair.
The preacher who had built this had been there for 12 years and had felt that his one mission in life was to convince these people that they were never meant to have over 50 people and that God especially didn't want the gifts of the Spirit to operate there. A rangy group of about 18 die hards were anchored in the church and ready to defend their vision (or lack of it, depending upon your perspective).
Immediately upon arriving, Mitchell began to establish the principles that God had started to show him. In the first weeks he preached on praise, and (miracle of miracles) the people actually began to lift their hands and praise!
Breakthroughs never come without a fight. On a beautiful Sunday morning, when it looked like everything was going great, the battle began to rage. There weren't twenty people in the church at the time including the Mitchells (by then rather substantial family). For the first time those few people had begun to really praise. Mitchell couldn't help but notice that there was one little lady who wasn't joining in. He felt moved upon to encourage her. He soon realized, though, that it was like encouraging an ant hill with a stick of dynamite. The woman was a 73 year old retired Pentecostal preacher, and she was enraged that Mitchell would dare to insinuate that she wasn't spiritual.
She left the service in a huff and didn't come for the next three weeks. Like a spider spinning and manipulating its web she went into action. Word Soon came back that she was mad. Figuring that there were few enough as it was, he decided to try and go smooth the thing out, and went visiting to appease her wounded dignity.
It was a lesson that he would never forget. Many pastors expend tremendous energy trying to keep people that God's trying to run off. About six months after she returned, and right in the middle of a tremendous revival, she led a split that hurt the church badly. It taught Mitchell that periodically, every healthy body needs a healthy elimination. It caused him to view traditional follow-up programs differently than most pastors.
From the day Mitchell
stepped through the doors in
Even as a young man, he had seen the tremendous benefit that could come from an authentic gift ministry. Several times he had gone to the great tent meetings of Branham and A.A. Allen. Although Mitchell didn't get into the circus atmosphere and run the aisles or let out banshee screams, it was obvious that the whole Phoenix valley was being stirred as thousands came and were held captive by the moving of the Spirit. These were things that challenged him as a young man, and he wasn't willing to jump on the bandwagon of attack just because of excesses in these men's lives. There were real problems in the lives of some of the great latter-rain evangelists, but when the flesh and mistakes were stripped away Mitchell saw a biblical tool of great value to building the church. He intended to use them at every opportunity.
In Bible college, Mitchell
had become a close friend with Johnny Metzler. In many ways, they were a Mutt
and Jeff combination. Mitchell, who was never caught up in the flash of
ministry, had been the meat-and-potatoes man, whereas Johnny was given to
flamboyance. Centering his ministry around
Metzler was scheduled to
Wars are powerful events
that hold captive the imaginations of men. The sounds of battle, the screams of
the dying and the pageantry of victory move men in every nation and land, but
the greatest battles are seldom fought in the public arena. It's on the small
and obscure plane of everyday life that a man fights or quits. How much easier
it is to fight a visible, obvious enemy than our own fears or the people in the
church, who we came to help. Paul spoke of battle more than many generals, yet
never held a gun or spear. In small groups across the face of
The revival in
In the midst of all of this, one of the deacons had the nerve to come up and say that he didn't believe he had ever seen a real miracle. Mitchell was stunned. The man had been sitting on the front row the night before when a young boy's leg had grown out three inches right in front of his eyes. He asked this man, "Didn't you see that leg grow?"
The man could only say, "I don't know if I did or not." It was this kind of blindness that disgusted Mitchell. These dead saints had lost the ability to see the hand of a living God. Then in the middle of the meeting Metzler took an offering and the old hands became enraged. The rebels arrived to confront their pastor, supposedly concerned that the offering would run sinners off. All Mitchell could think of was low insane this was. Here were people who had never seen a sinner saved. Now they were seeing them come in in droves, and all they could contribute was whining.
The fruit of the previous pastor's ranting was about to be stillborn.
To these people the packed building was somehow a betrayal of their "hold on 'till the rapture" mentality. The final blow fell when Metzler called out the piano player and prophesied of God's blessing on her life, and of how she was going to be a key part of that congregation.
A few weeks after the
Mitchells arrived, this woman had joined the church. She was a talented piano
player. Wayman saw this as the hand of God and had her playing. What he didn't
realize was that she had just come from a split in a
Mitchell was in a church that he didn't want, in a city he didn't want to be in, with a hassle that had come out of others' spiritual insanity. The obvious course was to leave, but Mitchell had determined to never take that way out of a problem again.
When the Mitchells had
It turned out to be a blessing in disguise. It drove Mitchell to his knees. He had prayed regularly before, but something about this took him to a new level of grace. From that point on, prayer was never the same.
Up until this time Mitchell had ridden the denominational trail, biding his time, playing by the rules, and waiting for the promotion that would bring a larger church. He knew now that this was a fairy tale. He was not a politician and couldn't even play the role. To those in the organization he was a hick who would never fill their preconceived notions of what a leader was supposed to be.
It was just as well that they believed this. If he had ever been given a regular church it would have been like mixing dynamite with fire. He knew that the cause of dead churches was the old duffers who had hardened hearts. He would have split any normal, "status quo" church wide open.
The truth freed him. He had no reason to just go along with tradition. His perspective had changed and he felt no obligation to please the powers that were. He began to think the unthinkable. Maybe the way things had been done for years and years, was not the best approach.
In Emmett, he had tried to
get different young men to come from the
The whole institution began to upset him. Camps were fine but they definitely were not the cure-all that demanded the time and energy they absorbed. Sure the kids went off to summer camps in the mountains and tremendous numbers made commitments to Christ, but a month later things were back to their carnal, normal routine. Sunday school also lost its romance. Though he would always believe it had a valid place, it began to fall into its proper perspective. Even missions (which he had always sacrificed to support) he now realized were contaminated by the touch of death that worked throughout the system. It was all built more on the world and politics than on the Spirit.
The most heartbreaking
discovery was the complete lack of help for struggling young pastors. With the
Nothing angered Mitchell more than a system that would invest in property instead of people. He vowed to God that if he ever had the resources he would do everything that he could to help beginning pastors. Mitchell had wasted many valuable years just trying to learn the basics, because so few had cared to help. It hurt, and he vowed to do all he could to remedy the problem.
If he needed any final
proof of the organization's true intentions, it was soon to come. When he was
looking to move from Emmett, God had stirred him about
When Mitchell left
It was then that he got a
call offering him the
Though he was disgusted, he had nowhere else to turn. His wife had grown tired of all the moves, so they struck a deal. They would go out to her mom's for Christmas, and while there, they would drive up and see how the church felt.
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