An Open Door - The History of the Potter's House Christian Fellowship
Things began to move into high gear. The die was cast. Mitchell had been looking
all of his life for the key to what he felt God wanted to do. Many parts of the
puzzle began to fit into place, and now he'd seen what he knew he'd been looking
for; something more than just coffee shops and Jesus bands (he knew that they
would pass away like other methods had). It was seeing the unorthodox approach
of taking the gospel out of the four walls that had set him free that day. In
the future he would make the ones who had come before him seem mellow, as he
used every avenue imaginable to bring a public viewing of the
Mitchell was irrevocably committed to bringing the gospel message to his world. From that point, everything his church did was judged in the light of Jesus' command, "Go ye into all the world and make disciples."
While others emphasized fellowship, money, music, programs, etc., Mitchell narrowed in on souls. Like a man dying of thirst that sees a glass of water, he could not be turned away. While others simply talked about winning the lost, Mitchell did it. He dropped all the meaningless programs that interfered with this goal and hit the streets. This was the secret to Prescott's growth.
Prescott was a great city for outreach. Right in the middle of town was a
picturesque park that drew all the druggies and airheads in the area. In
addition, several times a year tourists would flock to the city for parades,
rodeos, and to look at the knick-knacks for sale in booths around the park.
Mitchell knew that the key was to get outside the building. The church rented some equipment from a local rock promoter and began to hold some concerts. Their first efforts were far from professional. The only equipment they could afford was junk, but even so the equipment was often better than the groups.
They had a park outreach where they mimeographed some crummy looking flyers. Half of the band weren't even saved, but they owned necessary pieces of equipment so a little compromise was in order. As the guys began to play and share at that first outreach, someone came running up begging to know who was in control. Mitchell told him that he was, and the man pleaded with him to stop. He told Mitchell that he was part of a prayer group that was being disturbed by the public address system.
Mitchell asked, "What were you praying about?" "We're praying for revival in Prescott." Mitchell slapped him on the back and told him, "You can stop praying! We're the answer to your prayers!"
More and more young people began drifting in. A rock band had gotten saved and
the church was growing rapidly when Reed came for the meeting he'd promised to
hold. Reed had to borrow a car just to get there, and the four girls he brought
with him were not exactly dainty flowers of religiosity; they were
ex-prostitutes and ex-junkies. One of the girls was a three hundred pound mama
who was due back to Los Angeles the next week to appear in court for knocking
out a six foot policeman. As they drove up to Mitchell's house and saw him, one girl
let out a gasp and said, "Check him out! Are you sure you heard from God?" These
California girls were not prepared for Mitchell arrayed in the latest
Prescottonian attire. He came running out to meet them in a pink short sleeve
shirt with a skinny little green tie. His pair of green stovepipe pants
lifted just high enough to reveal a pair of pink socks that finished off the
ensemble. In those early days the young people weren't exactly drawn to Mitchell
as a fashion plate wearing the latest style. They had to overlook the look and
allow God to bring together what the world would say was an impossible
Mitchell never gave Reed and the girls a chance to rest. He hopped in the car and took them straight out to the Fair. For years the church had occupied a booth selling tacos at the llivapai County Fair. Reed wasn't the type to just stand and pass tracts, let alone sell tacos. Reed used one method: rock the boat. Like Paul of old, Reed figured a good riot always drew a crowd. There, among the Boy Scouts of America, the Rotary Club, and the flower show, Reed jumped up on a table and started belting out the old time gospel. His shout filled the arena, "You must be born again!"
A huge giant of a man materialized out of the crowd and said, "Preacher, I don't like you, and I don't like what you're saying."
Reed, though, was under the influence of the Holy Ghost and ready to fight lions or giants. He cried out, "Devil, get behind me in the name of Jesus!" and just kept right on preaching.
Ron Jones had come along and was going wild as he watched all of this. When people started praying to get saved, Jones knew he had to come back later and try the same thing.
The next day, at the fair, Jones and two new converts from the church launched their attack on sin. With cat-like balance Jones perched himself on a wobbling card table and started preaching. It might have gotten him an "F" in a homiletics class, but it was an "A +" display of zeal.
"You must believe in Jesus Christ today as your Lord and Saviour, friend of mine," he shouted to a growing crowd. "You can't get into Heaven in your new car. You can't work your way in. Joining a church won't do any good and you can forget about that dope and booze. You can only enter those blessed gates through the atoning blood of Jesus Christ."
Adrenaline was pumping, and Jones knew he'd discovered his destiny. He also found out how a young Christian who never did anything wrong could get thrown in jail. As he was really starting to cook, he spotted a large man with "Yavapai County" embroidered on his jacket, wearing a paper arm band saying, "Fair Official". This man was desperately pushing through the crowd yelling, "Stop, stop!"
Jones stiffened and said, "No sir! I came to preach the gospel and that's what I'm going to do. Our church rented the booth, and preaching is what churches do."
Though some in the crowd were with Jones, the official was enraged. He returned in seconds with two deputies. "That's it", said one of the lawmen. "You'll have to come with us." Before he could react, Ron and his friends were being dragged towards the patrol car and a waiting cell.
When Ron's father, Joe Jones, heard about this, he shut his barber shop down and headed for the fair. With a deadly serious scowl on his face and a Bible under his arm, he leaped up onto the table at the fair booth and "let 'em have it." "Woe unto you, Scribes, Pharisees, hypocrites! For ye shut up the Kingdom of Heaven against men!" He flew into a storm of preaching rarely witnessed by fair goers. For about ten minutes he blasted every force-Satan, deputies and fair officials-that might stand in the way of a gospel preacher.
If the city thought they had solved the problem by putting Ron and the others in jail, they were sadly mistaken. Mitchell was a born fighter and he let the city know, in no uncertain terms, that they had better back down, surrender and stop, or lawsuits, marches, and whatever else he could think of would splatter City Hall. He told them, "Who do you think you are? I'll give you one hour to drop the charges." In less than an hour they were dropped, and the prisoners released.
The evening papers carried the story, front page with pictures. The news flew through that little town and in the service that evening there were people everywhere. That old church building nearly collapsed as people packed in.
Reed was so pumped up that he never seemed to stand still, and the floor was visibly moving in the excitement of the song service and praise. Mitchell didn't know if the building would survive the revival, but who cared? God was moving. During that service 85 people got saved and the church attendance that week leaped from 75 to 250.
Mitchell knew that this wasn't the result of his talent or programs. It had been
an act of God and not something that could be duplicated or manipulated. Others
would try, in the future, to duplicate the feat by getting arrested only to find
that it wasn't the same for their city as it was for Prescott. The Prescott
revival was never the result of some new method, but was merely a releasing of
the Holy Spirit at God's chosen time. It was the beginning of the fulfillment of
God's plan, promised years before when Mitchell was a new convert. The impact of
that revival, though, would reach out like waves on a lake after a rock is
thrown in. There wasn't any plan then, and there still isn't. There was only a
man ready to respond to God's moving. Mitchell had wept for revival and learned
how precious it was. God knew that He could trust him to be used as a lightning
rod-a channel for His purposes.
From that point, drug addicts, hippies, outcasts, and misfits began streaming into the church. Probably the greatest miracle was that the handful of old line denominational people who started with Mitchell opened their arms and loved those that God brought in. Mitchell had preached a sermon about acceptance and they proved that they believed it.
Many of these kids had been rejected by other churches, but now they found acceptance. Kurt McKinney had seen one of his best friends get saved, and this friend's commitment had broken up their rock and roll band. He was upset and took it out on himself by eating all the dope he could get his hands on. He felt like God was trying to ruin his life and when anyone tried to witness to him he ran. It was like a grade B thriller with him being chased through the streets and alleys of Pres cott by new zealous converts. He finally decided he'd better give Christ a try, but one thing was sure, he was just enough of a rebel to make sure he went to a different church than the others attended.
He dropped in on another Pentecostal church there in town. As he entered the sanctuary, one of the ushers told him, "We'd appreciate it if you would sit out here in the foyer on a folding chair." It took a minute for the insult to sink in. When it did, he leaped up and went out cursing and yelling at them and their Christianity.
Almost everyone of those early, key converts had this kind of experience somewhere. The churches didn't know what to do when young people came in with long hair and ragged clothes, but Mitchell did. McKinney finally broke down and went to the Potter's House. He looked the same, but their reception was totally different. Sister Burgess, a little lady in her 80's, had no idea where these kids were coming from, but she simply loved them. She was the first to see McKinney. She walked over and said, ''I'm glad you're here." That changed his life. For the first time he was accepted, and the change in him was unbelievable. One day he was playing Led Zeppelin, and the next he was singing, "Peace, peace, wonderful peace!"
After Reed left Prescott, the church did their first concert in the Boys' Club.
Since this was a local meeting place it became a great location for outreaches.
The church was located in an old building on Lincoln Street. They looked around
for another building to hold a coffee house in, but couldn't find anything that
they could afford. It was obvious that if they could get out of the church more
kids would come. Until then they did what they could.
Mitchell had invited Don Matison to come out when they had met in La Habre. Mitchell had seen all of the equipment they had in the coffee house and assumed that they would bring it with them. He was shocked when Matison showed up with a couple of acoustic guitar players and not an ounce of equipment. At the last minute they threw some stuff together.
Someone had asked a folk singer from the local college to open the concert, and it was soon obvious he wasn't even saved. Another musician spent his breaks bumming cigarettes off people in the crowd as Mitchell watched in despair. The whole thing stunk, but it didn't matter; at the altar call, kids came forward in droves. Mitchell has never been tempted to think that all this revival was the result of his great talent, because he remembers too well the awful things that God was forced to work with.
At another concert a woman in the church and her daughter gave a horrible performance on the guitar, and a band played. At the end of this monstrous program, the guy in charge got up, panicked, and gave the worst altar call in history. People came forward, though, and Mitchell came up and took over. He felt God moving, and just kept asking people to come, over and over and over. Even when no one came he kept them singing and said, "Someone is here that God wants to save. You need to respond."
Someone was there. It was Hank Houghton. After Mitchell had gone on for several
minutes, Houghton said to himself, "If he asks one more time I'll go up."
Mitchell did, and Houghton didn't. Houghton was a born procrastinator, and it
was only through Mitchell's diligence and God's insistence that he finally
Houghton is one of Prescott's most unique converts, but also one of its best preachers. The only normal thing about him was the home he had been raised in. At twelve years old he suffered a horrible accident that scarred him for life and killed his brother. They were making a radio and stringing up a wire to use as an antenna. They threw the wire across what they thought was a phone line only to find it was an active power line that like a serpent striking hit them with thousands of volts of electricity. The power arched across the gap that separated them. His brother was instantly killed. Houghton himself barely survived. He lost a finger, which gave him a distinctive handshake and an unavoidable impact as he preached, pointing a claw-like hand at those listening. More distinctive than all of this, though, was the hairstyle he was left with. Most of his hair never grew back, and he had the Krishna look well before it was the in style.
Houghton became possessed by rebellion and hate. He was an uncontrollable force, and the older he got the more intense his hatred grew. Even his mother, who was a social worker, was unable to break through and communicate with him. He earned a reputation at school as being bad, and the kids left him alone because when he lost it; he went crazy.
He was kicked out of school after school for causing trouble, until he finally ended up in a boys' home in Azusa, California. Here the corrupt encouraged the corrupt, and he hardened more and more into a criminal mold. As a kid he had tried Christianity and had felt nothing. Every encounter only confirmed to him that Christians were jerks. At the boy's home, one group of Christians came dressed like clowns to show Jesus to these troubled kids. Houghton sat in the back making vulgar comments all through the show. He felt that Jesus must have been a nice guy, but he seemed like a real sucker to allow people like these to use His name.
Houghton was thrown out of the school for beating up two of the teachers and tried to commit suicide. His parents, moved to Chicago, and the change helped. He got out on his own by selling shoes and was liked by the boss. In 1968, he pulled strings and though he was a drop out he entered Chicago City College.
He tried to change at the wrong time in American history. It was an age of revolution, and the campuses were alive with rebellion. Marches were everywhere and the chant was "off the pigs". This was what Houghton was born for. As he listened to Jimi Hendrix's acid rock and Jefferson Airplane's lyrics about the beauty of drugs, he knew he'd found his religion.
He immediately began to hang out with the radical crowd at school. He began to write for the school newspaper, and with the help of others turned it into a radical journal. A friend turned him on to drugs and he thought he'd found the answer to life. He figured that real truth was in drugs and dropped out of school because it interfered with his search for the ultimate high. At about this time he drifted into Prescott, Arizona. He became a purveyor of cosmic consciousness and a local celebrity when he opened the city's first "head shop".
Houghton was a horrible capitalist, and though he sold a lot of drug paraphernalia and even drugs (from the back room), he always used up more merchandise than he sold. At first drugs mellowed him out, but not for long. He was soon known as the meanest person in Prescott. He sold the shop and moved out to the woods to devote himself to full-time "tripping". The drugs started to take their awful effect. He lost track of reality and even of himself. He became convinced that he was from another planet. He knew that he couldn't relate to the rest of humanity, and he could see that the world was a "slime pit" that wasn't worth the effort to destroy, so he spent his time hoping that a rocket would swoop down and pick him up so that he could get out of all the insanity.
He felt he couldn't trust people, so he started confiding only to his dog, but even he let him down when he used his car as a rest room. Then he had a timely encounter with a real Christian. This shook Houghton to the core and caused him to begin to search. At the parties, in between hits on a joint, he would ask who Christ was, but no one seemed to have any answers.
He knew the guys who were playing in the band that night at the Jesus People concert. He wanted to see what they had. Even more important was to prove to a girl he liked that he was open minded about these Christian's God. He not only saw what they had, but caught it.
The emptiness was filled. Houghton started coming to church. He still wasn't normal (even today he probably wouldn't fit the title), and when he came, he and his dog sat on the floor at the front. He frightened some with his baggy army jacket, bushy beard, and few long strands of hair on top of his head. He still had trouble not arguing or slipping into colourful language that turned the air blue, but he was changed.
Hank Houghton wasn't persuaded because of an intellectual argument. He wasn't convinced about the resurrection or hyped by a high powered sales pitch. What got Houghton was God touched him and did a work of extreme grace in his life.
Mitchell finally found a building for a coffee house. It was 17 feet wide, 35
feet long, and cost $85 a month (which, at that time, was a giant leap of faith
to pay). Revival was ready to roll. The members of the band, Eden, had gotten
saved and changed a few of the lyrics in their heavy rock music, they screamed
the gospel over the pound of the beat. It was fabulous. Twice a night, Friday
and Saturday, the coffeehouse would be packed out, with 7-15 people getting
saved each night.
God was so real in those early concerts that you could say almost anything and people would respond. It was the time of Woodstock, and any kind of rock music drew people like a magnet. Eden had been one of the best secular groups in Arizona, and now the kids loved to hear them "jam" for Christ. It wasn't uncommon to hear some guy in the crowd telling a friend, "When the music ends, you need to go up to the front and let them pray for you! You'll get a really great rush!"
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