An Open Door - The History of the Potter's House Christian Fellowship
It was the life that filled these new
converts that radically changed Wayman Mitchell's ministry. God had been leading
him from his early days to believe that the Word could be applied more
dynamically than he'd seen in the do-nothing Christianity of most churches. He
was tired of complacent pew sitters and hungered to turn the church into an
advancing army; a flame of fire spreading out into a world filled with the dry
stubble of sin.
Though this desire consumed him, he had been unable to pass it on in his previous churches. They had been filled with people who had been raised in church and were conditioned to hear only what they wanted to hear. They had been inoculated against a healthy dose of the gospel. The growth that he had seen up until Prescott was primarily from people transferring from other churches, people willing to go only so far. What was happening now, with the new converts who were flooding the church, would change all of this.
Jesus had also had trouble with the religiously satisfied of His day. They had seen no need to go all out, but the prostitute and the sinner were ready to give a full measure of love.
Those converts coming into the Potter's House were responsive. Many had done drugs in their search for a real experience and were used to doing radical and outrageous things. Most had no background in Christianity, so for them, what Mitchell said went. Once they had a taste of the power of the Holy Spirit they were hooked and wanted more. Many of them had tasted every type of sin and perversion, so a one hour commitment on Sunday would never satisfy them. They wanted a Christianity as intense as their past lives had been, and nothing short of a full time commitment would do. Out of this rose a church with a unique character.
Mitchell had stressed praise in every church
he had pastored. He believed that it held keys to spiritual deliverance and
release, but until now the best that he could do was to get a few folks to lift
their hands and let out a little feeble worship. These young kids had been
raised on a rock concert diet. They knew how to praise, and when they turned
that praise toward God it nearly took the roof off. In fact he had to preach
occasionally on not being too wild, or some would have gotten totally out of
control. No harmonious blending of voices was this, but a dynamic, masculine
explosion of worship. Mitchell was a man and he wanted the praise to be bold and
Men praise men with reckless abandon at football games and then clam up in a church service when they're asked to praise God. They say they're "not that kind of person," but what they mean is that they don't want to humble themselves before God. They fail to realize that when a man lifts his hands and voice to God, his life is put in right order.
Most of Christianity has been unconsciously
dominated by the female. Women have traditionally made up the largest numbers of
converts. Sadly, this has shaped a gospel that is heavily feminine in its
orientation. The songs are sung in a key too high for men to sing easily, the
praise is gentle and saccharine sweet, and the gospel message leans toward
submission and winning the lost by a non-demanding love. To men this is often
revolting, and most can only be dragged into these sugar factories by force.
As the seventies rolled in, most churches felt great pressure to lean towards an even stronger emphasis on women. The women's liberation movement was in full swing, and many churches were trying desperately to change the gospel's clear cut definition of male and female roles to fit the world of the '70's.
Mitchell saw all this as a terrible mistake. He had been saved under a woman preacher and knew that God could use women if men wouldn't respond, but he'd seen the problems in their homes and churches too. The Bible was clear and he would stand with it. Many women followed Jesus, but none of these were chosen to be part of the leadership of the church. Nothing in the Bible indicated that the New Testament church got four women saved for every man.
The problem boiled down to a sin problem. As the nation had turned away from the Word, its natural rebellion led it to violate scriptural command. Men shirked their responsibility to lead as a spiritual priesthood and supply the family's physical needs. While women rebelled against the scriptural demand of submission.
Mitchell saw unscriptural tendencies creeping into the church and dared to stand against the tide. Many a raging feminist would be infuriated, only to come back later and thank him for restoring her femininity and helping her to break with the propaganda that had bred only frustration.
Mitchell is all man, and this affects all he does as a pastor. The gospel to him is, "the Kingdom suffering violence and the violent taking it by force." He preaches love, but it's a love that shows Jesus with a whip in the temple as well as playing with little children.
The Prescott church learned to sing songs sung in a masculine key and the praise rings with a violence that can offend the tender sensibilities of some. Yet the fact was that the church began to fill up with men who thrived on the atmosphere and found their prideful egos shattered as they stood and worshipped a living God in a full, masculine way. Many men who had been previously satisfied to be shiftless bums developed new attitudes. They began to take their place in society, and surprisingly turned out to be hard workers. They became real leaders, vehicles that God could finally use.
Nothing separates the Prescott church from
most of Christianity more than its commitment to prayer. The church world loves
to talk about prayer's power but then does nothing about it. Most pastors pray
only a few minutes a day, and for those in the congregation the amount of time
given to this spiritual exercise comes to virtually nothing. The priority in
Prescott is actually praying.
Mitchell preached and practiced prayer all through his ministry. It seemed to be something his people expected of him as a pastor, but not of themselves.
The young converts coming into the Potter's House didn't know enough to realize that Christians didn't pray. When Larry Reed came for revival, prayer meetings were scheduled before' the services. Crowds showed up and shook the rafters as they pleaded for God to move. They prayed in the same urgent way that they praised. This type of prayer released many as they came together with others, lifting their voice to plead for God's touch. This was no round robin conversational talking, but "a sound of many waters."
Jesus had said not to pray publically, but the church world had overlooked the fact that He had said it to the Pharisees who prayed only for show. They mistakenly regarded all verbalized group prayer as wrong. The early church, though, gathered daily to pray, and often several times a day they came together and were recorded to have shook buildings with their fervency. Today, Jews at the wailing wall in Jerusalem show us the pattern as they rock back and forth pleading for God to move. Jesus separated Himself, going out into the wilderness to pray. Why would He do this if He silently sent His thoughts to God? How could His prayers have been recorded in the Bible if they weren't spoken out? The Bible rings with the command to "Shout unto God with the voice of triumph," and these young people were freed to do just that. Some kneeling, others pacing the floor, they began to pray. Seeing God move in response to their prayers just fed their desire for more.
Since the revival with Reed every church service has started with a one hour prayer meeting. At first a morning prayer meeting was scheduled at 10:30. It was changed later to 7:00 so that more men could come before going to work. The church is literally bathed in prayer as every day (and sometimes twice a day) people come and bombard heaven. Several speakers who have come to minister have stopped in shock as they passed by the prayer room, captivated by the roar of the saints. "This is the reason for revival," they say, and they are partially right.
In a world that runs on money, works for
money, robs, fights, kidnaps, and even dies for money, it is sad that the
church is sometimes too afraid to even mention it. Too many Christians have no
problem praising God but something nasty rises up when they're asked to put
their money where their mouth is. The parables of Christ are dominated by
this theme, and in the Old Testament there is no worship or redemption outside
the sacrifice of giving. From the building of the tabernacle to the establishing
of the New Testament church, the giving of God's people has been .fundamental to
every moving of God.
America has drifted into a secular mold not just to deny God, but to worship "new" gods, which are actually only the old gods of lust and mammon. Their power can only be broken by a direct attack on this stronghold.
Mitchell had lived a life of sacrificial giving and had no qualms about taking offerings. He knew that in an age dominated by materialism there could be no liberty in the church without giving. No one would believe Christianity was real until it was seen affecting people's pocketbooks.
For much of the church world, an upside-down system has developed that gives prestige to the preacher who has the most warm bodies filling the most pews. Since preaching on money has a tendency to run folks off, the obvious remedy is to play this part of worship down. People have learned to give for what they like and be miserly for everything else, so American Christianity is filled with people who rob God to buy their latest toys, and with beautiful buildings pastored by starving ministers.
The Prescott church was not built on numbers but on disciples. Mitchell was burned out on the numbers game and decided when he came to Prescott that he'd believe God to bring him loyal, committed people. How many came wasn't nearly as important to him as how many were obeying God. This emphasis weeded out the Christmas and Easter crowd, but built a militant core of people that was liberal in every area of their lives. Wayman knew that people needed to put their lives on the right foundation. Something in the fallen nature of man is healed when people give of the money they've earned through hard labor.
Another critical area is for God's people to
speak openly of their belief in Jesus Christ. Most churches are full of secret
agents. Mitchell emphasized the need to speak out and then opened up
opportunities to do just that.
The '70's were a time of outrageous attire and lifestyles, and the kids loved any gospel message that would stir up the city. American Christianity had drifted into appeasing the world, when its call originally was to be a light. Paul had started revival by unashamedly proclaiming Christ. The book of Acts reads like a tour of the Roman penal institutions. Paul started trouble everywhere he went, but he got the message out.
Prescott was marked by a commitment to press the claims of Christ "in season or out." It became a contest to think of some new way to display the gospel. The Fourth of July became a time to spend in movies and street preaching, the whole affair culminating in the annual parade. The church always entered some float that declared a risen Saviour in the midst of marching bands, clowns, horses and majorettes.
Tied to this same principle was the unique
level of the people's commitment. In a good church in America, Sunday night
will see half the llumber of people who were in the morning service, and it's a
lucky church if half of the Sunday night crowd shows up for the mid-week praycr
meeting. This fact appears to be almost as dependable as the law or gravily. As
Mitchell preached and called for people to go all out, these young people
rallied and actually carne. They had spent six hous a day in front of a T. V.,
and many had been faithful to their local bar for several nights a week;
faithfulness to church seemed only natural. In fact, many wished they could go
more often. As this same spirit was picked up by each new convert it changed the
personality of the church. Not just in Prescott, but now in hundreds of churches
it's expected that the attendance at anyone service won't vary much from any
Mitchell believed and preached that each person was too vital to the Kingdom to be allowed to throw their life away on the world. He knew that if they didn't commit themselves to God they would be consumed with something else. All one needs to do is to look around and see how jogging, body building, hunting and video games dominate the lives of men. Women are not immune either. Some grow enough plants in their kitchens that Tarzan would feel comfortable swinging through and others become totally immersed in their families, current fashions, their careers or the occult. People naturally give themselves to something, and they were created to give their primary allegiance to God.
Mitchell believed that the church was the most vital organization on planet Earth, and that the people of God weren't fulfilling an empty duty, but doing Kingdom business when they came. How could they stay home watching "The Wonderful World of Disney" when the Lord of Creation was waiting to meet them? Destiny filled these people's hearts and they decided to "run to obtain."
There were lots of churches in Prescott that demanded next to nothing, and Mitchell felt no call to add to their number or compete in their religious games. He was determined that somewhere there would be a church that applied the gospel, and he planned on pastoring it. He made it clear (and still does) that the door swings both ways. If people didn't like it, they could go somewhere else.
Nowhere was this emphasized more than with
those who wanted to lead. No one signed pledges to come to every service, and no
hit squads threatened inquisitions on those who didn't come regularly. What was
demanded was that anyone that held a position of leadership had to be an
example. He had no intention of releasing a bunch of spiritual primadonnas.
In church, an attitude often develops that the new convert needs to be committed, but the old-timers are stronger, so they can slack off. In much of Christianity people lead Bible studies, sing, play in groups, and teach, yet are random in their commitment to actually gather with God's people. Mitchell had seen how this created a pattern of people starting out on fire and then becoming like those around them; dead, lifeless souls slipping into a religious mold. He knew that life's most powerful force was not teaching, but example. If a core of people set an example, then all those who came afterward would be like them.
He wanted nothing to do with a system that bred lethargy. If someone wanted to lead, they had to serve. The primary quality of leadership would be exampleship. A leader's life must be an exhibition of the gospel. To play in a group, preach or lead a Bible study meant they must come to church and live a consistent Christian life. Talented young men and women were often frustrated when they came to offer their services to Mitchell. He would just smile and say, "Learn to be faithful." If they couldn't do that then their talent was useless. It wasn't long before being appointed an usher was an honor that was fought for.
Out of this came a people who had weighed the price of being part of the church. Just by being together they forged strong family bonds, and because of this they wouldn't switch to the newest church in town or scatter when Satan attacked.
Businesses expect their employees to come to work if they want to be paid. The Army demands loyalty and obedience from their soldiers, clubs expel members who violate their rules, and Jesus Christ has never accepted a profession of love from anyone unless it has had a radical impact on their life.
America was growing soft. For many, the word "work" had become an obscenity. Many young people worked at not working. Mitchell challenged the young men and women to make their job their Bible school. God called workers to the harvest field.
Much of the church built into their people the tendency to try to get away with doing as little as possible. Many churches respond to this American mood by creating a gospel as convenient as instant pudding and T.V. dinners. Preachers told their flocks, "God doesn't want you to have a nervous breakdown, so take it easy." While some theologians and psychologists emphasized family, self, health and happiness, Mitchell placed his emphasis on Christ and His body of believers. It met a deep need in those that were looking for a real purpose in life. Focusing on one's own self could never bring real happiness; only self’s death could really free them.
Home |An Open Door |Healing Book| Blueprint From Heaven | Amazing Testimonies | Critics of CFM | Links|Webmaster |Contact | Audio Sermons |Disclaimer
You can become a Christian today