An Open Door - The History of the Potter's House Christian Fellowship
Christianity often gets
leadership and management confused. Nothing was more important to the
Mitchell led because he knew that God had called him to lead. He wasn't just filling a job, he was fulfilling a divine commission. The young men he sent out to pastor were marked by the same attitude.
In choosing men to minister, Mitchell wasn't interested in technicians. Word skills were meaningless to him compared to a willingness to believe and work. His prayer was for God to give him laborers for the harvest.
While the church world emphasized intellect, appearance, and finesse,
Abraham left the secure city to dwell in tents. The twelve disciples never fully understood their destiny until they were in it. Even David had trouble seeing how he'd reach the throne from the cave, but all hoped, trusted and followed. They held the unshakable conviction that God was guiding them as they prayed and moved out into the unknown and the uncharted.
This is how the critical ministries in the
Mitchell emphasized the basics. He preached, called for sacrifice and commitment, and pressed people to draw close to God. God then began to separate out the ones He'd use and told them what He wanted them to do.
It began to be obvious
that they were on the cutting edge of what God was doing; they were moving in a
direction that others in the church world weren't really interested in. Jesus
had warned that those that had tasted the old wine would not be interested in
the less smooth taste of the new. It was true 200 centuries later.
Mitchell had tapped into the Jesus People movement well before it reached the rest of
One of the first outreaches the church did was to Mitchell's old home church. Seventy-five people spent the day covering
That night the building was packed. Every type of individual imaginable showed up. They were dressed in all the colors of the rainbow.
The band went down to
Mitchell could see that what was bringing hundreds into the
The conflict between what God was doing and what the church world was doing stood out greatest at church camp. When Mitchell loaded up his wild crew and took them to camp, it was a disaster. Most of the kids there were from Christian homes and Mitchell's troops were straight off the streets. It was like arranging a nice social evening between the Ku Klux Klan and the Black Panthers.
The thing that devastated the
Somehow Hank Houghton had been appointed a counselor, and he terrorized these religious sinners. When he found guys in his group out smoking, he threatened to break their arms if they tried it again. These poor kids had never met anyone who had studied at the John the Baptist School of Church Discipline and Holiness before.
The kids from the Potter's House had come to do business with God, but they found a religious institution that was only geared to play games. The saddest part of the whole business was that because these kids still had long hair they were the ones who got harassed. No one would believe they were really Christians.
The church world was after a certain look. Their narrow definition of what was acceptable just wasn't flexible enough to deal with the fresh movings of God. As a result much of the church would be left behind, trying to attract people with gospel quartets while the world was moving to a stronger beat.
It wasn't always easy to flow with what was going on or see much hope in those who were coming in. They weren't exactly what the church world was looking for to add to its ranks. Many of these young people had picked up some bizarre and anti-social habits. Some had fried their minds on drugs and could hardly carry on a conversation, but as they patterned their lives after the Bible the fascinating result was kids who turned out to be the kind every pastor dreams of having. They soon began to adopt the very look and habits that the church had grown to expect. It took a redemptive heart, though, to bring them through the process of change.
Harold Warner was a good
picture of this. He had been raised in
It was at this time that he wandered into
He went to the Sunday night service and, though he couldn't remember anything that was said, it penetrated enough to get him up to the front praying for forgiveness. As he came back to his seat everyone was crying and hugging him, telling him how happy they were. He wasn't sure why they were doing it; he wasn't even sure what he'd done. He 62 hadn't had an overpowering experience, and didn't even have enough theology to quote John 3:16. In fact, he honestly didn't feel any different, but time would prove that it was real.
The same night they were having a baptism and Harold was asked if he wanted to join in. He hadn't brought a change of clothes, but said he'd go in naked if they didn't mind.
They turned his offer down and found him something to wear, and Warner started off on the Christian life. He remembers almost nothing of that first year because his mind was so blown from past use of drugs. It was hard to see great potential in him.
Sister Burgess, an 80 year old lady, took in this ex-drug addict and treated him like a son. Harold's main talent at the time was an ability to greatly exaggerate the truth. He spent a good part of his time expanding on his illustrious past to whoever would listen. The first memory he has of talking to Pastor Mitchell was at a Bible Study at the Payson's home. He was peppering his conversation with half-truths while Mitchell listened. It wasn't so much that he wanted to lie, it was just that he'd lied so much in the past he wasn't even sure what the truth was anymore.
One of his most crucial tests was when he realized that the girl he'd come to church for wasn't interested in being his Christian girlfriend. He had spent his life running. For the year before he'd gotten saved his parents hadn't even known where he was. Now, the spirit that cried, "
He started asking if there were any good churches back in
He decided, then, that it was time to cut his hair. He dropped in at the Jones' barbershop and faced the music. Joe Jones loved cutting those long brown locks, and sniped them down to a suitable length for employment. Up until this time Harold had not been very successful at anything, let alone employment. Under the influence of salvation there began to be a noticeable change.
Purpose began to enter his life. It showed first in his determination to witness. Not much of what went on the first year stayed with him, but one thing that did was the level of emotion that coursed through him when Mitchell preached on world evangelism. Something deep within cried out to be satisfied. Sitting in the front row during one of these sermons was like having his heart torn out. A burden for souls and a desire to reach them began to consume him. He was moved by the preaching in a way that he had never been before.
The job he finally landed was at a grocery store as a meat cutter. Many of his customers thought he was part Mexican because they heard him singing all the time in a strange language. Little did they know that it was a tongue that only angels could understand. A battle for souls began to be waged over those slabs of meat.
The store was owned by Mormons who weren't excited about their store becoming the conduit for souls into a Pentecostal church. He promised to stop witnessing, and then witnessed some more.
His East Coast aggressiveness would push through doors that weren't always open. He displayed this talent to Mitchell. Bashfulness was never one of Warner's strong points, and he made himself a regular fixture at the Mitchell home on
In constant contact with Pastor Mitchell's patience and concern, a dramatic change began to take place. More and more, Harold became a man who was set apart. A determination was born that awed others around him. He decided he would give his life 100%, and did it.
He learned to preach in the Door scene like a parrot of Mitchell. Their voices and deliveries even now are almost indistinguishable on tape. He looked for every possibility to be a witness. One day, while cutting meat, an idea hit him about writing a column in the local paper. He left work and went straight to Mitchell's house. He was excited as he told Mitchell about his idea of putting testimonies in the paper of lives that had been changed.
These were the things that Mitchell was looking for. Not plans that he had worked up, but ideas that were obviously generated by the Holy Ghost. He encouraged Harold and even suggested the name, "Metamorphosis," and a new ministry was born that impacted that small mountain community. More than that, a young man found a place of service and a dignity that began to release God's purpose for his life.
When Harold became engaged to Mona, he refused even to kiss her until the night before they got married. He had become a man who had absolutely no desire to play with his destiny.
This young man who had been headed towards obscurity or prison was changed into one of the most astounding preachers in the Southwest. He went on to pioneer a church that, in just ten years, numbers hundreds and has planted over twenty churches. Only an eye of faith and a heart of redemption could have seen beyond the pushy young braggart he had been when he had first entered the church.
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