“Pastor Danny handed out a survey to the congregation asking what they wanted to be involved in. There was no ‘do nothing’ option.”
The town of Slave Lake, Alta., gained international attention on July 6, 2011, when William and Kate, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, came to visit. Seven weeks earlier, a devastating wildfire had swept through the town destroying 40 per cent of its buildings and forcing all of its 7,000 residents to evacuate. Many left with nothing more than the clothes they were wearing. Asthe world watched these two representatives of an earthly kingdom tour the town, representatives of God’s kingdom were already present and at work within the community of Slave Lake. And seven years later, God is still using churches like Abundant Life Worship Centre (ALWC) to fulfil His kingdom’s mission and purposes in what has been called “The Jewel of the North.”
“It really is a normal church with normal people,” states lead pastor Danny Brown. “We don’t always have to agree on everything or always be right, but we do need to go forward with the same purpose.”
Danny Brown was a travelling evangelist who had lived in Slave Lake for 19 years. He was a congregant of ALWC before he became their lead pastor. The previous pastor had always supported the Browns’ ministry, so when that pastor announced he was leaving, Danny and his wife prayed that God would put someone in place who would also be supportive. Following a time of fasting and prayer, Danny felt God impressing him to submit his resume. The only problem was, Danny had never created a resume before. After having a laugh about this, his wife sent him a link on how to prepare a pastoral resume. The church voted him in after a six-month trial period.
“It’s been a steep learning curve,” says Danny. “I don’t miss travelling and I see this new direction as long-term evangelism. It’s rewarding to watch people grow and to love them through all the ups and downs of life. I realize that I don’t know everything, but there are a lot of people surrounding me who know what I don’t. The board and the elders have been hugely supportive, as has our district office. We are blessed to be a part of the PAOC, to have district office support, and to be part of their vision as they come alongside our vision.”
From the very beginning, Danny felt that unity was an important message for Abundant Life. “When I first became pastor, I initially preached a lot of messages about unity and the importance of unity. Growth can happen only when there is unity.” He still feels that way.
The foundation of the church was strong when Danny became pastor, but even with the added sense of unity and purpose, there were factors holding the church back from growing. One major factor was the size of the physical structure. There was no room for additional Sunday school classes, the washrooms were tiny—even the parking lot was too small. Another limiting factor was the lack of volunteers. People were not engaged in the life and vision of the church.
A move to two services helped to alleviate the space issues temporarily. Getting people engaged—especially now that volunteers were needed to cover two services—was more of a challenge. Pastor Danny handed out a survey to the congregation asking what they wanted to be involved in. There was no “do nothing” option. Everyone needed to be involved in order to see God’s purposes fulfilled at ALWC.
A welcome centre was added, and people started to respond and fill the volunteer spaces. New people came through the doors. The church began witnessing salvations and miracles, and that created excitement about being involved in what God was doing. In a staff meeting someone mentioned that it looked like all the volunteer spots would be filled. Danny’s response was to create more volunteer positions right away!
“When people are involved, they grow spiritually and they begin to exercise their gifts,” Danny says. “If people in our church are doing nothing, we always ask: ‘What can we get them to do?’ Some interns from Vanguard [College] came to help us out, and they asked, ‘How do you get people involved like this?’ I jokingly told them you have to put them in a headlock until they say yes,” Danny laughs. “In all honesty, you encourage them and then you encourage them again and then you encourage them again and again and again. But when people take that step into serving, you see them come alive and enjoy life. When they realize they can do something that is outside of their normal work-sleep-work-sleep routine, you see them really begin to live.”
As Paul wrote in Philippians 2:13, “… it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose.” As followers of Christ, we are meant to live life abundantly for His good pleasure and to fulfil His purposes for the community we are placed in.
That’s what Abundant Life Worship Centre is all about.
Jordan Hageman is a freelance writer from Stoney Creek, Ont., and a regular contributor to testimonymagazine.
Photo © istockphoto.com. This article appeared in the September/October 2018 issue of testimony, the bimonthly publication of The Pentecostal Assemblies of Canada.