A prominent pastor and church planter issued a strong rebuke to the Church for allowing “elitism” to “fester” within the Body of Christ and called on Christians to “go into the streets” to share the Gospel with every race and social class.
Michael Carrion, senior pastor and general overseer of the Promised Land Covenant Churches, shared with thousands gathered for the Exponential Conference in Washington, D.C., how he was shocked when God called him to plant a church in the South Bronx.
“My church plant looked like this,” he said. “Jesus in the center, multicultural, multiethnic, multi-class. Literally, Promise Land, as a movement, started just like this. We didn’t have the best of the best.”
The Western Church, he warned, has become “spoiled and disoriented with the elitism we have allowed to fester in the church.”
But when planting his own church in a difficult setting, Carrion, a highly-educated pastor, said he discovered he didn’t need another “gimmick” or church-planting technique to reach the local community.
“We needed Jesus at the center,” he said, “because the people that we were servicing, the people we were engaging, came with some problems and some drama. And none of the problems and drama had I ever taken a class in seminary to prepare me for when it got to the church. Nothing taught me how to engage a person that was gender-confused, or a repeat offender.
"I needed more of the Holy Spirit," he stressed.
One way the church can combat elitism is by “deconstructing” “celebrity pastors and church planters,” the pastor said, adding: “Whenever you take something apart in the name of Jesus, Jesus can make something new. In His providence, there’s a plan. We need to find out what that plan is.”
Promised Land Church, the pastor said, gave “hope” for adjudicated young people who in turn ministered to their family and friends. Before long, the church had 300 members of all races, classes, and ages. Today, Carrion has planted seven churches across the Bronx.
Carrion cautioned church planters against taking the glory for themselves, warning: “Be careful that you don’t reflect your image instead of God’s image as you open up your church. Church planter, if this movement is going to be Christ-centered and spirit-led, we have to never lose sight that we are a people of resurrection.”
The church, he emphasized, needs to “go more into the street to bring prophetic change.”
“We take all of this anointing God has given and put it in a box. The Church needs to go into the street to bring the Kingdom of God,” he said. “Together we can change the world in the name of Jesus. You’re doing more than just opening up shop in a new social context. You are bringing the Kingdom of God.”
“We need more people that are daring and willing to accept the challenge to respond,” he continued.
He acknowledged that church planting is rarely easy: “You will be called into somebody’s hell to be salt and light," he warned. "You need more of Jesus. You need more of the text, more leaning on the Spirit.”
The Church has become “so smart” it’s become “aloof of the manifestation of miracles, signs, and wonders,” he said.
“[God] is resurrecting people in the Bronx,” he declared. “We serve a God of the resurrection. The Holy Spirit can resurrect a destiny.”
Carrion told church planters that their church plant is an “instrument in the hands of God.”
“If Jesus can be the center and the Spirit can lead and you be mobile to that, you’ll find yourself not counting all the people that are walking in, baptisms you’re doing this month, worrying about your budget,” he said.
“I’ve learned that when I love people, I never have to worry about the numbers. When I invest and speak life into people ... I don’t have to count anything. People come. They won’t remember my theology or three-point sermon series; they’ll remember that they were loved and fed, that they weren’t forgotten.”
“Where is the church of many colors?” He asked. “Where is the church that will speak against injustice?”
The Church, he said, is the answer to revival in the nation: “God is still working. If we can just take out our Bibles. If we can just have more of Him and less of us,” he concluded.
The Exponential Conference is the largest gathering of church planters in the world and this year focused on “Mobilizing God's People God's Way.” Held Sept. 9-10, the event unpacked six paradigm shifts based on the book of Ephesians that have the potential to start a multiplication wave within churches today.
As part of the first day of the conference, attendees also heard from Mike Lee, lead pastor of Hope Community Church in North Carolina, who focused on the need for unity within the church.
“God is never going to do your part. The encouraging thing is that our part is never the supernatural. That’s God’s part,” Lee said. "God does not need us to accomplish immeasurably more, but He decided to partner with mankind to do immeasurably more.
“The supernatural, secret ingredient, of Jesus to save the world is the unity of the church,” he added. “If we’d just start doing our part, God will start doing the supernatural part. To fulfill Jesus’ prayer, you’ve got to start somewhere. Start today.”