“Who left among you remembers the temple in its former glory? And how do you see it now? In comparison with it, is this not in your eyes as nothing?” Haggai 2:3
Twenty years ago, Dr. Michael A. Stevens was a young pastor, fresh out of divinity school, with his own small congregation, when he first heard the Word delivered by Presiding Bishop Charles E. Blake at the famous Crystal Cathedral in Orange County, CA.
“I remember Bishop told the Lord, ‘If you can do this for Robert Schuller, can’t you do something through me?’”
Now, as he stood on the pulpit at the beautiful West Angeles Cathedral in Los Angeles, ready to deliver a sermon of his own before Bishop Blake’s congregation of thousands, Pastor Stevens expressed feelings of humility and thankfulness for the experience, one, he says, he doesn’t take lightly.
“West Angeles, I just want to thank you on behalf of every church not only in black America, but in pentecostal America, Spirit-filled America, ecumenical America…I don’t know if there’s a church in the world [that has the global impact of] West Angeles.”
Pastor Stevens’ March 8 sermon, titled, “The Late, Great Church,” reminds us of the responsibility we all have to become active participants in the body of Christ, and for sustaining the legacy of the Christian church. He thanked Bishop Blake for the many years of “impeccable, integrity-filled, outstanding leadership,” and he also thanked the congregation for sharing Bishop Blake with the rest of the world.
“West Angeles, you allow your pastor to lead the world,” Pastor Stevens said. “He is the face of Pentecostalism. The world owes a debt to you [Bishop Blake], and the West Angeles family.”
Highlights from the sermon follow:
“In his book, Courageous Leadership, Bill Hybels says, ‘The church is the hope of the world, and its success lies within the hands of capable leaders. I believe that the church is still today the bedrock of inspiration, of influence and of community impact; in fact, it is the seat of moral and ethical social preservation.”
“Whether it’s Ferguson, Missouri or Orlando, Florida, or anywhere in between, the church represents those who perhaps have no representation.”
“I love the church!”
“I know that we are often viewed in the media and in entertainment…as a place that is suspect; a place of shame, maybe even a place of scrutiny. We’ve been victimized as being intolerant or insignificant; maybe unimportant.”
“It won’t be the government, it won’t be the statehouse, it won’t even be our institutions of educational learning, but it will be the local church that is the hope of the world/” – Bill Hybels
“It never ceases to amaze me; the joy and laughter that preachers have when they come together as brothers.”
“I had this horrible dream…that there were groups of curious and inquiring people who were touring this very strange and very unusual facility…These structures were in major cities and in small towns alike. It was a horrible dream…These new museums of this generation used to be called: ‘the local church.’”
“The things we take for granted – coming to church on Sunday morning and praising the Lord and worshiping God -opening our Bibles and having Bible study, even sometimes on our jobs.”
“Today, the church is full of challenges, both outside and inside,”
“Christian persecution is worldwide…We feel persecuted when we’re not invited to the birthday party. We feel persecution when the preacher preaches 10-15 minutes too long…But Christians are being beheaded all over the world!”
“There’s the ongoing agenda of acceptance and tolerance from those in the LGBT community; the same-sex marriages and transgender campaigns are taking our country by storm.”
“When will the church draw a line in the sand?”
“I want to talk about the glory of the church; the glory and the power and the presence of God.”
“The church must be reminded it is not the master nor the servant of the state; but rather, it is the conscience of the state.” – Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
“There are churches all over America right now…full of consumerism conveniences and cafeteria plans: ‘Give me a little of this and give me a little of that…I don’t want that doctrine…I’ll take some singing and I’ll take some shouting and we’ll speak in tongues and blow bubbles all day – but I don’t want no theology!’”
“We are non-committed, non-communal, non-covenant.”
“We hunger for the next TV reality show, but do we hunger for the Word?”
“God will shake a nation…God stirs within. God sets in order.”
“God, will you shake some people this morning?”
“Sometimes God shakes your life up. Sometimes it’s in our finances. Sometimes it’s in our physical health…Sometimes it’s a husband who won’t do right. Sometimes God shakes your faith, but there’s a reason and a purpose.”
“God did it in the days of Elijah, He did it in the days of Haggai. ‘Why,’ the writer of Hebrews says, ‘would God not do it now?’”
“I’m asking God to bring back the ‘wow factor.’ Bring back the awe of the church.” – Pastor Michael A. Stevens
“I know you can worship at home with the DVD, you can worship at home online, but there’s nothing quite like worshiping in the House of God!”
“Thank God for the church because it’s the only place I can go and ‘get my praise on’…Only in the church can I express my gratitude for all that God has done for me!”
“We are a spirited people! We are an emotional, sensational, ‘Give-God-the-best-glory’ type of people!”
“What you do unto God, God will bless.”
“You don’t have to worry when your time comes…No demon, no witch, no warlock, no one, can hinder or stop the miracle of God”.
“I want us to get back to work as a people. There has to be something…that God has given you…to do for the local church.”
“Let’s go back and find community with one another. Can we get back to loving one another? Can we get back to forgiving one another?”
“Can we forgive and forebear one another as Christ has forgiven us?”
“The true test of Christian maturity is not just your speaking in tongues and your shoutin’ and dancin’…but it’s your love for the bride…and the church is the bride of Christ.”
Pastor Michael A. Stevens founded University City COGIC (formerly Full Gospel Fellowship) in Charlotte, NC in 1994. The church started with two members. In 14 years, it has grown to over 1,500 members. Dr. Stevens currently serves as General Overseer of Covenant Churches and Ministries International. He also serves on both the Executive Board of the General Council of Pastors and Elders and the Foreign Missions/Middle East Region for the International Department of Evangelism for the Church of God in Christ. He is married to his college sweetheart, Pastor Sharon Stevens, and together they have three children: Michael Anthony Jr., Matthew Courtlin, and Charisma Lindsey.
SCRIPTURAL REFERENCES: Haggai 2:1-9, Judges2:10, Psalm137:4-6, Hebrews 12, Psalm 33:8, Acts5, Haggai 1:14, 1 Corinthians 15:58, 2 Peter 3:1, Psalm 33:1, John 9:4, Philippians 2:12, 2Thessalonians 3:12.
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