Life is all about decisions. The choices that one makes can impact the scope of their life in a positive or negative way. Every choice has a benefit or a consequence.
On Sunday, November 10, 2013, the congregants of First A.M.E. Zion Church, located in Paterson, NJ embarked on an unprecedented journey – sharing the worship service with Integrity House, a New Jersey based drug and alcohol recovery treatment facility. Spearheaded by the church’s leader, Rev. Dr. Douglas L. Maven and Mr. David Kline, the event’s worship leader and the Local Director of Evangelism, the service’s theme was “Yesterday, Now and Tomorrow: Making a Decision for Christ Now!”
The worship service was powerful and uplifting – filled with heartfelt testimonies from members of Integrity House, First Church’s Praise Dance ministries and choral selections from the Integrity House Choir and First A.M.E. Zion’s choirs. At one point during the service, a seven-year-old boy by the name of Devin cried profusely. When asked why he was crying, he replied, “I can’t stop crying because this music is so good.”
Rev. John Wesley Rice, Jr., community activist, author and pastor of the Love Fellowship Missionary Baptist Church in Orange, New Jersey was the guest speaker. Rice, who is the president and CEO of Horizon’s Community Development located in Orange, New Jersey, spoke candidly about his past struggles in the secular world. Rice said, “I was lost in the world and caught up in drugs – using, became an addict, then got saved.” Rice, who penned the book From the Corner to the Corner Stone, urged congregants to “stand firm in their belief in Christ and that you can overcome any struggle with God.”
Pastor Maven stated that, “The Planning Committee wanted to be intentional in seeking decisions for Christ from members and non-members of the congregation.” Members were encouraged to bring un-churched or inactive members of their families to the service. The local Bureau of Evangelism reached out and brought to worship the unsaved from the community.
Worshippers were each given a Decision Card at the beginning of the Worship experience that listed a diversity of decisions from seeking salvation, re-dedications, church membership, becoming a tither, more consistent in Bible Study and/or worship attendance, seeking help for substance abuse, to answering a call to ministry.
After the sermon by Rev. Rice, Dr. Maven made the “Call for Decisions,” which resulted in 105 decisions being made by persons bringing their Decision Cards to the Altar for personal prayer and to be ministered too by the First Church’s ministerial staff.
Contributing to the success of Decision Day 2013, said Mr. Kline, was the Community Cook-Out the church held in September. He said, “While Pastor Maven was on vacation during most of the month of August, the Stewards and Trustees proposed to invite the community to free food and a fun day in the Church’s parking lot. My evangelistic team did community outreach and over 500 people showed up and enjoyed the fellowship, food and fun. Many of those same persons returned on Decision Sunday and some are now members of our church. To God be the glory!”
In reflection, Pastor Maven said, “After 22 years of preaching and teaching to this congregation, I think we finally got it! This was truly an answer to not simply weeks of corporate prayer and planning but years of strategic efforts to transform a traditional and established congregation to reclaim evangelistic ministry as a priority and paramount purpose of the Church.”
Written by Douglas Maven, pastor at the First A.M.E. Zion Church, and Lavene Gass-Youmans, a city resident.