By Tom Campisi
This fall, Pillar College hosted its fifth annual Pastor’s Appreciation Breakfast at the Robert Treat Hotel, right next door to its Newark campus. Midway through the event, Ryan Faison, an adjunct professor at Pillar and the Student Ministries Pastor at Christ Church in Rockaway, led 225 pastors in a powerful rendition of Chris Tomlin’s anthem, “How Great Is Our God.”
Later, in the keynote address, Pastor Jim Cymbala of Brooklyn Tabernacle turned the mighty, declarative phrase into a question.
“How great is our God?” he asked.
Cymbala challenged fellow pastors to focus on the power of the Gospel and get back to the basics exemplified by the Apostles and early church.
Dr. Wayne Dyer, Vice President of Strategic Alliances at Pillar College, appreciated Cymbal’s challenging message. With its annual breakfast, Pillar College—located in Newark, Somerset, and Paterson—is seeking to honor those who minister in the region.
“We want to recognize their labor of love and express our gratitude to those who serve in local church ministry,” Dyer said.
Cymbala, the author of several books on prayer and ministry, recalled his humble beginnings as a pastor on North Ninth Street in Newark. He spoke about commuting between New York City and Newark so he could preach at both places during the early days of the Brooklyn Tabernacle. Alluding to God’s grace and power and a sheer dependence on Him, Cymbala noted how he was not seminary-trained and how his wife Carol has won six Grammy awards as director of the Brooklyn Tabernacle Choir despite not being able to read sheet music.
“Why did the Lord call us into ministry?” asked Cymbala, as he exhorted the pastors to seek the Lord for the vision of their church.
“No one has a right to redefine the Church,” he said. “How can I have a vision for someone else’s church? Jesus said, ‘I will build my Church on the rock.’ It’s not a black church or a white church or a cultural church. We need to lead New Testament churches that please Jesus. Every one of us will face Christ one day. It’s about the quality of our work, not the quantity. How much will be burned up as wood, hay, and stubble?”
Cymbala focused on the words of Apostle Paul in 1st Thessalonians 1:4-5, “For we know, brothers loved by God, that he has chosen you, because our gospel came to you not only in word, but also in power and in the Holy Spirit and with full conviction.”
“Paul was not ashamed of the Gospel,” he said. “We need to be bold like Paul. Life is too short to be fooling around,” Cymbala said. “It takes courage to be a true minister. People are selling out left and right. It takes courage to tell the truth in love.”
Cymbala said believers in Thessalonica put their faith in Christ, demonstrated power, and confronted idols, despite facing intense opposition and persecution.
“They served the living God 24/7,” he said. “They were waiting for him to return, and were not caught up in the world. They had no public church buildings, no New Testament, and received no help from the government. They had nothing but God.
“[The Christians in Thessalonica] were seeing lives changed by the power of the Gospel. They became a became a model to all believers. Paul said that the Gospel went out everywhere.”
“We are making excuses about no prayer in the schools—maybe we should complain about no prayer in the church…The hour demands us to stop fooling around with substitutes.”
Cymbala said the modern American church has lost its way. He exhorted the pastors at the breakfast study God’s Word afresh and discard traditions that are not Gospel-based.
“Read every sermon in the Book of Acts. That’s the Gospel,” he said. “Between now and the end of the year, study every sermon.”
“I grew up in a legalistic Pentecostal church that preached holiness, but didn’t want a black person within 100 yards at the church. Should I follow the tradition of my elders? Being a minister, you have to get saved from your background. Hold on to the good things.”
In conclusion, Cymbala asked the pastors if they desired to see God do a new thing in their churches and in New Jersey.
“Give it God and do it His way and you will see God do things you can’t even imagine,” he said. “Our Gospel has the power to change people.”
For information on Pillar College, visit www.pillar.edu.