Journey Not Always Easy, But Worth the Effort
Pastor Loren and Linda Hicks believe in the effectiveness of the Acts 2 Journey to help strengthen churches. To them, it is more than a one-year journey; it's an indefinite, life-building process to help the church adapt to change and remain relevant to the community outside their doors.
After Loren graduated with a master’s degree from Vanguard University (Costa Mesa, California), he and Linda pastored churches in Texas and Missouri. In 2005, they moved to Los Angeles to pastor Faith Tabernacle (AG), a church with a 92-year-old legacy.
"I was blessed to follow a great pastor, Mike Hinojosa, who did the hard work of transitioning the church and positioning it to move forward,” says Loren Hicks. “When I arrived, the church had around 90 attendees.”
Even with its rich history and diversity, Faith Tabernacle struggled to change with the growing needs of its home community, and the church leadership lacked unified vision. "Each time our church leadership met, it was clear we were not on the same page,” Loren says. “We had ministries, programs and administration, but no clear vision.
"When I was invited to participate in the Acts 2 Journey, I was desperate," Hicks says. "I needed a process that would unify our church and help us find direction needed to move forward. The Acts 2 Journey gave our leadership a blueprint for change and an achievable plan of action!
Hicks says that when he attended the first Acts 2 Journey Discovery Weekend four years ago he started out thinking: There are so many things that need to change in our church. But that changed. “During the first meeting,” he recalls, “the Holy Spirit whispered to my heart, ‘Loren, you are focused on changing the church, but what I want to change is you.’”
The Journey was not always easy. As Hicks and his team worked on their vision, values, and strategic plan, it was painful at times. A few leaders stepped down from the team, and one couple left the church. In spite of that, Hicks says, “We knew God was leading us in the right direction and building a team that would take the church forward."
During the next three years, Faith Tabernacle experienced growth as the congregation reached out to the community and became personally invested in sharing their testimonies with family and friends. Currently, 100 people serve monthly in the ministries of the church, annual giving has increased by 10 percent each year, and missions giving is higher than ever before.
In addition, last year, 46 people made a first-time commitment at Faith Tabernacle to follow Christ. The congregation has almost tripled in size during the past four years since they began the Acts 2 Journey.
Diversity is apparent in this congregation of 250 people who represent 30 different nationalities. The elders, deacons and staff represent six of those: Jamaican, Brazilian, Puerto Rican, Hispanic, Chinese and African-American.
“We have a conviction that the church should look like the neighborhood,” Hicks says.
The church is involved in community outreach through ministry to the local police department, a crisis pregnancy clinic, a homeless shelter and weekly food distribution through the church’s food pantry. They also provide backpack giveaways to local students and participate in weekly evangelism outreaches on the Venice Beach Boardwalk. Students at the church have established Chi Alpha and the Fellowship of Christian Athletes ministries at the local college.
“The Acts 2 Journey has helped us be outward focused as a church and more aware that God wants to use us every day,” Hicks says.
Faith Tabernacle is preparing to start on their second Acts 2 Journey. “During the first Acts 2 process, we learned that society changes every three to four years, but churches change on an average of 30-40 years,” Hicks says. “It’s been four years, and we need a new plan. With several new leaders in place, I have been teaching our team the Acts 2 material and we are seeing the same excitement and unity as we did on the first Journey!”
More than 650 AG churches in 25 AG districts have participated in the Acts 2 Journey. Nearly half of those churches received AGTrust scholarships, made available through the support of AGTrust donors, to enable them to participate.
Pictured: Faith Tabernacle volunteers provide weekly food distribution to the community through the church's food pantry