Growing In Effectiveness
It takes all kinds of people and approaches to win souls to Christ, and in Scripture it’s easy to find examples of God using the unusual to accomplish His will. Jawbones and harlots come to mind.
This realization propelled Eddy Paul Morris, pastor of Deer Valley Worship Center in Phoenix, to let go of his own vision of success and surrender to God’s plans for both his personal preaching style and the overall identity of the church.
“I had to work through how God uses me, and I got affirmation from God to be a Holy Ghost preacher,” Morris says.
Deer Valley, a plant of the Assemblies of God Arizona Ministry Network, launched in 2008. Today, the congregation of 260 is defined not by numeric increase, but by the personal spiritual growth that comes from practicing overt grace, as well as accountability.
Both Morris and his wife, Cami, come from broken pasts and have led the church to craft ministry programs and outreaches that offer practical help and teaching to those that need it most, living out Matthew 25:40: “Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.”
Even Deer Valley’s location is a part of this strategy. Its north central Phoenix facility is meant to be accessible for people across the city.
“Broken people come from every social strata and we have a heart for that,” says Morris.
Still, accepting intangible progress proved to be a process for Morris, much like yielding his preaching style to God.
“I battled the expectation of growth if I got our ducks in a row, but God doesn’t work that way,” Morris says. “The American dream and God’s will don’t always line up. Stability and strength come from committing to serving God.”
That commitment leads Morris and Deer Valley’s others leaders in every arena, from staff training to new ministry initiatives. Whether it’s risky, unusual, or not conducive to growth at all, Deer Valley’s ministry team is on the board if they believe the Lord is behind it.
For example, after attending a presentation on Phoenix’s growing human trafficking problem, Cami led the charge to join with other church leaders and help launch Streetlight USA, a safe house for trafficked women and girls. But she didn’t stop there. That year on Christmas Eve, she and other Deer Valley women ventured into strip clubs with gifts for the dancers.
As a result, several women from strip clubs have started attending Deer Valley and are now walking out of their brokenness.
Other outreaches include a food pantry, bus ministry, bicycle giveaways, and stocking adherents’ cars with bags of food to distribute to Phoenix’s homeless population. Deer Valley also formerly offered Cleansing Stream, an intense program that promotes healing and freedom from life’s tough issues. All staff and leaders were required to go through the program as a spiritual vetting process.
“We’re a magnet for the broken, and we’re doing everything we can to be a part of the solutions,” Cami Morris says.
Alongside grace, though, is obedience to the Spirit and the call to sin no more. Morris realizes this approach isn’t appealing to everybody, but he also knows salvation is a life or death issue.
“Our style is such that some won’t stick around, but it’s exactly what others are ready for,” he says.