Be All You Can Be!
Bro. Kenneth Haney, pastor of Christian Life Center in Stockton, California, sat casually by his desk, legs crossed. He tapped his knew lightly with a pen, occasionally stabbing it in the air to emphasize a point. At 55 years of age, he still radiated the energy and “you can do it” attitude that has become his trademark.
“Every pastor,” he said matter-of-factly, “has a level at which he can be successful. If you give a man a church that has an attendance of 250 and his ability level is only 50, in two years he will have the church running 50. However, if you give a man a church of 50 and his ability level is 250, in two years he will have 250. Like water, we tend to reach to our own level.
However,” he continued, “we can expand our capacity and ability if we really desire to do so. It’s not easy, but with God’s help you can do it. Moses did. David did. Gideon did. They were operating at one level and God raised them up to another. A pastor must see the millions outside his church doors and says, ‘Jesus died for you,’ and not feel overwhelmed at the task before him.”
Then he leaned forward and pointed again with his pen. “Any pastor that says, ‘I’m holding my own,’ is wrong! He just thinks he’s holding his own. If you’re not growing then you’re dying. Oh, your attendance might be consistent. But if you are not going forward, you are actually going backward because the revival spirit for growth is dying in the hearts of your saints. You never just stand still.
I’ve purposed in my heart that as a pastor to never let myself or my church get in a rut. I read a lot and I’m constantly looking for new methods and programs to motivate people. Whenever I find something, I try to use it for the Kingdom of God.”
Apparently it’s working. After the death of his father in 1971, Bro. Haney resigned his position as General Youth President of the United Pentecostal Church to take his father’s church. There were 105 members then. Today, twenty – one years later, Christian Life Center averages consistently between 3,500 and 4,000.
“My father’s passing was tragic for me.” Bro Haney explained. “He was my very best friend. I worked closely with him for eleven years, both before and after I graduated from the college he founded (Western Apostolic Bible College, later renamed Christian Life College). I can’t describe to you the tremendous sense of loss I felt. At the time, I was serving as International Youth President in Saint Louis. I flew home and stayed for a few weeks to help my mother. The church board and congregation wanted me to remain as pastor, but I really enjoyed my involvement with the Youth Division. I called my uncle, Bro. David Grey, to see if he would consider taking the church. When he declined, Bro. Paul Price, our district superintendent, assumed the position on a temporary basis until a pastor was found. It was a difficult time for all of us.
Later,” he continued, “after returning to headquarters in Saint Louis, I remember wrestling with the idea of taking the church. I needed to talk to someone about it. So, as often as I did, I picked up the phone to call my father for advice. Then I remembered it was because of his passing that I was being forced to make the decision. Soon after I made up my mind. God really talked to me about returning. So I resigned my position and accepted the pastorate.
I called Bro. Price and asked him to call a saints meeting. There were 105 members back then and the church was averaging about 300 in Sunday school. I remember that day as if it were yesterday. Most of the members were present. I shared with the church my burden and vision for revival. I told them I wanted to build a new church and college campus. If they were willing to stand behind me in a major building program, then I would be willing to become a pastor. Otherwise, I would return to St. Louis. It was their decision. They voted for revival and growth.
My first service as Pastor was the first Sunday in 1972. There was a strong spirit of revival in the service that day and I feel it has been with us ever since. We see someone receive the Holy Ghost in every service at Christian Life Center. The Lord has let me see as many as 100 receive the Holy Ghost here in a single service. At C.L.C. revival isn’t a series of meetings, it’s an ongoing experience.”
Today, Christian Life Center and Christian Life College is located in one of the fastest growing areas of Stockton. The sanctuary, completed in 1977, seats about 2,100.
“When we built this building,” Bro. Haney said, “I thought it would last until the Lord came. Now we must have three services on Sunday and ask the saints to attend only one of them. We average between 3.500 and 4,200 with two completely separate Sunday school hours.”
The well landscaped complex holds not only the church with its massive parking lot, but also Christian Life Elementary and High School (complete with twenty-four classrooms, cafeteria and full-sized gymnasium), Christian Life Book Store, KCJH Christian Radio Station, Christian Life College Student Center, the Olive Haney Memorial Library, and two large, multi-storied dorms for those attending college.
“God has been good to us,” Bro. Haney acknowledged. “We have approximately 150 people on paid staff, each with their own written job description. Eighteen of those are pastors and pastoral assistants. Every Monday morning at 10:00 a.m. for the past twenty years I have a staff meeting. I feel my job is to keep everyone working together and the lines of communication open. If anyone comes up with a good idea, I’m behind it one hundred percent. I’m not intimidated by their talents being greater than my own.
I also feel,” he continued, “it’s my job to stay on top of what’s happening around here. I want to know how each outreach is progressing. I get weekly reports from each department and educational program. I also have an annual review with each staff member. I try to keep them motivated toward our primary goal, which is to win souls.”
The Sunday School is a very important part of Christian life Center’s growth and revival. Much of the growth of Christian Life Center can be attributed to the emphasis that Bro. Haney places on evangelism. There is no lack of ministries for someone to be involved in. Each week a fleet of buses hit the streets to carry children and adults to Sunday school. Services are also held at a number of nursing homes and the county jail. These services have been very fruitful.
“Hardly a week goes by without four or five receiving the Holy Ghost in these services – and as many as twenty-five have received the Holy Ghost in one week,” Bro. Haney said.
Twelve years ago a set of Asian twins arrived at the church on one of the Sunday school buses. They didn’t know how to speak English. Before long, forty more followed. That prompted the beginning of an Asian ministry that has seen over 1,500 souls filled with the Holy Ghost. The church now has seven separate Asian services with a regular weekly attendance of almost 600.
“The Bible says, ‘For God so loved the world,'” Bro. Haney stressed, “not just one culture.”
Recently the church launched the Good Samaritan Training Center. Located at the old college campus across town, the facility has been completely remodeled into a successful center for the homeless. Thousands have come to be fed, clothed, and counseled. Regular services are held each week and, although less than one year in operation, it is already reaping a steady harvest of souls.
Finally, the evangelism program of C.L.C. would not be complete without mentioning the success of K.C.J.H. Radio Station. Started fourteen years prior,
in what was little more than a large closet in the old church building, today the twenty-four hour radio ministry boasts 26,000 watts of power and has four station translators (application has been made for an additional four to make a total of eight). Staff includes a full-time station Manager, plus three full-time and eight part-time DJ’s and program engineers.
“We are now transmitting all the way to Reno, Nevada,” Bro. Haney said excitedly. “The phone lines are constantly ringing with requests for prayer, healing, salvation, family counseling – the list goes on and on. The
exciting part is that God is answering these prayer requests and we are able to minister to so many people outside of the Stockton area.”
Additional outreach ministries includes home Bible studies, visitor follow-up, Spanish ministry, youth evangelism, child evangelism, door knocking, new convert care, singles, deaf ministry, sheep fold ministry (a cell-type ministry with weekly services in over ninety homes) and many more.
Looking to the future, Bro. Haney is not one to think small. Several years ago the church purchased 47 acres near by for future expansion – and the future has arrived. The city has already approved plans for a new sanctuary with a seating capacity of over six thousand. They are scheduled to break ground in May of 1993. Included will be a 33,000 square foot educational facility with its own private chapel. Also in the works is a multi-complex retirement home.
“We took part of the land,” he explained, “and built a subdivision on it. The proceeds from these homes will finance much of the upcoming project.”
“However,” Bro. Haney was quick to add, “you must understand that God’s church can’t be housed in any size building. The first century church did not need buildings to evangelize and grow. What they did have was Apostolic fire, and to me, that was the key to their growth. What we need is a consuming fire and passion to live for God and win souls. Buildings must never become our first priority. Your number one priority must always be a move of God and reaching the lost.”
Recently, Christian Life Center was recognized as being the 25th fastest growing church in the U.S.A. by Dr. John N. Vaughn, well known church growth author, researcher, and editor of the “Church Growth Today” newsletter. Each year Dr. Vaughn publishes a list of the 100 fastest growing churches. It was the first time that a U.P.C.I. church has made the list. We asked Bro. Haney to share some of the key elements of his revival and growth with us:
“Well, a man must learn to have complete trust in God and follow the leading of the Spirit. Early in my ministry I depended heavily on my father. After his death I felt like Isaiah when he said, ‘In the year that king Uzziah died, I saw the Lord…’ In the year my father died I had to get a hold of God for myself. It was then I truly learned that God had given me a gift for speaking, leading and organizing. A man must be confident in his ministry and what God has called him to do.
Next, realize that the ministry is work. It takes effort. God is not going to hand you your dream on a silver platter. There is sacrifice involved in anything you do for God. I love to hunt, but I have a difficult time getting involved in those kind of things anymore. I guess it’s because I’m so involved in the Lord’s work.
I try to keep a regular routine. I wake up at 4:30 each morning and go to the club and work out for two hours or so. I might play some racket ball. Then I’m at the church by 8:00 a.m. for prayer. By 9:00 or 9:30 I’m at the office. I love the ministry. It’s my life.
Also, a pastor must not be afraid to try new things. We become too comfortable with the status-quo. As National Youth President, the Lord helped me start the International Youth Corps (IYC), the International Student Fellowship, the Pentecostal College Campus Ministry, and the Pentecostal Home Life magazine. Here at C.L.C. we have launched just about every ministry and program you could imagine. Too many pastors are always starting something new but never carry through. People loose confidence in you when you do that. If you start a project or outreach, finish it. If you delegate it, you are still responsible to make sure it works successfully.
Another area is what I call the “back door” – you’ve got to close it. I know some churches that have had great numbers coming in but very few of them were staying. If your back door is larger than your front door, if you lose as many converts as you pray through, you will never grow. I feel that one of my primary duties as pastor is to insure that this does not happen. We have a very extensive new convert care program here at Christian Life Center.
Equally important is maintaining a revival spirit and atmosphere in your services. A church should be a place where people are motivated and encouraged to live for God. An atmosphere of worship and freedom must be present if the Spirit is to convict and draw souls to the altar. I love to preach positive messages of God’s power to change lives. I preach that God can save your daughter, son, husband, wife, mother, or father. No matter how big you think the devil is, God can save them. I encourage people to believe God for a miracle, to be healed and delivered from evil spirits. I try to give my church a balanced diet of the Word. But after delivering a balanced diet, I love to pile on prayer, fasting, healing, and faith that God can do the impossible.
Finally, you will never have success without prayer and fasting. The pastor must be a leader in this. It can’t be a ‘do as I say, not as I do’ kind of pastor. If you want a church that prays and fasts, you must be committed to the same. Christian Life Center lives in the realm of prayer and fasting. My wife is a tremendous leader and help to me in this area. Not everyone at C.L.C. is involved, but I can safely say that at least forty percent of our church prays and fasts regularly.”
In conclusion, we asked Bro. Haney to give some advice to the young preacher or pastor who is struggling to do a work for God:
“Fight complacency! Battle mediocrity! Don’t succumb to the world and it’s charismatic spirit of compromise. Preach against it. Fight the devil. I believe in old fashioned holiness and separation. You can’t look like the world and act like the world if Jesus Christ is truly Lord of your life. People and problems will constantly try to distract you from the true purpose of the church. Don’t listen to them!
One thing I have had to learn to deal with is jealousy. When you try to do a work for God, someone will always be there to taunt you. Well, my friend, I’m building a wall and I refuse to come down and argue. I’m not going to allow you to intimidate or distract me. My heart is fixed on the task. I’m not going to let anything, be it saint or sinner, to hold me back from accomplishing all I can before the Lord returns for His church.”
Obviously, Pastor Kenneth Haney practices what he preaches.