Our Purpose: Reaching the Lost

Our Purpose: Reaching the Lost
Gary Howington

“The best way in the world to show our love and devotion to God is to share His kingdom with others,” said Bro. Gary Howington, pastor of the Pentecostals of the Miss-Lou in Ferriday, Louisiana. “The life blood, the vision of our church is that we’re going to impact this region in a radius of 100 miles. We’re going to be one of those places strategically located, so that when you get outside of the sphere of our influence, you’ve moved into the arena of somebody else’s influence. We believe we’ve been strategically placed here as a dynamic place of evangelism.”

Getting the Word Out

When Bro. and Sis. Howington first came to pastor the Pentecostals of the Miss-Lou, about 100 people came to church to “check out the new guy,” he said. “I asked them if they would give me names of their loved ones that were unsaved or had backslidden. I received a list of about 40 families. From that list, we’ve never stopped finding somebody to work on. It’s like pulling a thread that unravels. They gave us connections. Our record crowd was a couple of years ago on Easter with 806 people.”

Bro. Howington believes the most important key to growing a church is home Bible studies. “It serves as the foundation of everything we do here,” he said. Group Bible studies are offered, as well as one-on-one studies. “I use the original Search for Truth,” the pastor explained. “It was one of the key factors in the conversion of my wife and me. For us, instead of 10 lessons it tends to be more like 20, but we’ve just kind of made it our own. It never has stopped producing the results of people coming to God and to truth.”

In increasing attendance, Bro. Howington keeps it simple. “What has been the most effective through the years is personal invitation, as well as people coming to our church services because of the Bible study connections. We use those almost like Small Groups. We do the Bible study and then have food.”

Recently, Bro. Howington began to advertise the church via cable vision ads on the local cable station. “We’ve been able to do 1,000 ads per month,” he said. “We reach 12,000 homes several times a week. It was the best thing we ever did. It actually put us on the map publicly. People see my face and hear my voice. They know who we are. It has generated a lot of spontaneous, outside interest.”

Organizing for Revival

Delegating has become a priority for the pastor. “When I was a little younger, and we were a smaller church, I basically did everything from working the altar to cutting the grass,” said Bro. Howington. “In the past few years I discovered that by delegating those tasks, I am now able to spend more time in prayer, study and teaching Bible studies. I do most of the pulpit work, but very little of the mechanics of the day-to-day operation.

“I have a full-time Administrator who fields all phone calls and is in charge of the church facilities. He does all the ‘nuts and bolts’ stuff. He also takes care of our Music Ministry full time.”

Lots of exciting activities are planned for the Youth Group, which is led by the pastor’s son. There is also a Kid’s Church Ministry with high energy puppets, as well as a Hospitality Ministry which serves as a hosting agent and takes care of many needs of the church family.

“We also have a little sit-down restaurant area in our church,” said Bro. Howington. “When we have Small Groups, our Hospitality Ministry often will provide snacks. We have a small bookstore that provides Pentecostal Publishing House materials, etc.

“We offer Sunday school and Prison Ministry, as well as the ACTS program. My oldest daughter, Melody, works with the choir. We do video and host a website with our podcasts. We also have a group called the HAARP (Heaven’s Anointed Army of Retired Persons).

“We do an outdoor concert every year called ‘Got Purpose?’ which is a take off from the ‘Got Milk?’ ad. We blitz the area and invite all denominations to bring their groups and perform. We also do Christmas and Easter programs every year.”

Training for Revival

As a prerequisite for anyone who wants to be in leadership, the church offers an Orientation Ministry — a 12 lesson class that starts with the history of the church and takes people through doctrine, and even financial support.

“For one of the lessons, the teacher walks them around the church as a sort of tour,” the pastor explained. “We also guide them through a video series by Greg Godwin called ‘Over and Under.’ This is about submission to Apostolic leadership.

“After that, we do a 9 a.m. leadership meeting every Sunday in my office. This is open to everyone. As far as the inner-circle of leadership, we talk every day. Our Administrator is very meticulous and will research things like new video equipment. Our leadership is almost like family in the way we handle things.”

Getting Involved in Revival

About 40 percent of the congregation of the Pentecostals of the Miss-Lou is involved in some form of ministry. Ten to 15 percent are actively involved in some sort of Bible study, Prison Ministry, etc. “We put the materials for upcoming events in the general congregation’s hands to give to friends,” said Pastor Howington. “Everyone helps in that. We preach involvement about three times a week. They hear it every time I get up to the pulpit. They hear that soul winning is the purpose of the church every week in some capacity. I find a way to put it in just about every message I preach. I believe that soul winning is the major purpose of the kingdom.

“It’s all about revival and souls and outreach. We never promote to our people that it’s okay to find a comfortable place of service. We always push and strive for excellence.

“This is my first time as a pastor. I didn’t know what was expected of me. I didn’t know not to expect to come to a little town and have a large church. It never occurred to me that a little town of 3,500 couldn’t have a church of over 400 people. Right now, we average 400+ on Sundays. We have a growth rate of about 8 to 10 percent a year. My wife and I are both from small towns. We didn’t know not to expect God to do this.”

Target: Revival

“The main target we have is the 20- and 30-somethings with young children, because that’s what the enemy is targeting,” said Bro. Howington. “He’s worried about us getting into the next generation. In our culture, the young parents that are trying to clean up their family values need to bring their kids somewhere that is safe, a place where traditional family values and morals are being taught. We find that it’s almost too late for the families with teenagers. Of course, we try to help them. If we can get them when the children are still little, however, we’ve got a much better chance of making it a family affair.”

Faith for Revival

Bro. Howington’s favorite subject to preach is faith. “I enjoy preaching about the boundless possibilities. Without it, it’s impossible to please God. With it, anything can happen. Any dimension of God’s kingdom can work when faith is preached. Faith is what gives us the energy for evangelism and the expectancy for the miraculous. Faith is what keeps us diligent to be Apostolic when the culture around us says that we don’t have to be so Apostolic. Faith energizes all of that to me.”

Closing Comments

“The best days of the Apostolic church are ahead of us,” concluded Bro. Howington. “God always does a crowning work, and He’s never going to do less as far as His kingdom is concerned. We will see positive, hopeful, exciting things until His return.

“I believe that the church is destined; the Bride of Christ and the church in the last days is destined to be a great, formative force in our culture. Our world is grasping and clutching for answers. This is the greatest time we’ve ever lived in to step forward on the cultural, national and international scene and tell the world that this is the way to live and that it really works.”