LIVE with Pastor Mark Abrams—Part 2

LIVE with Pastor Mark Abrams—Part 2
LIVE with Pastor Mark Abrams—Part 2

Share This

LIVE with Pastor Mark Abrams—Part 2—Uniting Urban & Suburban Churches

Compiled by Sherri Spencer

Mark AbramsThis is Part 2 of a June 11 live interview with Senior Pastor Mark Abrams at Calvary Chapel Word of Life in Philadelphia, PA. He is connected very closely with Calvary Chapel Philadelphia and Pastors Joe Focht and Jerry Paradise. In Part 1 of this interview, Mark and Calvary Chapel Magazine Editor Tom Price discussed racial tensions and the Christian’s response to racism and prejudice. In Part 2, they discuss how the body of Christ in suburban and rural churches can reach out to unite with and help their urban brothers and sisters.

Tom: Many Calvary Chapel pastors want to do a better job of opening up their churches to be more interracial and multicultural. How can the church make people of different backgrounds feel more comfortable and welcome?

Mark: I think that it goes right back to realizing how you would want to be treated. [Imagine] if you were lost in a department store, and one of the cashiers came over to you and you said, “Well, I'm looking for this particular clothing item.” If [she] said, “This is the floor it’s on,” but nobody showed up to help, you would probably leave. I think the church has an opportunity when people they don’t know walk in the door. We can be so much more inviting, regardless of their color.

I [also] don’t think we should be junior investigators when we first meet people. I always tell our people that when somebody first comes into church, don’t ask them a million questions. Instead, say, “How are you doing? So glad you came. If you need something, let me know, and here's some information.” That's the extent. Sometimes we can be overly friendly, which can be sort of weird and uncomfortable. I think you have to find a medium ground in the church, and when people walk in, don't look at them as a potential member—look at them as this might be the only time you see this person. Most of the time new people don’t want to talk; they just come into the service to see if they want to come back. I’ve learned that if you let people [lead] on how they want to engage with you, then they can initiate how they want you in their life, and [then] you can initiate your relationship from them.

Tom: How can we reach people who are racist and/or live in fear of people of other races?

Mark: I think the “reaching” part is up to Jesus. He can reach down and take that stony heart and give a person a heart of flesh. He can change the most wicked person in the world to be the sweetest. That's the work of the Holy Spirit, and I believe it’s [also] the work of saints praying. They’re praying for that racist, prejudiced person that says, “I can’t stand that person of this race or that race.” I think it’s getting on your knees. I remember one guy who grew up as a racist. He told me, “I grew up and we were taught not to trust black people, but I met you, and I love you, brother.” And I said, “Well, God just changed your heart. God did that. He showed you a person that you probably couldn’t trust, and He changed your heart. The more you saw that person, the more you trusted him.”

Tom: To be a multicultural church, does the church need to examine its worship music to be more inviting to different backgrounds?

Mark: Absolutely, because you have different people coming to your church. Music isn’t the only part of worship, but it plays an important part. If you go to Africa, they have different music than we would have in the United States. If you go to Norway or Sweden, they would have different music. So, I think music is culture-related in a lot of ways. I know a lot of the words, but the lyrical content is more important to me than the song itself. It's always good when God’s [name] is used in the first person—it becomes more about God than us.

I think the music in any African American church is different; if it’s a church that's predominantly African American, then it’s 10 times more different than [most] Calvary Chapel music. In urban areas, people listen to louder music. Music has a role—but not the only role—in worship. It should represent everyone sitting in the congregation.

Tom: John 3:16 says that God loves the entire world and that Jesus came to give His life as a ransom to save the entire world. With everything that has happened recently, what can we do to magnify the name of Jesus?

Mark: John 3:16 is like the “bumper sticker” verse, that God loved the whole world, the entire world, that He sent His Son. I love what John writes in 1 John 3:16-17: By this we know love, because He laid down His life for us. And we also ought to lay down our lives for the brethren. But whoever has this world’s goods, and sees his brother in need, and shuts up his heart from him, how does the love of God abide in him?

Love has got to be love in action—it can’t be love in word only. It has to be generated from nothing else but simple love, not predicated on this or that, but just really good Christian love. If God so loved the world, then who are we to pick and choose who we love?

I was reading this banner that said, “Racism is a disrespect to God’s creativity.” That’s a good little logo. So, if the Bible says that God so loved the world, He didn’t just love the world—He put it in action, because He sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins. It wasn’t just words, there was an action involved.

I think that love has to be the main factor, and some have to relearn love [regarding] how Christians should love the world. How should we have a heart of God, the desire is that none should perish? I don’t think that’s in the heart of the church all the time that all would come to the saving knowledge of the truth. That desire has to burn in you. You need to love anybody—the crackhead, the prostitute, and the homeless person that walks in the door.

At one point when my church was on Broad Street, 80% who attended were homeless. We asked the guys why they came here, and they said, “Because you treat us nice, love us, give us lunch, let us get second helpings, and we can sit anywhere. There are no special seats.” That’s sad. So, God so loved the world: The church really needs to mean that, [even] if a person comes to church smelling like urine or whatever. That’s something for people to look at. God so loved the world, but if you put [the word] “but” in it, you’re missing the point.

Jesus said in His Sermon on the Mount, Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works (Matthew 5:16a), your good deeds. And ultimately all the glory goes back to God, the Father. That has to be our lifestyle as the church.

We would do these huge outreaches, people would get saved, and I would look at the guys and they would say, “This was great.” And I would say, “This really wasn’t that great—everybody didn’t get saved. Let's go to the next one,” because the work at the harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few. People should be praying to the Lord of the harvest. It’s a big opportunity when God wants to do something—the fields are white, completely white, ready, and blossoming in so many ways.

I don’t know if people see … that this is one of the best times for the church to move in a way to really reach broken people right now. There are a lot of broken people. There are a lot of people who have lost loved ones through COVID-19. A lot of people still hurt, and there’s a lot of pain. I think that the church is the pillar of truth. We can bring truth into all of this stuff.

Tom: Share some of the miracles you have seen when feeding the hungry in the community.

Mark: We have realized that sometimes it’s good to have nothing, because then you can see God give you everything you need. You would never pray the way you pray if you had everything. I think [having] some need is the “seed bed” to [leading you to partake of] communion and fellowship with God in prayer. I think what we saw was the hand of God saying, All right, My stamp of approval is on this. Ask Me and I will provide.

We do a Saturday night service that was birthed from us wanting to bridge a gap for single moms and single dads. When the week winds down, if they don’t have any money, and it’s towards the end of the month, they might not have food to carry them into Monday. So, we would do these Saturday night services. You wouldn’t believe it—people started coming from everywhere, and we started a food club with about 963 people. I remember one Saturday night when my church was packed with a lot of people, and we were giving boxes of cereal and different things. I said, “It would be so nice if we had some really nice fruit and different styles of food to give them, maybe some lo mein or stuff they can heat up.” I couldn’t get the words out fast enough, when my cellphone buzzed. It was John, who said, “Can you use this food? I'm catering this event, and we’ve got about 600 bins of food left over with fruit and all kinds of stuff.” I told him, “You’re kidding me! I was just praying.” He then said, “I'll send the refrigerated truck to you; it’s got enough gas in it to stay refrigerated until tomorrow morning. Don't worry about putting gas in it.” We fed all of these people. It was unbelievable. So, we see the Lord do things.

We’re on a tight budget where we're at. We really don’t have a budget, just rent and outreach. One of the guys said, “We don’t have money for rent.” I responded, “Really? Pray to God and He’ll take care of it.” The next day the money was right there. I’ve seen the Lord do things like that.

Tom: How can the church do a better job of coming alongside the urban churches with resources to help demonstrate Jesus?

Mark: Some churches earmark money to missions, which is great. Inner-city mission work has become really dear to my heart in a way I would've never thought. I thought 20 years ago that this was a mission field, but being in some of these neighborhoods now, [I know] the urban church could use the support. Prayer first—I really believe prayer is first. We could use all the prayer support. We can [also] use financial support because we see that’s needed. We would love to have a staff person that we could hire full-time, because you cover more ground with more staff.

I think the other part of it is the labor. We could use people’s hands to be a part of it. I would never want anybody's money if they couldn't see what they were a part of. It’s something that God gives; money is just inventory. As far as I'm concerned, you take it off the shelf, use it, and hopefully you replenish that shelf. I think that God places prayer, people helping, and the financial part on somebody’s heart. I really believe … we have a responsibility as the body of Christ to be co-laborers in this together.

We should look at the things that are current: When there’s a tsunami, we need to support the tsunami [victims]. The inner city is a spiritual tsunami in a lot of ways, because of the lack of fathers and the broken structure. We would like [to cry] the Macedonian cry now: “Come over here and help.”

Part 1 of this interview, discussing racial tensions and the Christian’s response to racism and prejudice, ran yesterday.

All verses above are quoted from the New King James Version.

© 2020 Calvary Chapel Magazine. All rights reserved. Articles or photographs may not be reproduced without the written permission of CCM. All Scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the New King James Version. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc.® Used by permission.