Sunday, August 9, 2009

New Birth Missionary Baptist Church

I continued my visitation of various kinds of churches today as I visited New Birth Missionary Baptist Church, an African-American church which is the largest church in the Atlanta area with over 25,000 members. Bishop Eddie Long has been the pastor for 23 years and has grown the church into the large church that it is. They have three Sunday services: 7:00 a.m., 10:30, and a 2:00 Latino Service. No, I did not attend the 7:00 service, but I did ask how many people attend each week -- Between 3000 and 6000! at 7:00 in the morning. New Birth has a variety of ministries for discipleship, evangelism, outreach to the needy, and for children and youth. As a fellow pastor, I noted that Bishop Long does not receive a salary from the church. He lives on the "love offerings" he receives from the members (on the offering envelope is a place to note what the offering is for -- tithe, love offering, missions, the building campaign, etc.).

As I entered the front doors of the 10,000 seat sanctuary, I was immediately greeted by several folks welcoming me to the church. The lobby was a large spacious area with many booths and various kinds of information desks available to help people with their needs and concerns. I sat about half way back, but even with the many large video screens, I felt close to what was going on up front and wanted to keep my eyes there rather than the screens (unlike other churches which use the screens). I was one of about 8,000 people present for the service.

The service began with 17 baptisms and then incredible praise music (the same as our contemporary service), but when I say incredible, I mean people sang, sang loud, and it was led in a key which invited you to sing LOUD to the Lord. They had a 150-member choir, an orchestra, a praise singing group, and a band which all played and sang together. We held hands and spoke to our neighbor at least four times during the service including what they call "passing the peace" in which everyone around wanted a hug and said: "God bless you!"

The sermon was given by a white guest preacher, Rev. Gary Oliver, a "prophet" from Texas. He also writes and records music. The title of his sermon was "Let Everything That Has Breath" and was based on Isaiah 61, Genesis 2:7, and Psalm 150. He spoke about "activating" worship from within you. He said that to activate blessing or curses in our life, we must speak. Following God's example, God spoke and it was so. "The tongue has the power of life and death" (Prov.18:21). What are we speaking with our tongue? Life or death? Using the example of voice activated computers, he said some things in heaven are voice activated. They are released by our voice. "If something needs to happen, your voice activates it." "Don't voice what you see going wrong in your life, voice what you recognize God is doing."

He went on to say one's voice is like a finger print. Each of us has unique sound waves and frequencies -- our voice is different from everyone else's. "Your voice is unique to God." He then took us to the creation story where God created the first man. God took dirt and created man, THEN he breathed on him. "Your breath activates your voice." "You can't talk unless you breathe over your voice box." "The breath released in man is part of God." "Nothing moves God like God." And who is the breath of life who enters us when we receive Jesus as our Lord and Savior? The Holy Spirit. So pray in the Holy Spirit. "Activate your voice and let everything that has breath praise the Lord." He ended the sermon in leading us in a rousing song which tied into his sermon and went on for about 25-30 minutes while we were exhorted to praise the Lord with our voice.

One thing that was special in the service was they invited all the children, youth, and college students to come forward that they might be "covered" as they begin a new school year. At least 2000 young people came forward and were prayed over and "covered" in the Name of Jesus by the pastor and the congregation. It was powerful!

The service lasted exactly 2 and 1/2 hours. It then took me into another 55 minutes TO GET OUT OF THE PARKING LOT (I guess I parked in the wrong place!).

It was obvious from this service that New Birth is not just another church. It is a place which is reaching people for Jesus Christ and discipling them to go back into their communities and serve the Lord. From the pastor through all the elders through members of the congregation, they are involved in thousands of lives in nearby communities loving, serving, teaching, and sharing Christ. Their website is

My son asked me if I would be willing to go back. I said "Absolutely yes!", but I would park in a different place!

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