The focus of the Apostolic Faith Church (AFC) in West Hazleton, Pennsylvania is evident in the church’s CCC Ministry: Constant Contact Consciousness. AFC is all about souls! They want to make sure that once visitors attend Apostolic Faith, it will not be their last visit.
Pastor Jim DeRamus and his wife, Cynthia, are quick to weep when it comes to their calling to reach the lost and pastor a church with that same deep burden. Nestled high on Laurel Mountain in Pennsylvania, the place of their calling, their love for souls is as deep as the view is vast.
Priorities in the Realm of Evangelism
Where evangelism is concerned, Bro. DeRamus is quick to say this: “There is never just one key. Administration has everything to do with your concept and any outreach you do. It is one thing to decide to do something, but it’s another thing to follow through with it. Cynthia and I have always worked in home missions work, and this has caused us to finish what we started. So many times people start something, then pitfalls come, and they never get the full benefit of whether it works or not.” Bro. DeRamus believes in good administration and home Bible studies but feels they must be combined with prayer to make it all work. He said, “Methods are what every denomination can do, but prayer and fasting make our methods spiritual.” He believes a revival pastor should always place his priority on evangelism.
Growth Methods that Work
Pastor DeRamus spoke of the growth methods that work for AFC, which are closely aligned with Bro. Tim Massengale’s Total Church Growth program. He noted, “In the summertime, we do what we call Give Back to the Community in neighborhood parks. On Saturday morning, many gather to canvas a neighborhood by Car Parade and passing out flyers. That afternoon, we offer free hotdogs, drinks and drawings for free giveaways at the neighborhood park. The city allows us to close the side street beside the church for an annual Kid’s Carnival. There are carnival games, free food and an outdoor service. Then, a couple of times a year we have what we call an Indoor Outreach. The Visitor Follow-Up (VFU) Director pulls cards of visitors who sporadically visited or didn’t return. The VFU teams meet at the church on a weekday evening to call the visitors telling them how much we appreciated their visit. They invite them to visit again and ask if they have any prayer needs.”
Bro. DeRamus continued, “When a visitor comes to church, we have two greeters in the foyer, along with a Meet & Greet Keurig coffee station with assorted pastries, etc. As visitors enjoy a cup of coffee and pastry, they fill out visitor cards there and receive a gift consisting of a church mug, cocoa mix, church brochure and card. A designated person comes up during service to acknowledge the first-time visitors and welcome them to our service. After attending a service, every visitor receives a call, a letter from our church, and a personal ‘cookie drop’ visit by a VFU team. This visit is to invite them back and encourage their interest in a home Bible study.”
Apostolic Faith Church has many ministries tailored specifically for the church, including Prayer, TnL (The next Level) Youth, Ladies of Faith, AFC Men’s Group, Christian Education (Sunday School), New Convert Care, and Visitor Follow-Up. Others ministries are Usher/Greeter and Home Bible Study which includes Exploring God’s Word, Rightly Dividing the Word and Into His Marvelous Light.
Organization and Management
Pastor DeRamus holds a departmental meeting the first Sunday of each month with the ministry leaders where they schedule the next three months of the calendar. A Leadership Retreat is held each November. Leaders turn in a tentative itinerary in December for the next year. Pastor DeRamus said, “At the beginning of each year and six months into the year, I have an Open Door leadership meeting for all members desiring to be involved in AFC ministries including Sunday School. In this meeting, they learn about the church.” He continued, “These meetings are important, because they protect me as pastor, and they protect the church. Move-ins may have been in church for years, but that doesn’t mean they are connected to the body. No one can be involved in any ministry department without attending the Open Door meetings. These meetings allow me to project my vision.” On the first Sunday of the month, there is a Closed Door leadership meeting for all members involved in AFC ministries. A Discipleship class for new members, based on In My Father’s House study and tailored for AFC, is taught by the pastor or his wife every Sunday.
Bro. DeRamus said, “I believe in administration and accountability, because they work. My wife and I evangelized for seven years, and part of our ministry was setting up church growth, specifically for each church. All new leaders of AFC must read Let My People Grow by Tim Massengale and The Diakonate by Dale Rumble. Ministry leaders are encouraged to read leadership books throughout the year.
“The physics of my operation is to administrate AFC from the altar out. Visitors can come and sit and not participate, and that’s all right. But if they yield to the presence of the Lord, I have people ready to pray with them. We don’t let them fall through the cracks.” Pastor DeRamus believes it is much easier to get a Bible study with them while they are tender in the presence of the Lord. He noted that 75 percent of the church members are involved in the work of departmental ministries and most are involved in some form of evangelism. CCC Ministry (Constant Contact Consciousness) slips are made available for each member to fill out regarding their contacts that week.
Bro. DeRamus grew up in Louisiana. His parents were not in church at that time, but he came to God in 1971 in Monroe, Louisiana under Pastor G.E. Chance. He was headed for a scholarship in college basketball when an invitation to church resulted in his receiving the Holy Ghost. His conversion was the persuasion to choose church over basketball. He married Cynthia in 1973 and accepted his call to the ministry in 1980. God had dealt with him about ministry years before, and Pastor Gove Walker influenced his decision to step into ministry.
His wife had saved money for him to attend Jackson College of Ministries, but in the spirit of giving one night, they gave away that money. The Pentecostal Home Study Course and many other books were his source of study instead. Bro. Murrell Ewing was another great influence in his life. His first sermon, Don’t Forget to Remember Yesterday, was preached under Pastor Walker. Later, he assisted Bro. Buford Sims in Lucedale, Mississippi before being led by God to Baltimore, Maryland to establish a home missions work. There they saw the church grow to 200 in eight years through Bro. Massengale’s church growth material. They also pastored in Vicksburg, Mississippi, then later felt a call to Pennsylvania. Two distinct prophecies had been given in 24 hours regarding that call to the Northeast, which has been the DeRamus’ greatest challenge. Their first service, with 32 in attendance, was in September 2006. Attendance now runs between 80 to 100, depending upon the weather of that high elevation.
Blessed with one daughter, Amber (34), and the best son-in-law in the world, Knox Handkins, Bro. and Sis. DeRamus enjoy spending leisure time with their grandchildren: Ashlyn (13), Blake (11) and Ada (14 months). While enjoying various authors, Max Lucado is one of his favorites. Bro. DeRamus loves the preaching of the Word and the preachers who preach it, but two of his favorite are Bro. Mike Williams and Bro Marrell Cornwell.
By Linda Schreckenberg