“I could feel the proximity of Hell as my pastor, Rev. Terry Cox, spoke of Saul’s failed suicide attempt and his asking of an Amalekite to end his life. God had asked Saul to destroy these same Amalekites earlier in his life; however, his disobedience and sparing of a few led to his final breath in the face of one.
“The Amalekites in my life had the faces of people, movies, TV, pornography and video games. The sermon, ‘Remember the Amalekite,’ drove me to an altar of forgiveness and restoration,” reflected Bro. Mark Brown. He, his wife Jordan, and their three children, Noah (8), Grace (5) and Eden (3) currently reside in Watertown, South Dakota. Bro. Brown, former youth president of South Dakota and current presbyter, pastors Jesus Church in Watertown.
“I specifically remember a time where I had turned off what had been my favorite movie and went to my room to read my Bible,” he said. “I turned to Romans 1:29-32. I was convicted as I read about judgment that would follow those who didn’t necessarily commit evil but took pleasure in those who did. I was miraculously delivered from those addictions. During my time as a student at Indiana Bible College, I developed a tremendous burden to serve on foreign soil but was not sure what direction God was leading me.”
“South Dakota is in need of revival.” This simple statement was the conclusion of a conversation between Bro. Brown and a South Dakota farmer. “It jerked tears from my eyes as if someone had opened a faucet,” he said. “My attempt to stop the flow was futile while driving back home. I could hear God saying, ‘You’re going to South Dakota.’ A tangible embrace came over me as I parked the car and told the Lord that if He wanted me to go to South Dakota, I would go.”
I believe the Lord wants me to go to South Dakota. I’m not looking for any position and would be willing to move anywhere and do anything asked of me that would be of help. Bro. Brown shared these thoughts with Superintendent Gary Legg with whom his pastor had encouraged him to speak.
“I feel like moving to Watertown to relaunch a church work would be good.” Bro. Legg’s words shocked Bro. Brown. “I had never considered pastoring,” he said. “Since receiving the Holy Ghost at the age of nine I had a heavy burden for people; however, the heavens never opened and told me that I would be a preacher or a pastor. I never even thought of myself as a preacher.
“When I served the Lord, I just never was comfortable being a spectator. My hands always found something to do for the church to help. I never pursued position. I just simply positioned myself to serve. I was unaware, but the whole time God was preparing me and ordering my steps to pastor in South Dakota.”
A Church Launch
Bro. Brown and his wife, Jordan, graduated from Indiana Bible College in the spring of 2006 and in that same week moved to South Dakota to launch the church plant. “I was 22 years old,” he said. “I truly began ‘learning to preach’ as I pastored the church plant. We lived and held services in the house built by George Robbins in the late ‘70s. My wife and I are thankful that we were able to hold services and live on that property. Service consisted of my wife and I, and one other individual.
“Because we were not from South Dakota, we did not know anyone in the town in which we had moved. I worked at Starbucks to meet people as well as at the Boys and Girls Clubs to meet kids. I would play basketball a couple of times a week at a community center to meet businessmen on their lunch breaks and played Frisbee golf to meet counterculture youth in the parks. We also went to grocery stores to collect food products that were past their sell dates and took it into poor communities.
“George Robbins broke ground in Watertown in the ‘70s and built a house that had an open area upstairs that was used for service. Multiple men came over the years laboring and then transitioned out of South Dakota. The work eventually closed. Pastors such as Tim Milby and Warren Welch gave years of their lives to the work. Their labor was not in vain. It was invested.”
Keys to Revival
Pastor Brown said he doesn’t look at revival or church growth as a padlock with a single key. “I see it more as a combination lock that will open over time after a series of turns,” he said. “Results we have seen have stemmed from a culmination of various efforts over time. Prayer has been and is a priority. The Jesus Church is definitely a praying church. In addition, we don’t just pray for a harvest. We go into the harvest. The saints of the church visit neighborhoods inviting people, help serve at a food pantry in town, visit the jail to teach Bible studies, and drive to homes to pick up youth and adults who need transportation. The guests that are retained tend to come from Bible studies that are maintained.
“The constant contact and consistent teaching of God’s Word never fails. Guests receive the Word as a seed, but the devil comes like a bird to take it. Teachers can protect that seed with a sword in their hand, which is the Word as well. A guest left alone has a small chance of survival. The best way to fight for the seed of the Word a guest receives is with the sword of the Word in a teacher’s hand.”
According to Pastor Brown, in that type of rural setting, one-on-one personal relationships over time that lead into a weekly Bible study have been the most effective in making disciples. “Our perpetual theme is ‘Disciple: Be One. Make One,’” he said. “My wife and I personally lead with a lifestyle of evangelism and communicate the scriptural precedent for making disciples. Those that show interest are provided with Bible study resources. A few times throughout the year, I will teach a Bible study resource to the congregation and show how to teach it during our midweek service.
“Time has worked in our favor. Time is our best friend and worst enemy. It is a great ally if you use it wisely and are faithful, but the problem is that we are not promised time. Some of our growth simply has come because we have been here one day more than we were before. Some breakthroughs have come from relationships 10 years ago.”
During the summer months when the Browns want to establish new contacts with kids for their Children’s Ministry, the church sponsors a Porta-Party, where they bring a folding table and simple relay games to a neighborhood with kids. Small prizes and candy are given to the participants. It is easy, inexpensive and low pressure, according to Pastor Brown, and has helped them to send out three vans weekly to pick up 40-50 students for their Wednesday children’s service.
A Church Building
“In the 5th year of our church plant, we had a revival of 100 first-time visitors in five months,” said Pastor Brown. “After many were born again, they began to talk about purchasing a church property. They had money to help buy a church building, but they began to question and pressure me on doctrinal issues. I stood for truth, and eventually they all left. We were at the bottom again. I broke down emotionally and wept. The Lord spoke to me and said, ‘Now I can trust you with revival.’
“I never wanted to be pressured by people’s finances again. From that point, I was determined and began to pray for the Lord to help us get a church property debt-free. I started praying over a church property that was almost 11,000 square feet on 3.89 acres of land worth $1.3 million. I went to the owners and made multiple offers. Upon each return time, I offered them less. They weren’t too happy and did not want to negotiate anymore. I came back one more time and offered $250,000 and they said yes. I told them we had to sell our property first.
“God moved miraculously, and in three weeks we not only sold our previous property but we also walked into the title company and bought the new property debt-free without ever carrying a note or taking out a loan. The building holds a youth chapel, four classrooms, a large fellowship hall, kitchen, elevator, two offices and main sanctuary that seats 240. When I preach, it is without the pressure of losing people or their purse to pay the mortgage.”
Pastor Brown said there are certain Scriptures that keep him focused. Ephesians 6:6 reminds him that his ministry is to please the Lord and not people. “I continue to ask myself, ‘Why am I doing this?’ and ‘Who am I pleasing?’ Proverbs 21:25 suggests that one cannot just want revival. We must work revival. The successful of this world are the disciplined of this world; therefore, one must strive to be temperate, as I Corinthians 9:24-27 directs. I Corinthians 16:8 keeps me determined to ‘tarry in South Dakota till Pentecost.’”
Priorities and Passions
Priorities are rooted in relationships. “Your relationship with God through prayer and the Word must be your first priority,” advised Pastor Brown. “This is followed by your relationship with your spouse and children. These relationships can be cultivated through weekly activities where they have your undivided attention. I do deliberate things for this cultivation to take place.
“My wife and I make it a priority to sit down for family meals very frequently. We are deliberate in how we spend quality family time. We take nature walks, explore museums and gather for family devotions with no electronics during these special times. “Electronics are well-monitored in our home. We live by the principle that our home is our sanctuary. Matthew 18:6 drives me to keep our home safe, pure and holy. My children will not be introduced to unrighteousness while they are in my home. I do not want to be accused of offending ‘one of these little ones.’
“If my home is not in order and my walk with God is out of order, I cannot effectively care for my community. Once these two priorities are set and in place, I can effectively build the relationship to my community through invitations, visitations and fellowship. “Rev. Jim Sleeva’s mantra, ‘Exposure Breeds a Burden,’ continues to resonate within me. I have found that the two segments of society that tend to receive the message are people who have no religious background and those who are completely broken.”
Living a life devoted to ministry is one of servanthood. Drive, determination and diligence in the work of God will help position a person for that life of servitude. Pastor Brown continues to share his burden for the younger generation by preaching across the country about the impact of media, its dangers, and the way to be set free. Other topics he enjoys are that of doctrines of the Apostolic faith, prayer, the call of God and faith. For more information, Pastor Brown can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.