Methods, Means and Motivation – Gordon Parrish, Fairbanks, AK
If you are looking for a great place to worship, raise your children and become part of a wonderful family of believers, then you’ve come to the right place. The Sanctuary United Pentecostal Church of Fairbanks, Alaska pastored by Bro. Gordon Parrish III is truly a special place, a multicultural place, a place where people of diverse cultures become one spiritual family. Their doors will always be open for all.
Through the years, hundreds of people just like you have received their very own life-changing New Birth experience at The Sanctuary. Their priority is to help each person find, develop and maintain their own relationship with the Lord.
Bro. Parrish has been a pastor for 39 years and is currently the district superintendent of the Alaska-Yukon district, and serves on the United Pentecostal Church of Canada’s Board of Directors as well. His previous positions include district youth president, home missions secretary, district paper editor, and district board member. Bro. Parrish and his wife, Deborah, have three children: Jennifer , Gordon IV , and Michael .
Born and raised in southern Illinois, Bro. Parrish was just five years old when his mother came into the church under Bro. Calvin Rigdon’s ministry. “Before the age of nine I was baptized and received the Holy Ghost,” explains Bro. Parrish. “By the time I was twelve I had quit attending church but in 1971, when I was 21 years old, I prayed back through and shortly thereafter I felt a calling to pastor and began preparing myself. When I approached my pastor [Bro. Lester Caraway, Herrin, Illinois] his response was, ‘I thought you would be coming to me about this.’ In the summer of 1972, I met and married my beautiful wife Deborah. I then enrolled in Gateway College of Evangelism in St. Louis. During the first year, I felt a very strong calling to go back to Alaska and in the summer of ‘73, we loaded everything we had into a car and an old pickup truck bed that had been chopped off the cab and drove the 4,200 miles to Fairbanks. We remained in Fairbanks, attending and working in the church that we now pastor. In 1975, we opened a church in Delta Junction located about 100 miles from Fairbanks and remained there until June 1978. June 2, 1978 was my installation service in the church that we currently pastor.”
Principles of Growth & Revival
Bro. Parrish is armed with a vision to help every one of the pastors in the Alaska-Yukon district grow their church in number and maturity by providing for them what he calls the three M’s of evangelism: methods, means and motivation. “For our church family we provide methods (ideas, programs, drives, etc.), means (materials, finances, etc.), and motivation,” explains Bro. Parrish. “By promoting evangelism each service and through the programs that encourage outreach, a pastor is motivating the congregation by showing them what is important to him as the pastor.”
Bro. Parrish believes the most important key to having a growing church is to develop a “growth atmosphere” within the church. “This would include establishing a vision for growth by preaching/teaching that the purpose of the church is to reach the lost, and to retain (or disciple) those that come in,” he says. “Much effort goes into creating a growth atmosphere such as helping your congregation feel good about who they are and what they are doing for the kingdom. Each person needs to find their place of involvement within the church – a ministry that they enjoy doing.”
Every Thursday evening, Bro. Parrish meets with young adults for Ministers In Training (M.I.T.). While teaching them principles of leadership, character, etc., he helps them find their place of ministry. “For those involved, I tend to see a greater degree of commitment and involvement within the Kingdom, a greater sense of purpose,” said Bro. Parrish. “A pastor’s priorities should focus primarily on equipping the church members for ministry. A pastor will do well by establishing priorities in ministry and staying with them. Consistency is a builder; inconsistency is a killer.”
Organization & Management
Bro. Parrish firmly believes in organization, especially in those areas requiring training. “We have quarterly staff meetings and an annual planning session,” explains Bro. Parrish. “I meet with individual department heads weekly. For each ‘position’ in the church one must go through our written guidelines of requirement and agree to live that standard of life.”
Bro. Parrish’ philosophy of ministry is pretty simple: minister to the needs. “My advice (when asked) is don’t waste your time answering questions that aren’t being asked,” says Bro. Parrish. “Obviously, the lost need to be found and the saints need help in dealing with the issues of life. Basically, this is my ministry. As far as my target group, we are a multicultural church. No group or individual is out of bounds for us.”
Through the years, The Sanctuary has experienced several miracles: cancers healed, etc. The most notable miracle, however, was a 4-year-old girl that was hit by a truck in front of their church. She was without question deceased. During a frantic prayer in the street, she was raised to life.
“Shannon lived across the street and often came to our house to play with my daughter, Jennifer,” explains Bro. Parrish. “Both were the same age and enjoyed each other’s company. On this particular day, Shannon had been playing with Jennifer but decided to go to her home to pick up something for them both to snack on. I was working on the outside of our church, along with some members of our church, when I heard the sliding of tires across wet pavement. I quickly turned toward the street in time to see the pickup truck hit Shannon, throwing her 20-plus feet through the air. Once on the pavement she didn’t move. Her bicycle was tangled and crushed underneath the truck. I quickly ran toward her, giving instructions to one of our men to call an ambulance. When in the military I had received some emergency medical training, and I know that you can cause more severe damage to an injured person by moving them so I was cautious. I first checked for any signs of life, wrist pulse, neck pulse, heartbeat, etc. I then put my face next to her mouth but could not detect any breathing. Shannon’s face looked as though all of the bones were broken on the left side. Later we could see where her face had dented the front hood of the truck. I also noticed a cut on her forehead, which was opened, and to her skull. There was no bleeding, which is another indication that her heart wasn’t beating. From her ears came what looked like a mixture of blood and clear fluid, indicating brain damage. At this point, I realized that Shannon was gone and that I wouldn’t do any more damage by taking her in my arms, so I did so. As I knelt there in the middle of the street holding Shannon, I remember feeling almost obsessed to pray for her, and I started crying out, “Jesus, help this baby; Jesus, help this baby.” At some point, I opened my eyes to see what seemed like the entire neighborhood standing around us. The odd thing that I noticed was that they were all staring at me and not really looking at this little girl. Looking back, they must have thought that I was beside myself with grief and had simply ‘lost it.’ As I continued (almost screaming) “Jesus, help this baby,” I saw Shannon’s mother and father jump from their front porch and run toward us. As her mother knelt beside me, I tried to hand Shannon to her mother. She pushed Shannon back to me while crying, “No, pray, pray!” I’m not sure how much time went by; it couldn’t have been more than a few minutes when all of a sudden, Shannon inhaled a deep breath, her arms and legs shot out and she began to cry. At that point, an ambulance was on the scene, and they immediately put her on a stretcher and took her to the hospital.
This all took place around 8 p.m. on a summer night. I quickly changed clothes and went to be with the family at the hospital. At about 11 p.m. I saw their family truck pull into their yard, and the most amazing thing happened. Shannon got out of the truck, walked over to her wadded-up bicycle, kicked the tire, stood there a minute and then walked into her house.
The next day a knock came at my front door. It was Shannon. She was dressed in her nicest dress and carrying a little gift for me from her mother. I invited her in and immediately began looking at her face, which the evening before had looked to have the consistency of cottage cheese. Everything now looked normal. I couldn’t resist lifting her little dress to see where the truck had hit the left side of her body. From the top to the bottom, there was not one bruise to be found.”
This past Easter was the first service for The Sanctuary in its new auditorium. They have been in a building program for several years and have just completed buildings 5, 6, and 7 of an 8-building project. Total square footage for their church is just over 23,500 square feet. The seating capacity for their new auditorium is just over 500. They continue to work on their current project, paying as they go.
“As far as numbers in church, we live in a very transient area,” says Bro. Parrish. “Fairbanks has a strong military presence, and people come and go every couple of years. Those who come to Alaska for work or pleasure often tend to leave when they finish what they came for. Fairbanks can be a difficult place to live considering the extreme weather conditions. When folks come to church and the temperature is 40 degrees below zero or colder, we give them a certificate. (This practice started as tongue-in-cheek, but we found that we all take it pretty seriously.) The winter weather here is life-threatening, and one can never forget that. Thinking back over our records, since I came here as pastor, we have baptized between 2,500 and 3,000, and most of those received the Holy Ghost.”
Plans for the future
Bro. Parrish is excited about the future, the remainder of his building program and what the Lord has in store for The Sanctuary. “I am just as excited about the Lord’s work today as ever,” says Bro. Parrish. “I will continue to be a revivalist, reaching for the lost and helping the saints in every way I can.”
By Gregg Stone