It has been said that if God had a thrill ride it would be Abundant Life Church of Silsbee, Texas.
The worship is intense, the music is passionate, and the people are incredible. Every aspect, from the preaching to the praise services, is an exciting journey filled with incredible worship, fervent prayer, and a passionate anointing.
Under the leadership of Pastor Benjamin White and Senior Pastor Douglas White, the ultimate goal of everything that Abundant Life tries to accomplish through its ministries is twofold. “We strive to be like God in our heartbeat,” said Bro. White, “and we try to replicate the atmosphere, anointing and passion of Abundant Life in others.”
With a childhood surrounded by tragedy and substance abuse, Bishop White was raised in a series of broken homes. “My mother died when I was 11 in an automobile accident,” explained Bro. White. “Although not a religious woman, she was a precious, morally sound woman. After that, my father went through several failed marriages and died a few weeks after I finished high school. From that point on my life became chaotic, and I shuffled around until I finally found the grasp on God that was necessary to pull my own life out of the unholy habits that I had by then acquired.”
Feeling his call to preach, Bro. White preached his first message in 1981 and began evangelizing in 1982. Eventually he and his wife, Pamela, came to Silsbee, Texas to assume the pastorate in 1988. “I received a telephone call from Pastor Brian telling me that God had shown him a vision and that I was to come pastor the church in Silsbee,” explained Bro. White. “Ironically, I turned him down various times until I finally agreed to come for three months to prove to him that I wasn’t going to come to Texas, and that was almost 25 years ago. My wife and I, along with our children — Benjamin, Nathaniel and Bethany — are proud to serve Abundant Life and the people of Silsbee, Texas.”
As a part of the Texas district, Bro. White served the Youth Division for 11 years. He has preached all over the United States as well as almost every continent, and he has preached at about 40 camps, numerous convention and has ministered at four different Bible colleges.
From an effective, vibrant Youth Ministry, where many are prayed through to the Holy Ghost in their services, to a Jail Ministry that has seen about 80 baptized and filled with the Holy Ghost over the last few months, Abundant Life has a variety of ministries where almost anyone can be “plugged in” to the purpose of the church.
“We try to get as many involved as possible in the ministries of the church,” said Bro. White. “We have a wonderful Music Ministry team made up of a music director, choir director and the sound team. We are blessed with incredible music and find that many doors have opened up to our congregation as a result of our music department’s involvement in area festivals, choir concerts, etc. Every few weeks, our music team is invited to participate in some other activity beyond our local church or daughter works.”
Abundant Life also has a Media Ministry that organizes, makes available, and distributes every message at Abundant Life over the last 24 years, a Ladies and Men’s Ministry, a Street Ministry complete with mobile trailer with a stage and sound system, a Jail Ministry, Usher/Hostess teams, Prayer Ministry, Pastoral Care Council, a World Missions program, College and Career Ministries, and a wonderful Sunday School program.
“Obviously there are some things that I may have forgotten to mention,” said Bro. White, “but suffice it to say that we have plenty of opportunities for people to be involved.”
Organization and Management
The pastor believes organization and management are important and has planning sessions where the leaders cast their vision, express their hopes for each particular ministry, and allow each department to share the goals and needs of their particular ministry.
“We have quarterly planning sessions among the department heads, and we meet yearly with the entire leadership teams comprised of department heads, committees, and other leadership among our congregation,” said Bro. White. “Outside of that we have meetings with any given leader as they deem necessary for the progression of their particular ministry.
“We have an extensive Ministry Training Team where much time is devoted to the training, teaching and utilization of young ministers. Almost every weekend at least 75 percent of our ministers who are still in our local church are out ministering in some facet of another congregation. It has been our goal that by the time they step out in ministry, each one of our preachers has been involved in almost every aspect of ministry.”
Abundant Life Church had an illustrious past, and back in the early ‘60s was known far and wide due to their success in the early years, averaging around 450 in the original church. “Through time and troubles, however, the congregation had dwindled down significantly,” said Bro. White. “When we first came to Silsbee, the congregation was around 60 people at the most. The crowd was so small most nights that I eventually roped off the entire back half of our tiny church to bring the people closer to find some kind of unity in their worship. We literally, within a few years, went from ‘roped pews’ to a packed building. In fact, we remodeled the old church two or three different times just to try to accommodate the crowd. In short order, our congregation began to grow and the entire spirit of our church changed.”
When their church building, then filled, was destroyed by Hurricane Rita, it hurled Abundant Life into a long, tedious building program that, while desperately needed, they weren’t really ready for. “As we struggled with our insurance company, massively overloaded by the sheer number of properties damaged by the hurricane, we found ourselves having church in a tent for several months in the stifling heat, until we finally moved into the shell of the building that had been destroyed by the hurricane,” explained Bro. White. “Because of restrictions they placed on our now destroyed building we had to totally set up and dismantle every aspect of our service each time we met. We had church for over a year with plastic stapled to stud walls while preaching with a guitar amp for a sound system. Ultimately, while some moved away from a ‘hurricane zone’ (and others lacked the commitment it took to stay with an established church having to start over), the Lord and His purpose became forefront in the minds of those precious folks who were determined to make a once ‘good church’ a ‘great church’ beyond their struggles. After a series of miracles and the sacrifice of these precious people, we now have a building capable of seating around 700. This itself would be more than ‘tithes’ on our city of a little over 6,000.
“Our new sanctuary is beautiful, and God has blessed us beyond measure because of the sacrifice of those who loved our purpose enough to stick it out. Ironically, it was during that intense time of struggle that we saw more ministries take shape, more preachers established with firm direction, and more anointing begin to flow than our church had ever known. Today’s beautiful sanctuary stands as a testimony of a church that not only stood in the storm but one that shouted in the rain along the way!”
Principles of Growth & Revival
Having a church that is constantly growing and that is recognized as a revival church is important to Abundant Life, and they have programs in place to assure that the proper training and guidance is administered for this atmosphere to continue.
“Perhaps the key to growth and revival is a threefold answer,” said Bro. White. “I spend much time in developing ministers and leaders through a concept God gave me years ago called ‘The Anointing of Sonship.’ It was given to me in a time when, early in my pastorate here, our church had reached a ‘ceiling’ and wouldn’t grow beyond that. After a lengthy fast, the Lord began to speak to me about the importance of Sonship and being submitted to spiritual authority in my life. Being mindful that throughout my own entire walk with God I was fiercely loyal to my precious man of God, it quite literally became a revelation to me that there is a dimension of anointing that can only be found in true submission to spiritual authority.
“Once I began to invest in my people and teach them the importance of submitting themselves to God’s authority, our church literally began to explode with revival. In one year, almost 100 young people alone had prayed through, and our church was growing on every hand.
“Also, we began to focus much of our efforts on meeting the needs of individuals. Even now, in every service we make a deliberate effort to meet the needs of every individual whether a member or a visitor. And, finally, we cherish the ability to help facilitate healing — physically, emotionally or otherwise — in others.”
Along with their training and practice of investing in others, Abundant Life has growth ministries and methods that have worked to not only get their people involved in evangelism but has resulted in church growth as well.
“Some years ago, after an extended period of personal dedication, I became acutely aware that everything Jesus tried to accomplish in His earthly ministry seemed to fit into one of three categories,” said Bro. White. “Jesus was either reaching, teaching or He was caring. After about six months of wrestling with this premise, I prepared a program utilizing that principle and structured our congregation that every ministry fit into either reaching, teaching or caring. After creating a questionnaire to determine which of these groups an individual’s gifting aligned them with, we divided our congregation into three teams (Reach Team, Teach Team, and Care Team) and positioned leaders over each team.
“Our ultimate goal was to have at least 80 percent of our people involved in ministry and to our amazement, we saw incredible growth once that number of individuals became personally involved in the particular ministries they seemed gifted in.
“Outside of that (and most effective for our growth) we have stressed a ‘lifestyle’ evangelism in which reaching and influencing souls is a natural part of their walk with God and NOT just an outreach program on Saturdays or special events.”
Future of Abundant Life
Bro. White was recently named Bishop of the congregation after the doctors determined that he would pass away from an illness, but thankfully God’s mercy and an experimental surgery stopped that process. Bro. White’s oldest son, Benjamin, was unanimously voted in as pastor at this time.
Currently, there are six young ministers recognized in the local church. But 29 ministers look to Bro. White as Bishop that are either pastoring, assisting full-time or evangelizing. A strong group of younger ministers who feel a call are being given opportunities at various ‘ministries’ to see their diligence and burden before being allowed to experience a pulpit ministry. In any given service there will be three to four young ministers filling other pulpits for churches throughout the area and in other states.
“We have three daughter works in our past and just placed a site Pastor in a fourth location now,” said Bro. White. “To further illustrate my point, we just had another of our young preachers, Daniel Walter, approved by the Virginia District to start another Home Missions work, Abundant Life of Chester, Virginia. This will make a total of five congregations that we’ve established and equipped for revival.
“We are excited about the fact that God is allowing our congregation to reach into other needed areas. I sincerely place little regard on how many we presently have sitting in our congregation simply because we, as a congregation, unselfishly rejoice each Sunday night when we talk about what God is doing in these other places!
“My goal for the future of Abundant Life is to replicate our congregation in as many places as we can find an open door to do so. In a town of 6,000 (on the outskirts of other larger towns) I realize that we have the ability to grow to whatever point God leads us to. However, we spend a massive amount of time training and developing preaching ministries, music ministries, and leadership of various kinds for the purpose of replicating our church in other areas.”
Douglas White, Silsbee, Texas
Phone- 409-385-7474 Email address- BarJudah@aol.com
Transcribed By: Gregg Stone