One of the projects that was afforded to me, through studying church plants, was trying to touch base with as many local pastors as I can. (First, let me say that this isn't a letter of solicitation, I don't work like that!!!) Thankfully, we have this avenue, e-mailing and social media that makes it much easier, though I prefer face to face contact, for now, this is about all I can afford to do.
As a newby in your association, I want you to know a little bit about me and my heart. After people meet me, their first impression, many times, and echoed to others is, that I am just "rough around the edges", and I guess I am. I don't try to be, but apparently I come across like that. Sometimes my dry sense of humor comes off as, well, let me just say, it's not interpreted in the way it's meant, and also I am a plain talker, and that blows the skirt up on some of the more formal people in our faith camps! (See what I mean..........just making a funny my friends!!!)
I try very hard to listen to the Lord God, and speak what He wants me to say, though at times, I like Paul, inject my own thoughts into a few of my messages. Thank God, as I age, those are getting farther apart. It's at those times, the flesh is gratified for one (me), but it can rub many others raw (the listeners). In 1985, when I started preaching, up till about 1990, it didn't matter to me if people liked what I said or not (me listening to those Independent Baptist preachers that I was surrounded by in Bible College, didn't help that sour attitude of mine). But one day the Holy Spirit got a hold of me, (after speaking at the KY Evangelism Conference, I still can't believe that happened in my life, as I was a nobody). Any way, God spanked and humbled this old boy on the drive home for the way I was coming across to people, and that propelled me to simmer down a bunch, and I had to, as God was putting it into my heart to plant a "Come As You Are" church in the town where I was now living.
Believe me when I say, back in 1992, (when I actually got the church up and running), it wasn't popular starting and pastoring a non traditional community of believers. Honestly, it was HARD. Because I didn't tag the church name with the word Baptist, my home church pastor and my best friend (a Baptist pastor that I went to college with and preached many times for, and spent several nights in his home), turned their backs on me, and even wrote the KY State Baptist paper criticizing what I was doing. On launch day, I still had 15 revivals booked in Baptist churches (as I was in full time evangelism), but after the launch and me baptizing 3 people that night in the Ramada Inn swimming pool (I didn't know a newspaper person and photographer was there, as the motel had called them, and a picture of me baptizing a man was on the front page of the paper the next morning), I lost them all (the booked revivals) but 3. My friend in ministry scolded me. Said I had no "right to baptize" those people. They took me to task for not having a "mother" church, (I truly didn't know about this). I was ostracized by those closes to me, my college friends, my mentors, my buddies, and what I felt at the time, my denomination. I became the most popular Baptist in town, but for the wrong reason, and it devastated me and my confidence in many, EXCEPT God, who I know was in this, even though it was unorthodox at the time.
I was the sermon subject of many preacher's messages, of all denominations, practically every Wednesday night. Funny thing was, their people would come to visit our church after the pastors peaked the people's curiosity, and our new visitors would tell me this, and many stayed with us. They were told that l was the devil himself, but in the mean time we lead hundreds to Christ and baptizing 90% of those. It was a shame those professions of faith and baptisms were not recorded by the SBC, because though my hair was long and I was back wearing black leather, I was still a Baptist!!!
I tell you this, because it was those difficult days of ministry that caused me to become distant from other pastors/preachers. I knew I was doing what the Lord Jesus wanted me to do, so I became basically a Lone Wolf in the ministry, well honestly, I became an Alpha Male Lone Wolf, like never before, and I reckon some of that is still in me, though I truly want to be a team player. So if I come across to you as aggressive or arrogant or whatever you perceive, other than a humble servant of Christ's, I'm sorry, as I am trying to fit "back" in.
I pastored that church for almost ten years, and that was about 4 years to long. I should have given the reigns over to some one else after about 5 years, but I didn't have enough faith to believe it would go on without me. O how weak I was to believe it was all about me. My faith wasn't even the size of that "famous" mustard seed, so I stayed, and ended up having a heart attack, at the age of 43. In August of 1998, I had 5 by passes done on my heart. I was blessed to have lived, as men that age, who experience massive heart attacks, usually don't, as their heart muscle is still strong, but the veins are closed, and the heart keeps pumping, until it literally explodes. I should have left before then, and definitely afterward, but I stayed, and though the church was not declining I was, spiritually, until I burnt out in 2000, and backed up on God. Constantly working with the poor and hurting that can't give or help really took a toll on my family and me. (By the way, Set Free KY is still alive and going!!!)
I went back to driving a semi over the road, a profession I was taught as a young man, and after 2 years, I started my own trucking business, and grew it into a very successful and lucrative enterprise, all while doing ministry on my own, through personal soul winning and such. But as the years rolled by, I became less involved in ministry, and though pastoring and evangelism was always burning in the back of my mind, I kept it dormant.
In 2005, I moved to Daytona, something I had wanted to do since 1989. Here I wanted to start another motorcycle ministry, like the one I founded in KY; Soldiers For Christ M/M, or that was my plan, but brothers, as you all are aware of, this place will eat you alive spiritually, if you don't stay filled with the Spirit and in His Word, and it did me.
I caught myself wanting a beer (from hanging around it much of the time at biker events), something the Lord took away from me immediately at salvation, and I succumbed. No, I wasn't a drunk (again), but I drink in public, and those few times I did, crippled my witness, and still does to a slight few here. I started using words that my children had never heard me say, and I would cry over those words, because I knew that wasn't me or God in me. I went on like this for a couple of years, yet I was still witnessing to a few and helping many ministries feed and love the hurting here in New Smyrna Beach and Edgewater, and though I attended a few churches, I wasn't faithful to any church, per say.
In 2010, the Holy Spirit sent an old church member I pastored back in the mid 80's here to see me, thanks to facebook. I was taken back by this visit. The last time I saw him, and only briefly, was in 1996 or 97, as he visited Set Free in KY, and I don't really remember much about that, as I was on my spiritual decline at that time. Anyway, Jimmie Webb from Ky came to see me, a man he still calls his pastor, and while we were walking on the beach, he said, while picking up a sea shell like a small child would, "What are you doing anyway?".
Let me tell you brothers, I KNEW immediately what he meant!!! He wasn't talking about a secular job or anything of that nature. God was asking me that question, through an old country boy, dressed in bib overalls and a big black cowboy hat in white tennis shoes on New Smyrna Beach, "Jim Powell, COCHISE, what are you doing for ME!!!" And it brought me back into reality, of what He had called me to do 25 years ago, and that was to be a soul winner, a preacher, a evangelist and a pastor to a hurting and dying world. That next morning as Jim and Edith left my house, I fell to my knees and asked God to forgive me and I rededicated my life to serving him the rest of my life, and by His grace I am going to, regardless of what anyone thinks about me.
I know I'm saved, I know I was set apart for His service, I know who has Their hand on me, and whether I'm received by men, either lost or saved, or whether I fit in or not, I AM back, and I AM "Ignorance On Fire" for Him, like I use to be, and I AM going to do everything within my "faith" and strength to win people to Christ, I AM going to invite people to ask God to create within them a "Clean Heart", I AM going to continue to be the pastor to this community of misfits, including the bikers, doing their funerals, weddings and praying and sharing at their parties and I AM going to love, reach out to, and accept any and all that "whosoever" will come to Him, as my brothers and sisters. I AM, because HE IS!!!
It was in God's plans for Walter Allen to share with Director Of Mission's Marty about me. I had been doing Bible Studies, actually preaching in my home since Jimmie's visit. I started a Bible Study at the 1st Turn Tiki Bar and one at a local tattoo shop. I was back doing revivals in some small non denominational churches, and helping an old college classmate plant a church in Benton, KY ( I spent 10 weeks there helping in the Fall of 2011). I was active in a black congregation, here in New Smyrna, with feeding the homeless at Pettis park twice a week, and not only sharing food that I had prayed in, but also the Word!!! God was blessing my efforts and I was so grateful to be back in the fold, but I truly needed a place where I could teach others how to reach out and invite people to Christ, and BAM, it happened. Thank God for the Halifax Baptist Association and for Bro. Marty, for their love and support!!!
I know this is getting long, my intention was not to bore you my brothers in Christ, but to let you know a little about me, other than what you've been told or perceived from the "secular" magazine I put out.
In closing, 2 things! First, I was saved as an outlaw biker, which isn't a big deal today, but it was back then. Today it seems every man that was a biker that got saved becomes a minister or starts a M/M or becomes an evangelist (it's easier today thanks to men like Barry Mason (RIP) a former Hells Angel and yes even me), but back then we were trophies, that's why I think I got to preach at the KY Baptist Evangelism Conference in 1990, with about 2,500 people present. I was as hardcore as you could be, bitter at the world, a no account husband and a weak father to my children, an embarrassment to my one surviving parent and family, BUT when He drew me to Jesus I got delivered, and am still delivered. I was on a roller coaster ride, spiritually, for about 5 years, but I'm satisfied with where He has me right now, Set Free Daytona Beach, a Baptist Church!!!
Secondly, I am not a physical beggar, though I was a spiritual one for many years as a bankrupted and destitute lost man. If you ever hear me ask (and I was influenced to do so in the beginning of this church plant, and I may have at one of our meetings, though it went against the grain of my spirit) for money, you have permission to hit me right in the eye. That is NOT me!!! I am a man of faith and believe what God starts, He will provide, so don't think for a moment that this is what my e-mail to you is about. I don't want your money!!! Besides, if it's not given cheerfully and by the prompting of the Holy Spirit, then it's not a real deal to me, or Him.
I told many of you at one meeting that when I started Set Free KY, I saved my money from revivals, and through not celebrating Christmas, by not exchanging gifts or buying any for my children for 2 years, I launched that work and by God seeing how important it was to my family, and by our sacrifice and obedience, he provided everything we needed to keep it going. We fed thousands without one penny given outside of our Sunday tithes, Set Free KY saw hundreds get saved (at one of our parking lot outreaches in a small KY town we had 70 people get saved, and the majority went to local churches for baptism and membership, something I am proud of), I baptized 90% of those we lead to Christ in our city. We bought an old Methodist church and refurbished it without asking for one red cent. Our people gave out literally hundreds of new mittens, sock caps and coats to inner city and poor country kids every Winter, with only one outside donation (my heart doctor, $100, and Bianca prayed that in).
We started a M/M that went and still is nation wide that was the epitome of all M/M's, as we were known as the 1%ers of the Christian bikers, WITHOUT compromising our Christian Character!!! We did more than hand out tracts and cold water, which there is nothing wrong with that, rather we camped with them, feed them, many times 2 meals a day, and held full blown worship services for the thousands who attended, and they loved us, and many came to Christ. We actually had a young man drive from eastern TN to western Ky and paid $30 entry fee to come in and meet the Soldiers and for me to lead him to Jesus. That was a long ride, but he made it, because he wanted to know us and the Jesus we preached and lived. Right in the middle of the Barbarossa M/C's campground I lead him to Christ, through the Word!!!
When I purchased another Harley, as my home church told me to sell the one I had when I got saved ???, to start the M/M, I had to borrow the money, and without any past or projected income, (they don't cotton to much to "I live by faith" as collateral), I paid 32% interest on a $6,000 loan, which some how God paid off in less than a year (I still don't know that happened, but it was like someone was making secret payments to the finance company without me knowing it, I think, because one day I went to make a payment, and they said it was paid for). I can give a hundred testimonies on how He provided, and He will continue, so...........
What can you do for Set Free and me, nothing really, for you have done enough by allowing us to use the building (Thank You Jesus), but if you want to help, just pray for us, if we cross your mind, and for my families move from Edgewater to Daytona Beach. I'm not a spring chicken anymore, and with 15 years on 5 by passes, I don't do as well as I should on moving objects, so lift this up, that He won't let any thing happen to me physically and that my wife and I both, as well as our 11 year old daughter has the strength to get it done.
That's it!!! I pray for you all right now to be as blessed as I am!!! And I pray that I see you all soon, and we will recognize each other as "Brother's In The Lord", amen!!!
Cochise, Pastor Set Free Daytona
If you would like to be removed from my e-mails, please let me know, as I plan on sending you men an update on our ministry from time to time, and would like one from you as well, if it so pleases you. I got your e-mails from FBC site, hope that's ok.
Also, many pastors didn't have e-mails on the site, so feel free to share this with them if you want.
From One Mountain Climber To Another