By Rick Kern
“Our purpose is to become a garden in the ghetto, to transform our streets to a place where all people flourish!” The inspiring sentiments, while posing a daunting challenge, are the passion and pursuit of Dr. John Walker, pastor of Faith Christian Center (FCC).
Located on Clifford Avenue in Rochester, FCC has been following the servant-leadership of Dr. Walker since 1989 when he was called there on a temporary assignment. He was formally installed as its pastor the following year and has spent nearly three decades anchored in his calling there. The mission for the ministry is to develop mature Christians who demonstrate the love of Christ as His representatives in the world, a spiritual construct that dovetails perfectly with the church’s vision. That vision, given to Dr. Walker, is essentially to share the Gospel of Jesus Christ and help those who are being transformed spiritually by His love, to become sons and daughters of the Living God. It is through these companion dynamics that the somewhat poetic description of the ultimate goal of FCC to transform the “ghetto into a garden so that the beauty of God is on display,” has emerged.
“We teach constantly that it’s the spiritual part of life that we need to really focus on,” Walker explains, “and that if we walk in the Spirit we’ll receive the gifts of the Spirit and those are the things that will give us victory.” He continues, “And we try not to lean on our own material understanding of the world. That’s what we strive to teach and try to live out each day all of us in the church try to do that.” He adds that, “When we fall down, we encourage each other. That’s all. It’s not that we’re perfect but that by the power of the Holy Spirit we’re able to strive towards that and live for that.”
FCC’s website has what it calls its “Warrior’s Creed” posted which says in part, “With God’s help, I will not flinch in the face of sacrifice, hesitate in the presence of the adversary, negotiate at the table of the enemy, ponder at the pool of popularity . . . I won’t give up, shut up, or let up until I have stayed up, stored up, prayed up, paid up, and preached up for the cause of Christ . . . I am a disciple of Jesus Christ.”
While this is but a portion of the Creed which could almost be seen as a heavenly mandate, its words are a hard-hitting rallying point without any hint of compromise leading one to wonder how FCC rises to such a deeply spiritual occasion. “We do it by saying that we are sons of the Most High God,” notes Dr. Walker, “so we believe in the possibility that with God, we can do anything and we are in a war — we understand that. Spiritually! And that we should use spiritual warfare. But to do that we really have to walk in the Spirit.”
Spiritual warfare has a prominent place in FCC’s playbook and Walker doesn’t hold back when describing some of the church’s experiences in the trenches with the powers of darkness. “It plays a critical role,” he says, “we have had people that have been delivered from drug addiction, I’m not saying that they are drug addicts any more (as in reformed), they’ve been delivered from it and they no longer have the urge and it’s all spiritual — we know that’s not a physical thing.” He continues passionately, “We’ve had people who have literally been pronounced dead come back to life and are still living by the grace of God.”
It doesn’t just include high drama and the red-letter-stuff; however, everyday problems that trouble God’s people are also engaged in those trenches. Walker puts it this way, “But more importantly,” he stresses, “we engage in spiritual warfare in things that don’t seem as dramatic. You know we battle and pray for people to be delivered from depression, mental illnesses; these are things we think involve spiritual warfare.” He goes on, “We pray for healing and again many of the things people are dealing with could be eliminated by following what the Word says which is, ‘Don’t worry’ and a lot of illnesses are brought about because people do worry and they manifest in their bodies.”
Faith Christian Center came to play and play to win! Accordingly, in addition to their worship services they have a number of unique and effective outreach ministries that are impacting their community. For example, they were among the organizers for the annual March for Jesus that used to take place in the city. Additionally, they helped establish the Charles Finney School located in Penfield, New York. “We are one of the founding churches of the Finney School,” says Walker, “and I’m now serving as the Board Chair of the Finney School — the Lord has blessed us to be part of that.”
FCC is also a member of a consortium of different fellowships that gather to worship the Lord. Dr. Walker explains, “We’re a member of a group of churches called, Celebrate Jesus where we come together periodically and just worship the Lord together.” He continues, “All different types of churches come together to do that in Jesus’ name. So we believe in the fellowship of the saints.” Thus, while there may be divergent theological interpretations, they all worship and serve the same God and gather to celebrate and honor Him.
As you might expect, FCC’s passion to serve doesn’t stop at the Rochester city line, it extends across the globe. “I’m also a member of Leadership International, where we go and minister to pastors in different countries,” says Walker. “And that was an organization founded by my pastor who just passed away, Pastor Don Riling.”
They also get behind the work of a number of missionaries, “We support ministries across the world in missions,” notes Dr. Walker, “so we have missionaries we support in Peru and Africa, we support ministries in the city.”
Among these is a fantastic effort to act as a sort of incubator for emergent fellowships. “We are small but we help small churches get started,” Walker notes. “We are helping Jyoti, a Napali church, and we are also helping another church, Kingdom Ministries.” He continues, “And we’ve helped other churches in the past get started. We feel that they are part of the Kingdom of God so if we can be of assistance, whatever we have we can share with them.”
In addition to these many programs, FCC has a remarkably unique ministry designed to promote home ownership. “What we do there is we have people live in our steward’s house and in lieu of living there they provide stewardship services for the church,” Dr. Walker explains. “There’s no rent, we ask them to save their money and in two to three years they earn the opportunity by saving to go forth and buy their own homes.” Thus far, some ten families have participated in the program with seven of the ten having successfully gone on to home ownership. “Again,” says Walker, “we’re not a big church but God gives us opportunities and we are flexible enough to share in those.”
Originally from Dayton, Ohio, Dr. Walker was saved and baptized at just five-years old, and has always been involved in the church in one way or another. He earned his Ph.D. in Applied Management and Decision Sciences and has taught in the Masters of Strategic Leadership program at Roberts Wesleyan College for nearly two decades. “I like to invest in the lives of others,” he asserts forcefully. “I’ve actually invested in the lives of, roughly, 800 people in that timeframe and we invest in them and we teach them servant leadership; that’s the leadership perspective we focus on here at Roberts Wesleyan.” He goes on, “We pray that’s beneficial to the community too, that these people go out and become servants first then leaders.”
For more information about Faith Christian Center visit their website located at www.faith-christian-center.org or telephone the church at (585) 288-7857.