By Susan LeDoux
When Dr. John Walker first joined Christian Center Church in Brockport, New York years ago, his pastor asked him where his heart was. Without hesitation, Walker, a businessman, said it was in the city. Unfortunately, at that time, the church had no ministries in Rochester. However, while serving as worship leader, the elders recognized his calling for pastoral ministry, and in time, he was ordained.
Fast forward to 1990. When Walker returned from a business trip, his pastor told him, “We have an interesting situation. Someone wants to give us a church in the city. I asked the Lord who should go, and the only name that came to me was you. I am not trying to get rid of you, it will only be a three month assignment.”
Twenty eight years later, Dr. Walker, professor in Roberts Wesleyan College’ s Masters of Strategic Leadership Program, is pastor of that very church, Faith Christian Center at 1797 Clifford Avenue, in the heart of Rochester. And while his heart may be in the city, he remains very much an educator also. Faith Christian Center was one of the founding churches of the Finney School in Penfield, New York, and Walker is the Chair of the Finney School Board.
He believes equipping young people for the future is an important aspect of ministry. When asked about the challenges of serving people in an urban environment, Walker cited children’s poor reading skills and unemployment.
“I was disturbed by the fact that in our Sunday school classes, many of the children, when I first came to the church, couldn’t read, and that bothered me. The bigger problem is comprehension. Even if they can pronounce the words, they don’t know what they mean. That’s troubling.”
Besides poor academic performance, unemployment is a concern.
“When I first came to the church 28 years ago, many people in the church had no jobs. But again, we believe God will provide if you tithe. Tithing is one of those things that work whether you have anything or not. I tell people that God can help you become a tither if you’re not tithing now, because if you have nothing, 10% of nothing is nothing. God can help you. The solution to poverty is to trust in God, so belief is really the key.”
He hopes to address unemployment by developing a computer lab for young adults in the surrounding neighborhood so they can acquire marketable job skills like computer aided design, computer coding, gaming theory, or game design. Yet Faith Christian Church’s primary mission is to preach the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Walker spoke of an exciting outreach he and other churches engaged in this past summer.
Organized by Joy Community Church, Faith Christian Center and other congregations set up red tents and prayed for healing and deliverance for people as they got off the bus or walked down the street. Walker’s voice held the enthusiasm he still feels about those eight Wednesday outreach events.
“People were touched and moved. Some came to the church. We weren’t recruiting people. We were just going to tell people God loved them.”
He told of a gentleman they prayed for who returned to them just when another man was approaching them. The man approaching spoke only Spanish, but the returning gentleman was able to translate for them.
“It was God’s timing. God’s providence did that,” Walker said.
They continue to pray for people in the northeast quadrant of the city — the Homestead, Beachwood, 14621, 14609 areas — for God’s touch and deliverance.
“It was exciting to go out and minister in that way…We want to continue to show people that God is love. We want to reflect that love, and God has been faithful to help us do that.”
Faith Christian Center reaches out to both women and men. His wife, Jane, works with a public school outreach program called “Club Godly Divas.” Created by Kim Edlin, the mission of Club Godly Divas states, “’Club Godly Divas’ is an Enrichment Program for Elementary School girls, grades 1-5, that focuses on Bible-based character building, increased self-esteem, and personal goals of success and prosperity. We accomplish this through a variety of teaching methods that produce the following: healthy relationships (with adults and each other); personal expectation of accomplishing great things (in school and outside of school); spiritual development; and a lifestyle of daily reading (outside of school).”
Faith Christian Center’s Pastor Lydia Thompson leads an another group of women who meet monthly and, as the Lord leads them, pray for one another, fellowship, and visit people in the community.
Walker, a father of 5 and grandfather of 12, has taught classes in effective fathering.
“I believe the root cause of most people’s heart wounds is due to a lack of proper fathering. If you don’t have a good relationship with your father, it’s hard to relate to God, our Father. They think God is cruel.”
Faith Christian Center is a relatively small faith community, and most members are older people. Walker joked about perhaps making it a condition that you have to be over 50 to join, but then added, “I believe God will supply all our needs. I also believe our best years are ahead. As I tell the congregation, the Bible says the later days are greater than the former. If you look at it, we have more opportunity to serve God now because many are retired, still in good health. So we should be doing much more for God than when we were serving on our jobs and raising our families.”
What drives the heart of this professor and pastor?
“My greatest desire is that people come to know how much God loves them and that they would come to know God — Father, Son and Holy Spirit. We would love to help people come to know God, know His love, know His power.
For more information about Faith Christian Center, go to http://faith-christian-center.org/