By Rick Kern
When Bishop David Singleton met Pastor Vince DiPaola at a prayer summit being held at the Chautauqua Institution over a decade ago, neither could have imagined where their mutual passion for the body of Christ would lead. The two Christian visionary leaders decided to share a Sunday service and give their respective congregations the opportunity to appreciate their differences as they cherished and worshiped the same God. They met at Lakeshore Community Church, where DiPaola served, as that facility was better suited for the unique venture. Both clergymen ministered from the pulpit, and after the service the two congregations shared a picnic lunch.
The Spirit of God used the effort to open hearts in His love, and they continued to gather each year. As they did, this unique group of brothers and sisters began to appreciate one another’s diversity, while celebrating their common faith and worshiping the same Lord. The service became something of a movement which today attracts several different fellowships. “This year,” reflects Singleton, “I think we’ll have five or six churches involved that will forgo their service or at least come to a second service. We have a 9 AM and an 11 AM service and I will be at both of them.” He continues, “Part of the objective was not only lifting up Jesus, but alongside of that is to help build and foster relationships across the geographic and ethnic lines.” Singleton explains, “Geographic meaning urban-suburban, but also meaning black-white, and/or whatever other ethnicity might be considered.”
The gathering, which took place this year on August 27th, has gained an almost legendary momentum, striking a nerve in the soul of a heaven born institution that is aching for true spiritual unity on earth. Accordingly, God has used it to help answer Jesus’ prayer found in John 17:11, “I am no longer in the world; and yet they themselves are in the world, and I come to You. Holy Father, keep them in Your name, the name which You have given Me, that they may be one even as We are.”
“It’s all about building relationships,” says Singleton emphatically. “I believe that everything kind of hinges on relationships.”
Bishop Singleton is quick to give credit where credit is due readily admitting that the event is a team effort, “This is not just an Ark of Jesus doing,” he notes. “This is others who have connected with us who buy into the vision and I’ll tell you there’s some very, very committed, God fearing souls that have made me look good.” He goes on, “My name may go out front, but it’s not me it’s the Lord’s doing and He’s worked with so many precious people to have caused these end results I’m able to tell you about now.”
In addition to the churches who participate, the event has attracted a number of public officials such as the Mayor, the County Executive, and area Town Supervisors. Its renown has grown so much that they have also had people from other cities make the trek to share in the blessing.
Bishop Singleton, who has pastored Ark of Jesus since 1981 when he assumed its leadership from its founding pastor, his father-in-law, is deeply committed to unity among the body of Christ. “God has given me a ministry to people across the ethnic lines,” he says fervently. “So then at the church where I pastor, the people need to be comfortable when they see people that don’t look like them. Because if they’re uncomfortable, chances are they’re going to communicate that to others and make them uncomfortable. So in preparation for where God is taking our ministry, our people have to be groomed in such a way that their comfortable in different worship experiences, with different ethnic groups if you will, and they’re able to communicate comfort if in fact they themselves are comfortable.”
It is not a merely a doctrine; it is a biblical lifestyle which both he and Pastor DiPaola embrace. In fact, Singleton notes that they swap pulpits throughout the year and he recently spoke at Sunday service of Lakeshore Community Church for his colleague while he was on vacation. “That’s our family out there, in fact we call each other twins,” he quips, “I tell them I cut my hair so they could tell us apart.”
Bishop Singleton’s commitment to put legs on the love of God begins in his heart and radiates out from his church. “I would like to see more churches come together across the ethnic lines,” he observes. “It’s been said that 11:00 AM on Sunday morning is the most segregated hour of the week and that’s not going to change by accident, that’s only going to change on purpose.” With unique and varied outreaches such as a Bible Club in a public elementary school, a tutoring program, and their Global Impact Saturday, Ark of Jesus Ministries is giving a voice to the love of God that is relatable and real.
“I believe that God wants to use the body of Christ to make an impact in the nation. And I believe that when you have relational capitol, you earn the right to be heard,” Singleton explains. “John Maxwell says this, ‘People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care,’ and I believe that one of the places where the body of Christ has missed it, is many times when demonstrating that we care, we talk a lot about the things that God doesn’t like — but sometimes we’re not as good at showing the love He has for all of us.” He continues forcefully, “The fact of the matter is He loved us all before we came into the Kingdom and we all started out outside the Kingdom. So if He did that for us then it seems to me by default that we ought to be doing that for others. We ought to be loving them before they get into the Kingdom.”
To learn more about Ark of Jesus Ministries (Ark stands for ‘Almighty Reigning Kingdom’), you can call them at (585) 262-6420 or visit their Website located at www.arkofjesusministries.com.
“I like to say it this way: we ought to love the pre-Christians,” says Bishop Singleton,. “And love is what it does, not just what it says but what it does. And so, the body of Christ needs to be the change they want to see in the world.”