When Pastor and author Will Davis chose to participate in the Walls Project, his motives went beyond just helping parents. Will wanted to partner with other congregations in Austin to see walls come down in the individual lives of every member of his church, between his church and their community, and between other congregations in Austin. And while those prayer requests were answered in amazing ways, another blessing came as an extra bonus: the Faith Breakthroughs concepts (those spiritual tools that equip people to tear down Walls) had a huge impact on the families of those who participated.
Will and Austin Christian Fellowship elected to preach The Walls Project’s four weeks of messages and then followed with an additional four weeks of small group study. Choosing this option allowed him to promote the study for an entire month from the pulpit while helping members and guests grasp the main ideas and concepts of Faith Breakthroughs.
During those first few weeks, volunteers constructed an actual, enormous wall at the entrance to their main auditorium – reminding everyone of the reality of the spiritual barriers that held them back. Everyone was then invited to write on the wall – answering the question, “What is YOUR Wall?” People began to write, in their own words and with their own hands, simple revelations about their own unhealthy mindsets. Words like “guilt.” And “shame.” And “fear.” All generations – from the oldest among them to those barely old enough to write – found common ground in confessing these Walls in their own handwriting. This physical structure not only made the invisible Walls more real, it also brought families together as they recognized the impact that these strongholds were having on each other.
By the time the small group studies began, people were anxious to do whatever it took to move beyond the Walls to the victory of a Faith Breakthrough. By this time, the realization of how much the Walls were hurting home life was obvious – and discussion turned naturally to the application of God’s promises in parenting. Moms and dads, husbands and wives, children and teens, and those living alone found new hope and expectation. Conversation moved from, “What’s your wall?” to “Let me tell you how my Faith Breakthrough impacted dinnertime last night!”
On the final Sunday of the small group study and the culmination of the Walls Project at ACF, the leadership planned for a special evening celebration, including a moving observance of the Lord’s Supper as they recognized how God had “removed the dividing wall of separation” between them (Ephesians 2). Following the time of Communion, participants were invited, as a family, to take a sledgehammer and physically destroy the portion of the wall where they had written several weeks prior.
Those present that evening speak of something they will never forget. And the pictures were of more than hammers striking brick: they told the story of mothers and fathers side-by-side with their children – tearing down their Walls together.
Breakthroughs in the Urban Church
Greater Mount Zion Church is one of the fastest growing congregations in Central Texas. The impact of this one predominantly African-American congregation in Austin is immeasurable; they actively work among the poor and in schools to promote healthy living and stem drug abuse. These tireless efforts have built bridges that give them an unprecedented credibility with their community. They have used their platform to offer the hope of Jesus Christ, and thousands have heard the Good News over the past decade.
Pastor Gaylon Clarke, their pastor of twelve years, is especially devoted to one key area of urban life: the family. “At every turn in African American culture, families are broken and hurting. This epidemic is contributing to poverty, crime, and hopelessness at an epidemic level. It will only be by divine intervention that the tide is turned.”
In the spring of 2011, Pastor Clarke began introducing the concepts of Faith Breakthroughs to his congregation – first by leading the entire church through The Walls Project, and then strategically implementing the principles specifically into his ministry to parents and mentors. He has found that the most significant work involves rebuilding a proper image of God among the men in his congregation and his community.
Faith Breakthroughs is largely built on the answer to the question, “Who is God?” – and question that often is first answered by a child’s image of his or her father. This image can be either uplifting or destructive in faith development. In a culture in which the majority of children are raised without a father, an entire generation of men have developed an unclear or destructive picture of manhood – and in turn, an incomplete picture of the God who loves them and has a plan for their lives.
Gaylon followed the fall 2011 “Walls Project” sermon series with a series devoted completely to defining biblical manhood. This happened in conjunction with a renewed effort toward training parents and mentors to raise a new generation who will embrace God’s promises – and are fully equipped to tear down the Walls they face.
As news of changed lives and transformed households continues to flow out of Greater Mount Zion, they continue to provide a model for other congregations who had nearly given up on the family. You can discover more about the ongoing strategy of Greater Mount Zion – and visit one of their incredible Sunday services!– by checking out www.gmzaustin.org.