A Man Sent from God

One of the benefits of pastoring the church that you grew up in is the grasp of local church history that you are able to look to.  As a disclaimer, it was never my intention to be the pastor of the church I grew up in, it just sort of happened with God opening doors but mainly closing the ones I wanted to exit through.  My parents moved to Dothan, Alabama in the summer of 1968 which was about nine months after Brother and Sister Patterson had initially planted the church.  I was not quite two years old at the time and literally from that point on, my life was completely intertwined in the Apostolic Faith United Pentecostal Church which would later become the Pentecostals of Dothan.  My parents and the Patterson’s became so close that it was almost as if they were our extended family.  I know many of the ups and downs, the victories and losses, and saints and devils that have walked through the doors of the church over the years. 


In our almost fifty-five-year history, there have been a number of revivals that our church were involved in.  As a kid, I remember some of these evangelists coming through but especially those who appeared on the scene in the 1970-80s.   Revivals in those days would begin on Sunday morning and go through the following Sunday night and if the Spirit was moving, we would extend them with perhaps a rest night on Monday.  The world was a different place back then with very little distractions compared to what we are contending with now.  Seven-day revivals were pretty much the norm for a lot of churches back in the day, as they say.  Men like Aubrey Jackson, Tom Mitchell, Danny Perdew, Tom Sorrells, Reggie Dees, and others whose names have long dropped out of my memory came our way.  Some were seasoned full-time evangelists and others were young ministers trying to get their start in the ministry.  I realize now that some were showman, and some were powerful men of God.  Thankfully, the showmen were in the minority although at the time, I didn’t have the spiritual discernment to know they were showman.  In fact, I thought the showmen were pretty cool, but time has proved much about who and what they were about.  At the same time, the powerful ones deeply impacted my life even at a young age and it was in the innocence of those early altars that shaped much of who I am and what I have become now.  They fostered something deeply spiritual to which there was an almost visceral feeling that accompanied what took place in that old house on South Saint Andrews, and the old house at 1516 East Cottonwood before we finally moved into the church that was dedicated in 1976. 


In the almost fifty-five years our church has been in existence, there are three revivals that stand out to me like none of the others.  One of them was when Aubrey Jackson came through sometime around 1977 or 1978 or so when I was in the sixth grade.  I had no idea what the gifts of the Spirit were even about then but looking back, there is an absolute certainty that Brother Jackson was used by the gifts.  Some of the things that he prophesied had ominous outcomes on some people in our congregation and as life unfolded, it was clear that he had a gift and was very anointed by God.  But there was also the encouraging and edifying element of the gifts that Brother Jackson walked in as well and it ministered to some who are still walking faithfully for the Lord.  Another revival took place around 1979-1980 when a wild-eyed converted drug dealer came through our third building (we are now in our fourth one that was completed in August 2019).  His name was John Bliss and we had a revival that lasted for three solid weeks, every night, no rest nights, marked by prayer meetings prior to the nightly services, and it had noticeable great spiritual power.  It took our church about three days to get used to him because he was so wild-eyed.  He wasn’t a screamer that I recall but his preaching was definitely not the normal standard we were used to.  He and his wife both had come from the drug scene and it was clear that if they would have continued down that path, they would have come to a very bad end.  During that revival, there were a number of people who received the Holy Ghost and a lot who experienced spiritual renewal as well.  John Bliss had a powerful impact on our youth group at the time too.  I can remember one Sunday morning that the altar service continued well on into the afternoon and finally subsided around three o’clock.  During those days our Sunday night service started at seven o’clock with choir practice beginning at five-thirty.  On that Sunday night the church came back that night and the revival went on.  It was not abnormal for revival services to last until 9:30-10:00 at night and our church was greatly moved by the Spirit.  We still have a few people who attended the revival by Brother Bliss.  Brother Bliss was the first preacher that I can remember who always had a bottle of anointing oil in his jacket pocket and he would anoint people and pray for them no matter where they were.    

However there is one revival that stands out in my mind as probably the greatest in the history of our church.  It took place in May 2006 and there were 35 people who received the Holy Ghost during that period of time.  I can point out ten of those who have remained since that time that are still serving the Lord.  The evangelist was perhaps one of the greatest the modern apostolic movement has had in recent times.  The ministry of this man touched people coast-to-coast and from north to south in the United States.  We came into contact with him because Brother Patterson was on the steering committee for a district revival conference for a number of years and this man was one of the regular ministers at that meeting.  He first came to our church in October 2005 for three nights beginning on Friday and going through Sunday night.  There was no warm-up at all for our church with him, he walked in and the Lord immediately started using him in ways that were completely without pretense or theatrics, everything was authentic and powerful.  He preached incredible biblical messages that rarely went over 30 minutes, he was a worshipper prior to the preaching, and he worked the altars like a man driven with an incredible anointing.  I am convinced that Keith Clark was a man sent from God that touched our church in the years from 2005-2008.  After 2008, it became increasingly more difficult to schedule him because he was primarily preaching on the West Coast.  But not only did he have an impact on our church, but he influenced me in a very positive way during my times of being around him.  Much of this took place after the night services and when I was taking him to and from the airport to fly back to Houston or various other places around the nation. 


He was with us for the entire month of May 2006 which was five weekends because that happened to fall on a time when there were five Sundays in the month.  We would start on Friday night and conclude on Sunday night.  We regularly packed in 180-200+ people into a building that was only meant to seat a max of around 150 people.  There were people everywhere!  Chairs lined the aisles; the choir loft was packed, and we added rows of chairs in the front that as soon as the altar service started, they were quickly folded up and laid on the first two rows of pews.  Our church was literally on fire with Pentecostal fire!  People receiving the Spirit, people being renewed, life situations being worked out by the Spirit and there were even people who had demons cast out of them.  On a side note, we have almost reached a place where our churches have gotten so devoid of power that those who have unclean spirits rarely feel out of place and the devil has the ability to ride under the cover of our talented entertainment.  If we think that unclean spirits have disappeared from our days and they were only in the 1st century we have forgotten what the Scriptures say.  Our days demand apostolic churches that are anchored by praying, anointed ministers and saints who have spiritual authority resident.  These kinds of churches are not going to be built by distracted and disinterested, prayerless, unanointed pastors and saints. 


Brother Clark stayed in the little apartment attached to our church and he tapped into the Spirit (and spirit) of that place.  I am convinced that churches take on attitudes, habits, and bents of the pastor, the spiritual leaders, and the people who worship there.  One of the things that Pastor John Harrell, formerly of Bridge City, told me one time was the importance of a pastor (if he was full-time) about being in the building every day and walking the halls, going through the classrooms, and moving around the sanctuary.  A pastor, a man of God, who is praying and just being in place where God had called that man to serve has a great impact on the physical plant.  That apartment was a place that many global missionaries had stayed, and I believe their own devotion had bled into the walls of that place as well.  There is something spiritual about an apostolic church that immerses itself in the presence of God and a commitment to apostolic doctrine.  That presence lingers all throughout that sanctuary during the week.  But back to Brother Clark; God would visit him with dreams and visions in our church, and it would pour out of his preaching and the Spirit of God would engulf both saint and sinner.  There were several times that he preached deeply convicting messages and would share something the Lord had shown him about individuals or even the church at large that would profoundly affect everyone who responded to the Holy Ghost.  We must continue to have that kind of ministry in 2021 and beyond.  The American and western apostolic church needs to respond to a serious call to desire and devotion to prayer, fasting, holiness, and doctrine.  We have to literally fight in the trenches against the materialism and spiritual apathy that would do its best to choke the life out of us!


Our church is loaded with medical professionals and one our members invited a young woman who worked in surgery at one of the hospitals in our area.  Brother Clark preached that morning and the presence of God was palpable in the building so that the entire sanctuary was turned into an altar area.  People everywhere praying, seeking, hungering for God from the front row to the back wall.  I saw Brother Clark almost literally wading through the congregation and praying for people here and there and he started moving toward the left side of the sanctuary about two-thirds of the way back.  All of this was taking place while Brother Patterson and I and many others were praying with and for people as well.  Here is Brother Clark is climbing over pews because there is no room to walk in the aisles until he gets to this young woman.  I watched him lean over and say something to her so that she was the only one who could hear what he was saying.  I saw her nod her head and then he started talking to her even more.  All of this was taking place in less than a two-minute time frame.  The next thing I see is that her hands were up, tears pouring down her face and she was praying, seeking, believing, and letting the Spirit minister to her.  Brooke Redden, who still attends our church, had brought her that morning and she was praying with her as well.  The next day at work, the young woman asked Brooke how that Brother Clark had known about her situation with such detail.  She wanted to know if Brooke, or I, or Brother Patterson had told him what was going on in her life.  Honestly, I had never laid eyes on her, Brooke had never said anything to me about her.  It was the Spirit of God working to restore and bring salvation to a person who desperately needed it.  Brooke told her that God had revealed all of this to Brother Clark.  How our churches and ministries desperately need this to be a constant in our churches!  Whatever we have to do to pray or pay the price, it is all worth it in the end. 


At some point later, Brother Clark and I were in one of the back-corner booths at our Red Lobster and I started asking him about how the Spirit operated in his life.  I specifically brought up this situation with this young woman because what he had said to her had been so precise that it had stunned her to know the Lord was concerned about her life.  The dreams and visions the Lord had shown him about our church were too detailed for it to have been just some generalized, vague “word” that could have fit any church in the nation.  The depth of his anointing had even caused some of our members to tell Brother Patterson and I that they did not want to come while Brother Clark was there to preach because they were afraid the Lord might reveal something to him about their secret sins and private life.  I will never forget the day that I said, “Brother Clark, how in the world have you gotten this gift, this anointing, and this power in your life?”  This kind of anointing was something beyond the norm that required more than just a perfunctory nod at God and the ministry. 


When I asked him that question, it was almost as if time stood still, and for a long, long time it seemed, he didn’t answer me.  I don’t know if a minute passed or two minutes but huge tears welled up in his eyes and spilled down over his cheeks and he finally answered me.  He simply said, “Pain.”  Pain in his life had ushered him into a place that most men can only dream about having with God.  Pain had pushed him to prayer.  Pain had forced him to the Word.  Pain had pulled worship out of him.  Pain had caused him to go for days without food.  Pain had removed every trapping of human relationship that he had.  He told me that pain had brought some of the most terrible and lonely hours of his existence.  Pain had left him alone with God.  Most would have dropped off into a pit of resentment and bitterness but not this man.  Pain is the forgotten gift that too many of us in the modern apostolic movement have tried to evade and shake off.  There were some challenges that Brother Clark had faced in his life that he told me about that I have often contemplated and wondered if I would have been able to stand up to them as well as he did.  I won’t divulge any of the details of it, but this pain was not just a “one and done deal” but there were several times in his life that he experienced deep setbacks and losses.  But during those days of deep mental and spiritual pain, there were some very unique visitations of the Spirit that sustained and helped him.    


In my Bible college days, long before I ever really knew Brother Clark, Brother Ensey had related to us some things about him that few people knew.  While Brother Ensey never divulged anything that would have been considered confidential, he was stressing to us that spiritual power and strength is often ushered into our lives by great loss and deep emotional pain.  Brother Clark had a close relationship with Brother Urshan who had helped him through the terrible time when his wife died at such a young age in the early 1970s.  Brother Urshan had been a steady voice of advice for him.  In fact, there was a period of time that Brother Urshan told Brother Clark that he did not want him to make any decisions at all until he had cleared them with him.  Too many of us scoff at allowing someone to have that much authority in our life and practice and that is perhaps why there are so few who reach the heights that God fully intended for them to have.  There were other men who guided him as well along the way to his usefulness and blessing to many.  The providence of God is always at work in our lives if we are willing to submit to the sometimes seemingly dead ends that leap up in our path.  Don’t forget that God uses will use the righteous and the rogues to help you get to the place you need to be.  Submission is a critical key for spiritual success to take place.    


May it be in our world that there can be a man or a woman who has been sent from God to come our way. . . but you can count on it that if they are truly one who has been sent by God, there has been some pain in their path. . . and may it be that we are going to be one of those who is sent by God! 


Thanks for reading. . .


Philip Harrelson

January 25, 2021






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