We were in Austin, Texas scanning the internet, when the “Austin Powerhouse Church” stood out to us. The church met in a converted office space and by Texas standards, was not very large (less than 1000!). The slogan on the website was intriguing, “We are Family.” The story of Bishop Paul and Pastor Lilian Ojeda seemed authentic.
As soon as we walked in, we knew Powerhouse church would be different. We were greeted here more warmly than in any church we ever visited. We were escorted to our seats by people who seemed genuinely interested in us. The worship music was simple and powerful and Pastor Lilian exhorted us to love in a way that was quite surprising to us less demonstrative Yankees. Frankly, we were not sure we should stay.
Then a man rose to give the announcements and take an offering. He was obviously deeply touched and serious about his job and we were surprised when he talked about being in prison just six years ago. Now they had our attention! Then we were asked to greet each other by looking people in the eye and saying, “You are my family.” The love was palpable. We were moved – nothing could get us to leave now!
Bishop Paul delivered a fine message. Near the end, he was transparent about his and Lilian’s struggle after suddenly losing their 20-year-old daughter just eight months before. The entire church was obviously grieving the loss, but the supernatural love we were experiencing was powerfully sustaining them. It was a defining moment.
After the service, I spoke to Bishop Paul. When I told him about the love we experienced, he said with great warmth and sincerity, “To those who have been forgiven so much, love should always be found.” He then shared that just over 20 years ago, after serving a prison sentence, he and Lilian met in a Christian drug rehab center. They first fell in love with Christ and with each other there and decided to give their lives to His service.
Reflections to consider:
Authenticity is Empowering
When leaders are authentic about their life and struggles, it empowers others to move forward through great challenges.
Love Never Goes Out of Style
Teaching and modeling genuine love between and among followers is central to developing any organization or movement. Love is always a grassroots initiative.
Forgiveness Never Loses Its Power
When re-starting a life, an organization, a business, or a church, the first step is forgiveness. Without forgiveness, the errors of the past will be a constant irritant to the future.
Dennis Baril is the former senior pastor of Community Covenant Church in Rehoboth, Massachusetts, where he served in leadership for over 40 years—27 of which were as senior pastor. He and his wife, Donna are traveling around the country, supporting the GLS and seizing on other ministry opportunities as they emerge.