The people of our church all have their own story about life and faith. Here are a few of them:
- Dr. Ronald Burgio
- Bob Milewski
- Sarah King
- Sharon Cantillon
- Lance Orton
- Karan Boom Shah
- Carolyn Carey
- Dr. Ronald Burgio
My first fulltime job in the ministry started in 1978 as co-pastor of Williamsville Fellowship. For several years I enjoyed working alongside Paul Brenton, the founding pastor, but in the spring of 1984, Judy and I both had a sense that God was preparing us to pastor our own church.
I had met Tom Brazell, the founding Pastor of Love Joy Gospel Church, once or twice and I had been at his church on Clinton Street in Buffalo. While sitting on the steps of his platform I had told him, “God is going to do some great things in this place.”
When Tom went on a short-term missions trip to Zaire (now the Congo), the Lord called him to minister in Zaire as a missionary. He told the Lord that he would be glad to, as long as the Lord would both provide a shepherd for Love Joy and also speak to his wife about moving to Africa. The Lord immediately gave him my name as the next pastor. The Lord also spoke to Judy Brazell. Not only was she prepared to go to Africa by the time Tom came back home, she also knew that I should be the next pastor. A few days after Tom’s return, we met for lunch, and he offered me the pastorate at Love Joy Gospel Church. I was speechless.
Judy and I took some time to pray and fast about our decision. At the end of our three-day fast we received our own word from the Lord. He gave us not only an inner witness, but also the following Scripture: “For you shall go out with joy, and be led out with peace; the mountains and the hills shall break forth into singing before you, and all the trees of the field shall clap their hands. Instead of the thorn shall come up the cypress tree, and instead of the brier shall come up the myrtle tree; and it shall be to the LORD for a name, for an everlasting sign that shall not be cut off” (Isaiah 55:12-13). Paul Brenton was gracious to release about ten adults and ten children to help us grow Love Joy Gospel Church which had twenty-five members at that time.
On the morning of Sunday, July 29, 1984, the first day I was to preach as pastor of Love Joy Gospel Church, God gave me a clear mandate for the church. In a vision, I first saw a map of the Buffalo area, and then I saw streets and houses, and then people. God said, “Let’s work together to win Buffalo for Christ.” I knew that this vision was not just an opportunity for me to cooperate with God, but that God, myself, and other pastors and churches would work together to win Buffalo and Western New York for Christ.
One day, while reading Psalms 31:8, God told me that He would set my feet in a large place. We saw our church grow from twenty-five to a hundred within three years. In 1987 we outgrew our facility and purchased a banquet hall on Walden Avenue in Cheektowaga. When we prepared the sanctuary on Walden, I was amazed at how large it was. God was not that impressed. He told me clearly, “This is not the large place.”
In 1990 we became an elder-led church and developed a church constitution. We did this through a cooperative effort with Elim Fellowship and Elim Bible Institute. A copy of the constitution is available for you today.
And sure enough, our space soon proved to be too small again. Attendance continued to increase, and though we had already expanded the sanctuary once, we still had no parking lot of our own. Sunday school classroom space was very tight and some of the classrooms were located right above the sanctuary. Sunday after Sunday, my sermons were accompanied by the pitter-patter of little feet, which at times sounded like a thunderstorm.
We considered purchasing an existing building, but after searching unsuccessfully, we decided to build. We had a stewardship campaign that ran for three years, and from 1992 to 1995 a total of 116 families sacrificed $ 292,000 toward our new building.
We had a nice church numbering about two hundred. The praise and worship was good, the leadership was good, and the congregation was good, but I felt like there was a famine for God’s presence and for His miracles. I wanted to see what I read about in the Book of Acts and what had gone on in past revivals. For years I had been crying out to God for revival; for years I wondered what it would be like if the heavens opened and God visited us with His glory.
Revival came to us in April of 1994. I had invited a young evangelist to come for a series of meetings. His name was Ray Sell. God used his ministry to bring exactly what I had been praying for: His presence, His miracles, and His glory. It created quite a buzz in the area. Without any advertisement, we suddenly found our sanctuary full to overflowing. When Ray prayed for people, they fell to the ground, laughed, or got stuck to their seats or to the wall. We had an amazing healing happen during the two weeks he was here. A little girl who had liver cancer and was not expected to live, was completely healed. She is now married and has children of her own and has never had any complications again.
Ray Sell had told me that the laying on of hands would transfer the anointing he had to others. I was the first in line to get it. Ray sometimes talked about having a Mack Truck experience with the Holy Spirit. He had explained that when a Mack Truck hits you, you’re never the same again. Well, I was hit that morning. From that day on, God used me to bring His tangible presence to others through the laying on of my hands. He has done some amazing things through me. I truly can say that these supernatural manifestations came as a result of receiving this gift from someone else.
In 1997 we broke ground here in Lancaster. I had previously been involved in building my own home, but nothing could have prepared me for leading our team through a church construction project. It was difficult and stressful. After it was all done, I learned that most pastors quit within a year of church construction. We stuck it out, and we’re glad we did. We moved into this building in December of 1998.
Since then, we’ve had good years and we’ve had difficult years. We’ve had revival and we’ve seen God’s glory and power on display. We’ve also had times of grief and pain where we trusted God in spite of circumstances we don’t understand.
In the fall of 2008 I began to sense that we needed to shift our focus in ministry. The Lord began to impress upon me that there were some areas of our Church that we needed to improve upon. He put a word in my heart and that word was DISCIPLE.
Because of that we started to dig in and do some strategic planning to improve in that area. That’s why we created these Doorway Classes. We want to make it easy for anyone visiting our church to find out what we’re all about. We want to share our history, our vision and introduce you to our leadership. In everything we do, we want to honor God and live according to his Word.
Do you know that the word Christian is only used in the Bible twice, but the word disciple appears 268 times? “Christian” was used as a derogatory term like this: “Those Christians over there…”. We need a re-understanding of the word “disciple” which means “follower of Christ.” To be a disciple means you are a life change agent because of your relationship with Jesus. He told us what to do: “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age” (Matthew 28:19-20). People who attend a life-giving, vibrant church like ours belong to one of four categories: 1) Explorers, 2) Believers, 3) Admirers or 4) Followers.
We all start out as explorers, seekers of God. Then we become believers. We’re saved and know that we have eternal life. Then we become admirers of God. We go to church, we go to concerts, conferences, and maybe even revival meetings, but we’re not completely surrendered to Jesus in every area of our life. When your relationship with Jesus deepens until it becomes the most important thing in your life, you’re not just a casual believer, you’re not just an admirer, but Jesus Christ is at the center of your life. Then you’ll say, “When a decision has to be made, the first person I think of is Jesus,” and you call out to Him. A disciple is not self-centered but Christ-centered.
We want God to give you a great vision for your life. Maybe God would have you join us to help us accomplish our vision.