From The Heart

Publish date: 12/03/2006

At Summer Campmeeting in the Sun Dome in Tampa, July of 1996, Pastor Rick Shelton from St Louis, spoke a word from the Lord to Adonica and myself. The Lord showed Pastor Rick a church in the Sun Dome – our church. At that time we were not interested in starting any church. We were very busy with our traveling ministry, spending approximately 46 weeks of the year on the road. Sometimes we spent as many as 13 weeks in meetings, out on the road, before coming home for a few days off. A church was not in our plan, but it was in God's plan.

We did not think about it again until we went on a short vacation for our wedding anniversary in the first week of October 1996. The Lord began to deal with me about a Sunday church service. We knew that God wanted us to have an auditorium for some meetings, but we were thinking that we would use it for some revival meetings, from time to time. When the Lord spoke to us about a regular service, we tried to talk Him into a Saturday or a Monday, but He wouldn't hear of it! The Lord told us, "I want Sundays back!"

We had tens of thousands of people who were touched by our ministry in the central Florida area over the previous three years and many of them were not attending any of the local churches. We knew this because we would bump into them at malls and restaurants on Sundays and we would ask them why they weren't in church and they would tell us that it was because they could not find a Holy Ghost church. When you have been touched by revival, it is hard to sit in a dead church. The Lord told us, "Go get your babies!" Our "babies" were all the people who had been saved, and all those who had come back to the Lord, under our ministry and who were hungry for God. We did not want people who were already committed to another church, we wanted those who were had been touched by revival and who were hungry for God. There are about 2.5 million people in the Tampa Bay/St Pete/Clearwater area. We need many good churches in Tampa Bay so that we can impact this region with the power of God!

Adonica asked me if we could wait a year to prepare for the role of pastor and I said, "Okay," but as my feet touched the ground in Tampa when we arrived home, the Lord said to me, "Do it now!" So we did. On the first Sunday in December – December 1, 1996 – we started The River at Tampa Bay. In that first service, we had 575 people!

We did not stop our traveling ministry – we continued to travel during the week - but we made a commitment to not miss one Sunday morning service for the first year. I had to spend two weeks in Hong Kong that year and so I flew back to Tampa on the weekend, halfway through the meetings, to preach at The River and then flew straight back to Hong Kong to preach the second week! We are committed to The River at Tampa Bay! The first year, we had no nursery and no children's church – the children sat through the services. We wanted everybody to get "Riverized" before they started ministering in the church. We want revival in every part of this ministry and you cannot give what you don't have. Religion and tradition won't cut it – we must have the freedom and liberty of the Holy Spirit in every aspect of what we do! By the time we started River Kids Children's Church, those kids sure knew how to worship God! They were so filled with the Holy Spirit. Even now we encourage the children to enter into God's presence and allow Him to touch them and fill them, and He does.

We are a local church with a vision to touch the world! Our heart for The River at Tampa Bay is that we would have a church that stays hungry for God and open to the move of the Holy Spirit. We want to see anointed praise and worship, anointed preaching, and anointed demonstrations of the Holy Ghost and power! We do not want to be people pleasers – we want to be God pleasers! In the process, many people have been, are being, and will continue to be powerfully touched and changed by the love of God and the power of God.

Look carefully then how you walk! Live purposefully and worthily and accurately, not as the unwise and witless, but as wise (sensible, intelligent people), 16 Making the very most of the time [buying up each opportunity], because the days are evil. 17 Therefore do not be vague and thoughtless and foolish, but understanding and firmly grasping what the will of the Lord is. 18 And do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery; but ever be filled and stimulated with the [Holy] Spirit. 19 Speak out to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, offering praise with voices [and instruments] and making melody with all your heart to the Lord.  Ephesians 5:15-19 AMP

Except the Lord builds the house, they labor in vain who build it; except the Lord keeps the city, the watchman wakes but in vain.  Psalms 127:1 AMP

The Lord supernaturally blessed us with our current facility five years ago and as we move into this new phase, preparing to "rise and build," we ask you, our River Family, to stand with us and lift up our hands. You are not here by accident and neither are we – God has called you here and He has called us here for such a time as this. Together we will do it!