The River at Tampa Bay – 27 Years

Pastors Rodney & Adonica Howard-Browne

Publish date: 12/03/2023


Foundation Scriptures:

Unless the Lord builds the house, They labor in vain who build it; Unless the Lord guards the city, The watchman stays awake in vain. Psalm 127:1 NKJV


1. Building the House.

a. The things we build, independent of God, are all built in vain. 

b. ‘In vain’ means empty, useless, or worthless. 

c. That is because any earthly thing—no matter how wonderful it may be—will pass away sooner or later, but that which is built by God and for God will have value here and in eternity.

d. We must depend on God for success in building lasting things—whether it is a church, a house, a family, a business, a city, or a nation, etc.

e. We—all those who have confessed Jesus and are born again—belong to the Church, the Body of Christ, worldwide (Jn. 3:3; 7; 1 Pet.1:23).

f. And we, at The River Church, are a local church—coming together to do the work of the Lord in our area of Tampa Bay.


2. The River at Tampa Bay.

a. Before we started The River Church in December 1996, when we were still travelling and preaching, the Lord spoke to us via several prophetic words concerning us pastoring a church in the south, and then more specifically, in Tampa, Florida. 

b. When we prayed about it, in October of 1996, we felt the Lord say, “Now!”

c. So, we moved in that direction and held our first church service on December 1, 1996.

d. On that first Sunday, 575 people attended the service, and we never looked back.

e. The Lord has graced us, all these years, to be able to pastor this wonderful church as well as traveling to preach the Gospel around the globe. 

f. Having the church, and then River University (launched in 1997), has enabled us to do even more around the world than we would have without it.

g. We have been able to be much more effective because the Lord has enabled us to raise up laborers for the harvest—some who hold up our hands at home, and others who are launched out to preach wherever they are called and sent.

h. Through the church, we have been able to greatly multiply our efforts.

i. Not every church has a Bible school, but it is very important to link a Bible school with a church, so that students can participate and gain practical experience. 


3. Sunday Mornings.

a. There are a few things the Lord told us to do when He asked us to start the church.

b. He told us, “I want Sunday mornings back.”

c. On the road, we held great revivals during the week in churches around America, but on Sunday mornings, the services felt dead, dry, and religious.

d. Some places, it did not even feel like we were in the same location as we were on Monday through Friday!

e. It felt like the congregation came to church with no hunger for the things of God and no expectation that He would show up.

f. Part of the problem is that they were used to Sunday morning being run according to a man-made program, rather than being a flow of the Holy Ghost.

g. The Lord told us that He wanted to have control of Sunday morning services as much as He did in the ‘revival’ services. 

h. Most pastors did not even believe you could have a church in a consistent flow of revival—particularly on Sunday mornings—never mind week after week.

i. If a ‘revival’ meeting is run by your own efforts, everyone would soon be too tired to continue—but if you simply yield to the Holy Spirit, He will sustain you.

j. You can have a church that is bursting with life, and continually producing good fruit, if you stay hungry and stay yielded to Him.


4. The Flow of the Holy Spirit.

a. The whole purpose of ministry is to preach the good News and to meet the needs of people—to get them saved, healed, and delivered. 

b. The Lord wants to have His way in our church services—every service—not just special events.

c. To have a free-flow of the Holy Spirit—not a program.

d. Yes, we have a message prepared and there are things that must be done in the service, but we must depend on Him to lead us in each service in the direction He desires.

e. He knows better than we do what needs to be done and said in each service to meet the needs of people. 

f. Everything we need is found in the presence of God.

g. We must get people under the anointing—so that the Lord can work in them, touch, and change them.

h. Therefore, we must create an atmosphere where the Holy Spirit feels welcome to come and to move.

i. And then the pastor, the preacher—the person in authority in the service—must learn to surf the wave of the anointing in the service. 


5. The Mandate.

a. The Lord spoke to us to, “prepare people for eternity.”

b. In the services, we prepare by waiting on the Lord for the message.

c. We may have an ‘outline’ of what we expect to take place, but not a set ‘program.’

d. We want the Lord to be welcome to rearrange the service as He sees fit.

e. We need to have these three main ingredients always predominant in every service:

f. Dynamic praise and worship.      

g. Anointed preaching and teaching.

h. Powerful demonstrations of the Holy Spirit.

i. We prioritize the altar call, baptism in the Holy Ghost and fire, water baptism, ministering by the Holy Spirit, and praying for needs.


6. Our Responsibility as a Church.

a. We make it our responsibility to do the following:

b. Preach the full counsel of God (Acts 20:27).

c. Reprove, rebuke, exhort—with all long-suffering and doctrine (2 Tim. 4:2).

d. To show grace and to speak the truth in love (Eph. 4:15). 

e. To minister to the whole family.

f. Raising children up in revival and the anointing.

g. Raising people up into the call of God on their life. 

h. Winning souls and reaching the city.

i. Kingdom business—teaching people to walk in the blessings of God, by prioritizing Him and His Kingdom.