God pulled a neighborhood kid with a rough upbringing
out of that life into a new one at Hope Church of Christ
By Jerry Harris
“Jehovah-jireh means, ‘in the mountain it shall be seen.’ You have to climb the mountain first,” says Alvin Daniels, senior minister of Hope Church of Christ in Hollywood, Florida. “It will take power, effort, and strength to get to the top. But once you’re up there, God will provide the vision for which you had to go up there in the first place. You can’t see it from the foot of the mountain.”
Daniels wasn’t raised in a church environment or a Christian home. He accepted an invitation to attend church in 1987, obeyed and received the gospel, and has never looked back.
“Ministry found me,” he says.
He’s familiar with the ministry terrain surrounding Hope Church of Christ; he was brought up in Delray Beach, not far north of Hollywood and Miami Gardens. It was a rough upbringing—“nothing to be proud of,” he says—but God pulled him out of that life and into a new one full of eternal purpose.
He scrapped plans to go to law school in favor of earning a preaching degree at International Bible College, now Heritage Christian University, in Florence, Alabama. He was the first in his family to go to college. He met his wife at church when she accepted Christ and he went up to pray with her. That prayer developed into a friendship, the friendship became a courtship, and the courtship became a covenant relationship. They now have three children, all of whom serve the Lord.
The Journey to Hollywood
Hope Church of Christ started out with meetings in various homes in the Miami Gardens area until September 16, 2013, when they rented the Betty T. Ferguson Recreational Complex. The church quickly grew to between 75 and 100. That facility held the church for three months until it moved to an empty building on NW 199th Street. The little church grew and developed its ministries there until April 2017 when the church family moved to its present location in Hollywood. The journey to this 56,000-square-foot location was extraordinary.
A conversation with a friend led Daniels to call The Solomon Foundation about finding and financing a building. Various properties were considered for more than a year, and Daniels remarked how “hands-on” the Solomon team was in working to help find the right location. Still, no site quite fit Hope’s ministry needs.
Then Daniels drove by what appeared to be an abandoned facility; he stopped to look in the windows. The property wasn’t on the market, but that didn’t stop Daniels from praying for it. Research revealed the property was in foreclosure, but even then the price was way beyond the reach of the little church.
“God reserves things for his children that nobody else can touch,” Daniels says.
Others were interested in the building, but God cleared the way for Hope to purchase it through The Solomon Foundation. Much work remained, but the location and all that space made it a perfect place to grow and make a difference.
Bridges of Ministry
The church again came together to join hands, sing songs, and pray because of all the hard work that lay ahead, but they were grateful. Selfless servants worked to transform the space: cleaning, painting, carpeting, tiling, decorating, and organizing. As the space took shape, it became more than a sanctuary for Sunday mornings. Church members were eager to serve by sharing the message of Christ and communicating grace in every possible way. Hope reaches out to the helpless, homeless, and hurting with ministries that touch people in their felt needs.
“We cannot determine what the needs of people are, but we can respond to those needs that we find in the people we meet,” Daniels says.
I toured the new facility and readily saw it was designed to reach out to the community with bridges of ministry. Some of the building was still being renovated, but much had been completed and was being put to use.
The Secret Sauce
The church had paid special attention to fellowship spaces. Daniels shares that Hope’s fellowship is based on Acts 2:42-47. He believes if the church is able to pull people into an atmosphere of God’s grace reflected in thankful, grateful, and appreciative attitudes, it results in a feeling of love that is experienced only in true fellowship. It influences people to open up about the challenges they are facing as they allow the love of God to penetrate their hearts. In these environments, church members are able to get to know people and their situations better in order to deepen relationship.
Hope always serves a breakfast to begin weekend worship. A meal is an ideal time to experience the love of Christ, Daniels says. At each meal, a 10-minute devotional is shared, along with a prayer. An informal time of connecting takes place before Bible classes begin. The church sets aside time during worship for more fellowship, complete with lots of hugging and sharing.
Daniels says the church truly feels like family. He considers fellowship to be the “secret sauce” of their church . . . an opportunity to begin relationships where people truly love each other in tangible ways. Daniels says it’s not hard for people to walk away from a church, but it is hard to walk away from relationship and family.
After spending time with Daniels, I believe we in independent Christian churches can learn from noninstrumental churches in several key areas. For instance, I couldn’t help but notice how much they raise the value of fellowship and family in their churches and how that impacts the surrounding communities. While Hope primarily is African-American, the church attracts people from several other races and cultures, including white, Asian, Caribbean, and Hispanic.
I asked Alvin Daniels about his vision of the future of his congregation. He believes his church has created something special and that it should be multiplied, so he looks to other communities where the multisite model could be employed.
“We want to perfect this approach and then multiply it over and over!” Daniels says.
He continues to believe God will provide the vision as the church grows. In the mountain it shall be seen.