Bishop raises the spirit of Franklin church
Published 8:55 pm Friday, November 21, 2014
When Bishop Noel Jones preaches on Sunday, it’s typically at the 17,000-member strong City of Refuge Church in Gardena, California. On Thursday, the Pentecostal bishop preached in Franklin, a town with half the population of his home church.
One of the stars of the Oxygen network’s reality television series “Preachers of L.A.,” he was quite a draw to the Apostolic Faith Church of God on Oak Street. Every pew was filled to the point where additional seating had to be placed around the circular sanctuary in the form of folding chairs.
Not only were church and community members out in full force, but pastors from North Carolina and all over the Tidewater region had come to hear Jones’ message.
The bishop began his sermon in a low tone, and he spoke softly, which quickly quietened the full room. As he was traveling, he’d been thinking about Jonah, and also a story about ancient mariners. Jones believed that the message behind the mariner story would fit those in attendance.
It is said that at the last minute, a ship took on a stranger. Despite all of their knowledge of the seas and season, as well as their skill, they kept running into disaster after disaster. Eventually, it came to the point where they were having to throw everything overboard in an attempt to survive the voyage.
“One of their number was not in the will of God,” Jones spoke with a faintly detectable Jamaican accent. “That last one on, he had nothing go overboard because he came with nothing.
“I wonder, how many are working 2-3 jobs and struggling because someone in our space is out of the will of God?”
After several ‘Amens’ and ‘Preach its’ came back from the crowd, the bishop said that these people have probably been out of your life before, yet they keep making their way back in.
“You already know what you have to do,” Jones said. “Yet you have no courage.”
Instead of going through constant pain, it might be better to have a sharp, quick pain and end it.
“Someone is holding us back,” he said. “Someone is holding us from going forward.”
Being a pastor of many who also travels across the country, reaching more lives, he also wanted to speak of leadership. How many were taking their church leadership for granted?
Jones said members of a congregation often show up and never think about how it all comes together. Being taken for granted isn’t fun for the individual, but the bishop said it’s also a compliment.
“It means you are consistent, reliable,” he said.
Hardly anyone will call the pastor on Monday to make sure that the church is doing well financially. Yet, if they were to come into the church on a winter’s night and the sanctuary was cold because the heat was off, the phones would ring off the hook the next day with complaints.
The bishop also spoke of divorce, as his first marriage had ended due to the travel and work that had come along with being a pastor. Jones said to be understanding that a woman does not marry a profession, she marries a man.
He would often take calls at all hours of the night, and most of the time it would be about inane, unimportant topics that could have waited. Yet, it killed the romance.
“Every pastor needs to make sure to make time for romance,” Jones said.
After that, he got into the main part of his message, from the Book of Ephesians.
God is eternal, meaning He has no beginning and no end. Yet, God is also omniscient, meaning He knows all things at all times.
“Did He choose us? Or when did He choose us?” Jones said.
The bishop said this statement is somewhat problematic. Could He have chosen us if He had always known?
Jones has to assume that there was a time when there was nothing but God, and time as we know it did not exist. The clock did not start until God breathed life into us out of dust, Jones said.
“Part of me is temporary,” the bishop said of his flesh. “That He breathed into me is eternal.”
God creates material concepts to take care of the ephemeral — the flesh. That way, man can focus on the purpose for which it was created, and that was to focus on the glory of God.
Somewhere along the way, the bishop said, man started to lean toward the needs of the flesh, at the expense of the needs of the spirit.
“We have come to be very material-centric,” Jones said, as sin entered the world. “We have gone after things at the expense of God.”
A soul is said to be carnal if it values material over the spirt, and Jones said a carnal soul dies, while a soul that is spiritual lives on.
“A soul goes back to where it leans, while the flesh goes back to dust,” he said.
The relationship with God is also not cognitive or intellectual.
“It does not matter if you have gone to Harvard or Yale,” Jones said, in terms of your relationship with God.
To illustrate, he told the story of Jesus and John. When the two were still in the womb, the unconscious John recognized who Jesus was and received the spirit without uttering a word. Yet, as an adult, the conscious, intellectual John had trouble figuring out who Jesus is.
“Don’t let anyone question your education as it relates to your relationship with God,” Jones said.
If you are with God, your strength is on the inside. Jones said part of your mind has to be enlightened, as God has put what you need into your soul because he already knows the problems the Devil will throw at you. To bring them out, you simply have to pray.
“I won’t be over-concerned with my problems,” the bishop said, getting faster and louder in his speech. “Before the problem ever comes, he knew about it, and he already had a solution.
“Just pray. Pray for what God has already put in your spirit. You have power beyond measure. You have enough power to tell the Devil to get out of your house.”
You just have to pray, and Jones said to pray in the name of Jesus. He said to pray to give God the authority to choose because you don’t always know what you need.
“I don’t know why you put yourself down,” Jones said, getting more rhythmic in his speech as the organist got into it.
The bishop said the only reason to put yourself down is because you are looking on the outside, and not the inside.
“It doesn’t matter what clothes you wear, whether you drive a BMW or how big your home is,” Jones said. “Don’t let things and situations decide your values.
“All that matters is God. Can’t nobody hold you down when God is raising you up.
“If you are with Jesus,” the Bishop was saying as he was getting into closing the sermon for the fourth time, “It was your season when you were born. You just have to pray.”
Mayor Raystine Johnson-Ashburn drew on one of his themes in presenting him with a ceremonial key to the city so that he could always remember his time in Franklin.
“We have survived the flood. They thought Franklin was done when the International Paper mill closed,” she said: Yet, “we are still here.”
Brent Cummings of Franklin arrived early for the four-hour event, so that he could get a seat on the front and center pew.
“It was wonderful,” he said of Noel Jones’ sermon. “You could tell he was speaking to everyone. God touched everyone tonight.”
Sasha Cummings said she hopes Franklin can bring in more people like Jones to preach.
“No matter what you are going through, if your mind is focused on God, then it will all work out,” she said.
Armanda Cannady of Franklin echoed Cummings.
“It doesn’t matter what things you own,” she said. “Your house, your car and your clothes are not as important as having God in your spirit.
“If you’ve got God inside of you, then all things are possible.”
Overseer Arthur Clark officiated the event, which was put on by the Mt. Sinai Church of God of Murfreesboro, North Carolina.