The Harbor of Hope Church in Benton Harbor, Michigan, has just moved into its own building, and celebrated its grand opening Sabbath in the former county health building with a pancake breakfast. Millennial Taurus Montgomery talks about his passion for community service, reaching young men, his new book and unorthodox ministry.
Question: You recently hosted a grand opening for your Harbor of Hope Church in Benton Harbor, Michigan, as it has moved into a former Berrien County Health Department Building. Why did you choose such an unorthodox church building?
Answer: We chose such an unorthodox church building because we wanted to do unorthodox ministry!
But we like to say God chose the building for us. It came out of nowhere. We wanted a facility that would be useful in serving the community and not something only condusive to sitting in pews. Our community is one of great need and it would have been poor stewardship to have a building that would limit us to only having worship services.
Question: Your grand opening included a Saturday morning pancake breakfast before the church service, according to an article in the local paper. That isn't a typical feature of an Adventist church! Why breakfast?
Breakfast because it is the most important meal of the day, of course! While there is truth to that, the other reason is that we wanted to do something at our grand opening that would symbolize our church's mission. We offer breakfast every week. A free breakfast not only meets a need, but it represents our desire to meet people's physical needs while providing an opportunity for fellowship before worship. We also wanted to make the connection that just a physical food is necessary to start your day, so is spiritual food, the word of God, necessary to starting your day off right! Christ did say that "man shall not live by bread alone but by every word that comes from the mouth of God" (Matthew 4:4).
How did the Harbor of Hope Church get started? Who are its main attendees? How big is your congregation?
Harbor of Hope was started by Andrews University students who felt a burden for the city of Benton Harbor in the late 1990s. They began walking the streets every Sabbath, inviting children to an afternoon program. And that outreach grew and grew. Their burden was fueled by series of messages by Pastor Dwight Nelson and in 2003 Chaplain Tim Nixon conducted an evangelistic series that baptized 40 people.
Our main attendees are families and youth of Benton Harbor, as well as Andrews' students and staff. Regular attendance is about 85 people every Sabbath.
Can you tell us about some of the community programs the Harbor of Hope Church runs?
We have ministries that provide relief as well as ministries that provide development.
Our weekly breakfast ministry has served over 100,000 meals over the past 14 years. Men from the local homeless shelter and kids from the community are the two reasons we started it.
Our community service team is very active with coat drives for the winter, back to school dinners, school suppy giveaways, Thanksgiving food baskets for the community, and so on.
We also have an outreach initiative we call GOMADNOW (Go Make A Difference Now). On 40 Sabbaths throughout the year, we go out into the community to do intentional acts of kindness.
The primary development-based ministry we do now is related to education and personal development. Since many of those we serve are not reading at their grade level, we recently started a tutoring program to address literacy issues.
Man Up is a program we launched to address the need to help young men and fathers become all God wants them to be.
[Watch a short video describing the church here.]
I have been told you have a particular passion for helping young black men to serve the Lord. What do you think is the biggest thing that they need? How are you helping to meet their needs?
We discovered that 89% of the households in our community do not have biological father-figures present. In my humble opinion, the greatest need of young black men in my community is a model of biblical manhood. This is why we launched the personal development program Man Up! We discuss faith, identity, relationships, education, dreams, serving, and perseverance. We are building relationships and challenging them to grow.
How did you become an Adventist?
I did not grow up Adventist. My house burned down and my family and I were left homeless. That is when an Adventists family took us in and allowed us to live with them until we got on our feet again. I later went to Oakwood because I felt called by God to go into ministry. I then went to the seminary at Andrews University.
Do you work closely still with Andrews?
I do. Students from Andrews come through all the time. We are presently gearing up for a major, major outreach initiative that will ignite Benton Harbor; Andrews University students and staff will play a key role.
You wrote a book called Set on Fire. Can you tell us about it?
Set On Fire is my first book and it tells the story of how God used one night of devastation to change my destination. I published it in June 2016. It's been a long time coming. God confirmed to me while I was in the seminary that a part of his plan for me was to write books. My purpose in writing this book was simply to share with the world what God has shared with me.
What reactions have you received to the book so far? How many copies have you sold? Where can people get it?
The target audience is both churched and unchurched young people ages 12-25. So far we have sold just under 500 copies. It's also for parents, youth leaders, coaches, educators, and pastors who desire to reach young people. In the book, I talk about the transition from living according to the ways of the world and then abandoning the world for Christ.The reactions have been all very, very positive. This has been humbling as well. When you write a book and put your all into doing it, it's really encouraging to hear readers give positive feedback. One of the most consistent compliments I get about the book is how easy and simple it is to read. The book is sold exclusively at my website.
Where do you see yourself in ten years?
Hopefully in the new earth by then! If not, I'll still be giving my all to make a difference on this earth. Specifically, I see myself traveling the world inspiring, informing, and igniting a fire within young men and women to live for Christ and His kingdom!
Taurus Montgomery grew up in Mobile, Alabama, and graduated from Oakwood in 2008 and Andrews Seminary in 2011. He runs the Harbor of Hope Church in Benton Harbor, Michigan.
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