In a heavily populated inner-city section of Brooklyn, NY, a small storefront Pentecostal church started in the early eighties, as the rise of religiosity spread throughout the United States. As you walked down the busy street of the city, you could spot a church of just about every religious denomination that dates back in history. There were the Catholics, the Jewish, the Mormons, the Hindus, the Muslims, the Baptist, the Seventh Day Adventists, and the Jehovah Witnesses. Many cross-cultured religious movements lined most communities in Brooklyn.
However, Pentecostalism became evident in one community when New Life Tabernacle was birthed in a storefront building on Rogers Avenue in the East Flatbush section of Brooklyn. The Reverend Garland Forman, an ambitious educator and religious pioneer, along with his wife and their three young children felt a burden to reach out to a populous of people in an urban community that was in need of salvation. After relocating his family to New York City from the South, he encouraged a community embedded with crime, violence, immorality, and most of all the lack of knowledge about the Pentecostal doctrine. He teamed up with the United Pentecostal Church International, and started a home missionary church in Brooklyn, NY.
Starting with about one or two people, Reverend Forman and his family worked hard to build a strong Pentecostal church body in Brooklyn community. They launched drives to increase enrollment; they sponsored gospel concerts in schools along with revivals in an effort to reach the community. He was faced with the competition of the bigger and more established churches, and their strength to persuade non-religious people to heed to their religion and join their congregations. Reverend Forman poured all his time, effort and hard work into the church and his efforts did not go unnoticed, and his ambition was honored. In 1988, he decided his time in the big city was up, and felt the time for change amongst him and his family. With this in mind, he packed his bags and headed for home wishing the fate of the church be left in the hands of someone who could continue to water what he had planted. Indeed, he had planted a vision in that urban community of Brooklyn that needed to be birthed, nurtured, and groomed into success. He had given it all he had, all of what was required of a planter, and it would be upon his successor to reap what he sowed.
With the intervention of the United Pentecostal Church, the organization sought out to uphold the vision of Reverend Forman, without banishing the religious establishment that he had formed. The search for a new Pastor began in late 1988 by the board of directors of the New York Metro District. After interviewing with the district board and the church board, Reverend Micheal Mitchell was selected to be the new pastor of New Life Tabernacle. He had been a part of many congregations and served under Bishops Lincoln Graham Sr. and F. Scott Teets, however he was open to the opportunity to take his ministry to another dimension. He had a love for souls that were lost, and his vision seemed to fall hand in hand with that of Reverend Forman’s.
With this new position, Pastor Mitchell made a commitment to take the church to a higher level by applying new leadership tactics, more stricture, and stronger financial commitments by members. A new man in town brings about inquiring minds and with the new Pastor in town, indeed there were some inquiries. With his sharp new exciting sermons and calm demeanor, people in the community sought to find out what was taking place at that little storefront on the corner of Rogers and Synder Avenues. As a result, more and more people from nearby communities began visiting the congregation. As the weekly sermons were preached, souls were baptized in the name of Jesus Christ and filled with God’s Holy Spirit. Visitors began accepting Christ in their lives as their personal savior. The momentum kept flowing as one family member invited another, or one friend told another friend, causing the small storefront church to become too big to house the larger congregation of roughly 40 to 50 people. With this in mind, the church made plans to move into a building that could facilitate the larger crowd.
Within months the church opened its doors at a new location on Avenue J in the Flatbush section of Brooklyn. It was a major advancement for the church since opening its doors in the early eighties. Now that the early nineties had arrived, the new decade ushered in a wave that prompted Reverend Mitchell to ignite change. The larger facility, although rented and not purchased, demanded greater responsibilities on the church’s economic status. Reverend Mitchell had to make sure the congregation would not only grow in number, but also in finances. As the larger facility housed more people, the steady growth pattern duplicated itself as the weekly attendance doubled rapidly. It was the old religious fundamental of fire-packed preaching and anointed singing that served as the foundation for steady growth. The rapid growth showed people’s interest in the gospel as well as their need and hunger for a religious institution that could imbed them with the fundamentals of Christianity, along with the moral and spiritual character necessary to become healthy Pentecostals. Soon, the congregation was too large to contain itself in the 150-seat auditorium.
After more fire-packed evangelistic services, the attendance tripled, going from an average of sixty to two hundred, thus hinting it was time to move again. Reverend Mitchell would try to purchase a facility that the church would grow into, and not a facility that the church would grow out of it. After a bit of searching, the congregation with an attendance of approximately 200 people bought its first property in the history of the church. The new facility was located on the corner of Avenue D and Utica Avenue. Indeed, this marked another huge advancement that signified that the church was making progress. It also marked the second time the church would move into a larger facility in a period of three years. However, the new facility needed to be renovated from a party hall into a church sanctuary. It was in a different community than the current facility at that time. Reverend Mitchell urged the members to contribute as much as they could financially. After months of construction, the church opened its doors to an abundance of people.
With the new building at the forefront, Reverend Mitchell would again have to reach this new community while still catering to the ones he had already evangelized. No matter where the church moved, Pastor Mitchell ultimately strove for the church to become the center of that community. The church continued to launch spiritual crusades, gospel concerts, and tract and flyer distributions to ignite additional church growth in multiple surrounding communities. This would boost the church both socially and economically. It would only be a matter of time before the new facility would become too small for the growing congregation. New Life Tabernacle started having two services on Sunday mornings to reach the many people coming from various surrounding communities. This routine of two services on Sunday morning went on for about two years. Realizing that he would not be able to house the abundance of people that the Lord was blessing the church with, Pastor Mitchell devised a plan that would establish daughter churches in communities across Brooklyn. The implementation of this plan was the beginning of New Life’s projection of establishing 30 churches across Brooklyn.
From within the East New York section of Brooklyn, many people supported and called New Life Tabernacle their home. The many souls to be reached in that community weighed heavily on the heart of Pastor Mitchell and he decided to open the first daughter church, Refuge Center in that area. A team of 17 saints from New Life Tabernacle congregation was sent out to become the evangelism thrust of that new church. The team was primarily staffed with people who were already from that community and shared in the vision to see many souls won to the Lord. The first satellite church was able to obtain substantial growth in a short period of time. As a result, Pastor Mitchell made plans for the second satellite church one year later.
With the first satellite church progressing well, the second one would add to the consistent growth that New Life Tabernacle and Refuge Center had been experiencing. Pastor Mitchell aligned the second satellite church just as the first with a Pastor in place and a team of church members from the main congregation. This church would be located in the Crown Heights section of Brooklyn, which consisted of a large Jewish population. Pastor Mitchell was not sure how hard it would be to captivate those community members, but he applied the same growth tactics such as crusades, concerts and community events, and it paid off. The second satellite church was named Beth-El Christian Center.
With both satellite churches doing well, Pastor Mitchell would continue his vision and start the third satellite church in the Canarsie area of Brooklyn. The ignition continued as the evangelism team chosen from new Life Tabernacle ministered effectively at Word Aflame Tabernacle. With the momentum rolling, the fourth daughter church was started one year later in the Flatbush area of Brooklyn. Emmanuel Deliverance Temple was established in the same manner as the other satellite churches and continued likewise in its growth process with encouraging results.
In the midst of Pastor Mitchell’s evangelistic thrust throughout the communities of Brooklyn, his vision to see the mother church’s facility improve was in the works. Additional property adjacent to the current building was purchased and the renovation to erect a new sanctuary was on the way. Though delayed, the vision was not denied and on December 13, 2003, New Life Tabernacle officially opened the door to their new facility. The new facility which is 33,000 square feet in capacity, is comprised of a sanctuary that seats approximately 1,800, and banquet hall that seat 350, eight Sunday school classrooms and an office complex on the upper level. Additionally, a bookstore is located in the lobby of the church. Time and space would not permit to detail the many miracles and blessings that were bestowed on the New Life Tabernacle’s congregation and the ministry as the fruits of their labor were realized. It is because of the faithfulness and mercies of God that we pause to celebrate and give him thanks for all his goodness and benefits towards us.