Harvest Christian Fellowship pastor talks about roots

Sun News correspondentNovember 13, 2013 

MICHAEL W. PANNELL/SPECIAL TO THE SUN NEWSKelly Pope, left, is the pastor of Harvest Christian Fellowship and stresses that the church is proud of its Pentecostal roots. His wife, Latricia, right, is his ministry partner.

WARNER ROBINS -- Harvest Christian Fellowship’s roots go back to a tent revival in 1958 at the corner of Bell Drive and Lydick Avenue.

The Rev. Jack Bryant led meetings sponsored by the Macon Church of God of Prophecy on Houston Avenue. The congregation’s church history records that God blessed the meetings, some of which were so enthusiastic and anointed that police were called.

The Rev. M.B. Stearman is recorded as telling police, “(T)his is the Lord’s work. We’ll stop when God is through, not until.”

No one was arrested, the meetings went on and the Warner Robins Church of God of Prophecy was established on Curtis Street. In 1993, the church relocated to South Houston Lake Road. In 2003 it was renamed Harvest Christian Fellowship under the leadership of current pastor, Kelly Pope.

“The name didn’t represent who we were and was confusing to others and to us,” Pope said. “Our focus is the harvest and reaching people with the love and grace of Christ. The new name came from that.”

Pope stressed the church is proud of its Pentecostal heritage, but modern perceptions of what that means don’t fit.

“We believe in the gifts of the Spirit and don’t belittle that, but they’re not expressed every Sunday and aren’t our focus. They have their place but our focus is centered on Jesus and the many things that means -- especially reaching out to others and walking together as a family.”

Pope said the church has blended worship with alternating leaders, one highlighting contemporary and the other more traditional worship featuring hymns. He said servanthood is a hallmark of the congregation, which has a number of retired ministers in its midst.

“If you get past the bowl, you’re off base,” he said. “Jesus took up a bowl to wash his disciple’s feet. To me, we’re a working church that takes that seriously. You never get beyond serving others. There are so many here who serve whether it’s ministering up front or taking on a dirty job. Each is a privilege.”

Pope grew up in Warner Robins, graduating in 1984 from Northside High School. He grew up in the church he now pastors, but his upbringing hit a rough spot in high school and after he joined the Army.

“When some see my name as pastor, they ask, ‘Is this the same Kelly Pope that went to Northside? Well, that gives me hope.’ I was truly lost and flirting with disaster. I sure didn’t plan to be a pastor or to ever return to Warner Robins. I was the rebellious prodigal.”

Transitioning from the Army, Pope re-encountered Christ and ended up at Tomlinson College in Chattanooga, Tenn., and Lee College in Cleveland, Tenn., both Church of God of Prophecy related. He earned degrees in business and ministry and met his wife, Latricia, also a business major. She’s now his ministry partner.

After school, Pope worked for Tennessee as a child abuse investigator and crisis interventionist -- a tough job, he said. He then worked with his denomination connecting churches to the mission field. He also began pursuing a career as an FBI agent or pharmaceutical representative. That was going well when the unexpected -- and unwanted -- happened.

“I was asked to come back here to pastor the church,” he said. “I thought, no way, don’t do this to me God. It was 2001, and they were excited to offer me $100 a week and the opportunity to pastor and work another job. I struggled. FBI training was months away, and I had a great interview with the pharmaceutical company. In the middle of it, the guy stopped and said he was a Christian and he’d hire me, but he thought God had something better for me.”

Visiting an unfamiliar church, Pope said someone spoke to him saying they believed God was calling them somewhere.

“That was it,” he said. “We loaded a trailer and came. Merck pharmaceuticals offered the job the day we moved down. Sorry, not interested. God did have something better.”

Since coming, Pope, 48, has worked bivocationally in development with Habitat for Humanity International, CBN and now with Georgia Southern University. He said his work has impacted the varied ministries of the church positively through his extensive travel nationally and internationally, strengthening ties to Christians and missions work across the globe.

Contact Michael W. Pannell at mwpannell@gmail.com.

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