Second In A Two-Part Series
Outreach Deliverance Church, 4317 King Kennedy St., Carlisle, will hold its 20th anniversary celebration at 2:30 p.m. Sunday. The Union Daily Times is publishing a two-part profile of the church. The first part, which was published in Friday’s edition, looked at the growth of the church over the past 20 years. In today’s edition, the second part looks at the preaching style of the church’s founder, Pastor Eddie McConnell, and the church’s atmosphere.
CARLISLE — Church members say the pastor’s preaching style and a welcoming atmosphere are part of what has made Outreach Deliverance Church special for the 20 years it has been in existence.
“It’s amazing — when I first started, nobody wanted to hear me,” Pastor Eddie McConnell smiled, explaining that his style of preaching is non-traditional. “I can remember when I first started ministering, and I would feel like I had done everything God wanted me to do that day. A lot of the older people would say, ‘Just keep it up; you’ll get it one day.’ I think it’s catching on, but at first, they were looking for a more dramatic presentation.”
Church member Floyd Lyles elaborated.
“He’s very laid back and quiet,” Lyles said. “From the background of our culture, there are a lot of ministers who are flashier, or louder, but he is more of a teacher.”
The centerpiece of the ODC sanctuary is an enormous stage, which McConnell said was built to allow the youth an opportunity to express themselves in ministries involving plays or spiritual dance. There is no traditional pulpit with chairs for ministers. McConnell said he never sits in front of the congregation, but rather on the front pew of the church.
“I don’t want the people to see someone elevated higher than them,” he said. “I’m the same as they are.”
Lyles — the Union County High School principal — said he looks up to McConnell not only as a pastor, but also as a leader.
“A lot of things I do as a leader, even with my job, are easier for me because I have a living example,” Lyles said. “If a visitor comes here while we’re doing a project, he wouldn’t really know who the pastor is. That example has spread throughout the church. He’s going to lead by example. He’s going to show you how to do it, and then he’s going to work harder than you.”
Lyles said he has seen McConnell’s example develop throughout the congregation — from toddlers ages 2-5 to seniors who are older than the pastor.
“I see it with myself,” Lyles said. “When things go bad, he doesn’t rattle. That’s what he teaches. We all see that example every day.”
One group of men in the congregation follows that example in that they come to the church twice a week to keep it clean. They clean the church grounds on Tuesdays, and on Fridays they clean and prepare the inside of the building for Sunday services. The group happily does this each week without receiving any pay.
“If you can show people with your words and your actions how much you love God, I believe that those people who are around you will fall in love with God, too,” McConnell said. “And I believe once you fall in love with God, you will give a whole lot. I believe you will sacrifice more than you thought you would if you really, really love the things of God.”
The ODC mission statement is, “Create an environment in which we all can live.” A banner hanging over the stage in the sanctuary reads, “Excellence in Ministry is done through character, conduct, and commitment.”
McConnell said he has tried to set an atmosphere in which everyone feels welcome and needed in some way.
“No matter whether they have a lot or don’t have a lot — no matter whether they came in off the streets or just came from jail — everybody is welcome and has a part in this ministry,” he said.
Relatively new church member Earl Browning said he is appreciative of how welcoming ODC is to everyone.
“The love and communication in the church helped me out,” Browning said. “The closeness. The Word.”
Lyles pointed out that McConnell’s wife, Kathy, also helps him lead by example. Lyles discussed the early days of ODC.
“I remember watching them (the McConnells) together,” Lyles said. “They have such a great relationship. Everybody has problems. I was like, ‘They must be faking.’”
Lyles said it became very clear to the church congregation — especially the married couples — that they could learn from the McConnells’ relationship.
McConnell referred to his wife as “humble, strong and supportive.”
“She helps me so much in this ministry, and she’s very much loved by everyone in the church,” he said.
Lyles also said members realize Kathy is the backbone of the church.
“Even though everyone knows she doesn’t say a lot, they know she’s the backbone,” Lyles said. “They feel comfortable going to either him or her.”
The unity displayed through the McConnells’ relationship is the same type of unity McConnell teaches his congregation.
“If you have togetherness, you can do a whole lot,” McConnell said. “I think that’s how we got a lot of things accomplished. That spirit of harmony was here.”
Staff Writer Derik Vanderford can be reached at 864-427-1234, ext. 29, or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.