from Pastor Harry Thomas
The Come Alive New Testament Church (Come Alive Church) had its first service on May 22, 1983 at Haines Elementary School in Medford, NJ. It was the result of the burden and vision of Margery and I. God has led us in so many wonderful ways enabling us to reach out nationally and globally but none is dearer to me than the local church. I believe God’s plan is to reach the world through his people firmly planted and rooted in the local church.
But there is more to its beginnings.
From a child I always felt called to the ministry. After completing my B.A. degree from Houghton College, Margery and I were married and headed off to secular employment at Philadelphia Electric Company. During that time the desire for ministry once again became evident and I enrolled in Eastern Baptist Theological Seminary (now called Palmer Theological) to obtain my M.Div (Master of Divinity) degree.
During my seminary days I served as a youth minister at Tacony Baptist Church in Philadelphia and later took on a student pastorate (which became full-time) at Columbus Baptist Church in Columbus, NJ. Meantime, my wife Margery completed her biology degree at Eastern College (now Eastern University) in St. David’s, PA.
n 1970 I received my degree and I was ordained by the American Baptist Churches, after going through a strenuous ordination council. Margery completed her B.A. and walked the isle to get her diploma pregnant with our daughter, Kelly.
In 1973, Margery and I felt God’s leading to leave the pastorate and start Come Alive Ministries, Inc. to reach young people with the new styles of music from the Jesus Movement. I began preaching in churches, led youth retreats, wrote and recorded my music and did a weekly and and even a daily radio show called “The Come Alive Show” which was on CBS in Philadelphia, New York and some 50 other stations.
I began to bring various “Jesus Musicians” in concert and out of that we began the “Creation Festival” in 1979 with a mere 5,000 people and it has now has grown into the largest Christian festival in the US and we are told, in the world. Through Creation we have seen hundreds of thousands of young people touched with the gospel and through Compassion International we have had over 35,000 children sponsored.
For ten years (1973-1983) Margery and I attended Marlton Baptist Church where I served as a Deacon and Margery played the organ and piano for worship. Sadly, my dear friend and pastor, Franklyn Vail died as a result of open-heart surgery. The church began to change and we felt a release to leave and to start a Spirit filled church in Medford. Without any real announcements 100 people attended the first service on May 22, 1983 held at Haines Elementary School on Stokes Rd in Medford, NJ.
About a year later we moved to Shawnee High School. Each Sunday was labor intensive with set-up and tear down and putting everything in a trailer to store at my house until the following week. Our home became the office for both the church and festivals and radio programs... a very busy place.
The church grew and reached 350 people. The church was strongly involved in evangelism (door to door, mass choir concerts, visiting musicians and speakers – ex. 2nd Chapter of Acts sang on Easter Sunday). One of our elders donated the Mountain Run Day Camp to us and we held weekly activities and even used it for offices. We had great picnics and swimming, games and more. Still there was a desire to have our own church home.
God graced us with a generous people and the Building fund began to grow. Through the influence of one of our elders, we purchased 5 acres on Rt. 70 (for about $80,000) with the intention of purchasing the adjoining property. The adjoining property was literally stolen from us by a cash offer. Some plans were drawn up for the 5-acres but in the midst of that time we heard through Clark Brick (real estate) that the Medford Farms Liquor and Deli was up for sale.
The church had no credit history and banks turned us down one after another. Through the kindness of the owners (Dave Anderson) and Board of Come Alive Ministries, loans were executed. Along with Blair Wagner we began to rebuild the liquor store into a suitable church building. The work load was enormous and our people worked day and night to see the building to completion. Miracle after miracle took place. I remember crying out for God’s mercy to meet all the codes and financial pressures. In this building are the thumb prints of people who scraped and cleaned and painted and sacrificed to make this building our church home.
In 1995 the Creation Festival had a total rainout year and tens of thousands of dollars were lost. Come Alive Ministries (now Come Alive International) had loaned the Come Alive Church all the money we had and we needed a miracle to just maintain. God worked a miracle with the 5 acres on Rt. 70. It was up for sale but no one was interested. Finally the elders decided to just put up our own sign. In a matter of a few days I had a bidding war on my hands. Total price received in cash – no contingencies were $450,000. Shortly after the camp sold also for $250,000. All loans to Come Alive and to Sterling Bank were paid and the final mortgage on the building and land within the past year was totally paid off. We serve a miracle working God. To God be the glory!!
Throughout the years the Lord has brought us an amazing congregation. Those in the pulpit have changed, but the people have remained the church. A building is not the church, but God has always housed his people whether that is a magnificent Cathedral or a hut in the bush country of Africa. He knows how to provide and no one is better at provision than the Lord God.
Margery and I are so grateful to God for this church congregation. What an amazing family! We are multicultural, multigenerational, contemporary but most of all Christ-centered. Throughout our history (His-Story) we have moved forward through good and difficult times by His grace and His grace alone. Join with us as we Come Alive in Jesus!