World Changers Church

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By Reginald Sanders

Pastor Creflo A. Dollar starts out his sermon in a calm, measured voice inside the Loews Paradise Theatre on the Grand Concourse. He reads a verse from the Bible and then his tempo begins to quicken. His hands grow more animated as he makes his points and his tone grows more emphatic until he is shouting.

The congregants, usually a broad range of races, ages and ethnicities, respond by rising out of their chairs, shouting praises to God and speaking in tongues.

Dollar is lead pastor to one of the world’s largest church chains. Every Saturday, from 6:30 to 8:00 p.m., the Loews Paradise Theatre is filled to capacity. Sermon topics range from faith to finance to relationships.

World Changers Church shares many beliefs with traditional Christianity like baptism. Followers also believe in the Rapture. That is, when the Rapture occurs, the dead in Christ will rise first. Then those who are alive and have accepted Jesus as their Lord and Savior will be caught up to meet Him in divine healing and speaking in tongues.

When members walk in the door, they are given a Dixie-size cup with red punch topped with a wafer. These will be consumed later during communion, when congregants will eat the wafer, which represents Jesus’ body, and drink the punch, which symbolizes the blood Jesus shed when he was crucified.

As the flock filters in, crowd warmers rev up the crowd with “Glory be to God on high, Alleluia!”

Service begins with praise and worship when five people go up on stage and sing gospels. The audience rises up to join in. The stage lights change colors as the music reaches higher and higher decibels. Some times the group sings “Hillsong” Christian songs like “Oceans,” “I Surrender,” or “All I Need is You.”

After the praise and worship part of the service finished, about 20 people who worked for the church stand in front of the sanctuary, just by the stage. Congregants going through a life trial go up and pray with one of them. The take each others’ hands, bow their heads and close their eyes.

Nancy Martinez, 54, a member since 2010, said she comes for God and the company. “It’s good to be joined together, one man, one accord, one spirit together in harmony dwelling together in the house of the lord,” she said.

Another woman agreed, saying, “It’s the best place to be, especially with the world right now. We all need God now more than ever.”

One March service was based on Luke Chapter 16 – “Uncovering the spirit of Mammon.” Dollar said that the word “mammon” is the demonic spirit behind the use of money. “A wrong relationship with money is the root of all evil,” he said. “People are known for knowing only half of this scripture.” The audience appeared intently focused on Dollar’s words.

The pastor is not always so stern, and peppers his sermon with jokes. (A CD of Dollar’s funniest moments is available on the World Changer’s web site.) In one service, he told the audience that he was mistakenly reported to have endorsed Donald Trump for president, which both he and his audience found very amusing.

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