Renowned songwriter Clint Brown's Faith World Church was thriving in the Orlando, Fla., suburb of Apopka, so much so that the church under Brown's leadership was moving forward in a relocation plan to move from it's storefront meeting place to a new building.
Although the land was paid for and the church was ready to build, Brown told Charisma that God changed that plan when Benny Hinn asked Brown to merge his congregation with Hinn's former Orlando church, World Outreach Center (WOC).
Brown, 36, led worship for Rod Parsley for six years before coming to Orlando in 1993 when he set up Faith World. Brown's church is known locally as a healing station for hurting people regardless of race, gender or nationality.
Hinn's long-rumored departure from World Outreach Center finally came to fruition in 1999 when he pulled up stakes to move Benny Hinn Ministries to Dallas. The healing evangelist also maintains offices and a residence in the Los Angeles area where he operates an international television ministry.
While the Orlando-area church community pondered what might happen to the 2,400-member WOC, Hinn hammered out a plan for Brown to purchase WOC's church facilities and to relocate Brown's 1,300-member Faith World to the more centrally located WOC campus north of downtown Orlando.
Brown told Charisma he was within one week of laying the foundation for a new church building on 21 acres paid for by his church. But Brown took the call from Hinn as one from the Lord, and decided it was God's will for the church to minister in the more central location.
Hinn and Brown agreed to merge their congregations, and both loathe any suggestion that Hinn "sold" his congregation to anyone. The merger decision came after several months of planning and prayer, said Suzanne Hinn, wife of Benny Hinn, on the first Sunday the two congregations met in the World Outreach Church facility.
She also commended Brown's desire to reach the city of Orlando. "OCC people, don't expect pastor Clint and pastor Angie [Brown] to be pastor Benny and myself," she told the crowd. "There's things that pastor Clint and there's areas that pastor Angie can take you to that Benny and I could not and cannot take you to right now."
Although Brown assumed a $5.7 million debt along with WOC's 30-acre property, he believes the church will be paid for within five years.
Most of Hinn's former congregants who were comfortable with his more traditional worship style left to join other local churches when Hinn departed. They were not accustomed to Brown's enthusiastic preaching sessions that are more akin to some African American Pentecostals' fast-paced worship styles.
Faith World officials say many others have been attracted to Brown's church since Hinn's departure. Faith World now boasts a growing membership of approximately 4,000 people--a number that Brown expects to reach 6,000 by 2001.
Among Brown's new members is Dove winner and renowned worship leader Ron Kenoly. "My original plan after relocating to Orlando was to visit a number of churches in the area," Kenoly told Charisma, "but the first time I brought my wife to Faith World, we didn't want to look any further."
Kenoly, a former member of Jubilee Christian Center, in San Jose, Calif., underwent double- bypass heart surgery in March. Kenoly says he thinks highly of Brown. "Pastor Brown is one of the few pastors that I know of who understands the balance between worship and the Word," he said.
Sheila Barnes, a member of Faith World for three years, said the church's racial unity is a big plus. "We have no agenda here. Pastor Brown just goes with the flow of the Holy Spirit," she said.
Not everyone in the Orlando area is pleased with Brown's push toward racial diversity. Three years ago, Brown received a call from a man spouting racial slurs at him because of his church's mostly African American mix.
"The man on the phone told me that he was going to burn our church down because of the African Americans we have in our congregation," Brown said. "I told him that it was too late, we've been on fire with the Holy Ghost for three years."
Faith World is located in a city that is increasingly becoming a hub for well-known ministries such as Bill Bright's Campus Crusade for Christ, Wycliffe Bible Translators, Asbury Seminary, German evangelist Reinhard Bonnke, author and pastor Mark Chironna and British evangelist Peter Gammons. Some of Hinn's former congregants may have found new church homes in Chironna's church and Gammons' Cathedral of Faith Church.