It could be daunting to take over the reins as lead pastor for a church your famous parents planted in 2012, but for Alvin Love III, 35, it was a natural progression that was initially inspired by a powerful encounter he had on a visit to Melbourne Life Church in Australia.
“It was something that was just surprisingly personal and I guess invasive a little bit. I felt like God was looking at me and only me. And that was the first time for me to where I just felt that much attention and that much focus from God and it stopped me in my tracks. I was only planning on staying in Australia for three months. I decided to stay nine months because the discipleship course that the church offered was a nine-month class,” said Love.
From that encounter, Love began sharing his experience with his friends and family and what he felt was in his heart. He learned that a number of his friends were also taking steps to a deeper connection with God. Over the next year, pastors and leaders from Melbourne Life Church came to Nashville and ministered to him and his friends at his parents’ home. It was their ministry that launched Nashville Life Church with 38 members and Pastors Alvin Love II and CeCe Winans as Senior Pastors. Now, in 2020, with about 400 members, he and his friends are leading the congregation. Although some changes are happening, they are learning as they go.
“I’m very different from my parents, but our church has been a collaborative effort. My dad and mom brought me pretty close to the core of what was happening. So though I was never the leader from a governmental and even spiritual point, I’ve always had a prominent voice in the building of the culture and what we have. I think the change is less because I’m in charge and more because I’m evolving and we’re getting better and better,” said Love.
It’s a multicultural church and very diverse in a lot of ways; not just racially, but politically, philosophically, and economically. As would be expected, that naturally has caused some division within the church that Love has had to address head-on. Rather than pick a side or using his platform to speak politically, he emphasizes not letting politics divide the church.
“There’s always been Democrats and Republicans. There’s always been all types of people, and that’s okay. I don’t think that your Christian faith has to dictate where you lean politically, however, as believers, we should never let politics serve as a tool to divide the church that God has called to be one,” said Love.
So what does he believe they should be focused on? What Love says are the “basic beliefs — being a community of faith amidst the social, health, and political unrest. They had to do things a little differently with COVID. Previously, they’d gather more with 12-week small groups. Now, they’re focused on being a source of life and faith for people wherever they are, whether at work, in the neighborhood, or elsewhere. He encourages his members to reach out to people who aren’t part of their church community, or perhaps they’re at the edge of not believing at all.
“Our faith can be that boost they need to come closer to God. I think fear is at an all-time high. I think suicidal thoughts, and mental illness is at an all-time high. And that’s what we’re seeing in our own city. And I think, if nothing else, just the idea of having faith and believing that things are going to turn around and believing that God is still in control and he still loves us, “ said Love.
Love says even as a pastor he has been affected by the woes of 2020 — the isolation, the discouragement, and looking at an Instagram feed and only seeing re-postings of shootings, and deaths, and COVID numbers going up. A lot of the depressing news happened in the months leading to him transitioning as the senior pastor. Not to mention, he had to navigate CDC guidelines for churches and determine whether they should even meet in person. He gets what people are feeling, but he’s trying to lead by example.
“I have been hit by pressures, and I’ve been vulnerable to anxiety, but it’s the fight to stand on the rock of God’s Word that has allowed me to not only still be standing, but to still be thriving, and to be able to preach, and to be able to live life and have joy is a testament that this works, God works. And the Holy Spirit is definitely a sustainer.”
Michelle McClain-Walters has traveled to over fifty nations and inspired thousands to follow God. For many years she was the director of the prayer ministry at Crusaders Church in Chicago, as well as a house prophet and a member of the apostolic team. Her book Chosen: Appointed for Favor, Destined for Greatness was released this September (2019) — her sixth book under Charisma House, a leading publisher of Charismatic-Christian books.
With all these accomplishments, Michelle knows a thing or two about operating in a male-dominated profession. Her experience in church culture and study of godly women in the Bible have granted her a deeper understanding of what it means to be a God-honoring woman in leadership.
You Don’t Have to Be Like a Man
For Michelle, this isn’t a challenge. She loves to wear makeup and high heels. She jokes that you can smell her perfume a block away, and the more glitter and rhinestones, the better. But she also recognizes that femininity goes deeper than accessories.
In her writing, Michelle draws true feminine qualities from the Bible, learning from women such as Deborah who boldly led others in the military.
“Femininity is power and authority under control. Deborah’s lifestyle is a lesson for all women who are looking to define themselves and fully use their potential. You can be gentle and assertive. You can inspire and not intimidate,” she says.
Michelle acknowledges how, in today’s culture, it has become less necessary for a woman in ministry to adopt more masculine mannerisms to be considered equal. She encourages women to embrace their femininity, with or without nail polish.
Re-vhealed photography (LaVincent Nelson)
Your Meekness Means You Submit to God—Not Men
In her book Chosen, Michelle describes a time she traveled to another country to minister alongside a group of other prophets. She was the only woman. They shared a stage where those with a prophetic word stepped forward. But Michelle kept getting pushed further to the back.
“I just moved myself to the back and tried to stay out of the way,” she says. “God was telling me just to stand there and be silent.”
She obeyed even as the room rose with energy. Then the leader called Michelle to the front. She stepped forward and said what she felt God had been speaking to her. Instantly her words resonated with the people. Healings, deliverance, and other miracles happened right there.
Michelle was thankful that God had softened her spirit to be submissive to Him.
“If I had not listened to God, I don’t know what witness I would have given another woman who was watching and learning how to operate in predominantly male spaces. If I had not listened to God and tried to grab a mic and prophesy without His permission, I would have been in the flesh, and there’s no telling the damage my ego and disobedience could have caused,” Michelle says.
Some may encourage meekness. Some may encourage boldness. For Michelle, either can be glorifying to God when it’s under His leading.
Your Team Includes Men
God created men and women to work together. When God observed Adam alone in the garden, He said, “It is not good that the man should be alone. I will make him a helper suitable for him” (Gen. 2:18, MEV).
Michelle urges Christians to go back to the Bible to understand better what makes healthy man-woman relationships:
“Men and women alike were created in God’s image and likeness. Our society changes its expectations of us from generation to generation. This is why it must be His Word alone that we use to correct the distortions and devaluing of the differences between men and women. His Word for us does not change.”
By all means, acknowledge injustice, both on a larger, historical level and in the more personal sphere. However, Michelle distinguishes the difference between desiring justice and desiring vengeance. She encourages Christians to seek reconciliation in spite of past inequality and dysfunction.
As the effects from the past are being reversed, Michelle foresees more women working in ministry.
“We are being healed and delivered from tradition and religion that have held us captive for centuries. The Lord is releasing His favor and grace upon us to fulfill His purposes in the earth,” she says.
She poses this question to women: “Will we submit to the process of being trained and commissioned to fulfill these purposes?”
Michelle McClain-Walters is the author of Chosen: Appointed for Favor, Destined for Greatness(Charisma House, 2019). She is the author of The Prophetic Advantage and five books about biblical women of influence, including The Esther Anointing and The Deborah Anointing. Michelle has appeared on LeSEA Broadcasting Network’s The Harvest Show, Lifeline Church TV, and many national radio broadcasts. She and her husband, Floyd Walters Jr., currently reside in Orlando, Florida.