During a tour of Pursuit of God's new campus in Frayser, Pastor Rickey Floyd discovered a puppet theatre in children's church area. (Photo: Lee Eric Smith)

Last Sunday was not my first time attending service at Pursuit of God in Frayser. Nor was it my first time attending services at 3759 N. Watkins, the former Bellevue Baptist Church.

The few times I went to Bellevue-Frayser, the crowds were sparse and on a couple of occasions, I remember viewing a feed of the service at the main Bellevue campus. Nothing wrong with that, I suppose – but I do distinctly remember feeling, “If I’m gonna watch a pastor on TV, I could do that at home.” Just being real.

“Sometimes, I’m asked if we ever could have imagined this. And you know what our answer is? Yes,” said Sheila Floyd. “It was always in our heart. I mean don’t get me wrong, there’s no pride at all. We’re overjoyed, but yes, we imagined it. We dare to believe that God can do exceedingly abundantly above all else.” (Photo: Lee Eric Smith)

Contrast to Pursuit of God Transformation Center, affectionately known in Frayser as POG. In my visits there, I was always struck not just by Floyd’s real-talk ministerial style, or the emotional performances of the choir. What struck me most were some of the people who came: single moms, ex-felons, the poor, the recovering addicts – basically what Jesus called “the least of these.”

There are many ministries that preach about serving “the least of these.” Some of them even have outreach programs to feed or clothe them – but for whatever reasons, you seldom see “the least of these” actually in those churches. They are loved, but often from a distance.

That’s not what I experienced at POG. Floyd squarely aims his ministry and his outreach where the pain is, and he makes no bones about it. That’s why Bellevue Baptist Church gifted its massive Frayser facility – debt-free and stocked with supplies. And Floyd says it’s why more than 500 people packed the pews Sunday for POG’s first service in its new sanctuary.

“We respect people. We love people,” Floyd said Tuesday, during a break in POG’s annual job fair. “We don’t let dogmatic religion chase us away. My son was telling me somebody saw a video of a young man standing at the altar accepting Jesus Christ – but he had a hoodie on. And here’s what some dogmatic religious fruitcake nut said: ‘Dishonoring the house of God with a hoodie on his head!’

“And you know, I wanted to say, ‘Ma’am, you got a wig on yo’ head,” Floyd chuckled. “You get people who are so caught up in the way they think Jesus should be accepted or presented they will use hatred and bitterness and anger to run people away.”

POG’s big move largely grew out of the partnership and genuine friendship Floyd and wife Sheila share with David Jordan, President & CEO of Agape Child & Family Services, who sat in for my talk with Floyd. POG and Agape have partnered on many programs, including the job fair that was going on just two rooms away.

Inside POG’s game room, David Jordan, President and CEO of Agape Child & Family Services, and Floyd talk about the “relationship capital” that helped persuade Bellevue Baptist Church to donate its entire Frayser campus to Pursuit of God – debt free. “God has woven our hearts and our being together, deeply into what’s in the future,” Jordan said. (Photo: Lee Eric Smith)

Agape had considerable resources to help families and children, but lacked the direct contact and “street cred” that the Floyds had built up over the years. They decided to join forces to bring programs like the Job Fair and other needed services into POG’s former campus on Dellwood across from MLK Prep.

“I love my brother, my sister, our partnership, our relationship,” Jordan said. “It really grows out of that Jesus blood over us. I mean, it does. God has woven our hearts and our being together, deeply into what’s in the future.”

Floyd makes a point to call it “relationship capital.”

“(Jordan’s) vision became part of my vision. My vision became a part of his vision,” he said. “And it really was the same vision of God – to transform a community, touch people, teach people, transform people, show people the love of God. To help people get liberated.”

As Floyd gave us a tour of the facility, he said that Bellevue’s leadership recognized that the building was under-utilized and that the ministry simply wasn’t connecting with people in Frayser. Jordan had introduced Floyd to Bellevue seeking funding for POG’s Husband Institute. After a meeting to discuss was canceled last fall, Floyd said he was discouraged.

“When it’s people and their money, you can’t get mad. I was disappointed, but not mad,” Floyd said. “But when the conversations picked back up, they said, ‘Be patient. We’re looking at something bigger.”

Floyd and his wife were thinking it might mean more funding. But later, when a senior Bellevue official floated the idea of donating the Frayser campus, Floyd said he was speechless. After presenting Bellevue a bold vision of how the building would be used . . .  “And here we are,” Floyd said.

And Bellevue left quite a bit behind. Floyd showed us multiple rooms chock full of school supplies and crafts. A game room with billiards and ping-pong tables. Fully furnished conference rooms. A food pantry with racks and racks of canned goods. In the children’s church area, there’s a puppet theatre for using hand puppets to teach youngsters.

And then there’s the full-size barbecue pit, the four-unit apartment building, the playground, the garden area . . . but the main advantage that Sheila Floyd said the complex gives them is room to stretch out. Take the job fair. In previous years, they’d reconfigure the sanctuary to hold the fair then have to break it down to put the sanctuary back together for service or other programs.

But not this year. At the new facility, Floyd cycled participants through a services fair in one room before they enter the main fellowship hall where prospective employers were. The sanctuary? It sat dark and unused.

“I was just thinking, ‘Wow, we didn’t even touch the spaces that we’re going to use for later. Isn’t that wonderful?” Sheila Floyd said. “When everybody’s done, they can pack up, we can pack up a little cleaning, and we can go and be ready for it this evening. The additional space creates a better flow.”

And more opportunities to touch lives. Floyd said more than 250 people came through the job fair, which featured “felon-friendly” employers. Floyd and Jordan are already planning to expand Agape’s offerings at Pursuit of God. Floyd envisions a 24-hour daycare to accommodate parents who work nights.

“Sometimes, I’m asked if we ever could have imagined this. And you know what our answer is? Yes,” said Sheila Floyd. “It was always in our heart. I mean don’t get me wrong, there’s no pride at all. We’re overjoyed, but yes, we imagined it. We dare to believe that God can do exceedingly abundantly above all else.”

Sunday’s service attracted 579 people, more than 50 of whom answered the altar call to accept Christ or join the church. And Floyd doesn’t see that slowing down – and being a pastor, he tells a quick parable about fish.

“How big does a fish grow? Some of them grow two feet, some grow eight feet,” he said. “What’s the difference? The one that grows two feet is in an aquarium. The one that grow eight feet is in an ocean.

“This is like we moved from an aquarium . . . to an ocean.”

Gallery: Photos by Lee Eric Smith