“I was looking over the property, and the sun was shining all around, and it looked glorious,” said Judy McMullen, recalling how her family’s 26-acre property received its name. “It was acreage, and I went, ‘Ah, Glory Acres.’”
The McMullen family didn’t realize when they purchased the land that, several years later, their farm property would serve as a place for men to grow deeper in their spiritual walk and lead them on a path to becoming ministers.
After Michael McMullen became the pastor of Martha’s Chapel Free Methodist Church in Deville, Louisiana, the family decided they wanted to live on their own land rather than in the church parsonage. The family of four enjoyed the farming life, and the Glory Acres property allowed them to have goats and sheep and to grow vegetables. With energy-providing solar panels and their own sources of food, everything they needed could be found on their land.
“If we didn’t want to go to the grocery store, we didn’t have to,” Pastor McMullen said.
Other circumstances, however, eventually caused the family to make the choice to move away from Glory Acres and divide their time between the Martha’s Chapel parsonage and a home in Texas closer to Judy’s family.
This left Glory Acres with no residents, but instead of selling the property, the family was inspired by the efforts of Pastor McMullen’s mother, Pastor Cindy Bishop, who started a discipleship program near Fort Worth nearly 20 years ago. Pastor McMullen is actively involved with his mother’s nonprofit organization, Cindy Bishop Ministries, and he knew she wanted to expand its reach to serve more people. Glory Acres now serves as a Cindy Bishop Ministries men’s discipleship program “intended to encourage those who are drawn to full-time ministry,” according to the ministries’ website.
Most of the residents have gone through another Cindy Bishop Ministries location or the Department of Corrections before coming to Glory Acres, which serves men who choose to go deeper in their spiritual walk and need one-on-one time with a pastor. All of the Cindy Bishop Ministries locations’ residents make bread that they sell in their communities on Mondays, Wednesday and Fridays to help support the ministry. On Tuesdays and Thursdays, they engage in housework and teaching, which involves four or five classes on those days.
One class focuses on teaching them to respect authority (Romans 13), because many come from a background of resisting authority. Another class helps the men to understand the importance of finding their identity in Christ. In the mornings, the men have daily devotions in which they especially read the book of Proverbs and discuss areas in which they struggle. The program also incorporates a class modeled after the example of John Wesley and the early Methodists; the class helps the men deal with hurts of the past and then move forward.
Pastor McMullen teaches the men for three hours each Saturday about doctrine, faith and the consistency of Scripture. The residents also have a class taught by five pastors of different denominations.
“It helps them understand the body of Christ is a lot larger than this house that they are in, and it serves as a way to incorporate them into a larger body of Christ and not feel isolated,” he explained.
The men value Pastor McMullen’s commitment because they recognize that even though he is a pastor, his ministry to them is a choice rather than part of his job.
Glory Acres allows men to live their redeemed lives. As the Holy Spirit has the power to free individuals from the bondage of sin, the men “need to begin living in the identity of a Christian, not an alcoholic or a drug addict or a homeless person,” Pastor McMullen said. “I often hear churches say, ‘Those people or those men, but it’s Scott and James and Bill. Put a name on them … They are people. They hurt. They have the same emotions. They put on their clothes the same way.”
Last summer, Cindy Bishop Ministries expanded to another Louisiana location.
Liddieville, Louisiana, used to be home to a Free Methodist congregation. The Gulf Coast Conference was paying to maintain the facility after the church closed. Conference leaders did not believe they would be able to revive the congregation, but they expected to lose money if they sold the property.
Pastor McMullen proposed the facility be used to open another discipleship program for men. He saw it as a win-win situation where Cindy Bishop Ministries would be in charge of maintaining the building while a church congregation would grow out of the ministry taking place.
“It’ll look different. It’ll be different, but, eventually, it will turn into a situation where these men will have a place to worship, and if this model works, it’s something we can expand to other churches that are dying,” he said.1