She was done with church. Growing up as part of an extended family of sharecroppers, Monica McCray had learned to raise livestock, harvest crops and chop wood while attending a little Baptist church near her North Carolina home. It was summers spent away, however, that soured her toward the church and the people in it.
As soon as school was out, Monica and her older sister were sent up north to spend their summers in Pennsylvania with their father, a cult-like pastor who ruled his daughters and small congregation of women and children with fear. Even the tiniest infraction meant punishment, often severe. Monica determined that when she broke free from his control, she would never step foot in another church.
In brokenness and surrender, she cried out to God,
“I don’t want to do this anymore. Take my life. I’m yours.”
Angry and bitter, she filled her teen years with drinking and partying. She married and started a family. Still unhappy, her resolve broke and she started attending church again. Little by little, Monica’s heart began to respond to the Word and the possibility of a God who could make a difference in her life. She was challenged to give everything over to him, but because of her past, trust was still an issue.
One morning after a night of partying, the emptiness had never felt so intense. In brokenness and surrender, she cried out to God, “I don’t want to do this anymore. Take my life. I’m yours.” In that moment, God not only saved her but he also delivered her from alcohol. Monica explains, “Twenty-three years old, and I was completely made new!” She found a church and began to grow and mature in her faith.
Seven years had passed when Monica got a big job offer, a position at the home office of a company in Charlotte, North Carolina. “I was leaving Charlotte, filling out my paperwork and stopped in Greensboro at a Starbucks on the drive back home. I heard the voice of God telling me that this is where I needed to go. I cancelled the job and moved by faith to Greensboro.”
Monica, her husband and their three children were settling into their new home when they received an invitation through a lay pastor to visit Christ Wesleyan Greensboro. Upon entering the church, they were greeted by the warmest, most loving people Monica had ever met. Looking back on that day, she says, “I didn’t think it was possible for a church to be that loving!” She decided to return, curious to find out if the people were really as they appeared. “They were exactly the same,” she says, “and they still are.”
Fast forward a few years. Today, Monica serves as staff pastor at that very church overseeing the children’s and women’s programs. Her gifts and passion for serving people expand beyond the building. With a heart for hurting women, she recently hosted a two-day conference, titled “Broken but Healed,” for women who were experiencing or had grown up with abuse and is writing a series of devotionals as a follow-up resource.
Monica’s desire to be an advocate for women, to empower and encourage them, has also evolved into an online Bible study group, reaching women nationwide. From the cross-country truck driver to the 80-year-old grandmother, women from all walks of life are intersecting via Zoom and Facebook. Monday through Friday, early morning conference calls focus on prayer. Additionally, she has developed a mentorship program for teenage girls focusing on achieving godly goals through strategizing and prayer.
Pastor Monica is just one of many people Unleashing a Kingdom Force within The Wesleyan Church. In fall 2020, the Church Multiplication Collective and Groundswell partnered on a six-month research and development initiative called Project 72. The name is taken from Luke 10:2-3, where Jesus appoints and sends out the 72 disciples: “The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.”
Dr. Ed Love, director of Church Multiplication said, “When Jesus sent out the original 72 pioneers, he gave them some simple guidelines and very little resources. Jesus’ big idea was that his pioneers would rely on God’s power. Likewise, within TWC, we believe there are thousands of pioneering leaders ready to rely on God’s power and willing to go into new areas to start new kingdom outposts in order to reach people far from God. Project 72 was simply a foreshadow of what we believe God is doing in TWC.”
Pastor Monica was invited to join Project 72. Over several weeks, she participated in a series of Zoom meetings to assess her strengths and spiritual gifts, as well as to intersect with others who are creatively taking the gospel outside of brick and mortar. “Project 72 and Groundswell changed my life,” she says. “I was challenged as a pioneer to be intentional about reaching people outside church walls. As an equipping tool it has helped me to focus on making disciples and advancing God’s kingdom.”
Finding community and sharing the same ministry focus as Christ Wesleyan Greensboro has been a perfect fit for her. Adding to her ministries to women and teenage girls, the church runs The Hope Center to help meet the needs of the homeless. Showers, washers and dryers, clean clothes and food are provided by the people who welcomed Monica and her family so warmly and lovingly.
“I was challenged as a pioneer to be intentional
about reaching people outside church walls.”
Senior Pastor Ken Klein is grateful for the partnership with his assistant. “God has been very clear. ‘If you’ll take care of my community, I’ll take care of your church.’ He did that. We’ve never lacked for resources. But I needed help, and God sent me this energetic, passionate young woman with such a love for God and people. He sent me Monica.”
Growing up in a sharecropping family instilled in Pastor Monica a strong sense of community, and the hurt experienced during her youth has produced within her a special affinity for the disenfranchised and wounded, preparing her to become a missionary-minded disciple maker. Hurt and healing have shaped her into a willing and God-reliant pioneer who is far from being done with church.