David Rodriguez preached his first sermon at The House of Living Water. He had been recruited by his friend, Jeb, to participate in the new mission, but the leaders of the ministry did most of the preaching and teaching. David told Jeb about the desire to teach that burned within him, so Jeb gave him the opportunity to teach his first lesson.
David did his best to repeat a sermon he had heard from 1 Samuel Chapter 6. In the passage, the Philistines had captured the ark of God. When God plagued them for keeping the ark, they returned it on a new cart pulled by two cows. The cows stopped in Beth Shemesh beside a large rock and the Israelites sacrificed the cows as a burnt offering to God.
At the conclusion of his message the associate pastor said to David, “When you made the point about the two cows bringing the ark, I felt a confirmation that my wife and I should become missionaries.” Then the associate pastor stood before the congregation, pointed at David and said, “This young man is going to be a fine preacher.” The encouragement convinced David to devote his life to ministry.
“We have people attending Christian Fellowship today that received salvation at The House of Living Water,” said David. “I could rattle off a whole bunch of names of young people who came through that ministry. It was incredible, a real move of God. We were not doing pizza parties and sleep overs. Nothing wrong with that but those young people, like me and others, were radically transformed by the power of the gospel. It wasn’t our great talent or wisdom that touched so many lives. We were kids. God was present doing a remarkable work. Part of me yearns to see something like that happen again.”
David taught every Friday night at The House of Living Water while his friends went to Bible College. College wasn’t an option for David. He was a single father with two children and needed the stability of the steady income from his job at Shakey’s Pizza. Late 1973, the ministry moved to the Westbank Revival Center where David served as youth pastor and a Sunday school teacher for ten years.
He planned to remain single, so he could travel the world teaching when his sons were grown. His plan unraveled the day he entered a fast food restaurant to buy chicken. The beautiful young woman who took his order captured his heart. Linda was too young for him to date. He didn’t pursue a relationship, but he often bought dinner from the restaurant, so he could see her. One day, he stopped to buy dinner and learned she was gone. Two years later, David walked into Shakey’s to see Linda stood behind the beverage counter. His assistant manager had hired her. David could barely contain his joy.
He fell deeply in love with Linda, but she wasn’t a Christian. When he was invited to give his testimony at a Full Gospel Businessmen’s Fellowship meeting, he asked Linda to accompany him. “As I gave my testimony, I saw tears running down her cheeks,” said David. “I led her to the Lord. She is the best thing that ever came out of Shakey’s for me. We married the following year.”
After they married, David sold the Shakey’s franchise he owned and obtained a job with Showbiz Pizza. While training for the general manager’s position, he discovered his supervisor in unethical behavior. Before David reported him, the supervisor complained about David. Showbiz resolved the matter by transferring David to a different store.
The new store was in an area that made a security officer necessary. “I hear that you’re a preacher,” the security officer said to David. “We got a little group over at my house. Why don’t you come and share on Monday night.” The man who taught the group wanted to leave and gladly let David assume his position.
“When I started teaching the Monday study, I was making a good salary as general manager of Showbiz Pizza,” said David. I don’t know why, but I prayed, ‘Lord lead me into full time ministry.’ The following month they closed my store and laid every one off.”
Under David’s leadership, the Monday night Bible Study grew and talk of planting a new church ensued. After consulting his pastor and much prayer, David decided God had answered his prayer for full time ministry. He rented a building in the lower ninth ward to accommodate his African American congregation. January 19,1986 New Orleans Christian Fellowship held its first service with fifty in attendance.
Attendance declined to less than twenty by the second service. The owners of the rental property had refused to give David a key. On occasion they arrived for service and were locked out. The congregation’s zeal to start a new church faded. Attracting new members in a depressed section of New Orleans proved difficult.
Five months later, David moved his small congregation to the Westbank of New Orleans. As he labored to build his church, he found himself in the midst of a personal financial crisis; his unemployment payments ended and the man who purchased his Shakey’s franchise defaulted on the loan payments. His wife’s job was their only source of income, and she became pregnant with their second child.
“We had really hit the bottom financially. I was thinking of returning to the pizza business when we attended The Living Waters Café, a Christian coffee house on Elysian Fields.”
David and Linda were enjoying the evening with their friends when he glanced at his watch. It was midnight. A young minister had just started speaking when David motioned to Linda he was ready to leave. As they walked toward the door, the minister asked David to wait. He finished his devotion and then said to David, “Thus saith the Lord, stay where you are, keep doing what you are doing. I have called you to that place.”
David remained steadfast to his calling and persevered. In addition to tending his flock, he started a radio broadcast on WWL. (The “Word of Truth” radio broadcast is currently on WSHO Sonshine 800 AM, Saturday at 10 a.m.) Two years later, a Baptist church, no longer in use, was donated to David’s ministry. In April of 1988, David moved his congregation to their new home on a four and a half acre lot. During the fourteen years at the Harvey location, David launched a Bible college and became the owner of Therapon.
David understood the difficulties of obtaining a higher education. As a young single father he was not able to attend college with his friends. In 1991 David launched Koinonia Bible College to assist people in similar circumstances. The college enlisted local pastors to teach courses in their respective churches enabling students to obtain an education without the expense of relocating.
Koinonia grew steadily and then declined, but David had learned the value of patience and perseverance. To keep the college financially viable, he taught most of the classes. One semester he taught five classes in addition to his pastoral duties and radio broadcast.
“I look back on that experience today and see the benefit,” said David. “If necessity had not forced me to teach most of the classes, I would not know the Bible as well as I do. No one is a better student than the one who teaches.”
In 1999, David received a card from the Therapon Institute. For $290 he could become a Christian counselor. He started to fling the card into the wastebasket when he noticed a sentence at the bottom of the card. “The Bible is our only official textbook.” Intrigued by that statement, he enrolled in the three day certification school.
On the first night of the school, the students stood to introduce themselves. When David stood Dr. Carlin, the founder of Therapon Institute, said, “Are you the fellow with the Bible College? I want to talk to you.” Dr. Carlin asked David to be the State Director of Therapon for Louisiana. The responsibilities included setting up schools, teaching, and certifying those who successfully completed the course work. His work with Koinonia had prepared David for the position.
“I came to the seminar with a strong Biblical background and thirteen years of pastoral experience. Therapon taught me to see the Bible in another light. The Bible is the most up to date psychological textbook there is.”
Therapon’s Belief Therapy is a nationally registered faith based counseling model. As State Director, David taught certification classes with licensed, professional counselors. From them he acquired a wealth of clinical knowledge which enhanced his multifaceted ministry.
When Dr. Carlin learned Eastham Prison Farm, one of the most notorious prisons in Texas, was under new leadership he presented Belief Therapy for their consideration. They gave him forty-two inmates to work with for one year. Six months into the program the wardens were impressed with the dramatic change in the prisoners and assigned thirty-two additional inmates to the program. The successful therapy permeated the entire prison system keeping Dr. Carlin busy. To create more time for his flourishing prison ministry, Dr. Carlin turned over the corporation and inventory of Therapon to David.
Sixteen years after David entered full time ministry he was a pastor, radio broadcaster, founder of Koinonia Bible College and President of The Therapon Institute. In 2002, he purchased a former Assembly of God church on Ehret Road and brought the ministries of Christian Fellowship Church under one roof.
“When I first started in ministry, I envisioned becoming a traveling teacher; visiting different cities, meeting new people and going home with a nice honorarium. I had it all planned, but God had other ideas.