History can be illusive at times. Events, clouded by merging memories can often be reshaped in ways we never intend. Because of that, historians try to get as close to original sources as possible. Eyewitness accounts to ancient events offer the best potential of presenting them in the way they happened. But, gaining access to the people who actually witnessed them before they become lost to history is even better.
Capturing the history of Life Center Church not only has the benefit of eye witness accounts, it is based on the recollections of those who actually founded the ministry, Drs. Mary and “Buddy” Crum. They not only saw it, they lived it. This is their story.
Buddy and Mary Crum had lived for many years as Christians, raising a family, building a business, and enjoying life in their local church. They never considered the possibility of being engaged in vocational Christian ministry, yet a series of events in the late 1980s changed that perspective and launched them into a totally new direction for their lives. Our story begins there.
During the 1980s the Crum family was living in a large white home in Dunwoody, Georgia, a growing suburb of Atlanta. Their property was adjacent to that of a Mr. Norman Berg who was a publisher. In 1938, Mr. Berg, who was also an avid hunter, had purchased a fifty-acre tract where he could keep and train bird dogs. However, shortly before his death, he sold approximately forty-five acres of that land to a developer, who subsequently built homes and the shopping center known today as Orchard Park. Mr. Berg kept five acres for himself. A dairy farm had been in place there since the 1800s. He converted the original old barn into a dwelling which became his home, and a small farmer’s cottage on the property became his guest house. There he sometimes invited author friends to visit when they sought the beauty and peaceful quietness of the country.
The cottage, which stands today behind the Crums’ original home, served as a retreat and guest quarters for such notable authors as Margaret Mitchell, who wrote Gone With The Wind, Margaret Kinnan Rawlings who won the Pulitzer Prize in 1939 for The Yearling, and Pat Conroy, author of The Great Santini. Today this guest house is a historical landmark because of the important individuals who quartered there from time to time. These facts would have little relevance to our story but for the unfolding of God’s plans in vision and response.
It is important to recognize that God was reshaping the Crums’ future long before the events of this history unfolded. Their journey of faith was moving them away from traditional and denominational structures to a ministry format largely unknown and unavailable in the Atlanta area. Their quest would ultimately foster a church with a prophetic emphasis, established for the purpose of training Christians in the prophetic and apostolic applications of Christian dynamics.
In 1981 prior to the development of Life Center, the Crums participated in the launching of a local church. Though they were neither pastors nor primary leaders there, that experience would be of great importance, providing practical experience for the tasks that lay ahead. They simply did not know where God was leading them. After all, in 1981, few people had even heard of the prophetic, much less considered a church focused on it. Then, in 1984, Mary Crum had a life-changing vision.
Standing by her kitchen window, deep in prayer, she received a Divine visitation. Jesus appeared and spoke to her. Recounting that encounter she wells up with emotion as she relives that marvelous encounter with the Lord. Even today, decades later, her memory of those events remains fresh and vibrant.
In the spirit, Jesus appeared to her, touched her eyes and spoke, “I will show you what you need to see when you see it.” Then he touched her ears. “You will hear what you need to hear when you hear it.” Next, He took her by the hand and with a gentle but powerful sweep of His arm, cleared the wooded area of the adjacent property. There she saw a building emblazoned with the sign “Training Center.” Still holding her hand, Jesus led her to the building. Many people were gathered together worshipping and praising God. Jesus motioned to some of those people to move aside. Others He permitted to leave. But many sat at tables as though they were in school.
There is more to the story, but we must digress to gain context. With his death, the future disposition of the Mr. Berg’s five remaining acres fell into the hands of his heirs. Buddy felt it would be good to have a buffer zone between any impending construction and the Crums’ property, so he negotiated a purchase with the heirs. Actually, he purchased the entire five-acre tract with both the barn and house intact. At this juncture, Mary’s vision and Buddy’s purchase merge together into God’s impending purpose. When Mary recounts the story, the trance that accompanied her vision seems to almost return.
In the midst of Mary’s encounter with Jesus, Buddy arrived, excitedly announcing the news that he had not only purchased a buffer zone, he had bought the entire five-acre tract, the white guest house, the barn and the remaining property. His expectation was to develop the land himself and sell it in the future, a significant business venture that would bring them a great deal of profit. Her expectation was quite different, one far removed from land development and real estate transactions. Jesus had just shown her what they were to do with the land, and how it was to be used for His glory.
It was perfect synchronization, Mary’s vision and Buddy’s arrival with news of the purchase. Before long this land would become the campus of Life Center Ministries. But God had some significant preparation for this couple before such a thing could occur.
The following year, still trying to determine what the Lord wanted them to do, the Crums attended a conference in the panhandle of Florida. They were becoming fast friends with Dr. Bill Hamon of Christian International. Still unsure of how God intended for them to fulfill the vision God had given, Mary shared the vision with Dr. Hamon. In response, he laid his hands on her and prophesied to her as she received revelation regarding what would eventually become Life Center Ministries and the ministry training center that she had seen in her vision. The words, spoken through the obedience of Bill Hamon, came to Mary Crum as straight from God. He told her that a prophetic church was to be founded and built on this property, and that training would be the church’s primary ministry. Shortly thereafter, Buddy and Mary Crum were ordained in the Gospel Ministry by Christian International Ministries.
In 1987, the Crums, in alignment with nine other families officially organized the church. Pastor Buddy, as he had come to be known, continued his consulting business, and Pastor Mary functioned as the pastor of the church. The church began to grow, and in 1990, both Pastor Buddy and Pastor Mary transitioned completely into the ministry, leaving behind their professions in the marketplace. The pastorate became their vocation. Dr. Bill Hamon has been a spiritual father and mentor to the Crums throughout the development and the ongoing life of Life Center Ministries. It was only natural that they would be aligned with ministry.
They started monthly prayer meetings in the old barn, meetings which grew rapidly and soon were expanded to bi-weekly and then weekly meetings. Those who remember the gatherings in the barn remember vibrant times when the presence of God was profound and the Word of the Lord, strong.
As the ministry progressed, both Dr. Buddy and Dr. Mary received degrees, and throughout the years they have been known as Apostle Buddy and Prophet Mary. Few people outside of their immediately close relationships refer to them by their given names. The respect and honor due them simply precludes such familiarity.