The River Church

A Pentecostal Christian movement known for its charismatic worship and emphasis on the Holy Spirit’s gifts.

The River Church, also known as The River at Tampa Bay Church, is deeply intertwined with Revival Ministries International (RMI), both founded by Drs. Rodney and Adonica Howard-Browne. Established on December 1, 1996, The River Church is located in Tampa, Florida, and operates with a mission rooted in the powerful movement of spiritual revival and evangelism. This mission is emphasized by the church’s foundational story, which began when the Howard-Brownes, hailing from South Africa, moved to the United States in 1987 with a divine calling to initiate a revival in America. This calling has since evolved into a global ministry effort, significantly impacting thousands of lives through evangelism, soul-winning, and spiritual revival​​​​.

The church’s mission is underpinned by a commitment to becoming a model for revival churches worldwide, aiming to touch, change, and equip individuals for the harvest field with God’s anointing. It strives to represent a cross-section of society, welcoming individuals from various backgrounds and walks of life, emphasizing dynamic worship, anointed teaching, and powerful demonstrations of the Holy Spirit in every service. The ultimate goal is to guide individuals towards a full assurance of their salvation, while also serving as the home base for Revival Ministries International and its various arms, thus supporting the vision to see America, and subsequently the world, experience a significant spiritual awakening​​.

The River Church’s commitment to soul-winning is boldly represented through its ambitious goals, which include the Howard-Brownes’ vow to win 100 million souls to Jesus and to contribute $1 billion to world missions and the harvest of souls. This vow was made in memory of their daughter, Kelly, who passed away in 2002 from cystic fibrosis. Since its inception, the ministry has conducted revivals and soul-winning efforts across eighty-five nations, leading to over 30 million individuals accepting Christ​​.

The ministry also emphasizes education and training in the Christian faith through its establishment of River University, which offers various programs aimed at preparing students for ministry work. This educational arm further supports the church’s overarching mission to equip individuals for global evangelism and ministry​​.

The River Church and its leadership, particularly Pastor Rodney Howard-Browne, have been subjects of controversy. Howard-Browne has made headlines for his involvement in political meetings and statements that have sparked debate. For instance, he hosted political rallies for the Republican Party, including for presidential candidate Newt Gingrich, and made divisive comments regarding Islam, Mormonism, and the political landscape in the United States. Howard-Browne has also been associated with claims considered to be conspiracy theories, such as alleging a plot to attack Donald Trump, and making controversial remarks about global events and public figures on platforms like InfoWars​​.

Another significant controversy involved Howard-Browne’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic. He was arrested in March 2020 for holding a church service that defied stay-at-home orders issued to curb the spread of the virus. The charges were later dropped, but the incident led to discussions about religious freedoms and public health responsibilities during the pandemic​​.

The church also drew attention for its stance on security, explicitly stating through signs that it is not a gun-free zone and that members of the congregation are “heavily armed.” This stance was clarified by the church’s associate pastor, who mentioned that this approach is meant as a deterrent against potential threats, reflecting a commitment to protect the congregation, a move that has sparked discussions on security measures in places of worship​​.

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