MIDLAND The Rev. Sheldon Ray Riley spent a number of years as an assistant pastor and pastor of Assembly of God Churches in Oklahoma, Texas and Arkansas before his wife Sarah and he started Elevate Church.

They moved to Midland in mid-2012 and held their first service on Sept. 1, 2013, in the church at 200 Baldwin St., where 850 people meet at 10 a.m. and noon each Sunday.

“We tell people that living for the Lord is not difficult if our lives are changed by the power of the Holy Spirit,” Riley said. “I like preaching a message that empowers people to live the Christian lifestyle in a relevant way. They can live this lifestyle in today’s times and walk in freedom.”

Riley is a native of Seiling in Northwest Oklahoma, where he graduated from high school in 1994. He attended Blinn College at Brenham in East Texas, earned a bachelor’s degree in ministerial studies at Global University in Springfield, Mo., and served churches at Levelland, Bellville, Brenham, Dierks, Ark., and Woodward, Okla. The Rileys have three children.

The minister cited Jeremiah 29:11, which says, “For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”

“I preach the full Gospel,” Riley said. “I still believe that God heals, delivers and sets free.”

Asked how he prepared to establish Elevate Church, he said, “By a lot of praying and fasting and networking with the wonderful people of the Permian Basin.

“People were excited, and that made us excited about the opportunity. The Gospel doesn’t change, but our methods can. We have to be relevant and transparent. For so long, pastors have been put on pedestals, but in all reality we’re normal people like everyone else.

“Everyone is welcome. We don’t care what race people are or what background they come from. All we care about is their future. We’re multicultural. We have just about every demographic in the Basin represented in our church.”

The Rev. Don Nordin of Houston said Riley “makes a great first impression with his magnetic personality and genuine love for people.

“What you see with Sheldon is what you get,” Nordin said. “There is no façade. He’s a fantastic communicator and a great preacher. He and Sarah are very organized and driven to accomplish the vision that God has given them.”