Pastor Profile: Rev. Rethis Murry • St. Mark AME

Rev_Rethis_M_MurryChurch: St. Mark AME
Hometown: Los Angeles
Education: B.A. from CSULB; University of Phoenix; just enrolled in Omega Bible Institute & Seminary in Louisiana for MA of divinity.
Married: to first lady Eva.
Children: Proud father of Todd Howard Jr., 27, who runs their day care; Mia Murry, 22, who attends Gremlins State University; & Justin Murry, 21, a sophomore at American University in Washington DC

Q: St. Mark is your first senior pastoral assignment—how did that come to pass?
A: I guess it was just my time. Some people were very instrumental in helping me finally get an appointment: Dr. Allen Williams, senior pastor of First AME Pasadena; Rev. John Cager, pastor of Second AME church; and of course my mentor, Dr. Cecil “Chip” Murray. I still talk to him on a weekly, if not daily basis, and any kind of issues I have, he’s my rock. No one achieves anything without the help of somebody else. We have a lot of preachers and only 50 churches in this area. So when Rev. T. Larry Kirkland called my name I just sat there.

Q: What have been the challenges?
A: I didn’t know what I was getting into when I got there. The person who opened up the door told me I had eleven members but eight of them were resigning. “Nothing personal, they don’t even know you, but they’re moving on.” I thought man, God has a sense of humor, because it’s like, “this is what you wanted, this is what you worked hard for.” The place was in disarray. It didn't look like I thought a church should look like. And I’m not going to lie, my first day I cried because I love God so much. I called my wife and she came; we looked at each other and gave each other a high five and said “we got this.”

We went through all our contacts and Aundrae Russell from KJLH helped by getting it on the radio. I had about 60 people come that Sunday and 16 people joined. And those 16 people are still with us today as I go into my second year. We have about 80-90 young people and 225 members total. It's a good mixture of people. Very diverse: White, Hispanic and Black.

Q: You grew up the son of a legendary singer—what was that like?
A: My mom is one of the original Clara Ward singers, Vermettya Royster. Her history speaks for itself. She used to hang out with Tina Turner, Ray Charles, opened up for the Jackson 5. Not too many kids can say they were able to hang at the Jacksons or be around Diana Ross.

But it was lonely. She had to leave me with my grandmother and my aunt, which was the best thing. They did a good job in making me feel like the sixth child. They were my brothers. I called my aunt momma. I called my mother mimi. To see my mother I would have to wait and look at her on TV on Johnny Carson, the Grammys. I went one whole year without seeing her. That was hard.

When she got re-married she was in Jet magazine. It was a big issue because she was with the Sister’s Love at the time and had the No. 2 song “Are You Lonely.” I would walk to school and hear the song from different cars. I never lived with my mom but if I had to do it all over again I wouldn't change a thing. I never wanted my mother to feel that she had to stop her career, so I just endured.

How many people can say they played basketball with Jermaine and Tito in Encino? Tina Turner would always come to my house when my mom was there. On 85th and Central where nobody would go. That's how I saw my mom, her stage presence. I love her dearly.

Q: What about your dad?
A: I didn't meet my dad until I was 22. He was in the military and they never let me know until I started asking questions. They told me where he lived and I went to see him. To this day my dad and I have a good relationship.

Q: When did you know you would be a preacher?
A: I grew up with five cousins. We had a garage I used to go in and organize and from age six up to nine years old I used to preach to the furniture. They used to always tell my grandmother “he’s in the backyard playing.” She said, “don't play with the Lord,” and I said, “I’m not playing.”

God was always in the house. Sunday morning everybody got up we had to go to church, it wasn’t an option.

I got baptized when I was 16. At that time I had a huge afro and I didn't even have a change of clothes. No one told me what was going to happen I just went on my own and they put me in that water. But I got discouraged because this lady told me—and that's why you have to be careful what you tell young people—“No, you didn't come up speaking in tongues. This didn't really work you’re going to have to attend these classes.” She vexed my spirit. So for about three to four years I just stayed away from the church until I went to First AME when pastor “Chip” Murray had just gotten there.

Q. When did you accept your calling to the ministry?
A: I accepted my calling while I was at First AME. It was something I did not want to do. But no matter what I did I heard “I need you to preach.” Then came the confirmation. I walked into Pastor Murray’s office and he said “I see a calling on your life.” He didn't even know me at the time. He went into his file cabinet. He had a list of individuals that God gave him through prayer that were going to get into ministry. I hadn’t even had a one on one with this pastor but my name was on the list. But I still didn't jump in. It took me at least nine years.

Q: What is the greatest lesson you learned as a pastor?
A: Another thing I learned through Pastor Murray is you have to be there yourself. You have to care enough to be there. One of the Hispanic families was going through court issues and I was there every step of the way. The only black person but I was there. I just love people. I care about people. It doesn't matter whether you look like me or not. We rent the church out to a Hispanic congregation. But I don't treat them as tenant, they’re family. And in return they’ve helped beautify the church. Church has to be more about family. I could turn it into strictly business, but would God be pleased? So we celebrate the differences.


Pastor Profile: Pastor Don Herron

Church: Kingdom Seekers Prophetic Ministries
Education: Texas Southern University; L.A. Trade Tech
Status: Single father of one

Q: When did you receive the calling?
A: Strangely enough, I was already a preacher. I had already accepted my calling as a pastor for about ten years, and I got a second calling from the Lord. I had never heard of a second call because nobody preached on a second call. But the second call was to be a prophet as well as a pastor. I was in school teaching classes. I was trying to put a kids show together. I heard a voice say, “Start the church.” So when I went to name the ministry, I was going to name the church a basic name like Baptist, Methodist Church of God in Christ or a non-denomination. Then the Lord said to me at that moment, He said call it “Prophetic.”  The first calling was a pastor; the second calling was a prophet.

By the second time I didn’t run from the call. It’s like Jonah, Jonah wasn’t running from his calling, he ran from his assignment. See the difference? He ran from the assignment, like your job has an assignment you don’t wanna do the assignment but you got the job. I already was a pastor/preacher in the sense that I accepted call number one, but the assignment to be a prophet, I wasn’t trying to hear that. So I was running from the assignment.

Q: When did you start Kingdom Seekers Prophetic Ministries?
A: I started the church in February of 2012. The process of building the church was very difficult because I had no real following of people. I walked into an empty church and just prayed over the place. And everybody who said they were coming—nobody showed up. He said, “Go back again.” Then the people showed up the second time and I’ve been there ever since. But it was embarrassing. I walked into an empty room, but I was obedient.

Q: What is the major difference between a pastor and a prophet?
A: Pastors want to bless and tell you good things and everything is going to be alright and don’t worry; your blessing is around the corner. We don’t say that. We tell you what’s going to go wrong. But prophets give you a choice, believe it or not. That’s the difference right there. And we’re rejected people.

Q: What is your approach to preaching?
A: My approach is what they call Eschatology—the end times.  We’re living in an age of the end times. That’s another reason people are falling away from the church because the word of God says it would be so.

The signs are happening all around us right now.  But again people fall away from church because nobody’s speaking on that especially in the black church. They’re teaching what they feel and dissertations and dissecting, studies, but they’re not saying this is so. I am a person who understands the times that we’re living in. I understand when the nation is headed for trouble and nobody’s saying anything.

The days of prosperity were the days before now. Money is not increasing. It’s decreasing. God has seasons, seasons of prosperity messages are ending and the days of the prophecies to tell you now is beginning. Prosperity messages are coming to an end. Now people want to know well where do we go from here, that’s when your prophets come in, that’s why prophets are here to guide the people through the last days.

Q: What is your challenge?
A: For people to hear me and believe. I have the same challenges the old prophets had in the Old Testament. When you speak, nobody believes you. My heart hurts when people don’t believe. When they tell me, “That’s not going to happen!” They believe more in their personal lives. And now I have offended them because I didn’t say what they wanted me to say. That’s my challenges because they are adults, they’re grown, they’ve been to church all their lives, and my message is not matching. But I’d rather take the rejection and the words, in order to be publically heard by everyone, so that the church grows.

People are hungry now for prophecy.  They want know what’s happening in the world, what’s going on with the president, and what do we do? They don’t want to just hear it’s going be an OK day.  So the answer is just simply to seek out those who have a word from God in regards to the days we’re living in. Certain prophecies are fulfilled to let us know that the church is in trouble; the church’s days are numbered. The church is going to go through an hour when they’re going be rejected by the world, that’s about to happen.

Q: What were you like as a child?
A: I was a very God-fearing kid and very gifted, in many things: singing, writing music, things like that; I could do all of those things. I was not a troubled kid, I didn’t get spankings and whippings, that didn’t even happen. I was a very obedient person. I had a great childhood. My father was a pastor. I was the last of eighteen kids. And I was the only boy that answered the call out of eighteen.


Pastor Profile: Rev. Sherman A. Gordon

Family of Faith Christian Center

Q: When did you get the call to preach?
A: I was fifteen. While most kids were playing sports in the backyard, my favorite thing to do with my friends was to have church. Whenever my friends came over we would play basketball but after that we would have to have church and I would always end up being the preacher. One time in the midst of playing church, the Holy Spirit truly fell down and my mom came out of the house. I thought I was in trouble, but she said, “I came outside because you’re really preaching, boy.” And that was it I just knew early on that God was calling me into this arena to be a preacher and use my voice to reach people.

When I went off to college I was still ministering. When I graduated I had to make a decision: Would I go back to the church I grew up in? Or would I go into a new denomination? Which was Methodism. I decided to go into Methodism and serve as a youth pastor for one year. At the age of 25 I organized my first church.

I pastored New Philadelphia AME for thirteen years. That church is still located in Carson CA. I’m proud to say that I went there in 1997 and organized a church and we grew it to about 2,500 people. I just sensed that my time was up. God was calling me to do a new thing so I branched out on my own and I organized Family of Faith two years ago.

Q: What Is your approach to preaching?
A: My preaching style is a motivational word, inspirational word, encouraging word to uplift you. I tell everybody life is going to beat you down enough so the last place you need to come is to church and be beat up some more. A lot of my sermons are about You Can Overcome. We are faith driven as our name implies. I give you the teaching before I give you the preaching. We shout at the end and we celebrate at the end but it’s better to know why we’re celebrating and why we’re shouting.

Q: What are your biggest strengths?
A: I’m an organizer and a planner, evident by the fact I’ve started two churches. I’m a visionary. I have no problems coming up with ideas and I’ll pass them on to you.

Q: What has been a challenge you have had to overcome in your life?
A: Outside the births of my two wonderful children, the moment that turned my life around was about six years ago when I went through one of the most rockiest moments in my life—I divorced after thirteen years—and I never thought that would happen. My faith in God had to become that much more solidified. In the midst of standing before people and going through my pain, I had to minister to them and say, “As I’m coming through it you’ll come through your issues as well.”

I preached that no matter what God can bring you through and to come to a season where two people are no longer on the same page was very difficult, but I had to trust God and let everybody know I was human. We both liked balance and we didn't have balance. I was ministry and my wife was family. Sometimes we get so sold out for what we’re doing for God and the church that we think that as long as we’re doing those two things it's OK. But no, God gave us family, gave us friends and gave us other things to enjoy so finding balance in life is important.

Q: Would those you went to high school with be surprised at the man you’ve become?
A: My dad was a pastor and I was trying to be Mr. popular and make my friends laugh, but I also noticed people always came to me when they had problems and issues. They were like, “Sherman can you pray for me?” That only escalated when I joined our speech and debate team—some people would say I reminded them of Dr. King. So then they really would start coming to me asking me to give them some sort of guidance. I was also just trying to have a good time and trying to find a balance between doing what I sensed God was calling me to do and yet still not wanting to seem like an oddball or outcast with my friends. But it was the opposite, the friends that I had before I went into the ministry are still my friends now.

The amazing thing is I graduated from Crenshaw as the class clown and at the same time I also had the second highest GPA in my school and gave a graduation speech. Even to this day, I love to have fun and I play hard but I tell people I play hard because I know I’m going to work hard and when it’s time to get down to business I’m going to be serious.

Q: What ministries are offered at Family Of Faith?
A: Our ministry is really designed to meet the needs of the whole family. We have teens church we have our children’s church and a nursery as well as a men’s ministry and a women’s ministry and we have a seasoned saints ministry for ages 55 and up. We try to have something available for every person that walks through the door.

Q: What are the rewards of ministry?
A: Saving people. I marvel when I see men overcome drugs and alcohol and become better fathers and husbands. That's a wonderful feeling. I want to reach everybody so that’s why I’m transparent and tell them I’m also going through some lows in my life and God brought me through it. And to se them come through it and shake my hand and say “Pastor, you were there” that's a great moment.


Pastor Profile Pastor J. Wendell Davis, Ph.D. • New Jericho Baptist Church

Q: What was it like growing up?
A: I was raised in South Central L.A. in a part of town we called the Eastside Bottoms. There was a lot of crime, violence, broken homes, gunshots, and a lot of suppressed people, so to come out of that area is just a miracle. I was involved in gangs, running around the streets, hustling and raised by a single mother with five children. It was tough.

I got baptized when I was seven but that didn't stop me from living an unsaved life. I attended church on Sundays and Bible study during the week but I was still gang banging.

Q: What were you doing when you received the call to preach?
A: I was in Louisiana on vacation. I was drinking and partying. I passed out in my hotel bathroom and God said to me, “Either you stop or I’m going to kill you.” That's the message I got.

I was deacon of a church. People thought everything was together with me but I was wrestling… My wife was beating on the door because she heard the shower running for 45 minutes.     That was only the beginning because we left vacation early and three to four days later I woke up in a cold sweat. I’ll never forget it—I wrote it in my Bible ‘the Lord said preach or die’. And each time I would say, “No, you don't want me to preach,” I couldn't breathe. That was nineteen years ago.

So I sobered up. I didn't go to a treatment program. I went from the extreme left to the extreme right. Finishing education became very important to me. I really focused on my family and doing the right thing. It was tough on my wife. She said “I didn’t marry no preacher” but she came around.

Q: What did you do before founding New Jericho?
A: I used to pastor a very historical church in Los Angeles called McKinley Avenue Baptist Church with some of the most prominent pastors ever in California. When I got there, that was the longest tenure for them in thirty-two years—four years and ten months. I decided to merge that church with another church in L.A., but when a scandal broke out against the other pastor, and I asked him to step down, he wouldn’t. I couldn't afford to risk it so I left. I wouldn't return anyone’s calls after that. Then five years and six months ago we started a church one stormy Sunday with the fifteen people who showed up and after one year we bought a building.

Q: What is your preaching style?
A: I would describe it like my church’s logo: real, relevant and relational—my style would be traditional Baptist and also charismatic but dogmatic and blunt.

Q: What are the challenges?
A: The challenges in Los Angeles are the Lakers, the Clippers, the Kings, amusement parks and Hollywood. The church has to compete with all those activities. The challenge is: how do you hold the people you have, how do you grow and how do you continue to be creative in the mecca of states?

Q: What inspired your book “Healing A Wounded Leader”?
A: It’s inspired by, more than anything, personal experiences in my seventeen years of pastoral leadership and what is needed today in ministry and in effective leadership. It deals with the methods of healing and transforming someone or yourself into an active and effective leader. It’s a resource of tools to help identify wounds and classify wounds as emotional behavior or psychological, physical, sexual or poor lifestyles and hatred.

When we don't properly heal and we find ourselves in a position of leadership, those wounds are exposed. It’s really written open to anyone who is dealing with life issues because all of us suffer with some type of wound.

I tend to write more controversial things that nobody wants to talk about, like addressing the crisis of addiction within the church family and the pastor needing to deal with his issues—then maybe people will understand why so many churches split, why there’s so much gossip on the pastor and so much infidelity, because hurting people hurt people and wounds that are not healed are going to flare up again.

Q: You are very active in the community, what nonprofits are you involved with?
A: I’m Vice President of the Baptist Minister’s Conference of Los Angeles—I’m over Community and Civic engagement and I’m President of the alumni association of the USC Cecil Murray Center. I’m also CEO of Trinity In His House Foundation where we provide two childcare centers (in Compton and Lynwood), a women and children’s center and a men’s transitional housing in Pomona. So I deal with a lot of wounded people everyday.

Q: How do you not take it all home at the end of the day?
A: I’m a counselor and a leader. I have to remain ethical and have moral standards. And because I was raised in such a traumatic environment—my mom being an alcoholic, drug addict and single parent—I overcame so much as a kid. So now dealing with the community, because the church is the whole community, a hospital full of sick people, my own personal healing comes through working with people. Healing people helps heal. It’s very therapeutic.


Pastor Profile: Bishop Maurice D. Johnson, Sr. • Kingdom Life Christian Fellowship

Q: What were you doing in the moment you got called to preach?
A: We were in revival at my local church. I was 14 years old. Prior to that I would feel inspiration and could hear the Lord speaking to me in reference to teaching and preaching. I received a strong confirmation during that revival. I accepted my call when I was 20. I became a pastor at age 29.

Q: When did you begin pastoring this church?    
A: I began school to prepare myself and I served very diligently at my home church as a Sunday school teacher, youth pastor, choir director, a deacon and youth usher. I did a lot of ministry work in training before I became full fledged in ministry.

I’ll give you a little history about how Kingdom Life came to be. I started a church in Long Beach in 1993 called Newness of Life Community Church. I pastored that church for five years and then I pastored a church in L.A. called First United Christian Church. When they selected me as their lead pastor I merged the two churches together and in 2003 we changed the name to Kingdom Life Christian Fellowship.

Q: What is your preaching style?
A: I would say because of my pulse on the heartbeat of God and where I see people are today, I’m probably right in the middle between history and destiny, some kind of bridge between the old school and the new school: I understand the Kirk Franklin age, yet I embrace the old James Cleveland style. I have a strong balance as to ministry being relevant. I believe God is, and can, use me to touch the heart of seniors as well as young people.

Q: What do you consider your biggest strengths?
A: I’m considered a leadership coach. I’ve just recently been consecrated a Bishop in my organization. There are at least three pastors that are directly trained from me and now have their own churches. It comes from my educational background and my personality. As I began to realize I was gifted to encourage and motivate people to reach their full potential, no matter how others see a person I’ll see greatness in them and I try to tap into that greatness and push them forward.

Q: What are the challenges in ministry?
A: We live in a day now where people aren’t as committed as they used to be years back. So here you have a lack of commitment and consistency in church attendance. People are in church one week and are not there next week. Sometimes it can be discouraging but as parishioners we learn to stay focused on what it is that God has called us to do and we’re responsible for being faithful to God.

Q: What was it like growing up Christian in Compton?
A: Coming up in that era of time there were a lot of temptations. There were some things that I fell into but the Lord’s hands were on me and he seemed to always protect me from going too far out there. I always had a sensitive and repentant heart. Even when I made mistakes somehow the Lord would bring me back and put me on focus. The influence of drugs and gangs was there and though my mother was a single parent we had a strong family backing, my uncle, aunties and my church family was very influential. I had a good child life.

Q: As a survivor of a ‘bad neighborhood,’ what is your advice for young men facing a similar upbringing?
A: My advice is to give your life to the Lord while you’re young and not allow yourself to get entangled with the temptations and the vices of the world that will lure you in. I believe we live in an anti-God generation and the enemy is using all sorts of devices to deceive our youth and cause them to go astray. But if they keep their hands in the hands of the Lord and stay focused on him He will guide them, bless them, and show His favor in their lives.


Pastor Profile: Pastor Nisan Stewart • Greater Emmanuel Temple

Church: Senior pastor of Greater Emmanuel Temple of Lynwood ­­­
Inglewood, CA
Career: A
noted drummer, record producer and songwriter
Six years to first lady LaToya Stewart; three children, including an infant daughter
Church Website:

Q: What were you doing when you received your calling to preach?
A: I was in Miami in 2004 working on Missy Elliot’s album “The Cookbook.” We were at the beginning of the album. My mother was sick and my brother called, “You need to get home now.” On that plane ride home I remember looking out the window, tears streaming down my face, I asked the Lord: “If you heal her, I’ll preach. I’ll do whatever you want me to do.”

He said, “No you’re going to preach my Word anyway.” I accepted it. When I got to my mother, she just said, “The Lord is going to use you to reach people that others won’t be able to reach.”

And I can say from that moment on that there are times when I get calls from people that I work with, they call me saying “I need you to come talk to me” about things related to Christianity. I’m glad to hear and witness those things come to pass.

Q: Were you running from the call before that flight?
A: I wouldn’t say I was running I was just working. I was into the flow and sometimes that’s hard to stop. I did always assume I’d be a pastor, but I didn’t want to do it because of the responsibility. I had told my father “Don’t be handing the church to me because you want to keep it in the family.” My father founded the church in September 1965. We’re going into our 40th year. But after his earnest praying, he came to a decision and saw that I was the one for the job. I wear it with honor, integrity and humility. Now I’m just looking for great things to happen.

Q: How do you balance your music career with your role as pastor?
A: My number one priority is my family and pastoring the church. I’ve been pastoring since February 2012. Since then when anybody asks me to be their musical director, they know nothing’s going on Sunday morning and nothing’s going on Wednesday night. A client just called me and I had to tell him I can’t go on tour, and I can tell they were kind of upset. I definitely have control over my time. It’s just about me getting used to saying no. Because I make great money at what I do but of course the ministry is first for me.

The Lord uniquely took me on this journey. When I look at how it was set up for me and how I started, it doesn’t happen that way. I don’t know of anybody where after writing their first couple of songs, one of them is a number one record. That was ten years ago and I’m still getting paid for it.

Q: How did you get into music?
A: I started out playing music in my daddy’s church. I was a drummer. I didn’t ever think I was going to make a career out of it, I was going to play football, but it didn’t go that way. Immediately after college, Randy Jackson from American Idol got me my first gig. As it happened, Warren Campbell — we were great friends growing up — Warren was doing something for Randy Jackson and Warren told him about me and brought me in.

Q: What happened after your big break with Randy Jackson?
A: I was 22 or 23 and I always liked to have concerts at the church. One concert in 1999 I called “Take Me Back,” we had people do a tribute to a bunch of different artists. Missy Elliot and Brandy were in the audience. Pastor Shep Crawford, a songwriter and producer, was doing work for Def Jam, and he asked our band if we wanted to work with Timbaland, when he first came out as an artist. We did that. We did all his TV shows, and after one experience Tim said “I’m not doing any no more shows without you guys.”

So we traveled the world touring. Artists going on tour would call me and ask me to put bands together for them. And then being in the studio with Timbaland, watching him create music, I wanted to do that too. My first record was a number one record that me and Timbaland did with Missy Elliot. It was all happening so fast.

Once I saw the type of money I was making, and could make, how blessed I was to tour with some major artists and become their music director, after that I also got into song writing and producing.

In 2000, I got a call one night, one of my buddies said, “Here, someone wants to talk to you” and it was Diddy—Puff Daddy—and he was like, “Yo, I heard some of your music man. How can I get in on what you’re doing? Can you come to New York?” And I said “Sure, When? Like next week?” And he said, “Can you get on a plane in a few hours?” He sent plane tickets and we went to New York.

We negotiated a deal and we became part of the Hit Men, which is his production crew, and also appeared on his MTV show “Making The Band.” Next thing you know I’m touring with Beyoncé playing the drums with her band and then Jay Z before they were together. I was Jay Z’s musical director and then 50 Cents. I’ve worked with just about every body in hip hop and R&B. I put Jamie Foxx’s shows together when I can. Now I have the liberty to send out whoever I want for me.

Q: What are your challenges as a new pastor?
A: The challenges are getting people who have been there since the start to understand that, hey, trying something new is OK. We never change the message. Methods we change, but the original message we don’t change. My goal is to deliver the message that has been established for us as all. The challenge is also bridging the gap between the young and the old. I try to pray for that perfect fusion of things.

Q: What is your preaching style?
A: I’m not necessarily the guy that makes you run and shout and do cartwheels. If that happens so be it, but my thing is I deliver a word where people feel like they can work it out so they can build on themselves. We’re all building. As long as we’re living and breathing we’re building. So that’s what I’m trying to do. I never want to lose the traditional side of it, but we definitely have a modern feel. I want to give a practical word that people can take adapt to their lives.

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