Nov28

Pastor Profile Kelvin Sauls

Rev. Kelvin Sauls  •  Holman United Methodist Church
Hometown: Johannesburg, South Africa
Church: Holman United Methodist Church
Married: 16 years to Rev. Judi Wordham-Sauls; No children
Website:  www.holmanumc.com

Q: What is it like to take over the reigns of such a storied church in Los Angeles?

A: It’s a huge privilege but at the same time a huge responsibility.

Q: What has been the response so far from members? 

A: I’ve been received so far with radical hospitality. Holman is a church that knows its legacy and its history but it also knows that it is not just enough to be historic, our history and legacy invites us to be history makers. We understand that we cannot and will not be what we used to be but we are open and ready to become what we need to be. My wife and I have been received with love and with acceptance. We are grateful for that.

Q: Why do you believe you were selected to take over?

A: First of all, because of my commitment to this generation of ministry, and my commitment to ethnic and multicultural ministry. Secondly because of my ability to be a bridge builder, to connect what’s going on locally to what’s going on nationally and because of my passion for social justice and equality. Also, because of my appreciation for diversity—and that’s what’s happening right now in the West Adams community. To be able to bridge a storied church with a community is a huge task. 

Q: How did you get into ministry? 

A: I’ve been in ministry since I was a teenager. I was the president of our youth ministry as well as very involved as a Sunday school teacher. Given my financial situation, it was a choice between pastor—because the church pays for your education, or teacher—because the government provided scholarships.

Q: Do you have a ministry style?

A: My style of ministry is that of an educator. Because I wanted to impact the lives of others positively and because I wanted to challenge unjust systems, I figured I could do that by either touching the lives of students by being a teacher and presenting them with an alternative vision of a future than the apartheid government provided them with or to teach through the church. The primary role of the church is to invite people not just to be good, but to become their best selves to the glory of God. I found that if I would either be a pastor or a teacher I could fulfill that passion that I had.

Q: When did you receive the call?

A: I was in high school in the 10th grade. I’d always gone to church and been involved in Sunday school and when I reached a point of consciousness—or realized there was an inconsistency about what it means to be Christian in the midst of a political system that was inherently evil—I also realized there was a gap. Particularly because those who were doing the oppressing called themselves Christians. I remember asking myself, “Can I be a Christian and be black? Is Christianity for me?”

Once I was able to understand this multidimensional God, I knew then that this was a God inviting me into this unswerving love. That’s when I knew—I cannot just teach. There’s something more that I can do than just teach. I ought to be about transformation. 

Q: What is your philosophy on the best way to build a church?

A: Building a church, for me, is not about inviting folk to engage in rituals but inviting folk to engage in opportunities to make a difference in the lives of others. It’s not about getting caught up in doctrines of the past or preserving the past but to see how we can determine the relevance of their faith today in preparation for tomorrow. It’s about pursuing God’s purpose for your life. And if I as a pastor can connect with their divine purpose then I’ve done my task.

Q: What are your strengths/weaknesses?

A: I’m a preaching teacher or teaching preacher. With that comes this whole undergirding of strategist and catalyst. My role on Sunday and any day is the pulpit, but I don’t need a physical pulpit. The dining room table is a pulpit, sending a Tweet is a pulpit for me. 

I don’t call them weaknesses. I call them areas I need to grow in. I’m always trying to accomplish too much in a short period of time and  not paying attention to my wellness. Wellness is mind body and spirit. 

Another weakness is not being able to say no to helping people—and to bread. I love bread, but bread has starch in it and I need to cut my starch intake. 

When I was growing up in South Africa if we didn’t have anything, we still had bread. Now the doctor is telling me I have to stop eating bread that’s like re-writing my history. 

Q: What do you know now that you wished you knew when you were a young adult?

A: That nothing can separate you from the love of God. Not apartheid. Not Jim Crow. Not your place of origin, not your sexual orientation. God loves being autonomous. He stands alone. Nobody can add to it and nobody can take from it.

 

Nov28

Pastor Profile Michael J.T Fisher

Pastor Michael J.T Fisher 
Church: Greater Zion Church Family
Family: Single
Artist Name: J. Kingdom
Hometown
Church contact: (310) 639-5535 • greaterzionchurchfamily.net

 

Q: What has been the response of the Parish Without Knowledge Tour?

A: The tour is an initiative that goes to various high schools consisting of 45 minutes of entertainment, inspirational messages and uplifting gospel music from various local artists that are coming up the ranks. And it has gotten a great response. The kids love it. A lot of schools want us to come and minister to their students because they have seen the results of our past assemblies and how the statistics have already shown that when we’ve left, there has been a decrease in fighting, as well as a desire from the young people to participate in P.E. and sports activities. 

And it’s catching on. Earlier this year when we started touring we did five schools and so far we already have about eight to ten schools booked for the beginning of the school year. 

Q: What is the response from the students? What is the indication that you’re changing lives?

A: They stay in touch with us through Twitter and Facebook. From the feedback we get from them on those social networks is that they’ve become more aware of their responsibility to govern themselves accordingly, whether it’s by healthy eating, breaking up a fight, not participating in the fight, speaking well of themselves and not allowing anybody to tear them down—and that all speaks to the self esteem component. We’re also starting to see a change even in how they tweet and their Facebook posts because they feel inspired. 

Q: What is happening at the present with the program?

A: We’re linking up with other organizations that express our same sentiments such as healthy eating as well as anti-bullying and anti-violence. We’re trying to confirm speakers to come in and talk to the young people in between our performances. We’re also waiting for the schools to get settled in for their new semester and we’ll be ready to kick off the tour.

Q: What happened when you got the call to preach? What were you doing?

A: When I got the call I was 16. I answered it when I was 18. When I was called to preach, it’s so funny. The night I said yes to the Lord I was just going to church to please my father and afterwards I was supposed to go out to the club, so that kind of tells you where I was in my life. At that moment I was like any other senior in high school that just had graduated and starting college. I was clubbing, I was smoking; I was partying. I didn’t really see the value in being disciplined. I was ready to be rebellious. I felt like I had been a good boy long enough. Then the Lord snatched me up and humbled me. I said yes to him and I’ve been trying to reach other young men and other young women from that day forward that are probably in the same place now that I was in.

Q: Tell us the different between you and your father’s preaching style?

A: There’s no difference really. For his time and age that he was preaching in, he was just as radical as I am now. He had many young members and they felt he was out of the box because he had a piano player and some bongo drums in the sanctuary. And people think I’m out of the box because we rap and we dance in our church. But if you compare both ministries and align it with the day and the culture, he was just as radical as I am and his message was just as straightforward and cutthroat as mine is.

Q: What have been the challenges?

A: Trying to overlook the resistance that I get from religion has probably been the greatest challenge. Doing God’s work is not a challenge because he empowers you. The reaping of the harvest is not a challenge because God prepares you for that. But looking around and hearing some of the negative commentary from other colleagues or people who are stuck in tradition—battling that has been the greatest challenge for me as a pastor.

When I was younger, it used to irritate me, it got on my nerves and discouraged me, but now I just take it as fuel. They just don’t understand. God has not shown it to them. He’s not revealed it to them. And I can’t be upset with them because they don’t have the revelation. All I can do is just do whatever it is God’s calling me to do and when they see the results, they’ll attribute it to God’s glory. 

Q: How challenging is it being a young pastor in Los Angeles?

A: Being a young pastor in L.A. is extremely challenging because you have the adults feeling like you haven’t lived long enough to tell anybody anything. You have the young people feeling that because you’re so young they don’t have that reverence for the position you hold. They kind of see you as a friend sometimes and that can be a challenge. And then you’re young yourself—you’re still battling and overcoming as you teach and preach deliverance to other people.

Q: The church is busting at the seams, has space become an issue?

A: Space is a huge issue. We’ve definitely maximized our potential there at the property we’re currently at in Wilmington and El Segundo. We’re holding three services on Sunday and we hold two Bible studies on Wednesday and during the week it’s chaos because between the choir, praise dancers, rap ministry, the staff meetings and the children—there’s just no space at all. Currently on roll we have 4,500 members. On a average Sunday we see 1,800 to 2,000 members 60 percent of our congregation is 35 and under. It’s great, especially for Compton.

Q: What’s going on now with Voices of Destiny and your solo career?

A: I know everyone is waiting for Voices of Destiny to come out with an album but they’re concentration right now is fulfilling their own individual purpose that God has given them. I remember telling a lot of people when we won How Sweet The Sound in 2010 that I wanted them to participate in it so they can take that collective victory to motivate them individually. Well, two years later they’ve done just that. They’ve taken that testimony of winning and applying it their individual lives. They’re still a choir and they do plan on coming out with an album in 2013.

As far as my personal career, J. Kingdom is doing great. Currently, the single out right now “Champion” is climbing the YouTube charts. Just after three days of debuting it has 186,000 views. I plan on riding that wave until God says to do something different.

Nov28

Pastor Profile

Oldham

Pastor Profile:   Wendell Oldham   •  Lewis Metropolitan CME

Q: When you moved here two years ago to take over as pastor, what were the challenges?
A: The biggest was indebtedness. I had not been used to that level of debt in a church. Also, the school—the church had a public charter school—as I got here the public charter school floundered, failed and closed its doors. We had to respond quickly within a month to find another charter school to replace it—and we did. We only missed one month without a school here. The concern was for the teachers and students because it was a sudden and unexpected failure that was traumatic for the students. With my background as a corporate executive, I was usually hired to turn around operations, so when I’m faced with a challenge I just do what needs to be done.

Q: How have things changed over the last two years?
A: We still have a ways to go. Most church people have church down good, but in matters of spiritual development, biblical knowledge, that’s where I find churches have not had the kind of focus people need. I’m a firm believer that the word of God gives us a plan and instructions for our lives. But if you haven’t availed yourself to study it, you’re going on a plan where you’ve picked up a little bit here and there out of the world and decided how to live your life.

Q: How do you differentiate the problem when people who have church down well don’t look like they need much help?
A: The reality of it here is our transition from traditional preaching— with what some denominations call “the hoop” at the end—to teaching on Sundays. That’s a real transition for a lot of members.
One older, very wise, respected older member of our church said, “Pastor, we have been preached to for many years but we’re ignorant.” So each Sunday I teach from PowerPoint and there is an interactive handout. As I’m preaching, the answers are coming up and the scripture is already on the page for you. After we finish the sermon, you fill in the blanks. The sheet then becomes a study guide.

Q: And the response has been…
A: Very good. I’ve had a couple people say, “Can you just preach every once in awhile?” And I say, “Well, when I get asked to preach at other churches, my role is to inspire, but my responsibility to you is to teach you because Paul had told the people I will not have you ignorant.”
I’ve heard people say so many times ‘that was a great sermon’ and if someone asked what he preached on, they’ll say, I don’t know, but it was good.” So they leave all revved up, but without much Biblical knowledge.

Q: How do you know your hard work is paying off?
A: When I hear the testimonies. I had a group of older women in their seventies and eighties tell me they’d learned more here than their whole life in church and how it’s changed their relationship with their children and increased their patience.

Q: What drew you to the ministry?
A: I was 38. I was doing well at our world headquarters at Case Manufacturing (a division of Tenneco that makes farming equipment), flying in corporate jets and limousines wherever I traveled. My next move was Vice President, but the Lord reminded me of a conversation we had when I was 16 and first called to preach. At the time I had been very directed and focused on drafting and later engineering. Before I finished high school, General Motors looked at my drawings and hired me. I went on to become an engineer, manufacturing manager, and later, a plant manager.
So God said, ‘I’ve given you these years to do what you want, now it’s for you to give me what I called you for.’
I went to three different preachers to make sure and all three said the same thing: that I was indeed called. So I went to my wife and told her ‘this lifestyle you’re living is about to change because I’m going to be a preacher.’
She turned to me and said, “I knew 10 years ago, I was just waiting for you.” I turned in my resignation, we moved back to my hometown and I started in ministry.

Q: What are the unique challenges of being a pastor in L.A.?
A: This being Hollywood, we have celebrities on TV and in front of us so much that we want a celebrity pastor.
That’s not what God has called me to be. I don’t have what some preachers call the “it” factor, that charismatic factor that just wows people, but when I listen there’s not a lot of substance.
Church has become a source of entertainment. You have the celebrity preacher, the physical environment you want and the best singers and musicians. All you have to do is sit down and observe.

So yours isn’t the church to go to if one wants to be entertained?
No, you’ll be blessed, but you won’t be entertained.

Nov28

Pastor Profile Wendell Oldham

Oldham

Pastor Profile:   Wendell Oldham   •  Lewis Metropolitan CME

Q: When you moved here two years ago to take over as pastor, what were the challenges?
A: The biggest was indebtedness. I had not been used to that level of debt in a church. Also, the school—the church had a public charter school—as I got here the public charter school floundered, failed and closed its doors. We had to respond quickly within a month to find another charter school to replace it—and we did. We only missed one month without a school here. The concern was for the teachers and students because it was a sudden and unexpected failure that was traumatic for the students. With my background as a corporate executive, I was usually hired to turn around operations, so when I’m faced with a challenge I just do what needs to be done.

Q: How have things changed over the last two years?
A: We still have a ways to go. Most church people have church down good, but in matters of spiritual development, biblical knowledge, that’s where I find churches have not had the kind of focus people need. I’m a firm believer that the word of God gives us a plan and instructions for our lives. But if you haven’t availed yourself to study it, you’re going on a plan where you’ve picked up a little bit here and there out of the world and decided how to live your life.

Q: How do you differentiate the problem when people who have church down well don’t look like they need much help?
A: The reality of it here is our transition from traditional preaching— with what some denominations call “the hoop” at the end—to teaching on Sundays. That’s a real transition for a lot of members.
One older, very wise, respected older member of our church said, “Pastor, we have been preached to for many years but we’re ignorant.” So each Sunday I teach from PowerPoint and there is an interactive handout. As I’m preaching, the answers are coming up and the scripture is already on the page for you. After we finish the sermon, you fill in the blanks. The sheet then becomes a study guide.

Q: And the response has been…
A: Very good. I’ve had a couple people say, “Can you just preach every once in awhile?” And I say, “Well, when I get asked to preach at other churches, my role is to inspire, but my responsibility to you is to teach you because Paul had told the people I will not have you ignorant.”
I’ve heard people say so many times ‘that was a great sermon’ and if someone asked what he preached on, they’ll say, I don’t know, but it was good.” So they leave all revved up, but without much Biblical knowledge.

Q: How do you know your hard work is paying off?
A: When I hear the testimonies. I had a group of older women in their seventies and eighties tell me they’d learned more here than their whole life in church and how it’s changed their relationship with their children and increased their patience.

Q: What drew you to the ministry?
A: I was 38. I was doing well at our world headquarters at Case Manufacturing (a division of Tenneco that makes farming equipment), flying in corporate jets and limousines wherever I traveled. My next move was Vice President, but the Lord reminded me of a conversation we had when I was 16 and first called to preach. At the time I had been very directed and focused on drafting and later engineering. Before I finished high school, General Motors looked at my drawings and hired me. I went on to become an engineer, manufacturing manager, and later, a plant manager.
So God said, ‘I’ve given you these years to do what you want, now it’s for you to give me what I called you for.’
I went to three different preachers to make sure and all three said the same thing: that I was indeed called. So I went to my wife and told her ‘this lifestyle you’re living is about to change because I’m going to be a preacher.’
She turned to me and said, “I knew 10 years ago, I was just waiting for you.” I turned in my resignation, we moved back to my hometown and I started in ministry.

Q: What are the unique challenges of being a pastor in L.A.?
A: This being Hollywood, we have celebrities on TV and in front of us so much that we want a celebrity pastor.
That’s not what God has called me to be. I don’t have what some preachers call the “it” factor, that charismatic factor that just wows people, but when I listen there’s not a lot of substance.
Church has become a source of entertainment. You have the celebrity preacher, the physical environment you want and the best singers and musicians. All you have to do is sit down and observe.

So yours isn’t the church to go to if one wants to be entertained?
No, you’ll be blessed, but you won’t be entertained.

First Ladies High Tea
November will mark the 20th Anniversary of our Annual First Ladies High Tea, honoring the contributions of female leaders and women of faith to the Los Angeles community. For more information, visit www.firstladieshightea.com
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