Dec10

Pastor Profile: Rev. J. Edgar Boyd • First AME Church, Los Angeles

Q: With the controversy surrounding FAME, did you know what you were getting into when you accepted the appointment?
A: The media has painted such a negative image, and it didn’t start last week, it didn’t start last month, it started years ago. Nothing happens within the scope of African Methodism that a good AME is not aware of, so I was aware of that.

Knowing what I would probably would run into and then understanding what opportunities there were, the opportunities outweighed the negative perception. Based on that, I found a bit of joy in coming. It was not a sorrowful decision that was made of my behalf. It didn’t feel put upon by the appointment. It was a fresh opportunity. I am in no ways disappointed.

Q: How has the congregation responded to your appointment?
A: You have to ask them, but what I saw was overwhelming. The first Sunday here was so much vibrancy. I’m just impressed by the resilience of the people, by the excitement among them, and wanting to see and hoping to see and praying and waiting to see FAME do what it has always done well, and that is to lead the public and to see the needs and respond to them.

Q: Why do you think you were appointed to FAME?
A: It might have been because what I’ve been doing recently is pretty similar to what the needs are here at FAME. I would imagine if you’re looking at a portfolio of someone who has been successful and built a track record in one area, and that same track record is needed in another area, that that may be a fairly good person for that area. It makes more sense then putting someone in who doesn’t have that proven experience.

Q: What is that track record?
A: The bottom line asset base for Bethel San Francisco is about $85 million, including all of the property and the assets that are involved in that. We were about $12 million when I went to San Francisco in 1992. We started the Community Technology Center. Those dollars helped us bridge the digital gap for seniors. I would say we were successful because most people had seen what had gone on at Bethel, the biggest oldest African American congregation in San Francisco and they rallied around that image. We got good response and good support helping us to engage the development of housing in the area. So we went from 105 units of housing in 1992 to 356 units of housing when I left.

Q: You’ve returned to L.A. after being away for 20 years to the month you left. Did you miss this town while you were away?
A: I did. But I was not sorry that I went because I got involved in something in San Francisco I never would have had the opportunity to be involved in Los Angeles. It just wasn’t in the cards. And the education I got there as it relates to how the wheels of corporate America turn, I couldn’t have got that on this end. But being the economic hub that San Francisco is, I got a good education there.

Q: What is your vision for the church?
A: When you look at what Jesus did, His response and ministry was always for those who were marginalized. If the church wasn’t to model itself after the ministries of Christ, then we must also look to those who are marginalized and left behind, whether it’s one’s who are dropping out of school, those who got criminalized early in life, whether it’s young teenage girls who found themselves mothers. We must respond to needs like that. We must find a way to link up with them and provide opportunities for them.

We’re in discovery. I wanted to see what the needs of the community are, then once we see that, we start to look at the inventory of resources. What do we have to respond to the needs of the present and who is it in the broader community we can actually collaborate with and bring into a joint effort to meet those needs.

Q: What is the secret to your success as a fundraiser community builder?
A: Prayer, hard work, working with people and understanding where opportunities are. When you make a commitment, you carry that commitment out. If you find out that you can’t carry that commitment out you go back and say, “what we intended to do, what we planned, what we promised to do is not possible. We need to sit down and renegotiate the terms of what we agreed on.” Just being open and honest, and people will always respond positively to that.

Q: You don’t seem like the kind of man who doubts himself, where do you get that?
A: It’s just a bold courage I’ve always had. I don’t take failure. I will not accept ridicule and criticism. Like the Bible says, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” Believing in that provides the courage to push you out there and put you in the right place.

Nov28

Pastor Profile: Walter Tucker

pastor walter tucker

Walter Tucker – From The Heart Church Ministries

Married: 27 years to Reverend Robin; two adult children

Previous Jobs: Lawyer; Mayor of Compton; U.S. congressman

Q: In 1995 you were accused of accepting bribes from a businessman and subsequently sentenced to 27 months at the Federal Prison Camp at Lompoc. Can you explain how it was a turning point in your life?

A: It was an experience that led me to really turn my life over to the Lord. Before I went to prison I was a Christian but I had one foot in the world and one foot in the church. I was chasing fame and fortune. I was chasing politics.

Q: How difficult was that period?

A: Going to prison was a very difficult period but it was the best/worst thing that ever happened in my life. It caused me to grow extremely closer to God. It was tough losing everything—most importantly my freedom. And of course it was tough suffering public humiliation but it made me stronger and it made me the person that I am today—a person who is able to minister to other people going through traumatic experiences in life. Prison time moved very slowly and it also taught me patience. It taught me how to really trust God and have hope. When bad things happen in life you’re either going to get better or bitter.

Q: How did you rise in politics?

A: When I was a very small boy I thought that I wanted to be in politics but in the second grade they shot the president. They shot JFK. That kind of took the wind out of my cells. I thought, “maybe I don’t want to be in politics” so I pursued a career in law and became a lawyer and opened up a criminal defense practice. But my dad got into politics and was the mayor of the city of Compton. He was in his third term when he got stomach cancer and he died. I was led by the Lord to take on his mantle and run for his seat and I won. One year later there was an opening in the congregational seat. People kept telling me, “You seem to be the most qualified person to take his seat. You should run.” I prayed about it and I did run for congress and was elected in 1992.

Q: When and how did you receive the call to preach?

A: From the day that I was convicted, I made a vow to the Lord to serve him in full time ministry for the rest of my life. Even as an inmate I started Bible studies in prison and ministered to countless men. My wife was working for Crenshaw Christian Center and once I got out she helped me to get a job there. I started out at their school, Frederick K.C. Price, teaching Spanish. Then I moved on to become the help’s ministry manager there at the church. After that I moved on to actually work in prison ministry full time with the late Chuck Coleson, who was Richard Nixon’s special counsel, who himself went to prison and got saved. And then he started an international prison ministry called Prison Fellowship, which is still the largest prison ministry in the world. And so I began to work for him as his executive director of the Los Angeles office. I did that for a few years.

Q: Where did your desire to preach come from?

A: I kept sensing the Lord telling me I had this strong call to pastor. So I sought the Lord and asked him how I could begin. He directed me to another well-known Christian leader, Pastor Dr. John A. Cherry. My wife had actually told me to seek out Pastor Cherry a year before. A year later, coincidentally, I went to his house and and met these people. I asked, “what do you guys do” and they said “we work with Dr. Cherry”. So it was meant to be. It was fate.

I was sent to Chicago to start a church. We started the church with 28 members. Over the next nine years we grew the church to over 600 members and bought a building. We renovated the church with new air conditioning, got the heater fixed, put new pews—we got the church to where it was ready to be handed over. So we trained up a young man, turned the church over to him and my pastor allowed us to come back here and fulfill my original instruction, which is to pastor a church where I grew up.

Q: How do you feel about coming back to L.A.?

A: When I returned home I sought the Lord and asked him where I should get started. He told me to start right in the area where I had once represented as a U.S. congressman in the Carson area. So we moved to Carson and started a church at the Double tree Hotel with about 32 members and now we’re well over 120 and growing within five months. We’re excited about what God is doing. What I really appreciate is the opportunity to help out my relatives and the people I grew up with. We’ve been ecstatic about the kinds of teaching that are changing the lives of people who are near and dear to us. It’s a wonderful thing to see my family working the church. My mother oversees the seniors, my brother is over audio, my sister is over media ministry, my other sister is over the singles ministry, my wife is the praise leader and I can go on.

Q: Some pastors have themes: traditional, uplifting, youth, do you have an approach or theme? 

A: The first and most important thing that defines my approach to preaching is we in this ministry believe it’s essential to rightly divide the word of truth, according to 2 Timothy 2:15. There are  some pastors who preach but they don’t correctly interpret the scripture. So the first thing we want to make sure is that we correctly interpret the word of God. Secondly, it’s an emphasis of mine to make the scripture plain and understandable. We are a teaching ministry and I always want to make sure things are broken down at a level where even a child can understand. I preach to everyone and make it relevant to everyone. It’s important to have both information and inspiration so there’s real transformation. Finally, the message and mannerism of the church is truth and love. We as human beings have a sin problem and we have to correct that in love. We have to tell the truth about that. We don’t just point out problems we give practical steps and applicable principles to deal with the daily challenges of life.

 

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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