Q. What makes your church unique?
What makes this church unique? I’m going to call it an open door policy. It’s non-judgmental. Just come in, bring your issues, bring your sin, whoever you say you are. And if there’s a change to be made, then we’re going to trust God to do it. We’re not going to do it. We’re not going to let the ushers look at you because your hair is orange or you have dreads down to your back. What I think makes this church unique is that you gain that worship experience, you gain a positive word, but at the end of the day, you’re not going to be judged here, and whatever your issue is and whatever you’ve dealt with, I think we see the church as a hospital. So come and get better.
Q. What is the church’s vision?
The church’s vision is to take this neighborhood, and I think we’ve done pretty good. The city came in, of course, and tore down Double Oaks. Some of the rhetoric I’ve heard in the street is that it was crime infested. I’m offended by that. It was 10 years ago, but when we came here, we turned the lights on. We lit up this whole area, and a lot of the activity that was taking place at the top of the hill – the prostitution and drugs – we literally ran it away. We brought the brothers, the men of God, down here and we were visible. We didn’t allow the truck drivers to park. We told them, ‘You’re risking. We’ll take your tires, whatever it takes.’ We went to the city and purchased the property beside us because there was drug activity on the other side of the woods. They asked us where would the rats live. So we cut the woods down and turned it into a playground for the kids. So I think the vision is to continue to take the neighborhood. They want to turn this into an inner-city Birkdale. There will be shops and stores and everything around here. I didn’t run. I didn’t take the plea and go into the outskirts of the city. We stayed here. And because we stayed here, we’re going to be a part of the fabric. So the vision for us is to be a part of inner-city Charlotte.
Q. What are the church’s core beliefs?
Our core belief is that Jesus died, and not just for the pastor and the musicians, but for everybody, regardless of your economics, social background. You can have. You can prosper. So many people gravitate to “The poor shall be with us always.” I respect the scripture more than anyone you know, but I also teach the people that you can have also. I think it’s the way we think and the way that we teach in this time of economic woe. We’re blessed, and I thank God. We’re paying our bills. I haven’t seen it hurt us financially from a giving standpoint. I don’t take a salary as pastor, so I don’t need to force the people to give, give, give. Our desire is to build and to build debt-free. We’re financially stable. So at the end of the day, I’m seeing the people be blessed. We’re constantly giving, and we’re pouring back into the people. We have programs where we’re not only seeding back into the people, but we’re paying mortgages. We’re making sure people don’t go under. So our core belief at the end of the day is that He didn’t just die and get up to bless the preacher. The preachers are rich, the choir directors are rich, and the people are struggling. I don’t see that as real church.
Q. What ministries and programs are offered here?
Wow. So many. I’ll give you a few. We have WOW – Women of Worth – that works with young girls ages nine to 18. We have Operation Compassion, a wonderful HIV and AIDS awareness program. We have the Night Court program (that invites young males in off the street to play basketball). There is a program I really enjoy here, a program called One Step that is for those with substance abuse. It’s a very positive program. And more than giving you 12 steps, we come in and we deal with the inner man. We do the cleaning from the inside out. We change the way you think about yourself. The Adopt-A-Family program is good. If you’re a single mother and you have some issues and you want to go back to school, and you want to do some positive things, we have a program to really get you in line. We have the Kee Bible Institute, which has been really good, teaching people how to stand on the word. We’ve got a lot of really active programs.
Q. What are the greatest strengths of the church?
I think the greatest strength of our church is endurance. There are a lot of churches hurting now. I know this as a pastor talking with other pastors. Some have had to unite with other churches to stay afloat. But we had a vision in the beginning. It was more than just sowing into us. I taught and have been teaching for years that in order to sustain you’ve got to bless somebody else. So in some of the churches that have been hurting, we’ve been able to pay the light bill.
Q. How do you foster spiritual growth?
I think at the end of the day we have to understand that principles can’t change. You have so many pastors and churches and teachers that teach one thing and live another. At the end of the day you have to be that example. They have to look at you and see the prospering in you. What you teach and preach has to exemplified on that pulpit. That’s the key. I can’t teach you how to be prosperous and blessed if I’m a beggar and living beneath my privilege. So I try to meet them where they are, meet them at their level and try not to be bigger than. I don’t hide my head. God has blessed me. I have a wonderful home (and I’m never there. My wife would tell you I live at the church). But at the end of the day you have to be that example. And when you’re that example, people don’t guess it; they don’t have to ask you about it. They can see it. And it takes you to a place of fulfillment that no other place does.