He called the day the “tough Sunday because I grew up in this church.” His father became pastor when Edward Long was 4 years old.
Long said his first job was janitor “so I’ve been dealing with your mess for a long time,” he said to laughter. He worked with the youth and in several auxiliaries.
“I’m standing in a place now where publicly my character is being judged,” he said. “I can come out here and throw a pity party and cry like a baby because things didn’t go the way I anticipated them going.”
Instead, he made the decision to “praise while I’m in the pit. I’m not going to have a pity party, I’m going to party in the pit.”
Long’s father died in January 2017 from an aggressive form of cancer.
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He was succeeded by Bishop Stephen A. Davis, who was also the senior pastor of New Birth Birmingham.
When Davis stepped down this summer, some members in the Stonecrest church hoped Edward Long would take his place. The church instead held a national search for a new senior pastor and ended up with 138 applicants.
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The board announced in November that it had selected Pastor Jamal Bryant, a well-known minister from Baltimore, to take the helm of the megachurch, which has seen membership and contributions dwindle over the years. At its heyday, New Birth had more than 25,000 members. Today, it’s about 10,000 with a weekly attendance of between 2,000 and 3,000.
Bryant delivers his first sermon as pastor on Sunday, Dec. 9.
Long mentioned Bryant in his sermon. “I didn’t choose Dr. Jamal Bryant, but a choice was made so I’m not going to speak against him. I’m going to speak for him. I’m not going to talk trash about him. I’m going to love on him and pray for him.”
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Long praised the congregation for standing through everything over the last few years. He said their faith has inspired others and he called his father “a giant in the kingdom.”
Edward Long said he never wanted to preach. Instead, he wanted a career in music. He loved the arts.
“Some get a call like Samuel where you hear the voice of the Lord. I literally got a call. Father called me and said, ‘Son, I need you.’ I said, ‘Not now.’” That was 10 years ago.
He said he walked away from a few deals on the table that involved music. He walked away, he said, on faith.
Many people had told him after Davis resigned that they thought he would be the pastor, he said. In fact, he applied for the role and went through the process.
“This was the toughest Sunday of my life to stand before you,” he said. “Because I’m not standing here to appease anybody. I’m standing here pushing you to always put your trust and your faith in God. Always.”
Long has been asked what he’s going to do now.
He’s going to do what Jesus would do, he told the congregation, and what he has been called to do.
He told them that people are watching what happens at New Birth.
It’s not even about New Birth, though, he said. “It’s about the body of Christ. Why would I come to church and see people in church infighting?”
“I thought that I was dealing with depression for the past two years because I kept getting looked over and looked over and looked over,” he said. “Why is it that I get more love from the outside than the inside?
Some in the audience stood and waved their arms in the air. Others wiped away tears or yelled “Amen.”
He said he recently heard singer Tasha Cobbs say that you haven’t been dealing with depression, you’ve been dealing with rejection.
It doesn’t matter, he said, who does or does not choose you.
God said, “You didn’t choose me. I chose you and I’m the more that’s for you.”
Long seemed to suggest God had other plans for him outside of New Birth. He said he would keep preaching and pushing the “agenda of Christ forward.”
“It simply takes something off the table, that lets you know that I (God) actually have something greater for you and better for you.”