New Birth Missionary Baptist Church lost its longtime senior pastor, Bishop Eddie L. Long, in January 2017 after his battle with cancer. Bishop Stephen A. Davis filled in as interim senior pastor until several days ago. AJC FILE PHOTO / KENT D. JOHNSON 2017
Photo: The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Photo: The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Opinion: Thoughts from New Birth Missionary Baptist’s new pastor

Dr. Benjamin E. Mays, a renowned Morehouse man, once said “It must be borne in mind that the tragedy of life doesn’t lie in not reaching your goal. The tragedy lies in having no goal to reach. It isn’t a calamity to die with dreams unfulfilled, but it is a calamity not to dream.”

My entire life I have had the audacity to set lofty goals for myself, personally and professionally. I am absolutely determined to never stop thinking big and exhausting myself in the pursuit of every dream that God has placed on my heart.

As I make my transition to the position of Senior Pastor at New Birth Missionary Baptist Church, I have been asked quite frequently why I would leave all that we have established at Empowerment Temple in Baltimore. In 18 years at Empowerment Temple, we have been blessed to grow from a 43-person bible study in my home to a congregation of over 10,000 members and are one of the largest churches in the city.

We have built a thriving ministry, founded an elementary school, contributed millions to charity and have been a force for social justice, both locally and nationally. By all accounts our church is monumentally successful and in the midst of a great season of expansion as we are currently building a free health clinic and other significant community development projects.

So why would I leave a successful church in my hometown where I am blessed to be surrounded by family, friends and many nurturing relationships?

There are two reasons.

The first is rooted in the underlying admonition from Dr. Mays that we as humans should never stop dreaming or setting goals because it is indeed a tragedy to become complacent or satisfied even in the relative comfort of success and achievement.

The second is that I always listen when God speaks to me. He said go, so here I am. My life has been full of ups and downs, wins and losses, but one of my greatest blessings has been the persistent, constant and prevailing agitation that God has placed in my spirit to do more, think bigger and to never stop looking for opportunities to expand His kingdom through evangelism and service.

And that is what brings me to New Birth. This is a blessed opportunity to win more souls to Christ and to inspire a new generation to become soldiers in the army of the Lord. At my going away celebration in Baltimore, our State’s Attorney, Marilyn Mosby, referenced a lyric from 90’s hip-hop legends Mobb Deep. It goes, “there’s a war going on outside no man is safe from;” and that is true in 2018, especially in urban America and for people of color.

We are fighting the NRA, voter suppression, rogue police, underfunded schools, inadequate housing, the regressive policies and demeaning rhetoric of President Trump and a litany of ills that plague our communities.

Well I’m not a shook one and I ain’t never scared, so I’m coming to Atlanta with my war clothes on — the belt of truth, the breastplate of righteousness, the shoes of the gospel of peace, the shield of faith, the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit!

In this season of transition at New Birth, we will commit ourselves to an aggressive pursuit of excellence and a dynamic, relevant ministry. We will lead. We will educate. We will build. We will transform communities. We will raise up new leaders. We will feed the homeless. We will heal and lift families. We will register voters. That’s right, Stacey Abrams, we have got your back!

As I make this transition, I am wholly trusting God as this is the greatest exercise of faith in my life. I am very much at peace and accept that this is not about me and that I am merely a vessel to facilitate this awesome next move of God.

I am excited to get to work with my New Birth family, and I commit myself to upholding and expanding the standard of excellence that has characterized this powerful ministry for decades. This is our season to inspire millions and to elevate beyond the wildest dreams of the foreparents who lift us in prayer on the ancestral plane.

Let us dream big and honor the spirit of determination that so richly dwells within us. My prayer for Atlanta is the simple prayer my mother lifted for me on my first day at Morehouse — “Lord, your will. Nothing more, nothing less and nothing else.”

God bless you and we’ll see you at New Birth.

Rev. Jamal Harrison Bryant is the new senior pastor at New Birth Missionary Baptist Church in Lithonia.

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