I first met James at a revival where he preached a sermon titled, “Stand Out, Don’t Fit In!” I must say that he lives up to that phrase. Not long after that, he became a member at my church and some time after, was elevated to Assistant Pastor. The first time we went out to dinner with the young adults (a typical group gathering), a few people had to leave early but left the cash for their meals. Then it was time to pay… it was one bill and 20 people dined that night. We counted what was collected and we were $450 short. Well, gee, how embarrassing! Without hesitation, we got introduced to his famous line, “I got it.” Just like that, James paid for it. Come to think of it… he was never reimbursed. That is him, he helps people carry their burdens. He is a giver, a BIG giver might I add. He is diverting, totally fun to be around, quick-witted, and values biblical principles. (Well, here goes something you don’t see everyday). Pastors putatively have this overtly spiritual, judgmental, and lackluster demeanor about them. His lifestyle has refuted that belief. He proves that one can be a minister and not have to be a member of that stereotype. As we led with him, you couldn’t get him to join in on any gossip. He wouldn’t criticize the leadership or the church. Neither would he accept nor encourage people around him to do it either. He shunned all negative talk that would bring about damage to people’s reputation and character. Even if the critics were true, he wouldn’t engage in it.
Here goes my virtual interview with James:
When and how did you discover what you wanted to do in life?
As a child I always loved God and going to church. When a preacher was speaking I always found myself paying attention more than most kids. I can’t say I remember a specific time when I first said I wanted to be a minister, but during my teenage years I would take on leadership positions in church and school; developing my understanding on what it means to minister God’s word and serve people.
When is breaking the rules okay?
Most rules shouldn’t be etched in stone but should serve as guidelines for a community to follow and protect the people under the rules. This allows for people within the community to thrive in every aspect of life and yet no one is hurt in the process. When the people are no longer protected they need to consciously defend themselves without hurting others in the process. We are told to not cross the double yellow lines while driving. I was in a cab years ago and a car jumped in front of my cab. My driver skillfully swerved completely over to the other side (crossing the yellow lines) avoiding an accident and protecting his passengers. Did he commit a crime or was he a hero?
What decorum would you advise someone to have when it comes to money?
When we look at money we should see it as a tool we use to build ourselves and people who are in need. While making money I would encourage people to constantly examine their heart on how they spend, save, and invest it. What we value will always be attached to our time and finances. A common saying is “Money doesn’t change you, it reveals who you really are”.
Who has influenced you the most and how?
There are too many people to put on this list but if I have to say one person it would have to be my mother. She worked hard all of her adult life to make sure her children were never without food. She introduced us to a relationship with God before I can remember. Working in a nursing home from Midnight-8AM my entire childhood. She would gather us for prayer every night before leaving for work making sure we spoke to God before we went to sleep and before she took the dangerous NYC subway system to work so she could give us what we needed to survive.
If you could start all over again, what would you do differently?
If I could start all over I would prioritize everything in its proper order in my life. I would spend more time with God and quality time with people. I’d also watch a lot less TV and read biographies of people in history I admire.
What hope do you have for younger black men growing up in America?
Young black men are valuable. Some people will think they are too powerful so they must be locked up and others will encourage them to use their power for selfish gain; hurting everyone in the process. I would love to see our young black men take their energy and be responsible for themselves, their families, and their community.
We are stronger with him as we learn to help others carry their burdens. It is practical and possible to stand out for Christ and yet be relatable with others. One can hold on to their biblical beliefs and still have “clean fun” as he likes to put it. Stand clear of those who seek to dishonor their leaders! We must value and honor our leaders.
Cheers to a Legacy of Spreading the Gospel
What to watch out for? His church planting is coming soon…