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From Harlem to Mississippi: 5 Inspiring Church Leaders You Need to Know This Week

Inspiring Leaders

Every week, inspiring church leaders make a difference right where God has called them to serve. They may never make the national headlines, but we found these 5 inspiring stories on local news sites from around the country to share with you.

Inspiring Church Leaders in the News This Week 

“A pastor drives 1,000 miles to get to his small church, and the people who need him”

Joey Gilbert’s story was featured in the Biloxi Sun Herald recently. Gilbert is a bivocational pastor who makes the roundtrip trek three times a week from Carnesville, Georgia, to Bayside Baptist Church in Bay St. Louis, Mississippi. During the week he works as a land surveyor.

The Bay St. Louis community was hit hard by Hurricane Katrina in 2005. Gilbert first came to the neighborhood a few years ago when he and several other volunteers arrived to help after Katrina. The people in the community won his heart. And last year after learning that the church had no leader and attendance had dropped dramatically, Gilbert decided to do more.

It’s not an easy trip three times a month, but Gilbert, who is often joined by wife Julie and friends Joyce and Kim Reed, sees this route as a regular mission trip.

How does he do it? Gilbert said: “With the Lord’s help, and a lot of prayer, and a lot of determination. If you came on a Sunday, and met the members and the kids, you’d understand. Like I tell people, it’s a God thing. Physically, financially, God has made a way. I’ve just about worn out a vehicle in the past year and a half, but it’s all worth it.”

Michael Matthews

Living a Dream

The Observer-Reporter in Washington, Pennsylvania, told the moving story of Pastor Michael Matthews, a man who will not allow his cerebral palsy to limit what he can do.

Matthews felt called to ministry at the age of 24. He says, “I wanted to be used by God and I wanted to show other people that no matter what background they came from, they can be used by God and that’s what my whole life goal is.”

It would take years for Matthews to overcome obstacles to see that dream come true. Two years ago, Matthews was voted in unanimously to pastor First Baptist Church in Claysville, Pennsylvania, a 13-person congregation that has grown to over 40 under his leadership.

“I want people to see that, ‘Hey, here’s a guy, he’s a Christian, he’s a pastor, and he’s also dealing with this disability,’” Pastor Mike said. “For me, it’s so important that they see a man in a role like a pastor. They can see how there’s a group of people trusting me to lead this church, and they have the same expectations of me like any other pastor, and that’s amazing, that’s a step in the right direction.”

Pastor Mike is living his dream!

Lisa Jenkins

And a woman shall lead them! Baptist church in Harlem picks first female pastor in its 88 years

The New York Daily News reported recently about Lisa Jenkins who’s the new pastor at St. Matthew’s Baptist Church in East Harlem. Church members are excited about Jenkins’ preaching style since it’s accessible and generation-spanning. Five new people have joined the church since Jenkins was hired and some of those new people are under 30—a demographic the church is hoping to recapture.

The New York Daily reports that “On a recent Sunday, Jenkins rocked the flock with a plain-talking sermon that hopped from Exodus and Isaiah to slavery and Martin Luther King in a crescendo of hand-clapping praise.”

“She was preaching, my 16-year-old grandson had his head down, but all of a sudden his head pops up, he’s listening!” said deacon Nataline Vanderburg.

Jenkins was also recently appointed to Community Board 10 where she’s involved in social activism, such as fighting for housing and justice.