Bringing People Together Under Christ

Unity between the Assemblies of God and Church of God in Christ is important to their leaders, and they believe it will help defeat racism in America.

Q: Bishop Patterson, please describe the Church of God in Christ.

Bishop Patterson of the Church of God and Dr. Trask of Assemblies of God unite in Christ and against racism.

Patterson: The Church of God in Christ has its roots in the original Azusa Street Pentecostal revival that swept America in 1906-1907. Our founder, Charles Harrison Mason, was one of those persons who actually received the gift of the Holy Ghost in that Azusa revival directly under the ministry of W.J. Seymour. Our church has spread across this nation faster than any other, and we have held to our basic Pentecostal doctrines and traditions. We are closer in doctrine to the Assemblies of God than any other Pentecostal or charismatic body that exists in the world today.

Q: Tell our readers how the Lord saved you.

Patterson: I was born the son of a Pentecostal pastor. My father, Bishop W.A. Patterson, pastored a church in Memphis on Wilson Street, and one Sunday in 1951, when I was 11, he simply explained the plan of salvation. I confessed Jesus as my Lord and Savior. I received the gift of the Holy Spirit with the sign of speaking in other tongues five years later, after we moved to Detroit, at the church my father pastored there, the New Jerusalem Church of God in Christ.

Q: Since those early days, the Lord has used you greatly. Now, as presiding bishop of the Church of God in Christ, what are your duties?

Patterson: It is somewhat of a dual role. From the civil side, I'm the president of the corporation. On the ecclesiastical side, as presiding bishop, I have to envision what the church's needs are when there are different jurisdictional assemblies who lose their bishop through death. It is the role of the presiding bishop along with the General Board to appoint new bishops. The church is divided into about 175 jurisdictions. The presiding bishop gives direction to those jurisdictions through their bishops. All of the departments of the church, auxiliaries and various departments come under the supervision of the presiding bishop. It is general leadership and direction to the church.

Q: The Church of God in Christ has a glorious past. What is your vision for the future?

Patterson: We have churches in the 50 states and in 56 foreign countries, but our work abroad is not nearly as strong as what I would like to see. I want to see the Church of God in Christ become globally as strong as it is in the U.S. That is probably the main thrust of my vision. Having been in office two years, I have not begun to really deal with that goal. So many things have to be done first at home. Right now it is a matter of the renovation of our national properties, historic Mason Temple. Bishop Mason built it in the early '40s here in Memphis to seat about 3,500 people, when steel was rationed and very few people had any money. At that time it was the largest facility in the United States owned by African-Americans, but that Temple has remained pretty much unchanged from the time that Bishop Mason built it. Last year, my first job was really to bring that building up to 21st-century standards. There are two large dormitory buildings on the campus to renovate, and we are in the process of opening our All Saints Bible College, which will be the embryonic stage of All Saints University. This was a dream of my late uncle, Bishop J.O. Patterson Sr., when he was presiding bishop.

Q: What are some of the special ministries of the Church of God in Christ that the Lord is using?

Patterson: All Saints Bible College is an undergraduate school of ministry that our church has not had in its approximately 100-year history. We do have the theological seminary in Atlanta, Ga., that is a part of the interdenominational theological center, but that is a graduate school. We also have the Saints Academy in Lexington, Miss., but we have not had a national school of ministry. Most of the Churches of God in Christ were started by bold and daring ministers who were willing to invest their living into planting a church. Those churches have grown basically from a single effort on the part of the founders. We are now in the process of establishing our Church Extension Fund, where the national church will get involved in the planting of churches. We have recently established COGIC Charities to assist churches or members whose homes are devastated by tornado's, floods or other disasters.

Q: Why is it good for the Church of God in Christ and the Assemblies of God to work together?

Patterson: It is necessary for us to work together because, in our day, one of the great evils of this world is racism. The Church of God in Christ is basically an African-American body. We are integrated, and so is the Assemblies, but the Assemblies is basically looked upon as ethnically white. I believe that the Holy Spirit was given by God to be the great Unifier. On the Day of Pentecost, there were people dwelling at Jerusalem from every nation, and the Holy Spirit came with a gift and an initial evidence of tongues. Everybody heard these Galilean Jews speaking in the languages of earth. It was God's way of saying that it matters not where you are from and what language you speak. The Holy Spirit with His ability to speak all languages is the unifying force. First Corinthians 12:13 says, "By one Spirit are we all baptized into one body." When we work together across racial and ethnic lines, lifting up the same Jesus, walking in the power of the same Spirit, we say to the world that although America has had deep divisions along ethnic lines, Pentecostal Spirit-filled brothers do not care about skin tones. I think we give a testimony as we work together.

Q: What do you think is necessary for greater cooperation between COGIC and the Assemblies of God in the future?

Patterson: We need to watch out for those things that divide us. In 1994, when we experienced what was called the "Memphis miracle" the birth of the Pentecostal and Charismatic Churches of North America our effort was to work together with all Pentecostal bodies, regardless of race. It was a beautiful time. The most divisive thing that keeps white and black Pentecostals apart in the United States is that we allow politics to supercede brotherhood. Somehow we have got to find a way to make our brotherhood more important than our politics. In John 17, Jesus prayed that believers be one.

Q: Your television ministry reaches all 50 states, and you receive letters from people across America. What are the pressing needs out there?

Patterson: We still have all of the basic needs that have been there all along. So many people are experiencing family problems. Many of these family problems are brought about because members of the family do not know Jesus and they allow themselves to get caught up in the drug culture. Drug abuse is one of the great evils of our society, and we don't seem to be making much headway against it. We have the problem of finances, people who are trying to live on finances that are not adequate at all. So many families are broken. We are hearing a lot about emphasis on reaching men through ministries like Promise Keepers and Bishop T.D. Jakes' Manpower. Yet, the majority of the mail I receive seems to be from women who are trying to live for God and are wondering where all the men are.

Q: What word would you have for the men across America?

Patterson: It is time for men to take their rightful place as the spiritual leaders of their homes. In 1 Corinthians 11:3, Paul says that the head of every woman is the man and the head of every man is Christ, and the head of Christ is God, and if the man is not under Christ, then the link is broken. Most men want to adhere to the fact that the man is the head of his house, but they disqualify themselves if Christ is not their Head. Men must find their proper place under Jesus Christ in order to be able to be the leaders of their wives and families.

There is also such a tremendous insurgence of Eastern religions invading America. Men are trying to adhere to other types of religion than salvation through Jesus Christ. People are even taking advice from their dreams and from talk shows. We have a tremendous task ahead of us. When I read a lot of the letters that come in, I think about what Jesus said, "When the son of man comes, shall he find faith on earth?" (Luke 18:8). There are a lot of people joining churches, but they are joining for so many wrong reasons. In the majority of megachurches, as they are called today, they are preaching the gospel of prosperity more than the gospel of Jesus Christ. There is a lot of sound teaching that we have got to find a way to get over to people.

Q: The cross, what Jesus did on the cross, and then the Upper Room of Pentecost are these the focal points of your ministry?

Patterson: That is basic. As Jesus said in Matthew 6:33, "Seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you." I think too many ministries are majoring on the things which ought to be added after one establishes a proper spiritual relationship.

Q: Anything else you would like to share?

Patterson: Those of our leadership that know general superintendent, Dr. Trask, (Assembly of God) have the greatest respect for him. He's a fine brother. We love him and we love (Assembly of God)

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