CHRISTOPHER JOHNSON, 38, Good Hope Missionary Baptist Church, Preaching: 5 years

As a young minister, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. used the pulpit to create a paradigm shift in our history and culture that continues to this day.  This change agent attracted a new generation of young people using the church as the foundation to demand the doors of opportunity be opened. Here, Houston ministers under 40 discuss how they hope to institute change, how to attract and encourage more young people and the role of the Black church in general.  

CHANGEMAKER “Change is defined as the act or instance of making or becoming different. Change by definition is to be transformed radically. I am a changemaker in distinct ways. The first is by loving God. What this means is making every possible attempt to allow my thoughts, actions and deeds to be guided by Him in every area of my life. The second is by loving ALL people. If we love God, we have to love His people. My purpose is to serve God’s people no matter the cost. As a minister of the Gospel I am here to serve, help and assist people. My job is to help people become all that God wants them to be. We are the change we seek. God has given us the ability to impact and affect social, cultural and spiritual change to make life better for others. I believe that it is in these distinct ways I am a change agent.

ATTRACT YOUNG PEOPLE “For some who are in the millennial and Generation Z age demographic, church has become a place where people used to go to be fed spiritually, emotionally, socially and culturally. I believe that there are three ways that the church can attract young people. The first way is to engage the younger generation. I often ask those who are 50 and older, when is the last time you prayed for someone 40 and under? When is the last time you listened to them? When is the last time that you spoke an encouraging word to anyone under 40? The needs of this generation are no different than previous generations. Every generation wants to be affirmed, accepted, appreciated and positively encouraged by the older generation. Everyone wants and needs someone to be source of love and motivation in their life. The second way the church can attract younger people is to equip them. The United States of America spends trillions of dollars on our military. We have the most powerful military largely in part because we are the best equipped military in the world. When you are properly equipped your chances for success increase. Are we, as the church, equipping future generations to lead and change the world they live in? While education is important its not the only form of equipping. The church has to begin to help millennials and Generation Z recognize, identify and develop the gifts that God has given them. Ephesians 4:11-16 outlines that those who are in Jesus Christ all have gifts. I believe that if churches begin to help young people tap into their gifts and talents, they will see growth in ways they never imagined. The third way I believe the way the church can attract younger people is by empowering them. To empower someone means that you give them the authority or power to do something. It also means to make that person stronger and confident in controlling their life and destiny. This is a generation that wants to contribute to their communities and society. The same way that the civil rights generation was empowered by those sage elders in the church is the same way that our generation must be empowered by the sage elders of today. The church must begin to invest in the lives of tomorrow today.”

ROLE OF BLACK CHURCH “The role of the Black church today is three-fold. The first is to speak truth to power. For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places. Speaking truth to power is not only political but prophetic. The Black church has to recommit itself to preaching and living out the Gospel of Jesus Christ as an example to our people. Any significant social change that the African American diaspora has made has always been built on the foundation of our belief and trust in God. The Black church has as much of an obligation to speak out against racism from ‘without’ as they do about addressing classism from within our own communities. Issues of economic development and progress, crime, job creation, legal and social advocacy, equitable treatment of all people regardless of gender or sexual preference are just some of the issues that the 21st century Black church must address. We must remind our people that as we struggle God struggles with us. He has not left us. He hears us and He is with us.”