The Rev. Dr. Michael J. Fisher has been a young pastor throughout his ministry at Greater Zion Church Family in Compton.
As a young adult, he became the spiritual leader of the oldest Black church in the city, following in the footsteps of his father, Pastor Emeritus W. Jerome Fisher. While nearly 20 years has passed, he’s still a young man, but his youth hasn’t stopped him from drawing people of all ages to hear the Word of God.
According to Fisher, his enduring success can be traced to three factors. “Number one, first and foremost, it’s all God. It really is. I think God’s hand has been very merciful and gracious towards me and my ministry and the church,” he said.
Another reason, said Fisher, lies in the legacy built by his father, who served as the pastor for nearly 50 years. During his tenure, the elder Fisher oversaw tremendous spiritual and numerical church growth, established tangible community outreach programs, expanded the physical campus and emerged as a leading advocate for social and racial justice.
The third component that has aided the Fisher’s ministry comes from adhering to the advice of his father. “At the beginning of my ministry, my dad told me, ‘don’t dress up Jesus. Just preach naked Jesus. Don’t try to modernize Him. Just stick to the Word and the Bible. The Bible works for all generations,” recalled Fisher. “So, I don’t try to find something cool to do. I think I just keep it real and relevant and speak to the Bible.”
Explaining how he applies that philosophy, he pointed to the various challenges that people face at every stage of life where they seek answers to their dilemmas.
“If you point them to the Word, all of a sudden your ministry becomes relevant to them, whether they are 13-years-old stressed out about bullying or whether they are 85-years-old worried about health insurance,” insisted Fisher. “All generations want to feel that there is a God who loves them, there is a God who can redeem them and there is a God who can save them.”
With Greater Zion’s large, multigenerational congregation, Fisher also emphasizes understanding and respect between the different age groups. To older members, he offers gentle reminders that they once were young and may have conducted themselves in manner viewed as radical at the time. His aim, with this strategy, is to guide older people towards appreciating the culture-shifting ways of the youth.
His message to young people stresses extending honor, respect and involvement to older members because “one day, you will be where they are.” Fisher also encourages youth to learn from the principles espoused by elder parishioners and consider incorporating those values into their lives.
“So, we have mothers that while they can’t understand what the hip-hop ministry is saying, they will tolerate it because they know that it’s young people expressing their love for God,” noted Fisher.
“And we have young people who know how to lift up hymns and lead the devotion in “Amazing Grace” or “Father I Stretch My Hand To Thee” because while it’s old school, they respect the shoulders that we are building upon.
“It’s about understanding and teaching each generation to understand one another’s approach and bringing it back to the fact that it’s all about Jesus. If the message stays the same and you’re not compromising the message, you can embrace the style,” he said.
Focusing on Christ has energized the membership to work together, both within and outside the church walls. In addition to multiple internal ministries for all ages, Greater Zion has made significant progress in its outreach campaigns to assist residents of Compton.
Through its community development corporation, the J.T. Foundation, the ministry built a youth center, awarded scores of college scholarships and received national recognition for its Young Visionaries Program, which is a mentorship for boys transitioning to men.
The Pray Provide #PUSH100 Initiative has received notable acclaim as well. The initiative is comprised of several programs such as hiring events to match formerly incarcerated people with companies seeking employees. The #PUSH100 team vets the hires in advance
“We make agreements with certain companies that we will vet the people in advance and the company will, in turn, to hire anybody that comes, even if they are a felon or have a record, just to give them a chance. They’ve been through our new members program, we have a relationship with them and we can hold them accountable,” Fisher said.
“That’s exactly what Jesus does for us with God. He serves as our representative, so the church tries to serves as the formerly incarcerated person’s representative and it works. In the last two years, we’ve actually been able to help over 600 people get jobs, who otherwise never would have been employed.”
Looking towards the future, Fisher aims for Greater Zion to achieve even more for the cause of Christ. He envisions the church as “a hub center for worship on Sunday and Wednesdays” and also purchasing another facility to operate a charter school, dance academy and a range of community programs during the week.
Praying that his plans are “God’s will,” he added, “I believe that the church shines bright in the midst of darkness, so my message to everybody would be don’t allow what we’re seeing on the news to cause us to become discouraged. Actually, allow what we’re seeing in our culture to motivate us to shine the light of Jesus Christ more now than ever!”
Greater Zion Church Family is located at 2408 N. Wilmington Ave., in Compton. Contact them at (310) 639-5535 or visit gzcf.us.