The Rev. Marvin McKenzie aims to draw all ages to Christ and doing that, he says, takes “out the box” thinking.
As the new pastor of Walker Temple AME Church in Los Angeles, McKenzie believes multiple generations will come to know the Lord if he incorporates that creative philosophy to spreading the Gospel.
“I want to grow the membership of the church by trying things that have never been done before,” says McKenzie. “I think of the four men who brought their crippled friend before Jesus. These men were not able to bring their friend through the front door via traditional methods and so they had to be creative and they tore a hole in the roof and lowered their friend before Jesus.
“I believe that today’s pastor must think like these four men and think outside the box, if we continue to do what has always been done, we will continue to get the same results,” he notes. “My goal in this first year is a 20% growth in membership.”
While McKenzie’s goal may sound ambitious, especially considering that he is a first-time pastor, he is convinced it can be achieved by applying his ministry motto of “serving God with excellence.” And as a 39-year-old Gen Xer, he feels that he is in a good place to reach both younger millennials and older baby boomers and traditionalists.
Following the advice of his father in the ministry, Pastor Clyde W. Oden of Bethel AME – Oxnard, McKenzie says his first step will be to love the people and do everything with excellence “based on the example I saw in Dr. Oden.”
He also intends to build on the spiritual legacy left by Rev. Dr. Rosalynn Brookins, who was appointed pastor of Parks AME in Oakland. “Walker Temple is known for its dynamic and spirit-filled worship. When I preached my first sermon there, I preached as hard as I possibly could and for as long as I could,” he recalls.
“Afterwards, a few members asked me if all of my sermons would be so short. Although this made me smile, I saw that the members expect a mighty Word from God.”
Describing the ideal pastoral situation, he adds, “I want to be in a church where I know the names of each member and I’m able to sit and have private conversations. My greatest joy as a pastor comes in the moments when I’ve prayed with a person or counseled them during a crisis in their life. I want to always be able to have real relationships with the members of my church.”
Another focus of McKenzie’s is young people. He and his wife, Esthela, are the parents of Aniah, age 19; Justice, age 15; and Michelle, age 7. He says the Walker Temple congregation has agreed to dedicate 10 percent of the church’s income to youth activities.
“We believe in putting our money where our mouth is and making the investment in our youth. My children are members of Generation Y and Z, so I have a personal investment in reaching these generations. I understand the struggles that they face in this fast paced world and so I first give them a voice and a safe place where they can express themselves,” says McKenzie.
Although this is first pastoral appointment, McKenzie has lots of experience in the church. He served 10 years as a trustee and was the assistant pastor at Bethel AME – Oxnard for four years.
A veteran of the U.S. Marine Corps, he also earned a Bachelor’s degree in business management and a Master’s degree in business administration from the University of Phoenix, a Master’s of Divinity degree from Fuller Theological Seminary, and a graduate certificate in executive leadership from Cornell University.
With the help of God, McKenzie says his background will be an asset and will assist in attracting others to the Lord. “People want a place where they can be encouraged and reminded that there is hope,” he insists. “People also want a place where they can receive life skills and support beyond spiritual matters.”