In recognition of Women’s History Month, the L.A. Sentinel Religion section will highlight some of the female “Champions of Faith” in the Los Angeles area. This week, we feature Dr. Barbara McCoo Lewis, the International General Supervisor of the Department of Women of the Church of God in Christ, Inc.
A native of Los Angeles, she has served the denomination in several capacities on the local, jurisdictional, national and international levels. After graduating from Manual Arts High School, Lewis earned her Associate’s and Bachelor’s degrees in journalism, matriculated at Fuller Theological Seminary and received her Master’s degree and an honorary doctorate from the Southern California School of Ministry.
Lewis is a tireless community advocate, who organizes many campaigns to aid people in need. As the president/CEO of the Southern California COGIC Economic Development Corporation, she spearheaded the construction of $4.7 million, 41-unit senior citizen complex in 2002.
The Sentinel spoke with Mother Lewis to learn more about her motivation and her ministry. The following is an edited version of the interview.
What factors inspire you to continue to dedicate your time, talent and treasures to the Church of God in Christ? I am a third-generation member of the Church of God in Christ. The anchor of my faith is the Bible-based doctrine with emphasis on the principles of holiness and righteous living. Lifting the quality of life for countless individuals by modeling of the love of Jesus through humanitarian efforts across the globe is another factor.
Did you have any mentors or people who influenced your ministry/career choice? I began my educational pursuit in journalism, [but] God’s plans are often not our plans. At 18, I married a young ambitious preacher, which turned my focus back to the church. My primary role model was my beloved Mother Sue A. McCoo, who transitioned at the age of 96 in 2017. She was tenacious and the epitome of the Proverbs 31 woman.
What are some challenges that you’ve faced in your ministry and how did you overcome them? The critical art of saying “no” has assisted me in prioritizing my time for prayer and Bible study, balancing family and ministry commitments and juggling schedules.
What are 1-3 rewarding experiences in your ministry and why? The most rewarding experience is seeing lives transformed. I was so blessed to experience 57 years of a wonderful marriage to my life partner, Bishop James A. Lewis, who transitioned this past September. We co-founded the New Antioch Church of God in Christ in 1970 with five other adults in our living room. The ministry continues to thrive under the pastorate of our youngest son, Administrative Assistant Jeffrey M. Lewis and my daughter-in-love, Floetta. Our oldest son, Elder James A. Lewis Jr., along with my two adult grandchildren, Shannon and Jeffrey Jr., all play an integral role in the ministry.
Another rewarding experience was my time spent teaching young women the discipline of prayer. For seven years, I met with them every Tuesday at 5 a.m. on a conference prayer line. Many of those young women hold responsible and significant positions in the Jurisdictional and National Department of Women.
I was afforded the opportunity to lead the women in the building of a 41-unit senior citizen complex at 1507 W 105th St. in Los Angeles. God is glorified as we host a weekly bible study, computer classes, quarterly health screenings and senior awareness workshops for the residents and community-at-large.
In April 2017, I was honored with the opportunity to serve God’s people globally by the appointment of Presiding Bishop Charles E. Blake as the International General Supervisor of Women of the Church of God in Christ.
What advice can you share with believers who desire to contribute their talents to their ministry? I tell women of all ages to embrace the greatness of God through prayer and study of God’s word. Seize every opportunity to fulfill your God given destiny. Write your goals in a journal apply a scripture and speak words of affirmation towards the manifestation every day. Go after what God has placed in your heart and trust Him to bring it to pass. Learn from others but more importantly Be Yourself.
As women of color, and especially African American women with leadership roles, [we] must focus on unified efforts to create platforms for Christian women who have prepared themselves academically and want to share their journey and expertise with their sisters. Unified efforts, which transcend denominational boundaries, will create a powerful synergy for progress.
Do you have a mantra or favorite scripture that guides your life? Philippians 4:13, “I can do all things through Christ which strengthens me.” Also, a Godly character, integrity and passion navigate my purpose and focus. It is important [that] my life mirrors those values in all I do.