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  • Evans Kariuki

Milestones in the African American Church

Updated: Aug 12

#BlackHistoryMonth

In celebration of Black History Month, I’d like to give my perspective on the move of the Holy Spirit, the growth of the Black church, and the rise of African American preachers and spiritual leaders.



It has been a long history.

The term “Black church” represents many details of racial and religious lifestyles unique to Black history. Although the term implies all Black churches have similar aspirations, strategies, and doctrines, that’s not true. Just as in other denominations of Christianity, the Black church is diverse in its doctrine and denominations, including but not limited to Methodist, Baptist, Episcopal, and Pentecostal.



Freed Blacks established congregations separate from their white neighbors, who were often their former slave masters, and these new African American congregations created communities culturally and spiritually distinct from other churches. Mount Zion Baptist Church was established in Knoxville, Tennessee, in 1860 during slavery, but slavery could not quench the congregation’s desire for eternal life. They saw past slavery to the reward of their harvest in the Kingdom of God.

After the abolishment of slavery, several white Protestant ministers from the North moved to the South to establish churches where Blacks and whites could worship together. They were looking toward a heavenly view of all nations, tribes and tongues worshiping together; however, attacks by the Klu Klux Klan and whites opposed to racial integration temporarily impeded their attempts.



Congregation gathered for the Lord

In the North, there was also a segregationist stance against Blacks and whites worshiping together. Although at times they made the effort to worship in the same building, African Americans had to sit separate from whites. During this time, there was no true fellowship within Christian congregations among the races. This was a diabolical plan of Satan to cause division in the Body of Christ. But I am glad to report that today, my congregation, based in Knoxville, Tennessee, is just one of many who invite all races to come worship our King in unity, where division and racism are not tolerated and where the love of Christ flows freely!

Let’s take a walk through history to see the price paid by some of our African-American forebearers who opened the door to the religious freedom we enjoy today.

Sojourner Truth (1797 — November 26, 1883) Evangelist, Preacher

Sources: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sojourner_Truth

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ain%27t_I_a_Woman%3F

Sojourner Truth, born Isabella (Belle) Baumfree, was born into slavery in 1797 in Swartekill, New York. She changed her name to Sojourner Truth after God called her to leave the city and go into the countryside “testifying the hope that was in her.” As a slave, she endured harsh beatings and was bought and sold as property several times. Although some may think of slavery as something that happened only in the South, slaves were bought and sold in the northern colonies, as well. Sojourner Truth escaped slavery late in 1826 and had a life-changing religious experience in 1829. On June 1, 1843, Pentecost Sunday, she changed her name from Isabella Baumfree to Sojourner Truth. She stated she chose this name because she heard the Spirit of God calling her to preach the truth. She told friends, “The Spirit calls me, and I must go,”. She traveled north, working her way through the Connecticut River Valley towards Massachusetts, traveling and preaching about the abolition of slavery and the freedom to be found in Jesus Christ.


#History

Many appreciated Truth’s singing and preaching, and she drew large crowds when she spoke. In 1844 in Northampton, Massachusetts, at a camp meeting where she was preaching, a band of “wild young men” disrupted the camp meeting, refused to leave, and threatened to burn down the tents. Sojourner Truth went to a small hill and began to sing fervently and powerfully about the resurrection of Christ. Her song, “It Was Early in the Morning,” gathered the rioters to her and quieted them, as they urged her to sing, preach, and pray. After about an hour, she bargained with them to leave after one final song, which they agreed to and finally left.



On May 29, 1851, she advocated for women and African Americans in her speech given at the Ohio Women’s Rights Convention in Akron, Ohio, titled later as, “Ain’t I a Woman?” Her speech highlighted discrimination against women. Following is an excerpt from her speech, as transcribed by journalist Marius Robinson, who attended the convention and worked with Sojourner Truth on the transcript: “I can’t read, but I can hear. I have heard the Bible and have learned that Eve caused man to sin. Well, if woman upset the world, do give her a chance to set it right side up again. The Lady has spoken about Jesus, how he never spurned woman from him, and she was right. When Lazarus died, Mary and Martha came to him with faith and love and besought him to raise their brother. And Jesus wept and Lazarus came forth. And how came Jesus into the world? Through God who created him and the woman who bore him. Man, where was your part? But the women are coming up blessed be God and a few of the men are coming up with them. But man is in a tight place, the poor slave is on him, woman is coming on him, he is surely between a hawk and a buzzard.”

Over the next ten years, Truth spoke before dozens, perhaps hundreds of audiences. From 1851 to 1853, Truth worked with Marius Robinson, the editor of the Ohio Anti-Slavery Bugle, and traveled around Ohio preaching. She was once quoted as saying, “Man is so selfish that he has got women’s rights and his own too, and yet he won’t give women their rights. He keeps them all to himself.” In 2014, Sojourner Truth was included in the Smithsonian magazine’s list of the “100 Most Significant Americans of All Time.” A memorial bust of Sojourner Truth was unveiled in 2009 in Emancipation Hall in the US Capitol Visitor’s Center, and she was the first African American to have a statue in the Capitol building. Sojourner Truth died at her Battle Creek, Michigan, home on November 26, 1883. On November 28, her funeral was held at the Congregational-Presbyterian Church, officiated by its pastor, the Reverend Reed Stuart. Truth was buried in the city’s Oak Hill Cemetery. A 12-foot larger than life sculpture of Sojourner Truth was dedicated in 1999 in Battle Creek’s Monument Park.

Bishop Charles Mason (September 8, 1864 — November 17, 1961) — Founder of Church of God In Christ



(Source: http://www.cogic.org/blog/cogic-history-bishop-c-h-mason/)

Bishop Charles Harrison Mason was born September 8, 1864 on the Prior Farm near Memphis, Tennessee. In 1893 he began his Christian ministry and received his ministerial license from the Mt. Gale Missionary Baptist Church in Preston, Arkansas. He experienced sanctification through the Word of God and preached his first sermon on holiness from 2 Timothy 2:1–3, “Thou therefore endure hardness as a good solider of Jesus Christ.” On November 1, 1893, Elder Mason began attending the Arkansas Baptist College, but withdrew after three months because he was dissatisfied with the methods of teaching and the presentation of the Bible message. He began preaching in every pulpit that was opened to him, declaring Christ by word, example, and precept.

In 1896 in Jackson, Mississippi, Mason held a revival which had a far-reaching effect on the city. The spiritual manifestations of healing and sanctification caused church doors within the Baptist denomination to be closed to him. So in 1897, he was forced to deliver his message from the south entrance of the courthouse in Jackson, Mississippi. John Lee, who desired to see Bishop Mason’s ministry continue, provided the living room of his home the next night. Because of the overwhelming number who attended, Mr. Watson, the owner of an abandoned warehouse in Lexington, Mississippi, gave his consent to transfer the revival meeting to the warehouse, which became the meeting house for the Church of God In Christ. The revival continued with miracles and deliverances that stirred up the devil, and someone shot five pistol shots and two double-barreled shotgun blasts into the midst of the saints as they shouted and prayed. Some were wounded, but miraculously no one was killed.



In 1897, seeking a spiritual name which would distinguish the church from others, the name Church of God in Christ was revealed, based on 1 Thessalonians 2:14: “For ye brethren became followers of the churches of God which in Judea are in Christ Jesus: for ye have suffered like things of your own countrymen even as they have of the Jews.” The turning point in Elder Mason’s life came in March 1907 when he journeyed to Los Angeles, California, to attend a great Pentecostal revival meeting. William Seymour was preaching concerning Luke 24:49, “And behold I send the promise of my Father upon you; but tarry ye in the city of Jerusalem until ye be endued with power from on high.” Elder Mason became convinced that it was essential for him to have the outpouring of the Holy Ghost.

Following are excerpts from Elder Mason’s personal testimony regarding receiving the Holy Ghost. “The first day in the meeting I sat to myself, away from those that went with me. I began to thank God in my heart for all things, for when I heard some speak in tongues, I knew it was right though I did not understand it. Nevertheless, it was sweet to me. I also thank God for Elder Seymour who came and preached a wonderful sermon. His words were sweet and powerful. The second night of prayer I saw a vision. I saw myself standing alone and had a dry roll of paper in my mouth trying to swallow it. Looking up towards the heavens, there appeared a man at my side. I turned my eyes at once, then I awoke and the interpretation came. God had me swallowing the whole book and if I did not turn my eyes to anyone but God and Him only, He would baptize me. I said yes to Him, and at once in the morning when I arose, I could hear a voice in me saying, ‘I see…’ I got a place at the altar and began to thank God. After that, I said Lord if I could only baptize myself, I would do so; for I wanted the baptism so bad I did not know what to do. I said, Lord, You will have to do the work for me; so I turned it over into His hands. Then, I began to ask for the baptism of the Holy Ghost according to Acts 2:41, which readeth thus: ‘Then they that gladly received His word were baptized,’ Then I saw that I had a right to be glad and not sad. The enemy said to me, there may be something wrong with you. Then a voice spoke to me saying, if there is anything wrong with you, Christ will find it and take it away and marry you… Someone said, ‘Let us sing.’ I arose and the first song that came to me was ‘He brought me out of the Miry Clay.’ The Spirit came upon the saints and upon me…Then I gave up for the Lord to have His way within me. So there came a wave of Glory into me and all of my being was filled with the Glory of the Lord. So when He had gotten me straight on my feet, there came a light which enveloped my entire being above the brightness of the sun. When I opened my mouth to say Glory, a flame touched my tongue which ran down me. My language changed and no word could I speak in my own tongue. Oh! I was filled with the Glory of the Lord. My soul was then satisfied.”

Not everyone was thrilled with what happened at Azusa Street and Mason’s baptism in the Holy Ghost. This new Pentecostal experience caused a division within the ranks of Elder Mason’s contemporaries, and the General Assembly of the Church of God in Christ withdrew the right hand of fellowship from Bishop Mason. This led to the organization of the first Pentecostal General Assembly of the Church of God in Christ, and Charles Mason was unanimously chosen as the General Overseer and Chief Apostle of the denomination, which is today headquartered in Memphis, Tennessee. He was given complete authority to establish doctrine and appoint overseers. As Chief Apostle, he immediately dedicated 20 days, November 25th through December 14th annually as a meeting time for all his followers to fellowship with one another and to transact all ecclesiastical and secular affairs pertinent to the growth of the National Organization.

Under Bishop Mason’s spiritual and apostolic direction, the Church of God in Christ grew from ten congregations in 1907 to the largest Pentecostal group in America. The membership of the Church of God in Christ expanded from three million in 1973 to an estimated 5.2 million in 1997. Churches under the parent body in Memphis, Tennessee, are now established throughout the United States, on every continent, and in many of the islands of the sea.

William Seymour (May 2, 1870 — September 28, 1922) Founder of Azusa Street Revival

Sources: https://www.christianitytoday.com/history/issues/issue-65/pentecostalism-william-seymour.html

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/William_J._Seymour

Of all the outstanding Black religious leaders in the 20th century, one of the most recognized is William Seymour, the unsung pastor of the Azusa Street Mission in Los Angeles, California, and the catalyst of the worldwide Pentecostal movement. Vinson Synan, historian and author, stated of the movement, “What scoffers viewed as a weird babble of tongues became a world phenomenon after William Seymour’s Los Angeles revival.” William Joseph Seymour was born in Centerville, Louisiana, on May 2, 1870 to former slaves Simon and Phyllis Seymour. Raised as a Baptist, Seymour was given to dreams and visions as a youth. At 25 years of age, he moved to Indianapolis, where he worked as a railroad porter and then waited on tables in a fashionable restaurant. Around this time, he contracted smallpox and went blind in one eye. In 1900 he relocated to Cincinnati, Ohio, where he joined the reformation Church of God. Here he embraced holiness theology, which taught sanctification, divine healing, and the promise of a worldwide Holy Spirit revival before the rapture of the church. In 1903 he moved to Houston, Texas, and joined a small Holiness church pastored by a Black woman, Lucy Farrow, who put him in touch with Charles Parham, from whom he adopted the belief that speaking in tongues was the sign of receiving the baptism in the Holy Ghost.

In 1906, Seymour moved to Los Angeles, California. On February 22, 1906, Seymour arrived in Los Angeles and preached at Julia Hutchins’ church two days later. Hutchins rejected Seymour’s position on speaking in tongues being the evidence of the baptism in the Holy Spirit and had the church doors padlocked to keep Seymour out. He stayed at the home of a friend, Edward Lee, and started a prayer meeting at Lee’s house. When the meeting grew too large for Lee’s house, it moved two blocks away to the home of another African American, Richard Asberry. The prayer group accepted Seymour’s teaching and prayed to receive the baptism of the Holy Ghost. On April 6, 1906, the prayer group decided to add fasting to their discipline of regular prayer and planned a 10-day fast, during which they would study Acts 2:1–4 and pray each evening until they had the same experience described in the text. Over the next three days, the Asberry’s home became the focus of attention among the various networks of the Wesleyan Holiness group. The news spread like fire and gave birth to the Azusa Street Revival!

On April 12, 1906, after a long evening spent in prayer, William Seymour himself received the baptism in the Holy Spirit and began speaking in tongues. By this time, the group was far too large for the Asberry house. God was doing a powerful work and reaping a harvest of souls for the Kingdom. The group moved to an old African Methodist Episcopal (AME) church building at 312 Azusa Street in Los Angeles, also known as the Azusa Street Mission. The revival grew quickly and crowds of up to 1,500 packed into the small mission for the better part of three years. Well-known names in the early Pentecostal movement like Parham, Lake, F.F. Bosworth, Charles Mason, and many others attended the revival and then took what they had received to the mission fields. The Azusa Street Revival drew large crowds of believers and media coverage that focused on its controversial religious practices, as well as integrated worship services, which violated the racial norms of the time. As William Seymour continued preaching his fiery message on the Holy Ghost, he was launched into prominence within the young Pentecostal movement.

In 1906, Seymour broke with Parham, who was white, over theological differences, as well as Parham’s unhappiness with interracial revival meetings. From the beginning, the movement saw Blacks and whites worshiping and seeking God together at the same altar, against the normal segregationist attitude of the day. Seymour said that the Holy Spirit was drawing people to the revival, regardless of social and racial barriers. Eternal life knew no barriers. The Kingdom of God would reap a harvest from every tribe, nation, and tongue (Revelation 7:9). The Azusa Street Revival acted as a catalyst for the spread of Pentecostalism, and speaking in tongues, and integrated worship throughout the world. The revival also played an important role in the history of most major Pentecostal denominations. By the end of 1909, the movement covered every region of the United States with additional missions planted in 50 nations worldwide. The Azusa Street Revival had to withstand attacks by rival religious groups, the local press, and those against racial integration. In October 1906, Parham arrived at the Azusa Street Mission and launched a racially-tinged assault on what he deemed fanaticism and religious anarchy. Parham preached against the racial mixing of the revival. Seymour responded by recanting an earlier acknowledgement of Parham’s authority and declared the Holy Ghost to be the mission’s only leader. Parham became the most far-reaching challenge to Seymour’s leadership, and Seymour dismissed Parham from the mission.

The revival at Azusa continued to grow until 1908. Parham and other evangelists began discrediting the movement, citing doctrinal differences. Seymour’s authority over the burgeoning Pentecostal revival began to slip and his significant contributions to the larger American Pentecostal movement were largely minimized by his contemporaries. Although his message had spread around the world, by 1914 Seymour’s congregation on Azusa Street had shrunk to a small local African American church. He continued as pastor until his death. On September 28, 1922, Seymour suffered two heart attacks and died in the arms of his wife, Jennie Seymour. He was buried in Evergreen Cemetery in East Los Angeles.

Under Seymour’s leadership, the Azusa Street Mission sent evangelists throughout the United States spreading the Pentecostal message from Los Angeles all over the United States and resulted in many missions that modeled themselves after Azusa. By 1914, Pentecostalism had spread to almost every major U.S. city. All major American Pentecostal denominations can trace their origins to Azusa Street, including the Assemblies of God, the Church of God in Christ, the Church of God (based in Cleveland, Tennessee, just over 80 miles from Knoxville), the Pentecostal Assemblies of the World, the United Pentecostal Church, and the Pentecostal Holiness Church. The mission’s doctrines quickly went around the world, with many of the missionaries spreading the new message, having themselves been at the Azusa Street revival. By 1907, missionaries from Azusa Street had reached Mexico, Canada, Western Europe, the Middle East, West Africa, and parts of Asia. In the 21st century, estimates of worldwide Pentecostal membership range from 115 million to 400 million.

Martin Luther King, Jr. (January 15, 1929 — April 4, 1968) American Christian Pastor, Preacher, and Activist

Sources: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Martin_Luther_King_Jr.

https://thekingcenter.org/about-dr-king/

https://www.pbs.org/wnet/religionandethics/2006/01/13/january-13-2006-martin-luther-king-jr-as-pastor/1788/

It is amazing and truly astounding what one man of God, submitted to the leadership and authority of Jesus Christ, can accomplish. Dr. King didn’t just talk Christianity, he lived it, sacrificing his own comfort and convenience and even his life to advance the cause of Christ!

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., was the most visible spokesperson and leader in the Civil Rights Movement from 1955 until his assassination in 1968. Dr. King is best known for advancing civil rights through nonviolence and civil disobedience, inspired by his Christian beliefs and nonviolent activism. During the less than 13 years of Dr. King’s leadership of the Civil Rights Movement, African Americans achieved more genuine progress toward racial equality in America than the previous 350 years had produced.

Dr. King is regarded as one of the greatest nonviolent leaders in world history, notably leading a movement to achieve legal equality for African Americans in the United States. While others advocated for freedom “by any means necessary,” including violence, Dr. King used the power of words and acts of nonviolent resistance, such as protests, grassroots organization, and civil disobedience to achieve seemingly impossible goals. He went on to lead similar campaigns against poverty and international conflict, always maintaining loyalty to his principles that men and women everywhere, regardless of color or creed, are equal members of the human family.


Dr. King’s “I Have a Dream” speech, Nobel Peace Prize lecture, and “Letter from a Birmingham Jail” are among the most revered orations and writings in the English language. His accomplishments are now taught to American children of all races, and his teachings are studied by scholars and students worldwide. He is the only non-president to have a national holiday dedicated in his honor and is the only non-president memorialized on the Great Mall in the nation’s capitol. He is memorialized in hundreds of statues, parks, streets, squares, churches, and other public facilities around the world as a leader whose teachings are increasingly relevant to the progress of humankind.

In the fall of 1947, Dr. King delivered his first sermon at the pulpit of Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta, Georgia. Ebenezer’s congregation voted to license Dr. King as a minister soon afterward, and he was ordained in February 1948. He went on to serve as Ebenezer’s associate minister through early 1954, and returned as co-pastor with his father, serving from 1960 until his assassination in 1968. From 1954 until 1960, Dr. King was the pastor of the Dexter Avenue Baptist Church in Montgomery.


The role of pastor may be one of the most overlooked sides of Martin Luther King Jr., but it was one of the most important aspects of who he was. Professor Lewis Baldwin, Professor of Religious Studies and Director of African American Studies at Vanderbilt University, said of Dr. King, “Many labels were attached to him during his lifetime. He was called a civil rights activist; he was called a social activist, a social change agent, a world figure. But I think he thought of himself first and foremost as a preacher, as a Christian pastor.”

Reverend Mary Jo Smiley said of Dr. King’s role as preacher: “…you sat there awed. You understood every word. And he didn’t — he used words maybe you hadn’t heard before, but somehow you knew what it meant and you felt a closeness to him as he spoke. And you felt as if he was speaking directly to you. And he, in the church, would engage the women to help him, not just to dust off the pews or keep the utensils clean, but he would engage them in helping make plans for the church, programs and whatnot. I felt something from him to me that said, “You’re needed in the church, too.”


Professor Baldwin stated that, “Being a pastor for him was being a civil rights leader. I think Dr. King always felt that a preacher and a pastor had to be relevant. That is, you must speak to the issues of your time, and you must be able to relate the Gospel and the biblical revelation to the social issues and concerns of your time.”

Some of Dr. King’s most notable achievements include the Montgomery bus boycott in 1955 to force integration of the city’s bus lines. After 381 days of nearly universal participation by citizens of the black community, many of whom had to walk miles to work each day, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that racial segregation in transportation was unconstitutional.

In 1957, Dr. King was elected president of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC), an organization designed to provide new leadership for the now burgeoning Civil Rights Movement. During this period, he would emerge as the most important social leader of the modern American Civil Rights Movement. He served as head of the SCLC until his assassination at the Lorraine Motel in Memphis, Tennessee, in 1968.

In 1963, Dr. King led a coalition of numerous civil rights groups in a nonviolent campaign aimed at Birmingham, Alabama, which at the time was described as the most segregated city in America. The brutality of the city’s police, illustrated vividly by television images of young Blacks being assaulted by dogs and water hoses, led to a national outrage and resulted in a push for unprecedented civil rights legislation. It was during this campaign that Dr. King drafted the “Letter from a Birmingham Jail,” the manifesto of Dr. King’s philosophy and tactics, which is required reading today in universities worldwide. Later in 1963, Dr. King was one of the driving forces behind the “March for Jobs and Freedom,” more commonly known as the “March on Washington,” which drew over a quarter million people to the National Mall. It was at this march Dr. King delivered his famous, “I Have a Dream” speech, which cemented his status as a social change leader and helped inspire the nation to act on civil rights. In this speech, he cried out, “Let freedom ring from Lookout Mountain in Tennessee!” Here in Knoxville, Tennessee, where I pastor a thriving church, freedom is ringing, as I preach the Good News of eternal life and witness the harvest of souls Christ died to receive.

Time magazine in its January 4, 1964 issue named Dr. King its “Man of the Year.” In 1964, at 35 years old, Dr. King became the youngest person to receive the Nobel Peace Prize. His acceptance speech in Oslo on December 6, 1964, is thought by many to be among the most powerful remarks ever delivered at the event, climaxing at one point with the oft-quoted phrase, “I believe that unarmed truth and unconditional love will have the final word in reality. This is why right temporarily defeated is stronger than evil triumphant.”

Dr. King’s less than 13 years of nonviolent leadership ended abruptly and tragically on April 4, 1968, when he was assassinated at the Lorraine Motel in Memphis, Tennessee. Dr. King’s body was returned to his hometown of Atlanta, Georgia, where his funeral ceremony was attended by high-level leaders of all races and political stripes. Later in 1968, Dr. King’s wife, Mrs. Coretta Scott King, officially founded the Martin Luther King Jr. Center for Nonviolent Social Change, which she dedicated to being a “living memorial” aimed at continuing Dr. King’s work on important social ills around the world.

Andrae Crouch (July 1, 1942 — January 8, 2015) Gospel singer, songwriter, arranger, record producer, pastor

Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Andra%C3%A9_Crouch

Andrae Crouch is referred to as “the father of modern Gospel music” by contemporary Christian and Gospel music professionals. He was known for his compositions, “The Blood Will Never Lose Its Power,” “My Tribute (To God Be the Glory),” and “Soon and Very Soon.” He collaborated on some of his recordings with artists such as Stevie Wonder, El DeBarge, Philip Bailey, Chaka Khan, Sheila E., and vocal group Take 6. Many recording artists covered his material, including Bob Dylan, Barbara Mandrell, Paul Simon, Elvis Presley, and Little Richard. In the 1980s and 1990s, he was known as the “go to” producer for superstars who sought a Gospel choir sound in their recordings, appearing on a number of recordings, including Michael Jackson’s “Man in the Mirror,” Madonna’s “Like a Prayer,” and “The Power,” a duet between Elton John and Little Richard.

Andrae Crouch was known for incorporating secular music styles into the gospel music he grew up with. His efforts in this area helped pave the way for early American contemporary Christian music during the 1960s and 1970s. Crouch’s original music arrangements were heard in the films The Color Purple¸ for which he received an Oscar nomination, and Disney’s The Lion King, as well as the NBC television series Amen. Awards and honors received include seven Grammy awards, induction into the Gospel Music Hall of Fame in 1998, and a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

Crouch’s first group musical effort was formed in 1960 as the Church of God in Christ Singers. The group included future recording artist and session musician Billy Preston on keyboards and was the first to record Crouch’s song, “The Blood Will Never Lose Its Power.” Crouch has been credited as a key figure in the Jesus music of the 1960s and 1970s; and, as a result, helped bring contemporary Christian music into the church. He is also credited with helping bridge the gap between Black and white Christian music and revolutionized the sound of urban Gospel music. His songs have become staples in churches and hymnals around the world and have been recorded by mainstream artists such as Elvis Presley and Paul Simon. His affiliation with Light Records was instrumental in bringing Walter and Tramaine Hawkins and The Winans to the label.

Crouch had a friendship and music relationship with Michael Jackson. In 1987, the Andrae Crouch Choir sang background vocals, along with The Winans, on Jackson’s hit single “Man in the Mirror.” The Andrae Crouch Singers were also featured on other Michael Jackson songs and albums: “Keep the Faith,” “Will You Be There?” “Earth Song,” and “Speechless.” Crouch’s composition, “Soon and Very Soon” was performed by the Andrae Crouch Choir at the public memorial service for Michael Jackson held at the Staples Center in Los Angeles on July 7, 2009.

Between 1993 and 1994, Andrae Crouch suffered the loss of his father, mother, and older brother. After his father’s death, Crouch and his sister, Sandra, took over the shared duty of senior pastor at the church his parents founded, Christ Memorial Church of God in Christ in Pacoima, California.

Crouch survived four different forms of cancer and was also hospitalized for complications from diabetes in his last few years of life. In early December 2014, Crouch was hospitalized for pneumonia and congestive heart failure. He was hospitalized again on January 3, 2015, in Los Angeles, ,as the result of a heart attack. On January 8, 2015, at Northridge Hospital Medical Center in Los Angeles, Crouch went home to receive his reward of eternal life. He was 72 years old. On the same day his sister, Sandra, released the following statement: “Today my twin brother, womb-mate and best friend went home to be with the Lord. Please keep me, my family and our church family in your prayers. I tried to keep him here, but God loved him best.”

Unity in Christ

Although Satan’s plan is to create division in the church and destroy it, Jesus informs us in Scripture, “I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.” Although Satan relentlessly tries to destroy the Church, the Holy Spirit is moving within her, strengthening her, and making her a force to be reckoned with. The Black church and Christianity in general have suffered attack, persecution, oppression, and division, but God is raising up a unified remnant Church who is standing and preaching the Good News of eternal life and freedom in Christ! And whom the Son sets free is free indeed! As John 8:36 declares, “If the Son therefore shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed.”

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