Ministering In A Millennial World
Tapping into the shared human experience
By Sheri L. Stuart, Staff Writer
Trends may come and go, but the need to feel love and compassion will always remain. They are the two universal drivers of the human experience said Bishop Urundi Knox, Pastor of Ebenezer Ministries in Burton, Michigan. Bishop Knox served as assistant pastor alongside his father, Rev. Clarence Knox, for several years before assuming the role of senior pastor, a position he has held for the past 24 years. Bishop Knox sat down with the Courier for a one-on-one interview covering a wide range of topics, including Flint’s Water Crisis. He said it was a message that he heard while living in Baltimore, Maryland that implored him to return to the Flint area to help elevate his hometown.
“A great friend of mine gave me a tape of the Honorable Louis Farrakhan who was speaking to the fact that we who go on and get our degrees from various institutions don’t give back to our community or our city. Understanding who God is, I wanted to do something for my hometown. That word resonated with me and directed me to come back and work within my community. I said, ‘Lord, I hear you’. You’ve given me a call to uplift your people. That’s what led me to the ministry. My father never pushed me,” he said.
Reaching Another Generation
Bishop Knox said he believes to stay relevant and to connect in a meaningful way with millennials –18-to-35-year-olds–who are said to be leaving churches in record numbers, there must first be an understanding of the origins of the black church.
“If you understand the history of the black church, you’ll know that it was not used solely for religious purposes. It was also used for our economic and political base. It also taught us social skills. So, with millennials not coming to church, they’re missing some of the things they should be getting from the church that they’re not getting elsewhere. They didn’t grow up during the time where church was relevant like it was with the baby boomers. So, I make a conscious effort to not have long services. There’s been a shift from keeping people in church two or more hours. Millennials are accustomed to receiving information quickly. I try to be conscience of these two factors,” he said.
Over the years, Bishop Knox has led Ebenezer Ministries to pioneer innovative outreach programs throughout the community such as hosting Sunday worship services at Riverbank Park in downtown Flint. Their latest outreach program is one called “Pop-Up Church”, which is advertised on social media and held at various times and locations around Flint. At the end of each service, church members pop-up or open their car trunks and distribute cases of water to the community.
“We try to do a service in a 30-minute period for individuals who don’t come to a physical church or come into our building,” explained Bishop Knox. “Our goal ultimately is to get people to accept Christ as their personal Savior. We understand that time is of the essence, so we try to get a praise, worship, a word and a prayer in and at that time offer salvation to people.
Bishop Knox said there are plans to expand pop-up church throughout Genesee County and to transport a portable baptism tank where people can be baptized on the spot.
“We would love for people to become a member of our church, but if they choose a different location, that’s fine too,” he said. “We know that we are doing the Great Commission. We’re going outside our walls,” Bishop Knox said.
Flint’s Water Crisis
While national news outlets have long left the city, Bishop Knox said he is reminded daily that the water crisis is still very real for the community, including many members of the Ebenezer congregation. Yet, he remains hopeful for a positive outcome.
“If you look at any city or society, there is always something that will direct people back to God,” said Bishop Knox. Whatever is happening in your life, God will have the final say. People may ignore God now, but at the end of the day, every knee will bow, and every tongue will confess. We all know that we have God who is going to supply our every need, even in a crisis of this nature.”
“I don’t denounce any religious group, but I believe in God the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. I know what it’s like to feel out of place and to be rejected. Everyone wants to be accepted for who they choose to be and who they choose to love. I’m just asking people to love one another and recognize that God is supreme,” said Bishop Knox.