By: Nevaeh Richardson
Willie Wright Jr. has been servicing the Houston community for decades, providing ministry to those in need. African-American News&Issues spoke to Wright about how he got started an what spiritual challenges Blacks, particularly our youth, face today.
AANI: Are you a native Houstonian? If not, how long have you been in Houston?
Wright: Well I came to Houston via Lexington, Mississippi in the 1980’s and I’ve been here ever since. I came for Texas Southern University.
AANI: Where did you get your start in ministry, and how long have you been in it?
Wright: I started in Mississippi at my home church. I was called to the ministry, and when I was called, I didn’t feel like God wanted me to pattern after other ministers and pastors. When I came to Houston, there was one pastor, who’s now deceased, who really left an impact and imprint on my heart. That was Pastor A. Lewis Jr. of Mount Corinth in Fifth Ward.
When I needed direction, he was one I could go to and with him, there was no hidden agenda. There have been other pastors here in the city that I used to go to for conference, and they would pray, offer counsel, and advise, but they had a hidden agenda. They wanted to take the church and undermine me so that they could sell it for their own personal use. Other preachers had hidden agendas, but not Pastor Lewis – and I want to say the same thing for the late Minister Johnson.
AANI: What do you think of the decline of younger Black people going to church?
Wright: Well they have options now. Everything is online. They have options without having examples. I can’t get you to come over to be a part of what I’m doing at church, if I’m doing the same thing you are doing in the world if I’m cussing you out big time, drinking and gambling big time, acting gay or lesbian big time, why should they attend church, when everybody in the church is doing the same thing that they are doing.
AANI: What do you think is driving younger Black people away from the church?
Wright: Lack of leadership. There is no vision. Other than having music, they are not being fed spiritually. Their spiritual needs are not being met. I was raised in the rural areas of Mississippi, and whenever you call cows to the trough, you better have something for them to eat, because if you call them again, they’re not going to show up. We are inviting them, but we are not giving them anything to eat spiritually, and their spiritual needs are going unmet.
AANI: Do you think the church could do a better job of reaching out to Black youth?
Wright: We have to meet them where they are. Most of Jesus’ ministry was spent outside of the church. What most churches are doing… they rather shop and take members from someone else’s congregation. There are more people out in the world who are not part of anybody’s church, but we are so complacent now… ‘Well I’m not going to go through that effort, I can take or borrow from someone else’s church.’ Instead of being out with the homeless population… there’s a population of those who are incarcerated, those who are being paroled, we are not trying to bust them into the churches. We leave that population unattended and unaddressed. And then you have the sick and shut in, the homebound. When I’m out in the streets some of the seniors who have been active in church with their presence and with their finances, many have told me that my prayers have been the only prayers that they have received because their churches are not praying for them, their pastors are not visiting them, their Sunday School teachers and department heads are not checking in on them.
AANI: There’s an increase of young Black adults and youth saying Christianity is an aspect of white supremacy introduced to us through slavery and that it has harmed the Black community more than it has done good. What do you think of that?
Wright: Christianity has been a big benefit. Now initially, Black people had the land… later missionaries had the Bibles. Missionaries came with the bibles, but they left with the land and left us with the bibles. But the word of God is true. We must practice the word. The word of God is doable… it is practical, and when we live out the word of God, we are able to make a difference. But right now, we are not practicing the word, we are not living the word. We learn the word, but we are supposed to love and live the word. For most of us it’s head knowledge, it never makes it to the heart. We are not profiting from the promise of God, because we are not practicing the principles of God.
AANI: What would you say to those who’ve experienced church hurt?
Wright: It has been said that hurt people, hurt people. You experience hurt because you came across someone who was hurting. You go to the bank, someone started out with a bad day, that person’s going to take it out on you, you get hurt at the bank and you don’t stop banking. You don’t stop going to the church, because the good always outweighs the bad. When it comes to doing God’s work, the best is yet to come. We break down before we receive the breakthrough, and sometimes the breakthrough is right around the corner. You have to press through.
AANI: What is your vision for the Black community and the church? Do you think the relationship between the Black community and the church can heal? What will it take to make healing possible?
Wright: We have to be sincere. We have to put people first. We have to make the Bible our authority. We have to use the word of God as our authority, because if the word of God is not our sole authority we’ll be going by public opinions, we’ll be going by hot topics, we’ll be going by current issues. If the word of God is not our authority, then we would be promoting the homosexual agenda.
Some churches are known for their political platforms and not known for the word of God. They’d rather be politically correct instead of being biblically correct. Even though we love sinners, we hate the sin. I have endorsed gay and lesbian candidates, so I don’t dislike them, but God considers that lifestyle an abomination. I would choose a gay person over anyone who is a racist. I would choose a gay person over Donald Trump…I can vote for a gay or lesbian person, but I would fight him or her every step of the way to make sure that we are not promoting that lifestyle into public policy…
Most people will accept being Christian if they saw a real Christian. The only thing that keeps the community from becoming more Christ-like is that they don’t see Christians. They see Christians only at church, but not in the community. The church has adopted the lifestyle of the community and the city, instead of the city adopting the lifestyle of the church. But our focus has to be the word of God, and in the words of Pastor A. Lewis Jr., “Be Christ-centered, keep Him center, sum, and circumference, everything revolves around Him. Stay bible-based, the bible is our source of authority, it is our sole authority, and be prayer-minded.” If you want to catch the fish, you have to go where they are, because we are too busy waiting for them to come to us, knowing we have to go to them. Most of Jesus’ ministry was not spent in a sanctuary, It was spent in the streets, away from the sanctuary, away from the church.