Ministry

Interview with Dr. R.L. White

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There are ministers that deliver a word to bring peace to a troubled soul.

Then, there are ministers whose words are quick, powerful and sharper than any two-edged sword.

And then, there are ministers whose wit and humorous tales place them among today's best stand-up comedians.

Dr. R.L. White is one of these exceptional men of God, given the talent to speak in a diversity of ways that has touched millions in America and around the world.

Whether it's from the pulpit where he’s pastored for the last 31 years at the Mount Ephraim Baptist Church in Atlanta; his successful weekly television ministry on BET; or his independent recording ministry that's captured both him and his wife - Reverend Lorraine Jacques-White - singing and preaching for nearly 15 years, Rev. R.L. White has definitely left a measurable impression as one of God's anointed modern-day messengers.

Unwilling to rest on his laurels, the Reverend R.L. White is diligently at work as he prepares to embark upon his journey to the motherland this month where he'll be establishing the Word Power Ministries in Keta, Ghana.

In addition, the artist also known as Rev. White is getting ready to launch his latest CD featuring the Sanctuary Mass Choir and God's Volunteers entitled, “Change Me” (Faith Records).

We spoke with this son of a Baptist preacher, from his office at the Atlanta church.

It was clearly evident from my meeting with him that this humble servant of God is forging ahead with a purpose and goal in mind. And, if you're wondering what R.L. stand for, you'll have to ask him yourself.

Some names are better left initialized. Our warmest prayers are with him and his family as they continue to bring souls to Christ.

Christopher Heron: At what point, as a man or a young boy, did you realize you had a calling to serve God?

Rev. R.L. White: I’ve been in the church all my life; my father was a minister, both my grandfathers were ministers, and so I was always religious.

My mother taught me how to sing as a child so I’ve always been singing, but of course I strayed a little as most people do, in my young age, but I came back to church when I was 21 or something like that.

CH: Have you always been a Baptist?

REV. WHITE: My father was Missionary Baptist, so I’ve always been comfortable in the Baptist church.

I’ve started two churches; one in Washington, D.C. and of course the one at which I’ve served for the last thirty years.

CH: Here in Atlanta?

REV. WHITE: Yes sir, I started Mount Ephraim Baptist Church with thirteen members thirty years ago.

CH: And what’s the membership now?

REV. WHITE: We have over 12,000 members today.

CH: There are a lot of church folks in Atlanta. How do you account for so many people attending church?

REV. WHITE: The whole southeastern United States is referred to as the Bible belt. After slavery, people were just more religious.

There are some cities that seem to capture that religious spirit. Atlanta has been a mecca, if you will.

They’ve been able to keep the interest of those who come here. It’s a deeply spiritual city.

CH: You’ve added your talent for singing to your church ministry? Did you always feel you had a gift for singing?

REV. WHITE: My mother taught me to sing when I wasn’t even big enough to get up on the podium. They would stand me up and I would sing.

Music got a hold of me at an early age and I have never forgotten it. Now I sing because I love to and I preach because I have to. (Laughs)

CH: If there is a particular vision you have for your church here, what would it be?

REV. WHITE: Well, we’re working on our vision now in two or three different areas: 1) we’re currently involved in building a church, hospital and school in Ghana, West Africa. That’s one of our main objectives at this point; and 2) we have a television ministry in the city on BET.

We’re off for the next two-three weeks, but back on the January 25th at 5am E.S.T.

We are trying to reach the world ‘cause we have a message to tell the world about love, peace and happiness.

CH: I’ve always marveled at how ministers are able to shepherd enormously large congregation like yours.

How do you keep it all in perspective and still have the hands-on approach with your members?

How do members who have a variety of pressing issues like marital problems, substance abuse or pregnancy take their concerns to the pastor?

REV. WHITE: For one thing, in order to remain relevant to your members, you must know where they hurt.

One of the best ways I've found to do that is through counseling. I counsel two days a week.

That way I know where my people hurt, I know what their spiritual needs are and it helps me to keep a finger on the pulse of the congregation. When I had thirteen members I knew everybody.

But now, it’s harder, we have had to hire more staff; it gets to be a little more difficult, but you can do it, if you care.

CH: You have been one of the few ministers who I’ve had the opportunity to enjoy through recordings. Are you planning to do future recordings featuring your best sermons?

REV. WHITE: Oh yes, the fact is we regularly put out a sermon every two or three years.

I end up doing it because I hear from people all over the world. It’s amazing how these tapes get out there and I intend to put out sermons for a long time to come.

CH: Were there any particular men of God that inspired your delivery in your speaking?

REV. WHITE: I think my style is my style alone. (Laughs)

For years and years past the Rev. Dr. C.L. Franklin used to inspire most ministers, then after him the Rev. Jasper Williams and the list goes on and on. But I don’t think I take after anybody, I think I advocate me.

CH: You have a sharp sense of humor in your sermons.

Even when you’re delivering the message, someone may perceive a sense of humor; others may perceive it to be a sharp stab, bringing some reality to the way Christians need to live their lives.

Is that fair to say?

REV. WHITE: God has given me this uncanny ability to make people laugh.

One parishioner said to me “once you had me laughing so hard that when I got home, I said wait a minute, he told me off.” (Laughs)

So it serves its purpose. One minister said to me, “I don’t know many ministers who can say what you say in the pulpit and get away with it.”

He said, “you can curse people out and then they shout.” So, it’s a gift.

CH: With a minister of your magnitude and high visibility, when you face adversity, temptation, hardship where do you turn to?

Do you turn to your wife or do you turn to other ministers in the faith to share with?

REV. WHITE: When you get high visibility you have to be very careful whom you turn to. There are some things I can turn to my wife for, there are other times when I have to have a friend.

Not every pastor has a pastor to be accountable to (or needs one), but I do have one.

I’m like a doctor.

A doctor doesn’t operate on himself; he goes to another doctor. So I go to another pastor, one that I, of course, trust and one who doesn’t have professional jealousy.

There are some people who are professionally jealous, especially if they perceive your ministry is at a higher level than theirs. Then they may not be the best ones to talk to.

So across the country, I have three or four minister friends who I know care for my well-being and we share.

CH: Finally, what particular scripture, what words are always a source of encouragement, a source of inspiration for you from the word of God?

REV. WHITE: I have so many. I like positive scriptures. I think Paul was the most positive man that wrote in the Bible. “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” that has been a source.

Another one is where Jesus says “a new commandment that I give unto you, love one another as I have loved you...” and he also says, “By this shall all men know you are my disciples.”

I think the greatest evidence that one is truly a Christian is by the love that we show. It’s no need for you talk to love and not forgive.

Love helps us to forgive, and God is love.

Reverend R. L. White can be seen on BET every Thursday morning at 5am (est).

You may order his preaching ministry from Faith Records by calling Faith Records’ toll free number at 800-533-2484.

For more information on Dr. R.L. White, Jr. and his church ministry at the Mount Ephraim Baptist Church in Atlanta, Georgia, visit their web site at www.mtephraim.com or send him an email at mteph@bellsouth.net.



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