As a message of hope and resilience during times of adversity, Presiding Bishop Charles E. Blake, Sr. shares the inspiring story of his journey to the pulpit as Pastor of West Angeles Church of God In Christ.
I preached my first sermon in 1957. Between school terms, I traveled across the nation preaching revivals and attending COGIC conventions. When I finished college, I enrolled in graduate school at ITC, the Interdenominational Theological Center in Atlanta, GA (the same school that Elder Charles Blake, II graduated from).
During my education, I worked as a public school janitor and also as a recreation leader for the city of Atlanta to help support myself financially. My salary was $45 a week. and I decided I better get married. I married Lady Mae. She was a school teacher (that brought a little money in…you single men, get married!). When I received my Master’s degree, my father, Bishop J.A. Blake, hired me at his church in San Diego, CA. With a wife and a child, I worked for my father for three years at a salary of $75 a week…$3900 a year.
After working for my father for three years, Bishop S.M. Crouch, the COGIC Bishop of Southern CA, informed me that he intended to assign me to a church in Los Angeles called West Angeles Church of God In Christ. The church had approximately 50 members, but it had been without an active pastor for over two years.
Although bishops appoint pastors in the Church of God In Christ, the existing leadership of this church had made up their minds not to acknowledge Bishop Crouch, or to receive any pastor that Bishop Crouch brought to their church. The night before I arrived, they’d voted 40 to 11 not to hear anything Bishop Crouch had to say.
Bishop Crouch and I arrived the next morning at the church, which was on 5th Avenue and West Adams Boulevard. Bishop Crouch went to the pulpit and preached, then announced that God had directed him “to appoint this young man, Charles Blake, as pastor of this church.” Seven men stood immediately to announce that they did not accept his appointment. Bishop Crouch told the seven men to sit down; they refused. So he said to the congregation, “Everybody, stand up.” The congregation stood. Bishop Crouch prayed the benediction, tapped me on the shoulder and said, “It’s yours, my boy” – and walked out the side door.
“A problem is not a problem with God.” – Presiding Bishop Charles E. Blake, Sr.
I stepped to the podium and spoke to the congregation and said, “Listen, if it doesn’t work out, I’ll be the first one out of here. But give me a chance, and if it works out, the church will be blessed. The majority of them voted at that time to give me an opportunity.
There were some in the crowd, however, who were determined that they were going to fight to the finish:
- A back-slidden preacher walked from jail to the center seat of the pulpit to try to take over the church.
- There were there years of continual litigation, where individuals filed lawsuits and personal claims.
- Folks invited me outside to fight, during which time I had to have an armed bodyguard for my personal protection.
- People would turn out the lights and disrupt our meetings with screams and with shouts.
I called the deacons and said, “You better get down here quick before I hurt somebody!” But in the midst of it all, the church congregation doubled in size the first year, doubled in size the second year, and doubled in size the third year, until it became the largest church in our denomination, and one of the largest churches in these United States. And that was history.
God let me know who the center of my life is to teach me that if He could bring me through that, then He can bring me through anything. If God can bless me in the midst of that, then God can bless me no matter what.
This message today about my experiences is to share with you that adversity and affliction do not mean failure or defeat. It just means that the more we are afflicted, the more we grow; the more we multiply, and God is going to get a greater glory.
A delay, a problem, may not be a real problem with God. Just show God that He’s in charge of your life. Hallelujah!
Adapted from the sermon “Greater Blessings for Greater Afflictions” at West Angeles Church of God In Christ, Los Angeles, CA. 7/12/15.
This sermon is available for purchase on CD or DVD at the West Angeles Christian Emporium, 3021 Crenshaw Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90016. Phone: (323) 731-3012.