Bishop George W. Brooks

by Tonya Dixon | October 23rd, 2012

Bishop & Mrs George W. Brooks (Photo by Mount Zion)

In 1975, 37 years ago, Bishop George and First Lady Edna Brooks were settling comfortably into their marriage of seven years (of course, being a bishop and first lady was nowhere on their radar). The learning curve associated with parenthood was beginning to straighten and level out. Their son, Kevin, was a rambunctious four-year-old. The couple was still glowing from the arrival of six-week-old baby girl, Keva. George was soaring up the corporate ladder and finally breaking through the financial ceiling for which he had been working so diligently. Additionally, he announced he had accepted his call to ministry, which was almost immediately followed by his initial sermon just a few months later. If that weren’t enough the growing family had just recently become first time homeowners. By all accounts the Brooks’ were busy, but doing quite well. The year was exciting and scary at the same time. So many changes; so many firsts; so much in store to come.

It wouldn’t be long, within the next few months to be exact, before the family would experience another first. The enterprising, yet extremely unseasoned, young minister was asked to pastor a well-known, albeit, struggling and divided congregation whose fame was spread nationally and internationally. The proposal was quite a surprise. “It was transformational to say the least and chaotic to say the worst, says Brooks.” The ink was barely dry on the young minister’s license and he was asked to lead a congregation. It must be a mistake? A mistake it was not and he accepted the opportunity. Never one to be deterred by the unknown, he was up to the challenge. It was a David verses Goliath situation, but Bishop Brooks was vehemently determined; sure of his calling an unwilling to be defeated.

“I didn’t know how to run a church. I didn’t know anything about church culture, other than what I had seen, but that was from a distance,” he says. “I was a neophyte at best. It was like being thrown in the middle of the fire, but I knew God did call me to do this and to be the leader of this congregation. Why would they trust someone who had no experience except it be ordained by God?” With a reserved yet resounding quietness, First Lady Brooks agrees, “he was who God had chosen.”

The parishioners of Mt. Zion Baptist Church were looking to Brooks for leadership and leadership is exactly what they received. Over the course of 37 years, Bishop and First Lady Brooks, the self-proclaimed farm boy and country girl, have gracefully and humbly shepherded and lead the church from a congregation of no more than 35 members to a membership with well over 5,000. They spent considerable time and effort developing youth leaders and pastors in a time when it was not very popular. However, it has never been about the numbers for Bishop and First Lady Brooks. From the very beginning, they were far more interested in developing and meeting the needs of the current church members rather than meeting a membership goal. Yes, there have always been plans and strategies, but they were always careful that the plans and strategies never usurped the authority of the Holy Spirit. The preached Word of God has always been the main focus.

“We have put forth a lot of effort to teach the Word, and when you teach the Word, it will help you with your everyday living,” says First Lady Brooks. “It’s not enough to just feel good on Sundays. You need the Word throughout the week to help you after you leave church-that’s what we’ve tried to teach.” Many years ago she coined the phrase, “The Word works, when you work the Word.” It immediately caught on and has become an unofficial mantra for the Mt. Zion members and a definitive testimony that in every situation there is a Word, but the Word has to be applied. It also became a leaning post for the couple especially during the early, lean years when the path didn’t seem very clear and moments of doubt, misunderstanding and miscommunication inevitably crept in. The Word of God gave them instruction for how to handle every situation, and there were many along the way. There were times when they didn’t see or hear God and the only thing they could rely upon was His Word. They were all lessons teaching the faithfulness of God. Both agree it’s like a seed planted in the dirt. Nothing is seen on the outside. It looks like nothing is happening; like prayers aren’t being heard; but on the inside there are all sorts of miraculous things happening and eventually a sprout will be seen on the outside.

The lessons Bishop and First Lady Brooks have learned have been invaluable and life changing. But it’s not just their lives which have been affected. They have endeavored to affect everyone they encounter for the better; always leaving someone better off than they were before. “Our goal has been to reach the whole man, not to just preach on Sunday, but to help with everyday living. God put that into our hearts,” says First Lady Brooks. Under the Brooks leadership, the church has successfully partnered with many nonprofit assistance organizations and established its own emergency assistance program, Helping Hands. But that’s only one of many ministries and programs that have bloomed and blossomed under their humble leadership. The significant and consistent growth of the church is a testament to their faithfulness to the ministry. Members know that Bishop and First Lady Brooks stand on the foundations of the gospel – the love of God, trusting God, obedience to God, the power of God, honoring God, honoring family, strong leadership, and empowerment. They are not just words that sound good to recite. As rare as it may be the couple truly does live their lives according to these Biblical principles.

Bishop and First Lady Brooks have always been hands on, approachable and touchable. They have lived extremely transparent lives before their parishioners and agree they have shown the good, the bad and the ugly. In fact, for the past 37 years they have never had an unlisted telephone number. It has always been important to them that members feel connected with them as their leaders. During the stages of Mt. Zions’s significant growth, Bishop Brooks would purposely attend choir rehearsals and deacons meetings and youth classes and the like. He wanted to know what they were teaching and discussing so that he could incorporate their ideas into his sermons, all in an effort to allow everyone the opportunity to paint a part in a bigger picture-to give ownership.

How important is salvation? “Two words come to mind, relationship and communication,” says Bishop Brooks. “When you think about it you’re going to heaven based upon a relationship-your relationship with Christ. So if He sets the premier example of how we are going to be with Him, then that translates into how I should act or be with the people. It’s not about me, because if it’s about me then where does that leave you. You can’t push a chain, you have to pull it. You have to pull people to where you are through communication, through love and through vision.” You have to pull the best out of them, he says. Without a shadow of a doubt, Bishop and First Lady Brooks have “pulled the best” out of Mt. Zion members and stretched them and pushed them to become more, to do more and to dream more. They feel they have accomplished what God called them to do at and for the ministry. They have successfully taken the church from a place of obscurity to a place of spiritual maturity, impacting beyond Sunday morning through education, through marriages, through community involvement, through scholarship and they’ve helped people see from a different perspective.

Bishop Brooks likens it to when the shepherd comes to rescue a lost sheep, he puts him on his shoulder and when he does that the sheep no longer sees from the low level, but he has a shepherd under him who can help him see higher and distances that he could not previously ascertain. “My job is to help change their perspective,” he says. “I think we’ve been faithful to what it is God called us to do, and we are moving out of the way for the next leader.” He says if he didn’t believe that he wouldn’t be willing to retire. As proud parents Bishop and First Lady Brooks are excited to watch Pastor Bryan and First Lady elect Debra Pierce take the helm and transition and launch what God has given them for the next generation. They both agree it’s like watching a child grown and mature. “When a child is born you never really know how that child is going to turn out. You pour into that child all the things you think will help him become responsible, help him mature, help him become effective in life and help him make a positive difference in the environment in which he is placed. To us that’s what this whole 37 year journey has meant.”

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