In an engaging interview with EEW President Dianna Hobbs, Bishop Vashti McKenzie, EEW Magazine’s 2017 “Best Book of the Year” Award-winning author of The Big Deal of Taking Small Steps to Move Closer to God, opens up about the trials and triumphs of ministry, overcoming the death of a child, and dispelling the “balance” myth.
When world renowned religious leader and best-selling author Bishop Vashti McKenzie’s book, The Big Deal of Taking Small Steps to Move Closer to God, was first given to me by a staff member for consideration to be featured in the Empowering Everyday Women (EEW) online magazine, originally, I resisted.
As Founder and Editor-In-Chief of EEW—an award-winning web publication for women of faith and color—I receive so many requests that I simply cannot fulfill.
Though T.D. Jakes called the book “profound and practical” and April D. Ryan, White House Correspondent said The Big Deal is “anointed,” reading her book seemed to be another “to do” item that I could not cram into my already over-packed schedule. It wasn’t that I didn’t want to; I just felt I didn’t have time to.
So, I had a decision to make. Would I pass off the assignment to a staff editor, or just say no to it, period?
I knew she had profound wisdom, empowering advice and inspirational tidbits to share. After all, Bishop McKenzie is the 117th elected and consecrated bishop of the African Methodist Episcopal (AME)—the first woman to be elected to the level of Episcopal office in the AME denomination’s 200-year history. She was also appointed by former President Barack Obama to serve on the inaugural President’s Advisory Council of the White House Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships.
Clearly, her experience, qualifications and firm faith foundation make her a great choice of mentor and advisor to leaders everywhere—both established and aspiring.
So then, despite feeling stressed and pressed for time, my editorial director’s persistent urging and nudging to read Bishop McKenzie’s book and personally interview her, kindled, at best, a small fire in me to give it a chance.
When I got a free moment, away from the noise and clutter of life, I cracked open The Big Deal. In the very first chapter titled “Take the First Step,” Bishop McKenzie shares her personal experience of first entering pastoral ministry. She was assigned two churches in the Chesapeake City area with very few members, and her attempts to grow and cultivate the members was not going very well.
My mouth fell open. You see, my husband, Elder Kenya Hobbs, and I, had literally just accepted appointments as Executive Pastor and First Lady of a small, urban church plant a couple of weeks earlier. It was challenging. I had been praying for God’s guidance on how to survive the transition, grow the start-up ministry and reach souls for Christ. I felt like hubby and I had been flying by the seat of our pants!
But right there on the first few pages, Bishop McKenzie’s transparency about her experience both comforted and counseled me. She reminded me through her own experience the importance of acting on what I already know how to do: Grow closer to God in order to discern His will for my life more clearly.
I knew reading this was a divine assignment and The Big Deal was no ordinary book. It was dropped into my lap for such a time as this. I was so moved and impressed, I’m recommending it to all the readers of EEW Magazine and bestowing upon it our prestigious “Best Book of the Year” Award honor, which has historically been reserved for first-time authors.
Thus, Bishop McKenzie, a six-time author, receiving the book award from our organization, is an unprecedented occurrence.
But she’s used to firsts, blazing trails and breaking down barriers. Bishop McKenzie is the first woman to serve as the President of the Council of Bishops, Chair of the General Conference Commission and was the Host Bishop for the 49th Session of the General Conference of the AME Church in June 2012 with more than 30,000 in attendance.
EEW is only adding to her long lists of firsts.
Well, when I sat down for a phone chat with Bishop McKenzie back in May, I started out by telling her what a blessing the book was to me personally. I also commended the revered leader for being transparent about the early days in ministry and the struggles that came along with that.
“Sometimes we forget that preachers, pastors and leaders—whatever area you work in in ministry—are subject to the same challenges and crises, the same ups and downs, the same things that human beings all experience,” she said. “Most of the time people only see us in the pulpit, behind the podium, on stage, on a platform. They see us teaching, but they don’t know what you had to do to get there.”
The wife of Stanley McKenzie and mother of three children—Jon-Mikael, Vashti-Jasmine, and Joi-Marie—recounted the hectic nature of her beginning stages of ministry while juggling church demands and family obligations.
“I had to change diapers, plait hair, put on bows and research the sermon, and prepare it, and get everybody dressed, and get everybody out of the house, and at the same time, stand before a group of people and preach the word of God,” Bishop McKenzie, 70, reflected.
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SOURCE: EEW Magazine – Diana Hobbs