‘Building bridges not walls’

Rev. Richmond Johnson is the new pastor at Mount Zion Missionary Baptist Church in Bremerton. - Photo by Jesse Beals
Rev. Richmond Johnson is the new pastor at Mount Zion Missionary Baptist Church in Bremerton.
— image credit: Photo by Jesse Beals



In an age where some religious leaders place an emphasis on putting people in pews and creating mega churches with all the trappings of a Christian shopping center, Rev. Richmond Johnson brings a notably different focus to the ministry.

“Effective ministry isn’t about putting people in pews and building walls, it’s about building bridges into the community,” said Rev. Johnson, who began his ministry at Mount Zion Missionary Baptist Church in Nov. 2007.

Johnson assumed leadership of the church on 13th Street from Pastor Sam Rochelle with whom Johnson shares a common ministerial lineage.

“We both come from Bethlehem Baptist Church in Tacoma,” Johnson said.

Pastor Rochelle did an outstanding job of leading the church during his tenure, which is something Johnson said he hopes to build upon and see the church continue its outreach into the community.

“We have a strong, active prayer ministry, where we continue to lift up firefighters, police officers, the mayor and his staff and other leaders in the community,” he said.

Several of the church’s members are active in the community and are considered leaders in their chosen fields, he said.

“We have a lot of people who are committed to going out and making a difference in the community,” he said.

That difference extends beyond Kitsap County into places like Liberia, where one of its members will help develop an athletic program at a school beginning in July, he said.

When it comes to worship services, Johnson said he is a firm believer that children and youth should be active participants instead of being hidden in the back pews or in nurseries.

“I want to have the youth in the front,” he said.

While the sound of a baby crying during a service might draw cold stares from some, Johnson said he embraces it as a gift from God and a cause for celebration not condemnation.

In fact, early childhood education is one of the new avenues of ministry Johnson said the church is exploring to help the community.

“There are a lot of kids who aren’t ready for preschool or kindergarten, and we’re looking to do something with early childhood education,” he said.

Church leaders have had discussions with a number of groups in the community to find ways to meet that educational need, so Johnson said he has faith the need will be met in the near future.

For some the status quo of a church that is renown for its community outreach and ministerial efforts would be enough to alleviate any concerns or worries about the future, but not for Johnson.

“The question that keeps me up at night is, ‘Would we be missed if we closed our doors tomorrow? Would anybody notice or would somebody be outside waiting for us to open?’” he said.

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