Living Word Christian Center turns 25 this year. During that time, Pastor Bill Winston’s congregation has grown from a storefront church at 7306 Madison into a 20,000 member mega church which, through a legal entity called Forest Park Plaza LLC, owns the Forest Park Mall.
The Living Word operation is huge. While stores like Ultra Foods, Planet Fitness, Ashley Stewart and the Royal Christian Book Store occupy the north side of the mall, the church uses the entire south side for its various ministries. Pastor Winston uses a golf cart to get from one end of the facility to the other. There is a large room called the annex which handles the overflow from the 2,500 seat sanctuary at the west end of the building. The Youth and Young Adult worship area is bigger than the sanctuaries of most churches in Forest Park.
There are separate areas for media production and Kids for Christ, a room just for mom’s nursing babies, a missions gallery, conference meeting rooms, a corporate travel agency, a property management office, a staff training center, and the Joseph Business School. Living Word employs over 150 people. The Believers Walk of Faith is the international television and radio broadcast of Bill Winston Ministries.
Winston does not take any credit for Living Word’s success. He frequently repeats that it is all God’s doing. That said, he acknowledges that up until his call to ministry in 1985, all of his life experiences prepared him to pastor a large congregation.
Winston grew up in Tuskegee, Alabama, the home of Tuskegee Institute where the influence of its first president, Booker T. Washington, is felt to this day. When he made a speech in 1895, commonly known as the Atlanta Compromise, Jim Crow laws were maintaining a separate and unequal society in the South, and lynchings were common. In the speech, Booker T. said that Negroes should concentrate on learning trades and engaging in agriculture as a way of adding value to their communities, which in the long run would integrate his people into society better than agitating for civil rights. He declared that it is more important for the Negro to be able to earn a dollar than to have the right to spend it in an opera house.
You can see Booker T.’s influence on Living Word in the Joseph Business School which Winston added to his package of ministries. According the Living Word website, the Joseph School is a “state-or-the-art business school that uses practical and biblical principles to empower adults to develop indispensable skills as successful entrepreneurs and business leaders.”
El Kornegay, Jr. Ph.D., the Dean of Living Word’s Continuing Education and Professional Development Department which includes the Joseph Business School, said, “We are implementing what we call the Tuskegee Model. What we are doing here is poverty eradication which requires that we be able to offer opportunities for educational growth and vocational skills that can take the resources that are available to us now which are primarily technology. It’s like a seven-trillion dollar industry. If we can eradicate poverty, we can eradicate violence.”
When asked if he believes that jobs will be available for graduates of the Joseph School, Dr. K, as members like to call him, replied, “I do believe that we are equipping people not necessarily for jobs but equipping people for innovation to create jobs. That’s the big difference.”
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SOURCE: Forest Park Review