Bishop from Detroit ascends to Pentecostal leadership
Bishop J. Drew Sheard always seems to be destined to lead a flock.
Even as a child, the Detroiter’s temper impressed his parents, including a longtime pastor, enough to convince him that one day he might lead a church. Years after playing “church” with relatives and posing as a clergyman, he preached a sermon at the age of 19.
Sheard led the institutional Church of God the Great Emmanuel in Christ, which under his leadership has become one of the most famous places of worship in the city.
“I’ve always wanted to be a preacher since I was a child,” said the 62-year-old.
Now Sheard has reached the greatest and most recognizable position of his career.
Last month officials announced that he had been elected as the new presiding bishop for the Church of God in Christ, believed to be the largest Pentecostal congregation in the country.
The denominational legislature, the General Assembly, elected him to head an organization with around 10,000 churches in more than 112 countries worldwide and millions of followers.
For a renowned bishop who has preached to large audiences, voiced injustice, greeted celebrities in his pews, and appeared on television, the new role is both humiliating and propitious.
“It means I have to be a role model to the young men and be able to practice what I preach and live a respectable life,” Sheard said. “At the same time, there are so many people who expect leadership from us in order to deal with the social problems of our world.”
Some of his longtime associates consider the survey a natural fit for a leader in a community that is considered a spiritual hotspot.
“Detroit produces national and international leaders,” said Bishop Edgar Vann, senior pastor of Second Ebenezer Church. “It’s the accomplishment of a lifetime, but it’s also a great thing for the city. All I can see is that Detroit is becoming a high point, a high point for national activity from a faith standpoint, because of his leadership and so many others who are also very influential. “
Sheard’s designation limits lifetime membership to the 114-year-old COGIC, which has approximately 400 locations in Michigan. as well as generations of pastors with deep bonds.
His grandfather ran a church in Mississippi. His father, Bishop John Henry Sheard, chairman of the organization’s council of bishops, has long directed the Greater Mitchell Temple in Detroit.
Sheard graduated from Wayne State University and taught math at Detroit Public Schools. However, he felt called to the ministry and began his pastorate in the 1980s according to a church biography.
Membership grew as Sheard focused on expanding reach, including for teenagers, and forming his team.
Besides preaching, part of the appeal was his personal touch.
When William Adams III. Looking for a new church in the 1990s, he attended a Sunday and noticed a stream of worshipers passing by the bishop.
“For every member who passed, he knew her by name and identify she, ”said Adams, now the Church’s Chief of Staff. “That impressed me and made me want to take part. In addition to being a preacher, he knew and was concerned about all of his members. “
As Greater Emmanuel flourished, Sheard’s stature grew both locally and nationally through COGIC, where he took on roles such as overseeing the international youth department and being named prelate of Michigan North Central Jurisdiction.
In 2012, Sheard joined his board of directors, known as the board of directors.
Traveling the country and connecting with worshipers formed a foundation for guidance, said the father and grandfather.
“I’ve been involved in every facet of the Church,” said Sheard, who is married to award-winning gospel singer Karen Clark-Sheard. “It has equipped me by observing and even teaching church affairs as a whole.”
Sheard also gained a broader view, shaped by his time with activists, to address social issues such as discrimination, said Rev. Charles Williams II, pastor of the Historic King Solomon Baptist Church in Detroit and president of the Michigan chapter of the National Action Network.
“He has influenced and excited so many young ministers and pastors across the city of Detroit and across the country,” he said. “The Church of God in Christ will be so much better to have such a dedicated pastor across the institution.”
Even during the pandemic, when Sheard lost his mother to COVID-19, the bishop worked to give money to struggling residents, said Kiemba Knowlin, a longtime staffer who now leads a church in Flint. “He was very strategic in using his influence and the skills of those close to him to make things better for people. His love for people is so sincere and sincere. “
Sheard has worked to compose congregations and worldwide calls to prayer as he pushed for an agenda for the next four years after his appointment.
One of the biggest challenges domestically is preparing communities to tackle the problems that plagued cities in 2020.
“We cannot forget social justice, the Black Lives Matter (movement) and the sudden rise of the white supremacists,” Sheard said, adding that related issues will be discussed during a virtual meeting scheduled for the coming weeks.
In the meantime, the bishop anticipates his new global role.
“It’s a huge responsibility, but I believe God will give me the strength and what is necessary to do the job He has given me,” Sheard said.