Jamal H. Bryant knew it was time to leave the Northwest Baltimore church he founded 18 years ago.
Under his leadership, Empowerment Temple had grown from 47 members to 10,000.
With that came a vibrant community ministry that included education, housing, health care and voter registration programs.
Bryant broke the news to his congregation on Sunday.
He told them he was leaving, but didn’t reveal that it was because he was taking over as the new senior pastor at New Birth Missionary Baptist Church in Georgia.
“The news did not go over well, at all,” Bryant said in an extensive interview with the Atlanta Journal-Constitution on Tuesday morning. “There was a great gnashing of teeth. Nobody was expecting it.”
So, why go?
He had a message from God that “this is not your church; it belongs to the people. I had a sense of ownership that had leaped into entitlement. I began to think this (Empowerment Temple) is me, but God tapped me on the shoulder and said hold on. Not so fast.
“I had no reason to leave Baltimore but for the prompting of God,” he said.
Bryant was one of 138 people vying for New Birth senior pastor, a position once held by another charismatic preacher, Bishop Eddie L. Long.