10 Questions to Get to Know Pastor Steven Eugene Carter
1. When did you accept your calling into the ministry?
I will never forget, it was my freshman year in college and I was home for the Christmas break. I was always told as a young child that I would one day be called into ministry, but in my freshman year in Atlanta across the street from Spelman College, ministry was the last thought on my mind. However, God is always in control. I accepted my call December 1994, was licensed in July 1995 and ordained July 2001.
2. What do you like most/least about being in ministry?
I would have to say that I love the opportunity to stand and preach the gospel message of love, forgiveness, mercy, grace and so much more into the lives of people every week. I also enjoy being able to watch people grow and mature spiritually over the years. When someone says to you, “Pastor, your messages have helped me grow in my faith”, it reminds me of the fact that nothing I do is because of me, but because of God working through me in spite of me. When it comes to dislikes, I would have to say that I am bothered by the fact that people are only committed to the church until they are no longer happy. Church commitment in this era is not like it used to be. You can be a blessing to people, but as soon as they fall in disagreement with you or someone else in ministry, they are quick to look for another place of worship. People fail to realize that there is no such reality as a perfect church, because every church is made up of imperfect people, which is the fundamental reason for our faith in Christ Jesus.
3. When you reflect upon your years in ministry, what has been an unforgettable funny moment?
I will never forget that day when I was on staff at Brentwood Baptist Church of Houston, Texas. The guest preacher finished his message about ‘The Blind Man.” As the leader for the service, it was my responsibility to extend the invitation after the sermon. There I was, standing up with confidence and walking towards the end of the stage with a sincere heart hoping someone would give their life to Christ. The deacons who served communion did not place the stairs back in the middle of the floor. Well, I forgot to look down and kept walking forward and fell off the stage in front of thousands of people. Yes! You ready correctly! I literally fell off the stage flat on my face. The congregation laughed, the ministers turned their backs, the musicians stop playing, the choir members were chuckling, and there I was, trying to get up off the floor. As soon as I rose, I quickly recovered with these words, “What I love about Jesus is when you fall, He will pick you up.” Yeah, I will NEVER forget that moment.
4. As a Spiritual Leader, are you always STRONG in your faith, or do you too have weak moments?
As a leader of the faith, I am usually strong in my faith. However, there have been times when I did become weak and unsure in my faith. For example, when I went through an unexpected divorce, that literally challenged my faith and almost made me want to leave the ministry. Then a few years later, when my ex-wife unexpectantly passed away, that became one of the most painful walks in my faith. I was confused and distraught, but still felt that I needed to keep on moving forward. In hindsight, I should have taken time to process my pain instead of trying to continue without pause. So, to answer your question, I want to say one of the blessings of being in spiritual leadership is that some of our greatest growths sometimes emerges from our weakest moments. Contrary to popular beliefs, we as spiritual leaders share the same struggles as those we teach on a weekly basis.
5. What is a common misunderstanding about preachers, pastors and local churches?
In my opinion, because of negative media, many people believe that the preacher, pastor and local church are all about people giving money. This is so far from the truth. Yes, there are those who have manipulated people and communities, but for the most part, pastors and churches are serious about the impacts that they desire to have upon their congregations and communities. I always encourage people, instead of judging the church or pastor who may be in error, find a pastor and church who you can follow because you know they are committed to the cause of Christ. Trust me, if you look and pray for a local church to connect with, God will lead you in the right direction.
6. Why is it important for churches to work hard to reach millennials (Born 1981-1996)?
In order for there to be a continuation of any organization, there must be people who will continue to lead it. Businesses usually look for people to carry it into the next generation. It has been proven that businesses that fail to make proper preparation for future transition will inevitably become non-existence. Likewise, many ministries are suffering today not because it is inevitable, but because they have not prepared future leaders to assume the roles in ministry. We work hard to make sure that we begin attracting, teaching, and training millennials to assume ministry roles in order for the church to move forward without any breaks. I encourage any pastor who may be reading this, do yourself and your congregation a favor. Decide to open your mind (within reason) and learn ways to incorporate millennials into leadership roles in your congregation. If you do not, you will end up with a life-less church, which is not the will of God.
7. Who are some leaders who have influenced your life as a preacher, pastor and community leader?
I have been blessed to have encountered several leaders who have influenced my life, but most of all I have become have been because of six mentors. Dr. Elliott Cuff (Lincoln Heights Missionary Baptist Church; Cincinnati, OH), Dr. Joe Samuel Ratliff (Brentwood Baptist Church; Houston, TX), Dr. Ralph Douglas West (The Church Without Walls; Houston, TX), Drs. Floyd & Elaine Flake (Greater Allen AME Church; Jamaica, NY), and Dr.
A. R. Bernard (Christian Cultural Center; Brooklyn, NY). These six mentors have been individuals who I have listened to for advice and direction in both my ministry and personal life.
8. What do you like to do when you are not at the church or in your office?
When I am not in church, I like to relax at my special place that the congregation often hear me refer to as “THE SPOT” I am able to relax, read books, prepare messages, plan ministry and so much more. I don’t know what it is, but working for me is a form of relaxing. The leaders of the ministry often tell me, “Pastor, when do you ever take a break from thinking?” I just love what I do and I can do it every day and never become weary. Other than this, I enjoy traveling and networking and meeting new people. I remember reading many years ago a book titled “Click” by George Frazier. The part of the book that has remained with me to this day is the line that says, “Your success is tied to your network.” Basically, the author is teaching that success is developed through positive relationships. Therefore, I enjoy meeting new people, and when I meet new people, I approach them as if I have known them for many years.
9. What is your desire for Mount Ararat Church?
My desire is that the ministry will benefit the community holistically. We live on the mission statement “Empowering People to Live Beyond Life Limitations (John 10:10)” We believe if we can help people overcome practical struggles (unemployment, drug addictions, single parenting, peer pressure, college admission, trade school admission, marriage success, etc.), they can come to know the power of Jesus Christ. I remember attending a conference in 2006 and one of the presenters said, “If your church can be removed from your community and not be missed, your church is not operating at its full capacity.” Since that time, I have worked hard to make sure that we seek to provide ministries and resources to help those who reside in our community. Therefore, my desire is for our ministry to impact the lives in our community, even if they are of a different faith. When this is accomplished, I believe God will say, “This is My church in whom I am well pleased.”
10. You are also an author, when do you decide to write a book? How many books do you see yourself writing in the future?
My mentor Dr. Ralph Douglas West encouraged me to write a book a result of my struggles and insecurities of being an adopted child. I always wrestled with my emotions and trust for people as a result of feeling abandoned by my biological parents because of illnesses during my birth. When I wrote the book Resurrection from Rejection: Healing from 7 Areas of Rejection in Your life, I never imagined that it would take off the way that it did, but thanks be to God, the story has been able to help thousands, and now we are in the process of releasing a movie (Probably already released by the time you are reading this.) I have many other books that have already been outlined, so keep on following me and you will see the other books that are soon to come.
11. How many Sundays do you try to be at the church?
When I first became the pastor, I used to travel and preach to help offset personal expenses (I am just being honest). However, as the church has grown, I have come to the point where I try to be home 47 Sundays out of the year. Even if I am not preaching, I try to be present. I have learned that the people you serve look to see you on Sunday mornings. In addition, although there are exceptions, most pastors cannot build a vibrant congregation being away too often. Your members come to hear you at the end of the day. Decide that you will not become the preacher/pastor who is respected nationally, but have no impact locally. Stay home and build your congregation, it will be worth it in years to come. I am already reaping the fruit of staying home.
12. How do you avoid sexual misconduct?
I was blessed while on staff in Houston to learn from attorneys about the legalities of the local church. After learning these laws, I made it my practice to protect myself from myself. Some of the actions I have taken are simple, but proven to be powerful. I have a clear glass door in my office, which allows people to see in at all times. I also make sure that specific leaders know to come interrupt anything that seems compromising. Without saying too much, I know my temptation triggers, and I make it my business to protect myself from these experiences. I am in no way perfect but I am human, so I make it my business to set up precautions to protect me from myself or my human flaws (I am just being honest, don’t be judgmental). As a result, I have been able to pastor effectively without ever worrying about a member making claims of sexual misconduct. In the words of Paul, “There go I, but for the grace of God.”
PERSONAL INSTAGRAM: @StevenCarterNY
MINISTRY INSTAGRAM: @MABCBK