Dr. Lisa Weah: Stay Focused and Keep Going!
Have you ever been at a place in your life where you felt like you just wanted to give up? Seriously, let's be real for a moment. Beyond the anointing, surpassing the length of your itinerary and your popularity, sometimes life has a way of dealing you some unexpected blows that will make you just want to throw in the towel. Have you been there? Yes. At some point, we all have. Especially, if you have seen any amount of success in your life you're bound to have had some times along your journey where the pressures of life, or the tactics of the enemy, have threatened to overwhelm and overtake you. However, understanding that kinds of circumstances are often cyclical, and while continuing to grow in God's grace, you may have learned by now that giving up is not an option. So, what do you do when things seem to unravel all around you? How do you stay focused when your mind is flooded with what is currently happening to you? How can you keep going, in spite of how you feel?
With an infectious smile and jovial personality, Dr. Weah is a well-acclaimed, extraordinary preacher, teacher, and administrator of the Word of God and the affairs of the ministry. Spiritually reared by her father in the ministry, the honorable Bishop Dwayne C. Debnam of the Morning Star Baptist Church, Dr. Weah is a multi-talented, multi-gifted, anointed woman of God who stands as a pastor; community activist; entrepreneur; recording artist; musician; author; radio segment host; and mentor; amidst many other endeavors. However, chief amidst them all is her role as mother to her children Courtney, Robert and Cayla.
As Dr. Weah deems fellowship and accountability of significant importance, she is a member of the West Baltimore Clergy United, and she serves as an Executive Council member of the Kingdom Association of Covenant Pastors under the leadership of Presiding Prelate Bishop Walter S. Thomas. In addition, within the Full Gospel Baptist Church Fellowship International, Dr. Weah serves as a part of the Worship Ministry Executive Board as Overseer of Administration under the leadership of General Overseer William H. Murphy, III.
Throughout her educational endeavors, Dr. Weah has earned several degrees to include a Bachelor of Science Degree in Civil Engineering from the University of Maryland at College Park, and Master of Divinity and Doctor of Ministry degrees from Howard University. In addition she is an active member of the Epsilon Omega Chapter of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc.
PreachingWoman.com's founder, Rev. Evg. Nichelle Early, treasured the opportunity to speak one on one with Dr. Lisa Weah (LW) and is excited to share this remarkable interview with you! This one will truly bless you, especially our faithful audience of beloved female pastors!
NE: Dr. Weah, thank you for taking the time out of your busy schedule to encourage our wonderful and faithful viewers of PreachingWoman.com, I am so excited to speak with you today!
LW: Evg. Early, thank you for having me, I am so humbled and honored to be featured on PreachingWoman.com!
NE: Well, the pleasure is all mine! So, let's jump right in!
Dr. Weah, the one thing I've learned about you over the short course of knowing about your ministry is that you are an anointed, multi-gifted and multi-talented woman of God. In fact, you are a pastor, musician, psalmist, author, and so much more.
What do you believe is the core assignment that God has given you regarding your ministry in this season?
LW: Well, in this season, my core assignment is to pastor the people of the New Bethlehem Baptist Church of Baltimore, MD. And in doing so, I am actually able to flow in all of the gifts that God has given me. So for me, that is my first ministerial priority beyond anything else that I do. Ultimately, before any outside engagements, personal ministry endeavors, etc., pastoring the people of New Bethlehem Baptist Church is my first priority.
NE: Amen! I love the fact that you are so clear and emphatic about that; and, I am sure that in 2008, when you were elected as the first female pastor of the New Bethlehem Baptist Church, in its 58 years of existence, they saw that passion in you then.
Please share with us about this amazing move of God and what it means to you as a woman in ministry.
LW: It was actually such an incredible move of God. However, before it happened, I knew in my heart that God was calling me to pastor while I was still at my home church. And, at that time, I also knew that God was not calling me to leave my home church until He opened the door for me to be called to another church. I was also clear that He was not calling me to change denominations in an effort to become a pastor, because often times other denominations tend to be a little more embracing of female pastors and will place you at a church. However, in the Baptist church, every church is autonomous. And during that time, in the city of Baltimore, only one other female had ever been called to a church to become its pastor, and that had been 15 years before my election. So, the odds of it in the natural were almost zero that I would actually get called to a church to become its pastor. But again, I was very clear as to how God was leading me and what He was saying.
NE: Amen, it is so important that you are clear as to what God is saying and not just jump out there because you are discontent at your home church, or solely because you are anointed, or because of what others may be saying.
LW: Yes! It is so important that you are clear as to what God is saying so that you will not jump up and do something on account of zeal, but have the faith and patience to sit and wait until God opens the door...So, as for me, I stayed at my home church under the leadership of my pastor and was obedient. At the time, I was serving at the Morning Star Baptist Church, in Catonsville, a wonderful ministry, and I was working directly under Bishop Dewayne C. Debnam, my father in ministry, and who is still my pastor today. I could have been quite content to continue serving in that capacity in which I did at Morning Star, except that when you feel the call to do something for God, then you are just uncomfortable until you do what He's calling you to do...So, the New Bethlehem Baptist Church was the church that God chose just for me. It's been a wonderful and refreshing experience to be the Senior Pastor there; and now, because of what New Bethlehem did, it opened the eyes of people in the larger ministerial community of Baltimore, which is very rewarding for me as a woman in ministry, and having been an instrument in the process.
NE: Wow! That is awesome!
Now, Dr. Weah, as we are seeing increasingly more female senior pastors in this hour, what are three (3) principles of discipline or success that you would share with women who are new to the pastorate?
- Be prepared to work hard - The first thing I would say is that we have to understand that there is always going to be a great pressure on us as women of the gospel; and I say that in the context of understanding that because of how times are right now, and the views that some, not all, have towards women in ministry, we have to sometimes work harder to get the same level of respect as our male counterparts. However, just be encouraged, work hard, and know that God is with you and will make certain you get the respect you deserve.
- Be comfortable with who you are as a woman - We don't have to try to be men. God knew we were women when He called us. We don't have to try to be masculine in order to do what God has called us to do. Therefore, I never try to masculinize myself in my preaching style, presentation, or anything. I just am who I am, and God is using me as I am.
- Have a strong personal support system - Ministry can be very lonely at times. And, while we certainly have some unique issues that we go through on account of being women, we also have some of the same issues that any pastor goes through, regardless of gender. So, we need to have a few people in our space: someone over us; someone with us; someone to undergird us; support us; correct us; be there with us; someone that we can really talk to and share our concerns about things that go on in everyday ministry, such as our frustrations, fears, and apprehensions . Also, every pastor needs a pastor, and that's not gender specific. If there are pastors out there that don't have a pastor, pray for God to knit you to someone that can be your pastor and be your covering, because you don't want to be out there on your own.
NE: You are absolutely right, because the terrains and work of the ministry can be very rough every now and again. And often times, this is where people can begin to feel like they just want to give up.
So Dr. Weah, what are some things that you do to stay focused, encouraged and energized to fulfill the work of the ministry?
- I schedule time for me - I make sure that I schedule time for me. In my daily, weekly, monthly, and yearly schedule, I make sure that I schedule some time for me, because if I don't schedule it, I won't get it. I've been in seasons before where I neglected me, and I suffered because of it. As the pastor, if you are not taking care of yourself, you can't effectively take care of the people of God. So if you suffer, the people are going to ultimately suffer as well. Therefore, I make sure that I schedule time for me, and I understand that it is my responsibility to guard my time.
- I maintain time with my family - My first priority, just in life, is my family. So, I'm careful to never switch and put the ministry, or the church, before my family. I understand that my first calling is to take care of my family, first and foremost. You can't be running all over the country preaching to others and your own family is not being ministered to. So, when you put your family first, it helps keep all of the challenges of ministry in better perspective, because the challenges will not be at the top of your attention span. So, for me, my family always comes first...
- I always remember that it's God's church, God's People - I realized something that I always knew, but once I got into the pastorate and starting facing some real challenges, I truly realized that, "it is God's church! It's God's church, and God's people!" So, that really helps me keep my stress down, because when I'm facing things that I don't know what to do with or where they came from, that are very stressful, I often remind myself that this is God's church, and God's people, and that God is going to make sure that everything is going to be okay and that all things are going to work together in the end...also, I am careful how I care for and treat God's people. We are people just like the people to whom we minister. I'm very careful not to talk to people as if I'm over them or as though they are subservient to me [dictatorship], because we are all human beings and we all deserve respect.
NE: Dr. Weah, not only has God anointed you to preach the Gospel, but He has blessed you with a strong gift of administration. How important do you believe the gift of administration is in the 21st Century church?
LW: The gift is administration is essential to the 21st Century church. The pastor is no longer just there to just preach, do bible study and visit the sick. The pastor is like the CEO of the church these days. With new IRS regulations, Community Development Corporations (CDCs) and all of the other things that are now inherently a part of the church, you have to be able to run the church administratively. And, I sat under a pastor who was excellent and who not only preached, but my pastor at Morning Star, Bishop Debnam, was an excellent administrator. I was able to watch him build ministry from the ground up. And so I don't believe God places you in situations like that unless He has that kind of mantle on your ministry as well. I always knew that I would not be a pastor that only preaches on Sunday, but that God sent me to New Bethlehem Baptist Church with the entire mix of gifts that I have, including administration, because He wants to take that house to its next place, and that is what I am determined to do...
NE: Now coupled with that, one of the things that you have demonstrated in your ministry is the importance of community.
What are some ways that God has given you to reach the community in which you live?
LW: Our ministry exists in a very thirsty community; thirsty for God, thirsty for ministry. We have one of the highest gang presences in Baltimore City; one of the highest HIV rates; one of the highest violent street crime presences; so to me, that's just fertile ground for the presence of God. And nothing can transform a community, except that God's presence fills it. So, we are very intentional about sharing in our community. We literally go out on the streets once a month doing ministry. Quarterly, we have huge community days where we feed people and provide seminars. We even bring our city council person out, the local police, and whatever resources the people may need. We are very deliberate not to be an "us versus them" type of entity, but to firmly establish that we are very much a part of the community. So, our mandate is to uplift and be a resource to the community...and that is one of our key pieces of vision for the church and it's going to remain as such.
NE: Now, you've made it clear that pastoring the people of the New Bethlehem Baptist Church is your first priority. However, you are also the Founder and CEO of LMW Enterprises, Inc., your own personal ministry. Please share with us the mission and vision of this organization.
LW: Yes, LMW Enterprises, Inc is a holistic ministry that empowers people to fulfill their God-given potential. I founded LMW last year to carry out several initiatives. The first one was mentoring other young adults in ministry. Having seen the unique challenges that being a young adult female affords you in ministry, such as not having role models to teach you how to dress; how to interact and deal with the pressures of the "boys club;" and to be comfortable and relevant in ministry as a young adult and not presenting myself as someone older than I am; I started an event called "Tea Talk" and another called "Café Talk," to mentor young adults called to ministry. I believe that God is using this generation to speak right now in this time, and it's a voice that must be heard. And "Tea Talk" and "Café Talk" is just a nice time for young adults to get together in a safe place to talk and share. So, I do these events through LMW Enterprises, Inc.
I also have my first major event coming up under the banner of LMW called the Worship Gathering, October 19-20, 2012. This will be a time for people to come together and worship the Lord; the focus will not be on "having church," but on worshiping the Lord. My good friends, Pastor William Murphy, Dr. Karen Bethea, Pastor C. Guy Robinson, will be some of those that will be ministering during this worship experience. I'm not sure what to expect, other than I know the Lord will be worshiped in devotion and prophetic declaration!
NE: Now, one of the commonalities that you and I share is that we both place a significant emphasis on the creative arts in ministry, particularly through music; you are the author of Creative Worship in a Contemporary Milieu, which offers a theological framework and practical tools for the use of creative arts in the corporate worship experience. Please share with us the synopsis of this work?
LW: Well, this is a book that I am very excited about and it is based on work from my doctoral dissertation. What I explore in this book is the biblical theological foundation of the use of the arts in worship in order to give pastors, worship leaders, and ministers of music a firm biblical foundation for why we do what we do in worship. There has been such a bursting of creative arts in worship, and a lot times, we are doing things because it's what we've seen other people do and not necessarily because it fits our house. So, I wanted to start with the foundation of worship and give some real criteria and insight as to how to effectively utilize the arts in worship. We've seen so many people leave the church and take their creative art gifts to the world, on account of us not having a theological basis for what they are doing and thus rejecting their ministry. So, I wanted to provide a theological framework for the various creative arts, especially, so that we can keep our gifted people in church, using their abilities for the glory of God. That is such an area of passion for me...
NE: Well Dr. Weah, as we close, what do you believe God is saying in this hour?
LW: I believe that God is saying so much through just the things that are going on in the earth, the nation, government, and even in the weather. There was such urgency in the first generation church, because they believed that Jesus was coming back right away. But, because of His perceived delay, we've become so lax within the Body as if we have all of the time in the world. So, I believe that God is challenging us in this time to pay attention, and to really prepare ourselves to maximize all that we are and all that He has given and called us to be, because the mandate on the church is to present a bride that is without spot or wrinkle and ready to receive Him.
Therefore, I believe that God is really calling us to prepare a place where His glory may dwell. The church seems to have become so content with having good church that we've gotten away from transformation and sustained deliverance; and we've become content with a Sunday morning visitation. But, God is looking for habitation. He is looking for a dwelling place, and He's looking for more from us than what we've been giving Him. And in this generation now, where the world has just forsaken all standards and what it means to be a Christian and be right with God, this is the time for us to be even more vigilant in fulfilling the call and mandate of God, and I believe that it is what He is speaking to us in this season.
NE: WOW! Amen, I agree and bear witness with that!
Dr. Weah, if there was one thing you would want the world to know about Dr. Lisa Weah, what would that be?
LW: Wow! I would say, that I am a living witness that no matter what circumstances life present to you, you have to keep going and you have to stay focused on fulfilling your purpose and bringing glory to God.
We've talked about all of the things I've been able to do in life, but I will admit that they were preceded by several challenges, such as pregnancy in college, divorce, and many others. These were things that made me want to say, "I'm done. I'm done with ministry; I'm even done with life!" And often times, we look at successful people and think that everything was easy for them and that they've never hit the bottom. But for anybody that looks successful, you better believe that there is a lot of pain and a lot of struggle behind it. So for me, when I stand, I'm not standing on a flaky foundation. I'm standing on the substance of the faith that God has developed in me that is underneath of everything that I do. I've learned that you can't give up...You have to survive; the mandate on your life requires that you survive. You can not die, until you fulfill everything that God has decreed for your life...So, no matter what happens, you've got to stay focused and keep going!