Spotlight on Pastor Anthony Payton of Come As You Are Community Church

| February 9, 2016
Jeanie Summerville

Jeanie Summerville

By Jeanie Summerville   

What’s up, babies?

In last week’s edition of Frost Illustrated, you learned that Pastor Anthony Payton was honored by the MLK Club as being Clergy of the Year and he was very humbled and excited by it.  So at this time, as promised, we bring to you Pastor Anthony Payton so that you may know, feel and understand more about the beauty within his walk with GOD, his past, why he does what he does, the book he wrote, why GOD sends him to Brazil and other countries and you’ll also learn some things of inspiration.  So at this time, all I’d like for you to do is just sit back, relax and enjoy:

Pastor Anthony Payton

Pastor Anthony Payton

“Hello, Frost Illustrated readers.  I’m Pastor Anthony Payne of Come As You Are Community Church that’s located at 7910 S. Anthony Blvd., here in Fort Wayne.

“I was born in Hattiesburg, Miss., and moved here when I was 23 years old so I could attend Fort Wayne Bible College.  But before that, I was a heroin and cocaine addict that was sleeping on the streets.  I was in and out of treatment centers, in and out of jail and I was also an escaped fugitive from Hattiesburg.  Then I decided, I was tired of that life, tired of drugs and everything else that went along with it.  So, I went to visit my mom, who was living here at that time and after our visit, I went into an old abandoned house on Colerick Street and took a syringe full of synthetic heroin and cocaine and,  injected myself with it because I tried to kill myself but I didn’t die.  So I got off the floor in that abandoned house and asked God to take these drug desires away from me and I would do whatever He wanted me to do.  After that, I was rushed to the Washington House for drug rehab, stayed there for seven days and I’ve been drug free for 35 years now.  

“When I started at the church, there were only 12 members there that attend regularly and we tried to do creative things and those 12 people, never let the doors close.  They paid the bills out of their own pockets because the church had went down from about 200 people to 12 because of something that happened with the preacher’s leadership.  I’m the third pastor in the 27 year history of this church and we’ve gone from 12 members to 600 and I’m thrilled about the numerical growth that we’ve experienced over the 20 years that I’ve been here.  But when I look back over the 20 years, I can see the hand of God every step of the way and, it’s beyond words, to receive any recognition for anything that I feel I gave my heart and soul to and it’s thrilling to know and see what God has done.  It’s one of those things, that no human, can take any credit for because I wasn’t the fastest out of the gate and certainly not the smartest preacher or teacher or the best pastor and I’m certainly not the most charismatic but what I am is consistent.  And, I think consistency at the end of the day wins.  

“I’m also thrilled, about a number of different things we’ve done within the community.  But the thing that thrills me the most is, if something were to happen to me, Come As You Are would not dissipate because the next pastor is already here, his assistant is already here, they’ve already been trained and they’ve already been mentored.  I’m not trying to hold on to something until I die because that’s not what God wants us to do.  He wants us to be a legacy and that one generation, passes the baton to the next generation and so on.  And, with that, the communities are better and that’s what excites me.  And, we have to do everything possible to prepare the next generation and help them to stand up to do what God called them to do and mentoring them is a big part of it.

“I feel like after 20 years of ministry, if I didn’t have leadership in place, I have not done my job.  Jesus prepared  people to lead after him and everyone of them prepared others to lead after them.  We can no longer afford to be one generational leaders of people especially in our African American culture. The things that we should be doing as pastors and teachers is, nurture the next generation of leaders and I think, we need to make that the number one agenda item of our communities and churches.  That’s what we’ve been doing for several years at Come As You Are because we want to have leaders in this next generation, who are world leaders.  I want to see them be citizens of the world, have passports, go to other countries, learn the culture and engage people there.

“This coming June, we’re taking 22 people with us to Brazil to do parishioner work and in July, 20 Brazilians will be coming to Fort Wayne.  We have a partnership with Indiana Tech and scholarships has already set aside for all those students and also for those students that are coming in for four weeks to attend intensive English classes.  I’ve been traveling back and forth to Brazil for 15 years and sometimes two to three times a year and during that time, we’ve help to develop leadership and churches over there.  Why brazil?  The first time I went to Brazil was because the director of Southern Baptist of Indiana asked me to go but I really didn’t want to go since I had so much on my plate and they said, if I go they’d pay my way and so I went.

“Over a course of time, I grew to love the country and the people and I try to go there as much as possible.  I often describe it as, going to a family reunion because the people there reminded me of black folks and then after I began to study them, I understood why.  The Portuguese, came with the African slaves and they married one another and that’s the Brazilian people.  And so, it’s like being around black folks, the food is the same and the passion about life is the same.  Brazil has the second largest population of Africans outside of Africa and we don’t have as many hurdles to go through because they recognize us as one of them.

“I think that people all over the world to a large degree, know who we are as black folks.  But, we have to know who we are and once we recognize who we are as a people, we’ll stop killing and robbing one another.  We’ll also stop destroying one another’s character and all the things we’re doing to harm one another.  But, we have to first recognize and fall in love with who we are and then, we’ll act the same way towards one another.

“I think other cultures of people only know African Americans as we are portrayed on television.  They don’t know us other than that contact and when I first went to Brazil, there was only one full-time African American missionary that I know from the denomination that I’m a part of.  And, while I was there meeting the people, one of them said, ‘You are nothing like they portray on television.’  I said, ‘No, and you are not either and, I want to do my part in changing that perception of us.’  God has laid upon my heart to visit different countries that has a significant background and so, I go to the Dominican Republic a lot and I do that for the same reason, I love it.  

“As far as, the book I wrote, it’s my first book and it’s called ‘Leadership Reflections’ that reads almost as a devotional.  It has 40 leadership lessons that I’ve learned over the course of my leadership life and is written in terms of leadership principal, practice and prayer.   It’s what I have committed myself to practice and what I’m praying to God to help me to do and it will help you to do the same thing.  It’s done exceptionally well, better than I ever thought it would do actually.  It’s done well, with the Southern Baptist denomination that I’m a part of and it’s done well here locally too.  Myself and the folks in Brazil, are in the process of translating it into Portuguese and so I’m very excited about that.  I’m also a part of a panel at IPFW that’s about local author and I’m so very thankful to God for all of these blessings.      

“I’m currently working with a college out of West Virginia and we’re trying to do a fully accredited, post graduate degree program in Christian leadership that will be held at our church online and we’ll gather at our church and study there because we’re trying to do this in order to impact the youth and engage them into this world.  Fort Wayne is the second largest city in the state of Indiana but the African American population is a small proportion and I believe, we have an opportunity to be.  And, we should develop relationships across racial cultures, denominations and impact the next generation of leaders that are already here.  It should bother all of us that the biggest goal that young people have in life is getting out of this city and never returning.  We have to give them a reason to love it, live here, lift it up and a large part of that responsibility has to be shown by the church.”

Now in closing I say, fantastic job, Pastor Payton.  I’m so proud of you and I know that GOD and Jesus are too.  If there’s anyone that would like to learn more about his book or anything else about Come As You Are, simply contact the church by calling (260) 447-6036 and I know they’d love to hear from you.  So until next week, you’ve been Up Close with Jeanie.  Bye bye, babies.

P.S.  If you would like The Spotlight shined upon you or someone that you know, all in the name of love, just send me an e-mail to upclosewithjeanie@yahoo.com.  I’d love to hear from you.

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Category: Features, Local, People, Spiritual Matters

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