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The 700 Club

Redefining Church with "Digital Disciples"

REDEFINING CHURCH
In 1992, Bishop Joseph became the pastor of Mount Zion Baptist Church in Nashville, Tennessee with 175 members.  Then in 2013, Bishop Joseph starting using Periscope, a live, video streaming app to reach more people.  He immediately had 100,000 followers.  “I was bringing the Gospel to them,” he says.  “The biggest challenge in church is getting people connected.”  Today, more than 30,000 people gather every Sunday at five of his brick and mortar churches and continues to grow at a phenomenal rate of 2,000 souls per year.  In addition, more than 200,000 people follow him on various digital platforms.  One third of his church’s support comes through these “digital disciples.”  He’s known in the mega church circles as “The Social Media Pastor.”  

BISHOP JOSEPH'S BOOK:  No Opportunity Wasted

When the social media giant Facebook wanted to bring people and faith-based communities together, they called on some of the well-known pastors in the world.  Representatives from these mega churches told Facebook to contact Bishop Joseph and Mount Zion Baptist Church if they wanted to find out who was already connecting people and building communities using social media.  In April 2018, Facebook Faith-Based Partnership Leaders teamed up with Bishop Joseph and his church for a month-long partnership to launch the official Facebook group.  Facebook representatives greeted church attendees and invited them to visit laptop stations designed to teach people how to better engage with other members through the church’s social media.  With the recent scrutiny Facebook has had in the media and Capitol Hill regarding privacy, censorship and other issues, Bishop Joseph knew some people wouldn’t understand or agree with his approach.  “Jesus called us to go into the whole world,” he says.  “And now Facebook has given us that platform.  To be able to create groups where you can have meaningful conversations to find out where people are hurting -- to really craft ministry to meet people where they are.  Facebook has come alongside the faith community and said, Listen, what you are doing matters.” He says the virtual church has been a tremendous blessing to people.  “Viewers can feel like they are a part before they commit to anything,” he says.  “When I minister around the country, these young people show up.  We have redefined what church is.  We come to you.”

SEIZING OPPORTUNITIES
Bishop Joseph is deeply concerned about America’s youth and young adults.  That’s part of what drives his ministry’s social media outreach.  The church buses in students from eight nearby universities.  “We tell them they have a contribution to make to the kingdom,” he says.  Bishop Joseph is a man who gets things done, takes advantage of key opportunities, like the recent one with Facebook, and believes in possessing a sense of urgency.  “Your preparation is for these moments, and you have to be ready when they arrive,” he says. Bishop Joseph warns not all good things are a God thing and believes there are 3 keys to discerning God opportunities: 1.  Know that they come with the right timing; God will never send us something we were not ready for; 2. Everything will be in sync; there will be interrelated harmony, and; 3. The moment will not be about you; when opportunities come from God, they are sent to bless more than you.

Bishop Joseph grew up in Shreveport, Louisiana, the son of a deacon.  At an early age, he knew he was different.  Bishop Joseph says his energy level made it difficult for teachers to deal with him and ultimately his parents discovered he was gifted.  His parents introduced playing the drums to channel his energy and that led him to gain a scholarship to Southern University Baton Rouge.  It was there he determined to go to law school.  “I thought law was my path in life,” says Bishop Joseph.  At age 20, he was involved in a fraternity and one night while standing under a tree with his frat brothers, Bishop Joseph had a vision.  “There was a still, small voice in my spirit summoning me to a call higher than my lifelong desire to be an attorney,” he says.  “It was a call to serve God’s people in ministry, but nothing in me at that moment wanted to accept it.”  

After graduating from Vanderbilt University, Bishop Joseph, then 24, became pastor of Mount Zion Baptist in 1992.  Bishop Walker’s first wife passed away from cancer in 2005. He met and married Stephanie, who was on faculty at Harvard and now is an Assistant Professor of Pediatrics and Neonatology at Vanderbilt in 2009.

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Guest Info

Credits

Bishop, Full Gospel Baptist Church Fellowship

Pastor, Mount Zion Baptist Church, Nashville since 1992

BA, Southern University, Baton Rouge, LA; M. Div, Vanderbilt University, Nashville, TN

D. Min, Princeton Theological Seminary, Princeton, NJ

Author of numerous books, his latest: No Opportunity Wasted, 2017

Married: Stephanie

2 children

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