The Christian church, despite the separation of denominational lines, shares an essential, common reality:
Local congregations are comprised of fallible and imperfect people who may have very different ideas about how things should be run. Differences of opinion may become a hard-lined split in the church body when compromise and cooperation are given a back seat.
Opposing agendas can emerge from the fray and any Biblical directives on love and “esteeming another more highly than yourself” are forgotten. Winning at all costs can become paramount.
Pastor George Scott recalled this very situation 16 years ago after the long-time pastor of a church where Scott was a member died, leaving a void of leadership and direction.
Election of a new pastor was scheduled, once the period of corporate mourning had passed.
“We prepared to move forward and elect a new pastor,” said Scott. “The Lord was increasing our membership, and the church was growing. I received the highest number of votes. But politics got in the mix, and some officers fought the results.
“They were backing a neighborhood guy who grew up in the church. I pushed back and stood my ground, based on the election results. But ultimately, I walked away.”
Sixteen years later, Scott helped birth United Community Missionary Baptist Church, which he described as a vibrant, loving body of believers who are “thriving in divine favor.”
Today, the church meets in its purple and gold church building at 131 W. Person Ave., in the Riverside Community.
“We didn’t have much money back then, but we were just trusting in God,” said Scott. “There were 10 founding members. We met at the McDonald’s on Third Street for those initial meetings. Then, we started to meet from house to house.”
Scott reflected on being in the heat of the conflict at his former church.
“Things could have been done decently and in order, but everyone became so emotionally invested in the conflict. I prayed for direction and asked the Lord what was His will,” said Scott. “I got my answer, clearly. I would leave the church family I had loved and served. I knew God would lead me. I wanted to see peace restored.”
Scott said there was still one thing everyone agreed on ⸺ that the pastor’s legacy not be turned into a big mess. And out of that conflict 16 years ago is the continued growth and spiritual health of not one, but two congregations.
“We are not holding any ill will now,” said Scott. “That happened such a long time ago. We wish all of God’s people well. God has blessed both congregations over the years.”
Scott was born and reared in Birmingham, Alabama. He preached his first sermon before he hit puberty.
“My pastor was W.M. Norwood, and he was 90-something,” said Scott. “I grew up in the church under his guidance and teaching. I preached my first sermon when I was 12. … My upbringing and church training was rich in the word. I was truly saved at a right, early age.”
Experience and Pastor Norwood’s loving example taught Scott how to shepherd “God’s people” with a pastor’s heart, he said.
Scott does not receive a salary. He works every day to support his family and help carry the financial responsibility of maintaining United Community. Prior to planting United Community, Scott owned two auto mechanic shops.
“Since the pandemic, we have re-formulated our service,” said Scott.
“On Tuesday, we have our Sunday School lesson, Bible study and prayer meeting. We went back to the basics. In our prayer meeting, we lie on the altar and pray like the saints used to do. We believe in intercessory prayer.”
Scott believes that churches in inner-city neighborhoods have a special role to play in uplifting and improving the lot of community residents.
“The church of Jesus has been assigned to spread the message that Jesus saves and gives hope,” said Scott. “We look for God to increase the membership, but building a huge congregation is not our purpose.
“Our real work is spreading the gospel everywhere the Lord sends us. We want to make a difference right here on our little corner.”