Michael J. Fisher represents a bright new generation of involved, open-minded leaders of faith who are both steeped in scripture and in tune with contemporary society. He is the president of Pastors of Compton, a collective of 50 ministers, and a frequent spokesperson for his local community. Fisher has not only been a long time spiritual guide for his congregation, he is also advancing the greater culture and embodying what it means to be a voice for the “underdog.”
Having lost his nephew to HIV in 2012, Fisher partnered with Volunteers of America to provide free housing for HIV-positive individuals on church-owned property. He also regularly collaborates with Jewish leaders and organizations, like Eagles’ Wings, in an effort to combat anti-Semitism and bridge the gap between the two communities. His incisive understanding of social issues and his emphasis on the contributions of African Americans to the evangelical church has made him a bold and refreshing voice in the landscape of faith. “It is interesting to know where Jesus truly comes from because it helps you understand his heart. And his heart belonged to marginalized people because he too was a man of color.”
A third-generation pastor, Fisher took over Greater Zion Church at the young age of 25. Remarkably, it was the first Black church in the city of Compton, established and founded by his father in 1954. His grandfather was also a church builder and founder, who pastored eight churches throughout the U.S. during the 1930s Jim Crow era. Sadly, Fisher’s father died in 2019, followed by his mother in 2021, but the pastor and community leader continues to carry on a proud legacy of providing safe haven for the forgotten and a voice for the unheard.
THE INFLUENCE OF THE BLACK CHURCH
Pastor Michael J. Fisher: The Black church is very charismatic, and this comes from my African heritage the same way it does for people from the Caribbean. We are very invested in music, but to the contrary, European brothers and sisters don’t follow the same culture. We are the ones who brought this charismatic culture into the American church.
I recently went on a private tour at the Museum of the Bible in Washington, D.C. The museum is preparing to release a documentary about the untold story of how the Black church impacted evangelical churches. They are telling the story of how people of color are in the Bible.
Pastor Michael J. Fisher: What I’m hoping to do, along with the Museum of the Bible, is to bridge the gap between the Jewish and African American cultures. There are many things we share in common that people blinded with hatred overlook. But both Jews and African Americans have been through slavery and genocide–the Jews experienced the Holocaust and the African Americans experienced white supremacy from individuals following leaders such as Jim Crow.
I went to New York for a meeting with the executive council for Path Forward, an organization that I’m a part of that works to strengthen the work being done in Black communities. And they’re in partnership with another organization that I’m a part of called Eagles’ Wings, founded by Robert Stearns in the 1990s. In these meetings, we have powerful conversations about solutions to deal with the racial tension we see in our country within marginalized groups.
Eagles’ Wings aims to bridge that gap between the African American narrative and the Jewish narrative. They tell the story of how God has brought both groups of people together through hardship. Eagles’ Wings is supported by certain rabbis and donors who support the cause. They take pastors and preachers and influencers to Jerusalem to be immersed in its culture and understand what it really is like instead of just following the traditional Eurocentric perspective.
UNDERSTANDING JEWISH CULTURE & JESUS
Pastor Michael J. Fisher: It is interesting to know where Jesus truly comes from because it helps you understand his heart. And his heart belonged to marginalized people because he was too a man of color.
Jesus was a Hebrew, not Caucasian or European. He came from a place where people were oppressed under the Roman Empire. He was an advocate for those who were forgotten and told that they were less than. This is important because people can see Jesus in this context, everyone can embrace his message.
We can connect Jesus’ experience during the Roman Empire with what is currently happening around the world with racism. My mind would have never opened to a different perspective if it wasn’t for my journey to Jerusalem with Eagles’ Wings. It solidified the fact that the message that I’m preaching is an important message of hope for those that feel forgotten. It doesn’t matter where you come from or what color your skin is. What matters is that there’s a higher power who actually cares about you. Jesus isn’t just the God of the privileged and the powerful. He’s also the God of those that are left behind.
WORDS OF WISDOM
Pastor Michael J Fisher: I hope that people can prayerfully remember that often what we see in the natural world is something that’s happening in the spiritual. We’re in the middle of a pandemic, fighting a disease and finding a vaccine to fight it.
I hope that in the same way, we can also develop a vaccine against hate through love. I truly believe that we can be healed as a people, as a culture and as a community.