the shape of leadership

A Privileged Calling

A conversation with Walter Harvey

Chris Colvin on July 29, 2019

The inner cities of America are among the most difficult areas to reach with the gospel. Winning these places for Christ requires an understanding of the day-to-day struggles of the people who live there.

The National Black Fellowship of the Assemblies of God (NBF) is taking on that challenge. Most of the network’s churches and leaders are in urban areas that desperately need God’s help.

“That landscape is a natural springboard for the equipping and empowering of our constituents to be Jesus with skin on for our neighbors,” says Walter Harvey, NBF president.

Harvey has led Parklawn Assembly of God in Milwaukee since 1992. The multiethnic church has been a part of the community since 1909.

“The heartbeat of the National Black Fellowship is planting and revitalizing churches in the toughest areas of urban America,” Harvey says.

Such places need the hope of the gospel, but Harvey says they also need the long-term involvement of people who love like Jesus loves. According to John 1:14, Jesus “became flesh and blood, and moved into the neighborhood” (The Message). Harvey says following Christ’s example means sharing His message not only in word, but also in deed.

“The heartbeat of the National Black Fellowship is planting and revitalizing churches in the toughest areas of urban America.”
— Walter Harvey

“The gospel does not stop with just a personal relationship with Jesus that guarantees an eternal life in heaven,” Harvey says. “It also entails people having gainful employment, quality education, beautiful neighborhoods and a sense of well-being.”

Harvey sees his ministry as a “privileged calling, but not an exclusive one.” He believes being a good neighbor where you are is the essence of the gospel. That’s what members of the NBF are doing across the nation. As minorities who live and work in the inner cities, they are in a unique position to share Christ in some of the most under-resourced areas in the U.S.

The wide-open field and unique challenge of urban ministry attracts a lot of attention from suburban churches, and Harvey is grateful for those who want to help. However, he says understanding is essential.

“The question that should be asked is, ‘What do I need to know that I do not know about your history and your struggle?’” Harvey says. “If you don’t have that perspective when you come in to help, you can often do more harm than good.”

One example is suburban churches siphoning off staff from existing inner-city churches to start their own urban ministries. Harvey says a better way to serve is to come alongside the congregations that are there already, and have been there for years, and work together.

“That way of thinking will affirm the diversity and unity of the body of Christ, as well as the longevity and labor of love of existing black pastors,” Harvey says.

To learn more about the National Black Fellowship, visit

This article originally appeared in the July/August 2019 edition of Influence magazine.

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