Exclusive Interview With Dr. Wesley T. Cherry, Sr.
By Roz Gee for MMS News
Neatly attired in a cool water blue checkered shirt and denim jeans with an office adorned in kingly décor landscaped in rich colors. A medieval-like sword positioned in its sheath, left-aligned to his high-back leather chair. Gracefully on the door hangs a royal purple robe with ornate embroidery symbolizing strength, integrity and honor. Upon entering his private abode, a delightful aroma greets you and lingers in an aura of excellence. Yep, you’ve probably guess it by now—all décor kudos goes to his wife! However, there is a new sheriff in town—Dr. Wesley T. Cherry, Sr., Pastor of the progressively expanding Word Alive Church International in Manassas, Virginia, is embarking upon some pretty tall orders to carry out. With his recent appointment and announcement as Bishop-Designate in the Full Gospel Baptist Church Fellowship International, he serves under the leadership tiers of the Presiding Bishop Paul S. Morton, Sr., a stellar leader and exemplary visionary in the body of Christ.
Bishop-Designate Cherry was gracious to meet with MMS for an exclusive interview discussing his background, family, ministry and mission, all of which are Kingdom-centric. Cherry’s demeanor always exudes humility, wisdom, resolve and quiet strength—he has an ardent passion for God and an addictive compassion for the care of His people.
MMS: You come from a lineage of ministers in the Cherry family—tell us about your strong heritage of faith?
Cherry: It’s an amazing heritage and legacy. The Bible speaks of Timothy who first found faith in his mother Eunice and his grandmother Lois and this is similar in respect to my family. There are currently more than 14 ordained clergy persons that represent more than 10 denominations and this is not including those who have gone on already to be the Lord (deceased). My mother’s father was a Methodist Pastor. My own father is a Pastor and has been all of my life. Also, my brother and a host of uncles, cousins and other relatives not just in terms of ministry or para-church ministry, but have served as Pastors in their various callings. It is quite remarkable and the funny thing is I never dreamed I would be a minister—never, ever had an inclination. I thought it but always ran from it and then the call caught up to me.
MMS: When (what year) were you called into the ministry and was there a notable significance surrounding the calling?
Cherry: As we grow in God, we find that God is always there. And when I say that, I mean the calling was always there, I just never acknowledged it. I was never close enough (to God) to listen for the Call. You go through changes, seasons, transitions in life—the move toward adulthood and instances began to occur in my own personal life which caused me to begin to search for answers. I found myself reading the Bible and the more I began to start pushing toward a spiritual orientation; I started recognizing what I never knew as far as the voice of God in my own life. In the meanwhile, I was out there in the world and still in college—living like God didn’t exist. I can remember one night in particular, I had gone to a fraternity-type function and there was a lot of alcohol there. After being intoxicated, I found my way back to my dorm room. Lying in bed, totally inebriated, I declare to you and before God, I heard a Voice saying “You are coming home and you will preach My Gospel.” It scared me so much until I just wrapped up in a pillow and began to ask, “What is this?”, Who is this?” As I now look back over the years, God has a way to get your attention. From that night forward, I was about 21 years old at the time; it was a progressive thing of just searching out God. Even though I had been reared in church, I didn’t employ any of that stuff. I began searching the Bible and didn’t have the tradition to rest on. Started reading in the book of Job and read completely through Job. Then something just shifted on the inside of me. In 1985, at 23 years old, I preached my first message at Mount Nebo Church of God in Rochester, New York. I ministered the 40th Psalm, verses 1-8, titled “Thou Hast Pierced My Ears” (taken from verse 6).
MMS: How long have you been serving in the ministry (at large) and how long have you been in the Pastorate (Word Alive)?
Cherry: In the ministry, since 1985…so 22 years. Served a Pastor in Rochester, NY and certainly, my dad for a stretch (of years) before I moved here to Manassas. Served as a Minister and then Elder while going through the progression at Yeshua Church of God in Christ (Manassas) before hearing God’s voice again to move out and launch into this work at Word Alive in 1994 (totaling 13 years in the Pastorate).
MMS: What are the greatest challenges concerning the Pastorate as you’ve experienced?
Cherry: I think one of the greatest challenges in pastoring is to live what you preach. The reason why I say that is because it’s very clear to me that there is no authority where you don’t walk. So the struggle is then there has to be a submission, a resolve in your life. I can’t lead unless I have already walked where it is I’m trying to lead. Never, ever let it be said that I would preached something I never lived. I would never want to represent a lie in ministry. There is so much of that kind of stuff going on—I have to be true to God and true to myself. It always goes back to me and God.
MMS: Name a few of the greatest rewards concerning the Pastorate and serving God’s people?
Cherry: At the end of the day, I can honestly say as I look at my life. Paul said that I have to be poured out as a drink offering because it’s about us (dealing with us) before we can lead. I find that my greatest reward is—first of all, I believe ministry is not building buildings, all of that will come but you have to build lives. One life at a time. The truth of the matter is when I see someone hit another level—a revelation comes and it hits them. For example Peter when Jesus said, “Who do men say that I am?” and some said this and other said that. But Jesus asked Peter, “Who do YOU say I am?” and Peter said, “Thou art the Christ!” Christ stated that ‘flesh and blood’ did not reveal that unto him. We see that now Peter hits a note, a stride and God speaks to him. It’s when someone awakens to a Voice that’s greater, which leads them to a purpose and destiny. Even if it’s just a small change, they’re now walking in a greater capacity. This is what does it for me—that’s what “floats my boat”. Just to see the light bulbs come on! Even if it infinitesimal (small), I get excited to know they’re hooking the train up to move swiftly toward their destiny and that is what really excites me. It’s an epiphany or “wow” moment for me personally and to know they will become invested in their own “wow” moments.
MMS: What is your life’s passion and personal mission?
Cherry: When I look at the Apostle Paul’s life, he was mentored by a man named Barnabas, the Son of Consolation. He was the Son of Comfort. Barnabas was an Exhorter. I believe I have been given a ministry to exhort people—I have a passion to exhort people to be all they can be. I’m an exhorter. Naturally, I’m an optimist which kind of lends itself to my personality. With that, I see the cup “half-full”, I know it looks half-empty but I rather strengthen what remains. Don’t want to look at what’s gone but consider what’s still here. We can cry about what’s already gone but why not celebrate what’s still here!
MMS: Talk to us about Lady Jan Cherry and how she complements you in ministry and other life areas? Tell us about your family…
Cherry: My wife and I were just talking about this on last night and it’s an amazing thing that opposites really do attract. I’ve found that strength in opposites is an attraction that brings two people to a mutual place. It becomes a powerful strength because in all of my weak areas, she’s there and vice-versa. There is a unity, there is a strength and there is a power that is just irresistible. The only person that can really do all of this is God. Lady J, personality-wise. is a lot different that I am. But at the same time she looks for the same resolve and solutions I’m looking for. Together we do so much better than we could ever do apart. She is my girlfriend. She is my best friend. I can talk to Jan. She is a confidant (trusted friend) in every sense of the word. She is also a warrior too! She can get “hood” on you (“Neighbor Hood” that is—encouraging fellow believers to maintain balance and order). She can run into a phone booth and come out “Lady Hood”. My mom has coined her as “A Little Piece of Leather That’s Well Put Together.” She has an amazing ability to “go there” and still fix your plate afterwards—meaning she doesn’t allow things to linger or fester; she quickly addresses issues and move on. Next.
My two sons—Wesley, Jr. seems to have an inclination and propensity towards leadership in church. Joel has more of a covert, operative type personality. You have to know your children strengths and know where they are and know how to assist them to get them where they need to be. For instance, one of my sons wants to be a Mayor but doesn’t want to volunteer in the mail room on the City Council (teasing). He must understand all of the levels and processes around doing a job of this nature and magnitude.
MMS: What is your view on family-ministry life balance among clergy in the Church?
Cherry: You can never preach what you don’t have a personal conviction for because there’s no power in it. I believe that God is first over everything; secondly, it’s always family. Family must come before church. The first institution God ever created was family. In fact, church came out of family. God created a man, and then man created a method. The method became a machine and the machine became a monument; and then God started to look for another man. All He ever wanted was relationship with a person.
MMS: Talk to us about your involvement and affiliation with the Full Gospel Baptist Church Fellowship?
Cherry: Everyone has streams that flow through them. I have a traditional stream that moved into a Messianic Jewish stream that moved into a Charismatic stream and flowed into a Pentecostal stream. When I was an Elder not in the Pastorate at the time, I was watching a broadcast on one early Sunday morning featuring Bishop Paul S. Morton, Sr. Inwardly, I asked “Who is this person?” Everything he said, I got it! He began to talk about Holiness, Order, the administration of the Baptist Church, the power of the Pentecostal church, the strong teaching of the Charismatic Church, the history of another Church…all of these streams seem to connect. Yet, he was moving toward a reformation which will include all of these streams. The only way I can say it is, “I GOT IT!” I pondered and met with my Dad because in 1994, when we started Word Alive, I immediately sought for a covering. There was something about Paul Morton’s vision that came from God that I got and immediately connected. It was rich and balanced. We can have excellence. We can have the Spirit of God. We can have administration. We can have history. We can have scholar and “anointed” academia. We are literally the dreams of past generations. We have a presiding Bishop who just embodies and personifies love, concern and mercy. This fellowship, I believe, has the best leaders and innovators in the Body of Christ today. Full Gospel lifts everyone, no matter where you are, to another level.
MMS: Was your recent appointment to the Bishopric shocking or a surprise?
Cherry: It just literally came out of nowhere. You don’t know who’s watching you, ever. When they (Full Gospel leaders) began to pull “to the bench” is what they call it. They looked for faithfulness and I was glad to be numbered among the faithful. So was it a shock? Yes. Was it expected? If this is what comes from faithfulness, without sounding proud, then I receive and accept it. It was a shock; I didn’t think it was going to come this quickly.
MMS: In June, you will be official consecrated as Bishop—it is challenging to celebrate what God has done in you and consider the responsibility and accountability that this high office holds?
Cherry: Bishop Morton said that “I’ve had my eye on you and now I’m placing my hand on you.” The hand means to look back at what has already been done and know what you have been called up into. To be lifted to this place is mind-boggling and I’m a foreigner, if you will, in trying to gain my footing. In terms of bittersweet, the bitter side is the awesome task at hand and the reward for work is always more work.
MMS: With many clergymen and women “coveting” to hold this sacred office—what is your take on what others may perceive as “glamorous” or “in-it-for-the-benes” verses what is really required to be considered for this office?
Cherry: Whenever there’s an authentic move of God, the enemy tries to mimic, he tries to model. There are a lot of people who are using and trying to take the word ‘Bishop’ out of its original context. They go into a phone booth and come out with a ‘B’ on their shirt. People are running into all of these jack-legged organizations and foundations just to be called “Bishop”. One thing I can say about Full Gospel; you can literally trace its apostolic succession back to Peter. Meaning, there’s a true apostolic lineage that has found its way through this move (fellowship) even into the 21st century.
MMS: Let’s talk about the importance of “process” by sharing at least 3 must-have qualities one should possess to be considered for the bishopric?
Cherry: From I Timothy 3, a Bishop must be blameless, vigilant and sober—along with the rest of the qualifications delineated in this passage of text.
MMS: How is your new position and responsibilities going to mesh (interconnect) with the overall mission @ Word Alive Church International?
Cherry: I have pondered that question much and I have seen many who have ascended this hill that now have many issues because I think they didn’t think it through in terms of how it’s going to work practically in the dynamics of what they’re trying to build (achieve). I’ve tried to build a structure here, according to God’s instruction, to walk a certain course and then raise up others to continue to move forward. God said He was going to set me up on a wall and others I have trained, they’re going to keep moving but now I’m repositioning you.
MMS: The great vision of Word Alive is to build a “Kingdom City” in the Manassas/ Northern Virginia area; how do you think this new appointment to Bishop will support that vision?
Cherry: You can’t judge your ministry what others do or don’t do. Yes, God has given instruction to build a city. City means municipality of government. My focal areas are to institute a quality of life; government and to establish and develop educational and financial entities. In addition, next-generation development such as youth programs and facilities are a huge part of the vision. The City will be geared towards self-sustained influences exclusively for the Kingdom of God. In essence, we’re building an “Infrastructure of Influence.”
MMS: Congratulations of your new appointment to the Bishopric in the Full Gospel Baptist Church Fellowship International and we pray astounding success and uncommon favor to the Glory of God!
Cherry: To God be the Glory.
Bishop-Designate Cherry will be officially consecrated at the World Congress Center in Atlanta, Georgia on Tuesday, June 26th, 2007 @ 7:00PM.
Interview conducted and article written by Roz A. Gee, freelance writer and author of the buzzing debut book, beshe woman in progress, Stepping Forth Into Greatness (www.rozgee.com). Roz resides in Northern VA along with her husband James and son Miles. Email her at GeeWriter@aol.com with comments concerning this article.