Few people have the joy of knowing that their livelihood is the same as their divine calling. Rev. Marcel Kerr is one of those few.

“I love pastoring! The Lord created me to pastor His people; He called me to pastor His people; and He has qualified me to pastor His people.”

Pastor Kerr began fulfilling his calling in 2010 when he became the pastor of Ebenezer Missionary Baptist Church. He is the congregation’s eighth pastor since its organization in 1902.

“The privilege of leading a congregation of this legacy and prominence in the landscape of the black church in Chicago, the Midwest and the United States defies description,” he said of the church known as the Birthplace of Gospel Music. “This was a premier destination church when blacks came from the South during both Great Migrations of the 20th century. Its identity has no comparison.”

Pastor Kerr is a native of Chicago’s South Side, born in South Shore and raised in the rough-and-tumble Englewood neighborhood. He graduated from Emmanuel Christian School and Luther High School South before completing a journalism degree at Northwestern University in Evanston, Ill. He later earned a master’s in divinity at Northern Baptist Seminary in Lombard, Ill.

“I have no shame telling people I grew up in Englewood. That neighborhood is well-known for its violence and poverty, but people with strong values can survive and thrive. The Lord blessed me with an incredible family structure who would not allow me to become a victim of the streets. My parents set a high standard for academic achievement, and they wouldn’t compromise. Anything short of excellence simply was not tolerated.

“Spending those formative years at Emmanuel laid a foundation that I didn’t appreciate until I graduated from college. They believed that a child’s proper training would stick with them all their lives. All that Bible learning and memorizing Scripture and singing hymns…those are disciplines that have come in very handy during my years in ministry.”

After confirming his call to preach in 1998 at Lilydale First Baptist Church in Chicago, Pastor Kerr served as an associate minister and assistant pastor under Rev. Alvin Love. Pastor Kerr’s time at Lilydale revealed to him two of his spiritual gifts: teaching and serving. He utilized those gifts while ministering in several capacities: youth pastor, director of youth ministry, Sunday school teacher and organizer of small-group ministries.

Pastor Kerr employed his gifts with his education as a curriculum designer at Moody Bible Institute, where he wrote courses for the Institute’s correspondence program. He then joined the advancement and development staff at Trinity Christian College to work as their marketing/communications writer. Both of these professional stints broadened his understanding of what God’s kingdom is. He also taught at Chicago Baptist Institute.

“I wasn’t exposed to much diversity during my childhood. High school taught me every Christian isn’t black and every Christian isn’t Baptist. Working at Moody and Trinity Christian showed me the worldwide reach that Christianity has. Those experiences have enlarged my worldview and have made the Great Commission so much more urgent. Our reach to all nations must extend beyond the boundaries of what we’ve seen in our hometowns.

“That’s why nothing gives me greater joy than teaching Scripture. That’s why I teach two Bible classes each week and try not to cancel or miss either of them. Making disciples starts at home, and when the people at home carry the truth into their various spheres of influence, we begin to transform the world for Christ.

“My primary goal in ministry is helping people maximize the abundant life they have in Jesus Christ. I think the best way to accomplish that goal is by teaching and preaching the doctrine found in the Word of God. Scripture shows us the church is built on the doctrine of God’s truth, so that’s the heart of my service in the pastorate.”

Pastor Kerr and his wife, ErnNesha, have two daughters, Kinaya and Kiyani.

“My wife is a perfect complement to me in ministry. She allows me the freedom to exercise my gifts, render my service to the people and excel in my own spiritual growth. There is no way my life would be as fulfilling without her.

“Being a father keeps me grounded and helps me in the pastorate. Raising children requires sensitivity, compassion, patience, cheerleading, confrontation, cajoling…all the same necessities for pastoring people trying to live holy lives.”
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ErnNesha C. Kerr is a Christian woman striving to be more like Christ daily. Her love for God ... view details