Sit down and talk with the Rev. Harvey Wakefield, and it's like taking in a breath of fresh air. A 1994 graduate of Monroe Area High School, Wakefield is married and has five children. He has an interesting perspective on pastoring his growing church, Engrafted Word Christian Center International.
Q: How and when did you know that this is what you wanted to do as your life's work?
A: I didn't. This isn't what I wanted to do. I thought I'd be playing pro football, to tell you the truth.
I went to churches as a young person, and I didn't want any part of (pastoring). For a long time, I didn't even know preachers got paid. I got a great desire for the word as a junior in high school. When I was in Florida, I started a small Bible study group, and from that I became a pastor.
Q: Did you ever consider a different career?
A: I don't consider pastoring a career. A career is for money and prestige. What I do is a calling. I can change careers, but I can't change my calling.
Q: Who would you say was the greatest influence on you and your choice?
A: I had a mentor, Pastor Willie Felton of Lighthouse Christian Center International in Florida. But my relationship with God is the greatest influence in my life, and my wife.
Q: What would you say is the most challenging thing about your job?
A: Bringing a group of people to a unified understanding, a one-mindedness toward a common goal.
Q: What's the most rewarding thing?
A: Seeing people get it. When they apply the word to their lives and transform, I get to see that. It's like seeing someone go from childhood to adulthood.
Q: What are your long-term goals as pastor of your church?
A: I want to establish a church where all races can come and worship in a spirit of unity. We all have our own prejudices, all of us. But there's only one God. You can't just minister to black folks, or just to white folks. You have to minister to people.
Q: Who would you most like to meet, and why?
A: Dr. Creflo Dollar. I consider him a mentor. I see him doing things other pastors are afraid to do.
Q: If you had to name one thing that's changed the most in Gwinnett's worship and religious trends over the years, what would it be?
A: Well, I just moved back here from Florida. A lot of different people are moving here. Churches have to change to meet the needs of those people.
I don't know that Gwinnett has changed at all. If you go to some of the smaller towns in Gwinnett, the churches are still segregated. We haven't arrived yet.
Q: What is your favorite scripture?
A: Proverbs 3:5. "Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding." I read it every morning.
Q: If you could give one piece of advice to a young person considering going into the ministry, what would it be?
A: Find a great leader, and watch him. Don't say anything; just watch him for about three years. Prove yourself. I find that a lot of people mistake salvation for "a calling." They don't understand the difference. Pastoring is a lonely walk. Sometimes it's hard to get people to see something that you see by faith, by trusting God.
Wakefield is a pastor at Engrafted Word Christian Center International, 3885 Rosebud Road in Loganville. The church offers a corporate prayer service at 8 a.m. Saturdays, worship services at 8 and 11 a.m. Sundays and a mid-week worship service at 7:30 p.m. Tuesdays. For more information about the church, call 678-252-8219.