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Shelby Crossings breaks race barrier, makes Baptist historycomment (0)

December 5, 2002

By Sondra Washington

Like many Alabama Baptist State Convention pastors,  Michael Satterfield is a well-educated leader. He received a doctor of ministry degree in seminary and served as a youth pastor before accepting his first senior pastorate. He believes in the Word of God and in following God’s guidance. But there is one difference — he is black.

On Feb. 10, after holding its first official worship service just one year ago, The Church at Shelby Crossings, Pelham, voted unanimously to invite Satterfield to be its first senior pastor. In doing so, the Shelby Association church named the first black pastor of a predominately white church in the history of the convention.

“This is one of the greatest Christian witnesses that we have seen in race relations in Alabama,” said Ronald Davis, director of black church relations of the State Board of Missions. “I think that it will be a watershed in the future as we relate to one another as Christians. There are many white congregations that have African-American members, but this is the only one that I know of that has called a black pastor.”

A native of San Antonio, Texas, Satterfield received Christ at age 10 and answered the call of ministry 10 years later. After completing seminary, he accepted a youth pastor position at Westbury Baptist Church in Houston where he served for five years.

“In October 2001, I began to dialogue with representatives from The Church at Shelby Crossings,” he said. “With intense prayer bathing the process, God led a body of 300 to unanimously select me as their first senior pastor. Out of the 300 who voted, one individual vocalized reservations and opted to vote against bringing me on board. Yet, the overwhelming and radical majority invited me and my family to become a part of the fellowship.”

Although Satterfield’s appointment has opened a new door in convention practices, he saw it only as God’s leadership in his life and had no reservations about accepting the position.

“I had no choice in the matter,” he said. “I never flinched at the call. Having already been prepared by a previous church assignment in a predominantly white setting, I responded to God’s plan to lead His people, not a particular selective color of people.”

Satterfield’s wife and two children, a 6-year-old and 4-year-old, are adjusting well to life in Alabama and have also been blessed in the move from Texas.

“My 6-year-old daughter just received Christ in her life a month ago,” Satterfield said.

“If moving to Alabama was just for my daughter’s salvation alone, it would have been more than worth the journey.”

The Shelby Crossings family is also responding well to Satterfield’s appointment. Each Sunday the church’s average attendance is 500, and 250 have signed a covenant to become core members.

“The only resistance I have been exposed to is that of individuals convicted by past prejudice, racism and complacency,” he said. “Many have left, because of pride and the potency of God’s message to those who want their ears tickled. God has prepared me for any hostility that may arise. Yet, none has confronted me blatantly and openly at this point.”

In selecting Satterfield as pastor of their new church, Shelby Crossings upholds its five core values — every member is a minister, what we do we do together, God is honored in excellence, everything belongs to God and everybody matters to God.

Faith family

“As a result of these core values, people from all walks of life, races and denominational backgrounds have joined us in worship,” said Satterfield.

“The predominant member is white yet numerous other ethnicities — black, Hispanic and Asian, to name a few — have become a part of our faith family.”

Not surprisingly, he believes that the ministry of Jesus Christ is not black and white but red.

“God grieves that we work together all week and then separate to worship Him on Sunday morning,” he said. “God is using Shelby Crossings to shatter that division. We welcome all who bleed red, because that was the color of the blood shed on Calvary’s cross for whomsoever would believe on the name, Jesus Christ.”

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