Madison Pentecostal Assembly to Celebrate 40th Anniversary: Ministering to the Whole Person


When Bishop Eugene Johnson moved to Madison in Fall 1983 to found Madison Pentecostal Assembly, he came with $200 in his pocket and a dream.

Part 3 of 3

By Jonathan Gramling

The Lord works in mysterious ways is a common refrain from people whose lives have taken shape for future tasks without them necessarily planning to do so. The life of Bishop Eugene Johnson, who founded Madison Pentecostal Assembly with his wife, Minister Carolyn, in 1983, seems to have followed that path. From arriving in Madison with $200 in his pocket to today with a 23,000 sq. ft. facility on Buckeye Road, MPA has truly flourished.

In American history, the Black church has been a force of support and strength and has assisted the Black community to move forward.

“The Black church is basically run by Black people,” Johnson exclaimed. “I don’t necessarily believe in THE Black church. It’s just that whites won’t come to our churches at the same rate that Blacks will go to white churches. Our churches should be more integrated, but it’s more challenging for white believers to submit to an African American man or woman who happens to be Black. However that is set up, a lot of Blacks abandon the Black church and take their talent to those mega churches when they could really keep their talent in the African American community to help build that community. So it’s the African American leaders who really attempt to address the systemic and cultural problems of our community as well as being a conscience to the nation for all communities. That’s very key, a conscience for the nation. And so, the church that is concerned about Blacks is welcoming with open arms.”

Social trends that have led young people away from traditional institutions and in some cases towards social media and the virtual world were exacerbated by the pandemic.

“The sad epitaph, I believe in terms of Black racial progress, is the abandonment of the church by too many lost people in our community,” Johnson said. “Those values are about the church. We feel an obligation to be right. We’re not out there blaming the white man for this, blaming society. We want to help build the society that should be there if there is a lot of institutional racism, institutional challenges and structural issues in society. We can be a part of the decision-makers that run those institutions that can help them do better. The Black church gives those values. People might battle on so many levels. From an integrity standpoint, institutional people can over police you because they see that you are making progress. And there is personal racism if you help try to run those institutions. They aren’t perfect in terms of the people who run them. But the key thing about the Black church is it is enduring. And the main reason it is enduring is because of our faith in God.”

And Johnson feels that the Black church will be needed more in the future as he sees an uncertain future ahead with increased polarization within society.

“The world is changing literally and in some ways, reversing itself,” Johnson said. “The future of the Black church has to fit within the context of what that future looks like and shapes that future. My thing is to prepare for that future. That future I see is filled with both kindness and antipathy, antipathy in terms of the rise of hatred and nationalism and the eradication of white consciousness towards what happened to a people on the part of nations. And when you think in terms of nations, the stuff goes back for millennia. We’ve been hit by a pandemic where it became so politicized that too many people of color died because they were not basing their decision on good information, but so given to rash social media rumor or cultural identity as such. In a sense, the church was almost gutted by the pandemic in terms of involvement in fellowship: the hugging, the caring, the warmth, the one-on-one, the music, the in-person participation, and the financial support. By people being absent from the church, you see the rise of something filling that void, being antithetical to a civil society and to church and to a faith. We have to be prepared to be strong.”

Johnson sees the Black church as an agent to help people live empowered and contributing lives.

“The church is about transforming lives, not just the conforming,” Johnson said. “Most of the things today want you to conform. The power of the church is to transform lives and values.”

And the 40-year history of Madison Pentecostal Assembly has witnessed the transformation of hundreds of lives. It has lived up to its values it professed 40 years ago when Bishop Eugene Johnson came to Madison with $200 to found a church.