Joseph Isaiah Shaw is the 26 year old Youth Pastor at First Union Baptist Church in the South Bronx. Originally from Sumter, South Carolina he has been the Youth Pastor there since 2009.
Shaw’s journey to this point has not been one that he accepted at first. It could be said that his journey began at four years old.
At the age of four Pastor Shaw remembers going into his parents room crying. When his parents asked what was wrong he told them that the Lord had called on him to preach. His mother not sure what was happening, called his grandfather, Rev. Joseph McAllister Sr., who he refers to as ‘’Pa Pa’, who, at that moment, told her to believe her son.
According to Pastor Shaw his grandfather, Rev. Joseph McAllister Sr., knew that his four year old grandson, who was named after him, was called by the Lord to preach the gospel of Jesus Christ, because he had a similar experience; receiving his call from the Lord to preach at the early age of nine.
Shaw also recalls how his grandmother, the late Gladys Marks McAllister, taught him how to pray when he was four year old.
His grandparents, along with his parents, played a major role in helping him develop spiritually in his primitive years.
Seven years after that experience, at the age of eleven, while his father, Rev. H.B. Shaw, was teaching classes on salvation at the St. James United Methodist Church in South Carolina Shaw asked his father repeatedly: “how did you come to Christ?”
Pastor Shaw remembers that after having the conversation with his father on “the second Sunday in April at 10:30pm at the age of eleven I got down on my knees in my bedroom and I prayed the ‘sinner’s prayer’ and when I got off my knees I felt the most powerful experience; the feeling that I felt is really hard to describe, tranquility. It was so peaceful.”
After he graduated high school he began having dreams again about preaching the word of God. He tried to avoid those dreams wanting instead to become a lawyer, like his aunt Peggy L. McAllister, or a politician.
However, one night at the age of 18, after speaking with his uncle, Rev. Donald McAllister, and asking him “how do you really know that you are called to preach?” he went home, got on his knees and accepted his call to preach. After doing research Pastor Shaw discovered that in the bible the number seven signifies Perfection of Completion. This was important to him because having his first dream at four, asking questions and accepting Jesus Christ as his savior at eleven, and accepting his journey at eighteen all happened seven years apart.
After graduating from Morris College in Sumter, South Carolina he planned on going to Dallas Theological Seminary in Dallas, Texas. He had no of intentions coming to New York, but after doing Revival in 2007 in the summer while still at Morris College, and again in 2008 it led him to become a full time Youth Pastor in the church and he enrolled in the Masters program at New York Theological Seminary. He will be graduating in May of 2013.
When it comes to First Union Baptist Church, which just celebrated its 96th year anniversary on Palm Sunday with special guest speaker Dr. Dale T Irvin, President of New York Theological Seminary; Pastor Shaw believes that one day they will have a Christian Academy, a counseling center, a community center, a diverse ministry that includes African-Americans, Latinos and Whites, and that they will become international.
“I’m a visionary and sometimes when you’re visionary sometimes you can see things that other people can’t see. I see us really making an impact for the kingdom of God.”
Concerning the issue surrounding the youth population of his church he sees that it is increasing. This is because they are making their presence known within the community. They currently have 20-30 youth. The church has made “ministries to meet the needs of young people.” They have recently implemented an empowerment ministry which facilitates various programs designed to develop young people in terms of their spiritual development and they are also tutoring young people helping them get their G.E.D.
First Union Baptist Church will begin partnering with colleges and will help the young people get jobs through the
church. Because it is still forming he does not feel appropriate to reveal the schools involved. Pastor Shaw sees this as quid pro quo: “The young people are coming to the church because they see that the church has something to offer them and now they’re bringing their gifts and their talents to be a blessing to the church.”
Being a part of the Bronx is a plus according to Pastor Shaw because there is such a diverse background such as African American, Latino, and Causation and so on. It gives them more of a community to reach out to.
More and more as the years go by less and less young people are identifying themselves as religious or stating that although they may have religious values they would not identify themselves as such.
Steady decline is not the only problem facing the world of religion. When it comes to knowing facts concerning different religions, including their own, followers and believers didn’t do so well according to research done by The Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life.
Audio Podcast: Pastor Shaw Describes His Feelings On Homosexuality and Gay Marriage
This website, started in 2001, conducts surveys and gathers other sources of information to gain a deeper understanding of where and how religion fits into everyday life.
The “U.S. Religious Knowledge Survey” launched on September 28, 2008, asked questions based on information of different religious teaches. The responders were asked to pick which one they thought was the correct answer.
The results indicated that both Atheists and Agnostics were tied for the group of people who received the highest amount of correct answers out of 32 questions with 20.9%.
Concerning Pew Form’s results, having to do with Christianity Pastor Shaw said that “many people who claim to be Christians are not biblically informed” and that even though people may say they are part of a religion they do not truly have an understanding so their responses will be “generic.”
According to Pastor Shaw if you “want to get the fullness of a response you would really have to go to people who are invested in Christianity.” He later said that “It’s not the people who attend [church]; it’s the people that are invested in that particular religion who have a broader understanding.”
The time in his life where Pastor Shaw really relied on his Christian faith happened after his father Rev. H.B. Shaw passed away; thus leaving him without his lifelong mentor and best friend.
On August 29, 2004 on the fifth Sunday in August after preaching at St. James United Methodist Church a sermon called “leave no one behind” Rev. Shaw fell backward and died.
According to Pastor Shaw his father’s last words, which were the last words of the sermon, were “it is well with my soul, thank God.” Pastor Shaw was just 20 years old.
Video: Youth Pastor Joseph Isaiah Shaw Shares His Thoughts On Dr. Dale T. Irvin Speaking At the 96th Year Anniversary of First Union Baptist Church
Although he asked God “why my father? Why now?”, he felt peace knowing that his father was with the Lord.
Pastor Shaw has served as a Community Organizer for the Northwest Bronx Community and Clergy Coalition and and he currently serves as the Founder and President of The Urban Initiative. He hopes to fight poverty not only in New York, but in this nation and the world.
“Poverty is ridiculous in this country. When you got men, women and children going to bed hungry in a wealthy rich nation, it’s a problem. So many people suffering; so many people hurting and I just cannot sit back and watch this. My conscience kills me.”
He went on to quote Albert Einstein: “”the world is a dangerous place to live, not because of the people who do evil, but because of the good people who sit and let it happen.”