Elbert McGowan | Senior Pastor
Elbert, affectionally known as Pastor El, was born and raised in Jackson, MS. He graduated from Jim Hill High School, in 1996. Within days of graduating, he left Jackson, in order to attend Alabama A&M University’s Summer Bridge Program. Though he participated in that summer program at A&M, he had already agreed to attend Tuskegee University in the fall. The Lord did two things that summer: allowed him to meet the woman he’d end up marrying eight years later and altered his plans about college. By the end of that summer, he had grown to love the city of Huntsville, the people, and that school. So, he stayed. While at A&M, one of his mentors encouraged him to pursue a degree in Engineering and was able to find scholarship money for him. So, he changed his major. After interning with Entergy (Jackson), Johnson Controls (Huntsville), and General Electric (Ohio), he finally graduated in 2001 with a Mechanical Engineering degree. He then moved back to Cincinnatti, Ohio and accepted a full-time offer with General Electric Aircraft Engines.
Once he moved to Ohio, he “thought” he had it all. The last thing on his mind was a relationship with Jesus Christ, pastoral ministry, and moving back to Jackson. After years of watching drugs ravage his family, it looked as if the Lord was working through a church in Jackson, to bring healing, hope and help through the message and work of the Gospel. Elbert watched, from a distance, how Jesus delivered and saved family members at home. It was after watching the power of Christ at work in his family, that he began to long for Jesus to save and change him. That’s exactly what happened. Elbert was converted while reading a Bible someone gave him, on the couch in his apartment in Ohio. He immediately found a church and was discipled by several men who emphasized not only personally following Christ, but also making Him known to others. So, he began sharing the Gospel with co-workers, fraternity brothers, friends, and strangers. During that season, God appeared to be drawing people to Himself, through the botched efforts of an unlikely convert. This was also the time when Karen, the girl from the Summer Bridge Program in 1996, re-entered his life (thanks to hotmail). Though she was in Florida at that time, she had recently come to know the Lord! They were both pleasantly surprised to hear about each other’s faith. After dating long-distance for a few months, they both felt as if the Lord was leading them to be married. Just as he was getting settled in Ohio and making plans for a wedding, another positioned within the company opened in Madisonville, KY. He felt as if God was calling him to accept that position.
When he got there, he quickly joined Eastview Missionary Baptist Church and began to serve there. He ended up teaching classes on Evangelism and training lay-persons in the church to share their faith. The passion to share the Gospel grew into a full-fledged prison ministry in Eddyville, KY. He was doing all of this in his “spare” time. As the wedding date drew near, Elbert and Karen were preparing for a life together in Kentucky. Elbert would continue to work for GE. Karen would begin her career as a Pharmacist with a local company. However, it appeared as if God had other plans. Elbert and Karen visited Jackson a few months before the wedding. During this visit, Steve and Sherry Lanier treated them to lunch and asked them to consider vocational ministry and moving to Jackson in order to attend a local seminary.
After much prayer and watching God’s work in their lives during the months and years leading up to their wedding, they felt like once again, God was interrupting their plans. They were married in May of 2004, and relocated to Jackson in July of 2004 to begin seminary studies at Reformed Theological Seminary. Elbert ended up joining and working at Redeemer Church, an intentionally multi-ethnic church plant in the city. After working at Redeemer for 3 years, he then started RUF at Jackson State University in 2007. He graduated with an MDiv. from RTS in May of 2008 and transitioned into full-time campus work at JSU. After working with RUF for almost 9 years, they sensed God calling them back to Redeemer when Rev. Mike Cambell - his mentor, founding pastor, and friend - moved back to Miami. In February of 2016, he joined the pastoral staff at Redeemer. Elbert and Karen have two children, Karis and Tripp. They live in Jackson and remain deeply in love with this city, its people, and what God is doing here. They are excited to be a part of what God is doing to make broken things new!