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Pastor, Greater St. Stephen Full Gospel Baptist Church since 1975 - more than 20,000 members
Founder, "Full Gospel" Baptist Church Fellowship - more than 1,500 churches, created to specifically teach Baptists how to operate in the Holy Spirit fullness
Developing St. Stephen City - affordable housing for more than 75 families
Hosts Changing a Generation radio and TV show
Married to Debra, 3 children, 1 grandchild
Bishop Morton is the son of a preacher man and was raised in the Pentecostal church. Born in Windsor in Ontario, Canada, he moved to New Orleans in 1972 and joined Greater St. Stephen as an associate pastor. An accomplished musician and singer, Morton began with 647 members and has seen the membership grow to more than 20,000. The church now has three church locations, offering eight worship services per week, with five services on Sunday. He has planted five ministries in the local area, and in 1997, the ministry purchased a former military base and renamed it St. Stephen City. This development provides affordable housing to more than 75 families. The ministry later bought other corporate properties and several other community businesses.
His vision continued to grow. In July 1994, he and other key church leaders - more than 25,000 attended the first conference - launched a new fellowship of churches whose purpose was to lead believers, primarily Baptist believers, into the fullness of the Holy Spirit, yet remain on the same foundation of Jesus Christ. Other founding leaders include Bishops Eddie Long, Kenneth Ullmer, and Robert Blake. The Full Gospel Baptist Church Fellowship is based on the belief that the full Gospel of Christ must be promoted by recognizing the free expression of the gifts of the Spirit as a viable part of the Body of Christ. Beginning in 1992, Morton came to this understanding when he saw the Holy Spirit transform his own Baptist congregation. The Fellowship now has 1,500 churches and continues to grow.
All went well until 1997 when Morton initiated an investment plan for the congregation. Many pastors caught the vision and invested $10,000 to support it, hoping to bring modern banking actions such as online banking to their members. Working with a new fellowship, Morton signed on to work with some individuals he did not know well. "I should have checked them out more," he says. Unfortunately, when initial deposits well exceeded $200,000, this person absconded with the funds.
Morton was mortified. Since he had introduced this idea, he felt responsible. He began by trying to pay back the funds. Having been a long time pastor who had a good name and standing in the church, his family and church family understood. The Full Gospel Baptist Church Fellowship understood. People outside the church did not. "The hardest part was when the story hit the local media," Morton says. "They pictured it as 'Bishop makes bad investment.'" Morton took pride in having a good name. He says he was hurt for the other people who lost money. Depicting him as dishonest was hard for him to take. The toughest part came when the SEC started calling with questions.
He reached a point where he was overwhelmed - his mind raced, he couldn't sleep, he couldn't rest, and he couldn't take it anymore. On a ministry trip to the Bahamas in early 1998 he had a breakdown. When he got off-message and made eerie statements to the local pastor, people knew something was seriously wrong. He returned home and entered a treatment facility in Atlanta.
He Kept Me
Morton was hospitalized for only one week and made a remarkable recovery. He was diagnosed with a bipolar disorder. During this time, the Lord taught him spiritual truths in a new way. He heard from the Spirit in a new way. He realized he was out of order and had to get back in God's order. He had pride in his good name, too much pride it seems. "Pride goes before a fall." Morton's pride provided an open door for the enemy to attack. He put his mind and knowledge above the mind of Christ, choosing to respond to and do things his way rather than God's way.
Morton's father was a powerful preacher and Morton adored him. Morton's father pastored "one church in two locations" - one in Windsor, Ontario, and in Detroit, Michigan. His father died when he was 12, but Morton remembers the many blessings from his father's life. Morton also realized there were some things he needed to do differently than his father did, like taking a vacation. Morton's father was a workaholic and never took a vacation. His dad never relaxed. "I realized that I was just like my daddy - work, work, work," Morton says. "No time to relax. I was always doing the Lord's work." He failed to realize that a portion of the Lord's work was for him to take care of his body. "Taking time to relax and having fun with family is part of the life and calling God has given me as well," he says.
Morton speaks so openly about his personal trials because he says God told him he had to be transparent. There are many leaders dealing with issues of the mind. The enemy is attacking them. Morton says the enemy assailed him with questions, causing him to doubt his self-worth. "He'd ask me, 'What kind of leader are you? You make all these mistakes, but you say God is leading you? You don't have a spiritual mind or spiritual ears or spiritual eyes. You used to, but you don't now.'" Many pastors are working through trials like this.
Morton's blessing was that the Lord kept him through this difficult time. The Lord kept his ministry, his family, and his work. When Morton recovered, he was able to go back to work. And though his doctors said he would be on medication for a long time, he wasn't. "I knew God healed me," he says. After one week in the hospital, he left and has not taken any pills since.
His advice to other leaders going through trials is to seek help first. Seek out the best possible care for yourself. Take time for a vacation, for rest, for time with the family, time with the Lord. Also, if God delivers, don't be ashamed. After being raised in the Pentecostal church, Morton had to deal with many beliefs and questions such as, "I'm a believer. How can this happen to me?" Don't be ashamed. Know that sharing your trial can help others. Coming through his trial produced a remarkable change in his life and work. A noted singer and songwriter, Morton wrote many new songs and books. He receives many testimonials from people who have been helped through this.
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