Building the People who Shape the World
Abundant Life Cathedral Church’s pastor and founder, Dr. Ed Montgomery, inspires congregation in effort to build new leaders
Church has long been a place to replenish one’s faith in God and find a sense of purpose and direction in life.
And at Abundant Life Cathedral (ALC) Church, Dr. Ed Montgomery and his wife, Saundra Elaine Montgomery, have given a whole new urgency to this tradition. The signature of their ministry is in stirring their congregation to find, strengthen and refine personal potential in tandem with spiritual growth.
At ALC, members are encouraged to apply divine inspiration in realizing their full potential for achievement and for leadership of others in spiritual, professional, community and economic endeavors. The church’s purpose is exemplified in its defining message — “Building the People who Shape the World.”
This approach has been steadily refined and expanded by the Montgomerys since they founded ALC in 1981. “The pulpit I’m preaching from is merely what I use to inspire and encourage the congregation with the message that, ‘wherever you work and whatever you do, that is where your pulpit is,’” Dr. Montgomery says.
And why is Ed Montgomery so diligent in preaching that message in his sermons to the congregation at Abundant Life Cathedral Church?
Because the Montgomerys are personally well-versed on the rigors of searching and struggling to find and fulfill God-given potential. Their spiritual journey originated in their hometown of Cleveland, Ohio. After graduating from high school, Ed Montgomery left Cleveland and enrolled in Bishop College, an historically black institution in Dallas, Texas. Bishop College is known for grooming many of the nation’s greatest preachers and educators. Ed Montgomery went on to earn his master’s degree and Ph.D. in the fields of ministry and philosophy.
Having met in Cleveland, Ed and Saundra Montgomery soon married and started a family of three children — daughter Angela Renee (who died at age 14 after a seven-year struggle with cancer), and sons Edward II and Simeon Raphael.
After attending Bishop, Ed had decided to start his ministry in Texas. Ed and Saundra moved to Bonham, Texas. It was a humble beginning, much like that of one of Montgomery’s former Bishop College classmates — Pastor Ron Shaw.
Shaw, who founded the Light Church in Plano in 1984 (later relocating to Dallas in 1990), has been a close friend of Ed Montgomery’s for 30 years. A Dallas native, Shaw first met Montgomery when they were both studying for the ministry at Bishop.
“Ironically, we weren’t really that close while on campus together,” Shaw says. “In 1977, I moved to Sherman, Texas, and Ed moved to (nearby) Bonham, Texas without either of us knowing just how close by we actually were to each other.”
A few years later, however, the two young preachers recognized each other while driving down the same Texas highway. They got in contact with each other a short time later and discovered they were both running small churches in neighboring towns in the same part of North Texas.
Montgomery and Shaw began conversing regularly and soon became colleagues who attended the same ministerial events and teamed up on church-related projects. “When we were both based in North Texas, we traveled together by car to Los Angeles, Washington, D.C., and Charlotte, North Carolina,” Shaw says.
Around the same time, Montgomery launched New Home Ministries and Shaw helped Montgomery with his radio program in Bonham.
“Ed started a separated ministry (on radio) with me being his assistant,” Shaw says. “He always sensed God was going to move him from Bonham. And eventually, Ed settled on Houston as the place God wanted him to go.” So with two small children and less than $500 to their names, Ed and Saundra moved to a city they had ever seen before – Houston.
Shaw helped Montgomery move to Houston in 1980, driving him there in a U-Haul. “Ed still kids me about the U-Haul trip,” Shaw says. “He still jokes about how I just dropped him off in Houston and left him stranded. But he did have a couple of friends in Houston who helped him get settled.”
The Montgomerys founded the inter-denominational Abundant Life Cathedral Church in August 1981 in a 1,800-square foot strip center with only 31 church members. Today, the church has more than 7,000 active members and tens of thousands of friends and supporters worldwide. The church is now located in a building worth millions on property situated on more than 20 acres of prime, freeway-accessible real estate on Houston’s west side.
“At Abundant Life Cathedral, everything — from the pastor’s message, to the auxiliary groups to the design of the inside of the building — is geared toward tapping and nourishing unrealized potential,” Dr. Montgomery says.
It is a broad-based message that keeps the church membership coming back.
Long-time ALC member Peter Bryant recalls how quickly he became inspired by Dr. Montgomery’s approach in the pulpit.
“I first met Dr. Montgomery in 1988,” says Bryant. “I was a visitor to his church because I was late for a church I attended across town. I was so late, I decided it was better to just be a visitor at the nearest church I could find.”
The nearest church Bryant could find was the fledgling ALC. “I was impressed by what I heard and what I saw,” says Bryant. “Dr. Montgomery was very dynamic and he didn’t pull any punches. And he was more about building up people rather than tearing them down. I went back the next Sunday and joined up.”
Bryant says what many ALC members tend to like is the consistently strong positions Dr. Montgomery is willing to take. “A lot of people may read the truth in the Bible, but they’ll soften it because it is not politically correct,” Bryant says.
“When I started attending Abundant Life back in the ‘80s, there were maybe 200 people attending, and maybe 20 or 30 dedicated core members,” Bryant says. “And we’d get a lot of turnover, those two- or three- or four-week people.”
Bryant, a native of Virginia, says Montgomery is willing to be a “lone wolf” preacher in reaching out to people from every walk of life.
“Everybody’s not on a first-grade level in terms of spiritual and personal motivation,” Bryant notes. “In other words, ALC has a lot of people who could be leaders in other places. But these are people who use ALC as their spiritual compass.
“They’re being good followers on Sunday, but they’re able to go out on Monday to act as good leaders,” Bryant says.
As for Montgomery himself, the reason for pushing his congregation to explore their own leadership potential is very simple — and serious. “In a way, I believe the richest place in the world is the graveyard,” Montgomery says. “The reason I say that is because buried in the graveyard are many unrealized dreams and unrealized potential.”
Montgomery’s old friend Shaw says he always felt Ed Montgomery was bound to attract — and connect with — a large congregation. He says Montgomery has always displayed a sense of purpose and determination. Shaw vividly recalls Montgomery’s days of working at an office supply company to pay bills while also directing a church musical and building his church’s Bible Study.
“His tenacity has always been a model for me,” says Shaw. “His determination to do what God called him to do has always been a source of inspiration for me, personally. And Ed has always been one of the better preachers coming out of Bishop College.”
Shaw says he and Dr. Montgomery still talk regularly and take business trips together.
Ed Montgomery’s inspirations messages have been televised locally in Houston and nationally on BET (Black Entertainment), Daystar and the Word Network. Currently Ed is concentrating on live video stream on the internet through streaming faith. Dr. Montgomery also recently produced two popular inspirational compact discs commonly known as The Healing CD and The Prosperity CD. He is also an accomplished musician and songwriter. His most recognized works include, Living On the Top (Title song of Douglas Miller’s CD), Life — There’s Something More, I Still Believe and ALC-Total Live Experience.
Meanwhile, Saundra Montgomery (Sister Saundra as she is affectionately called) is a driving force behind much of ALC’s growth and outreach. Along with being an ordained minister, she is also a motivational speaker, songwriter, producer and the director of the Word in Motion Dance Company.
In addition, Saundra Montgomery is the founder of U-WIN (which stands for You! Woman in The Now), a woman’s ministry arm of ALC. This organization involves women venturing into the communities to minister to women facing various challenges in life. U-WIN members often hold vigils at nursing homes, prisons and shelters.
Ed Montgomery is also an accomplished and prolific author. His books include, Breaking the Spirit of Poverty, Heaven in Your Heart — and in Your Pocket Too, and When Heaven is Silent.
The latter, When Heaven is Silent, was written in the aftermath of the loss of the Montgomerys’ daughter, Angela Renee, who died at age 14 after a seven-year fight against cancer. Montgomery says the loss of their only daughter strengthened his and his wife’s sense of compassion toward others who suffer tragedies.
“We believe in the healing power of God,” Montgomery says. “Out of any great pain, comes a choice to succumb to the grief or turn around and help heal the hurt of others who are suffering.” We chose to help heal the hurt of others, thereby helping to heal ourselves.”