- Faith & Family
Rev. Carol Nash-Lester, pastor of Bethel Apostolic Temple, was in middle school when her relationship with God shifted to a higher level. One Sunday, she was in church, which was a normal thing because her mom was a minister of music at her childhood church in Houston, Texas, and her pastor spoke of the importance of prayer and how people should think of God as their daddy not just their father. They should not be afraid to pray to God and they should be as comfortable with God as they are with a family member.
“I’m a daddy’s girl, so when he said that something just woke up in me,” said Nash-Lester, who had a strong relationship with her father before he passed in 2005. “I didn’t understand that God had perfect love for me until he said God was my dad.”
She started to understand that her relationship should be based on love instead of fear.
She mentioned perfect love as referred to in 1 John 4:18, which states: “There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.” Since then her prayers and the way she perceived God changed.
“When you’re really close with someone, you don’t have to go through preliminaries, you just speak and you listen . . . it’s not formula in any form or fashion. It’s relationship and that’s a big difference,” she said.
After developing a deeper relationship with God through prayer, Nash-Lester began to empower others to grow as Christians at a very young age. She has not allowed any challenges to stop her from doing what God has called her to do.
Empowering others since middle school
When she was in high school, she started a vacation Bible school for middle schoolers. In college, she encouraged her other friends to catch three buses to and from church.
“I had a desire to see people uplifted and empowered,” Nash-Lester said. “And that’s just something that never died and just grew stronger and stronger.” she said.
Although there were not many women in the ministry in the 60s and 70s and Nash-Lester didn’t have a mentor when she first got into ministry, she didn’t let that stop her. After discussing a lack of mentors with her Sunday school teacher, her teacher encouraged her saying:“You’re not supposed to have any role models; you’re supposed to be one.”
That was when she accepted her call at 23. “I [said] OK this is it, and I never looked back.”
After 26 years of ministering and 13 years of pastoring at Bethel Apostolic Temple, Nash-Lester’s mission is still to “encourage, equip, edify and empower.”
Nash-Lester goes beyond the church walls
Bethel Apostolic church members are equipped through different programs, such as the church’s family enrichment initiative, financial education, and other initiatives. Along with serving as a pastor, Nash-Lester is also a student services administrator at Miami-Dade College. In addition, she has also written several books on Christian faith and started the T.O.T.A.L. Approach which is a ministry of personal and professional development that allows her to provide coaching seminars on Christian leadership.
Nash-Lester believes she fulfills her mission through her service to the church and the college and in service through other organizations.
Nash-Lester said that one of things that is most fulfilling about being a pastor is seeing members change and seeing them applying the “good word” to their lives.
“When you see that their lives have changed, when you see that they are able to handle a lot of things that come along . . . because they’ve been equipped, I don’t think there’s anything better than that,” she said. “That’s one of the things that keeps me going.”
By Malika A. Wright