Maurice Watson is senior pastor of the Metropolitan Baptist Church in Washington D.C., and Largo, Maryland. He has served churches in Arkansas, Nebraska and Georgia, and in 2015, became the sixth pastor of the historic Metropolitan Baptist Church of Washington. He was interviewed by Executive Editor Michael Duduit.
Preaching: You were called as pastor of your first church, St. Mark in Little Rock, at the age of 21, so you’ve been preaching for over 40 years. How has your preaching changed during that time?
Watson: Well yes, my preaching has definitely changed over these 40 years. When I was a young preacher—I started at 16—I was basically a topical preacher, because that was all I was exposed to. Back in the mid 1980s I attended a conference hosted by the late E.K. Bailey, where this issue of expository preaching first came to my attention. I heard him do it. I didn’t quite understand all of what that was, but I knew that that was the kind of preaching that I wanted to espouse. My journey in expositional preaching began as an inspiration from E.K. Bailey.
Preaching: I think that E.K. Bailey conference has influenced a lot of pastors through the years.
Watson: Absolutely, it has. Absolutely.
Preaching: At Metropolitan you followed a well-known pastor/preacher, Beecher Hicks, but you also came to a congregation that’s had some highly publicized struggles in recent years. Tell me about that experience and how the situation has impacted the kind of preaching you’ve done for that congregation.
Watson: It is publicly known that our church, Metropolitan, faced and is facing some challenges from a failed building venture, and as a result had to file for bankruptcy. That’s public information.
I’ve been there a year and eight months, and I realize that I’m pastoring a church that has a lot of history, a 150-year-old church built by former slaves. It’s historically been one of the leading congregations in the Washington D.C. area, so for them to, if I might say, have “fallen” from that lofty height to where it is today … I took over a congregation that is wounded and to a certain degree, embarrassed.
This has helped to shape my preaching. I preach on issues of forgiveness and those kinds of things to bring about healing in the church. I am happy to say that I am seeing that church turn toward the kind of healthiness that it needs. We see the church improving. People ask me how it is doing, and I’d say that the arrow is pointing up. It’s not pointed straight up, but it is pointed up. Things are coming around.
Preaching: Have you found in your preaching the need to kind of help this congregation deal with their situation and have a new vision?
Watson: Absolutely. We were meeting in a school building, a charter school building for that matter. After I first got there, that charter school lost its charter, and the next school wanted us out. Of course, it inspired me to preach messages to encourage the people, “Let’s move forward.” We can’t accept our present condition as our new normal. Let’s move forward, and we have been blessed to secure a worship facility. It was a warehouse building that we have retrofitted for worship.
The people, for the first time in about eight years, have a sense of home now. Yes, we’re moving forward.
Preaching: Tell us about your typical preaching style. If we were to come visit Metropolitan one Sunday, what would we expect to hear?
Watson: Well, I consider myself an expository preacher. If you come to hear me preach, I would hope that you would hear a person who’s going to be true to the text and trying to explain what the text means. I believe in what Kaiser called the authorial intent of the text, so to the best of my ability I try to expose or explain what I believe the author’s intentional meaning was in the text and I try to make a practical application from that text to people’s lives today.
Every movement of my sermon, when I preach, comes directly from the text itself, and then of course I try to make application for right-now living.