You can only be in one place at a time. Perhaps, but it is possible to have two different hometowns and two church homes … just ask Elder C. Shawn Tyson.
This past weekend relatives and friends of the minister from Indianapolis went to Youngstown, Ohio, to see Tyson installed as pastor of Mount Calvary Pentecostal Church, where he spent part of his childhood.
“I’ve come full circle and things are going very well,” Tyson said.
His elevation as pastor of Mount Calvary, however, is no ordinary occurrence.
Mount Calvary is the same church that has been led by two of the nation’s most influential Pentecostal ministers; Tyson’s father, Bishop James E. Tyson, and the late Bishop Norman Wagner.
The elder Tyson served as pastor of Mount Calvary before moving to Indianapolis, where he later formed Christ Church Apostolic in 1976. He is currently presiding bishop of the Fourth District for the Pentecostal Assemblies of the World (PAW), an Indianapolis-based denomination that represents more than 1.5 million people worldwide.
Wagner, the elder Tyson’s assistant pastor, assumed leadership of Mount Calvary and achieved national notoriety as presiding bishop of the PAW from 1998 to 2004, as well as a gospel music artist who was twice nominated for a Stellar Award with his choir. Admirers in and outside of the faith community were saddened when Wagner died suddenly in January.
Both Tyson and Wagner had a profound effect on the younger Tyson, who was inspired to accept his own call to ministry while watching them and developing a personal love for God, the Word of God and his people.
“You can imagine the impact of having my father as pastor and Bishop Wagner as assistant pastor. Man, if you can’t preach after that, you need to retire immediately,” C. Shawn Tyson said, laughing. “There is no way you can be around that and it not impact you. I really had no choice.”
Tyson is still amazed that Mount Calvary elected him to follow in the footsteps of his father and Wagner.
“It is very humbling,” he said. “Everyday, I come to the church, I have to ask God, ‘Why did you choose me?’ There is nothing in me or about me that would make me worthy to succeed such great men. It is totally God.”
The younger Tyson has had his own remarkable journey in ministry, first serving as youth president and organist for Christ Church Apostolic. Known by friends as “The Maestro,” he was trained in music ministry by his brother, the late Craig Tyson, co-founder of the Tyscot Records gospel label.
C. Shawn Tyson directed the very first project by the company, an album by the Christ Church Apostolic Radio Choir. In 1990, he became an international evangelist for the PAW, as well as its national organist and musicians staff administrator.
He served four years as pastor of a church in Canton, Ohio, and then returned to Indianapolis in 1997 to work with his father as assistant pastor at Christ Church Apostolic. Tyson also served as youth convention coordinator for the International Pentecostal Young People’s Union from 1998 to 2004.
As pastor of Mount Calvary, Tyson would like to use his ministry experience to continue Wagner’s vision of offering a holistic ministry that handles the “total needs” of a person.
Under Wagner’s leadership, Mount Calvary became known for its community outreach efforts, education academy and senior citizens home.
“We (churches) have done a relatively good job of teaching the word, but we need to also be the light of the world and salt of the earth,” Tyson said. “What good is it to tell a man that Jesus is the bread of life and he can’t afford Wonder bread? What good is it to tell a man Jesus is the water of life and he is thirsty?”
At the time of Wagner’s death, the Ohio church was developing a community complex on land it purchased that once served as the site of Idora Park , often described as “The Kings Island” of Youngstown.
“We have plans to build what Bishop Wagner called the ‘City of God,’” Tyson said. “It will include a new state-of-the-art sanctuary, a 24-hour prayer tower and commercial properties for church members. Our first point of emphasis will be on the new cathedral.”
Tyson might have moved to Youngstown, but said he will still maintain his ties to Indiana.
“I’m still an executive pastor at Christ Church Apostolic, and Indianapolis will always be home,” he said. “And I’ll keep on supporting Indiana college teams. They have been the punching bag during the football season, but wait until basketball season comes!”