Madison Pentecostal Assembly Helps Start
Three Wisconsin Churches
Investing in Faith Communities
|Bishop Eugene Johnson has been splitting his time between
newly formed churches in Beloit and Appleton and Madison
Pentecostal Assembly in Madison.
congregations to form in Tomah, Appleton and Beloit and meet the needs of their parishioners. At the center of the Tomah church is Rev. Darren
Price, a long-time member of Madison Pentecostal Assembly who was a Wisconsin state trooper based in Tomah and made the long commute
every Sunday. After Price retired as the first African American major in the state patrol in 2015, he wanted to open a restaurant, having already
established a catering business and his BP Smokehouse brand of barbeque sauce. Johnson helped him find a location for the business. And
they decided to look for a location for a church as well.
“We said that if ever a church would become available in that city to let us know,” Johnson said. “It did. We got on the phone to Monona State
Bank. They helped us. We negotiated the price and paid cash for it. Now he is pastoring there. It’s a military town. We learned that it is near Ft.
McCoy. They are going to build a new hospital near there out on the Interstate. Tomah is going to be an economic engine and attract more
people because it’s at the crossroads of I-90 and I-94. That church is there on a ridge just outside of town. You can see for miles.”
Price’s congregation attracts congregants from Ft. McCoy and the veteran’s hospital.
“His congregation is not growing as fast numerically in terms of people,” Johnson said. “But his excess, his giving is great. And we’ll pay off
that building probably within a few months. But the resources from Tomah and Madison are helping to subsidize Beloit. In Tomah, he has
military people. He has guys who have been in the military hospital for treatment. He would bring veterans in and the congregation started to
increase. We said that he definitely needed a church there. So he is ministering to distraught men as well as officers who have moved into
town. That’s the essence. Alcohol issues are very prominent out there in that area as well.”
The Appleton church came about because some members of Appleton’s African American community were looking for a new church home.
“There have been two other African American churches that have been in Appleton,” Johnson said. “But it is the first one of our organization.
The other churches are small. People were being scattered due to some church experiences. They reached out to one of our members to
perform a wedding for them. In the process of doing the wedding, we baptized the groom and the bride. And then we learned that there were
many other scattered individuals in that city looking for a church home. We figured it was appropriate for us to assist them with the process.
We rented a space from a Lutheran church. They already had a Hmong congregation who were there. We didn’t want to get it for free. We
wanted to pay our way. Our members were used to paying for what they get. We established a rent level and stayed there for about eight
months until we purchased our own building there. We purchased a very nice building, a building that a Korean Presbyterian church converted
into a church. It was fully furnished including a baby grand piano and an organ, pews and offices.”
Instead of seeking financing from its long-term financial partner Monona State Bank, Johnson turned to people he knew in Memphis, his home
“They were some African Americans who purchased majority ownership in a bank in Memphis,” Johnson said. “They have donated millions of
dollars to Black colleges. I asked them not to give, but to lend us the money and to give us favorable, flexible terms during the first six months
so that we could ramp up with the church in Appleton. They loaned us the full price for the church. We didn’t have to put any money down. And
we didn’t have to make a payment until six months later. We used that arrangement to pay cash for that church and get the chance to establish
that congregation. While the church was growing well, the income of the people is not what it is in Beloit and Tomah.”
Johnson and Madison Pentecostal Church would have to take the same long-term strategy of uplifting the members of the Appleton church like
they had done with residents of Sommerset about 30 years prior.
The Beloit church came about from the desire of Madison Pentecostal Church members from the Janesville area wanting to attend a church
closer to home. After looking at some properties in Janesville, Johnson was steered to Beloit.
“We went to Beloit,” Johnson said. “Although we didn’t purchase that property downtown, we eventually purchased a school that had been
closed six months earlier. The Beloit school system was closing 3-4 schools at the time that we purchased. We bought it and that building is on
10 acres. It’s a 23,000 sq. ft. facility. It has 16 classrooms and a gym. It’s all on one level. It’s very nice handicapped-accessible building. And
the price was right. Another religious school group was in the process and made some offers. But they were low-balling the sellers. We offered
full-price, $375,000. We bought it. Again the Lord blessed. Monona State Bank understood that we were secured through Madison and the 50
acres in Cottage Grove. So we purchased it. Interestingly, the property there isn’t the security for the loan. However, the bank has first right of
refusal if we decide to sell it for anything. But it isn’t the security for the loan. Again, banks are working with us because of our good financial
standing and how we are organized and how we grow.”
Johnson commutes to the Appleton and Beloit churches to teach Bible study and also visits people in jails and prisons. Other members of MPA
are also helping out at the other churches. They have received and so they have the desire to give.
“Most of the people were individually won to the Lord and the church,” Johnson said. “They have that giving spirit. They didn’t come as a result
of some radio or TV ministry where no one individually won them. They had needs. They got ministered to. They overcame and so that creates a
mission mindset. They give of their time. They travel through snow and ice to go to Appleton. They give money and resources. They give talent.
They go up there to clean and paint and help fix up the facility, deal with families and people. We use the expertise from the various churches to
invest in the human capital as well as fiscal as well as physical capital and definitely spiritual, which is the key. It’s the Lord, who is the
differentiator or frankly the base.”
Since it was founded in 1983, Madison Pentecostal Church has tended to the material and spiritual needs of its members. Beginning with
Bishop Eugene Johnson, members of the church have never forgotten where they came from and are now in a position to use their blessings
to empower others. Now that is a powerful ministry.
By Jonathan Gramling
If an effort has the right ingredients, no matter how small and humble the
start, it can grow into a powerful force over time. Elder Eugene Johnson
started out with next to nothing when he first arrived in Madison in 1983. He
had $200 in his pockets and was armed with an undergraduate degree in
economics from LeMoyne College and a master’s of science from the
School of Business at UCLA in urban land economics. Johnson had a deep
faith in God and a mission that blended together his understanding,
financially, of the ways of the world with the dictates of God, a mission that
looked after the material as well as the spiritual well-being of his
Through perseverance, dedication and continuous attention to the spiritual
and material needs of his congregation, the members of Madison
Pentecostal Assembly have prospered and in turn the church has
prospered with Johnson using his economics background to guide the
church’s investments so that it owned land near Cottage Grove and owned
its own church mortgage-free. It was in a position to assist other