The Rev. L.K. Pendleton says the church needs to be about a lot more than sermons and Bible studies.
"The church must integrate itself in all aspects of the community," she said. "We must be totally involved. We have to place a priority on caring for our neighbors."
To Pendleton, that means the church must deal with problems such as poverty, lack of education and crime.
Pendleton, known to her followers as "Pastor K," has been senior pastor at St. Mary's Road United Methodist Church in Columbus since June 2013. Two years earlier, she began the nonprofit L.K. Ministries, which serves an international community and is not associated with St. Mary's.
On the L.K. Ministries website, the popular speaker explains the organization's role, which is teaching truth in changing times.
"Our mission is to spread the Gospel of Christ to each and every corner of the world," she said. "Through global journeys, I have met ministers and missionaries in Nigeria to political figures in Mexico. I have discovered that they have one thing in common: a thirst for Christ. We are all about taking it to the streets."
She said L.K. Ministries specifically speaks to women and children.
"We have touched so many lives through the teaching and preaching of the Gospel and our work has just begun," she said.
A key recipient of L.K. Ministries' generosity is the Wesleyan School in Lagos, Nigeria. "We send a lot of materials such as books and games there," Pendleton said.
St. Mary's also puts an emphasis on helping youth and increasing literacy rates. Pendleton said a group of about 80 children from different south Columbus neighborhoods have been given tablets. Vans are sent out each Sunday to bring the children to St. Mary's and contact is also made with them during the week.
"God has called me here and I am ready to make a difference," said the first female pastor in the 59-year history of St. Mary's.
One noticeable difference is that the church now refers to itself as "The Road."
Pendleton said the church wants to be contemporary and appeal to young people who are often turned off by traditional denominations.
"We are on the road to regaining our position as vanguard of spiritual and social change in the context of which we live," she said of the church that currently has about 500 members.
Pendleton has written a book published by L.K. Ministries, "Say You Want to Be Married? No You Don't!" It is a contemplative look at marriage.
"I see too many people who want to get married but really don't understand what it is all about," she said. "They are not ready."
She is a strong believer in pre-marital counseling and won't marry a couple she feels is not ready. She smiled and said that does not stop most couples, though.
Pendleton is divorced with one grown daughter, Amber.
Being in a military town is nothing new for her.
Pendleton's father was in the military. She is one of 10 children. "I was born at Fort Hood but all of the others were born at Fort McClellan," she said.
She spent most of her childhood living with her grandmother in Anniston, Ala. Though raised in the church and an active participant as a girl, being in the ministry, she said, was "way off my radar."
"I didn't want to be responsible for someone else's spiritual development," Pendleton said.
She wanted to be a college professor or, perhaps, a nightclub singer. Though she said she had some success as a performer doing R&B and some jazz, she instead answered the call to the ministry.
She earned her undergraduate degree in philosophy at Clark Atlanta University, her Master of Divinity degree at Interdenominational Theological Seminary in Atlanta and Doctorate of Ministry degree from Columbia Theological Seminary in Decatur, Ga.
She was the founding pastor of Redemption Community Church in East Point, Ga., making her the first black in the North Georgia Conference of the United Methodist Church to charter a congregation.
She came to Columbus from a position as pastor at New Prospect United Methodist in Buford, Ga.
As an instructor for the Interdenominational Center in Atlanta, she was involved in a program where she provided training and technical assistance to church leaders across the country and helped plan faith-based conferences on welfare reform and workforce development.
She likes to see churches getting involved with outreach.
"We have to be concerned with the total makeup of people and not just spiritual issues," she said.