When news coverage shows a man sitting on a rooftop, the first assumption that one makes will probably be that the man is planning on ending his life. He is suffering, possibly ill, and has given up all hope for the world. But those assumptions were not true for this man. In fact, the man sitting on the rooftop was not depressed. Quite to the contrary, this man was Pastor Corey Brooks, and he loved his life, and had the highest hopes for the world.
His journey that led him to the roof had its roots in the three months Pastor Corey Brooks spent in a campsite that could have made one envious of the old west traveling tent preacher. This would-be campsite was located under the roof of the local Super Motel. However, true to his calling, he found inspiration in his rooftop tent.
One of Pastor Corey’s goals concerned a run-down motel across the street from his church. This dilapidated slum of a structure had long served as a hub of drug dealing and prostitution. Pastor Brooks knew the path he was called to walk. He knew he had to buy the motel, tear it down, and replace it with a much needed community and economic development center. However, the major obstacle was funding. Where was Corey going to find the money he needed? The run down property alone listed at $450,000. So he took a dramatic and now well known approach – he took to the roof.
Leadership and initiative like this was not a recent outgrowth for Corey Brooks. He has been an energetic leader since his youth. He started in the field of ministry at the age of 19 and he soon earned his first pastoral role at the age of 23. He pastured at churches such as Mt. Moriah Church in Richmond, Indiana, and West Point Church in Chicago, Illinois.
In November of 2000, his current adventure began. Pastor Brooks founded New Beginnings Church of Chicago, a non-denominational Purpose Driven Church in the inner city on Chicago’s south side. He proved to be a truly visionary leader, and was prolific in preaching a message that was practical and relevant to real life situations. Pastor Brooks’ simple yet inspired message soon swelled the church’s membership to over 2500 members, who were moved by his call for restoration and reconciliation.
However, the challenges to this life affirming message were enormous. Located in the south side of Chicago, Brook’s community is in a poor neighborhood poor and plagued with gang violence. Reducing violence and improving the living conditions of his community would take radical reform, but Brooks does not shy away from the radical.
As he moved to the national stage, the obstacles were not solely external. He was plagued by struggles with self importance.
His starting ministry at such a young age and taking part in larger than life events suggest a feeling of greatness within himself and with it a want to be great. The considerate time he spends in front of a camera, whether it be interviews about his church or supporting a political candidate, also indicate a swelling ego. Fortunately for his community, this internal desire for greatness was manifested through helping those in his community.
His seeking public attention through his acts is a fairly standard part of creativity according to Western ideals. Lubart in his essay “Creativity across cultures” writes about how Western traditions shape the creative process. He notes the importance for individuals to come up with their own unique ideas, and for the credibility of those ideas to be directly proportional with the amount of positive recognition they receive from others. This Western form of creativity could partially explain why Brooks spends so much time in front of a camera.
Miles Harvey, a professor at DePaul University, studied Brooks extensively and said, "Brooks is an eloquent voice who has credibility in his community and communicates to all parts of the city,… He has an incredible understanding of symbolism. He went up onto that roof like it was a mountaintop. He was literally above the fray, but just barely."
And on the roof, he stubbornly pursued this greatness and community improvement. His inspired quest lasted 94 days and led to a $100,000 gift from actor-producer Tyler Perry. Crowds cheered him as he concluded his adventure.
Brooks does not plan on slowing down with his eccentric campaigns to improve his community. Through the church, he continues to kindle public concern about the violence crippling this city while providing vital public services. He says himself, "We always push a message of hope. Regardless of where you are, life can be better. You don't have to accept the circumstances you are in.”
Brooks certainly does not accept the status quo of his community as he seeks to turn it around, one building at a time.
Lubart: Lubart, T.I. (1999). Creativity across cultures. In R.J. Sternberg (Ed.) Handbook of creativity (pp. 339 –349). New York, NY: Cambridge University Press.
"Pastor's Bio." Pastor Corey Brooks. New Beginnins Church of Chicago, 2014. Web. 17 Mar. 2015.
Weber, Christopher. "Corey Brooks Camped on a Rooftop to Boost His Chicago Neighborhood." The Christian Science Monitor. The Christian Science Monitor, 20 Dec. 2013. Web. 17 Mar. 2015.