The Rev. Solomon Kinloch Jr.: Saving souls, serving the community

Mark Hicks
The Detroit News

Since the Rev. Solomon Kinloch Jr. became its fourth leader in 1998, Triumph Church has transformed from a single tiny congregation into a powerhouse, multi-campus center devoted to serving others.

Rev. Solomon Kinloch Jr.: “I believe that genuine and authentic spirituality and Christianity is always lived out not only in our adoration and our worship but also how we treat others around us."

From food drives to gift giveaways, college scholarships, tutoring and bottled water for those affected by the Flint water crisis, members ardently help southeast Michigan residents. Those efforts, Kinloch said, reflect their earthly mission.

“I believe that genuine and authentic spirituality and Christianity is always lived out not only in our adoration and our worship but also how we treat others around us,” the pastor said. “The church has a pivotal importance to take ministry beyond the four walls, beyond just a place where a big spiritual commotion takes place on Sunday or one night during the week.”

Kinloch and his congregants have long sought to uplift others through that approach.

Growing up in Detroit, he keenly watched his mother, who opened her doors to others and treated frequent guests “as if they were one of her children,” Kinloch said. He also started ministering at age 14, under the tutelage of the Rev. Robert Smith Jr. at the city’s New Bethel Baptist Church, which supported a food pantry and clothing closet.

“There was always a model before me that ministry … was also in our ability to impact the community in which we were called to serve,” Kinloch said. 

When he accepted the call to lead Triumph, which launched in 1920, the membership then numbered fewer than 50, officials said. Kinloch recalled encountering “those who have fallen through the crevices and the cracks of life by circumstances maybe outside their control. One of the things I did was intentionally reach out to be a blessing.”

As Triumph expanded over the years and spread to eight locations in the metro area, creating what is called the “Spiritual Beltway,” the church earned Outreach Magazine’s recognition as one of the country’s “fastest-growing churches” with more than 30,000 members. 

Today, the church has dozens of ministries and outreach efforts. Among them: Every fourth Saturday, the home southwest Detroit church partners with Forgotten Harvest for a food drive to provide groceries to residents. Free meals also are served in at least two campuses each week, and some sites offer free tutoring, Kinloch said.

Members also have “adopted” families during the holidays and fulfilled wish lists — including last year allowing hundreds of children to shop at Meijer, the pastor said. Giveaways are not uncommon, showering those in need or struggling with gas money, even cars — six, in fact, during Christmas 2017, Kinloch recalled. “How the church responds, even after 20 years, continues to amaze me.”

Some see the outpouring as a reflection of the renowned reverend, who has served on the directors’ board for the Southern Christian Leadership Conference and earned numerous accolades.

“Rev. Kinloch is not only a great preacher, but he is a man of great character who took his message and spiritual duty beyond the pulpit, beyond his congregation and into the community."  said U.S. Rep. Brenda Lawrence, D-Southfield, who has known him for years.

"Rev. Kinloch doesn’t just wait for people to ask for help. He is one to seek out people in need." 

There’s more ahead for Triumph Church.  Kinloch said he hopes to explore partnerships to secure affordable housing in Detroit as well as train residents struggling with unemployment or returning to society after incarceration.

“What we’re trying to do is teach people not only just to survive but thrive. And you thrive by partnering with other people.” 

That spirit endears the pastor as “one of the most selfless people I’ve ever met,” said Sommer Woods, who heads special projects at Triumph. “He’s pretty dynamic. I appreciate the fact he always remains humble and does the work of God and the work of the community and stays true to that.

"He’s found ways, even though it’s a big church, to make it smaller for people through ministry.” 

Under the leadership of the Rev. Solomon Kinloch Jr., Triumph Church has grown into a powerhouse, multi-campus center devoted to serving the community in dozens of ways.

The Rev. Solomon Kinloch Jr.  

Occupation: Senior pastor, Triumph Church 

Education: Graduate, Northwestern High School in Detroit; attended American Baptist Theological Seminary

Family: Wife, Robin; one son

Why honored: For efforts to make Triumph Church a vehicle to serve the community by helping those in need

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