Category Archives: Detroit

Update on City Church Detroit – Brightmoor Campus

Friends, it has been a busy month and we want to keep you in the loop and get your help here in Detroit. Here are some short videos and our May 2015 newsletter. Our goal of twenty donors each giving one thousand dollars is well underway and we have three that have stepped up already. Would you please consider helping us here in Detroit? We need your help to help those that need it the most.

Until the whole world hears…

-jon

Support Letter May 2015

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December 2014/January 2015 Newsletter

Thank you for your support, prayers and financial assistance. Here is our newest newsletter.

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Support Letter Dec/Jan

 

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A Life of Justice, the Gospel, and Detroit – Guest Post by Drew Ansley

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A Life of Justice, the Gospel, and Detroit – Guest Post by Drew Ansley

Every time we visit Detroit, we come back with stories to tell. It’s not just the abandoned, broken down, post-apocalyptic feel you can get traveling through some parts of the city, with its overabundance of overgrown, long-since-left-behind structures.

It’s the lady asked to leave Starbucks by the Police, after holding a 10 minute verbal contest with another patron over her need to just leave when the manager asked her to leave. It’s the church on fire as we drove down the road. It’s the driver beating up the passenger of his car as we passed them on Woodward Ave.

The more time I spend in Detroit, the more clear it is that justice for the suffering must become the constant posture and ready response of anyone who desires to see God made much of in this city. Of course, God already told us this was important to Him. He is a just God who hates unjust scales (Micah 6:11; Proverbs 20:23). It’s Who He is. It isn’t merely something He likes. He IS justice.

That’s why He would have been unjust to let our rebellion slide and pardon our sins without punishing someone – the right Someone, Jesus, to vindicate His justice (Romans 3:21-26). So in order to show His perfect justice and His perfect mercy, God punished His son, Jesus, instead of us and gave evil you and evil me a way to know God and live.

Now Jesus, who suffered the most heinous injustice in history on the Cross, calls His people to defend the defenseless and to be fathers to the fatherless as a reflection of His character. We are the physical, tangible presence of Jesus lived out on earth (Eph 1:22-23; James 1:27). It cannot be merely a peripheral ministry. It is a core issue in the heart of God, and Detroit is one place He won’t let you forget it. Place office hours all you want on your church food pantry, but in Detroit, injustice and great need comes to your own back yard – literally.

While in Detroit a couple of weeks ago, we headed over to Pastor Jon Jackson’s house for dinner. When we arrived, there were extra kids in his and his wife’s arms. This is not an uncommon occurrence for this couple at all, having taken in various teens and children over their 8 years in Detroit, while maintaining a constant life of service to the community around them.

This time, however, Jon explained that he was waiting for the police, which was at that point going on 20 minutes. While grilling chicken in the backyard, he had observed a disturbance in a vehicle stopped in traffic beside his house. It turned out there was a young woman being beaten to a bloody pulp by her boyfriend. She tried to escape by exiting the car, but he pulled her back in and proceeded to choke her with both hands and continue beating her like he was in an MMA fight.

As Jon approached, the man ran, got in another vehicle, and fled the scene. The result was that we waited another 20 minutes for the police, and another 20-30 minutes after that for the EMT. While waiting, we fed and played with her two young, scared children and Jon and his wife spoke with the police and young woman.

So here’s the point: this is the NORMAL stuff, not the exception. I could share a dozen other similar and even worse stories and I have a very limited exposure to the city still. What about all of the progress happening in Detroit now? Sure, Detroit is “coming back” in some regions of the city, but the injustice that has been found there for generations is not going anywhere. In fact, new growth (though not inherently negative) will result in new injustices at various points.

Jesus entered, and even suffered in, our injustice and brokenness. He has called us to do the same for others for His name’s sake. We are the carriers of the hope that can be found in Jesus, and in a city like Detroit, we have no choice but to be ready at any moment to dispense that hope to the broken and hurting, even when at great personal cost. We serve needs not just at the church or community center, but as we live our lives moment by moment. We embody and speak of salvation and life possible through Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection in and through everything we do, everywhere we go, with every day we live.

What Detroit forces on those who live and minister there should teach all of us everywhere some important truths. The need for the gospel and for hope and for help is far beyond the reaches of our churches and our ministries, therefore our hearts and lives must reflect this broad scope as well. We must allow our own amazement at God’s provision and salvation in our lives to grow, so that in response, we will always be ready to give this Good News to others. The gospel points us to a life of Justice no matter where we live. Detroit just happens to hold us to it.

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Food Stamps…

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Food stamps get a bad rap. People who use food stamps are often looked down upon as being those who “don’t work”, “mooch the system”, and “are lazy.” That couldn’t be farther from the truth.

This past week it hit headlines that the Pentagon is proposing to make cuts. When this hit the news I was intrigued to see what some would say and not to my surprise in a Fox News interview former VP Dick Chaney said of the proposals that…

“It’s driven by budget considerations. He’d (Obama) much rather spend the money on food stamps than he would on a strong military or support for our troops.”

The narrative is this (it is a common belief and it is a myth)…we either need to support the military or give those poor, undeserving, lazy people free food stamps. I used to believe that was the case, but 6 years running a mission, Church, multiple drug programs and a food pantry in Detroit changed all that.

The truth is that it is not just poor black people on food stamps. It is not just minorities that need help. There is more to the story than is being told. 

In a 2012 CNS News report, my city of Detroit had nearly 40% of my people getting food stamps. Nearly 50% of the city population wasn’t working. Of the 363,000 housing units, around 100,000 of them were vacant. Nearly 75% of babies born are raised in single mother homes. Around 30% of homes have no father figure. The city used to have nearly 1.8 Million people (1950), today just under 700,000.

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The ramifications of this have been devastating. Many can’t find work, education is lacking, the social programs aren’t successful and the needy class is growing. This results in a growing number of people who need food stamps. With all of this information it blows me away when I see people post pictures on Facebook or give comments seemingly blasting those poor people who are on food stamps. It is saddening to me to see such a blatant disregard for life and respect of persons.

People on food stamps have value to God. We should love, help and support them…not call names, belittle or shame them. 

There are several things you need to know about food stamps and the poor:

  • It’s not just poor minorities that are on food stamps, but food stamps are much higher in minority communities.
  • Many who are on food stamps can’t find work. This is because of a lack of education, lack of jobs and transportation.
  • Food Stamps, Medicaid and Government Assistance is much higher in poorer areas like the inner city.
  • Crime & drugs play a huge role on poorer neighborhoods. If the same crime and drug scene happened in the suburbs (white/rich communities) it would be front page material and handled differently.
  • Base pay for a new soldier with a spouse and kid is around $20,000, just above the poverty line. It’s not just poor black families on food stamps, it’s sons and daughters of Uncle Sam too.
  • In 2013, Operation Homefront received 2,968 emergency requests for food help, more than any other kind of request for help.
  • 61% of food stamp recipients are white. Only 26.4% are Black. 1.5% are American Indian or Native Alaskan. 2.2% are Asian or Pacific Islander, and 2.7% represent people who identify themselves as two or more races.
  • Nearly 900k Veterans live in a household receiving food stamps.

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So friends, please stop posting uninformed pictures, bad taste comments and disgusting posts about how bad some people are for being on food stamps. Just stop it. And for those of you that think you are better because you are not on food stamps, be grateful you have a job and start loving your neighbor. Poverty is real and it is spreading.

One day you might change that tune, when you’re so poor…you are on them too.

-jon

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Gideon’s 300 – Make a Difference in Detroit!

I have the privilege to present this to my church family and friends this Sunday. I pray that you too will join hands with me to help others. Every penny donated to “Gideon’s 300” goes toward making a difference here in Detroit this year and in the years to come. -Jon  

Gideon's 300 is a financial commitment with the goal of raising funds to advance the mission of City Church.

Gideon’s 300 is a financial commitment with the goal of raising funds to advance the mission of City Church.

Gideon’s 300! Make a difference in 2014!

Gideon’s 300 is a financial commitment with the goal of raising funds to advance the mission of City Church. Your commitment will help us start two more churches and missions in Detroit and allow to us purchase and run a Men, Women & Children’s home for the needy. By extending our reach and following our purpose, City Church will be able to bring the hope and healing found in Jesus and grow our church one life at a time.

Gideon’s 300 is a challenge born in the heart of Jon Jackson, Lead Pastor of City Church. He realized that if just 300 people would commit to give, we could change Detroit.

Background on Gideon’s Story

If you’re not already familiar with the story, well, you’re in for a treat. In the book of Judges, we find that the Israelites have once again turned away from God. As a result of their disobedience, God allowed the neighboring, lawless Midians to pillage Israel for seven years. Midian so impoverished the Israelites that they finally cried out to God for help. Then the Lord sent an angel to the young man, Gideon.

Here’s how Judges 6:14-16 describes that encounter:

So Gideon took the men down to the water. There the Lord told him, “Separate those who lap the water…from those who kneel down to drink.” Three hundred men lapped with their hands to their mouths. All the rest got down on their knees to drink. The Lord said to Gideon, “With the three hundred men that lapped I will save you and give the Midianites into your hands. Let all the other men go, each to his own place.”

A short time later, the Spirit of the Lord came upon Gideon, and he blew a trumpet, summoning many of the Israelites to follow him. Over 32,000 men showed up to fight the Midianites with Gideon. But that’s not what God intended.

Judges 7:2-7 tells us:

The LORD said to Gideon, “The people with you are too many for me to give the Midianites into their hand, lest Israel boast over me, saying, ‘My own hand has saved me.’ Now therefore proclaim in the ears of the people, saying, ‘Whoever is fearful and trembling, let him return home and hurry away from Mount Gilead.’” Then 22,000 of the people returned, and 10,000 remained. And the LORD said to Gideon, “The people are still too many. Take them down to the water, and I will test them for you there, and anyone of whom I say to you, ‘This one shall go with you,’ shall go with you, and anyone of whom I say to you, ‘This one shall not go with you,’ shall not go.” So he brought the people down to the water. And the LORD said to Gideon, “Every one who laps the water with his tongue, as a dog laps, you shall set by himself. Likewise, every one who kneels down to drink.” And the number of those who lapped, putting their hands to their mouths, was 300 men, but all the rest of the people knelt down to drink water. And the LORD said to Gideon, “With the 300 men who lapped I will save you and give the Midianites into your hand, and let all the others go every man to his home.”

What should you do?

Here are some practical steps you can take to become one of Gideon’s 300:

  • Get a burden. This is the most important thing you can do. Devote some time to prayer and allow yourself to step out in faith…just like Gideon’s 300 did. These are extraordinary times here in Detroit and the need is great. Being someone who makes a difference demands sacrifice and devotion to God. Being one of Gideon’s 300 meant to live true, loyal, meaningful, and fearless lives in the face of the pressures of this world.
  • Stretch yourself. Less than 1% of those who showed up to fight for Israel actually got to take part in God’s miraculous salvation. Challenge yourself to be in that 1%. Lots of people talk, but few show up to fight. What about you? Should you commit to become one of Gideon’s 300? Well, to be perfectly honest, that depends on you.
  • It’s all about Jesus. This is a God thing, not a Jon thing or a City Church thing. Anyone can jump in and help. There are faithful Christians all across this great city and country and even the world who are burdened with Detroit. We are asking anyone and everyone to be a part of something bigger than themselves, something that can make a true difference here in Detroit. We are wanting to raise up a huge army of Christ followers who are willing to do whatever it takes to defeat the enemy and see souls saved and lives changed.
  • Use the trumpets, jars, and torches. Use what you have and give what you can give. It took all 300 soldiers to defeat the Midianites. Gideon could not have done it by himself. Don’t shy away from jumping into this battle, but once you get in the battle stay the course and help us help others.

What Gideon’s 300 will do? (Where’s the money going?)

1. To help start two new missions and churches here in Detroit that will be centers of hope and life change. Each church will also function as a mission that will have a food pantry to feed the hungry, host drug rehab meetings and serve as a community center to help the needy.  We are currently planning on two church & mission plants in 2014.

2. To purchase homes that can used to as homeless shelters and as Men, Women & Children’s homes. Over the last few years City Church has helped house over 6 dozen families. These Gideon’s 300 homes would help us where the need is the greatest.

Whats the Next Step?

We need you to step up to the plate and commit to being someone who makes a difference. Fill out a Commitment Card and turn it in at City Church or donate today online and setup reoccurring donations. Your giving and participation will help us achieve our goals. Will you be one of Gideon’s 300?

http://thecitychurch.info/blog/post/gideons-300-

gideons-300-commitment-cardpdf

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We need your support!

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It’s Christmas time! That means the new year is almost here. At City Church, while we are full swing into gathering toys for needy kids, we are planning for next year!

Physical momentum takes a long time to build, but only seconds to stop. Momentum for ministry works similarly. Years of planning and support bear fruit in ministry here in Detroit, but it does not continue if we cannot sustain it with your prayers, gifts & continued financial support.

As we approach the end of another year here at City Church, it is critical that we finish the year in a strong position financially so that the tremendous momentum we are experiencing will carry through into 2014. This year we helped feed just over 20,000 needy people. Our Thanksgiving food drive helped feed 254 families & assisted the hungry homeless that we minister to.

We need your help today so that we can continue reaching many with the gospel, helping the addicts & homeless, and feeding the hungry. We need you to donate today to help us keep pushing!

In addition to sustaining the priceless and needed outreaches, your help by December 31, 2013, will enable us to:

-Plan for the new year more out reaches & events.
-Help us end the year debt free.
-Begin to start phase one of Think Big 20 by 2020 (Planting 20 mission churches, homes & shelters by 2020).

Your support makes a difference in people’s lives. Thank you for standing with us as we stand up for those who need it most. Here’s to next year!

Blessings & thanks!

Jon Jackson, Pastor

Donate today @ http://www.thecitychurch.info

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MINISTRY IN THE HOOD – For Leaders & Pastors

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It’s October 2012. I’m at a local church in Detroit bouncing, dancing and singing along to Lecrae, Trip Lee and the rest of the “116 Crew” in concert. I look to my left and there is my then, 11-year old son, rocking out and bouncing alongside his dad. To my right, is a 270 pound white man, singing along and rocking out just as hard as my son and I.

“Your pastor is white?”

This was the reaction of one of my co-workers as I showed her a photo from the concert, a photo that included some friends from church, our very white worship leader and our very, very white lead pastor.

“Yeah he’s white, but he’s really like ¼ black,” I said jokingly.

“Wow that has to different,” she responded.

You see, being black, from Detroit and having a white pastor is about as rare as…..well think of something that’s rare and it’s probably rarer than that. It’s not something you come across often.

In fact, Detroit, a city known for having a church (and a liquor store) on virtually every other corner may be the poster child for Dr. Martin Luther King’s famous quote where he refers to 11am on Sunday morning as being the “Most segregated hour in America.” Most of the city’s churches are led by black pastors with a vast majority of those congregations being all black. You just don’t see that much diversity in churches in our city. This is not just a “Detroit issue” this is an issue in a lot of urban cities in America.

You also rarely see non-minority pastors wanting to come to cities like Detroit and others to plant churches and impact the community with the gospel. They’d much rather pray that the Lord sends someone else, someone that can “relate” to “those people.” Besides, planting a church in a suburban city where the perception is people have a better education and better jobs gives your church a better chance to thrive right?

Well, if you haven’t heard, statistics show that our country is becoming more “urban.” As our country becomes more urban, the reality is that eventually our churches will become more diverse whether we like it or not. This means that pastors and leaders will have to tackle issues like race, poverty, and social acceptance, issues they may have never addressed before.

A brother may very well walk into your church with some “baby mama drama” and you’re going to have to, first know what “baby mama drama” is and secondly how to walk him through his situation. A single mother at your church may not be able to afford food for her family because she lost her job and her EBT card just doesn’t cover all the groceries she needs. (Google EBT card if you’re not familiar)

Pastors in the urban context are faced with these challenges on a daily basis. Our church recently witnessed our pastor handle the issue of racial/social injustice head on when he commented on the George Zimmerman trial in which he was acquitted in the death of Trayvon Martin. With a multi-cultural church family that consists of black people, many who weren’t thrilled with the verdict, he addressed the issue head on. In speaking to the entire church he didn’t try to relate to blacks and the injustices they’ve faced in America but he spoke to us as people of God who have been changed by the saving power of Jesus Christ. He spoke about the issue of racism and social injustice not as a “black or white thing” but as a “sin thing.” Whether we agreed with the verdict or not the fact is that this world is broken and both the George Zimmerman’s and Trayvon Martin’s of the world (all of us) need Jesus.

There were three things that stood out when Pastor Jon spoke that day. Three things that I think are important for the non-minority preacher/leader who either desires to minister to the urban context or who eventually will be challenged with their context becoming more urban. While these three tools won’t be all you need, they are vital in either starting or maintaining an urban ministry.

BE REAL

“Real recognize real.” It is a term used in the hood that basically says that people being honest about who they are can identify with others who are honest about who they are. In other words, we can spot a “faker” from a mile away. The worst thing you can do is try to identify with the urban context by being something you’re not.

Our associate pastor is a 60 something year old “polo and slacks guy.” We love and respect him for who he is. If he attended one of our community outreach events in skinny jeans and a snapback, he probably wouldn’t make it out alive. Being disingenuous is like a slap in a face to those of us who embody the urban culture. You are much better off reaching people who need Jesus in an urban setting by just being yourself. Don’t think you have to dress or even talk “hood.” Don’t call me “dog” or “homie” and NEVER UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCES use the “N-Word.” This may sound ridiculous, but it has been done before. Do this and you’ll be meeting Jesus a lot sooner than you anticipated.

Being honest is also important to being real. When you say you’re going to do something, do it. Don’t just talk a good game and not follow through on your commitments and teachings. Be an example. Don’t be a hypocrite. The best example of “Keeping it 100” (another term for being real), is actually walking what you’re talking. People “talk game” in the streets all the time, it’s the people that “walk game” that earn respect. If your life is a reflection of Christian living, you’re more apt to gain a listening ear from our urban brothers and sisters. Gaining that listening ear may take a while, so be patient. But believe it when I tell you, if you’re a white person living in a black neighborhood, they are watching you! So be “on point” (living right) at all times.

At the end of the day, people need hope and love. They need to know someone cares. Be yourself and let God do the rest.

BE RELEVANT

Being real is a very important component in engaging the urban context. So is being relevant. While you don’t necessarily have to dress like or even talk like the urban setting, it is important if you are going to live amongst the community to know what’s going on. Be relatable. Ask questions. Learn about the area. Likewise, if you’re suddenly faced with your context becoming more urban, get to know those people. God has placed them amongst you for a reason.

I recently watched rapper Lecrae speak to a group of pastors and leaders at the Resurgence conference where he spoke fondly of a guy named Joe. Joe was very instrumental in Lecrae’s discipleship as a new believer. Surprising to myself and the crowd, Joe was a white guy from Kentucky who loved kayaking. Lecrae is a black guy from Houston who said that upon meeting Joe he couldn’t even spell kayaking. Joe did something that showed Lecrae he was genuine and really cared about him, he engaged him. He wanted to know about Lecrae’s life, his family, his likes and dislikes. He sought to know Lecrae “the person” before witnessing to him.

Joe’s approach in reaching out to Lecrae is a great example of how non-minority pastors and leaders should reach out to those in an urban setting. Don’t treat people like “projects” or “lab rats.” Yes, we want them to know and love Jesus but you’ll never get to that point if you don’t know and love them for who they are first. The approach shouldn’t be to try and assimilate people but to engage them and become familiar with them. This more often than not will mean that you, as a pastor and leader will have to step out of your comfort zone. Lecrae mentioned that Joe watched the movie “Boyz in the Hood” with him. Why? Because at the time it was Lecrae’s favorite movie. Now this movie would horrify the average white person. The language and images from the movie were way out of Joe’s comfort zone, but it helped Joe understand where Lecrae came from and who he was.

People want to be treated like…people, not “conversion notches.” People in urban areas are VERY skeptical of the non-minority who wants to come into their neighborhood and help make a difference. There are many reasons for the skepticism. Besides racial skepticism, there have been non-minorities who have come into urban neighborhoods with good intentions to start, but when things don’t go their way or they don’t see the change they anticipated, they leave. Those people become possibly another person who’s come into the life of an urban dweller and abandoned them.

Relevance can break down those barriers that will ultimately allow you to engage people with the gospel. You have to be in it for the long haul though. You have to be patient. You may have to watch “Boyz in the Hood” 20 times before you can talk about Jesus but in the end know that heaven rejoices when that one “lost sheep” has been found.

BE JESUS

At the end of the day, it’s all about Jesus. Your mission, your purpose, your reason for engaging the urban context is to share the gospel and make Jesus known. Jesus was compassionate, loving and giving. Likewise, as a representative of Jesus Christ, you should be the same. Jesus says in Matthew 25 that the righteous receive the inheritance of the kingdom of God because we fed him when he was hungry, gave him drink when he thirsted, cared for him when he was sick, welcomed him into our home, clothed him when he was naked and visited him in prison. Of course we don’t physically do this for Jesus but because we’ve done these things for the least of the brethren, we’ve done it for him.

Sadly, in the urban context many are hungry, thirty, sick, homeless, naked and locked up both physically and spiritually. The love of Christ will meet both needs. Food drives, clothing pantries, prison ministries and health seminars are all tangible things that can immediately make a difference in our urban neighborhoods. Feed people with physical food, give them physical water and you then open the door to introduce them to the “The Bread of Life” and the “Living Water.”

Let people see the change and then you can be the change. Remember God is using you. Ultimately it is not you who saves but God through the gospel. If you are a non-minority and God has called you to the hood, don’t be afraid. Step out on faith. I truly believe that if you come to the hood with a heart for God and a heart to help and people see that you are real, relevant and a true follower of Jesus Christ, they no longer see color. They see the content of your character and the glory of God.

Be Encouraged. Be a Light. Grace and Peace,
Demetrus

Demetrus Stokes is a family life group and student ministry leader at the City Church. Born and raised in Detroit, MI he loves Jesus, his wife, his kids, the Detroit Lions and Michigan football (Most of the time in that order)

Demetrus Stokes is a family life group and student ministry leader at the City Church. Born and raised in Detroit, MI. He loves Jesus, his wife, his kids, the Detroit Lions and Michigan football (Most of the time in that order).

Jon’s Thoughts,

“People need the Lord.” I’ve heard that since I was a kid but what they meant by “People need Jesus” is “People we know or like or are like us need Jesus.” We send missionaries around the world and make a huge deal about, meanwhile poor communities in our own backyard are overlooked, looked down on and are forgotten.

The hood is a great place with great people who just need Jesus. It is different than suburbia but not really. The hood has families, people, kids…they all need Jesus. Lots of cultural differences but still a need for Jesus. Don’t see them any differently than where you live, rather see it as a place that has been forgotten by the Christian church and is suffering from poverty, drugs, crime and a lack of love from Christians.

The hood has churches, but not enough of em. The hood has missions, but no where near enough of em. I have been asked more times than I can count “but Jon, why Detroit?” Let me tell you my new response, people didn’t ask Paul “why Ephesus?” or David Livingston “why Africa?” or Peter “why Rome?” There where people there and God gave a burden and bam…the gospel is there!

I’ve had pastors accuse me of trying to be black…first thats insulting to me and to the black community. I am not trying to be black, I am trying to be Jesus in a different culture. If you are living in Georgia, have some twang and a guitar. If you are living in the hood, wear some Jordan’s and put on a hoodie. The clothing is different, the music is bouncing, but the need is still Jesus.

To be effective in the hood, here are some points that are a must:

-Go where the need is not where it looks good.

-Be a lighthouse, not a greenhouse.

-Stop trying to do church how you like it and do church how it will be effective.

-Listen to your people, learn from your people and then start preaching.

-Every hood is different, so don’t stereotype.  

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