Tag Archives: religion

Church Planting 201

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In my last post church planting 101, I wrote about some of the basics that I have seen work and some that have failed miserably. In this post I want to talk more about what is required in the church planter himself.

In church planting we need Holy Spirit power, sound and practical theology, future planning, church promotion and quality support to make the church plant into a viable and sustainable church. On top of that, a successful church plant needs a legit leader, this is a must.

About ten years ago, I was asked to help a guy start a church in California. He had financial backing, he had front man skills, was a decent speaker…but was an awful leader. Needless to say, the dude quit the plant less than 5 months into it. I didn’t join the team and that church plant fizzled into non-existence.

Now while there are many reasons why the plant didn’t succeed, the biggest reason was that the dude wasn’t a church planter or leader…he was just a guy who wanted to preach on Sunday. Preaching on Sunday is the cherry on the cake, it’s easy. You read, you prepare, you pray, you practice your delivery, you make programs and keynotes, you wake up Sunday and deliver it. It’s simple.

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Church planting is much more complex than just giving a sermon. You are a small business entrepreneur. You are a janitor. You are a counselor. You must become affluent with promotion and fundraising. You will need to understand your demograph and know how to connect with your city. You need to be trustworthy and reliable. You must be a general and also a humble servant. You must learn how to handle extensively troubled people and also learn how to help them without losing your mind. It’s complex.

A church planter must become more than just one dimensional.

I’ve seen plants fail because planters were too one sided. You’re not just a preacher, you are a pastor. You’re not just a speaker, you are a house call medic. You will need to learn when to say no, and when to say yes. You must start thinking like a theologian and living like a missionary. Church planting isn’t done on the side, it takes more than you think and demands your attention. It’s deep.

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As we launch out this year to start two more churches in the Detroit area, there are a few points that our Leadership Team at City Church has been stressing with our guys as we go forward in church planting. I pray they help you in your journey. This list obviously isn’t everything you need, but we see them as the basics needed to start a successful church plant. Some of these keys can be taught, others cannot, if you are planter you should know the difference.

  •  Passion. The church planter must have a passion for the area God has called him to. A burden and desire to plant a gospel center is a must. If a boxer doesn’t have a passion to fight, he will get cold feet when he enters the ring. The apostle Paul had a passion for lost people to meet Jesus. John the Baptist had a passion for the hearers to repent. The apostle John had a passion for the Jewish community to learn of Jesus. This passion will keep you up, help you up, prop you up and can only be fueled by God. Either you have it or you don’t.
  • Theology. The church planter had better know the book. Seminary isn’t a mandatory, but it should be. How stupid is it for someone to want to be a pro baseball player, but doesn’t know what a balk is? It’s ludicrous that some guys want to plant but can’t articulate their faith in a short conversation. Read books. Take some classes. Learn.
  • Entrepeneur. Have you ever started anything from scratch that has lasted? Ever run a lemonade stand? Have you ever coached little league? Have you ever managed a store? Have you ever opened and closed a business? I just described to you what a church planter does. When you start, most likely you have very little to start with. In the early months you will attract people with problems, lots of problems and mostly baby Christians. You will learn to answer questions about concenrs you never thought of before. You will have to balance bills, projects, materials, personnel and quality control.
  •  Fundraising. News flash: church planting cost money. So after you call mom and ask your neighbors for money, you had better have a financial plan to help start your gospel center or else you are done in 3 months. Think about it like this: why should anyone give you money to help you start a church? If you can’t answer it with a thought through financial plan, then you have some homework.
  • Community. Loners can make great people, but not always great leaders. Can you find 3 to 5 people that would drop everything to help you? If not, you might not have impacted others lives as much as you think you have. You don’t go to war with just anyone. The same is true in church planting. You need seasoned veterans on your team and people that will go to bat for you, with you and at you. I’m sorry guys, the days of just doing it yourself are over. Odds are against you already, work on being friendly and make a difference in your close circle…then tackle the circle of church planting.
  • Home. There is no off switch to church planting, but you had better have a safe zone with some backup. If your family isn’t on board, do something else. Church planting, like pastoring, requires a balanced life which includes the home. Your marriage will be tested, your kids will be put on display and your life is now a book for others to judge. How do you expect to give marriage counseling if your marriage is a wreck? How can you get up on Sunday and teach on raising your kids if they are burning your house down? You can you preach on trusting God in your life if you don’t want to go home? Balance guys.

There are exceptions to rules, but church planters shouldn’t be looking for them. Work on personal growth, family development, spiritual leadership, theological soundness, business savvy and developing loyalty. I can’t promise you that if you do all of this you’ll succeed, but I can promise you that without it…you will fail.

-jon

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I don’t look like a pastor…

I don’t look like a pastor…

Detroit Christian Rock Band "Sinned & Saints"  -Jon Jackson (me) -Joe Gibes -Kyle Gross -Joe Nemanis

Detroit Rock Band “Sinners & Saints”
-Jon Jackson (me)
-Joe Gibes
-Kyle Gross
-Joe Nemanis

I get asked quite often questions like most do “What do you do?” My answer normally of pastor & church/mission planter shocks religious people, but to those I hang out with… not so much.  Let me explain with two thoughts: people have a Western Christianity paradigm of what pastors should look like & Jesus should be the example to Christianity, but he really isn’t.

First, many people have a Western Christianity paradigm of what Pastors should look like.

Most people have a view or paradigm of what a pastor should look like, do, and behave. One of the biggest reasons for this is because of our western cultures influence on church and perceived holiness. Most who grow up in church think of a pastor or priest as a holy man, a clean cut gentlemen who studies in an office, counsels, marries and buries people and then speaks on Sunday’s at 11a.

Most people also picture pastors as men in suits, standing behind a pulpit and speaking loudly about subjects from the Bible. Criticism is also prevalent when viewing western Christianity “pastors” as many people immediately think of tv evangelist or faith healers who are out for money and who drive a Benz. (preachers of Detroit anyone?)

Honestly, most pastors are not just a little culturally irrelevant, but they are also about 300 years late to it. Today, people have more respect for people who are like them and are succeeding rather than someone proclaiming a different way to do it from a high and lofty perch.

Secondly, Jesus should be the example to Christianity but sadly, he really isn’t.

When Jesus came to earth he invaded human culture. He did not bring his attire or ways of heavenly doing things with him. He wore the clothes of a normal Jewish boy raised by a single mother. He worked a blue color job and lived in poor Galilee. He hung out with fisherman (low job with no benefits), became friends of drunks, theives, prostititus & traitors (disciples & followers).

Jesus did not impose his culture on others…rather he saw lives transformed by the gospel. If the disciples were around today, most would see them as too dirty to pastor. Most would only see Peter as a hot head who had a rough background who shouldn’t be trusted, rather than the saint most have made him into.

The disciples were hazardous, rebels, dirty and didn’t look anything like “pastors”. Paul was a hired gun who put people in jail, Matthew was a Jew who worked for the Romans, Philip was a dude who hung out with people of a different culture, Mark was a quitter and I could go on.

The gospel transforms you into the hands and feet of Jesus…not into a cookie cutter mold of American culture from the 1900’s. Hear me now, I’m not against peoples culture if it’s old or different…I’m for diversity!

The problem with much of Christianity is that it is too isolated.

We need more color in our Christianity. We need more differences embraced, convictions challenged and preferences pushed aside for the gospels sake rather than a holding onto traditional things for traditions sake. I’ve heard my whole life from “traditional” pastors that we shouldn’t be like the world…but they themselves were just imitating the old world.

I have tattoos, piercings, listen to hip hop & rock…so do my people. I eat at coneys & love “Slows BBQ”…so do my people. I hang out at the gym, the corner store, the cigar bar and the neighborhood park…so do my people. God called me to be his hands and feet in my community to my people. I can do this best by being like those whom I am called to serve.

To be more missional is to be more like how Jesus was when he came to earth rather than being like “how we were taught”, “traditional”, “old-fashioned”, or even “contemporary”. If your people or community looks a certain way, be like them like Jesus did and not like your professor at bible college or like the pastor you worshipped.

I don’t look like a pastor…I look like the guy I talked to on Sunday and like the guy I lifted weights with this morning, and like the Detroit bad ass who needs Jesus and not a “Western American Culture pastor”. I am a representation of Jesus, and if your culture prohibits you from reaching people…ditch your old ways and embrace a missional lifestyle.

Being more like Jesus means you become more like the world around you, not less like the world. When the Bible says “not be of the world” it was speaking specifically of sins and the fake human way of living including religious Pharisees & false cults. Don’t take things out of context, being like Jesus means to be like the people around you and letting the gospel transform them.

If you were raised in a traditional or legalistic church they taught the exact opposite of this. They put parameters & definitions on holiness. They made a suit and tie and a bible under your arm the standard for obedience…when Jesus said “love your neighbor.” Legalism teaches rules and guilt…Jesus said the “burden is light and easy.”

So either Jesus is wrong or the paradigm in which much of Christianity thinks today is off and needs some adjusting. I beg you to be more like Jesus. Embrace culture. Love people. Give more grace. Don’t judge. Forgive often. Hug the hurting. Feed the hungry. Clothe the naked and embrace the orphans.

Pure religion is like this. Legalistic religion is rules and performance. Pure religion is grace to the women at the well, stopping the stoning of the adulterous woman, having dinner and a party with the lying cheats and drunks showing them God’s love. Legalistic religion is human worship, throwing stones by holding signs boycotting & shaming people.

If Jesus was to come to America today rather than Judea 2k years ago he would hang out in Detroit with the drunks, Johns, and low income, blue color working, food stamp card peeps. Jesus wouldn’t show up to church on Sunday like most of Christianity,  the proof is found in his example of what he did. He showed up and the church people got flipping mad over his attire, his friends, his way of doing things and his liberal ways…sound familiar?

I don’t look like a pastor…I’m trying to look like Jesus.

-jon

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Detroit Live Podcast – Episode 9 – Interview with Josh Carter Part 1

Episode 9 – Interview with Josh Carter Part 1 – Detroit Live Radio Podcast – March 17, 2014

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In This Episode:
Jon talks with Josh about pastoring, worship music, ministry and life in the 313.

Subscribe to Detroit Live via Itunes: http://feeds.feedburner.com/JonJacksonDetroitLiveRadioPodcast  

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A Few Observations from a Former Pastor (For Church Leaders) – Chris Armer

On Wednesday, August 14th, I sat down with the three deacons of my church in Sacramento, CA and communicated with them about issues that I felt needed to be addressed for my continued tenure. I no longer agreed with the track the church had taken and continued to take and change was forthcoming. But the church I pastored was an independent Baptist church and the word “change” is mostly a cuss word in the movement.

Chris Armer currently resides in Phoenix, AZ. He served in full-time vocational ministry for 10 years in the various roles of youth pastor, assistant pastor, and senior pastor. He is currently a full-time seminary student at Maranatha Baptist Seminary. You can follow him on Twitter at @christoarmer.

Chris Armer currently resides in Phoenix, AZ. He served in full-time vocational ministry for 10 years in the various roles of youth pastor, assistant pastor, and senior pastor. He is currently a full-time seminary student at Maranatha Baptist Seminary. You can follow him on Twitter at @christoarmer.

Now I wasn’t trying to gorilla my own way upon the people. I loved them and deeply cared for them. I wanted them to realize and experience the amazing grace of God. I was encouraged to hear testimonies from people telling me how focusing on God’s grace rather than man-made standards of righteousness had transformed them. I felt like we made some good progress. But I knew deep down that I would soon face the inevitable with my church. I would soon be leaving. In college we would hear it said about churches, “It is easier to give birth than to raise the dead.” The clear writing on the wall finally came when my changed views toward the Second Coming of Christ conflicted with the church’s Constitution. To be honest with the church, it was essential that I go. So to make a long story short, I stepped away from my pastorate on September 1, 2013.

So I have now been away from pastoring for a little over six months. I am currently finishing up another Master’s degree (this time from an accredited seminary). I am set to finish in July. I have actually enjoyed this journey and have left the future of my ministry in God’s hands. In these past six months I have also relished the privilege of visiting many churches. Some have been great and some have not been so stellar. In each church I observed what seemed to be working well and what probably should be changed. I had the unique opportunity to view things as an outsider.

So I’d like to share some of the things I’ve noticed. The points are not in any particular order of the churches I visited. Of course, these are all my opinions so you can take them or leave them. It is my hope that they can be a blessing to you.

• You might think that the stage prop that has multi-colored lit boxes makes your church look trendy, but it is very distracting as it keeps blinking while you speak.

• A projector with low lumens washes out the colors and makes the text and images hard to read.

• Childcare check-ins with touch screen kiosks that print labels for the children are simple and amazing.

• It’s awkward when your bass player plays without any shoes on. Big white feet are distracting.

• I really enjoy saving half of the song service for after the message. My heart is directed toward God in the sermon and I get to express praise afterwards. It sends the people away with a song of praise.

• If you say that you are going to call someone during the week for lunch, then do it. It reflects poorly on your character when you make empty promises and never communicate any change of plans.

• If you are Reformed, you don’t need a large picture of John Calvin and Martyn Lloyd Jones in your foyer.

• I can understand those who believe a service should be a time of focusing on God instead of others, but don’t use that as an excuse for why your church is cold and unfriendly.

• Broken up matzah bread tastes the best for communion.

• Not having childcare for very small children practically guarantees that one of the parents will be standing in the foyer or outside with their child or children. Two year olds don’t sit well through an exposition of Romans.

• There are still churches passing an attendance book during the service?

• Make it as easy as possible for new people to connect to a small group.

• Friendly greeters are still very effective.

• Don’t make changes to your service schedule without communicating them clearly on your website or voicemail. By the way, when is the last time you checked the info on your church voicemail? It still has the name of the previous pastor.

• You still don’t have a Facebook page for your church? If you have one, is it updated?

• It’s a very nice touch when you personally greet people before a service or as they leave.

• If you take an offering by means of a box in the back, be sure to communicate clearly about it in the service. Otherwise guests who would like to give are not sure how.

• It’s effective if you smile a lot through your message.

• The Baptist Confession of 1689 is not the 28th book in the New Testament.

• If you are still going to have Sunday School or a Bible study before the main service, then make it great. The 70-year-old teacher who didn’t even look over his lesson until that morning reflects very poorly on the church.

• Why are you wearing a gold name plate? Do people easily forget your name? It shimmers from the stage lights.

• Having a competent person do the announcements is imperative.

• There is no excuse for multiple-burned out lights in the auditorium. Get them fixed.

• Communion every week is very meaningful.

• You need to fact check the stories you share. Even though I am not a Joel Osteen fan, he did not start his own religion like you had heard.

• Did you know your piano player looks like she is playing Bejeweled on her cell phone during the announcements?

• The personal note from the children’s director sent to our kids was a really nice touch.

• The portion of your song service that allowed people to come to the front and pray with some leaders while the rest of the congregation continued to sing the worship song was really powerful. I was encouraged to see people praying with one another.

• It is refreshing to hear someone confidently and correctly preach the Word.

I hope these have been a help in some sort of way. I am thankful for you all who faithfully teach God’s Word and pastor His people. I understand the struggles and triumphs. May the blessings of God be upon you and your family.

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Detroit Live Radio Podcast – Episode 7 – Mike Rowell (Part 2)

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Detroit Live Radio Podcast – Episode 7 – Mike Rowell (Part 2) – February 22, 2014
In This Episode:
Jon & Mike talk about the IFB, Church, Ministry, Stories and more.

Subscribe to Detroit Live via Itunes: http://feeds.feedburner.com/JonJacksonDetroitLiveRadioPodcast 

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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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What’s Theology Got To Do With It? – For Leaders & Pastors

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I love theology. I mean it. I really love theology! I love to talk about theology. I love to read about theology. I love to listen to other people talking about theology. I love to think about theology. There is so much that is overlooked, interpreted according to our bias, or even twisted because we don’t like the implications. I say, “bring it on!” I had a pastor once that told a congregant who was asking him a theological question to “go talk to Chase, because he loves theology.”

While I do love theology (I hope you have gathered this), there seems to be a trend where theology is treated as a lesser discipline. Where the Christian life is all about the newest trend of humanitarian aid, the newest catchy book by some big name pastor, the latest program that worked at another church a few states (and cultures) away, etc. etc. When Jon asked me to write he said to be blunt, so here it is: I don’t care about your latest humanitarian aid program, the latest book that fits into your niche, or what program worked at a church that doesn’t deal with life in the same context as you do. I’m not saying these are innately bad, I’m just saying I don’t care about them. If you don’t know about, or care about theology, about doctrine, you will, (catch that), YOU WILL, fail in your calling.

If theology/doctrine deals with who God is and what He has said, and we neglect it, what have we done?

When we talk about theology in context to ministry, we shouldn’t have to define it, yet I find myself needing to. Theology is the study of God, not in the context of God the Father, but in context of what God has to say, what He has done, what He will do, and what He has called us to. When we don’t value theology, we don’t value studying God or His Word. Another word often used to describe theology is Doctrine. Doctrine as described in Greek means “properly applied-teaching; Christian doctrine (teaching) as it especially extends to its necessary lifestyle (applications)”. Now, many of us have heard the phrase “Doctrine divides”, I’ve had this one used against me. My common counter is “No, Doctrine unites. People and preferences divide”. If Doctrine or Theology divide, then that means that God is dividing His own people based on His own Word. So no, doctrine and theology don’t divide, the people holding their specific theological or doctrinal persuasions divide, God’s Word brings unity.

Without Theology, you will fail in your calling!

Let me use a brief illustration to prove the importance of theology and doctrine for those in ministry (it is important for those not in vocational/full time/however you like to define this ministry, this blog is for people in ministry, so we are focusing there). The word used for doctrine “didaskalía” and its forms are used more than 15 times in the books of I and II Timothy and Titus. This should be significant to us, when Paul wrote 3 letters, totaling 13 chapters specifically to Pastors and he talks about “teaching sound doctrine”, keeping others from teaching “different doctrine”, when he warns that the time is coming when people will not endure “sound doctrine”, don’t you think we should find this important? Shouldn’t this be something that we devote time to? When a man has no time or place in his life for studying or teaching doctrine and theology, he is not qualified to be a pastor. If you have no desire to learn and study theology, you have failed to follow the basic instructions of ministry.

We are called to love the Lord with all of our hearts, our souls, our bodies, and our minds (Lk 10:27). Too often we neglect the mind and whether intentionally or not, it is treated as a lesser discipline. Now that the foundation is somewhat set, let’s deal with what I was asked to write about.

How should we deal with theological differences?

I am no stranger to theological differences. During my time in college and after I have been known to have differing views about some theological issues. To be honest, I used to love the arguments that would come because of my views. Now, they are not different views on the core doctrines, they are/were differing views on issues like Bible translations, Eschatology, Separation, Heaven, the tension between Calvinism/Reformed Theology and Free Will/Armenian Theology. Some deal with these differences well, some do not.

Without getting into specifics (because this isn’t the place for those), at the first Church I worked the Pastor would use our differences in the issue of Eschatology to demonstrate to the church body that theological differences on non-essentials* (yes, I did just call your view of eschatology a non-essential) were okay. We can still minister together, serve at the same church, and even be friends. To this day I still consider that man to by my Pastor, and one of my best friends. In contrast a deacon (at another church) and I had some drastic differences and one specific altercation because he viewed his theology as the end all, where anyone who had a differing view should not be allowed to even attend the church. Two examples of differences, two very different approaches to dealing with them.

Insecurity. It’s rampant.

We need to be secure enough in our theology that we can have it called into question. Now, being secure in your theology does not mean that you know it all, being secure means you have a working knowledge of what you believe and are able to clearly articulate that belief to another. A side note about this, if you are not reading books by authors who stand on the opposite side of your position, you don’t really have a solid foundation. If you don’t understand the opposing view according to their interpretation/understanding you don’t understand your own position. Often times the opposing view is skewed to an unrealistic position to create a straw man to attack, this is easily seen in the extreme positions that free will theologians apply to calvinists and the extreme positions calvinists apply to free will. While those extremes do exist, they are not the norm, and we create a false sense of security in a flawed position and a flawed understanding when we do this.

There is a line between being solid in our beliefs, and being arrogant in our interpretation. I am solid in my beliefs, though I can be swayed in my position through Scripture. When I am arrogant in my interpretation, Scripture cannot even dissuade me. Arrogance leads to a twisting of Scripture to fit my beliefs (Eisegesis happens much more often than we would like to admit). II Pet 1:20-21 lays it out well “Knowing this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture comes from someone’s own interpretation. For no prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but me spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.”

With differing positions on the non-essentials we can still work together, serve together and dialogue together. I love the examples of the American founding fathers, those men would vehemently disagree and argue for their position while discussing the founding documents, yet when the meetings were over, they would sit down for a meal as fellow men, working for the betterment of the American future. An even better example comes from scripture. Look in the Old Testament, examine the lives of Isaiah, Hosea, Amos, Micah, several very different men, with very different missions as Prophets of God. Do you think Hosea, Amos and Micah agreed with Isaiah and his naked time? Do you think Isaiah agreed with Hosea taking Gomer, a prostitute, as his wife? What about in the New Testament? Look at Paul and Barnabas, they had a stiff disagreement about Mark and even parted ways in ministry direction because of it (Acts 15:36-40), yet their fellowship was not cut off. Later in life Paul even noted how he was wrong about Mark in his disagreement with Barnabas as he called for Mark because he was profitable to him in his time of death (II Tim 4:11).

How do we handle theological disagreements?

The answer is so simple and yet so difficult. We handle them with grace, with love, with compassion for the other person as a human being created in the image of God. We all know that vitriol, spite and anger will only further drive someone away, we talk about this in evangelism all the time, yet when it comes to our brothers and sisters in Christ, somehow we think this is the way to bring them to our theological persuasion.

The art of dialog is important! We should be able to talk about differences in respectful ways. Part of this thing called dialog is logic, reasoning and a controlled mind and spirit. Remember, Pastors are called to be sober minded, and this has nothing to do with alcohol! When you sit and discuss, when you actually hear what someone is saying about their position rather than just assuming that you know what they believe you will be surprised! When we dialog it does not mean that we must change our beliefs, it means we are going to dig in and be challenged by the Word of God.

A perfect example of dialog was displayed by Albert Mohler on Monday October 21st when he was asked to speak at BYU. If you haven’t read the transcript, you need to (http://www.albertmohler.com/2013/10/21/a-clear-and-present-danger-religious-liberty-marriage-and-the-family-in-the-late-modern-age-an-address-at-brigham-young-university/). He made a very accurate statement that rather than paraphrasing I will just paste it…

“There are those who sincerely believe that meaningful and respectful conversation can take place only among those who believe the least—that only those who believe the least and thus may disagree the least can engage one another in the kind of conversation that matters. I reject that notion, and I reject it forcefully. To paraphrase Dorothy Parker, that is the kind of idea that must not be cast aside lightly, but thrown with full force.”

This is powerful! I have to say, I’m glad that Jesus didn’t take the position of rejecting those who didn’t agree with Him!

With theological differences and conversations we really need to consider what Isaiah 1:18 says, “Come now, let us reason together, says the LORD: though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red like crimson, they shall become like wool.” The word “reason” literally means “dispute, decide, adjudge, prove”, this is what God called Isaiah to do, God called Isaiah to reason with Him! How much more should we (who are not God) reason with each other?

I’ve been called a heretic, liberal, led astray, misguided, and many other things, all because I don’t line up to one persons theological leanings, but let me tell you, I want to be faithful to God’s Word and run to His theology, even if that means I leave behind the forms of doctrine that I have been taught. I hope that is your desire as well!

In conclusion, we often forget that we need to love one another, regardless of our differing views, this is the way the world will know that we are Christ’s disciples. One way we show love, is by the way we interact, discuss, serve and honor one another. This is theology acted out.

When attacked, heap coals of kindness on their heads, when attacked, show love and deference, when attacked, love them, love them because Christ loves them and died for them. When attacked, live out your theology, live out your doctrine, it’s what it’s there for.

All this to say, I love theology! I love discussing theology! Do you?

*Non-essentials are those things that do not deal with the means of salvation, the deity of Christ, eternality of God, etc. You know what the essentials are, if you don’t, well, start studying some theology.

Chase Ward works with Ministry Logistics at Indigenous Ministries in Colorado Springs, Colorado. He was a Youth Pastor for almost 10 years at two churches in AZ and TX. He and his wife Gina have four children and one on the way.

Chase Ward works with Ministry Logistics at Indigenous Ministries in Colorado Springs, Colorado. He was a Youth Pastor for almost 10 years at two churches in AZ and TX. He and his wife Gina have four children and one on the way.

Jon’s Thoughts:

The saying is true, “nothing upsets people more than talking Jesus and politics.” Theology is important but most don’t really know theology they just know what they have been taught and have automatic responses to anyone else’s view that is different from theirs. I have had phone calls, comments and messages from pastors who have told me:

“Jon, you are leaving the faith,” “Jon, you are disappointing me.” “You were taught better Jon.” “It’s a sad and terrible thing that you have left the Baptist faith to be a thug.” “Why are acting like a black man? Sad.” “Don’t you know how many have died to give us the faith you have just thrown away.” “Jesus wouldn’t do what you are doing…you KNOW THAT!!!!” “I can no longer support you because you are following Rick Warren.” “You are heading down a path that is straight out of hell.” “Why aren’t you using the KJV anymore, you know that all other versions are perversions.”….I could go on.

Here’s the thing- all the above comments were over secondary issues. Music, standards, dress, appearance, Bible versions, hip hop, church name and stuff that shouldn’t matter. It shouldn’t matter because they are cultural and secondary. The gospel is what unites us not preferences & traditions.

When it comes to theology, we must understand the difference between truth and proxy. Truth is what is spelled out and dictates our theology and belief. Proxy is what we do and how we do it. Missionaries in countries around the world do things totally different than most American Churches do and should do it totally different. They are reaching a culturally different population group and should use the best methods to spread the gospel where they are and not try to create an American church in a country and culture that is not America.

When it comes to Big theology and little theology, most get it confused. Big theology is the gospel of Jesus Christ. While there are some things that are in the grey area, most fall into one of those two aspects.

Here is my plea, drop your perceived notions about those that are different from you and join hands with those that are preaching the gospel. Love to hear your thoughts, comment below. Go Team Jesus!

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Filed under For Leaders, Theological Articles