1:02 · November 7, 2023
In this enlightening episode, we delve into the dynamic world of church leadership and multiethnic worship with Jamaal Williams. He explores how worship services that authentically reflect the ethnic diversity of local communities bring a piece of heaven to Earth and underscore the transformative power of unity. This episode reminds us that amid the racial tensions that persist in American culture, Christians are called to become agents of change. Join us as we explore the path to making our churches resemble God’s kingdom in a world yearning for unity and understanding.
In this enlightening episode, we delve into the dynamic world of church leadership and multiethnic worship with Jamaal Williams. He explores how worship services that authentically reflect the ethnic diversity of local communities bring a piece of heaven to Earth and underscore the transformative power of unity. This episode reminds us that amid the racial tensions that persist in American culture, Christians are called to become agents of change. Join us as we explore the path to making our churches resemble God’s kingdom in a world yearning for unity and understanding.
Thank you for listening! If you found this conversation encouraging or helpful, please share this episode with your friends and loved ones. Or please leave us a review—it really helps!
Our guest for this episode was Jamaal Williams, the lead pastor at Sojourn Church Midtown in Louisville, Kentucky, and the president of the Harbor Network of Churches. This episode was hosted by Jim Lovelady. Production by Anna Madsen, Aaron Gray, Brooke Herron, Ashlie Kodsy, and Sunny Chi. Music by Tommy Leahy.
𝑮𝒓𝒂𝒄𝒆 𝒂𝒕 𝒕𝒉𝒆 𝑭𝒓𝒂𝒚 𝑷𝒐𝒅𝒄𝒂𝒔𝒕 is produced by SERGE, an international missions agency that sends and cares for missionaries and develops gospel-centered programs and resources for ongoing spiritual renewal. Learn more and get involved at serge.org.
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Welcome to the Grace at the Fray—a podcast that explores the many dimensions of God’s grace that we find at the frayed edges of life. Come explore how God’s grace works to renew your life and send you on mission in His Kingdom.
0:00:24.2 Jim Lovelady: Hello beloved, welcome to Grace at the Fray. So I live in Philadelphia, a very ethnically and culturally diverse place. And I got to tell you, one thing that brings all of these folks together is Philadelphia sports. On Sunday afternoons in autumn, Eagles football gathers people from every tongue and tribe and nation. And they gather at the largest temple in the city, Lincoln Financial Field. And if they don’t have tickets, they camp outside the temple. The parking spots are more expensive the closer you get to the temple. Or maybe they live stream the worship service from their homes or gather in smaller worship venues called bars, where the sacraments of beer and wings are served as people participate in a community building, love shaping, identity forming liturgical practice called football. Now you may think that this is crazy, but it’s a real thing. Sports is actually about worship and the rituals around our sports team shape our love for that team. For me, it’s Oklahoma football. True confession, my wife has called me out many a Saturday evening the night before I go lead worship at a church for we’ll call it becoming too emotionally and spiritually invested in my team winning or all too often losing.
I love Oklahoma football because I went to the University of Oklahoma and participated in the rituals and liturgies that shaped my love and devotion for that team. Maybe it’s another team or another sport for you, whatever it may be. There are liturgies that shape your love, things you do and participate in to make you a worshiper where even your identity is wrapped up in the fate of that team or organization. And there’s a certain kind of camaraderie with those folks who share the same love. When the team wins, you all win. When the team loses, you all lose. You are united, brought together by love. Well, my guest today, Jamaal Williams, co-wrote with Pastor Timothy Paul Jones, a fantastic book called In Church as It Is in Heaven: Cultivating a multi-ethnic kingdom culture. And it offers a different Sunday liturgy, a cosmically more significant Sunday liturgy, one that invites people from every tongue, tribe and nation to gather around the risen King Jesus and to practice our eternal destiny to be an ethnically diverse church brought together by infinite love, to participate in Sunday rituals that teach them and empower them to love as Jesus loves and to do something remarkable, to love one another.
Jamaal is the lead pastor at Sojourn Church Midtown in Louisville, Kentucky, and the president of the Harbor Network of Churches, an association of churches that has been launching new churches and developing ministry leaders since 2011. He and his church have been practicing multi-ethnic worship that reflects their local culture. But the beautiful thing is, it’s starting to reflect kingdom culture, and he wants every church to start looking more like God’s kingdom In Church as It Is in Heaven. And I really appreciated getting to hear his story and to hear the encouragement that he offers to everyone endeavoring to make their church look a little more like heaven on earth. So if you want your church community to reflect the ethnic diversity of your broader community, it all starts with what your worship service looks like on a Sunday morning. And it actually revolves around a passage from Revelation 7, “After this I looked and there was a great multitude that no one could count. From every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, robed in white, with palm branches in their hands, and they cried out in a loud voice saying, ‘Salvation belongs to our God, who is seated on the throne, and to the Lamb’.
0:04:37.4 Jim Lovelady: Hey Jamaal, welcome. Welcome to Grace at the Fray.
0:04:47.0 Jamaal Williams: Thank you.
0:04:48.2 Jim Lovelady: We did it. We had some technical difficulties, but we did it.
0:04:52.9 Jamaal Williams: Yes, we did. The Lord worked it out and gratefully He’ll continue to do so.
0:04:57.3 Jim Lovelady: Yeah, absolutely. So the Renewal team, we’ve been working through your book, and I love your book. There are all sorts of pastors and church folk that I plan on recommending this book to, like seriously. And so I’m looking forward to hearing you unpack some of the book that you have and maybe some of your hope for what it means to do church in a multi-ethnic way, in multi-ethnic community. So full disclosure, full confession, when we decided to read your book, I was like, “Oh man, I’m really discouraged about this topic”. And then when we got you on the schedule to be on the podcast, I texted a bunch of my pastor friends who are doing a multi-ethnic church, plants and revitalization stuff, and have just been in that world. And I was like, “Hey, what would you ask Jamaal if you got to sit with him” And so it’s been a very fruitful kind of conversation with a bunch of my friends, and they’re all kind of like couching it in this sense of, dude, it’s hard. And I wouldn’t say that they’re discouraged, but I’m just like, I don’t know, are you an optimist? ’cause I’m more of a pessimist. [laughter] And so my hope is that maybe you can give me some more hope.
0:06:32.1 Jim Lovelady: About this because yeah, just brutal honesty. This is overwhelming for me. So help me bring some hope into this. But yeah, so tell me your story and we’ll go from there.
0:06:43.5 Jamaal Williams: Well, Jim, thank you for having me on. And I’m just really humbled that you would read my book and recommend it to others and I’m really grateful. The conversation around the book is bringing a little bit more hope and that it had a hopeful tone. I’m still processing. It’ll take me a while to process that question. Am I optimists or do I lean towards discouragement? I’m kind of both, you know? But the good news is, is that both you and I are currently a part of the multi-ethnic church, which is Christ’s body. And one day, whether or not we get to really experience the joy of that here on earth, we will in heaven together. So that’s the good news. The good news is it ends well.
0:07:30.1 Jim Lovelady: Right, right.
0:07:31.7 Jamaal Williams: Yeah, it ends well. So, and honestly in writing and even in trying to live this out, I try to remind myself of that because I know what’s coming, that God’s kingdom will be fully realized. And one day we will stand around the throne of Jesus with the people from every nation, tribe and tongue. It really takes the pressure to perform off and the pressure to get it right off. And it frees me and it frees us to just enjoy people and what’s good, true and beautiful out of people’s culture. So my story, in a nutshell, is I am born and raised in Chicago in the Chicagoland area. My parents were church planners right there in the heart of the South side of Chicago.
0:08:23.0 Jamaal Williams: And so I grew up with church planting parents and the gospel really took root in my heart and life. When I was 10 years old, I believe I experienced new birth and it was really pretty amazing. My parents’ marriage was on the rocks and they were kind of constantly splitting or verbally pretty violent towards each other. And the gospel took root in my father’s heart. And I remember the day that the Lord saved them and him coming home from work and saying, the Lord saved them and things are gonna be different. And it was supernatural. I mean, I had never seen someone make a 180 like that. And he just set the temperature of our household. And my mom, I believe was already a believer, we went to church every Sunday. In fact, my father was like the deacon in training, before, and he just didn’t have that personal renewal.
0:09:17.7 Jamaal Williams: He Knew the Bible inside and out. And about three months later, I saw them get into their first kind of bad argument on the way to a Bible study. And I saw my father just watching him and he was actually leading a Bible study that night with some family. It was at my grandmother’s house. And I saw him open up and repent to my mother in tears. And I said, what is…
0:09:41.6 Jim Lovelady: Total surprise.
0:09:42.6 Jamaal Williams: Total surprise I said, what is happening? Wow… And I sat on the floor and watched him and my mother reconcile in front of everyone. And he articulated in that Bible study, less than just the gospel. And I said, if this Jesus changed my father and if this good news is what has taken root in my household, I want to know Him myself. And I feel like the Lord made me alive.
0:10:04.7 Jamaal Williams: So from there, long story short, began to walk with Jesus, I went to Michigan State University where I met my wife Amber. We have five kids ranging from 10 to two six-year-olds from Michigan State, moved to Louisville to go to seminary and pastored by accident kind of a church called Forest Baptist Church which is 150 year old historic African-American church. I did that for 10 years, eight years as a lead pastor. I Absolutely loved it. It was a revitalization kind of effort but God breathed life into it. My wife and I loved it. And then in 2016, to our surprise, the Lord called us to a majority white, 99% white at the time church in the same city.
0:10:56.1 Jamaal Williams: And when the church pursued us, we brought our leadership team in. It was a six month transition. Our church actually kind of sent us as missionaries from this historic African American church to this predominantly white church that was in a majority black area. And…
0:11:11.4 Jim Lovelady: I didn’t realize that. So there was ascending as a missionary.
0:11:15.8 Jamaal Williams: Yeah. There was ascending.
0:11:18.5 Jim Lovelady: That I love that.
0:11:18.6 Jamaal Williams: Essentially, yeah.
0:11:21.3 Jim Lovelady: I didn’t realize that. I didn’t know if it was like, hey, this church is flirting with you. But it’s also this like, no, we wanna send you to be with our blessing to be a blessing. That’s awesome.
0:11:35.0 Jamaal Williams: They blessed us on our way out. It was hard. I mean, some relationships definitely were strained and some people didn’t…
0:11:38.8 Jim Lovelady: Well, okay. Yeah, I guess that’s right.
0:11:40.8 Jamaal Williams: Majority of the church. Yeah, yeah. Majority of the church, our church, our church. Yeah, the majority of our church and our elders, because we brought them in, we taught them six months before, brought them in, asked our elders to discern. They discerned with me, talked to mentors. They were like, hey, man, we feel this call on you and Amber’s life. We see this multicultural call. And youth, I was consulting with that church for years and it just kind of made sense to them and it was really painful. But we taught our church and the church allowed me to stay and help them kind of with the process of finding the next pastor pretty much. And yeah, then they sent us off, man. And it’s been sweet agonos, sweet agony. It’s been a joy, but it’s also been a burden that we feel called to.
0:12:29.9 Jim Lovelady: Yeah, it’s not surprising that that would be difficult, going from a historically black church to a very 99% white church. So talk about some of the difficulties of that. You gave your testimony at the kinship conference a while back and I got a chance to listen to that. And it was profound. And I have a lot of respect for the way that you had to lean into Jesus. And I want you to tell the story of how you, how Jesus gave you the aha moment, where it’s just like, he freed you to do this kind of ministry and for the rest of your life, you’re gonna be practicing what it means to live into that kind of grace. But yeah, talk about that.
0:13:24.8 Jamaal Williams: Yes. Yeah, so I came into Sojourn in 2016 and was not quite prepared for just the adjustment of pastoring a historic black church and coming into a large white church. And it was really just identity shaking for me, you just go and we, it’s 2016 there’s a lot of political unrest. [laughter]
0:13:49.5 Jim Lovelady: Gotcha.
0:13:50.5 Jamaal Williams: We didn’t really come out pressing into ethnic issues and racial issues as heavy but even when we just were lightly mention it, I just wasn’t prepared for the emails and I need to meet with you and you’re not preaching the gospel, or all you talk about is race. And it was just kind of a shaking for me. And over time I realized that for some people who had just never sat under a African American preaching almost every Sunday, it was about race, even though I wasn’t mentioning it.
0:14:22.6 Jim Lovelady: Right it’s interesting.
0:14:22.8 Jamaal Williams: There was something culturally that is unspoken that’s taking place. It’s two years of that trying to find my voice in that setting as a preacher, but as a black preacher, as a pastor, but as a black pastor in a majority white space. Yeah so basically, an event happens, I won’t go into all the details for the podcast, but an event happens where I show up to it and it’s kind of the who’s who of in our circles of Christians and pastors and theologians in the city. And there’s all the black pastors on one side, and there’s all the white pastors on another side and…
0:15:05.1 Jim Lovelady: And it just naturally did that.
0:15:06.6 Jamaal Williams: Some of the black… It just kind of naturally did that.
0:15:09.4 Jim Lovelady: Yeah.
0:15:09.6 Jamaal Williams: Because people were just talking to who they knew. Black pastor…
0:15:12.1 Jim Lovelady: And it’s lots of reasons.
0:15:13.5 Jamaal Williams: No black pastors. Yeah. White pastors, no white pastors, professors. And there was some obviously mixture and mixing in that, but to me it just felt like this great divide. And I’m there and I’m thinking for my black pastors friends, some of them close to I see right away and I’m like, oh, that’s my brother. But many of them, that relationship was ruptured when I left to go to a white church. And I understand that especially now looking back to it more, these black pastors are like, Hey, here’s a young black pastor of an all white historic, well-known church in our city who is leaving for all white church and…
0:15:53.7 Jim Lovelady: Sell out.
0:15:54.2 Jamaal Williams: It could be disoriented. Yeah sell out. Maybe he’s leaving for more money. Maybe it’s this, maybe it’s that. Maybe he’s got where he is come from. Everything was going great at force, I shouldn’t say everything, but things were going really well. And that was disorienting for them. And then you have white pastors, professors who I’m not pastoring a predominantly white church that’s really well known in our city but I’m still a black pastor and I’m pressing into ethnic issues.
0:16:21.2 Jamaal Williams: And for some of them that makes them uncomfortable. And maybe I’m talking about that a little too much. I felt like I just didn’t have a home. And long story short, through that service and through that time of being with them, I just had this existential crisis and it was just exaggerated to the 10th degree. And I just felt like I just did not have a home. And I felt as if the Lord really spoke to me and said, hey, if you don’t root your identity in me and in your belovedness in my gospel no one will ever know the true you, and you will constantly be shifting, and living for people’s approval.
0:17:03.8 Jim Lovelady: Yeah.
0:17:04.3 Jamaal Williams: And it’s very few times in my life where I just felt like the Holy Spirit impressed something upon my heart to the point that it was undeniably him. And that day, us like a gospel bomb went in my heart off in my heart, and I remember the next day Sunday going to preach, and everyone was like, what? It was like, I felt like it was the first time I authentically preached as Jamaal. And even in a black setting where it was I’m not preaching for the approval of people. I’m actually ministering from a deep sense of God loves me.
0:17:39.4 Jim Lovelady: Yeah.
0:17:40.3 Jamaal Williams: As I am and has created me with this unique story as I am, and it’s on other people to accept that not on me to try to gain their approval. And I wish I could say that it is been that strong, that the belovedness and that living outta my adoption it teeters. But there’s now a focal point in which I can say when things are off, I’m not living out of that identity, there also was an article around the time that I discovered by Korie Edwards called Estranged Pioneers in what she does a qualitative study, of black pastors and Asian American pastors in predominantly white spaces. And she gets, I wanna say it’s over like 120 people who fit this category and just shows and organizes the research. And what she showed was persons who are in this space, the best way to describe them is they’re estranged. They’re estranged from their first culture.
0:18:46.0 Jamaal Williams: Many of them, like me, were rejected because they’re now in a white space, but they’re also pioneers. They have this call for whatever reason, to pastor the people that God has put before them, and reading other black and brown leaders in their own words, describe the internal turmoil that I was experiencing, also was like, man I’m not an anomaly. And then it began to give me a framework for how to build myself up in the gospel, to be fully who I am as a Christian but as a black man who has very specific experiences here in America as well.
0:19:27.7 Jim Lovelady: Yeah. I love that story because you found yourself straddling a fence. And it’s not comfortable to straddle a fence, you could go on one side or you could go on the other side but a, you’re straddling the fence because you don’t wanna go on one side or the other side, and that uncomfortable situation, Jesus goes, Hey, you wanna pick a side? And you go, no. And He goes, neither do I. And so He knocks the fence down.
0:19:58.0 Jamaal Williams: That’s right.
0:20:00.0 Jim Lovelady: And suddenly Jamaal’s preaching as Jamaal, the spirit moves through you because you were created.
0:20:07.1 Jamaal Williams: Yes.
0:20:07.1 Jim Lovelady: To be moved through in that kind of way. Different from the way that spirit moves through me, different than the way the spirit moves through anybody else. And so, yeah, I love that story of how Jesus goes, Hey, go be you. And you go, am I aloud? And you’re like, in Christ. In Christ, you go, be you. You know?
0:20:28.6 Jamaal Williams: Yes. Yes.
0:20:29.5 Jim Lovelady: That’s so good.
0:20:30.4 Jamaal Williams: Yes. Yeah. I appreciate that. And the Lord was gracious to meet me there. And it’s been a journey, I’m still on that journey, but it’s something I don’t think about nearly as much as I did before. And I do feel that freedom to just be me. So, yeah.
0:20:43.7 Jim Lovelady: Yeah. That’s so awesome. And then, so I was reading your book In Church as It Is in Heaven, about how you came to write the book. And the irony of when you’re at Forest Baptist, you go give some lectures at this, just some church [laughter]
0:21:01.0 Jamaal Williams: Yes.
0:21:02.1 Jim Lovelady: And someone’s like, Hey, you should turn that into a book. And now come to find out the Lord and His sense of humor. He’s got, He calls you to that church. He calls you to Sojourn Midtown, and…
0:21:14.2 Jamaal Williams: Yes.
0:21:14.7 Jim Lovelady: And now it’s suddenly a book. So talk to me about how, how’d this stuff become a book?
0:21:20.1 Jamaal Williams: Yeah, man, that’s, thanks for bringing that up. I mean, that’s over 10 years ago I’m just doing a talk at Sojourn as they just bought a new building literally down the tracks down the street from where they were. But the demographics changed, and they didn’t really realize that, hey, just, we moved two blocks, but it’s a completely different demographic. And I knew some of the pastors, they reached out. Can you talk to our leadership team, our pastoral team, about just ethnic reconciliation and classism and the gospel. And so start giving these talks. And lo and behold 10 years later, well probably shorter than that, maybe five or six years later, I’m pastoring there. And now we have this book. What’s neat is, is not only was that my experience, but Timothy Paul Jones, who was just an experienced writer.
0:22:13.5 Jim Lovelady: The co-author.
0:22:13.7 Jamaal Williams: He was a friend of mine’s. The co-author. Yep. And he was a friend of mine’s when I was at Forest. He would come preach for me from time to time. He was one of my, I didn’t have him as a professor at, Southern Seminary where I went. But out of the professors, he was one of the ones that I was closest to for various reasons. And so in 2018 I asked him to give a talk at our Sojourn Network, which is a church planning network is now called Harbor Network, on this subject. And he gave a talk and upon giving a talk, he’s just like, Hey, man, we should sit down and just outline a book together on this. And the Lord had put, I had started writing taking those notes and actually writing a smaller book for our network pastors. And we joined together. And this book is a lot better than the first time I imagined it in the lectures I gave. And I think Timothy, if he was here, would say too, it’s stronger as a result of us coming together. So, yeah.
0:23:12.7 Jim Lovelady: Yeah. It’s significant. And it’s kind of symbolic that you co-wrote this with a white dude.
0:23:20.1 Jamaal Williams: Yes.
0:23:20.8 Jim Lovelady: It’s not like you went out to look for a token white dude to write this with, just to prove your point, it’s just that the Lord worked it out that way. Thanks be to God.
0:23:29.5 Jamaal Williams: Yes.
0:23:32.4 Jim Lovelady: So…
0:23:32.5 Jamaal Williams: Yes. Yeah, yeah. I’ve got to write this book with a guy who I deeply respect. And we came into this as friends, and we’ve heard of other co-authors writing books together, and they’re not close friends afterwards. And, both Timothy and I feel like we became closer in writing this. And we love the way we did it. We kind of outlined the book and wrote it on this theme of kinda liturgies, liturgy [laughter]
0:23:58.4 Jim Lovelady: Yeah. Yeah. So, you know I love… You had me at Hello [laughter], you had me at Hello. When I looked at the table of contents, I open up this book, I look at the table of contents. I was like, what? Yes. [laughter] This is exactly, that’s probably one of the reasons why I think that it’s so useful. Like I told you in an email, I feel like it’s a manual for worship. But talk to me about how did you come to structure it this way? Because, I love that you structured it this way for so many reasons, and we could talk about all that, but…
0:24:33.9 Jamaal Williams: It was really a God thing. Timothy and I, as we were talking about the book, we’re like, Hey, next time we meet, let’s sit down. Let’s talk about the structure and the theme. And so I show up Timothy has kind of started doodling about our, like sojourns worship services. He was like, I was thinking like, what if we followed our worship services as sojourn? And it kind of followed the thinking of James K. Smith and others. And I showed up with a book that I had just read by a guy who actually went a different direction with it, but it was on liturgies and racial reconciliation. And he kind of used the same, a similar model, but just towards ministries and not towards like a worship service. So it was one of the, probably the biggest God moment, I think, in writing a book, where we both kind of sit down, we’ve had this kind of seed germinating and we’re like, let’s run with it.
0:25:32.0 Jamaal Williams: So this must be what the Lord has. And it also helped that we wanted to, honestly, in writing this book, our biggest burden was to be able to shepherd our own people and to help shepherd churches in our network. We said, anyone outside of our church and our network that finds this helpful is like an addition. We wanna write this for our church and churches, like our church who are liturgical and who know the kind of importance of that. And so that’s kind of the direction we ended up doing, just really wanting to focus on habits, because we know that our habits form are our loves. Yeah. And we become what we behold.
0:26:12.8 Jim Lovelady: Yeah. You’re what you love.
0:26:12.9 Jamaal Williams: And habits and behold. Yeah. Yeah. And so it’s been fun. I’m so glad that the Holy Spirit led us in this direction. That’s kind of like my favorite thing about the work.
0:26:23.3 Jim Lovelady: Yeah. I recognize that I’m biased and, one of my friends was like, I was like, oh, I love that this is structured liturgically. And he’s like, what does that mean to you? And I’m like, I’m imagining how this is forming your church and how it’s intended to form churches into a place where, like I wrote in margins where I said, this is a manual for worship, worship together and you will learn to get along. The liturgy is, I don’t even know if this is a real word, but the liturgy is the orthopractical solution to this orthopractice.
0:27:03.4 Jamaal Williams: Oh, nice.
0:27:04.1 Jim Lovelady: Yeah. I don’t know. You just made up a word. [laughter]
0:27:07.9 Jamaal Williams: I love it.
0:27:08.9 Jim Lovelady: So we submit ourselves to the liturgy and it’s gonna shape us into something. And so just the fact that you took those ideas of how when we worship, we become what we worship and the things that we do in our worship service shape us.
0:27:23.9 Jamaal Williams: Shape us.
0:27:25.4 Jim Lovelady: And you get into the nitty-gritty, you get all the way into the nitty-gritty of the announcements.
0:27:30.4 Jamaal Williams: Yes, yes.
0:27:31.1 Jim Lovelady: You’re talking about the announcements and how the announcements form us. Exactly. Absolutely.
0:27:34.4 Jamaal Williams: Yes, yeah. Yeah, yeah, yeah.
0:27:35.9 Jim Lovelady: So, well how can this form us into a people who show no partiality? How can this form us into a people who can practice communion here so that we can practice communion everywhere?
0:27:50.9 Jamaal Williams: That’s right. That’s right. Yeah. Those practices and you’re right. It’s absolutely a worship issue. And this is what we see right, in Galatians 2 with Paul when he shows up and he’s talking to Peter and just saying, hey man, table fellowship is important. This practice that you are sometimes taken a part of and sometimes not as important.
0:28:11.9 Jamaal Williams: In fact, it’s so important. I’m gonna say that this is a gospel. This has gospel implications, like not having table fellowship with your Gentile brothers is speaking volumes about what you believe about the gospel. So I’m going to need you to go back to that table and honor their dignity as human beings and put this practice into place so that you are shaped into a person who doesn’t fear the perception of others, but who fears God more and who welcomes all of his brothers and sisters in Christ. So that’s a real liturgy…
0:28:50.1 Jim Lovelady: Yeah.
0:28:50.6 Jamaal Williams: That Paul was inviting him into. And that’s what God is inviting us into. And we do that when not just when we worship on Sunday, but how we live by choosing to sometimes go out of our way and to shop in a community that isn’t homogenous or like our first culture or choosing to show up in certain ways to people that we could easily avoid.
0:29:15.9 Jamaal Williams: It shapes us. So, no.
0:29:17.6 Jim Lovelady: Yeah. I think about the most diverse moment, at least in the autumn, the most diverse moment in the weekend in Philadelphia is around the liturgy of Eagles football.
0:29:34.1 Jamaal Williams: Those Eagles. Y’all been doing pretty good, man. Y’all got a little thing going.
0:29:39.4 Jim Lovelady: Well, so worship in Philadelphia on the weekends.
0:29:44.9 Jamaal Williams: Yeah.
0:29:46.3 Jim Lovelady: And it is a beautiful example of how Eagles football gathers every tongue, tribe and nation in this region for worship.
0:29:56.9 Jamaal Williams: Yes.
0:29:57.4 Jim Lovelady: And there are all sorts of liturgical activities. I got a buddy, he and I talk about the liturgical aspects of football. A while back, there was a I-95, a tanker fell over or whatever and blew up part of I-95. And so when they repaired I-95, there was a parade and the Philadelphia sports mascots were part of that parade. And he and I had this long conversation of like…
0:30:25.3 Jamaal Williams: Wow.
0:30:25.9 Jim Lovelady: What? How is that cultivating worship? You know what?
0:30:30.3 Jamaal Williams: Yeah. Yes.
0:30:31.6 Jim Lovelady: That is a liturgical thing that is cultivating worship. And it just kinda flies under the radar of everything, ’cause everyone’s like, oh, that’s a normal thing.
0:30:36.9 Jamaal Williams: Yes.
0:30:37.4 Jim Lovelady: So, yeah, there’s worship happening. Okay. So here’s the problem. Here’s the problem. You say, y’all, you can’t say y’all. I’m from Texas. I’m a Cowboys fan. I’m like a…
0:30:48.6 Jamaal Williams: Ooh, wow.
0:30:49.9 Jim Lovelady: I’m like a heretic around here. It may be hard to be a Christian in Philadelphia too.
0:30:54.9 Jamaal Williams: Yeah.
0:30:56.9 Jim Lovelady: It’s really hard to be a Cowboys fan here in Philadelphia.
0:30:58.1 Jamaal Williams: Yeah. Well speaking of liturgies in football, I’ll tell you what. I’m a Bears fan. 85 Bears, greatest team ever. Can’t believe we lost to the Dolphins. Could have had a perfect season. But anyway, for some reason, man, for some reason I grew up a Buffalo Bills fan as well. That’s my second team. I love Thurman Thomas, man. And so your Dallas Cowboys habitually broke my heart as a kid.
0:31:27.6 Jim Lovelady: Those were the days. But it is fascinating how this thing that is bigger than any one of us captures our imaginations.
0:31:38.3 Jamaal Williams: Yes.
0:31:39.3 Jim Lovelady: And we are enamored by it.
0:31:40.4 Jim Lovelady: And everyone, every tongue, tribe and nation is enamored by this thing. And this is a unifying thing in Philadelphia. And so what you’re doing is you’re going, there’s something better than football.
0:31:52.6 Jamaal Williams: Yes.
0:31:54.1 Jim Lovelady: There is someone who has done something more glorious than a perfect season.
0:31:57.1 Jamaal Williams: Yeah. Yes, yes.
0:31:57.6 Jim Lovelady: And there’s all sorts of fun, sermon lines from that. But I think that that’s what’s so significant about what you’re doing is you’re going, what we do on a Sunday is way bigger than we thought. When it comes to racial conciliation, racial reconciliation.
0:32:18.8 Jamaal Williams: Yeah.
0:32:19.4 Jim Lovelady: When it comes to doing what the end result is going to be, every tongue, tribe and nation worshiping at the feet of the lamb who is slain but is victorious. And…
0:32:31.4 Jamaal Williams: That’s right. Yeah. Yeah. Ethnic reconciliation is beautiful. One of the things we talk about worship service, and we share a little bit about this in the book and how we kind of, Sojourn members were trying, things were difficult. And one of the breaking points for us was actually just modeling what a worship service could look like one day at Midtown before we even, where there’s already yet, like before it came to be. And it was during the call of worship where we had people just read the same text in their native tongue. And then we just had people sharing in song, which is different.
0:33:11.8 Jamaal Williams: I remember that first service actually giving a visual. We went through our regular liturgical movements. And I just remember there’d been a powerful moment for a church and a handful of families and people came up afterwards that were on a fence and thinking about leaving. And they’re like, man, you’ve given us a visual of what this could look like and showing us that there are people in our church who are giving up things and even language to be here really makes me wanna stay in a presence of this a little more.
0:33:48.9 Jamaal Williams: And so that was a powerful Sunday for us. And sometimes what people need is just more than just us telling them is us to model it and show, this is what we’re talking about and this is what could one day be. Because sometimes our imagination are just stunted from being able to see that possibility because we’re so used to our comfort zones and what we’re used to.
0:34:12.4 Jim Lovelady: Yeah. Yeah. Okay. So I like that we started there. With kind of like, this is how glorious it could be. I like that we started there because like I said earlier, alright, just to be honest, man. What you propose, in the book and what I have seen in my pastoral ministry with friends in pastoral ministry who are trying to do multi-ethnic, multicultural, church is, it’s just hard. It’s difficult. It’s been discouraging to see people struggle, to see both where it’s like there are black pastors that I know that would love for, more white people to come to their church and are trying to figure out how to make that happen. There are white pastors that I know that are trying to get more, black and brown, people to come to their church. So that’s like, well, how do I make this happen? And so, and I’ve seen a lot of churches just kinda crumble under the weight of trying to make this happen and just everybody’s mad. And so everyone just like, I’m out. Or one of the pastors, if it’s like co-led, one of the pastors is like, I can’t do this anymore. I’m out. I’ve seen that a number of times. So just.
0:35:23.7 Jamaal Williams: Absolutely.
0:35:24.5 Jim Lovelady: Alright, so what’s the hope? Like preach me hope, Pastor.
0:35:36.1 Jamaal Williams: Well, I’ll just say this. My pastors and I we say multi-ethnic pro… Churches have multi-ethnic problems. And you don’t go into multi-ethnic ministry and look for this ethnic reconciliation without thinking that it’s going to be spiritual warfare. It’s going to be spiritual warfare. And I think to another level, especially here in North America, where there’s just a stronghold in this nation as it comes to just racial and ethnic issues, injustice issues. And so one, if you don’t feel a call towards it and you’re not absolutely sure that the Lord has called you to do that I would say don’t, two, if you haven’t done your own gospel identity work and ethnic work and cross-cultural work, then you shouldn’t be leading a multi-ethnic church. I tell people that all the time to white brothers that I love dearly, who have never submitted to black or brown leadership, who don’t have black friends, brown friends.
0:36:33.8 Jamaal Williams: I’m like, hey, man, you’re just not ready, to lead a multi-ethnic church. Now I, and every church isn’t called to be a multi-ethnic church. There’s some scenarios and situations where it’s just not wise. Even if Forest Baptist, because of where she was located, nestled in a very historic black community, when we started having white seminary families come and things like that, I started getting a little uncomfortable because some of these families were coming with these expectations that it’s like, no, you’re trying to impose, even without knowing it, and you’re pressuring for this church to become something that it’s not going to come and it’s not healthy for it to become. This is because of where it’s located, because of who was in the community. And you may have some first generation or even second generation Korean churches where it’s just probably wise for them to continue that fellowship.
0:37:18.0 Jamaal Williams: With that said, every church is called to cultivate what we call a multi-ethnic kingdom culture okay.
0:37:35.9 Jim Lovelady: Yeah.
0:37:36.4 Jamaal Williams: And what a multi-ethnic kingdom culture, yeah is a culture in a context where people have a gospel rooted identity that transcends and simultaneously appreciates, their ethnic, cultures, and that which in from their ethnic cultures is true, good and beautiful right, so every church…
0:37:58.4 Jim Lovelady: Can you give me a specific story?
0:38:01.3 Jamaal Williams: Yeah. So essentially what I’m saying is every church should be cultivating a hospitable environment where when people come through the door, they feel like I don’t have to check my ethnic identity at the door to be welcomed.
0:38:18.6 Jim Lovelady: Yeah, yeah, yeah.
0:38:21.0 Jamaal Williams: Like, I don’t have to dress in this particular way, or I don’t have to necessarily agree with the way the schooling culture of this church.
0:38:31.6 Jamaal Williams: I don’t have to, I’m not, we’re not adding things to the gospel, we’re not adding things to the Christian life that makes it difficult for people to come in, simply because culturally this is not what they’re used to. And so that’s creating space for people to be who they are. And that was the same thing, even with Forest. I remember when I first started pastoring there, historic African American church, everyone was dressed to the nines we were a older church, and there was so much good, so much history behind that and reasons rationality behind why the black church does that and I love dressing up, but we started having cats from the street and from the hood come with fitted hats and jeans, I’m witnessing other young guys are witnessing to guys on the block.
0:39:19.1 Jamaal Williams: They’re starting to come and, as soon as they walk through the door there’s a finger wagon, them deacons are getting them, take your hat off, pull up. And it’s like, Hey, Dee, I know what y’all trying to do, but we wanna create a culture where we care more about the person who has the clothes on then to close themselves.
0:39:34.9 Jim Lovelady: Oh, that’s so good.
0:39:36.4 Jamaal Williams: Right. Don’t, and that’s culture we want, we wanna give people space and time and allow them to not have unnecessary things alive right.
0:39:47.8 Jim Lovelady: That’s beautiful.
0:39:48.6 Jamaal Williams: And so that’s what we mean by that.
0:39:49.7 Jim Lovelady: And that’s like, just keep on…
0:39:51.9 Jamaal Williams: And every church can do that. So I’m thinking even for the rural or suburban homogenous church, the way you do that as a pastor of, or as leaders is reading church history and not just from like your ethnic perspective, like learning stories from other ethnicities and their missionaries and implementing that in your sermons. So that people know like, Hey, our ethnicities isn’t the only one that’s like historically been doing things for the kingdom of God, because you wanna preach in such a way where those kids, when they grow up and they go to college, they have a global perspective and they see the gospel as a global gospel right.
0:40:36.9 Jim Lovelady: A significant paradigm shift for me was, a very close dear black pastor friend of mine I said, Hey man, what could I do to make my church, what are some of the things I can do to make my church more hospitable to guests who are people of color? And he goes when I go into your church, I don’t wanna feel like a welcome guest, I wanna feel at home.
0:41:05.3 Jamaal Williams: Yes.
0:41:05.9 Jim Lovelady: And I was like.
0:41:07.8 Jim Lovelady: Oh, oh.
0:41:09.1 Jamaal Williams: Yeah.
0:41:11.0 Jim Lovelady: Oh yeah, it’s a totally different paradigm.
0:41:14.5 Jamaal Williams: It is so yeah.
0:41:15.1 Jim Lovelady: And I, and when it, it hit me and I was like, yeah, this is your home. I don’t want you to feel like a guest here, I want you to feel at home here, what do I need to do to make you feel at home here?
0:41:24.8 Jamaal Williams: Yes. That’s a different type of question. And for us at Sojourn, when we first started on this journey, man, that meant we had to rethink some of the pictures that were visible when guests first came so we want people from the community come in and, the church, was a cathedral, Catholic cathedral from, the 1800s and so when you come in, there’s this older picture telling the story, which is beautiful, but to a black person that’s in the neighborhood already stepping into a all white space, and all the pictures you see on a wall are all white people and black and white like some things you just have to think through and just say like, okay, so maybe that won’t be the first thing we see maybe it’s just a welcome sign, and so you just start thinking through those things, what could give someone pause to say like, am I really welcome here? Yeah, if everything around all our artifacts are saying that I’m not, even if it’s not intentional.
0:42:25.5 Jim Lovelady: Yeah, and it, yeah, it’s not intentional, it’s like it’s become invisible, it’s the architecture.
0:42:30.8 Jamaal Williams: Yes, yes.
0:42:31.1 Jim Lovelady: That surrounds us, that has been shaping us.
0:42:34.0 Jamaal Williams: Yes.
0:42:35.3 Jim Lovelady: It’s, invisible to us.
0:42:35.4 Jamaal Williams: It’s invisible to us.
0:42:35.4 Jim Lovelady: And it’s not until someone comes out, comes from out outside and goes, oh, that’s an interesting thing.
0:42:42.4 Jamaal Williams: That for sure.
0:42:45.7 Jim Lovelady: You notice that no one around here looks like me, does anybody notice that? And people are like, oh, wow. So I’m gonna put my cynical hat on just with things that I’ve experienced, and so tell me, tell me what you think about some of these things. Talk to me about the token black pastor, the token white pastor or the token, whatever.
0:43:06.3 Jamaal Williams: Absolutely.
0:43:08.2 Jim Lovelady: Deacon, the token elder, that’s one that I’ve struggled with.
0:43:09.7 Jamaal Williams: Yeah. Absolutely. I think, just the human heart, John says, lust of the eye, lust of flesh, pride of life like we all have those temptations, and as leaders, we have those temptations. Jesus hits those temptations in a wilderness, head on. The lust of the, eye, lust of flesh, pride of life, all those temptations say’s temptation kind of can fall under that, those categories. So the same way as with ministry leaders, like, we feel this burden, we want a diverse church, and we can just start lusting for it, and we can start trying to make it happen in our own strengths, rather than doing it in a measured, in a wise way. Tokenism is horrible, it’s dehumanizing.
0:43:52.1 Jamaal Williams: It’s my biggest fear, even in writing this book, it’s my biggest fear that some person will pick up this book and just say, Hey man, we’ve gotta find a black leader like Soldier and get, and we’ve gotta put him in a leadership position, and this is how we start. And it’s like, no, that’s not where we start and that’s not what necessarily needs to happen. What needs to happen is to be curious about who’s in our community already. And for us to, think about how to wisely cross those cultures so that we can share the gospel with them and what can we control in the healthiest way possible, so that if they were to come on a Sunday, they could say, man, I’m welcomed here and I can see myself here long term. So yeah, tokenism is, really dehumanized a lot, I know a lot of people who have been tokenized. I’ve been tokenized, not at Sojourn, necessarily, but in the past, and it just doesn’t feel good. So how do you avoid that? And one thing I loved about Sojourn Pastors, when we came in, that was one of the first questions, like, how is this not tokenism?
0:44:55.1 Jamaal Williams: And I was like, Hey man, I’m not an expert on tokenism, but it would be tokenism if you’re calling me to be a lead pastor, but I don’t have the same authority as the last white lead pastor had the same expectations as the last white lead pastor had, if you lower a standard so that I could come in, or if you are all of a sudden not giving me the same responsibility, ’cause you don’t think I can, keep a standard or reach a standard, or suddenly you’re taking away things because you don’t want me to have that power over you, that’s tokenism. So I said what that looks like for me is one, is, preaching, as the lead pastor who’s over preaching and vision, like I should be able to oversee, our preaching calendar and submit that to elders too, to speak into, I should be able to speak into staff culture, who we hire, how we hire, and our hiring process just like any other lead pastor vision, I should have the responsibility of helping with the team cultivate that and submitting that to elders so they can review and so the way you don’t tokenize is by making sure that people have the responsibility, accountability, and authority that they would have had if it wasn’t for their ethnic, makeup.
0:46:13.6 Jim Lovelady: Yeah, that’s really wise. And here’s another one that I’ve wrestled with. What is the role of a white lead pastor in a multi-ethnic space? I’ve…
0:46:23.9 Jamaal Williams: That’s right.
0:46:30.7 Jim Lovelady: I’ve seen that too and that’s a difficult space. So like, talk about that.
0:46:32.2 Jamaal Williams: I’ve seen, and I know some white pastors in multi-ethnic space that do a great job. We’ve got plenty in the harbor network, I know of several. And I think for the white pastors in the multi-ethnic space, it’s just making sure that he is, cultivating those gospel qualities, like every pastor should, but humility that he remains curious as well, and that he can, identify areas where being white and a part of the majority may be impacting, or impeding upon other ethnicities. Being able to speak into just the way worship is done, at the church and the rhythms of the church, and the same is true, even when it comes to just classism, racism is a huge thing, but I think classism is just as big of an issue, if not even big. So we have to constantly slow down and ask ourself like, man, what am I bringing into this? That could be, showing partiality or keeping people from just being free in the Lord.
0:47:41.2 Jim Lovelady: Yeah, one of the.
0:47:41.9 Jamaal Williams: And empowering non-white leaders is really important too.
0:47:45.8 Jim Lovelady: Yeah, yeah.
0:47:48.1 Jamaal Williams: Empowering non-white leaders, having systems and structures in place where non-white leaders are being poured into and, given a chance to lead and to lead in a way that’s most natural to them as well as effective.
0:48:04.3 Jim Lovelady: That’s really good, one of the things you said in I think it was chapter 11 of your book, it’s the whole colorblindness thing and how let’s get beyond this, to where we can celebrate where we can celebrate different ethnicities.
0:48:20.2 Jamaal Williams: Yeah, yeah. We like to say, we’re not, colorblind, we’re also not color bound, we’re color blessed.
0:48:30.6 Jim Lovelady: Oh, okay, yeah.
0:48:33.7 Jamaal Williams: So yeah, having a certain amount of melanin in our skin doesn’t make us more righteous.
0:48:41.7 Jim Lovelady: Great.
0:48:43.8 Jamaal Williams: Than the next person. And that’s what a lot of secular philosophies are doing, it’s almost a flip of the table to the point that now the oppress become, can become the oppressor, or it just becomes this unequal, weird shaming thing as my pastor friend, Jarvis Williams likes to say, man, white guilt is not a fruit of the spirit and we’ve gotta deal with that reality.
0:49:07.7 Jim Lovelady: I read, I read. Yeah, when I read, stamp from the beginning, I was just like.
0:49:15.9 Jamaal Williams: Yes.
0:49:17.5 Jim Lovelady: I don’t even know what to do with myself. Like I, and so, you what your take your take of like, I love it, it’s not, you’re not sitting on the fence. It’s, this is breaking down the fence and saying, no, actually Jesus is calling us to something better as in heaven so here in church also.
0:49:34.7 Jamaal Williams: We wanna appreciate, that’s what we talk about. Multi-ethnic kingdom culture’s culture, where we have this transcendent identity in Jesus, and that is our gospel identity, but that gospel identity allows us to appreciate our own ethnic belongs, without ethnocentrism but to have a healthy, this is how God made me, and I wanna enjoy what’s good, true, and beautiful of how he made me and, I don’t wanna… So that’s what we’re trying to do and help people to reject both colorblindness as well as secular, anti-racism, specific things that’s not a true truth out of them, thankful for the observations, grateful for the history of some of what we learned, but also understanding that at the end of the day, that framework breaks down and, it won’t sanctify, and it won’t unify.
0:50:38.5 Jim Lovelady: Yeah, that is helpful, that is very helpful, when I read a lot of the anti-racist or anti-racism stuff, I’m like, I feel stuck and you’re like, Hey, you don’t have to feel stuck, you don’t feel stuck, so I just appreciate that.
0:50:54.2 Jamaal Williams: Well, thanks.
0:50:56.2 Jim Lovelady: Alright, one more question we’re coming to the end of our time. Paint me a picture maybe use Sojourn Midtown as an example of your hopes for them but, feel free to make it as big as you want, your dreams for what could the next three to five years, what would you love to see? What do you hope to see over the next three to five years?
0:51:18.3 Jamaal Williams: Yeah, thank you. I think at the end of the day, it sounds simple, but it’s just us to live out those great commandments, loving the Lord God with all your heart, mind, and soul, and loving your neighbors as yourself, man, if we can get people to, just truly allow God’s love to flow through them and then be conduits of their love in a way that is hopeful and healthy and welcoming and curious and empowering, then we’ve done our job, and I think that the natural result of that will be, what we see in the early church, the first three centuries of Christianity where we just see the church just living so beautifully in Rome, breaking down all of these different affinities and stereotypes, and they’re just a fellowship of difference together, confusing everybody because they’re like, man you follow the way, you follow Jesus.
0:52:12.8 Jamaal Williams: You follow the resurrected one, more particularly at Midtown, I’m just praying that we just don’t get distracted by the spirit of the age, we stay the course as Paul told Timothy and what second Timothy chapter four, that we would put on a sober mindedness or self-control that we would do the work of an evangelist. That we would just fulfill our ministry, and an even more granular level, our hope is that we will just start raising up more elders from various ethnic communities in our church to not only represent those ethnic communities, but to speaking to the life of our church at a more from a holistic level, so that’s really what we’re praying for and focusing on, is that every major ethnic group or people that, that are coming to our church and they’re coming more, that we’ll be able to identify spirit, led men to lead and spirit led men and women as deacons to lead those ministries as well.
0:53:13.9 Jim Lovelady: Yeah, that’s really good. Like I said, I’ve experienced the discouragement in all of these things, and I wanna hear you describe Jesus’ posture toward the pastor who’s discouraged the elder, the deacon who’s fumbling the white dude who tries to do something and he gets blamed for being woke.
0:53:42.2 Jamaal Williams: Yes.
0:53:43.7 Jim Lovelady: Who gets blamed for doing something else, who gets, and he’s called a racist, the black pastor who’s, or the Latin American pastor or whatever and there’s just discouragement, so speaking to what does Jesus posture toward that person? What does Jesus say to that person?
0:53:58.5 Jamaal Williams: Yeah, I think Jesus posture is a bruised reed, he will not break and a smoldering wick he will not put out and I would say, do not grow weary in doing well for you will receive your reward if you faint not and so don’t let weary win remember the power of if, if my people are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray if it had not been for the Lord on my side, where will I be if you faint not? And the good thing is, is if you’re looking to Jesus and holding on to him, he will, complete the good work that he started in you, so just rest in him and stop, don’t try to make it happen, just put your eyes on Jesus, be curious, learn from your lessons. Well Lecrae say, man, it’s not a loss, it’s a lesson learn from them. If you make a mistake, somebody once said, man, for times where you do stuff that’s stupid and it come out as racism man, remember gracecism, you are not the first to blow it.
0:55:08.0 Jamaal Williams: Peter blew it too and create a church in which people don’t expect you to have it all together because they know you’re a sinner like them and you lead with your weak foot forward, and make sure they know, Hey man, I’m the chief of law center, I will offend you, I will say stuff that doesn’t sit right, if you could be gracious to let me know and give me time to ponder it and think on it, and to, see, what I can own and may need to own and then if we agree to disagree, ’cause I some things, it’s not gonna be me, it’s gonna be maybe you being too sensitive or your own story or prospectively no, but Jesus wants you to hear is, that he has rest for you, He has so much rest for you, so much love for you and he’s not asking you to be Superman or superwoman, he’s just asking you to be faithful and congratulations, you’re already part of a multi-ethnic church and she is doing really well, she may be struggling right now in America because all the political and racial unrest, she may be struggling because it seems like persecution is coming. But man, she is growing in very hard places right now and one day she’ll be around Jesus throne worshiping Jesus and all will be well, so just keep going, don’t give up, stay faithful.
0:56:30.5 Jim Lovelady: Amen, that’s so good. I, yeah, I really appreciate that, it is encouraging and it is so full of hope, you’re creating a context where grace abounds, let grace abound in these well, the podcast is called Grace at the Fray. Let let Grace abound in these frayed edges, of life.
0:56:53.5 Jamaal Williams: Yes.
0:56:55.2 Jim Lovelady: So thank you so much, man. I appreciate you coming on.
0:56:55.3 Jamaal Williams: You’re welcome, my joy.
0:57:02.7 Jim Lovelady: Let’s call this what it is. Race issues are a special kind of stronghold in American culture. A missionary may go into a different culture and as an outsider, with the help of the Holy Spirit, they can begin to see the strongholds of power that are at work in a culture. So it is important that we realize that our battle is not against flesh and blood, but that powers and principalities of evil are at work in our culture. The spirits of evil that hate us and feast on our discord. But there’s hope like Jamaal said, congratulations, you are already a part of a multi-ethnic church and she’s doing just fine and her destiny is more glorious than we can fathom in fact, the gates of hell will not stand against the onslaught of God’s kingdom of grace, and that’s what we were made to participate in. So let me give you one more emphatic recommendation.
Go read Jamaal’s book In Church As It Is in Heaven if you’re a pastor or a worship leader, this is a manual for Sunday worship, learn how to worship together and you’ll learn how to get along, it’s our destiny as God’s people, so we might as well start now, I’ll have a link for his book in the show notes, as well as other discipleship resources that we at Serge love to provide discipling others into the life of grace that we have been given is a fundamental part of who we are as a missions organization, if you’re discipling others and looking to grow your discipleship skills, I recommend checking out our free email course on one key aspect of discipleship, active listening. This free course will give you practical tools to develop your listening skills and to help others grow deeper with Jesus. Go to serge.org/email-course-art-of-active-listening to sign up for that.
And as always, if you can leave a five star rating of this podcast on iTunes, Like, and Subscribe on our YouTube channel. And think of five friends to share this episode with. And if you like this podcast or any of the multitude of things Serge is doing around the world, God’s world, consider giving. Go to Serge.org/give. And now I wanna close the way Jamaal and Timothy closed their book, by quoting a blessing written by Jason Stevens. “We began this expedition with a call to worship and we’ll end with a benediction, which is simply a blessing for the road, a plea for God’s favor on mission to mobilize the whole body, no omissions, even a crossroads positions between neighborhoods forbidden, a plea to turn roadblocks into crossroads, the path to inroads is often the road less traveled. So this blessing is contingent upon the decision to allow our backs to be places where crosses rode.
So let’s call this benediction the Via Delarosa Commission. We don’t ride alone, but we’ll ride or die in our commitment because the destination is one in which we must close our eyes to see and prayerfully our eyes have been opened. So you know why we should plead for God to give us a glimpse of the promised people pictured at the end of time. We read, behold a great multitude that no one could number from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages standing before the king, clothed in white robes with palm branches in their hands and together they will sing salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne into the lamb and if this is how a glorified people give glorious worship to a glorious God in his presence, your will in heaven down to earth will you bring to us, so let it be through us.
Oh, let it be even now God, let us see, and if there are any other witnesses here who would agree, turn your palms and your hearts to the sky in a posture to receive; may grace, mercy, and peace be to you from God the Father, and from our Lord Jesus Christ grace to learn, give and grieve, to love, strive, believe, to overcome the divisive one and everyone, he’s deceived, mercy to know you’re loved, mercy for times you faltered, mercy for future stumbles, mercy that you will offer, peace for troubled souls, peace that perseveres peace that binds pieces together, finding its heart in the bosom of the Father who is near in the name of the holy one let this peace, let this peace, let this peace be with you. So may the Lord bless you and keep you, may the Lord make his face to smile down on you, may the Lord be gracious to you and turn his bright eyes to you and give you his peace. In the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, one God, life everlasting, Amen.
Jamaal Williams is the lead pastor of Sojourn Church Midtown in Louisville, KY, and president of Harbor Network. He is a native of Chicago, IL. Jamaal received his bachelor’s degree from Michigan State University. He also has a M.A in Church Ministries and a D.Ed.Min. in Black Church Leadership from The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. He is married to Amber, and they are the parents of Nia, Josiah, Kayla, Micah, and Judah. He co-authored a book with Timothy Paul Jones, entitled In Church As It is In Heaven: Cultivating A Multiethnic Kingdom Culture, which was published by InterVarsity Press in 2023.
Jim Lovelady is a Texas-born pastor, musician, and liturgist, doing ministry in Philadelphia with his wife, Lori, and 3 kids, Lucia, Ephram, and Talitha. He is passionate about the ministry of liberating religious people from the anxieties of religion and liberating secular people from the anxieties of secularism through the story of the gospel.
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