One Call that Changed it All
It was 11:35pm when the buzz from my vibrating phone shattered the silence in my bedroom. The darkness that once engulfed my wife and I retreated from the corner of the room where my phone was lit up and flashing the words INCOMING CALL. My wife awoke first and nudged me with slight irritation. The unspoken tension felt from her elbow was enough to wake me up with a feeling that it was somehow my fault somebody decided to call me this late. The phone call made my wife feel some type of way for two reasons. First, it was a weeknight and we both had to be up early in the morning for work. Secondly, on the night of my Ordination in November 2007 she set a new house rule "no phone calls past 10:00pm UNLESS it is an emergency". Pushing through the moment I asked Elicia if it was okay to answer the call. She agreed but with one condition, that I remind the caller of our house rule and confirm their reason for calling was a good one.
Timidly I got out of the bed and walked cautiously across the darkened room towards the mesmerizing blinking light that was now in rhythm with the phones vibration. At first glance I noticed the name of the caller appeared in between the flashing words 'INCOMING CALL'. The caller was a dear brother in the faith who lived in another city that happened to be in another timezone that was behind ours. My thinking was, He wasn't technically breaking our house rule if he was calling from a timezone that was behind ours in Kansas City. He and I had been friends since our early 20's and when I told my wife who it was, alongside my timezone logic, she nodded with approval for me to answer and quickly went back to sleep.
I answered the call opening with the hood-recognized salutation “what up fam?” and was greeted in return with a barrage of questions about Church history, slavery in America, and Roman Catholicism's European roots. When the conversation slowed down I asked my dude what his motivation was for asking these questions. He told me he had just left the barber shop where a group of men who were affiliated with the Moorish Science Temple dominated the conversation. My friend, who was working towards a degree in Biblical studies at the time, was frustrated by the fact that he has never been informed about this movement while in Bible College. He went on to tell me that he felt compelled to call me because in our past conversations I included details of talks I had with people who had different types of beliefs that I encountered while out street witnessing after outreaches I rapped at. His thought was maybe I had heard of this movement before and could help him work through some of what they were saying. Our conversation lasted for a couple of hours and during this time we worked through the various attacks on Christianity and the Bible that were hurled at him and took time to pray before getting off the phone.
After I hung up the phone and put it back on the charger I laid back down in my bed but couldn't go back to sleep. For the next five hours vividly a series of scenes played over and over again in my mind. These scenes were real life evangelistic conversations I was blessed to have had with people from cities all across the United States. With each reflection came a more clear realization that there are many unreached people in the urban context who hold to systems of beliefs that are not being talked about by Evangelicals let alone written about either. My heart became grieved for two groups of people living in the urban context:
- Those who do not know the only True and Living God by way of Jesus Christ alone and have embraced anti-biblical teachings to form their worldview
- Saints who want to biblically evangelize to the first group but have little to no background knowledge of their foreign system of beliefs that seem to be thriving in the urban context yet are absent from Evangelical conversations
My Call to Action
Within the next few weeks I received over a dozen phone calls and emails from saints located in other cities regarding how their encounters with people who held to faiths that are not considered 'mainline' but have growing momentum in the urban context. Around the same time Brian Dye, a close friend of mine, Pastor of Legacy Church in Chicago and mastermind behind the Legacy Conference, asked me to come teach a general session in addition to a break out classes at the upcoming Legacy Conference. When he asked me what I wanted to teach on during my breakout session I immediately blurted out two words, Urban Apologetics. Intrigued by my abrupt response Brian asked me to unpack what I meant by the phrase Urban Apologetics. Brian, always calm and collect, extended me grace for the next 30 minutes as he patiently listened to my overview of what I was working through with dozens of urban saints over the past few weeks. Anyone who knows me knows that when I get going (talking) it's like attempting to get a drink of water while sitting face-forward and inches away from a recently opened fire hydrant.
When I was done Brain asked a question that forced me to mentally start trimming the fat off my entire approach to the breakout session. It was as if time stopped when he said, "what do you want the attendee's of your breakout to walk away with?" As soon as he dropped this question on me I felt like I was at a four-way intersection downtown at 3:00am with blinking red lights. I had a few different ways I could move forward but I had to decide which way would be best for our movement. I desired to touch on so many topics but only had a hour and fifteen-minutes to teach! I told Brian I would work through some thoughts with my wife, take time to pray, and get back to him in a few weeks. Later that same day I asked Elicia to help me come up with a list of take-aways each attendee should leave my breakout with. After a few hours of brainstorming we came up with the a list of outcomes for all my potential attendees. We decided that we wanted each person who attended my breakout to:
- Know the history behind movements that exist in the urban context yet remain off the Evangelical radar
- Know how to filter the doctrinal beliefs of these movements through the lens of Scripture
- Know how to evangelistically engage and follow-up with those who are apart of these movements
- Know how to apologetically defend the beautiful faith of Christianity
Staying true to my word the next week I contacted Brian and ran down the list of take-aways. He liked them and said this breakout is something our movement desperately needs. Shortly after our conversation, Brian and his team posted the breakout session title and description on the conference website and that same day people began emailing me about their excitement about attending this specific breakout. When the day finally came to teach the Urban Apologetics breakout, I was floored by how many saints came with questions and stories regarding the impact some of the movements I touched on had in their cities. Within days after the conference and even as recent as this week I still receive questions from those who attended that class and requests to put the information I taught in a book that can be used as a needed resource for Urban Apologetics.
My Call to our Movement
By God's grace, I've been blessed to have spent the past seventeen years researching, reasoning with, and refuting both people who are apart of various movements and philosophies that call the urban context home and each system of beliefs. Some of these movements are to be considered "in-house" because they have been embraced by professing Christians and local churches in cities in the urban context. Other movements are to be considered outside of the Christian faith because they outright reject Christianity.
For years I've had a desire to provide urban saints and Evangelicals with a resource that can be used as a handbook for Urban Apologetics. I have a manuscript written but frankly it's not the best work for our movement and it needs to be refined. I want to create a dialogue online (via blogs) as a way to refine my thoughts before releasing them in book form while including members of our movement and Evangelicals in the conversation.
What I'm inviting you to do is help me refine this needed resource and here's how: First, join me in praying that God would guide my heart, research and skill as I rework the current manuscript. Next, read and respond to the blogs I'll be posting that deal with Urban Apologetics as each blog is a snapshot of my current manuscript. Lastly, help me identify the movements I may be missing from the current list I have. The more conversations we have with each blog the better resource the book on Urban Apologetics will be.
The topics/movements I'm going to blog about are (movements in orange have links covering them):
- Defining “Urban” & “Urban Apologetics”
- The Prosperity 'gospel'
- 4th Wave Latin Liberation Theology
- The Baha'i Faith
- Black Kemetism
- Black Hebrew Israelites
- The Nation of God's and Earths
- The Moorish Science Temple
- The Nation of Islam (The NOI)
- Ma'at (God is a Woman Theology)
- Secret Societies
- Sub-Culture Theologies (i.e. Temple of Hip Hop, Street Theology)
The reason I want to get this resource out is to equip saints for every good work including evangelism and discipleship. My prayer is to see our movement be used by God to bring about a genuine biblical revival in the United States. A revival that does not evade the urban context. A revival brings the gospel to the Lost. A revival that witnesses God the Holy Spirit regenerates lost souls through biblical evangelism. A revival that follows up with those who make professions of faith by helping them plug into healthy churches. I truly believe that we as the Unashamed Movement have the potential see a Great Awakening happen in America and that this resource and your input can play a small part it.
Will you help me?