Intentional Cultivation of a Multicultural Church | Chip Freed

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Chip leads a truly multi-ethnic church where the one thing they have in common is they love Jesus, they love each other, and they set aside their differences. I’m really excited for you to hear how Chip is leading, in this very difficult season, a multi-ethnic church.

Podcast Transcription

SHOW TRANSCRIPT

Jason Hamrock: Today, I’m talking with Chip Freed, Chip is the Lead Pastor at Garfield Memorial Church in Cleveland, Ohio. Now, this is truly a multi-ethnic church, with many people that have all kinds of different backgrounds and beliefs. However, the one thing they have in common is they love Jesus, they love each other, and they set aside their differences. Now, Chip leads this church, he’s doing an amazing job. And I’m really excited for you to hear how Chip is leading, in this very difficult season, a multi-ethnic church.

Jason Hamrock: Well, hey, Chip, thanks for joining us today. Glad to have you on the podcast.

Chip Freed: It’s great to meet you for the first time in person, and I really love what Missional Marketing is doing.

Jason Hamrock: Yeah, well, we love what you’re doing. We have heard some great things, and, you know, today I’d like to talk about some topics that are kind of hard. They’re certainly difficult, but a lot of churches are getting into this space, and finally maybe, but getting into this space. So, we got this election coming up here in November, and it’s probably as polarizing as it’s maybe ever been, but maybe not. But it certainly feels that way, especially when you think about all the racial issues we have in our country. So how have you managed that, how have you talked to your congregation about that, because you are a truly a multi diverse church?

Chip Freed: Yeah, I mean, just a little about us in Cleveland, Ohio, too, it’s kind of unique in the sense that Cleveland always makes the top 10 list of the most segregated cities in America. But we were seven this year. We’ve been as high as three, I think, three years ago. So for us, it’s very important for us to a model as a church, to not just reflect the community, but more importantly, reflecting Jesus. You know, we believe Jesus was really serious when he said, “thy kingdom come on earth.”, right?

Chip Freed: And so we you know, we talk about this, we’re partners with the Mosaix Global Network, we’re a teaching church in that. And a working definition of the multi-ethnic church is that we say we will ourselves to walk forward and worship together as one, for the sake of a credible witness of God’s love for all people, not just some people.

Chip Freed: But that word will, you know what I mean dude, that’s an active word. And so I think willing ourselves to try to be this kind of witness, in a polarized time, you know, it’s kind of for such a time as this. But what folks don’t realize, they say, oh, well, you know, look at Garfield, and they don’t realize how hard it is. I mean, within our body, just to even stay together, you know, when the world is literally trying to pull us apart.

Chip Freed: And, you know, diversity of political opinion is there. We don’t go after people or parties, I don’t endorse that, and we don’t talk about it. But, you know, we’ll go after racism, we’ll go after sexism, we’ll go after things that hurt and injure people, and discriminate against people. And we try to stay in that lane, but we really have to continually call our folks to the mission of, you know, of being this kind of witness. In other words, I always say there’s no chance of Garfield becoming, Garfield Memorial becoming a preference driven church, because people have got to leave their preferences to be in that church.

Chip Freed: We have two rules in our church, Jason, and this may tell you. We can talk more specifically about the election, to give you kind of the fiber of who we are. We say to be part of our church, one, you have to be comfortable being uncomfortable, that’s one. Although, when I read my scriptures, I don’t find anything where Jesus called us to like this quote unquote comfortable life. Right?

Jason Hamrock: I was just going to say that.

Chip Freed: Yeah, but we just say, you have to be comfortable being uncomfortable. And number two, we say, you’re going to like 70 percent of what happens here. And if you can live in that, you’re cool, you’re game. Because when you’re in your 30 percent, understand somebody else is in their 70 percent. So, you know, there’s something about this church that I really admire, and I don’t just say that because I’m the lead pastor here. But I see folks of every tribe, culture, and age, in the Revelations 7:9 church, and I see folks who are really working at their walk with Christ. I mean, you know, a lot of places you go, we do some fun stuff, don’t get me wrong, people love it and enjoy it.

Chip Freed: A lot places people go, because they want to feel totally comfortable, and I get this, and I love this preaching, I love this music, I love [inaudible]. I think we put a lot of time into that, but I see folks really stretching, you know, just stretching. We can’t be everything, nobody can do that, but people are really trying. And I really, really admire that, and I think that’s a step in their spiritual walk.

Jason Hamrock: Yeah. Well, you know, to your point, Jesus never said this is going to be easy. And why would you want it to be easy, it’s hard. And for you to to have a truly growing diverse church, well, it speaks volumes to your leadership, in painting that picture. That I love that concept, hey, you know, there’s no perfect church ever. Right? Jesus is perfect, we’re not, so therefore, we’re not going to have a perfect church at all. But you’re leading people to recognize that it’s okay, you have to be accepting, and focus first on Jesus, and focus on love, and the rest of it’s kind of takes care of itself. And I’m sure, how, you know, is there a time where you just kind of like, it clicked? Going we really need to be focused on that, like is that something that?

Chip Freed: Well, I’ve got to do a little personal confession, okay? It’s like it’s, I guess in my DNA, I think every pastor needs to dig down deep, what are their core calling?. Right? Like, I was never called to go visit people at the hospital, or lead a trustee meeting, but you learn to do those things.

Jason Hamrock: Yeah.

Chip Freed: My core calling was first and foremost to preach the gospel, that was clear, very young. And secondly, dealing with the fragmentation in the community. Like I was raised in the house with a mother that was amazing, like she had to have the talk with me about racism and what racism was. I played Division one college basketball, so I was a basketballholic, and the first African-American moved in our school system in the seventh grade. So that would have been, I’m going to date myself, 1976, and you know, we became buds because we were teammates. And I went to the swim club, took him as a guest, and they came out and bleached the pool, you know. And, you know, I rode my bike back home, and my mom had to have that talk with me. And you know, there’s a passage where it says, Jesus looked at the crowd and had great compassion on them. And you probably know this, as a biblical scholar, that had compassion, is that word in Greek that comes from like [foreign language], which is like his intestines twisted. And when my mom had that talk with me, something inside me twisted, and I almost got sick to my stomach, and I just felt this calling, you know.

Chip Freed: So, I went down the path of learning beyond my own culture. I have a degree in African-American studies, a minor at Colgate with Manning Marable, who was Cornell’s web professor. So when I went to Princeton, I was a graduate assistant for Cornell, so I was immersed in this whole race criss. I met my wife, we’ve been married over three decades, she happens to be African-American. So we got together when only ten percent of America was in favor of interracial marriage, and we heard a lot of preachers preaching against that, and so we lived through that whole needle. So we’ve tried to be, you know, just bridge builders, we don’t go in with this as a cause.

Chip Freed: But I’ve had the privilege to only serve two churches in my life. One was the the oldest historical African-American church in Lorain County, and that had dwindled down to thirty two people. And by the time we left there, they were running four hundred in worship, and probably 65/35. And then here at Garfield, it was more of a upper middle class, all white church. That transitioned now to about thirteen hundred active folks, six hundred and forty seven adult baptisms in the last ten years, I love that number. But no one ethnic group more than fifty two percent, and I don’t know, I think my wife and I probably we’re carriers of that, just that’s who we are in our DNA. But I always share with folks, this really grows out of healthy evangelistic DNA.

Chip Freed: You know, Jesus said to go and make disciples of all ethne, that’s the word for people group, ethne in the greek. You know, I think we translate that into go and make some, you know, and fish in certain waters. And what’s your target audience? Right? Like a Mosaic, we challenge, Mark DeYmaz and I, and we say, who’s your target audience was never a biblical question. You know, I mean, we made it this question. It’s go out and reach, you know, every people, nation, tribe and language, and the Revelations 7:9 church. I talk a lot at Garfield, like we know where we’re going. You know, have you ever build something? Like, I’m a terrible builder, my oldest daughter, she’s an architect, so she’s the builder. But even when we’re putting something together, what do you do? You have to look at the box top, like how does this thing go together, forget the instructions. And I feel like in Revelation 7:9, God gave us the box top, like we know the trajectory of the church. So are we just sitting back now saying, well, God will figure that out someday. When he says no, my kingdom come on Earth as it is in heaven. Which means on earth will be [inaudible]. You know, I mean, there’s just, we’re to be the now and not yet. So, yeah, getting a group of folks that are committed to that in their walk with Christ, it’s really, really exciting. You’re right, in an election year, it’s also really, really challenging.

Jason Hamrock: Yeah. Well, so, to your point, you’re not going to wander into becoming a multi-ethnic church, that’s just, that’s not going to happen. Right? It just won’t happen. So you guys have addressed that, and you are that. Like you just said, I think you said fifty two percent, you know, you’re just a mixed background, mixed race. What advice do you give to churches that are, they don’t have that statistic, that are going huh, we probably need to think about this, and we need to pray about this, and be led by God. But what would you say, practically, this is what you have to do?

Chip Freed: Yeah. So, first of all, generate a holy discontent. I don’t think there’s enough of that in our church’s as we look around and we see like we’re all this culture, we’re all Republican, or we’re all Democrat, we’re all college educated. You know, we’re birds of a feather, we flock together. And what we try to do at Mosaix, is to go in and just kind of generate a little holy discontent about that. You know, the truth… And to synopsize, this isn’t simply because of the changing demographics of America, which that’s not going anywhere. Right? The number one contributor to the fact that we’ll be a non-Anglo majority nation by about 2043, everybody thinks that it’s immigration, but its birth rate, right, that’s what doing it. I contributed to that, it’s not going anywhere. And so obviously to be relevant in our culture, we talk about this, but we don’t do it for that reason, we do because this is really biblically mandated. People don’t think about this, but every single church in the Book of Acts is a multi-ethnic church. And so we feel it’s envisioned by Christ in John 17, it’s described by Luke in the Book of Acts, and it’s prescribed by Paul.

Chip Freed: Here’s the little truth bomb for folks that are out there. It dawned on me, you know, Paul had a specific calling, and it was Gentile inclusion. Which was a an ethnic difference between Jew and Gentile. And he, a former Pharisee, was called to Gentile inclusion. In fact, in Romans 16:25, he talked about, I came to share with you my gospel, and the good news of Jesus Christ. Now can you imagine a day that I stand up in your church and I said, hey, Jason brought me today, and I’m here to preach my gospel. You’d probably throw me out. But Paul had like the big G Gospel Mark DeYmaz like to say, and then the little g gospel. And his little g gospel was Gentile inclusion. And if you read the Book of Acts, that’s what got Paul killed. He was not killed for preaching Jesus, he was killed for Gentile inclusion. Read Acts 22:22, an easy one to remember 2,2,2,2. He’s giving his defense for the Jews, and he’s sharing everything about the goodness of Christ, and what’s happened. But then in 22:21, he says, “And God has called me to reach the Gentiles.” And then Acts 22:22 says, “Up to this point they listened to him, but when he said that, they said this fellow should not be on the earth and he must die.”

Chip Freed: So this is, I guess, creating a holy discontent understand that it’s biblically mandated, and then actually take some intentional steps. Like there’s a whole laundry list of what some of those can be, but taking some intentionality. I got into a Twitter fight, which I should know better. And it happened to be a pastor in my own tribe, I didn’t know it, with a leader that I spoke with an exponential [inaudible]. U was pretty ashamed of myself. But he put something out there in this podcast that said, hey, if your aim is diversity, all you’ll get is political correctness. But if your aim is Jesus, you’ll get diversity. So I hit him up and I said, hey, bro, how’s that working out for us for two hundred years? So, you know, eighty seven percent churches in America are by definition, segregated along ethnic lines, so I guess we never made it about Jesus. So he didn’t give me a Christmas card, but I think that’s ridiculous. We’re intentional about worship, we’re intentional about discipleship, we’re intentional about offering excellence, and Paul was intentional in this. And so to be intentional about this is important, not just the, well, if God wanted it to happen, it would happen. Why, only when we come to this issue, do I start hearing things like that? You know, it’s not like, well, if God wanted worship to happen, it’d just happen. So let’s worship leader shows up, or somebody has a prepared message, we don’t do anything like that. So taking some intentionality, and I can dig down deeper into what that is, but those would be the opening statements [inaudible].

Jason Hamrock: Hmm. Yeah, I had a podcast with an African-American leader at a church in Kansas City, and he had some really great advice. He said, if you really want to work on building a diverse church, he goes, you got to go meet people that are not like you, and you’ve got to develop relationships, and he started by going to another church. And this, you know, this is a white church, another church, and his is a black church. And they even swapped pulpits, they’ve focused…

Chip Freed: I know who you’re talking about, we all know each other in this movement. But he’s absolutely right, like we say, it’s hard to lead a multi-ethnic church if you don’t live a multi-ethnic life. You know, if you just want your Sunday morning to be that way, but your Fridays and Saturdays never are. And that gets into who you are leading, who are you mentoring, who’s mentoring you. And luckily, in our society, that’s becoming less and less difficult to do. Although, as you said, this election year, there’s a lot of play on racial anxiety, and forcing people back in the pockets. That, to me, is to panic, we battle not against flesh and blood. Pretty obviously, these are acts of the enemy, divide and conquer is pretty clear. And, you know, but I think Matthew 16, Jesus said that we’re to be God’s wrecking crew against the gates of hell, so we’ve got to fight back against that. Offensively, that’s what we’re trying to do, we don’t do it perfectly at all, but that’s what we’re trying to do.

Jason Hamrock: But, you guys, it seems like you guys are, you’re speaking up about it. You’re actually going there, where a lot of pastors when they’re on the pulpit, they just try to avoid that, and hope it goes away, or hope it doesn’t become an issue.

Chip Freed: Yeah, we own it, you know, we really do. And right now, in fact, right through the election, we’ve been in a teaching period. I told our folks, we’re not going to let this go until after the election. We’ve got something planned for the holidays, but it’s all on reconciliation, the whole theme of reconciliation. You know, God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto himself, and with all that. God has given us this ministry of reconciliation. Now, there’s a really sappy reconciliation that’s preached out there in the church, and I don’t like it. And it was like, well, let’s just go stand in the big arena, hold hands, and sing Kumbaya. That’s not the work of reconciliation, reconciliation is hard, hard, difficult work. And we’ve been talking about that leading up to this, and saying this is what we’re called to.

Chip Freed: I was just praying today Jason, and talk about the election, I knew I was going to have the privilege to talk to you. And I was I was stuck in First John 3:1, you know where it says, this love that the Father has lavished on us. I started digging back, because I’m old enough to remember The King James, right, like that was my devotional Bible. And The King James said, “What manner of love is this, that God has lavished on us?” When I dug into the Greek text, and I just did this today, something I had never realized. Actually, what John was quoting was a very well-known idiom in that day and age. And the literal translation said, What country does the love like this come from? Like that was an… And I thought, my gosh, in the midst of an election, like there is a love that comes out, that it is not a political party, it is not conservative or liberal side, it shatters the borders, the parties, the boundaries of this world as we know. And if we can dig our nose back in that, what kind what country did a love like this comes from? And does that compel me, right? As Paul says, in Second Corinthians, when we talk about the ministry of reconciliation. He says, The love of Christ compels me. You know, it compels me.

Chip Freed: My wife and I just were talking yesterday, and having our own personal [inaudible]. And, you know, as an African-American woman, there’s been some really, really painful things for her. We almost lost our middle son to a profiling incident in 2010, with two of his African-American college teammates, so this stuff hits close to home. And we were talking, there was things that got her angry, got me angry. But then we held hands and said, but Jesus thing, man, we’ve got to stay his work of reconciliation, like we can’t leave it. And that’s that love, that other country love, that he’s lavished on us. Man, it compels us into this work, and it’s a good thing that it does, because otherwise we’d all quit and give up, because it’s hard. This is not, this is not in the handbook, they give you on how to plant a new church. It’s not one of the sixty nine steps.

Jason Hamrock: Oh my, yeah. Yeah, it’s got to be, it’s one of those battles that’s just, it’s going to be ongoing for a long, long time.

Chip Freed: And you know, it has been, it has been. It’s not new, it has been. This happened to be, you know, Jim Wallace, talks about this as America’s original sin. I don’t think he’s wrong. Dr. King said that racism as indigenous to America as pine trees. So, but that was Jew and Gentile. If you read, you know, Jew and Gentile has become so tame to us. But when Paul said that Jesus has torn down the wall of hostility between us, that word hostility was active hatred, it was historical enmity. And, of course, you know, dating back to Cain and Abel, our needs to tribalize, you know, from our own sinfulness. Satan has exploited that through the years. But this, to me, so I have some, I’m actually putting it in a book. I shouldn’t put it out there, somebody will steal it from me. But, you know, we always talk about the Adam and Eve story, and the foundational story of, you know, original sin, which I get, and Cain and Abel illustrated there. And Christ on the cross redeeming us from that, right, that brokenness from God. Get it, that’s the foundational atonement, [inaudible] I gave my life to Christ.

Chip Freed: I think there was the second fall, and it was a corporate fall, and it happened at the Tower of Babel, that led up now, now it’s not me. You know, Adam blamed, Eve blamed the serpent. I heard [inaudible] the serpent had nobody else to blame. Like we’re always playing the blame game there. But at the corporate fall, let us build for ourselves, let us make a name for ourselves. And [inaudible]. Right, like broke that idea apart. But I never thought about that the cross was the solution to the individual sin. The church was supposed to be the solution to the corporate sin. And Pentecost itself was a healing event from the Tower of Babel. Now, everybody spoke in their own language, but all heard the message of the goodness of Christ. So I really, I think we’ve undersold the church in some ways. I mean, we’re a mess, and we know that. If we want to prove God, how could you run an organization like this for two thousand years and still be here? But I think that Jesus’s idea for this thing he called his bride, his church, was to deal with this very issue, the brokenness, the fragmentation and brokenness, of what is ultimately restored in Revelation 7:9. So it’s like Paul said, I feel like I’m stuck with it. Like, you know, he’s lavished this other country love on me, he’s reconciled me through the cross. And, you know, I have to be in this work of reconciliation with my brothers and sisters.

Jason Hamrock: Hmm, interesting.

Chip Freed: So his love compels me.

Jason Hamrock: Well, there’s another. Yeah, thanks for sharing that. There’s another area you guys are unique in, and that is that you guys have, I hear you have a traditional, and a modern worship service, right?

Chip Freed: Yeah, we do.

Jason Hamrock: How did that happen? I mean, how?

Chip Freed: Well, you know, we are in a mainline church, a lot of people call us an anomaly, but we’re part of the United Methodist Church. I love the Methodist Church, I love the missional aspect that the Methodist movement has. The Methodist movement was multi-ethnic at its inception in America. Now, sin broke that, but it was. There’s a lot of other junk that comes with denominational life that none of us love, they turn it into a club instead of a movement. But in the mainline church, there’s usually a traditional service, if you will. But again, that’s a culturally loaded term, because “traditional worship” is white Eurocentric worship. Right? But there’s that, and we have that. And then we have our Mosaix services, which are more modern. But the beauty is the same message, the same teaching. What did Andy Stanley say, the message never changes, but the methods always do. So we honor worship in different ways, folks learn in different ways, folks experience God in different ways. And we honor that in our space, that it’s not just we want your color, not your culture. Right? It’s like, you know, we have folks who are charismatic, we have folks who are more cerebral.

Chip Freed: You get me going on my preaching, our foundational sermon for Garfield is Acts 16, where Luke gives us this case study of Lydia the little slave girl and the Roman jailor. Those were the first three conversions, and we knew they were more, so why does Luke tell us those three? They’re so different, they’re ethnically different, they’re sociologically different, they’re learner style different. Right, Lydia went to a little small group, they sat down, and she’s thinking she’s having tea. No, she’s a little slave girl, man, she’s at a Pentecostal revival, she has a power encounter on a heart. And a Roman jailor, man, he’s drinking beer at the VFW, he doesn’t care what you and I talk about. But somehow the gospel broke through in each of them. And so we try to be that community where Lydia, the little slave girl, the Roman jailor, all of them can come in, they can connect with God in their own unique way, but turning to the same water of reconciliation. Can you imagine being in Lydia’s house as those three were sitting around the table? I mean, like, where do those, that’s what I preach, where do those people ever get together in the world? Right? And, you know, here’s Lydia, she’s a fashion CEO, she’s eating at [inaudible] every night, you know, she’s wealthy. Here’s a little slave girl, she’s sex trafficked under East 9th bridge in Cleveland, hoping her pimp brings her a cheeseburger. And here’s this ex GI guy, over with his buds, like I said, at the VFW. Where in the world do those three people get together in the real world? Never. But in the church, in Christ’s reconciling movement, there’s a table for each of them. And I’m gonna tell you, when you actually seek to sit at that table, it’s hard work, but boy is it rich. So that’s, I don’t know if I answered that, but that’s, so I think that’s even the uniqueness of our worship offerings. I laugh when I’m out preaching on exponential order, Mosaix is sitting around the table, and they’re like, I’m going to only do that [inaudible]. But I think it’s part of our diversity, I think it’s a beautiful thing.

Jason Hamrock: Well, it sounds like, I mean, you know, because you have different styles of worship. But yet, you’ve still been able to gather one church in a sense, one body that looks completely different than most churches out there. And you’re doing that, and you’re serving, and you’re growing, and you’re discipline in different spaces, and that’s hard to do, isn’t it?

Chip Freed: Yeah, that’s very hard to do. But it’s hard to do, but it’s sacred. And here’s another thing I say to pastor’s, when my wife and I got together, as I said, 10 percent of America was in favor of interracial marriage. We had so many people in our ears telling us why it wouldn’t work. What did they know? Here we are, thirty two years later, I have my best friend, my partner. God ordained this couple to just be who we were. I could tell you the same thing about just, how our church works. What do they know, when they say it can’t be done? So work at it.

Chip Freed: Here’s my last sermon, I promise. You get me fired up on this, Jason, you can already tell. But John 17, Jesus says, we pray for us, you know, those who are yet to come, because of this witness. So, you know, when preachers say, on the last night of Jesus is life he had you on his mind, that’s real. Like he’s praying, okay, praying for himself, he’s praying for his disciples, then he’s praying for us. And he said one prayer, and you know, they might be completely one. And then he said this, so that the world will know that you sent me. Like I can’t guarantee they’ll do it if they haven’t clause, but if they do it, the world will know. And that’s why I tell Gaffield, I said, folks, you’ve got to be able to sow that church. You’ve got to be, you know, that people do, we are known in Cleveland. I mean, you know, when Tamir Rice was shot, I was one of the first pastors of the city leaders called. And I was like, I don’t even know some of you. But they were like yeah, but when we speak to you, we speak to everybody. Right? Like we know that all the pieces of the pie are there. And I think when that rumor gets out, even people go like, I don’t know if I know what they believe, but, wow, there’s something different. What manner of love is this? Right. I’m back to that verse. What country your love is this thing from that conservatives, liberals, Republicans, Democrats, black, white, people of different orientations, people try to figure out, how can they be in this place?There’s got to be something beyond this world. I mean, that’s me preaching it, but we sense that, we get people come to our churches that said they’d never be caught dead in church.

Jason Hamrock: Wow.

Chip Freed: It’s fun to get up, it’s fun to get up on Sunday and I sit there and say, look, I know again, this is pre-pandemic, but even still now online. But when we were all in physical space or something, in addition online, I say things like, I know some of you here because you lost a bet, or because you’re trying to get that second date, but that’s OK. And I had a brother come up to me, a white brother, all cut, built. He’s like, I don’t like church, don’t like Christian, didn’t like the passages, I don’t like you. But I’m trying to get that second date. And I’m looking like who are you dating? He’s like her. I thought, well, you better get to know to know Jesus [inaudible]. But again, folks feel like because there’s that kind of diversity, and that’s all diversity. But I don’t know if you’re conservative or liberal, but I know if you’re maybe Puerto Rican or Chinese or Anglo. And they see that, and they go, wow, maybe there’s a space for me. And it just makes you feel like there’s an opportunity to get into a place like that, where it won’t be so conspicuous.

Chip Freed: You know, I just remember being an interracial couple, my wife and I, and I was away from the Lord, I was running my own business, my wife was the one that brought me back to Christ. And we knew we had to get into a church, but where are we going to go as an interracial couple in like in 1985, like where we’re going to go. So she was from Canada, and I was from Youngstown, and we started visiting churches. And we’d go to a white church, they’d talk about us. We’d go to a black church, they talk about us. I told my wife, I said, why don’t we go to a Korean church? And she said to me, she said, Chip, that’s a Korean speaking church. I said, yeah, honey, but when we go there and they talk about us, we won’t know what they’re saying. And it’s so funny, like we were in that position of being the outsiders, and finding, we had a tough time getting into church. Because they were their own folks, and they were their own club.

Chip Freed: And I really, I guess it’s in both of our hearts that we want to make sure we’re not stumbling anybody, that they can wander into Garfield. And I got an email from somebody worshiping with up online, and said they were Hindu family. And they’re like, we really love what you’re doing, and like the things that we’re doing to engage the community, and like, can we be involved? And I told them, hey, you know, we’re unashamedly a Christian church, I hope your listening to the Gospel of Jesus, all I want you to do is know we built this church for you. You can belong before you believe, you can come on in. I just want folks to feel it’s a safe place to serve.

Jason Hamrock: Yeah, I feel at home, right? Yeah.

Chip Freed: Yeah, and and feel safe. I mean, I always laugh in some ways the Pharisees that, you know, there was so much wrong with that story, as you know, when they ripped the woman caught in the act of adultery. Where’s the man? And was it a set up? And blah blah, blah, but these Pharisees drag that poor woman in the moment of humiliation, threw her at the feet of Jesus, which was the safest place she could ever be.

Jason Hamrock: Yeah. Yeah.

Chip Freed: And they didn’t know it. And that’s kind of to me, what if the church where that, just the feet of Jesus, where folks could come in, and it’s literally the safest place they could ever be. That’s what we try to do.

Jason Hamrock: Well, and that’s what we would hope every local church is like, truly, and not be judgmental. The problem is people in the church are the ones that give that weird look, or say something. And it’s like, come on.

Chip Freed: [inaudible]

Jason Hamrock: What does it look like for your church, as you look past this election? So get past November, we’re still in this pandemic. And you think about 2020 has been quite the year, and you look at 2021. Where are you? What are you praying for? Where are you hoping you go? What does that look like?

Chip Freed: Yeah, man, I’ll tell you, I was just in a, it’s funny, I was in an interview with somebody from our denomination earlier today. And anybody that answers that question like they know, don’t trust them.

Jason Hamrock: Yeah.

Chip Freed: Because I really, I really feel like…An this excites me, and it scares me to my core. This is Lewis and Clark time, and there’s no map, we’re making the map. And I feel like, it bugs me, because I feel like with 30 years experience…I feel like, wow, you know, like with Mosaix, we talk about our friend Mark DeYmaz, and others, like we gained all this knowledge and like, none of that’s going to help me bit in the next decade. Like, I got to relearn everything. And I think to be in that sphere of really discovery, but knowing that God is ahead of us, and we’re just joining with him in this kind of new reality. Because the churches that are going to fail, are the people that are saying, well, it’s going to be over at some point and everything’s back to normal. That’s a prescription for failure. Now, yes, some things will be normal, and there will [inaudible] things, but it’s never going to be the same. These are transitional moments, and so if we can live in, that is great. And again, Gaffield has felt, we have a vision point pointing, and this was planned way before the pandemic. And they’re looking out beyond me, you know, I mean, the next 10 years is probably going to be the transition of senior leadership at Garfield. And they have felt, and that’s why we’re preaching this, they have felt, that for whatever reason, this ministry of reconciliation is what God wants us to have.

Chip Freed: So I have been trying to up the ante even more with our membership. You know from fan to follower. That wasn’t my words, I forget the brother that wrote that book, but you know, that we’ve got to go deeper. So I told them that if we have a Gideon revival, that we went from two hundred to thirteen hundred, and God takes us back to two hundred, I’m like oK with that right now. But I want to be the two hundred with their hair on fire about this kind of mission in this brave new world. And so yeah, it’s a real adventure for me right now. But this ministry of reconciliation, Second Corinthians 5, we’re going to stay in that lane. And we’re just going to try to be that kind of light, and challenge, and love, in action. You know, scattered. I’ve told our staff and our church, I used preach Acts 2, I used to love Acts 2, I used to go to Acts 2 conferences. I don’t, I can’t stand Act 2 anymore. I used to love it, I wanted to be those folks. And then one day God hit me upside the head, and like Jesus told them folks to go, and they stayed. And yeah, they were doing these wonderful things, but they were doing it for each other. And it wasn’t till 8 when the persecutions came, and they were scattered, that they went from being ministry consumers, to ministry providers. So Gaffield Church, Northpoint Church, Willow Creek Church, Saddleback, name them all, we’ve been scattered, which may put us right where God wanted us in the first place. That not just coming to a place to be ministry consumer, but as I say Acts 8, ministry providers proclaim the word wherever we go. So we’re emphasizing church at home right now. I’ve been telling our members like we’re Home Depot right now, you can do it, we can help. You used to come for us to do it, well now, you do it, you disciple your kids, you witness on your job, you serve the poor, and we’ll help you. We’ll be your consultants, right, we’ll be like our podcasts. And I can’t wait to see what God does this next decade, I really can’t. I think it’s going to be, I think in a thousand years from now, folks will be writing about this decade.

Jason Hamrock: Probably, yeah. Yeah. Because I think the churches are… I talk to a lot of churches, and all of them are kind of trying to figure out, scratching their head, redefining what does church look like. We know what the mission of the church is, we’re not saying that’s going away, but how you do that certainly is.

Chip Freed: And what are the metrics. Right?

Jason Hamrock: And what is the metrics? How do you measure that? You know, what’s, can you truly disciple somebody online? You know, is it…Now, I was using myself as an example because I got two teenage boys, and so we’ve been taking the opportunity to sit in our family room after we watch the message and actually have a conversation. I’ve got two teenage boys, I want to pour into them, I want them to learn to own their faith, not just borrow their faith because we said, here’s you’re going to be… You know, that’s not, that’s not what I want for my boys. But I would not have the conversation, if we’re driving to church and then we’re talking to people afterwards, and then we get in the car and probably go our separate ways, because we’re all doing different things, we would never have that intimate time together. You know, this is afforded us that opportunity.

Chip Freed: Your illustrating exactly what we’re trying to preach, and teach, with our folks right now. And that’s claiming something. You know, this probably off topic, but I was in a different podcast. And if somebody was bemoaning, and I hate to be, we’re all thin right now, so we pop off too easily. But he was bemoaning, well, you know, the government, they’re trying to shut us down, and they won’t let us gather in our building. And he just kept going on, and I said, would you stop whining? I said, do you realize in the last six months the gospel has been preached the more people in America than it had in the past six years. There are more people right now looking online, and engaging and sharing this message, than ever. I heard Craig Groeschel at Life Church say something about…I think they, you know, I mean, as huge as they are they, don’t quote me on this, but something around like the average, like twenty thousand salvations a weekend across the whole span of the country. The first weekend after the pandemic, they had one hundred fifty thousand conversions. You know, people are, this is an opportune time, it’s scary, it’s uncomfortable. I didn’t wish it. like Esther didn’t wish that she was born for such a time as this. But you know, Jason, you and I for such a time as this. And we’re trying to figure out, and as you say, the mission doesn’t change.

Chip Freed: But, you know, we’ve got to have some wine skins, and and look for these opportunities. Like we started something at Garfield, we just started last month, we have after parties now. So we do our services, we do one in the parking lot live, we’ve got a few people coming in live in service, with social distancing and all of that. We have our broadcast, we rebroadcast at various times. So throughout the morning, maybe five or six opportunities to be part of worship. And at one o’clock we say, hey, DVR the Browns, and come on in, and we feed them, we tailgate, we come in, and after party, and let’s let’s chomp into the message. And our pastors go in breakout rooms, and would have thought such a thing, but it’s great. And we’re like saying now, you know, do this with your family. And so I don’t know, let’s just say I’m energized, and I’m in trepidation. But I think that’s what Paul said, we work out our salvation in fear and trembling. Trembling can be a good thing.

Jason Hamrock: Yes, it can.

Chip Freed: You know, it’s exciting, but so that’s kind of where we’re at. And, yeah, if anybody tells you they’re an expert, don’t believe them, But people that are realizing, you know, they’re hopping in the canoe with Sacagawea, and let’s go figure it out. That’s the spirit I’m calling them to.

Jason Hamrock: Yeah. Knowing that God’s got a plan for it, so keeping your mind open, your eyes open, and acting well. And recognizing what a gift, what an opportunity, instead of going, man, we’re getting the short end of the stick here. No, you’re not.

Chip Freed: I was with some pastors this week, and we were realizing too, you know, maybe God, you know the wheat and the chaff thing? I mean maybe God’s just doing some weeding out. Like we had settled for so little, and called it church. I had a pastor tell me that somebody called him in the church and said, OK, I want one answer and one answer only, and how you say it, you can only say one word, it’s going to determine whether I am going stay or leave the church. And she said, do black lives matter, or do all lives matter? And he to answer in one word, and however he answered, they were gone. And I said, I hope they’re gone, you know, and they are. And I just said, it hurts when people… But it’s like, maybe God is just saying, I’ve got to shake that out, I’ve got to get back to the folks, really with their hair on fire for what this Gospel really is, to go out and preach the love of Christ. And maybe this is the scattering of Acts 8, I don’t know.

Jason Hamrock: Yeah.

Chip Freed: But that’s why I say, when you say what’s next, I felt like I had asked our folks at our church an awful lot to let them lay aside personal preferences, past experiences, politics, and focus. But there’s even a next level of this, being ministry providers, that I’m going to work real hard with them on. And understand, saying, look, here I’m your lead pastor and I’m not sure I’m up to it, I get it. But nonetheless, this is the ministry that his love, other country love, compels us. I laugh every time I say that. I think, remember The Exorcist movie, I’m so old. And the actors says, the Lord Jesus Christ compels you, it was like a negative thing. The opposite of that is, man, the love of Jesus Christ compels us, projects us out into the world, and I’m hoping that’s what’s happening.

Jason Hamrock: Yeah, well, your message of reconciliation, and just staying on that theme, is so timely. With anything that’s going on, right, and we have some big issues in our country right now, and it doesn’t seem like it’s going to go away anytime soon. So that’s a, if churches can take anything away, it’d be like, yeah, focus on that, make that a core.

Chip Freed: And let’s do that together. You know, I always say I’m not running for anything, and my allegiance to the [inaudible]. That doesn’t mean that I don’t care about what happens here, it doesn’t mean we don’t confront injustice, it doesn’t mean we don’t be good citizens, all those that. Not at all, but you know, ultimately am I living in the ethics of the true kingdom, for Jesus Christ. I tell my folks, here’s the good news, three billion years from now in eternity, we won’t even remember what a president was.

Jason Hamrock: Nope.

Chip Freed: So, let’s be that colony from heaven that Paul talked about. And be in the world, not of the world, I mean, fight injustice. I’m not preaching the [inaudible] to the people, but let’s remember where our own home is.

Jason Hamrock: Yeah.

Chip Freed: And work towards that, and work toward that. But it’s hard work, but it should be, Jesus didn’t…You know, I remember Martin Luther King Jr. once said, you know, and one of his great sermons. He said, we turned the…When did the great commission become, Lo’ I send you into the world to keep your blood pressure down and have a well adjusted personality. He said, no, no, we’re called to this hard work. And that’s a credible witness for the hard work.

Jason Hamrock: Yeah. Well, Chip, well, thank you for your insight.

Chip Freed: Hey bro, it was really good meeting in person.

Jason Hamrock: Yeah, likewise. So I appreciate you, I appreciate what you’re doing for His kingdom, and keep up the good work.

Chip Freed: Can’t do no other.

Jason Hamrock: All right, take care.

Chip Freed: Gold and silver have I none, what I have I gave to you my friend.

Jason Hamrock: All right, we’ll talk to you soon, my friend.

Chip Freed: Thank you, sir.

Jason Hamrock: Well, Chip, we should all be inspired to lead like this, generating a holy discontent, that has us focused on being a multi-ethnic church. It’s mandated in the Bible, you spoke into this. This work of reconciliation is not easy, a take away for your church might be to think about your church and where you’re headed. Are you focused on a biblical mandate that all people, all people, should learn and get to know Jesus? Is that what you’re doing? Now, if you want to learn more, check out Chip at Garfield Memorial Church, right? Or go to the Mosaic Network, that’s an organization that works with churches and helps them become multi-ethnic. And so I encourage you to do that. Until next time, God bless and take care.

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