Jacqueline J. Holness (ME) Writes Racial Reconciliation Cover Story for Christianity Today!

Latasha Morrison/ Photograph by Ben Rollins

Hello World,

I’m so excited because recently I was blessed with the assignment of writing a cover story about racial reconciliation as it pertains to the church in Atlanta for Christianity Today, one of the foremost publications in the Christian world! Although it is a thorny topic without question and I certainly wish we didn’t have to continue highlighting this issue, I’m glad that I am continuing the work of my father, who is passionate about this topic. In fact, he created a newsletter for the Christian church, hosted an annual Racial Reconciliation Service each January (to coincide with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day) and traveled to speaking engagements to address racial reconciliation. Additionally, my father is the one who introduced me to Christianity Today magazine when I was only reading VIBE, Essence, The Source and similar magazines back in the day.

Well, my article “Racial Reconciliation Is Still a Dream for Atlanta Christians” is now available for you to read. Below is the beginning of the article and you can click on the link below the excerpt to read the rest.

Dhati Lewis set out to start a church that could be a blueprint for urban discipleship, a church “in the city, for the city, that looks like the city.” But first, he needed a city.

A decade ago, he left the college town of Denton, Texas, for Atlanta, an urban hub four times larger. With him came 25 longtime ministry partners, including rappers Lecrae and Sho Baraka and pastor John Onwuchekwa. Together they planted Blueprint Church in the Old Fourth Ward, a story chronicled in a recent documentary, Becoming Blueprint, released in honor of the church’s 10th anniversary.

Lewis’s approach to ministry grew out of the tension he felt between the white evangelical culture that fueled his faith in Denton and the familiar black culture of his upbringing. In Atlanta, though he was a black pastor leading a diverse congregation in a majority-black city, the work of urban church planting was complicated.

For one, the area around his church continued to gentrify. “In this neighborhood, what scares me is the fact that you have Section 8 housing on one end and like a million-dollar home on the other end,” he said in the documentary.

Read the rest HERE.

Below is the gorgeous cover of the October issue of Christianity Today!

My story is part of a four-story cover package. The official description is as follows:

Raphael Warnock, the pastor of Atlanta’s historic Ebenezer Baptist Church who’s now running for US Senate, talked about his calling into politics as a Christian. He said, “My impact doesn’t stop at the church door. That’s actually where it starts.” That approach to living out the gospel extends across generations and segments of society in Atlanta. In this month’s cover package, we hear from pastors, politicians, and entrepreneurs—black Christian leaders whose faith calls them back into their communities in the diverse hometown of Martin Luther King Jr.

COVER STORIES

Atlanta Beyond MLK: How Black Christians Continue a Civil Rights Legacy
Generations take up the gospel work of becoming a beloved community.
The Black Church Is Atlanta’s Original Community Organizer
Long before Raphael Warnock’s Senate run, the biblical call for freedom for the oppressed stirred Atlanta Christians to social action.
How Black-Owned Businesses Bless Atlanta
Christian entrepreneurs promote a new economic narrative in a city plagued by wealth gaps.
Racial Reconciliation Is Still a Dream for Atlanta Christians
But church leaders think it’s worth the work to address longstanding divides.

 

So check it out and let me know what y’all think…

Any thoughts?

 

Seven Reasons Why Dr. Charles Stanley Stepping Down as Pastor Makes Me Sad…

Hello World,

What a blow…When I first read the news that Dr. Charles Stanley was stepping down as pastor of First Baptist Church of Atlanta after more than  50 years last Sunday, I could not write about it immediately because his ministry has blessed me so very much. It still saddens me so very much. In fact, next to my father, who is the pastor whose faith in God has most inspired my faith in God, Dr. Stanley is next up. As I was telling this to my mother last week, I felt the hot gathering of tears around my eyes, similarly to how I felt when my father announced that he was stepping down from his position as pastor of my home church Central Christian Church in Atlanta. (Below is Dr. Stanley’s announcement.)

If I’m being honest, a big part of why I love the ministry of Dr. Stanley is because he reminds me of my father. Both my father and Dr. Stanley grew up without fathers but are outstanding fathers despite the odds! (Both have miraculous stories of God providing for their college education through scholarships when money was scarce during their childhood.) What I love about my father is how faith is the crux of his being. Every thing he does is filtered through the lens of his faith. I have never met Dr. Stanley but the conviction with which he preaches which includes the intensity of his stance, his hand gestures, his choice of words and the piercing look in his eyes all communicate without question that faith is first in his life. Any desires he has had for success or security or family and other hallmarks of life on earth are only met through his faith in God and God’s will for his life. I’ve only encountered and or met very few people who strike me that way.

I first encountered Dr. Stanley’s church before I encountered him. When I was a little girl of about eight or nine years old, my mother worked for DFACS in downtown Atlanta. At the time, the building was located on Peachtree Street. We only had one family car then and every day before my mother started riding MARTA, my father packed me and my brothers in the car and headed from College Park to downtown to pick her up after work. There were many times that we had to wait for her to finish her work before she was ready to go. That meant my brothers and I had to occupy ourselves for some time before she showed up.

 

First Baptist Church of Atlanta back in the day…

Well, right next door was First Baptist Church of Atlanta. We parked on the street next to the building so sometimes I would walk around the grounds closest to the car and look at the buildings. I noticed Dr. Stanley’s name on the sign in front of the church. It was a nice church campus but I cannot say it was a stunning display of architecture or anything. As I look back, it was more like a seed had been planted in me that would sprout when it was ready.

Years later, when I became a Christian for myself, I was on the hunt for various Christian materials that helped me to develop my faith, and somehow or another, I either saw Dr. Stanley on television or heard him on the radio. And when I did, I remembered his name from seeing it as a child so I paid attention to what he had to say. So this is going to be hard to communicate, but I will attempt to do so. (I’m still growing as a writer so please be patient with me.)  His voice emits a kindness that is intangible. It’s a tone and tenor that you instinctively know that you can trust. I feel the same way about my father so my ears perked up. However, as much as I love my father and I have been blessed by his ministry, I want a faith and have striven to craft one that is uniquely my own. That means that I’ve had to branch out and listen to other pastors. As I wrote earlier, at the top of my list of other pastors is Dr. Stanley.

I apologize that it has taken me some time to get to my seven reasons, but if you’re still reading, I think you will be blessed.

1. He taught me how to “Obey God and Leave the Consequences to Him.” Of all of the sentences I’ve heard Dr. Stanley say since I’ve been following his ministry, this sentence is what I’ve heard him say the most. It’s a simple sentence but the power of this singular sentence can impact every area of your life if you let it. I remember when I decided to live up to my Christian convictions when I was in my 20s although I had been baptized as a teenager. One of the decisions I made was to stop clubbing and be in church on New Year’s Eve. Babay, although my best friends at the time grew up in church like I did, they did not understand my decision and I found myself alone a lot. And even when I was around them, I felt rejected. There were many times I sobbed because I felt so alone and rejected. I wondered why if I knew God and was getting to know Him better, my life seemed to have gotten worse, particularly my social life. But I kept obeying Him, and I realized that I had to only depend on God and not my friendships. And in time, God brought certain friendships back into my life, but by then I had learned that God moves friends in and out of your life and to not hold on to any of them too tightly. Only hold on to God…I obeyed and left the consequences to Him and eventually I learned the lesson…

2. He taught me how to set goals as a Christian. I don’t know if it’s just indicative of my DNA, but I have always had high aspirations. When I was about six years old, I decided that I would be a professional writer and I have never wavered in that decision. And from that decision came many goals. For example, I wanted to attend an excellent journalism school once I realized that I wanted to become a journalist. Well, once I graduated from college, my first job wasn’t a job at all. I was an intern at the The Christian Index, the “nation’s oldest continuously published religious newspaper” and which initially and most extensively reported on Dr. Stanley’s decision to step down.  At that time, I wanted to work in New York or at a secular publication. But God had other plans for me. During my time there, I began to realize that my writing career may evolve differently than I intended and I didn’t know how to set goals at that point. But I heard Dr. Stanley speak about goal setting from a Christian perspective and I was able to chart a new, God-directed course.

3. He taught me what it means to be successful. Obviously, by most standards, Dr. Stanley is a successful minister. He has thousands in his church. Even more know him through his television and radio broadcasts. He is a New York Times bestselling author of a many books. Even his son’s ministry reaches thousands. But all of those accolades have not defined Dr. Stanley’s summation of success. Here is his definition: “Success is the continuing achievement of becoming the person God wants you to be and accomplishing the goals God has helped you set.” This definition is from his book Success God’s Way. Now for some Christians, this may mean a worldwide ministry while for others it may be a wonderful ministry in a small town. In my case, it may mean many many books that become New York Times best sellers or it may mean a few well-written books that reach a small but appreciative audience. Over time, LOTS of time, I’ve become comfortable with this definition of success. I just want to be what God wants to be me. That is success.

4. He taught me what it means to have faith. This could be number one, but as the years have passed, my faith has grown deeper due to various circumstances. I’ve seen God work over and over again in my life as I had faith, but when I got married, I wondered how God would work in my husband’s life. When my husband graduated from college in 2014 (he went back to college after initially quitting in his early 20s), there were some obstacles in his way that made getting a job in his field harder than he had hoped. My husband became depressed, but when I heard a message about faith and obstacles from Dr. Stanley one morning, I shared it with my husband and told him that despite this obstacle, God would make a way. He just had to have faith. My husband wasn’t trying to hear that. I had to have enough faith for the both of us even when it looked like things weren’t going to work out in our favor. At that point, we hadn’t even been married a year yet so I was scared but I kept my faith nevertheless. Well, a month to the day that I heard Dr. Stanley’s sermon on faith, my husband got a job in his field at the place where had hoped to work originally.

5. He taught me how to have courage. Right now, I’m going through something that is taking a lot of courage on my part. At the beginning of the year, I started listening to Dr. Stanley’s messages about courage, particularly as it relates to Joshua and the courage it took to enter the Promised Land despite the obstacles in the way of the Israelites. I’m trying my best not to have a “faith failure” as Dr. Stanley has warned about, and I’m taking it a step at a time. I cannot even imagine how it will turn out, but as God directs, I’m on the journey…I will tell more later…Stay tuned Saints…

Here’s a message about a “faith failure.”

Here’s a message about courage that I recently saw.

6. He taught me how to go through a storm. I remember when it was announced that Dr. Stanley’s now deceased wife had made the decision to divorce him. I don’t think I’ve even seen his wife much less know her so I couldn’t understand why she would choose to divorce him. But that’s not for me to know. Despite a statement he had made that he would step down as pastor if he actually got divorced, through the direction of God, he decided to stay but promising that he would remain unmarried. To this day, he remains single and his ministry has continued to bless people despite that storm. And maybe this particular storm has helped him to identify with people who have experienced similar storms. And no one other Jesus is perfect…

7. He has taught me that it’s okay to be kind. I have never met Dr. Stanley, and I don’t know that I ever will but as I wrote at the beginning of this blog post, I feel his kindness although I’ve never been in his physical presence. Over the years, I’ve attempted to have a more stern demeanor I guess to convey strength, but I’ve been raised to be kind. Now, I do have a smart mouth. Ask me about the lady who had the audacity to put a stray cart behind my car in the grocery store parking lot yesterday. But underneath it, I know I’m kind. Now, additionally, my kindness is sometimes overshadowed by my being self-centered from time to time. But it’s still a part of me. If you observe life, it does seem that being ruthless is one of the most direct paths to success, but Dr. Stanley had demonstrated a different way.

If somehow you read this Dr. Stanley, I’m so sad that you’ve decided to step down as pastor, but I understand you have to “obey God and leave the consequences to Him.” But I look forward to continuing to learn from you through In Touch Ministries. May God continue to bless you and keep you.

Any thoughts?

Beloved Former US President Jimmy Carter Edits New NRSV Simple Faith Bible…

Hello World,

For many reasons, former U.S. President Jimmy Carter is one of my favorite presidents: his unabashed faith in the Lord, his Georgia heritage, his long-lasting marriage, his commitment to community service…I could go on…That’s why I’m excited to tell you that the Nobel Peace Prize winner is the editor of the new NRSV Simple Faith Bible: Following Jesus into a Life of Peace, Compassion, and Wholeness (Zondervan, 2020). As a Bible Gateway Blogger Grid, I received a free copy of this new Bible. The NRSV Simple Faith Bible is published by HarperCollins Christian Publishing, Inc., the parent company of Bible Gateway.

According to the publisher, Carter’s relentless desire for peace, compassion, and wholeness permeate the notes of this Bible. His decades-long Sunday School teaching ministry, public service, and humanitarian engagement form the basis of each Bible book’s introductions, contemplative essays, reflective quotes, and honest prayers, calling readers to a warmhearted, justice-filled life of faith.

[Read the New Revised Standard Version (NRSV) Bible translation on Bible Gateway]

“I cannot imagine a better time to present this Bible,” said Melinda Bouma, vice president and publisher of Zondervan Bibles. “In a world of uncertainty and fear, when justice cries out, President Carter’s engagement with the Word will reveal the beauty found in these pages. Many will be inspired, equipped, and encouraged through his reflections and prayers. His faith is a model for us all.”

Set in Zondervan’s exclusive NRSV Comfort Print® typeface, this New Revised Standard Version Bible offers a smooth reading experience that complements the foremost Bible translation vetted by Protestant, Catholic, Orthodox, Evangelical, and Jewish scholars. Renowned for its beautiful balance of scholarship and readability, the NRSV faithfully serves the church in personal spiritual formation, in the liturgy, and in the academy.

Below is an essay on Matthew 3:1–2 from the Simple Faith Bible.

Pause for a moment and consider what John meant by the words kingdom of heaven. The Pharisees and Sadducees distinguished God’s kingdom as something far in the distance or something with elements of punishment for sins. So here John the Baptist uses kingdom of heaven as a phrase designed to alert the people. He wanted them to see that they needed to repent in the present because the kingdom of heaven was already in their midst.

We live in the midst of the kingdom of heaven now, just as John did in the time of Christ. The kingdom of heaven is a continuing history of human beings and our relationship and reconciliation with God through faith in Jesus Christ. Everything now and in days past and in years ahead is under the sovereignty of God. Human beings are designed to live in God’s kingdom. And we can be part of the kingdom of heaven if we separate ourselves from the morals and customs and demands of the secular world and align ourselves with God through faith in Jesus.

Features of the NRSV Simple Faith Bible:

  • The text of the New Revised Standard Version (66-book Protestant canon), vetted by an ecumenical pool of Christian academics and renowned for its beautiful balance of scholarship and readability
  • Foreword by Jonathan Reckford, International CEO of Habitat for Humanity
  • Over 600 application-oriented notes, articles, reflections, and prayers gleaned from Nobel Peace Prize winner and former US President Jimmy Carter’s extensive teaching ministry and public life of service
  • Exclusive Zondervan NRSV Comfort Print typeface
  • 9.5-point print size

And here is a video about the Simple Faith Bible.

I’m reading through the Simple Faith Bible now, and I am being educated, encouraged and empowered by the word of God first and foremost AND the testimony of one of His great servants in this beautiful Bible…

To buy your copy, click HERE…

Any thoughts?