Darius Holland, True Life Church, Thornton, CO
1. Thornton, Colorado is a predominantly white, middle class city located about 10 miles north of Denver, making it one of the many communities that makes up the Metro area of the state capital.
2. I am a black man who has worked as a pastor in this area for most of my time in vocational ministry.
The cultural norms, mores, and expectations of those two things don’t always mix easily, often causing me to feel more like a spectator than a neighbor. My wife is a Colorado native, as are our children, but I have no extended family nearby…but God sent me here. Why?
When I first moved into the area I started attending a church so I could serve. I was offered a ministry position, which I accepted even though I was unsure of exactly what my role would be. I watched more than I acted: seeing and being seen more than speaking or being heard. When I finally did speak I felt misunderstood.
I thought back on the one sermon that had the biggest impact on my life, one based on Jeremiah 29:4-7. The pastor read from Scripture, “…to all exiles whom I have sent into exile from Jerusalem and Babylon, build houses and live in them, and plant gardens and eat their produce…seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile.” Through this message I could hear the Lord say to me, “I have sent you here. Now pursue the ministry with an intent to bring MY peace to the people.” Now I needed to know HOW to do that.
I asked God how do I reach people who speak, think, and live so much differently than I do. Furthermore, why would I? The Lord brought Romans 8:12 to mind to answer my second question. That passage says that “we are under obligation,” meaning a moral imperative that makes us indebted to either sin or righteousness. Since I place myself under the Lordship of Jesus I am indebted to His work on the cross and am obligated to fulfill the works that He prepared for me, works that He prepared beforehand to bring Himself glory.
To help me answer the first question, HOW to reach this community where He placed me, I needed to become a student. I had to intentionally lay down my own cultural lens and focus in a new way. This led me to the Rocky Mountain campus of Golden Gate Seminary (now Gateway Seminary). As a student I discovered new materials, resources, and learned more about the history of our faith. I learned of ministers who stayed strong even as they truly suffered for the Gospel. I saw how God could work within my family, my community, and myself to serve effectively where He had placed me. His prerogative determined where I would serve, and His provision determined how I would serve.
I allowed myself to be open not just to the teaching of the classes but also to fellowship with the other students. Seeing so many others who were equally committed to living out God’s call in their lives broadened my perspective and made me realize that God is not bound by our traditions but is brought alive in our relationship! Our unique bond that comes from our acceptance of who He is allows transformation in our lives that provides true purpose. His ministry calling is a gift to us that brings glory to Him, and He is gracious to provide all the tools we will need (1 Peter 4:11).
God made me more sensitive to people in my own church, True Life Church, who also thirsted to know more but not in the seminary classroom, people who wanted real instruction regarding ministry issues in the lay community. I realized that THIS was a way that God was calling me to help reach my community. This fall True Life launched our Center for Education in conjunction with Gateway Seminary’s ADVANCE program which provides opportunities for church members to learn about leadership, ministry development, equipping volunteers, preaching, and multiple other necessary skills for the growth of the Church.
The hope and the goal for True Life Church is to reveal God’s truth, to pierce the lies formed by confusion and culture, to transform hearts with the Gospel message, and to equip believers for the work of service. I invite you to lay down your traditions as well. Take away the lens you use to see the world, and ask God to let you see through His eyes. Ask Him how and why and where to act, and then pursue the knowledge that only God can provide to enable you to shape the culture in your sphere of influence.
Darius Holland is Lead Pastor at True Life Church in Thornton and also serves in the 5th Battalion 19th Special Forces Group (Airborne) as a chaplain. He is a former defensive tackle who played ten seasons in the NFL. He and his wife live in Commerce City with their 5 children.