Destination Paternity

Destination Paternity

So, Court and I are pregnant! Yay! I'm going to be a Father! 

So, me being me, I can guarantee four things. I will be Faithful, Consistent, Intentional, and Passionate.  Period.  That's just me.  That being said…I HATE the world for new dads out here. I was joking with Courtney on Black Friday that there should be a “Destination Paternity” store.

Preggo Goals

Preggo Goals

I am currently in my 16th week of pregnancy and it has been quite the experience. It was in mid-September and I found myself being very lethargic, little to no appetite, and very emotional. So probably like every women, I thought it was my regular time of the month and that travel for work and our move to RI was finally taking a toll on my body so I didn’t think anything of it. However, a week later I felt the same symptoms. Pregnancy was not at all a thought in my head.

      Have you seen all of the recent stories about Millennials and the Black Church? If not, let me just give you a few headlines:    
  
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     -6 Reasons Young Black People are leaving the Church   -A Millennials Views on Issues in the Black Church   -The Fugitive Millennial and the Church -Why invite Black millennials to church since they won’t come back -Black Millennials lead Black Church Protest.    You get the picture.  What's frustrating to me isn’t the articles, every opinion matters and has truth to it.  (Your truth…is your truth) What frustrates me is the stark amount of Church leaders who share articles that explain why black people aged 18-40 hate the church without offering any sense of hope.   We complain about black millennials not coming…so the conversation is never, “Hey there possible church member made in God’s image under the age of 40, come encounter God here!” It is, “Hey…you think we are irrelevant…accept this rap lyric in my sermon.” How can we as Church leaders hope for change if all we do is complain.   So, hey black millennial (I know you hate the term too but its all culture is giving us) Can I assist you prayerfully finding a place to wrestle with the truth of Jesus Christ? The Church wants you! We want Jesus to go Viral in the world!  I want you to be a part of the Viral Jesus.  What does that mean? It’s being willing to take an intentional risk to find a place where your soul can rest.   This is not for the Church Leader or Pastor looking for some trick to get young adults to attend your church.  (Sidenote…if you are trying to reach black millennials don’t think quoting a rap song will get us…we aren’t stupid)  This is for the Millennial who is looking for a church but all you see are the articles that tell you the church is dead, isn’t “woke” enough, doesn’t think Black lives matter, doesn’t care about black women, and wants you for nothing more than your bank account.  Are there churches like that? Sure. All of them? Nope!  By no means am I attempting to insult your intelligence or your decision-making.  Personally, I refuse to sit idly by and hear that our churches are dying when I know God has made a place for you to go and grow.  You are such an amazing and vital part of this world and culture, a part that God created that a church needs to make it everything it can be.  It's you painfully praying for God to give you a place to share Jesus Christ with people like you.  Maybe it's with skinny jeans and a cup of coffee, or maybe it's with a suit and dress shoes on.  Wherever that is…I pray this helps you discern a place where you will see how attractive Jesus is and how he has been chasing after you since the day you were born.   How? Here are few steps to discerning a church home for my black millennial friends. Ready?   1-Pray.     Saturate your life in prayer.  That's really it. Pray over the type of church you are looking for and don’t be afraid to be extremely specific…all the way down to the color of the carpet.  I remember when I was praying for the church I would pastor, I prayed specifically for a unique High-Church worship experience near college campuses willing to see God and Share God in unique ways.  And I got all of that plus so much more!  Specific prayers get radical answers. Don’t waste your time praying for just a “Church home,” but for a church home that will be exactly what you feel you need in this season.  Make a list of the 5-10 things you need, not what your parents or grand parents told you, you need. Listen to the Holy Spirit to start your decision-making process.   2-Do Your Research.    Start researching! Look at a few things.  -What do they believe about the bible? Ensure they care about the things you care about -What is their spiritual foundation? Same thing as above…  Don’t judge the whole church on a good or bad Facebook post/Webpage etc. Discern 2-3 places that the Holy Spirit has prompted your heart to Consider and go to all of them!  Don't judge it by the one church you went to last Easter, the one Pastor whose suit was too big, the one church who had a banging choir, the one extra offering, the one off. How many great relationships have you missed because you judged your new beau by your old beau? That one crazy church with a pastor in a purple suit and the choir that was totally off key asking for 5 extra offerings is a one off. For every one of those, I can tell you about hundreds of my friends and classmates who have studied to show themselves worthy to lead and guide your soul!   3-More Research   From my heart, this is one of the most important parts.  Go to Sunday school/prayer meeting/bible study.  No, seriously, go.  The church is not built on Sunday worship; it is built on spiritual development. If you attend and don’t feel like you can grow there...don't go back. Period. Intentional research on your part, like scrolling through the twitter feed of the new person you are in a relationship with, is the most important part.  If the church you attend has a banging choir, but no bible study…the core is rotten.  Go where you can grow, or keep looking!   4-Do not let emotions drive you   Ready for an honest moment? I’ve been preaching for about 10 years and we preachers know how to do an altar call.  From blanket statements to “who is dealing with an issue??” To looking across the room and singing “worth”…emotions are so high at post sermon altar calls and we know it.  (Personally, I’ve grown like crazy to a point where I no longer base success on a number of people at an altar at the end of my sermons)  For you…don’t base your decision for Christ or where to attend a place of worship based on the tears you shed at the end of a sermon or praise and worship set.   Instead, do this. Ask the Holy Spirit to share with you, what your emotions mean.  Sit in silence and wait for an answer.  Just like you don’t call your boss when you are angry, don’t join a church because you’re crying or lost something.  If you join for a reason like that, you’ll leave for a reason like that.   5-Visit 2-3 times.    Found a place - Check Went to a Spiritual Development opportunity at the church - Check Listened to the Holy Spirit to make sense of your emotions - Check  Keep visiting 2-3 times. Do you see yourself growing here? Can you listen to that pastor each week? Can you listen to that choir every week? Do they believe what you believe in? Are the “woke?” Are they relevant?   Don’t go to a church you will try and fix, go to a church where you fit.  With those visits, ask people who are your age what they like / don't like about the church.  Get honest and open opinions.  If you are looking for social justice, womanist perspectives, family ministry, future vision etc.…Ask the people.  And, ask the pastor to talk! Your voice matters, ask the pastor for coffee or lunch. I’ll say this, what drove me to the churches I attended were the bible studies and the Pastors I got coffee with.  As a Pastor, I now get coffee/lunch with interested members to share who I am, my life, and where I believe the Lord is guiding this season of ministry.  Speaking with the Pastor does not mean that you have made a commitment; rather you are serious about this opportunity to ensure you have discerned and made the right decision.   6-Pray  You know the drill.   7-Make a decision, walk in the decision, walk in your gift. Make it happen!    Remember When the Children of Israel saw a cloud and fire? Two different things…both had God in it.  When God appears, clouds roll in and fire breaks out.  When you connect your gift to the place God has called it…Fire will break out.  As a Pastor who is doing their best to reach people of all age groups in a unique time in history, I love that God is raising us extremely unique and authentic voices in our generation.  I cannot wait to see an explosion of Black millennials who have not settled for the local community church, or the state mega church. Rather, people who are going where the Lord has called them!   Ok, talk to me. Comment.  P.s. I know I know…”So Justin you tell people who visit your church about other churches and to go through a process of prayer before they even join your church?” Yep! At the moment I have recommended numerous people in the city to other churches that fit what they are praying for! My goal is kingdom building, not Justin building.      P.P.S.  A little about me: I am a black millennial. I love the black church. I Pastor a Black church where we have a bunch of Black millennials I attended three churches in both Tennessee and Wisconsin that had a bunch of Millennials     shareable images below! click and share!         


  

  


 
   
    
      

        

        

        
          
             
               
                 
                      
                 
                
               
             
          

          
        

      

        

        

        
          
             
               
                 
                      
                 
                
               
             
          

          
        

      

        

        

        
          
             
               
                 
                      
                 
                
               
             
          

          
        

      

        

        

        
          
             
               
                 
                      
                 
                
               
             
          

          
        

      

        

        

        
          
             
               
                 
                      
                 
                
               
             
          

          
        

      

        

        

        
          
             
               
                 
                      
                 
                
               
             
          

          
        

      
    
   

  
     
    
       
  

 




 
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Hey black millennial (I know you hate the term too but its all culture is giving us) Can I assist you prayerfully finding a place to wrestle with the truth of Jesus Christ? The Church wants you! We want Jesus to go Viral in the world!  I want you to be a part of the Viral Jesus.  What does that mean? It’s being willing to take an intentional risk to find a place where your soul can rest. 

 

        </iframe>" data-provider-name="YouTube"          Nashville… A place of beginnings   They say Nashville is a place for dreamers, never in my wildest dream did I think this country city would be the place I found my life. It’s Nashville where I found a piece of God, found myself, loved myself, and learned myself. Its here where I got my beautiful education, met my best friends. Nashville is where I fell in love with my black culture and learned how I fit in this world as black women. It’s in this country place where I get to be apart of ministry and where my writing passion took off and grew; it’s here where I married the absolute love of my life. Nashville is a place I chose. It’s where life began.   We have a closeness to where things began, don’t we? Maybe because its comfortable, special, ours. But the thing about beginnings is that there almost always has to be a continuation. Continuation in the midst of change is such a hard concept because it’s filled with so many unknowns.            Click to Tweet: The beauty of Jesus looks us straight in the fear of our faith and gives us the gift of the Holy Spirit -Courtney Lester       A trend that has been happening in many cities is a trend I like to called “community swap”(not sure if this is an official term but I’m going to coin it). It’s where different communities of people occupy a new area than before (some may call this gentrification but that’s another post for another day).  Today, we are seeing suburban communities move to urban areas, and urban resident move to suburban areas. Industrial areas have been repurposed to restaurants and retail shops and restaurants and retail shops have turned to office spaces. This is a normal cycle that happens in the history of cities over generations but to many of us this is new in our lifetime. So what happens to the places that began there? Do they die or do they continue? Jesus tells us to continue so new life can begin.   Jesus started a crazy impactful ministry on earth for 33 years, but he was very intentional in expecting us to continue the ministry he started. It’s a beautiful reminder to us that our beginnings are to empower others to continue. In Acts 1, before Jesus’ Ascension into heaven, He meets the disciples’ fear. They loved what began in Jesus but out of fear of continuing they asked when He was coming back to finish. I believe we ask this question when we reach the crossroads of life. God, you began great things but when are you coming back to finish?   The beauty of Jesus looks them straight in the fear of faith and gives them the gift of the Holy Spirit. It’s like the Holy Spirit is God’s way of saying you are enough to continue what I started.  And so our (Justin and Courtney’s) continuation begins.    I’ll never forget the car ride home from our honeymoon, as we looked at each other ready to continue life where it all began. To remain faithful to all that we have begun in Nashville and to grow what was started. It was then when the call from Rhode Island made so much sense. Where God revealed that we must leave a place of beautiful beginnings to go to a place that finds it hard to continue. It’s crazy to me to see how God orchestrates our lives that our continuation is someone else’s beginnings.    What is God continuing in you that might be a new beginning?    It was only when we were completely faithful where we began that God showed us exactly where we need to continue.   We are ready, we are set, now lets go! 

The beauty of Jesus looks them straight in the fear of faith and gives them the gift of the Holy Spirit. It’s like the Holy Spirit is God’s way of saying you are enough to continue what I started.

And so our (Justin and Courtney’s) continuation begins.  

First, Read this! The top 10 cities people are moving from and moving to.
http://www.forbes.com/sites/karstenstrauss/2016/06/07/10-cities-americans-are-moving-to-right-now-and-10-they-are-leaving/#1e14b7653e91

With that. Missions!!!

Take a look! Consider a few things!

1. Do you have anything for the new families that are moving to your area? (i.e. a top 10 list of things to do in the city / Something welcoming new people to the area) They're coming, your church has the room!

2. Does your ministry welcome non-churched people? Consider where everyone is moving from. Those areas are not in the bible belt. Will people be welcomed and feel welcomed? Don't tell me you are a "friendly church!" Thats a cop out. Do your ministry offerings show that people are welcome? Do your sermons speak to the truth of the gospel and culture? A hug and a smile start friendlyness, groups and engagements keep it friendly.

3. Does your church welcome people who don't know "churchspeak?" Most people won't know when to stand/sit/sing/what a hymn is/what your churches unwritten rules are/where they aren't supposed to sit/what communion is/"washed in blood" Take a moment and consider what you say by explaining everything you say. Think, no sports team integrates rookies by immediately throwing them into the game one the first day, there are playbooks and meetings that they have to sit in and read first! A fly route is a fly route...but delicately we want to explain what a "fly" route means to us.

With that! Let me say this. 

Young Adults have not quit church. We haven't! We love it, and really want to be in your church. Three things that we (me) want in your church

1 - Don't make me do everything at your church. My life is already busy, but I want to do something! Don't give me a full time job.

2 - Pastor, can I get a cup of coffee with you? In essence, do I feel I can I sit for an hour and have a real honest conversation with you about real issues .

3 - it's not music that gets "us." Is your church a safe place? Do I feel comfortable asking questions? Can my faith comfortably be stretched at your church?

Just some thoughts! I pray kingdom grows because we get uncomfortable enough to lead people to be comfortable with Jesus in our churches! People are coming! Get Ready!

        
  
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    So we get married in 13 days! As we journey, we wanted to bring you in the journey.   I (Justin) am a preacher of the Gospel.  I LOVEEEE preaching.  It gives me life, helps me struggle through things, and forces me to ask difficult questions.  Everything.  Believe it or not, I used to hate talking in front of people.  I remember in middle school my teacher told us, “Picture everyone in class naked when you get in front of them.”  And I did. And I never was more uncomfortable in my life.  The next time I got up she slipped and said, “Picture you naked.” And I did.  And I never was more comfortable.  Everyone looked at me in awe. Now I (Justin) know I’m extremely attractive…but the way they listened to every word, sat on the pauses, and leaned in with intention blew my mind.   That’s what our engagement season has been all about. Getting naked.  When I was willing to picture myself purely authentically present, the quality of what I gave them was purely authentically awesome.  It’s in this authentic living that you become intimate.  Intimate literally saying that you get to know what inside of the other, the level that no one has ever been on.  Its beyond sex, its beyond living together.   Does your significant other know you on a level that no one else even knows exists?   Not just that you leave your socks on the floor, but why you did it and is participating n helping you put them in drawer?  Not just that you leave orange peels on the counter, but also why you don’t like putting them in the trash immediately?  Not just that your favorite color is blue, but why blue drives you?   Does your significant other know you on a level that no one else even knows exists?    That’s Nakedness.    Radical intimacy where you and Jesus keep meeting.  The place where you and your spouse start the journey towards radical relationship.   Genesis 2:25 Adam and his wife were both naked, and they felt no shame. This is a weird caveat in the story of Adam and Eve, but it speaks volumes. The ability to expose everything that I am and not be ashamed is the beauty of a God ordained relationship.     If you are not willing to bring your spouse there, your relationship is already doomed to fail.  Engagement forced us to bring each other into those dark intimate quiet scary places, and know that the other will love us until that place becomes full of joy.  Our engagement season has been nothing but naked fun.  Now, there are levels of acceptance of said nakedness.  First, we as a couple had to accept ourselves, we had to be willing to accept the other, and then we had to be open to honest and open criticism for growth.  That, my friends, is much easier said than done.   Nakedness also forced us to define how we look to each other.  The amazing thing about being naked and staring at someone is…they can’t see what you see, you tell them what you see.  There is a constant reminder to each of us daily to remind the other how much we love them, how much we care for them, how much we adore every single “roll” (if you will) of their lives.  Whether its Justin’s never-ending need to watch every single second of every single basketball game, or Courtney’s need to watch every single show on HGTV.  Justin’s undying need to eat 5 oranges a day no matter how I remind him of the carbs, or Courtney’s shoes that Justin hates but she loves.   Or the fact that Courtney questions every time she makes a meal whether or not it’s good. Or how Justin has an extreme displeasure with himself and at times sits in long depression.   Those rolls are not known until the other makes it known that its bothersome, but can assist in helping you lose the dead weight. But if we stayed covered the entire time, we would have never known it existed.   Exposure and nakedness in a relationship opened us to open criticism from others that carried over to the home.  How people talked about how we looked, critiqued our work ethic, questioned our love, or even tried to permeate our relationship; all has a way of easily distracting from the greater goal God has on our relationship.   It taught us that everyone and everything is not welcome in our home.   There are some friendships that we had to disband. There were some proclivities that we had to disown.  There were some issues that we had to place on the table.  You can’t expect authentic progress with inauthentic living.   Paul tells us in Ephesians 5:25-27 that we should present the other flawless and without blemish. In order to do that, we have to expose those blemishes to each other. Being Naked is being vulnerable to your true essence and trusting the other to protect, work, and love you through it.  It begs the question, in every conversation you engage in and relationship you embark on, we had to ask, “Will (Justin or Courtney) feel comfortable in this conversation?”  Because frankly, it will come back home.   No matter how, or what that is, it had to be exposed in order to see what changes can we make together so that we don’t need to seek outside counsel.   Relationships don’t mature in “courting” and “dating” they mature in engagement.  Engagement is the middle ground where the planning you do means nothing if you aren’t authentic when you finally are naked together.   So what? Do we get together and just naked and stare at each other? No! Well kind of.  Here’s how you can get naked with your spouse.    -Establish that you both are the King and Queen in your relationship.   Who has the final say? Who is the one that is the final leader? But remember both of you can make relationships.  Anything with two heads is a monster, select whom leads and work together in the engagement season to be co-leaders while also submitting to vision  - Articulate and establish a vision for your family.  Without a vision, things will not happen.  Establish that vision now.  Not an abstract how many homes and children you will have.  But a vision that articulates what you will stand on, what you see in 10 years.  (Remember visions change as time change.)   -Be willing to get naked.  Be willing to sit down, and get uncomfortable together.  To openly talk about everything, to discuss anything, and authentically come to places of agreement.  You will not know where to workout until you see life naked. 

Does your significant other know you on a level that no one else even knows exists? That’s Nakedness.   Radical intimacy where you and Jesus keep meeting.  The place where you and your spouse start the journey towards radical relationship.  If you are not willing to bring your spouse there, your relationship is already doomed to fail.  Engagement forced us to bring each other into those dark intimate quiet scary places, and know that the other will love us until that place becomes full of joy. Our engagement season has been nothing but naked fun.