As Hurricane Harvey is hitting Houston, Texas Jaron Jones of Shine Bible Fellowship in Cypress, Texas encourages and soothes his church by teaching the 91st Psalm about how God is a shelter in the storm. This is an EFCA pastor who gets it, and its my hope that the EFCA would have more Jaron Jones in its network.
“Be patient. Like storms, the challenges will pass. Know too, that like the sun, your true soul self is constantly radiating. “
“When you are in the middle of a storm cloud it’s hard to think outside of it, but the only way out of the storm is to ride through it and things will be a lot clearer on the other side.”
Jodi Ann Bickley
Psalm 91:1-2 NIV
Jaron Jones teaches on how the Lord is a refuge from the storm as Harvey is hitting Houston
On Sunday August 27 as Hurricane Harvey was battering Houston, Shine Bible Fellowship like other EFCA churches in the area canceled their services. Then the Lead Pastor Jaron Jones did something that was quite encouraging and refreshing. He did a live talk on Facebook from his kitchen in which he discussed the situation with Harvey from a faith perspective. In the 25 minute talk Jaron started out by encouraging people to be safe, follow the news, and to pray that people in Houston stay safe. Jaron explained that while he was scheduled to kick off a sermon series called Mountain Movers, he was going to delay it and speak about Hurricane Harvey. He then taught from the 91st Psalm. He started out by saying that people should stay in a place of shelter, or how they make their shelter ready for Harvey. Jaron spoke about making God your shelter in the storms of life. In those storms chose God to be your shelter and in the process the lead pastor from Shine Bible Fellowship said that the shelter comes from an intimate relationship with God and is not a physical shelter.
Storms come in the form of unexpected challenges of life. Jaron went on and said that it could be a loss of a child, illness, the loss of your job or even Hurricane Harvey as Houston is dealing with. The Lead Pastor reminded people that God will provide for your comfort during those storms. Pestilence as he also said comes in many forms, from the fear of a job loss to even Houston’s gas industry being affected by Harvey. In Psalm 91:4 the Psalmist says the following:
He will cover you with his feathers, and under his wings you will find refuge;
his faithfulness will be your shield and rampart.
Jaron wanted to remind people that the shelter of God will always be proficient. And he reminded people that the storms of life will always come, and its best to prepare for them early on and brace for them. It was a very well done talk to a congregation going through what some people believe will be the most expensive natural disaster in United States history. It really stood out and was a comforting talk by a pastor. I would encourage you to listen to that talk its 25 minutes of your time well spent. I have a lot more to say about Jaron, but first let’s look at the problem set of how many evangelical pastors fail to address situations in their midst. They often miss or bungle situations which Jaron Jones addressed in the form of Hurricane Harvey. Let’s look at that and then I want to close out this post and return to Jaron Jones.
When Many Evangelical Pastors Fail to Address Issues in their Midst
There is one thing that astonishes me that I keep seeing over and over. Its also been a reason as to why I have up and left so many churches. That reason is that many places do not address issues in their midst. A profound tragedy happens, a national crisis occurs, you are dealing with images that are beyond disturbing on the news, the internet or the newspaper you read online. Amidst all this you see that many churches just kind of continue on acting like nothing has happened. Many evangelical pastors continue on with the program instead of breaking with the plans and address the issues that have occurred. As a result many pastors fail to address the issues going on, and in the process they waste and squander their pulpit and ability to teach. By staying silent they are indeed making a statement about something when they choose not to address it. By staying silent they send mixed signals to people in the church and the community they seek to serve. And the sad part of all is that many evangelical churches are so withdrawn into their bubble that they have no idea as to how the community they are in thinks of them and reflects on their behavior. That I have seen myself. When you think about the problem its almost like a Greek tragedy when you consider it in the bigger picture. In writing about this issue I could also address how some churches did not talk about the Neo-Nazi riot in Charlottesville, Virginia. However, I am going to draw from a personal experience and write about a massacre that happened here in Washington, D.C. that grabbed the nation’s attention, while the church I was involved in stayed silent and acted like nothing had occurred.
Wrestling with this Issue in the Wake of the Washington, D.C. Navy Yard Shooting in 2013 and how Fairfax Community Church Failed to Respond
On Monday September 16, 2013 Aaron Alexis went to the Navy Yard in Washington, D.C. He was a deeply troubled man who had a history of mental illness and instability. He walked into Building 197 of the Naval Sea Systems Command and smuggled in a sawed off shotgun. At 8:16 a.m. he started a shooting rampage in a secured military facility. At 8:17 the first calls were placed to 911 asking for help. The Navy Yard and other military bases in the Washington, D.C. area were locked down. Aaron Alexis wondered around the building shooting at people. The first law enforcement arrived on the scene at 8:23. People inside the building did a number of things, some ran while others did a shelter in place in an active shooter scenario. As law enforcement was searching for the gunmen in the building; D.C. Police Emergency Response Team and two Park Police Officers found the gunman on the third floor of Building 197 in a cubicle area. At 9:25 the shooter was fatally shot and the problem was neutralized. There was confusion over whether or not there was a second shooter or if this was an act of terrorism initially. During the day much of the area was affected, for example planes were diverted from Ronald Reagan National Airport and the U.S. Capitol was also on lock-down. Plus President Obama addressed the issue in a press conference. The toll in the tragedy would be great as tragically 12 people were killed in what today is the second major loss of life on a military installation after the Fort Hood attack.
The following Sunday I went to church at Fairfax Community Church here in the Washington, D.C. area. And the way the church responded to this situation just baffled me. There were a couple of words by the worship pastor at the time Jay Kim, but the pastor just went forward and went on with the scheduled talk. There was no discussion about the problem of evil, or where was God in Building 197 of the Naval Sea Systems Command. There was no pause of saying, “we’re going to take this morning and divert the schedule and pray for the people who were hurt and their families.” There was really nothing that was done, it was almost like nothing had happened in Washington, D.C. It was all over the media, all over Facebook, Twitter, and the news, but for Fairfax Community Church it was like nothing had happened. I remember walking out of church that morning and thinking to myself, “what the hell am I involved with?” I wrote about this issue at Fairfax Community Church before in “A Tale of Two Churches: Fairfax Community Church and the Problem of Evil.” This issue took a personal turn for me well over a year ago. I knew someone who was in the process of retiring who met with a financial planner in the D.C. suburb of Alexandria, Virginia. The financial planner in the course of the discussion with someone that I know revealed that she survived the Navy Yard shooting. She sheltered in place under her cube when Aaron Alexis walked into the room. Before her eyes she watched her co-worker be shot to death. When she was found by first responders and being evacuated she had a heart attack due to the stress of the situation. Over the next year she was in intense psychological therapy dealing with PTSD from that situation. Could you imagine this person going to Fairfax Community Church with their caviler attitude, smoke machines, and “raw raw Jesus” that ignores the storm of life?
The EFCA and Shine Bible Fellowship in Cypress, Texas Should be Grateful that Jaron Jones is the Pastor
This blog writes about a lot of dark stuff from time to time in the EFCA. I wrote about an EFCA pastor in Pennsylvania who practiced church discipline on an alleged sexual assault victim. You can read about Community Evangelical Free Church in Elverson here. I also wrote about another EFCA/Acts 29 pastor in Columbia, South Carolina who violated counseling laws and the subsequent abuse of power by James Walden. You can read about that story here. For all the dark stories I write the ones I encounter which are positive also deserve to be featured and set apart. And that is why I am writing about Jaron Jones today. This is a pastor who gets it, and the EFCA and Shine Bible Fellowship should be profoundly thankful for the work that he does. The faith really shines in a good pastor and it looks profoundly ugly with a bad one. Jaron Jones exhibited his heart on his sleeve in the midst of Hurricane Harvey when he went live on Facebook and spoke in a way to counsel and soothe people’s fears. Not only that but he also displayed what authority is when he spoke to people in the storm and cared for them in a tender way. He showed authority by love, respect, concern and grace. This is what authority is, not the examples you see today from the Mark Driscoll’s or C.J. Mahaneys. If a hurricane descended on Seattle when Mars Hill was up and running, would Mark Driscoll have done something similar? Authority is not about pounding your chest and expecting people to listen to you. Authority comes from when people lead out of love, concern and compassion just like Jaron Jones did from his kitchen. Plus the other aspect that was encouraging is that Jaron led and taught in the midst of the storm. The evangelical industrial complex did not drive the program from his kitchen. He delayed that and spoke to the issue that was on everyone’s mind – that of Hurricane Harvey.
To those of Shine Bible Fellowship I hope you realize how fortunate you are to have Jaron as your shepherd. How I wished the EFCA would have more pastors like Jaron, if they did they I wouldn’t have to write about some of the stories I have. To Jaron I want to say well done, your teaching and heart is amazing and I am thankful that you are a pastor. I wish you well, and hope that Harvey wont chase you back to St. Louis 😛 The only thing I will say is that I noticed you used the ESV Bible. I hope you are familiar with the issues with the ESV and the fact that one of its translators has a warped view of the trinity. You can read about the issues with Wayne Grudem in “Wayne Grudem’s Un-Orthodox View of the Trinity and the Question that Must Be Asked: Can the ESV Bible be Trusted?“ Other than that this blog wishes Jaron well. That is it for the day guys, as always I love you.