We all like lists. Well, here’s one you need for your spiritual growth. Trust me. It won’t be easy to follow these sharp leaders and not be challenged in your faith, politics, and worship. You can’t say I didn’t tell you. If you don’t know, know ya knooow!
Lisa Fields is founder and President of the Jude 3 Project, an organization dedicated to help the Christian community “know what they believe and why they believe it.” With a heart for the church, Fields is a scholar and apologist who’s mission is to equip believers to live out the call of Jude 1:3 – to contend for the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints. The Jude 3 Project covers a range of topics from “Sexuality in the Black Church” to Pan-Africanism. She’s interviewed some heavy hitters…some of which you’ll find on this list. Biola University and the Jude 3 Project have teamed up to present a conference focused on apologetics in November.
DR. ERIC MASON
Acclaimed author and lead pastor of Epiphany Fellowship in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Dr. Eric Mason is the quintessence of theology and urban culture! Youtube him and you’ll soon find he’s been at this for a while now. He talks hip-hop (see interview with Lecrae and Trip Lee here), urban apologetics, black Hebrews, and African American Christian history. You’ll find this guy wearing an apple hat and boldly proclaiming the word of God. Even his church is creatively pushing back barriers with their neo-soul/jazz/worship album. Most recently, Dr. Eric Mason has intrigued me on his approach to the current state of race relations in America. His podcast called “Woke Church” is prophetically engaging and challenging. He also hosts an annual conference in Philly for urban ministry workers called “Thriving Frequency.”
Jonathan McReynolds……award-winning gospel artist, native Chicagoan, and theologian. Don’t let the smooth voice and talented hands fool you. He’s a total renaissance man. With two successful albums and an EP under his belt, his followers can look forward to much more musical genius to flow for years to come. There’s more! This guy started an organization for millennials called Elihu Nation in efforts to create a culture of wise, righteous living for those who are called to the arts. So far, Elihu Nation has awarded three scholarships in the 2016 academic year. But wait! There’s more! He’s also a writer for the Huffington Post. Yep. I know. When does it end with this guy!?!
Travis Greene’s anthemic and timely sophomore album has blessed the Church with congregational and revelatory songs that can lead anyone to worship! Laced with powerful testimonies and worshipful melodies, The Hill will have you singing at the top of your lungs the lyrics “you move mountains, you cause walls to fall” from the Billboard chart-topping song “You Made A Way” in your cubicle. Trust me. Don’t listen to this album at work, unless you have your own secluded space. You can’t jump in and jump out of this experience. Travis Greene recently started a church in Columbia, South Carolina where he is the lead pastor.
Oddly enough, I’d never heard of Bryan Loritts until I encountered the powerful teaching of his father, Dr. Crawford Loritts. I’m always intrigued by pastor’s kids who decide to follow in their parent’s footsteps in ministry (a good sign in my opinion). I was glad I looked into Bryan’s ministry. He is a voice and thought-leader in the multi-racial, multi-ethnic church model discussion, author, and conference speaker and he pastors a church in Silicon Valley…talk about a diversity-focused mission field. He also hosts an annual conference that exists to assist church leaders of homogenous congregations who desire to diversify (it doesn’t look like Kainos Movement met in 2016). He just released a new book I can’t wait to get my hands on called “Saving the Saved.”
Poet, rapper, and soon-to-be author , Jackie Hill-Perry is quickly becoming a national authoritative voice on issues of theology and culture. Her testimony is commanding and her artistic expression seeks out the heart’s darkest corners. I had the opportunity to see Jackie Hill-Perry perform this piece live at Legacy Disciple Conference in Chicago this year and it’s as good now as it was then. I still applaud. She’s a joy to follow on social media for sheer comic relief and she’s definitely a burgeoning chef in her own right. She is currently on the road for the Poets in Autumn Tour where she shares the stage with her husband, poet Preston Perry, Jeanette…ikz, and Ezekiel Azonwu.
DR. CHARLIE DATES
I discovered Dr. Charlie Dates while watching a YouTube video of Dr. Thabiti Anyabwile give his position on famed Christian leader Jonathan Edwards and American racism. Deep, right? Exactly. I watched the ENTIRE debate and became intrigued by Dr. Date’s position and commitment to the Church and the truth. With more research, I learned that Dr. Dates has a heart and obligation to the historical black church that desires to preserve the rich history of God’s salvific work within the means of African American culture. He pastors the Progressive Baptist Church in Chicago, IL and is a contributing writer of the book “Letters to A Birmingham Jail: A Response to the Words and Dreams of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.“
Tara-Leigh Cobble is an artist, author, worship leader, speaker, and bible teacher. However, her passion is for discipleship. Her ministry, D-Group, reaches across the country and the globe and is designed to foster biblical community for men and women looking to go deeper in the word and become more connected in the body of Christ. She is a strong voice for the Church and her life is a rally call to follow Jesus unashamedly. She’s written numerous books and produced many albums. She recently underwent open heart surgery and has plans after recovery to continue to teach, speak, and lead guided biblical tours in Israel.
Walter Strickland gives a mean presentation on the history and theology of the black church, of which I’ve had the pleasure of witnessing live! He’s a fire hydrant. Strickland serves as Special Advisor to the President for Diversity & Instructor of Theology at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in North Carolina and is currently pursuing his PhD from the University of Aberdeen (Scotland). I had the chance briefly to chop it up with Strickland after the presentation I witnessed and I was excited to hear that he’s working on a book surrounding that topic. You can get a sneak peak of his writing on his blog, where you’ll find one of my favorite pieces he’s written thus far. Strickland also leads the Kingdom Diversity Initiative of SEBTS, which is hosting a conference called “The State of the Black Church Conference” later this month.