In reference to current racial tensions, Christians should consider James 1 and be quick to hear, slow to speak, and slow to become angry. Jason Stockdale of Grace Hill Church in Collierville, TN provides wonderful consult for these trying times.
AB: (00:12): Hello, everyone. And welcome to Main and Mulberry. I’m Anna Bell. And today I’m so thankful to have with us lead pastor of Grace Hill church, uh, in Collierville, Tennessee, Jason Stockdale. Jason, thanks so much for taking the time to talk to us today.
JS: (00:27): Hey, it’s a, it’s a privilege and an honor that you guys would ask me to do this and, uh, hopefully we can, uh, have a, uh, a good healthy conversation here today.
AB: (00:37): Yeah, that’s what we’re looking for too, a bright spot and in all the it’s going on around us right now, but Jason, let’s start off with a little bit of background about you, you know, tell us a little history on how you, you got to Grace Hill church.
JS: (00:50): Yeah, absolutely. Um, so born and raised in Memphis, Memphis has been my home. Uh, same for my wife, married to Kelly for, uh, just celebrated our 60th wedding anniversary. So that’s a lot of fun. Yeah. And we’ve got four kids, uh, all in Collierville schools. We love our community and, uh, came to Grace Hill actually through the process of a church merger. Uh, we’ll come up on our four year anniversary for the church here, uh, at the end of June. And so, uh, it’s just been a wonderful season of ministry and doing life with people. And, uh, so yeah, we are a nondenominational church, so we’re a fairly eclectic, uh, group of people together, but we are a nondenominational church, but would hold to, uh, sort of a traditional kind of, uh, evangelical, uh, uh, uh, set of beliefs. Uh, so nothing that would be, you know, um, kind of off too far from like a main line, what you would expect from a church. And, uh, we’re, we’re, we’re passionate about our community and I think we’re gonna talk about some of that in a little bit. We’re passionate about our community and the next generation. And, uh, our mission statement is to help people find and follow Jesus. And that’s what we want to do.
AB: (02:07): That’s awesome. I love that. You know, I’d like to profile Grace Hill a little bit and if you can tell us, I know you talked about the denomination, but kind of tell me about the church, how old is the church and about kind of the, your congregation, I guess.
JS: (02:21): Yeah, yeah. So, like I said, we’ll celebrate our four year anniversary as Grace Hill, the roots of, uh, Grace Hill go back to really 1991. So the church has been around and gone through several different kind of iterations through the years. Um, we’re a, um, uh, demographically, you know, kind of the makeup of the church is pretty interesting. We’ve got, uh, a significant number of our folks who come to the church are older. I mean, retired, empty nesters, uh, as well as a lot of, uh, young families. Uh, just as a matter of fact, about 40% of our Sunday morning attendance is pre COVID-19, I had to kind of qualify that, about 40% of our pre COVID-19 Sunday morning attendance was a kids birth through fifth grade. So, and it’s been, it’s been a really new thing to see, um, you know, uh, families coming and worshiping together, uh, through the years, you know, so it’s been neat to see, you know, young mom and dad with their young kids coming to Grace Hill and then grandma and grandpa, and begin to come with them or the other way around, you know, grandma and grandpa were coming and, and now, you know, son and daughter.
JS: (03:32): Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah. And so that’s been a, it’s been a really neat thing to see. And, uh, so that’s a little bit kind of a, you know, an overview from that perspective. We, uh, we’re, we’re, we are, we, we actually are, um, our location is, uh, just South of 385. We kind of are positioned right in between Houston Levee and Byhalia. Yeah. And so we are just on the, we’re on Collierville Road, just North of the mall, but, uh, in between Houston living and Byhalia you’re right there, you can see our property on the South side of 385, and now we have a church sign out there. We’ve had gone years without a church sign. So we’re really excited about that.
AB: (04:13): Well, great. Thanks. Thanks, Jason. That really helps paint the picture, but, um, you know, we’re living in historical times right now. I mean, when you say from the COVID-19 pandemic to, to the protests that are happening, you know, people all over are just experiencing hardship and loss, you know, and I did notice on your website on Grace Hill Church’s website, that you guys share a message that says we are this for the city and we are for the next generation. Can you expand on what that means, you know, for our listeners?
JS: (04:45): Sure. I’d love to, and I love that question. When I, when I saw that question, I was like, man, I’m so excited about being able to share this because really the heartbeat of that really actually begins with the first statement that we have, which is for the gospel. We are for the hope and the message of Jesus Christ, that he changes our hearts and our lives. And, and because of that, when that, that change happens, uh, then we begin to look around us in our world and we go, man, we have to have a heart for the city. We have to be for the city. Uh, Jeremiah 29 talks about that. Uh, in the prophet, Jeremiah, he talks about seek the welfare of the city. You know, it’s a, it’s a, it’s a heartbeat of the Christian life. And then obviously, you know, we’re for the next generation.
JS: (05:31): Uh, we don’t want, uh, the faith that we have as followers of Jesus to end with us. We want to see a legacy of faith passed on to the next generation and that can’t wait until, uh, our churches, uh, uh, that’s gotta begin now. That’s gotta begin now to be intentional about partnering with parents, investing in the next generation, uh, helping parents, uh, live out their faith at home and at work and in the world around them, but then also, uh, how we minister to young kids and, uh, young teenagers. And so that’s, that’s really been a heartbeat for us. And so a lot of the roots of those three statements, you know, and I think it’s more so prevalent now is that, um, in, in a world that looks at the church as in a world that looks at the church and the church is known more for what they’re against.
JS: (06:24): We really want to know what we’re, we want to be known for what we’re for. And so we’re for the gospel, we’re for the gospel, we’re for the city and we’re for the next generation. And, you know, we could talk about all three of those and how that gets expressed in our church. And, you know, we could spend all day talking about that, but really the heartbeat of our church and, uh, and, and how we, how we do church, how we, how we live our lives as followers of Jesus.
AB: Talking about that legacy, you know, talking about our kids and in the future, let’s, let’s talk particularly about the race riots that we’re seeing in Memphis, you know, and all over the country, what’s your viewpoint and what can Christians be doing to help?
JS: Sure. I love that question as well, because, um, I think a lot of what’s happening in our world with whether it’s COVID or, um, the, the, certainly the racial tensions that we see, uh, a lot of what we’re seeing is confronting, um, it’s confronting our hearts because we’re realizing we’re not as in control as what we may have hoped we would be. And I think followers of Jesus need to be reminded of that, that we, uh, we are not the ones that hold the world in our hands, that it is God. He holds the world in his hands and, and that’s been a confrontation even for me, you know, in my own life as a follower of Jesus. And so what I would say to some of the race riots, um, I think as Christians, as followers of Jesus, um, we really need to take a posture of empathy first. Um, James 1 talks about being, um, quick to hear, slow, to speak and slow to get angry. And I think that if followers of Jesus in this time, um, really in any time, but especially in this time would really take that posture and say, okay, I’m going to be quick to hear, but I’m going to be slow to speak, and as Americans, we are not slow to speak, we have an opinion about everything, and we have access to that opinion now about everything. And so even that passage of scripture confronts a lot of our heart. And so, um, as we, as we look at the riots, as we look at the protests and, and, you know, and there’s, there’s a lot of confusion about what’s really going on here and what’s the motive behind them and everything followers of Jesus, I think it’s appropriate to say, okay, let’s be quick to hear, let’s be slow to speak, and let’s be slow to get angry. And, you know, maybe a little bonus addition there that I would add to it is that if, you know, if, if, if you’re, if you’re watching this and your, um, and your, you’re white, you know, you’re, you’re a white evangelical you’re, you’re, you’re white American, whatever it may be, I would, I would encourage everyone to, um, invest in relationships with people that look differently than them and ask them that question. You know, how should I interpret the race riots in Memphis? Sit down with a, with a, with a black friend, an African American friend, and say, how, how, how should I interpret that? I want to hear from you on how I should interpret those things, because that’s what we would want from anybody else, the posture that we would want someone to take with us. And I think it’s really important for us as followers of Jesus in this time to, to take that posture with, uh, with people who are hurting right now, they’re hurting and they’re broken. And, and many of our black brothers and sisters are scared and a posture of empathy becomes really important for us in this season.
AB: (10:11): Oh, I mean, I couldn’t agree more. I think that’s a very strong message and looking biblically that verse really hits home for a lot of people. And I couldn’t agree more, you know, is Grace Hill doing anything, you know, as a church to address these issues internally or externally.
JS: (10:32): Um, yeah. So a couple, a couple of things I would say is we have been deeply involved. This kind of plays into the, for the city, uh, component and for the next generation component. Um, we’ve been deeply involved. We have an adopted, uh, elementary school, uh, that is actually outside of Collierville. And, uh, we’re heavily involved in that. That’s a predominantly minority school, uh, 88% minority. And so we’ve been deeply involved in, um, uh, helping, coming alongside the administration, the students, the faculty, the parents in any way that we can to, um, uh, help wherever we’re needed, wherever we’re asked to help. That’s where we go. That’s what we do. And so that, we’ve four years of history there that we’ve been deeply involved in. And, um, right now, um, we’re actually this evening where this is being recorded on a Wednesday, but this evening tonight we’re actually gathering together as a church for the very first time, uh, since March 8th, to have an outdoor prayer gathering. And, um, a pastor that I really respect. He says this, he says, we don’t just pray. We pray first. And, um, I think it’s important. So we’re, we’re calling our church together tonight to pray, and we’re going to pray specifically over many of these issues that we see in our, in our community and in our culture right now.
AB: (11:54): Yeah. Would you say prayer is probably one, one thing all Christians can be doing right now to help too?
JS: (12:01): Uh, yeah. And I would, I would say that it is, um, it is absolutely appropriate to pray. Um, but we, we need to be careful as followers of Jesus to not let our, we need to let make sure that as followers of Jesus, our prayer turns into action. And so I would encourage anybody. Yes, man. Start with prayer, um, start, you know, pray the, pray, the prayer of David search, search me O God and see if there’s any offensive way in me, you know, start there and then, and then let that turn into action. You know, let, let your prayer time that your prayer life turn into action. What’s God calling you to do, what’s he asking you to do? Where is he asking you to go? Who’s who’s he asking you to serve, to have a posture of humility and serve right now? So, uh, yes, pray, pray first pray often Paul said pray without ceasing all the time. Yes. But, but let that prayer lead to action in our hearts and our lives.
AB: (13:02): Love that. I love that, you know, with everything that’s happening, you know, everyone’s kind of feeling troubled and disheartened and honestly, even exhausted, you know, is there any particular biblical passage or story that you could point to, um, for us that might provide just a little bit of comfort and hope during this really tough time?
JS: (13:25): Yeah, yeah. Um, man, so many, uh, where, where, where, where to start. So, um, I would, I would probably take us to, uh, one of, one of Peter’s, uh, uh, writings and he, he said this, he said, uh, the really, the whole book of first Peter is all about how to, how to endure, how to handle suffering, how to handle trials. And, um, towards the end of that book, he says to cast your cares on him for, he cares for you. And there’s too much there to unpack in a short podcast right now. But I think it’s important to understand that, um, uh, one, the Lord cares for you. He really does. He genuinely cares for, for humanity. He sent, he, you know, John 3:16, the most famous Bible verse in history for God so loved the world. Uh, you know, another translation says, God demonstrated his love in this way. You know, uh, another passage even says that God demonstrated his love in this way while we were yet sinners Christ died for us. You know, he, he demonstrated his love in a powerful way. And so he cares for us. He cares for our loneliness. She cares about our anxiety. He cares about our health fears. He cares about the turmoil in our hearts. As we look at the world and we see the brokenness of humanity and we trying to make sense of it all, he cares about those things. And, um, the other side of that passage is, uh, Peter is calling us to action cast your cares on him. And Peter was a fisherman. And so he gets the idea of casting, you know, in the, releasing this out to him. And, uh, and that really confronts a lot of American kind of value is that man, we trust ourselves, you know, we, we trust ourselves to pull ourselves up by our bootstraps. And what Peter’s actually saying here is, “Hey, surrender that stuff over to him, cast your cares on him, because he cares for you.” And so, um, I would just encourage anybody who’s really struggling right now. Um, that’s not a sign of a lack of faith. Um, that’s a sign that you, that you genuinely care about the world you genuinely care about, uh, people’s health and COVID and the economy and all the things. And Peter gives us a very clear call to action cast your cares on him for, he cares for you.
AB: (15:41): That sounds good. It sounds like first Peter might be a good chapter for a lot of us to look into right now while we’re still kind of home trying to be safe with this COVID-19 pandemic around us still might be a good one to look back into, right?
JS: (15:57): No, I, I, Hey, if you want to, I’ll give you two. So if, if, if you’re listening to this and you’re trying to figure out, man, where do I start? Where do I go? I need some hope in my life. Um, I would say, uh, first Peter is great. Uh, great, great book, uh, short. Um, it, it won’t take you very long to read through it. So I would say, I say, go to first Peter. Yes. All about how to endure suffering and trials. And then, and then go to the book of Job. You know, Job is a picture of how to respond, um, how to respond in life when you lose it all. And, um, and so I would, I would encourage anybody to, uh, and, and Job’s really, it’s got it all in there. It’s got, it’s got how God responds when we lose it all. It’s got a very real presence of evil in the world and what the, what the response of evil is to our lives in the world. Uh, and then, uh, as you see in the book of Job, it’s got some ways that, um, I call them second class ways we can be comforted. And so I’ll leave that little teaser out there for your audience to go to go look, uh, and read. So, yeah, first, first, Peter and Job would be a great place to start.
AB: (17:05): Awesome, awesome. I’m taking notes now. I’d like to give you the floor for a minute, you know, is there anything else you’d like to share with the community, uh, just during this time?
JS: (17:18): So I would, I would send maybe two messages if that’s okay. One would be to a faith community. For those of us who would consider ourselves followers of Jesus Christ. Jesus said in John 13:35, he gave us the command to love one another. And he said by this all men, all the world, all of humanity will know that you’re my disciples. If you love one another. And there’s, there’s never been a better time for us as followers of Jesus to lay down our filters, to lay down our, um, uh, uh, in many cases, our pride say we’re going to work together and love one another. Uh, in, and I I’ve been in a series at gray is why this is so fresh for me, that that biblical love is often, uh, surprising, but it is always sacrificial. And so I would just encourage those who are watching and listening, who are followers of Jesus, uh, to pick up that mandate, to love one another in sacrificial and in often surprising ways. And then to people who may be listening to this who are not people of faith who are skeptics, who are questioning, you know, where’s God in the midst of all this. And if God really cares, you know, what’s going on right now? Um, I would say that the, the presence of evil and suffering in the world right now is, uh, evidence of how much the world needs God. Is not evidence that God doesn’t exist. It is evidence that evil is real pain is real suffering is real and that, and then our world needs God more than ever. And so I would encourage now, it’s never been easier to, to, to check out church. And so if you’re not a follower of Jesus, man, jump online just about every church out there right now, and find one that you can connect with and, and, and see where the Lord might lead you through those relationships and connection. As you hear the message of hope communicated through scripture and through prayer and through worship. So that’s what I would say.
AB: (19:29): Well, Jason, we sincerely appreciate your time and your message today with us. Like it, it just, just touched me. And I know so many others that are listening right now. It’s going to touch them too. So we really do appreciate it.
JS: (19:42): Hey, thank you so much for letting me be a part of this. And, uh, you guys have a great day
AB: Yeah, absolutely. Until next time, I’m Anna Bell.