Today’s symptoms are a problem, but not THE problem. Join us as we speak with Highpoint Church’s Lead Pastor Wil Franco regarding racial tensions, protests, and more in this impactful episode provided by Tour Collierville.
Full Transcript is below:
KE: Hi everyone. This is Keith with Tour Collierville magazine and I have Wil Franco with me this afternoon. Wil is the lead pastor at High Point Church, and just really excited to have Wil on to kind of speak to some of the things that are going on at High Point, and also some of the recent issues that are happening in Collierville. I thought it would be great to get a lead pastor perspective on some of the racial tensions that are going on. And, um, just how just good, good advice from a Christian standpoint. So Wil, thanks for joining me today,
WF: Man, it’s so, so good to be here, man. Thank you for having me.
KE: Yeah, absolutely. Absolutely. Can you start off a little bit.. I think most of our listeners that are in Collierville, know that there’s a High Point in Collierville, they kind of familiarize with that. Everybody drives by, a lot of people go to church there. Of course it’s been closed with the virtual, but you have another location too, right?
WF: That’s right. Yeah, so we have a location at East Memphis. It’s the old, Briarcrest High School.
KE: Gotcha. And that’s, I think, maybe a lot of people know that from it’s got a pretty renowned coffee shop in there, right?
WF:Oh yeah. The Hub. It’s funny because I’m not a coffee drinker, but everybody tells me that is the best coffee around. Yeah, people love it there!
KE: Yeah, I’ve heard that. I’ve heard that even people are picking up the beans and bringing it back to make it at home because it’s so, so good. But tell us a little bit, Wil, about how you came to High Point, how long you’ve been there, where you’re from, a little bit of background on you.
WF: Yeah. So I was born and raised, in the Chicago land area and I am from Hispanic descent. I am black and Hispanic, that’s my descent. And so growing up in the Chicago land area, it was a very unique experience in the sense that I grew up speaking Spanish, but was growing up in a very, American culture. Right. And so that was kinda my, my story growing up. And I became a believer when I was 18. And from there proceeded to go to Moody Bible Institute, became a pastor and my wife and I, who.. she’s also from the Chicago land area… and also attended Moody with me. We ended up being married and we went, we did ministry in Chicago for about a decade and we moved here about seven months ago now that we’ve been here at High Point church.
KE: Gotcha. How’s it been?
WF: Oh man, it’s been awesome. It’s been awesome. We really love the Memphis area and we feel that in many ways the South fits us even a little bit better than the North does for several different reasons, but it’s been a journey. There’s definitely been some challenges, but we have seen God’s hand throughout. And so he’s been faithful. Yeah, all glory goes to him, but we’ve, we’ve loved it. It already feels like home. We live in Collierville here, in the Collierville area, but, going back and forth between the two campuses, we just have really learned to love this area.
KE: Yeah. I can imagine it’s quite a bit different, but I’ve heard that there are some similarities in Chicago and Memphis in terms of the industry and those types of things and distribution. But, I imagine it’s a little bit different for you at High Point since you’ve come in. What’s kind of the mission there? Where are you kind of taking the church?
WF: Yeah. So, I’ll say one thing about the distinction. I think the biggest distinction between Chicago and Memphis is the size, but you’re right, it’s very similar as far as the actual demographic. Even in light of the season that we find ourselves in, I would say that in Chicago, that conversation is a little bit more nuanced. In Memphis there’s two very large, you know, there’s, there’s white and there’s black, and in Chicago, there’s just a very diverse city, as a very large city. And there’s one of the things that made me laugh when I got here, I was hearing people talk about how big the Memphis like, “Oh, we’re from the big city”. I’m like, man, Memphis is a lot, but it’s not a big city, coming from Chicago. But yeah, so there’s definitely some similarities and definitely some challenges, and that they both have, you know, but what I would say as far as High Point, I would say that our biggest mission is to make the gospel as clear as day. Even this morning I was addressing this current crisis that we find ourselves in, you know, this racial tension that we see in our culture. And I made it crystal clear that the biggest problem is not skin, it’s sin. And so as a result, the only solution, is not race, but grace, you know, so Jesus can be the only solution because sin is our greatest problem. And so I would say that that’s been my message throughout since I’ve gotten here. Then at the end of the day, we can get a lot of things wrong, but the thing we can’t get wrong is the gospel. And we have to understand that the gospel not only saves us, but it grows us and makes us more like Jesus. And so that’s what I would say. I think anyone on my staff, anyone at our church would say, Wil is passionate about a lot of things, but, his number one agenda is to make the gospel known throughout Memphis and throughout the rest of the world.
KE: Okay. So if I’m hearing you correctly, you’re kind of saying that, you want to just really make the gospel, make things that you read in the Bible practical and understandable. And kind of just explain that, unpack that in a practical way, is that, is that kinda what you’re saying?
WF: Uh, yes. It’s not less than that, but I think it’s more than that. And what I mean by that is, I don’t believe the Bible is ultimately about us. I believe the Bible is ultimately about Jesus and the work that he came to do for us. So in Luke 24, you see Jesus walking with the two disciples on the road to a maze and it says they didn’t, they had no idea who he was. They didn’t recognize him when they first saw him. And it says that Jesus goes starting with the law and the prophets. He walks through the entirety of the old Testament and proceeds to show them that it all points to him. He even tells the Pharisees later on, he says, or earlier on, he says, you search the scriptures because you think that in them, you will find eternal life. And yet they testify about me and you refuse to come to me. So I would say that, I definitely think the gospel is practical. But if we only make the Bible practical, I think we miss out on the fact that it’s ultimately about what Jesus did, and not what we do. There’s only two ways to preach the Bible. You either tell people it’s all about what you do or it’s all about what Jesus has done, but I’m convinced that the more you understand the done, the more you will be able to carry out the do. So the Bible always tells us to do something, but only in response and in light of what Jesus has already done for us at the cross. So every, every, message that I preach, I call people to the standard that the passage is calling them to, but then I show them, look in your flesh and your sin, you can’t do it, but praise be to God that Jesus did it for us and the Holy spirit empowers us to carry that command out.
KE: Okay. I think I’m following you a little bit. So through kind of exemplifying, understanding that the Bible and, and how you’re unpacking it is understanding Jesus and what he did and then how that applies. And, I want to go back a little bit to something that you said at first, when you mentioned sin, can you explain that a little bit, if some of your messages this morning that it, that this is a sin issue?
WF: Yeah, you know, I think that the enemy wins and by the enemy, I mean, Satan, I think the enemy wins when we focus only on the symptoms and not on the sickness. And is racism a thing? It is. Um, but I would say that racism is a fruit and not the root, the root is sin. And racism is one of those fruit. I would say discrimination is one of those fruit, prejudice is one of those fruit, ageism, sexism, elitism, all the -isms come from sin. But what I would say is what I brought up in my sermon this morning, and that we’re going to replay here at five o’clock later. But what I brought up in my sermon was this… I said, we’re so quick to just make it about the symptoms. And I believe that the enemy wins, when we make it about the symptoms, but when we make it about the actual sickness, which is sin, every other solution that we have, is from the outside in, and the gospel is the only one that’s from the inside out. And what Jesus says in the scriptures is that is from, is what comes from inside the man that defiles him. So it’s what comes out of your mouth and your heart that defiles you. So once we understand that sin is the ultimate problem, and then we under, then we immediately, then the next logical conclusion is that Jesus is the only solution. So I’m not saying that we don’t try to change legislation. I’m not saying that, you know, we don’t peacefully protest and stand up for what we believe is right. But what I’m saying is if we don’t go do those things without preaching the gospel, then the way I described it this morning is, is literally we’re using Facewash to deal with skin cancer. And when you have skin cancer, you don’t try to wash your face. You go get chemo because it’s an inside out problem, not outside in problem. So that’s what I would say, that sin is ultimately the foundation of all this. And so the gospel is ultimately the only answer for it.
KE: Okay. So it sounds like that you’re saying people might be a little bit in this, and this may be intentional as Satan deceiving us into thinking that these symptoms are the issue. And so that we can continue to communicate those and may even be believed that that we’re right. And trying to push the, whatever a certain stance is. But really what we need to do is get back to the core fundamental of, Jesus, which for me, I look at that as a, as a love position, the fundamental of Jesus’s love for me. And, so you’re saying if we get back to that, and then start addressing all these other things, then we’ll be in a better perspective. Is that kind of what you’re saying?
WF: Yeah. And one of the things that I mentioned in that, in the sermon is that, one of the symptoms of the problem that we have in our culture today is a misplaced identity. And so what I mean by that is when you find your ultimate identity in something smaller than Jesus, it always leads to division and superiority and discrimination and prejudice. So what I mean by that is, you know, we’re all, as human beings, we’re all part of different groups, right? You can be in, depending on your gender, depending on your race, depending on your vocation, depending on where you live, depending on how you vote.. we’re all a part of different groups. And those groups can describe us. But the only identity that should define us, is our identity in Jesus. And when we are, ultimately identified by something smaller than Jesus, that always leads to division because it’s only at the cross that we are equally lost and equally loved. Because when I understand the gospel, I understand that I am more sinful than I ever imagined. And yet at the same time, I am more loved than I ever hoped. And so the gospel gives me the worst news and the best news I could ever hear. And when I understand that my identity is secure and that I’m already justified, now I can go out and have conversations about racism and about equality and about, everyone being on the same page, only the gospel brings that equality, that the world is so desperately seeking.
KE: Wil, that’s powerful stuff and gets into a lot of aspects beyond just it’s like you said, other -isms, but beyond racism and those types of things, it, whatever you’re into, and you get caught up in these worldly things, and you begin to identify yourself and classify yourself with those things. And you don’t identify with what the core is, which is Jesus. Then you get confused and that’s, that’s kind of the same thing as saying the symptoms, right? Then you get caught up in those, you get caught up in whatever those are, but if you can move back, I mean, that’s a powerful, that’s a powerful message on the identity, for sure. So as we take that and try to apply it practically, I guess, how do you do that? How do you go out and to say, and maybe you can’t, but I know there’s a potential protest at four o’clock this afternoon in Collierville on the Town Square. How do people remember that? Or how does anyone showing up for this protest that may be going here and just a little while, how do they remember that? How do they bring that with them too, to this outing?
WF: Yeah, I think that the biggest thing is people understanding that again, I think that a righteous protest in response to unrighteous behavior is biblical. Proverbs 31:8-9 talks about how we should speak up for the poor, the needy, and those who have no voice. So I don’t think, and even a lot of our nation, we have the rights of protest. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with a protest, but I would say that it has to be a lawful, it has to be peaceful. So again, I think we should have got, convinced you to protest then protest, but a, it shouldn’t be less than that, but it has to be much more than that because here’s, here’s my, here’s what I’m convinced of. It breaks my heart to say it, but I said it this morning. I’ll repeat it again. At the end of the day, one of the reasons why I made sure my sermon was more general and by general, I mean, I got into some of the specifics going on around our nation, but I kept them more general is because I’m convinced that within three months, six months, two years, we’re going to be right back here. Again, there’s going to be another racial tension filled event. And we’re going to be right here all over again. And the reason why I say that, I don’t say that because I’m trying to be negative, but again is because we’re dealing with the symptoms and not with the sickness. And so people can get angry and they can, and they can ha I have felt that anger, I have felt those emotions. I get it. I felt the confusion. I have felt the apathy. I have felt a hopelessness, but at the end of the day, if we keep responding just to the symptoms and don’t do anything about the sickness, it’s only going to be a matter of time before we find ourselves here again. And so I purposely left my message a bit more general because I wanted it to be applicable both now and three months from now and six months from now and two years from now. So I would say if God calls you to speak up on social media, then speak up. If God calls you to protest peacefully, then protest, but know that as a believer, at least we have been given the only answer for what the real problem is. And if we, as a church, don’t point people ultimately to the gospel. And so the finished work of Jesus, I’m not sure we’re doing what we’ve been called to do. Um, and here’s the other thing I would say, I brought this up this morning too, but I think it’s important for us to talk about, being a minority. I have a very unique perspective on this, you know, I’m Hispanic and I’m black. So I have a very unique perspective on this whole conversation. And one of the things that I’ve realized is that because of in Genesis chapter two, we are told that we were made in the image of God. So every human has been made in the image of God, but then right, the very next chapter Genesis chapter three, we discovered that that image has been marred because of the sin of man. So on the one hand we’re made in the image of God. And yet on the other hand, we been marred by the sin of men. I would say that because of that, every culture has beauty and every culture has broken as we have beauty because of Genesis two image of God. But every culture also has broken is because of Genesis three, the sin of man, if we come together and all we do is talk about the beauty in every culture and never talk. And never, if all we do is celebrate the beauty and never confront the brokenness, and that’s not true unity, it’s actually false unity. The unity that the Bible calls us to. And if he’s in suicides about peace, peace is not just absence of conflict. It is the presence of prosperity, tranquility and unity. And so what I’m convinced of is that the only way true, uh, reconciliation and unity can happen is if we can come together and celebrate the beauty of our cultures, but also confront the brokenness of our culture. And that can only happen when our identity is not in our culture, but in our creator, it’s the only way that’ll happen.
KE: Okay. So you’re not saying from a, from a literal standpoint too, to go out to the protest and be preaching the gospel or preaching a message, right? You’re, you’re just saying to take that mindset with you and that if we can start to understand that the protest and what those part of it, while they may be symptomatically speaking, they can begin a conversation, but, you know, but if we have that conversation, we need to start from the same basis, right? So your mission is, um, you know, let’s start from a point of, of our faith and then, and then speak from there. And then we can start to make progress. Is that,
WF: That’s exactly what I’m saying. Actually, when you see the life of Jesus, you see him asking questions, always like Jesus asked way more questions. I need to make statements. And I think that the best thing we can do as believers is if we, if we’re a part of these protests, or if we’re on social media or we’re in these conversations, we have to listen, we have to learn, we have to lament, you know, we have to meet people where they are. Um, but I, I agree. I think we have to begin with questions before we can give answers. I heard an illustration and Watson I think is really helpful in a situation like this. And what the pastor said was the human heart is like a Boulder. And if you want to blow up a Boulder, there’s two ways you can try to do that. You can put dynamite on top of that Boulder, and you can just like the dynamite and blow it up. Right. He said the best way to do it though, is to drill a hole in that Boulder and then put the dynamite inside of the Boulder. And I think that if all we do is go out and preach the gospel, but don’t take time to listen. Then all we’re doing is putting dynamite on a Boulder. You know, the hearts aren’t really going to be receptive, but if we take the time to listen, to, to learn, to lament, to grow in proximity, intimacy, and empathy, then all of a sudden we were drilling a hole in that Boulder. And by the time we place the good news of the gospel, it’s going to have a lot more impact than if we just started preaching the gospel on a street corner.
KE: Right. Okay. So listen is kind of the, is the predominant message there. I think for the active protests that are going on show up to listen, show up to, to everyone that’s, there may have something to say, and you, and you want to listen to that from, from any and all perspectives. And then, you can, you can go back and as you said, limit, which, tell me that a little bit is that that’s empathy, right? We look at it with empathy.
WF: Yeah. I think it, I think that what it is, and, you know, I, and again, I keep mentioning what I just preached on, but it’s just, it’s so relevant to what we’re talking about. But I said that essentially, you know, there’s two extremes when it comes to this conversation about race and neither, neither is biblical one extreme is to say that it’s not a thing at all. And this whole racism issue, it’s not a thing at all. And then the other extreme is to say that it’s the only thing. So one group says, it’s the, it’s not a thing. And the other other group says, this is the only thing. It’s the thing. And I don’t think that, I think what we see in scripture is that racism is a thing. It’s not the ultimate thing. Sin is the ultimate thing. And so we need to be able to meet people where they’re at, um, and, and speak into it.But the reality is, and this is just the reality of culture, right? Um, the group, not everyone in his group is like this, but the group that’s most tempted to believe that racism is not a thing as the majority, the majority group and the group that’s most tempted to think that it’s the only thing is the minority. Um, and in light of scripture, scripture is a lot of scripture. Racism is not, but it’s not a thing. It’s not an option, but it’s not the thing either. It’s, it’s a thing. Sin is the ultimate thing. And so, um, one of the things we have to do is we have, we have to come together and see that because we come from different backgrounds and we have grown up in different communities, many of us in homogenous communities with, you know, certain people, um, one of the ways that we have genuine conversations is by listening and learning and, and, and yet with some people, when you hear their story, there’s gonna have to be lamenting because they have gone through pain and through her. Um, and we are called to mourn with those who mourn. So, yeah, that’s what I mean by limit.
KE: Okay. Yeah. Thank you for that. And so would you say, and I’ll kind of circle back here. We got a couple of minutes left, but would you say that the, I want to drill down to the sin that you were talking about with you say that division is a symptom of the, of the sin and that that’s intended from, if you look at it from a, you mentioned a Satan standpoint, is it seeking to divide us? Is that contrary? Is that what some of what’s going on here?
WF: Amen. Yeah. So in Genesis two, everyone is Adam and Eve United. Everything is great. Genesis three happens. And really we don’t experience full unity. And so revelation chapter seven, one, it says at all these people and nations and tribes and tongues are surrounding the throne of God. It’s not until then that true unity is found. So yeah, I would say division is a major symptom of the sin that was brought about in Genesis three, but praise be to God that at the cross, Jesus took care of that. And according to Ephesians two in his body, he literally tore down the wall of hostility that divides us, um, and has brought peace. He says, he thought only brings peace as that. He is the very peace of God and that at peace is found ultimately in a person. And so that’s what I would say about that.
KE: Yeah, yeah, yeah. That’s powerful stuff. So we need to, we need to find unity through this and that’s through listening and getting our basis, right. Especially as Christians, I’m resetting a little bit understanding where we’re speaking from taking that perspective on it. And for anyone that’s out there that wants to understand more about what that means to get back to a basis of, um, of Jesus and to be able to understand that and, and to get that perspective, how can they do that? At High Point, you guys are doing virtual services. Are you doing anything special for this? What, how can anyone listening that really, maybe listening right now, but it doesn’t fully grasp what you’re saying there. How, how can they engage to understand that?
WF: Yeah, so we have at HighPointonline.com, if you go there, we have a new initiative called church at home. We’re one of the few churches that haven’t returned yet, for several reasons and a lot of the global pandemic that we find ourselves in. And so what we decided to do in the meantime is this new initiative called church at home that we hope to roll out nationally. Uh, once we, uh, get out of the summer time going into the fall, but essentially you go there and you will be able to find a link to the sermon. You think you can find Highpoint Memphis on YouTube. You can find us on Facebook, but high point online.com is probably the easiest way. And yeah, there’s a message there. We have, we have services every Sunday at five at 10:00 AM and 5:00 PM. So, uh, and later on at five today, we will be, we will have a service and a that’s the quickest way to connect with us. And, and the sermon that I preached earlier today will be played at five. And so if anyone is interested in hearing more about it and learning and starting that conversation and maybe figuring out what God wants them to do about it, I would recommend they, uh, they watch there. And if God calls him to be a part of church at home, the church at home initiative would be really cool. We decided that what would it look like for our people to do church at home? And so we, uh, provide children’s curriculum. We provide discussion questions and people in our church are coming together to listen to the sermon, to, to have meals together. And then right after the sermon is over, I set it up with discussion questions so people can talk about it. So the questions today were very heavy and we’ve been getting a lot of feedback about all the great conversation that people were able to have in their living rooms as a result of today’s message.
KE: Okay. So when you’re saying church at home, that’s more than I’m just broadcasting and you log in on your computer and listen to it. You’re encouraging the members of the congregation of the church, the church, I guess you would call it to get together, whether that’s in small groups or whether that’s in family, watch it together online. And then you’re posting questions, follow up questions for discussion and things like that. So this is actually a semblance of something physical, just replicated into the homes. Right. Okay. Yeah, that’s cool. I’m looking forward to that myself being, being a Highpoint member. And so, but for our new listeners, it’s going to be, it’s really cool to kind of check that out. And I think that there’s plenty of high point numbers, that if you go online and you listen and you want to get engaged, there’s plenty of ways to do that. Many of us invites you into our homes to it, to watch it with us as well. So, um, we’ll thank you so much for being with us today. I’ll just ask you if there’s anything else that you would want to say to address Collierville, while you’ve got this, why you’ve got this time regarding the protest and the racial racial tensions.
WF: Yeah. No, my biggest encouragement, is, lets continue to look to God. This might seem like a newer thing to us. But this issue has been going on since the beginning of Genesis chapter three. And so let’s look to God because he talks to us about it. And there’s a lot of voices we can listen to at this time. And I would say the most important voice is his voice. So that would be my biggest encouragement. Let’s let’s, uh, get on our knees and continue to seek his face and continue to read his word. That would be my biggest encouragement, the same thing I would say to him, much, a church member of my church, I would say to the entire community of Collierville.
KE: That’s awesome. I can’t, I was about to go, but I’ve got to drill down on, on one thing that you said there, because I think it’s pretty impactful that this seems like something new for us, but it’s not new, right? This struggle in one way, whether it’s been raised or whether it’s been something else, this, this division that’s happening in the sin, that happenings and how it divides us, this has been going on for it’s an age old issue, right? It’s just, this is how it’s presented to us right now. This is how it’s getting us angry, and this is how it’s dividing us. But, um, in the bigger scheme of things, this has been going on since beginning of time, right? To some extent, is that what..
WF: That’s exactly what I’m saying. And so we, so it wasn’t just in the 1960s, it wasn’t just during slavery. It was, it wasn’t even just during world war two with the Jews and the Nazis, this, this, this superiority, this racism, this discrimination has been happening since the beginning. And that’s why I think the gospel has to be where we turn because Jesus took care of our, and we can’t have vertical peace unless we have horizontal peace, and we can’t have horizontal peace unless we have vertical peace. We can’t have horizontal reconciliation unless we have a vertical. In Genesis two, Genesis three, we lost relationship with God and with one another. So when Jesus reconciles us to God, then all of a sudden through the power of the Holy spirit, we now have the power to reconcile, to one another. And so, yeah, it’s been an issue since the beginning and God provided an answer even back then.
KE: That’s awesome. Wil, thanks for your time. Well, I know I kept you a little bit longer and you’re with your family today. And so I appreciate you breaking off a few minutes for us and speaking to Collierville and being with us on to record, we’ll look forward to hearing from you at five o’clock today.
WF: Thank you, brother. It was a pleasure.