Pastor Reginald Sharpe Jr. Responds to the Murder of George Floyd

#WhatsTheMessage EP 018: How to Re-Open and How to Stay Closed

In this episode Carmela and Claudia welcome Ashley Ivey Askew, Founder & CEO of In the Nick of Time: An Elite Mobile Salon & Spa, and Pastor Reginald Sharpe, Jr., Senior Pastor of Fellowship Chicago Missionary Baptist Church. Ashley shares with us about her medical background and how that knowledge influences how she and her technicians plan to commence offering services again on June 1st. Excited to reopen her business, Ashley believes what is most important is compassion and how businesses successfully reopen. Pastor Sharpe, a viral sensation for a clip of him sharing his plan to keep the building closed during the church’s announcements, talks with us about the heart behind his decision and other pastoral decisions he’s made since his recent installation. This is an episode with a multitude of emotions as we mourn the murder of George Floyd, cheer with excitement for the plans of a black small business, laugh over the church announcements, and shout about the messages of hope in all it. Make sure you watch this episode. Like. Share. Subscribe.

You can connect with and support Ashley Ivey Askew and In The Nick Of Time: The Elite Mobile Salon & Spa on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.

You can connect with and support the ministry of Pastor Reginald Sharpe Jr. and Fellowship Chicago on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and YouTube.

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Cookin’ Up Memorial Day

Memorial Day is a time to remember those who sacrificed their life for our freedoms and comforts. As we all know, many of us enjoy getting together with friends and family on this day to celebrate. Had COVID-19 locked us all in our homes, many of us would be with friends and family grilling our favorites. The truth is, much of what we grill isn’t the healthiest for us.

What if I told you that you could enjoy grilling amazing food? Or, what if I said you could grill everything from vegetables to fruit and it taste amazing? Better yet, what if your Memorial Day grill menu didn’t have to have any meat on it? Would you believe me?

Check out the video below to learn how to grill an amazing Memorial Day feast using absolutely no meat!

#WhatsTheMessage EP 017: The Last Dance

In this episode Carmela and Claudia welcome Pastor Cryston Josiah, Vice President for Administration at Central States Conference of Seventh-day Adventists and Pastor Richard Martin, Senior Pastor of New Life SDA Church. This is a fun and light-hearted episode where Carmela and Claudia talk with Cryston and Richard about Netflix and ESPN’s latest documentary series, “The Last Dance.” Check out this episode to hear them discuss the leadership, personal, and mental health lessons from the documentary.

Pastor Cryston Josiah would like to invite you to his Midweek Worship experience every Wednesday. So make sure to join him on Facebook Live.

Follow Pastor Richard Martin on Instagram and Twitter @pastah_martin

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#WhatsTheMessage EP 016: A Conversation on Facts, Faith, and Police Brutality

In this episode Carmela and Claudia welcome Rev. Jim Wallis, President and Founder of Sojourners, and Sgt. Don Jackson (a.k.a. Diop Kamau), Founder of to #WhatsTheMessagePodcast. They discuss at length the cases of #AhmaudArbery, #BreonnaTaylor, and #SeanReed. In this episode they articulate the correlation between sin and racism, discuss the broken criminal justice system and the inherent malpractice in policing, as well as solutions and points of engagement for the general public. This is a critical and eye opening episode that you do not want to miss. Be sure to share and subscribe.

Also, you can read an informative article by Editor-in-Chief, Carmela Monk-Crawford on Sgt. Don Jackson’s work and his take on previous police and vigilante justice killings by clicking here.

You can follow Sgt. Don Jackson and his work at and on Twitter @diopkamau.

You can follow Rev. Jim Wallis and his work at and on Twitter @jimwallis.

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Your Liberation Library

Book Review of Jonathan E. L. Brooks Church Forsaken: Practicing Presence in Neglected Neighborhoods

Everyone ministers in communities, but are our methods most effective?

Jonathan E. L. Brooks in his book Church Forsaken: Practicing Presence in Neglected Neighborhoods argues that it is not enough to minister to people who live in particular neighborhoods or communities. In fact, he suggests that true and effective ministry can only happen when the church “moves into” the community. It is through their tangible investment within that transforms it from the inside out.

Title:                           Church Forsaken: Practicing Presence in Neglected Neighborhoods

Author:                      Jonathan E. L. Brooks

Publisher:                  InterVarsity Press, 2018

Reviewer:                   Omar Miranda, counselor and freelance writer


What are the main concerns being addressed?

Pastor Jonathan Brooks ministers in the same community he grew up in—and presently lives and raises his family in. I have read many books about this issue. However, what sets this book apart from all the others I’ve ever read is that Pastor Jonathan writes from the perspective of a resident living in the community that he and his church are ministering to. Additionally, he has unique experiences in both teaching youth, and as an art and architecture teacher. He also shares insights from his Master’s in Divinity in Christian Community Development.

What I love most about this book is that Brooks powerfully challenges local churches to rediscover that ministering to their neighbors means loving their neighborhoods . Pastor Brooks skillfully unpacks, verse by verse, Jeremiah 29:4-7,11 into seven different practices, which he covers more specifically in two chapters apiece.

Were the author’s concerns clearly stated?

Yes, the author is very effective in stating his concerns. He writes authoritatively about the topic with both conviction and a large knowledge base of the topic. 

What are the book’s strengths and contributions?

In the book he skillfully weaves personal and community stories throughout as examples of what to do and what not to do for effective ministry in neglected communities. Pastor Brooks rounds out the book with examples of how other churches and ministries are revitalizing and investing into their communities with not just their money, but their time, their hearts—and most importantly: God’s love.

What do you wish the author would have added?

I wish the author would have added some testimonials from individuals within the community. It would have been great to hear from their perspective how Pastor Brooks and his church have affected their community, their everyday lives, and ultimately their faith.

What do you wish the author would have left out?

The author has a section about the hip-hop movement and how it has affected urban neighborhoods and communities. I felt that this section was not needed and would have been more appropriate in a book on urban youth ministry.

What were some good conscience quickening quotes from the book?

“ . . . there is no shortage of established church building or new congregations being planted in these communities. However, there is a shortage of community ownership and genuine church partnership resulting in community transformation. The church often exists in these communities either as fortresses built to keep the struggles of the community on the outside or as patronizing social-service entities prescribing answers for a community without ever listening” (15).

“The reason I can’t . . . expect to change everybody to be like me is because diversity is important. God needs people with leaning porches and those with manicured lawns. He needs people with white skin and those with brown skin. He needs all of us to be included because diversity is a kingdom value” (36).

“Transformation does not happen through individuals alone; it happens through generations of individuals committing to a place, recognizing its value, and instilling that value in the next generation” (105).

“Every morning before our feet hit the floor, we must each put on our bifocals so that we are able to see the glory of God and brokenness of humanity in every situation. When we see in this way, we are freed to dream, even when things around us are not perfect” (213).

What was so liberating about the book?

Pastor Jonathan Brooks, over and over again, reminds the reader that trying to separate, ignore, or minister to the neighbor without ministering to their neighborhood is ultimately ineffective. Pastor Brooks liberates the reader by reminding all of us – from professional ministers to new church members – that saying the words, “I love you” means rolling up your sleeves and revitalizing your community. Church Forsaken is a book that, if taken to heart, can be used to change, evangelize, but more importantly: win the hearts and minds of an entire community to Christ!

Devotional with Claudia Allen

Check out this week’s devotional from our Online Content Manager, Claudia Allen. She shares with us words of encouragement from Philippians 4:5-7 from the Christian Standard Bible. In this inspiring devotional Claudia reminds us not to be anxious, but instead to trust in God and cast our cares on Him in prayer.

#WhatsTheMessage EP 015: Different COVID Symptoms in Black Americans

In this episode, Carmela and Claudia talk with Dr. Prudence Pollard, Assistant Vice President for Faculty Development and Research, Professor of Management in the School of Business, and Clinical Associate Professor in the School of Public Health at Loma Linda University, and Nurse Ursula Roberts-Allen, Director of Nursing Services at OMV Medical Inc. Nurse Roberts-Allen actually went viral on social media sharing the different symptoms black Americans are experiencing with COVID-19 that the CDC and other media outlets are not talking about. Join us in this informative and inspirational conversation as these women talk to us about how COVID-19 is really impacting African Americans. They also share some great wisdom on how we should respond and advocate for ourselves during this difficult time.

Check out Oakwood University’s Healthy Campus Initiative here:

Your children and youth can get COVID health updates at the Alleghany East Conference Children’s and Youth Ministry website here:

Make sure you subscribe to our bi-monthly magazine and our weekly newsletter at

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Your Liberation Library

Book Review of Tim Keller’s The Prodigal Prophet

Jonah  is one of the most well-known stories in the Bible, but you may not have heard it like this.

Timothy Keller examines the story from a different perspective and applies this story to not just people in general, but Christians who think that they don’t have their own cultural, racial, and ethnic biases and hidden agendas.


Title:                           The Prodigal Prophet: Jonah and the Mystery of God’s Mercy

Author:                      Timothy Keller

Publisher:                 Viking, 2018

Reviewer:                  Omar Miranda


What are the main concerns being addressed?

The main concern being addressed is simply that Keller wants Christians to understand, examine, and resolve their own “hidden” cultural, racial, and ethnic biases and hidden agendas.

Were those concerns clearly stated?

Yes. Timothy Keller clearly demonstrates his comprehensive and authoritative knowledge about the topic.

What are the book’s strengths and contributions?

The book’s strengths are two-fold:

  1. Keller clearly and powerfully “gets into the head of the reader” by masterfully decoding and effectively applying all the cultural specifics of this story, allowing the reader to clearly understand the importance of this story.
  2. Keller effectively applies all the cultural specifics and the lessons and principles learned from this story to today’s modern life and culture in which the reader inhabits.

Keller also contributes a deeper understanding of the unwritten, unresolved cliff-hanger of the “second-half” of this unbelievable story to show how it applies to every single human on earth—but especially to Christians.

What do you wish the author would have added?

I wish Keller added discussion questions at the end of each chapter. This is a short, succinct, and physically small book. But each chapter is immensely dense! Discussion questions would be helpful in allowing the reader to further and more effectively apply or live out the powerful principles brought out in each chapter.

What do you wish the author would have left out?

Nothing. The book was perfect! I actually wish it was longer.

What were some good conscience quickening quotes from the book?

“The book of Jonah yields many insights about God’s love for societies and people beyond the community of believers; about his opposition to toxic nationalism and disdain for other races; and about how to be ’in mission’ in the world despite the subtle and unavoidable power of idolatry in our own lives and hearts. Grasping these insights can make us bridge builders, peacemakers, and agents of reconciliation in the world. Such people are the need of the hour” (5).

“We are taught that our problem is a lack of self-esteem that we live with too much shame and self-incrimination. In addition, we are told, all moral standards are socially constructed and relative, so no one has the right to make you feel guilty. You must determine right or wrong for yourself. In a society dominated by such beliefs, the Bible’s persistent message that we are guilty sinners comes across as oppressive if not evil and dangerous. These modern cultural themes make the offer of grace unnecessary, even an insult” (74).

“How can a God relent from judging evildoers? How can he forgive and not punish sin? Many people in the modern West are not troubled by God’s mercy because they don’t accept the idea of a God who does not get angry when evil destroys the creation he loves…[it] is ultimately not a loving God at all. If you love someone, you must and will get angry if something threatens to destroy him or her. As some have pointed out, you have to have had a pretty comfortable life—without any experience of oppression and injustice yourself—to not want a God who punishes sin” (125-126).

“It is an understanding of God’s grace that removes our burdens. Religious people often invite nonbelievers to convert by calling them to adopt new sets of behaviors and new ritual practices, all the while redoubling their efforts to live a virtuous life. That, however, is to load more burdens on people. The Pharisees did this, laying ‘heavy, cumbersome loads’ on people (Matthew 23:4), and so they sank. All other religions put on people the burden of securing their own salvation, while God provides unearned salvation through his son (cf. Isaiah 46:1-4). While the gospel must lead to a changed life, it is not those changes that save you” (207).

What was so liberating about the book?

The most liberating thing about this book is that the author identifies the chief point of this book: that, if someone is a Christian, and recognized that they have been saved solely by the grace of God and the sacrifice of Jesus, then they are no better than non-Christians. And due to that, Christians, more than anybody else, should treat others—everybody with the same love, grace, and mercy that they, themselves have received from God!

Overall rating: 5 out of 5

#WhatsTheMessage EP 014: Hope for Bon Air Juveniles

In this episode Carmela and Claudia talk with Valerie Slater, Esq., Executive Director of RISE for Youth about the experience many youths are having in juvenile justice facilities. We particularly talk about her work at the Bon Air Juvenile facility near Richmond, VA, currently the juvenile center with the most confirmed cases of COVID-19 in one juvenile correctional facility. Her passion and expertise for this work was electric! You do not want to miss this episode! We talked all things restorative justice, criminal justice reform, and the impact of our punitive system on black boys and girls. Click on the link above. We know you’ll be informed and inspired about the work of justice for black boys and girls.