Discipleship in The Hood Series: The Journey To “Showtime”Posted: May 20, 2014
When I was growing up, I was heavily involved in extracurricular activities. Playing basketball and football required a discipline that demanded much repetition in the fundamentals. Without perfecting the basics of the fundamentals, your ability to excel to higher levels of playing are diminished. When you are familiar to the basics of how things work, you are put in a better position to respond and react positively in unfamiliar situations. Without the fundamentals, you become very limited as a player. When I think of doing ministry in the hood, I can’t help but think about the importance of being able to have a firm grasp of the fundamentals of the Christian faith through repetitious disciplines of seeking the Lord in prayer, sharing the gospel with others regularly, being encouraged with other Christians, refraining from food (fasting) for more closeness to Jesus, memorizing, meditating, reading, hearing, and studying the Scriptures with glorifying Jesus being the ultimate purpose. When the fundamentals are familiar almost like second nature, then there comes a time when you will have to “play the game” in the moment.
Magic Johnson, the famous basketball Hall Of Fame inductee from the Los Angeles Lakers, is the perfect example of playing in the moment. He played so well in the moment that his team was nicknamed, around the country, “Showtime”. It was a masterpiece seeing the “Lake Show” or “Showtime” because Magic Johnson was the colorful orchestrator, like a band director, but on the basketball court. His behind the back, between the legs, electrifying passes would have your jaws drop from amazement. You never knew what he was going to do on a fast break to the basket. He never knew what he was going to do on a fast break! He just played in the moment. And the reason he was able to dazzle on the basketball court was because he knew the fundamentals of the game. When you know the fundamentals of something, you can begin to build on other creative ways of doing the same things. Doing discipleship in the hood is the same way.
When I was trained to follow Jesus (discipleship) on the college campus, I did a lot of fill-in-the-blank workbooks, comprehending Scriptures and writing out it’s meaning, inductive bible studies, etc. for growth and understanding. I could do it all day, everyday, for I was hungry for learning! But when you are in the hood, many of the people you are investing in don’t connect with the same style of learning. Many of the men in the hood are not avid or voracious readers. So, with all the fundamental training you may have, there has to be wisdom, (by asking the Lord for the best way), to discipline others through the Scriptures. This is what I call “Showtime”. All the analogies, subject matter, and examples you have personally learned must not be relied on too heavily. You must begin to look at who you are discipling and begin to figure out the best way they learn. Because someone doesn’t comprehend the way you do, doesn’t mean people in the hood aren’t smart! You must trust the Lord for creative ways to communicate His word in their understanding so that they can grasp it.
Can a brotha be honest with you? Doing “Showtime” can be scary because you can’t mimic “Showtime”. Doubt will fill your heart when you’re doing “Showtime”. This is where you need to trust the Lord that He is with you and He will give you what you need to say and do in the moments of helping others grow in Christ. He promises His presence when we train others in Christ (Matthew 28:20). I remember leading a Men’s Bible Study in a local barber shop in the hood a couple of years ago. I had no script of how to do it. I hung out in the barber shop trying to build a friendship with the owner of the shop through a mutual friend. I mentioned nothing spiritually deep until 3 weeks of hanging in the shop. “What do you think about having a bible study here in your shop”, I asked. To my surprised he responded emphatically, “We need something like that like yesterday (it’s about time)!” Then I said, “Well, since that’s the case let’s start on Tuesday”. “Okay”, he said. Without having any theme in my mind on what to study, I wanted to be open to the Lord in what He thought would be best to teach. So I asked the owner, “What do you think the bible study should be about?” His response shakes me up to this day, “Man, let the bible study be about something where men around here can have hope”. I had never given a bible study with a theme like that before. I had the fundamentals to find out how to do it. But I was going to jump out there and try it anyway. Every Tuesday night at 6pm I would highlight different people in the Scripture who faced difficult times and how God helped them. Some were situations where they were sinned against and some were from their own consequences of sin. I was used to the format of bible study being someone teaching and everyone listened. But I made the bible study a dialogue where it gave the men a chance to talk about what they were seeing and learning. I would throw out controlled questions that tied into the person’s trial we were dealing with in the Scripture. At the end of each lesson, I would play a Hip Hop song of people who grew up in a similar hood like them. Rappers like Thi’sl (Chronicles of an X Hustler) or Flame (Our World Fallen) were the main guys I would play then. And each song tied into the theme of the bible lesson for that week. As a result, men were flooding the barber shop every Tuesday Night at 6pm for many months! I’m talking about roughneck (tough) dudes with gold in their mouth, tattooed up, and dreads for days! Many drug dealers, thugs, and gangsters came in the shop listening, speaking up, and participating in the bible study! This study was just like Magic Johnson on a fast break with the Lakers…creating and trusting in the moment! As I look back, there is no way possible I could have ever scripted that amazing ministry. That special time allowed me to cut hair regularly with the owner of the barber, build relationships with many of the men in the community who still to this day have given me an open door to continue building relationships because of that study! But none of this would’ve happened if I would have stuck to a script in the way I was trained. That ministry lasted almost an entire year before the Lord shut it down (for various reasons).
There will be moments when helping people follow Jesus will be heavily informal with the men in the hood. For them to see (up close) how a Christian live can be mind-blowing, to many, but minor to you. Many are used to seeing grandma walking with the Lord. For me to be 38 years old, the Lord has used my life to be a blessing and encouragement to these men. Please trust that the Lord is speaking and doing all kinds of things to those you’re spending your time with. A lot of times I don’t realize it. There’s an old saying that says, “More is caught than taught”. You can take that saying to the bank in training others in following Jesus in the hood. Many in the hood have training in the negative aspects of life. Seeing the gospel lived in your life in front of them through helping them follow Jesus’ relationship is a profound thing. Just know as we’re growing in the fundamentals, there will come the time when it becomes “Showtime”.