Acts 29 is committed to planting churches that plant churches for the spread of God’s glory over all the earth. This commitment remains unchallenged in both trying circumstances and also difficult places to reach. That said, the coronavirus pandemic makes planting churches in hard places even harder.
Economically disadvantaged areas are especially susceptible to risk during this crisis. So how does this pandemic affect churches committed to making disciples among the poor and vulnerable? How can we come alongside and encourage them?
With me on the podcast today to discuss how church planters in hard places can pastor well through this crisis is Doug Logan. Doug is the president of Grimké Seminary and co-director of Church in Hard Places. He’s also the pastor for church planting at Remnant Church in Richmond, Virginia.
The following is an uncorrected transcript generated by a transcription service. Before quoting in print, please check the corresponding audio for accuracy.
Tony Merida: Welcome to “Churches Planting Churches,” a podcast on the theology and practice of church planting. I’m your host, Tony Merida. Acts 29 is committed to planting churches that plant churches for the spread of God’s glory over all the earth. This commitment remains unchallenged in trying circumstances and difficult places to reach. That being said, the coronavirus pandemic makes planting churches in hard places even harder. Areas that are economically disadvantaged are especially susceptible to risk. They’re in crisis. How does this global pandemic affect churches committed to making disciples among the poor and the vulnerable? How can we come alongside and encourage them? With me on the podcast today to discuss how church planters in hard places can pastor well through this crisis is my good friend, Doug Logan. Doug is the President of Grimké Seminary, co-director of “Church in Hard Places.” He’s also the pastor of our church planting at Remnant Church in Richmond, Virginia. Doug E. Fresh. Good to have you on the podcast, my friend.
Doug Logan: So good to be here, brother. So good to be here. Man, excited, I’m encouraged. I’m underwhelmed, overwhelmed all at the same time. Love you, brother. Great to be here.
Tony: Yeah, man. So Doug is on. It was short notice, so I just wanna give him a word of thanks. I am about to be, at the time of this recording, under a stay-at-home order, so I had to rush and get some recordings. I was originally planning on doing some of these recordings related to the coronavirus tomorrow, but he came through on short notice and he is a busy man. I just listed a few of his titles. Doug and I have the privilege of launching Grimké Seminary this semester and it’s just been a tremendous joy and Doug, as I mentioned, serves at Remnant Church and does a lot with church in hard places. He and I were just on an hour-long zoom call with Acts 29 staff and we’re just zoom calling to death right now, aren’t we, Dougie?
Doug: Oh, man. Zoom is… Good, gosh, I’m zoomed out, bro. I’m zoomed out.
Tony: I feel you, man. I feel you. So, Doug, it’s been a while since you’ve been on with us. Tell the listeners a little bit about yourself in just a couple minute testimony, how you came to faith and how you got to where you are now.
Doug: Well, yeah, man. I’m just a hood dude. Grew up in Patterson, New Jersey, pastored in Camden and planted a church in Camden, New Jersey back in 2011 and really sought to just reach the urban context with the gospel through church planting. Been in Acts 29, been in and around Acts 29 since like ’06. So yeah, man, that’s some of the stuff in terms of ministry. Married since ’96 to my lovely wife, man. And today is one of my youngest son’s birthday, Avery. He’s 22, so I have 22. Avery 23 and my son, Aaron, who also works for Acts 29 and my 31-year-old son up in North Jersey and three grandkids. And man, I just got smacked in the face with grace one day back in the day, back in 1996 after a crazy Bible study where, you know, he was talking about the end times and some old crazy theology, but scared me into believing that I needed a Savior. So came to faith back in ’96 on a Wednesday, got married on a Friday because I knew I couldn’t keep living with this girl I loved and be a Christian. So I said, “I got saved Wednesday, we got to get married today.” So she came to faith that Sunday. We were married that Friday and by God’s grace, man, we’ve been plowing at God’s call since then.
Tony: So Dr. Logan, Pastor Logan, you’ve got so many titles. What are you doing right now? And I’m really curious about a guy with your energy and your, you know, love to be around people which we share cooped up in a house. What are your days like right now?
Doug: Well, I mean, it is tough. If you know me, you know that I get energy as from…as an extrovert, I get energy from people, I get energy from rolling and going, I get energy from conversations, lunches, you know, it’s all that. So, yeah, I’m struggling, praise God for…I got a bunch of sons in the ministry who call, check on me, love on me. Of course, I’m on the phone with you and the board from Grimké and we’ve been able to stay connected, but yeah, I’m struggling. So you pray for me. Thank God, I live on about two acres, so I’m engaging with the deer and the owl and running around out there. You know, I feel like Mr. Rogers out here running around in my field, so I’m jogging around the property and running into snakes, but it’s all good, man. So, yeah, but it’s been challenging. But one part of that relational stuff that I’m hocked up on is sometimes I don’t sit still long enough to reflect, and this has been a good reflection time. So God, you know, gave me some decaf relational juice to sit down and chill and pulled me closer into Him in this season. So it’s been really good.
Tony: Yeah. We’re gonna talk some about the challenges, but there are some graces in this season, right? What are some of the things, Doug, you’ve been thinking through, things you’ve been able maybe to read or just reflect on in perhaps a little bit more downtime than normal?
Doug: Well, I… Tony, I mean, there’s not a bunch written. Well, first, let me shout out one of my heroes, Dr. Francis Grimké, who wrote about the Spanish flu of 1918, particularly in his city, DC, which was brilliant writing. He was able to intertwine overall pastoral view, speak into the racism of the day very carefully, and prayerfully, and wonderfully, and biblically ridiculous in a way that was gracious. And so, I’ve loved reading that stuff, but, Tony, I mean… I’m sorry, Dr. Merida. What I’m realizing is at the crux of incarnational church, missional church stuff jumping off in the 90s, I mean, in the 2000s, I wanna say the 2000s, you know, at the 2002, 2003, all of the missional church, they were writing in the transition of, if you will, lack of a better term, traditional to missional churches. And there was an alarmist sort of tone to that. I’ve been reading some of those books, man and those books are really good and they work as we understand the transition of the temporary new normal that we’re a part of now. Because the host of writers were talking about the huge change that was coming. I mean, that’s what he called his book, “The Planting Churches in a Postmodern Age” and stuff like that.
So that shift of how things have to be done was written about by tons of cats, tons and tons of cats. And so, I’ve dug into, for me, “Shaped by God’s Heart” which is a book by Milfred. I never pronounce his name right. Minatrea. He wrote a book called “Shaped by God’s Heart: The Passion and Practice of Missional Churches,” which a lot of the stuff you wrote about the transition of the missional…from traditional to missional is apropos for this COVID virus time. And as I’m reading, I’m realizing that a lot of the stuff that they were challenging to be a nimble church, to be a model church, to be a liquid church, jumping into the culture, really engage in the city through whatever means necessary was so violent. So that’s what I’ve been reading. I’ve been reading that. I’ve been on C. René Padilla, “Mission Between the Times: Essays on the Kingdom” and “Incarnational Ministry,” another book I like Ray S. Anderson, “Essays in Honor of Him” is another book. So just trying to be on the block in this season. My idea has been how do I be on the block when I can’t be on the block?
Tony: Yeah, yeah. Yeah. So it’s thinking through how to be both pastoral and evangelistic, pastoral and missional, right? Because we see on the one hand, the need to care for the flock, the need to, you know, keep tabs on our people. I know at our church we’ve got, among our elders a spreadsheet going on elderly folks, those who have lost jobs or uncertain about jobs and those who are working in the medical field, you know, just trying to keep up with those who are in particular need right now and related to the coronavirus. So there’s that pastoral piece, but there’s also, we sense an opportunity for gospel impact, right? For evangelism, for loving our neighbors. In your interactions with guys or even at Remnant, what are you seeing in regard to these two kind of responsibilities that we have as church planters and pastors, kind of the pastoral care piece, what’s that looking like and then the evangelistic gospel advance piece?
Doug: Yeah, that’s interesting. I’m having a critical convo searching our places roundtable tomorrow in that very vein. But what I’m seeing amongst many of my sons in the ministry and the guys that I’ve been responsible for coaching and that I’ve coached and at our church is from a pastoral piece, we’ve got to have constant communication, constant communication. No, I’m not meeting with a dude 20 times in a week. That’s not what I do face to face. But on Facebook…I mean on live, on Zoom, on text and email. Yeah. There needs to be multiple points of contact to create multiple points of access. So our people need multiple access points as they’re adjusting to this temporary new normal. A lot of them, we got to get a lot of grace from a pastor’s perspective. We got to be careful shepherds now because people don’t know how to relate. So we’ve got to continue to ask the question behind a question like, “How you doing?” And then when they say good, I say, “No, no, no. For real, how you doing?” We’ve got to get behind that and we’ve got to create access points.
So I’m saying, pastors from a shepherding perspective, you at home with a shirt on and your boxers, you ain’t even dressed. Ain’t brushed your teeth in two weeks, man. Go ahead and text, and email, and Zoom everybody and make sure, you know, they only see top. You know, keep your pajamas on. I don’t care. You can be pastor pillow right now. You can do it in multiple access points. So what I’m saying, Ton, as in traditionally, yes, if I meet with a person during the week for shepherding, I do that once a week because I couldn’t, I’d die trying to do that for a whole congregation. But now we can create groups on Zoom, we can create text groups, we can do so many things. We can send blogs, we can do live, we can do comedy boxes. This should create multiple access points so that people now can say, “I am struggling.” But if they only get one-touch when we’re home, yeah, I think we’re missing.
Secondly, from an evangelism perspective is we cannot forget the lost in this season. And so often we’re trying to put together of keeping the house intact in terms of shepherding, meeting the needs of the congregation. We must not forget the great commission that we are after both the gospel for the lost and the found. And so, we’ve got to create evangelistic opportunities, be creative and innovative, not be scared, try some stuff. And if it don’t work, burn it up. Start over. This is the time, this is not the time to buckle down with new legalistic practices. This is the time to whip out multiple ideas for effectiveness and learn and grow.
And so, what I’ve been doing and what I’ve been encouraging is almost like when I grew up in the African-American Baptist church I had almost call for an altar call online. So if you’re doing your Sunday morning preaching man, say, “Listen, maybe you’ve never heard me, maybe you’ve never really gone to a church, maybe you don’t wanna go to a church and this was a perfect time for you to jump in, man, listen, we love you. Jesus, man, is about saving and loving people.” We need to have numbers, emails ready for people who are all over the world who might be listening, who’ve never been listening. We need to invite them to receive Jesus. Do not be scared of an altar call and please have a plan in place. Don’t react, respond and expect people to meet Jesus because the gospel is built for crises.
Tony: Amen. Amen to that, bro. I had two related thoughts to pastoral care and evangelism. One is just as an idea as we’re thinking through best practices during this time, what we’re doing at Imago Dei is checking on our folks in four areas. So we’re asking them about community, financially, physically and then mentally, spiritually. So how they doing related to community, obviously, could be a really hard time, especially if you live by yourself. And so, checking in on people to make sure they’re having some kind of interaction connection during this crazy time we’re in. Financially, that’s an obvious one that should be apparent to all of us there. And I think one of the things we’ve got to do as pastors is realize the ramifications of this crisis. The amount of ministry we’re gonna have beyond kind of this initial month or two, right, is gonna be pretty big.
We need to be prepared to do a lot of care and counseling moving forward. I know we’re all ready to get out of this thing and get back to work and so on, but there’s gonna be a lot of ministry, I think, in the future related to giving people care because of the fallout financially and relationally. Physically, how they’re doing this spiritually. Are they making time, you know, reading the word in prayer, are they tuning into these videos that, you know, pastors are putting out? So I don’t know if those four categories are helpful to get some guys out there started on how to text and email and check in on your folks and develop some kind of communication strategy because, I think Dr. Logan’s hit on it, man, it’s just communication, you know, finding some ways to communicate. Text them and say, “Hey, if you’d rather talk on the phone, let’s talk on the phone.” Just be flexible, right?
Doug: No. Absolutely. Yeah. We have to be creative, innovative, and aggressive. Everybody’s getting passive, sitting around the house. The pastor, we must be aggressively helping spiritual formation. Remember, our information is for formation. So we inform them with the word of God and with our love for them so that we help to form them to look more and more like Jesus. So we have to get in here and we got to be ahead of the curve. In the movie, “Drumline,” Dr. Lee would say, “If you’re on time to the meeting, you’re five minutes late.” So we need to be ahead of the curve here. We need to be thinking about, I’ve never shepherded somebody, Tony, who couldn’t go to a funeral. I don’t know how to do that. I need to be thinking about that. I need to be praying, I need to be reading secular things, non-secular things, biblical thing. I need to be figuring out what’s the best way to communicate that. I need to figure out how do I visit the sick when I can’t visit the sick. I need to figure out… I mean, here’s the big thing, how are we telling people to take communion? We need to be ahead of the curve because these things are gonna cause a grieving process and a stress process for our people. We need multiple access points. And I’m just saying everything you said was beautiful and good and if anybody’s listening, they should take the pen out and write it down and adopt it.
Tony: Hey, there’s a passage that’s on my mind because I’m preaching on it Sunday and I’ve never dealt with this text before, but it’s in Ecclesiastes 11. And it is just amazing how relevant this book has been during this COVID season. And so, in 11:3, Solomon is talking about really the life of a farmer and the various seasons that a farmer is in and how there’s a lot of uncertainty with like the weather. But like the uncertainty of life cannot stop you from doing your job. You know, you can’t wait on a perfect season to do ministry. And so, he says, “If the clouds are full of rain, they empty themselves on the earth. And if a tree falls to the South or to the North in the place where the tree falls, there it will lie.” Now, it’s a weird little proverb, but he’s basically saying a tree represents permanency and clouds represent, you know, something that’s uncertain. So a tree is in one place, if it falls, it dies in one place.
And so, there are certain seasons of life that are like tree seasons. You know, they’re the normal routine and we know what to expect, but the clouds are different. And so, he applies it in verse 4 and says, “He who observes the wind will not sow and he who regards the clouds will not reap.” In other words, you can always have an excuse for not farming. You can always have an excuse for not working if you’re just worried about the clouds, if you’re just watching the news, if you’re just considering the crisis that we’re in. And he says in verse 5, “You do not know the way the spirit comes to the bones in the womb of a woman with a child, so you do not know the work of God who makes everything.” You don’t know what God is doing.
In the morning, sow your seed and at evening withhold not your hand for you do not know which will prosper.” This or that or whether both alike will be good. So just go plant some seeds. Just go to work. And throw the seed in a variety of places and don’t look for the perfect occasion, the perfect setting, you know, to do care and to do mission. So that passage has really just been meaningful during this time because we all lament that we’re not in the tree season, we’re not in the normalcy, but we do not know the work of God who makes everything. We just don’t know what he’s up to right now. So we just throw the seed and we trust Him, right?
Doug: Amen, man. Here’s the statement I’ve been saying. We can’t wait to get back to normal because God doesn’t need normal to work. Yeah. God don’t need normal. The Bible is replete with Him acting abnormally in the abnormal. I mean, He takes spit and spit it in the mud and rubs it on blind eyes, fixes things. I mean, none of that’s normal. He doesn’t need normal. And if we need normal, then we’ve put more onus on our technique than the God who saves. And I just wanna remind people, man, we don’t need…in my joking voice, we don’t need no stinkin’ buildings. We have everything Jesus had, the gospel and the word of God. We don’t need that. Those are methods. Man, we must be people-centered, Tony, people-centered. We’re going after people. You take my car, I’ll jog home. You take my shoes, I’ll jog barefooted. You take my shirt, I’ll pull my head and cover up my chest. Jesus don’t need no normal. You can take everything. We still got the Holy Ghost and the Word. Let’s go.
Tony: Amen, bro. Amen. And I think, you know, one of the things you see during this crisis, I was a pastor in New Orleans during Katrina, was a renewed openness in people’s lives. You know, because they see the uncertainty of life, the frailty of life. Not everybody, you know, people will be still consumed with many of the idols of this world, but chances are, I think, we’re gonna find some people that might listen to us, that might have otherwise not listened to us or had a spiritual interest. Now, it’s a real challenge, I think, with the whole social distancing on how we, you know, interact and we can’t physically be as close as we would like to be or that sort of thing. But I think, again, don’t look at the clouds too much. You know, we have to be wise, we have to obey the law, but how is it that we can seize these opportunities when people have a more open heart now than before? And I bet in the hard places, Doug, some of the guys that you’ve interacted with, I can only imagine in certain pockets of society, kind of the fear, the anxiety that people are dealing with and the opportunity that pastors have right now, huh?
Doug: No, absolutely. I mean, one of our pastors in Church in Hard Places cohort said, “How do you practice social distance in a one-roomed house? You know, how do you minister at all when you have no medical benefits?” And the fear of getting sick for him is the likelihood that he dies, not just because they don’t have a machine, he has no way to get a machine. And so, in those impoverished places around the world, I mean, they’re trying to minister almost at the cost of death. And that’s difficult, man. And it makes me sad, cry and yet inspired because those guys are seeking to walk in wisdom, walk in the word and yet very difficult time. I mean, what do you do when you got seven kids in a one-room house? What do you do when you have no medical and social distance is not real because you live in rural homes in villages that are real tight and the walls are all connected?
And what do you do? How do you practice all these things that the governments are calling for? The reality is, man, people are gonna die, man and we’ve just got to walk in the deepest wisdom and for me in the hood and pastoring in the hood, I pastored in, you know, of course, through 9/11 and recession, all these times and all these things. And yeah, we can’t miss the opportunity of that openness. This is where I need bros to whip out their missiology gang signs. You know, “I need you to be missiologists, man. I need you to be creative and figure some stuff out.” My father, Doug Sr. would always say this, I’d say, “Pop, where are you going today?” He said, “Boy, you know I’ve got to make a dollar out of 15 cents.” He was always trying to take something and make more of it.
So it is with us in this season, we’ve got to figure out innovative ways. So I’ll give you an example. Doug Sr. was a sort of a bootleg mechanic and I remember one time he needed some money, and so, he had a few dollars so he bought some tools and then he fixed about six people car, tripled his money. And that’s what Doug Sr. did because he didn’t have means to get it any other way. He was poor on the block. He was a dad of, you know, a bunch of kids, therefore, the urban planner, man, listen, pastor, you can’t rely on the stuff. This is that Drago-Rocky. Drago had all the equipment in that “Rocky” movie and Rocky was jogging in the snow with socks on and a hat with a hole in it. And Drago was punching electronics and Rocky was punching, you know, slabs or ribs, you know, that’s what the urban planner is, man, that dude, he’s not Floyd Mayweather, he’s Kimbo Slice. He’s just a brawler. So you got a brawl, baby. No mouthpiece, no gloves, just Bing, Bing, Bing. That’s what I’m used to. I’m from the street. And so, we need more Kimbo Slices in this season stepping up, man, with no mouthpiece, just rough-looking, ready to do whatever it takes to make sure Jesus’ name is elevated to the top and people are reached innovatively, creatively, and aggressively.
When we do that, man, on the other side of this, we’re gonna have atheists that would’ve come to Christ in this crisis. We would have had people that would have been church hurt because this, though it feels less intimate for people who haven’t been in the building, this is intimate, social media stuff, Facebook live, Instagram live, Zoom calls. Those things are high-level of intimacy and it’s created lane where people who would never come into church now can come to the church without leaving their house but not just watching the televangelist, but engaging the pastor. How beautiful. This is a great opportunity. This is that Acts piece, Stephen gets killed and the gospel flourished. Ananias and Sapphira get taken down because of lying and fear came over them and the gospel still moved. Man, the gospel don’t have no emergency break. The gospel don’t have a pause button. Man, that thing just go. And we got to be gospel dudes that say, and particularly for me in the urban context, I’m just in many ways, we’re at our disadvantage but yet at an advantage because we’ve operated with less for so long. I’m just praying, man, that we got to beat…
Tony: Make a dollar out of 15 cents.
Doug: You got to make a dollar out of 15 cents, baby.
Tony: One thing I love about Doug is not only his spirit of encouragement and love for the gospel, but I get so many illustrations from Doug Logan. I’m just writing them down. And he can go from mechanic to Drago in the same sentence. It’s really remarkable. You’re a genius, bro and that’s why you’re the President at Grimké Seminary.
Doug: To God be the glory, man. What an honor. What an honor. You’re the greatest Dean on the earth, brother. The greatest Dean on earth.
Tony: Oh, man. We could talk forever, Doug. I wanna let you go because we both got a bunch going on today and we just wanted to be an encouragement to our pastors and church planters out there, especially guys in hard places. And so, may God be gracious to us and make His face shine upon us and use us for His glory during this time, believing that the word of God is not bound.
Doug: Amen, brother. Amen, brother. And our Savior works. There was a crisis of humanity and he still had Sabbath and fixed it. We have a crisis-working Christ. Never panics. Always has a plan and we must be like that. Love you, pastor. So great to be here.
Tony: You too, brother. Thank you.