Barron Martin, pastor of One Faith Christian Center, discusses the challenges of church planting in the inner city and how his church is having a spiritual impact by connecting with the community by serving.
Chris: Hello, and welcome into this edition of Radio B&R. I’m your host Chris Turner, and today we’re actually on site down in Memphis, and I’m here with the Pastor Barron Martin. Barron, welcome to the Radio B&R.
Barron: Thank you for having me, Chris. Real pleasure.
Chris: Tell me just a little bit about yourself, ’cause you’re a bivocational pastor-
Barron: I am.
Chris: … so pastoring this church, and I also want you to tell us a little bit about your church as well.
Barron: Well, I appreciate that. Yes, again, my name is Pastor Barron Martin. I’m a pastor and founder of One Faith Christian Center Church, here in the West Frayser area, which is Memphis, Tennessee. We’re actually located in the West Side Middle School in Memphis, Tennessee. It’s 3389 Dawn Drive, Memphis, Tennessee, 38127, if you ever want to come and visit.
But no, to your question, I am a product of the Frayser community. I grew up here in Frayser, and I was one of the ones that had a parent. I was raised by a single mother. She couldn’t give me a whole lot, Chris, but one thing she gave me, she gave me Jesus.
Every type of outreach that was available to me, she put me into it. With that being said, I was in Frayser, I grew up in this environment, so when God gave me the opportunity to leave to better myself as a person I took it. Now, I did go to college, but I’m a bivocational pastor. What I do for a living is I went back and got my certification and my license, HVACR technician. What I do is service, install and repair heating, air conditioning and refrigeration equipment. That has allowed me to be able to live a pretty decent life. I lived and moved out into the suburbs, and when I started pastoring, God just compelled to me that it was time for me to go back to my community to help those people get out of the condition that they’re presently in.
It just made sense, ’cause I was praying and asking God what would be my avenue back into Frayser, and be able to make an impact especially on our children, and of course the school. They’re gonna come by there eventually-
Chris: That’s right.
Barron: … so I went in, and I partnered with West Memphis … I mean, not West Memphis, West Side Middle School up on the leadership of Dr. Mike Brown at the time, now it’s up under Dr. Bobby White, but Dr. Mike Brown invited us in and we have mentors in here every day, and he like what he saw me doing in terms of proctoring and mentoring these kids. They’ve taken Christ out of schools pretty much, unless it’s a private institution. This is a public education place and he asked me would I come in every Wednesday and hold chapel. So, every Wednesday at 7:45 we fill the gym up, and I will give those kids an inspirational message. Through that I’ve had over 300 kids receive Christ just here alone.
Chris: Wow. Yeah.
Barron: So yeah, that’s what happened.
Chris: Well, you’ve … stuff like that just doesn’t happen. You have to earn your way in, you have to earn trust. Talk a little bit about how the church has really connected, not just with this school, but with this community.
Barron: Okay, great. Thank you for asking me that. How we earned the respect is, basically being honest with you, social media. People got to believe you’re working out what you’re saying. When we have Facebook, Twitter and all those things, to any life app that we have, we put it in place to be able to see us assisting people. Not for show, but we was actually asking how could we be involved in certain places in Frayser? So we would … I would petition, I would go live through Facebook, and ask “is there any events going on that we could come and participate with??
For instance, if your church was having something going on at it, and you just may be short or you just want the community to be involved, my team and I we will go over there and assist you in any kinda way we did. That built trust in the community to say, these people are not wanting anything but to be a part of what’s going on and to add to the kingdom.
I start out by touching all these different churches. When I started touching these different churches just helping them … they have a lot larger congregations than I have, even to this day, and they saw my passion for it. With that, I ran into a man by the name of Ricky Floyd, he pastors a church here in the Frayser area, and me and him sitting down, he asked me what was God saying to me, and I told him that God was teaching me … was calling me to be effective with the youth in Frayser, to kind of combat this gang violence and things of that nature there.
He asked me what I wanna do, I said I wanted to adopt a school and he actually has … one of the officials of the school board works with West Side, name of Theodore King, so he told me to reach out to Theodore King and when I met Theodore King he was like, “Man, your name precedes you.” He said, “We’ve been watching you for quite some time,” and he said, “it’s an honor.” He was like, “Well let me say this to you,” he said, “we’ve had a lot of larger churches come through here to say that they want to adopt a school. They come over here, bring out the news, take a picture, and leave a check, and we don’t see them anymore.” So I said, “Well, you don’t have to worry about that, ’cause I don’t have a check to leave you.”
We went over there and we’ve been consistent. We adopted the school three years ago, and our impact has been so effective over here that last year they asked me, how would I feel about taking up residence and moving my church into the actual building. So, that’s how we got here.
Chris: So, let’s back up just a little bit. Just talk a little bit about … so, if you go from this church and draw a one mile circle around it, just talk a little bit about the community in which this church sits, because when we talk about the needs and connecting with the community, without really understanding the community, it would be difficult to understand some of the challenges that you have, as far as not only being a church planner in this area, but introducing people to Christ, and we’ll talk about that part in just a moment.
Barron: Absolutely. If you draw a circle around a one mile circumference of where I’m actually housed as a church you’re going to see poverty in the worst way. There are people here that actually do not have front doors to their homes. They’re actually leaving blankets on there, and today, Chris, you can tell it’s kind of chilly out there. What we do is we just go around … there’s gang violence very heavily in this area. Was a large drug presence, but since we’ve been here that has dropped by a third.
Barron: Okay, but it was very drug presence here, it’s a lot of single parents, unemployment is very heavy and prevalent here, we have a lot of behavior issues that come from the effects of being in poverty, ’cause poverty begets violence. Children have been molested. There’s incest. There’s all of these different things that we have to deal with in this particular area. Break-in’s, murders, homicides, and we thank God that we’ve been effective because what God allowed me to do, I preached outside on the parking lot for one year flat. Whether it was cold or not, we was out there preaching, and we had a great time.
When you’re in a community this small … you’re talking about a mile, the gangs are gonna know who you are. They’re gonna see, are you trying to do certain things? I actually got the attention of a couple of the gang leaders in this area and I asked to meet with them. I went out, spoke with a couple of them, they knew who I was, they respected what I was doing, and I actually started telling them, “Y’all should come. Y’all should come in here.” He said, “We have been listening to you for a whole year.” He said, “If you haven’t noticed that we have peace on Sundays.” I said, “No, I didn’t know that.” He said, “There’s peace on Sundays because we have somebody who we feel is genuine in our community,” and they said, “we’re gonna protect you.” I said “Well, brother, thank you but the Lord protects us all.” I said, “I would rather have you in here to participate.”
Haven’t won him yet to Christ, but I won his respect. He does not try to be a hindrance in terms of me ministering to these children. When you look at what’s going on here, the struggle is, you’re fighting against the parents who are actually … these kids are second, third generate gang bangers, you understand what I’m saying? So, their moms and some of their grandparents were in gangs, or used to be in gangs.
Chris: You even mentioned earlier that several of them come from hones where a parent maybe incarcerated currently-
Chris: … or has … so that’s obviously a part of it as well. So, when you’re looking at this community, it is a community that is desperately in need of the light of the gospel.
Chris: When we talk about, any way you slice it, Tennessee is a mission field-
Barron: Yes it is.
Chris: … is one of the things that we look at, but talk a little bit about … we have four, five, decent size urban centers in Tennessee between Memphis, and Knoxville, and Nashville, Chattanooga, and really Clarksville is really growing in that aspect of being an urban center. It is a whole different mission field really than what we think of. Talk a little bit about some of the challenges of reaching into those urban centers, and especially towards the inner city, the need for the gospel there. Obviously, there’s not a rush of church planners coming to the inner city, just talk a little bit about the challenge of reaching the inner city, and what it takes to do that.
Barron: It takes a village to actually reach it. Unfortunately, what I’ve discovered Chris, the challenge is that the church is so divided. The community leaders are divided, and that no matter what race or culture they come from, we are divided. Dr. King was correct when he says, “11:00 is the more diversified or separated hour of the week on Sundays.” People are very protective, they think you’re into member snatching and it’s perplexing to me. When you have the love of God, this is his church and I’m just … we need to come together.
What has been challenging is that you have people that will actually have other people pull away from you ’cause they feel threatened by you, when you’re on the same road. To do kingdom work. We are our own worse enemy in the context in which you’re asking me that question.
I know you would like to think it was something other than that, but it’s other churches that become … that I found to be challenging with. They do not like to coexist. They do not like to partner very often, because they’re threatened for some strange reason. That’s just the reality of it. I wish I could unfold it better than that, but that’s the truth.
Chris: The irony is, it doesn’t sound like there’s any shortage of work to be done.
Barron: There’s not, absolutely. Absolutely.
Chris: It sounds like there’s plenty of available people to fill churches.
Chris: It’s a matter of going to get those-
Barron: Going to get them. That was a mistake I think, speaking still to this question that you asked, is that, I mean, I’m not confiding [00:11:20] to the wall. We’re One Faith Christian Center, is why we call it One Faith Christian Center, we’re the church without walls. We still, we walk the community, we still evangelize and pray salvation over the people in the streets if they want to receive Christ right then and there. We’ve made … I wouldn’t say a mistake, we’ve made the incident of sometimes being over there, spreading the gospel and discipling, and evangelize to people on another church’s turf.
So, Frayser is like a little city. I’m in West Frayser, which is probably a smaller portion of it, but you have the West, North, South and East parts of Frayser. Each one of those areas, with the exception of West Frayser, have a large following in each one of those others quarters. They really just want West Frayser to just … they don’t bother with it. But we preach the four gospel area where we go. We go over to the North side and then you run into these people when you have to meet the pastor, he doesn’t want to meet you, said that I disrespected him ’cause I was out here ministering people in his area and I didn’t reach out. I didn’t know anyone. Had I did, you know … but that shouldn’t be a reason. We should be working together.
Chris: You’ve talked a lot about what your church has done in this community, and just serving people, and ministering the people’s physical and human needs, and it’s really opened up some doors for you spiritually. When you’re communicating and talking to people, have you found people resistant to the gospel, or are you finding people open and hungry for the gospel?
Barron: I find them more open rather than resistant. Those that are resistant to the gospel, they are faced with … these are the ones that typically are third and fourth generation gang members. It’s embedded into them. Their God is their family, as they call it. So, we’ve found resistance with that because they wanna know where was God with this? Where was God with that? There’s always an excuse, but those who is just living in poverty they want help. They embraced the gospel of Jesus Christ. Now, a lot of these people are not members of my church particularly, but they are members of the body, because I baptized over 300 myself.
The resistance comes from those who are just really … need to keep seeing the gospel lived out in our lives, because they’re seeing the generational curses of all these gangs they’ve been involved in and things I’ve mentioned there. You can see it in the schools, too. With these same kids, these are the kids that when you go to chapel they’ll turn their back to you, what your preaching, because they have never heard Christ. They have never really felt true love from a person, you know what I mean? There’s always been a catch to it. When I minister to these kids one on one the first question is, “What do you want?”, as if I want something from them. There’s a mission for me to put them on. Things of that nature.
Chris: Well, it’s still so unbelievable to think that you can be in Tennessee where we’re called the buckle of the bible belt-
Barron: That’s right.
Chris: … and to be told in 2018 that there are people who are being encountered that have lived here, grown up here, in the buckle of the bible belt, and have never heard the name of Jesus.
Barron: That’s amazing.
Chris: That’s a shock to me.
Barron: It’s amazing. I work with a man, he was actually older than me, and I was ministering him to the gospel. He grew up in the Frayser area, and I asked him what he think about Jesus, he said, “Man, I don’t know who that is.” He said, “I’ve heard his name before,” he said, “and if that man did everything that they say he did, cool.” He said, “I don’t know nobody …” he said, “I wasn’t raised that way.”
Barron: That’s amazing, right here in Memphis. This is a grown individual. These kids deal with certain things. Can you imagine living in a household of violence and there’s no hope there? When somebody come to you about how Jesus loves you, it’s hard to comprehend. So you have to give them something more tangible to see, so they can understand what’s happening there. That’s what we do. We do that very effectively. We always extend our breaths of love, if they go low we go high.
Chris: Yeah, that’s right.
Barron: That’s how it is.
Chris: It really sounds like a key to planning a church in an area like this, or really frankly any area, that the whole idea of serving and ministering to a community, and really expecting nothing in return.
Chris: But to go and to serve and connect, and to just be there, is really vital to being able to earn a platform upon which you can share the gospel with people.
Barron: Yes, you really have to have way in into these areas. It’s okay to say in areas like this, ’cause there is more areas that are not like this than this one. My thing is-
Chris: We also live in a day though, and I totally appreciate what you’re saying, but we kinda have gotten to the point where almost anywhere, the church has to prove-
Barron: I agree.
Chris: … that there is relevance and value, because people, this culture that we live in now, they’re not like us where maybe we grew up with some influence with church, we live in such a secular culture that the church has to prove relevancy.
Barron: I agree. Totally, and that’s why I’m known as a radical preacher, but I believe I do what is necessary to get the gospel out in love. That’s why I love the SBC conference, man, I love the Southern Baptist Conference. One thing that we put together is we going to share the gospel, but can you imagine if all the other entities got on the same page. We lead in evangelism, and in baptizing, and in sharing the gospel. That’s why I’m thankful to God that he lead to me this organization, and all this love and support that we get through it. The training, and there’s still more training that I need to be able to get my staff totally prepared to be able to share this gospel, because you have to be able to share it at a certain level here. You’ve got to make it relevant. You got to make it practical to these people so they will understand, or they’ll feel like you’re just another church that’s just blowing smoke to them.
Chris: That’s right. So, you’re in the trenches, you’re doing all that, but when you step up out of the trenches and you look at the long vision out there, what is it you’d like to see in a year from now, five years from now, for this church and this community?
Barron: I really appreciate that question, Chris. A year from now I would like to see us still in this school, to be honest with you. The reason I wanna be in the school right now is because that’s where the harvest is. The harvest is here, believe me when I say that. I want to have a vocational school in place in the school.
Now, I’m in West Side right now, but now the good Lord has blessed me to have influence in the mothering … the feeder schools, that we’ll call it, which is MLK Prep, also ran by Dr. Bobby White, which is a feeder school for West Side. By me being in the middle school, I’m catching them coming in from elementary, on their way to high school. So, I wanna put a vocational piece inside of the school in West Side as well as in MLK Prep, formally Frayser, to spark an interest as an alternative to college.
Not to say that we don’t want them to go to college. College is to go, but I’m trying to tell them that these kids of the poverty don’t even have college on their minds. When you talk to them it’s almost like it’s unattainable. What I’m trying to do is give them something as an alternative to let them know, yes, we want you to go to college, but you can be a success without going to a college.
Chris: And college isn’t for everybody.
Barron: It’s not for everybody.
Chris: I mean, the fact of the matter that just a trade skill or something that enables them to sustain themselves, and to hopefully break generational poverty cycle, but to get out and to be able to control their own lives in that respect-
Barron: That’s right.
Chris: … but at the same time as they’re coming through they’re also not only becoming equipped vocationally, they’re being equipped-
Chris: … spiritually.
Barron: Listen, you have no idea. Again, I told you that I work HVACR and every summer as one of our mentoring piece I have about 10 kids with me. I have accounts around … little mom and pops spots around the city here. I take them with me, and I can take a refrigerator that’s broken, and I can speak the gospel, and make it relevant by showing them this repair through that. I had kids actually weep as I’m fixing an air conditioner, maybe a washing machine, and me talking about switches, and what Freon does inside of a line, or anything like that making it relevant, and transparent, and practical to the gospel. They receive it, ’cause they get it, they get it.
So yes, that’s the whole key, is to first I want the total person. Spiritually as well as physically. Physical is probably little [inaudible 00:20:34], but if we got the spiritual, man up. We use every avenue we can to make it as practical, as relevant as we can to these people. It’s not just for children, but if we’re gonna change our future we got to start with our kids.
Barron: That’s why I have a passion for the kids, because it’s hard. This right here, these numbers are true, and in third grade if a kid is not on third grade reading level they’re starting to discuss how many prisons they’re gonna have, because they’re actually numbering and thinking of by the time this kid is 17, he’s probably gonna be locked up. So they have to make space for that. That’s the type of thing we have to curb. We teach them how to read. Just because you can read the words on the paper, but you don’t know the meaning behind it. You have read but you do not understand. If you don’t understand, you can’t read. So, we’re doing comprehension, we’re doing things like that. We’re showing them something that they really never have to experience, and that’s love. The love of Jesus Christ, man.
If it wasn’t for Jesus I am convinced I wouldn’t be doing this. If it wasn’t for Jesus … if I didn’t know the Lord is my savior I wouldn’t be doing this, but because I do, I have to tell it, and I need them to know, “Hey, I used to be you. I could have been you, but look at me.” They have so much respect for me, you gonna do better than I am, let me show you. I’m just … the gospel is me just telling one person where they go get some bread at.
Chris: I think two words that you really have mentioned in the course of this that are evident in what you and your church are doing, the first is love, and the second is hope.
Chris: Both of those things are at the core of the gospel, that God so loved the world-
Chris: … so he loved us-
Barron: Loved us.
Chris: … and really without the cross and the resurrection-
Barron: There’s no hope.
Chris: … there’s no hope.
Barron: There’s no hope.
Chris: So, you guys are bringing that to this neighborhood-
Barron: Thank you so much.
Chris: … and all that kind of stuff. How can people pray for you and your church and your family.
Barron: Thank you so much, pray that we first of all, receive the proper training to be more effective in our communities, and also pray that God sends some more laborers to come into the vineyard, and pray that we have the resources. We need those three things, Chris, ’cause with those we can be more impactful. The little we have we placed it in the Masters hand and he’s made fist come from fist, and bread come from bread. So, I trust in God, but the harvest is still plentiful, but the laborers are few. If we can get you to pray for us to be more effective through training, if you can get some laborers to come through here, and we can get some continued resources, we would be … it would be a tremendous help for us.
Chris: Awesome. Well, Barron thanks so much for-
Barron: Thank you for having me.
Chris: … spending a little time, and for us to be able to be here. This actually is part of a Golden Offering for Tennessee Missions video. That will be produced and released in September of 2018, so not only listen to the podcast, but be sure and check out that video when it’s released. Part of our emphasis for next year, and this is one of those things that when Tennessee Baptists give through the Golden Offering for Tennessee Missions you are supporting church planning for churches just like this in places where there is a desperate need for the light of the gospel to be shone brightly. You can rest assured, the light is being shone brightly here on the West Side of Memphis in the Frayser area.
So, thanks again.
Barron: Thank you for having me.
Chris: This is Chris Turner for Radio B&R.