By Kirsten McKimmey, Contributing Writer
West Tyler is a predominately African-American and Hispanic community where domestic abuse is prevalent and many youth and young adults are in high-risk situations. Church Planter Jason Rhodes’ desire was to reach those in his community, however, he never expected that to happen through hip-hop music.
Born and raised in West Tyler, Rhodes is a fifth generation “Tylerite.” He was raised in church, and since 2007, has been actively involved in vocational ministry. Rhodes served in various roles over the years while gaining teaching and preaching experience. In 2011, Rhodes served as Executive Pastor of Outreach under Pastor James Hawkins’ leadership at Higher Heights Baptist Church in Tyler.
“Outreach has always been a part of my ministry,” said Rhodes. “I love to connect with people, build relationships and be in the community.”
Six years later, Rhodes felt called back to his community in West Tyler and began his ministry at Daybreak Church, a new church plant through Texas Baptists Church Starting.
“What Daybreak Church is designed to do is engage those in the community who have not been engaged,” he said. “We have to put some boots on the ground, get out there, and engage those that feel like outcasts to the church at large.”
With a unique community, Rhodes knew they would need a unique ministry for outreach. And after being introduced to Gospel hip-hop artist Lecrae, the idea of a hip-hop ministry was birthed. He often listened to Gospel hip-hop in his home and car and soon his children requested that above other secular music. Rhodes knew that if this music could change his children, it could infiltrate the community of West Tyler.
“Hip-hop has become a part of our culture and has been growing ever since the 70s. We found it as an effective tool to engage,” he said.
By 2018, after months of prayer, with the help of his church and local Christian hip-hop artists, Rhodes began a ministry called “3:16 Lounge.” Catering to youth and young adults, 3:16 Lounge is held every second and fourth Saturday night at the church and is open to the entire community. A group of eight Christian hip-hop artists called the God Squad, as well as others in the community, perform Gospel-centered rap, songs, and poems, followed by a brief word and prayer, and an altar call. “We all work together to bring change into the culture,” Rhodes said. “This outreach acts as a bridge between the community and the church, and is a conduit for discipleship.”
Since beginning the ministry, Rhodes has seen people come to the church he never imagined. The impact has been great, and time and time again, they have seen the altar filled with people crying out to the Lord.
“I love that 3:16 affords intimacy you may not get in a Bible study or during Sunday service,” said Rhodes. “It provides an opportunity for people to loosen up through the music and atmosphere, which makes them more receptive to Christ. People feel they have a chance to speak and that their voices are important and their issues are valid.”
Many people have come to know Christ through 3:16 Lounge, including a young girl named Casey, who, like many, had a difficult upbringing. Casey decided to come to 3:16 Lounge with her sister, Jasmine, who performed poetry. Casey, though reserved, continued to return each Saturday, and began coming out of her shell.
“One particular Saturday, Casey came to 3:16 and performed a song,” said Rhodes. “Afterward, she gave her testimony of how 3:16 helped show her that she was valuable and important. She said she felt that she was loved and that God had a purpose for her life. She said that is something she had never felt before.”
“It was a renewal of life,” said Rhodes. Casey just graduated high school and continues to come to 3:16.
The 3:16 Lounge has quickly grown past Daybreak Church. Pastor Rhodes has worked with several other churches in the area to bring 3:16 Lounge to them, and hopes to host a citywide event this summer.
Rhodes has also received encouragement and mentorship from a pastor over 120 miles away in Waco. Hiz House, another Texas Baptists church plant pastored by Juan Carreon, also uses hip-hop to reach their community.
“Just talking with Pastor Juan has been such a great inspiration, listening to his stories of how they maneuver the ministry in their community,” said Rhodes. “Some of the greatest advice Pastor Juan gave me was to embrace who God created me to be, and to be a voice in the culture of our community.”
“Music is such a powerful tool,” Rhodes continued. “Musicians in our society have always been those who have been the spokesmen for important issues, for human rights, for civil rights. It’s a form of art that can speak to the hearts of the people. I encourage churches to get involved with this in their own communities and cities because it can be impactful to those you thought you could never reach before.”
Gifts to the Texas Baptists Cooperative Program and Mary Hill Davis Offering fund Church Starting efforts like Daybreak Church, engaging unreached people with the Gospel. To learn more about Texas Baptists Church Starting, visit texasbaptists.org/churchstarting or call 214.828.5217.
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Made possible by gifts through the Texas Baptists Cooperative Program.