What you’ll see in this Logos Live episode
In this interview brought to you by the Kerusso Collective, Chauncey Allmond talks to pastor and author Isaac Adams about his life, writing, and ministry.
Isaac Adams, born and raised in Washington, D.C., is the pastor of Iron City Church in Birmingham, Alabama. He studied journalism and religious studies at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and received his Masters of Divinity from Southern Seminary. Isaac served briefly overseas with the International Mission Board before serving on staff with organizations like Together for the Gospel, CROSS Conference, and The Front Porch. In 2017, he founded United? We Pray, a ministry devoted to praying about racial strife—especially between Christians.
Books by Isaac Adams and Others
9Marks Church Questions Collection (26 vols.)
Regular price: $73.99
Talking about Race: Gospel Hope for Hard Conversations (audio)
Regular price: $17.99
First Steps: Training – How Do I Grow as a Christian?
Regular price: $5.99
What If I’m Discouraged in My Evangelism?
Regular price: $2.99
This transcript has been lightly edited for readability.
Chauncey Allmond (00:19):
Hello, my name is Chauncey Allmond with Logos, and welcome to another addition of Logos Live. And I always say, you know, we have a very special guest—that’s kind of protocol, but we really do, we really do have a special guest. They all are very special. but today we have Pastor Isaac Adams, who is the lead pastor at Iron City, or church in Birmingham, Alabama. He’s the founder of United? We Pray, a ministry devoted to praying about racial strife. He’s an author and a speaker and has a new book Talking about Race: Gospel Hope for Hard Conversations. Isaac has also written numerous articles for The Gospel Coalition as well as 9Marks. And so, in honor and recognition of Black History Month and through the Kerusso Collective here at Faithlife, we are honored to have Brother Isaac here to spend a few minutes with us and we’re gonna dive in, talking about who he is, his book, and all that kind of stuff. But with that said, Pastor Isaac, welcome, welcome to Logos.
Isaac Adams (01:29):
Thank you for having me, brother.
Chauncey Allmond (01:32):
And we, so I’ve been looking forward to this, for some time now. And, just a quick question. How long have you been at Iron City as the pastor?
Isaac Adams (01:40):
It’s been a little over a year, so I’m new here. I’m new to the south and never thought I would live in the deep south, but God had different plans. So here we are.
Chauncey Allmond (01:50):
You’re probably still trying to figure out where the bathrooms are.
Isaac Adams (01:56):
The truth. That’s the truth.
Chauncey Allmond (01:57):
Lord. Well, tell us, tell us a little bit about your family as well.
Isaac Adams (02:02):
Yeah, man, let’s see. I’m married to my wife Megan. We have three little kids, five and under, so, you know, we get lots of sleep in my house. And, the Lord’s faithful to keep us all, man. We’re going on basically 10 years of marriage. This year’s nine. So, yeah, man, the crew came with me down here to Birmingham and we’re grateful to be here in the deep south of Birmingham, Alabama.
Chauncey Allmond (02:26):
Bless you, brother. Yeah,
Isaac Adams (02:32):
Chauncey Allmond (02:34):
Well, I was reading a little bit of your background information on your church’s website and, it said, and I, and I’m gonna quote, “hanging out with your wife and watching the University of North Carolina be superior to Duke in all things.”
Isaac Adams (02:54):
That’s what you wrote? Yes. What I like to do for fun. Yes. Yeah.
Chauncey Allmond (02:57):
Yeah. What you like to do for fun. That’s watching UNC, University of North Carolina—Chapel Hill. And, you know, I gotta take a little offense to that, as a graduate of an ACC school, which is in the same division as North Carolina. I went to Virginia Tech and we are, you know, we’re rivalries and, and I’m glad you said superior over Duke and not over Tech. because if you said superior over Tech, we would’ve had some major issues in this interview.
Isaac Adams (03:25):
Hey man. Well, you know, there’s some things that don’t need mentioning and I assume the Tech thing was already assumed, so, but I will say I appreciate you wearing the Carolina Blue for this interview. It looks good.
Chauncey Allmond (03:35):
I’m here for you. I want you to feel at home.
Isaac Adams (03:40):
You’re a good host, man. It looks good on you.
Chauncey Allmond (03:42):
That’s how we do it here at Logos. Now I wanted to jump to a serious note. Speaking of schools like UNC, you know, there’s been a resurgence of, focus on historically Black colleges and universities, HBCUs, and we know UNC is not one, Tech’s not one either. But with Deion Sanders last year or past couple of years coaching at Jackson State, like I said, it’s been a resurgence on HBCUs. And I’m just wondering, did you ever consider attending an HBCU and also kind of part two of that? Did you ever face any backlash for not attending an HBCU?
Isaac Adams (04:28):
Yeah, man, that’s a good question. So part of the surprise of Birmingham is that I’m from DC, okay. Born and raised in Washington, DC. So, you know, Howard is there and Howard is the mecca of HBCUs. Literally, that’s what they refer to it as. I never thought that deeply about it, but I think, you know, I was thinking about this man, like 18 year olds—we think we know a lot, but we don’t. And so, you know, I like UNC’s basketball team, bro, and that was, that was, that was part of my factor and part of my decision. And so I never, I never faced much backlash for it. My late mother was a college admissions counselor, and we talked through different options and things like that.
She definitely took me on tours of different schools. Mm-hmm. We saw different schools. I’m so thankful for that resurgence. I think it makes a lot of sense with what we see going on culturally and everything. And even just, I’m a big NBA fan, so seeing during All-Star Weekend, you know, they have the HBCU Classic now and all that good stuff. So I’m only thankful for it. But that was just not what the Lord had in my story.
Chauncey Allmond (05:43):
Yeah. And you know, one of the things that, you know, we were talking about before we went live is, Hey, you know, what do we want to accomplish here? And you actually prayed, I really appreciate that. And that, and that was, you know, that this would glorify the Lord and all that we do. And my hope and prayer too is that people are educated perhaps on things that they may not have thought about. You know, especially, you know, I’ve talked to a lot of non-African-American people and friends of mine, and you mentioned the term “HBCU,” and they don’t even know what that is. Yeah. and so, you know, we talk about race a lot and we’re gonna talk about race a lot, and, you know, there’s some things that can kinda, you know, go both ways, you know, and that’s why I was wondering about the backlash piece because as someone myself who didn’t go to HBCU sometimes, you know, I get that backlash. Yeah. From Black folks, you know, who are like, oh man, you know, you sold out and yeah. You know, you know, why couldn’t you support your own? And, and I’m like, but you know, went to college, you know, be happy, you know, went to a, to a good school and, you know, I’m, I’m still down for the, cause I’m still down for our people, but I just chose a different route. Is that kind of, you know, the way you looked at it as well?
Isaac Adams (06:53):
Yeah, man. I think about the conversation about race even within different ethnic groups. Yes. So even within, and I think something Satan is masterfully doing is getting a lot of Black brothers and sisters to just turn on each other and be like, you must, if you leave this evangelical church, you know, you’re a liberal. If you stay, you’re an Uncle Tom. And I just think the devil is having a field day with that kind of conscious binding in a way that I’m like, you gotta gimme a book chapter in verse that says, I gotta go here. Otherwise, there’s a thing called Christian freedom. It’s beautiful. Christ died to secure it. And so, I mean, I get that but at the end of the day, man, like you said, we’re here to glorify God and so is this life, and I am not my own.
I was thinking about some of the questions you sent over, and I think of, you know, you have [Lemuel] Haynes who is pastoring a church, a white church in Vermont, you know, basically during the era of slavery. He’s an African American, and it’s just so you, the Lord has his different callings on different people’s lives. Let Chauncey live his story. He’s hanging out at Virginia Tech. Isaac will live his story at UNC and we’ll all glorify God. And so, you know, I’m sure that backlash is there. I understand it even and can empathize with it. But at the end of the day, I only have one general—and my wife. And beyond that, I’m not taking marching orders from anybody else.
Chauncey Allmond (08:29):
So, I hear you, I hear you. Well, you know, looking at the articles that you’ve written, the book, interviews you’ve done, you tackle some, some hard-hitting issues that a lot of people kind of shy away from, and you don’t shy away. You lean in and, you know, those two are race and politics, you know, two things that people just do not want to talk about. So you must be a glutton for punishment to zero in on those. And, and so why, why are those topics important to you? Why, why is race important for you to talk about, why is politics important for you to talk about?
Isaac Adams (09:08):
Yeah, man, you know, I just enjoy making friends everywhere. So, you know, that’s no, you know, on, on one level, I got two answers for you, Chauncey. On one hand, it’s surprising, man, like I’m a human. I struggle with fear of man just like everybody else. I’m not this lion for the truth. I don’t really think that’s my demeanor, you know, despite my locks, I might look like a lion, but that’s about it. And so, on some level, I think it’s because the Lord enjoys using surprising vessels. That’s what he does. He just, you know, it’s like, here’s this little boy and his fish in his loaves. Because, you know, some of that is, I’ve always felt like I’ve been kind of in between communities, in between the Black community, in between the white community and the Lord had it to be a part of my story that I’d be a bridge.
A sister was asking me about this yesterday. I just said, you know, it’s really surprising that the Lord on some level has given me a ministry about race, because this was always somewhat of an insecurity. And it plays into things like that HBCU stuff. So that’s one answer. I think the Lord uses surprising vessels. The second answer is simply though, man, I talk about it because God talks about it and because it’s important to God and because he died, so that his people could love one another in such a way that the world would look at us and see our love for each other and be like, man, those are Jesus’ disciples. And so when, when, we can, I’m sure we’ll talk, call it 2012 to 2022, from like Trayvon to today.
When we see these really horrific shootings, these tragedies and the way that Christians are squabbling and dividing and splintering over it, man, I think there’s more at stake than just like, oh, we’re not Facebook friends anymore. I think because of John 13:35. Jesus’s name is on there. And that should matter to you. It should matter to me. It should matter to the Democrat, it should matter to the Republican. If Jesus’s name is on this and we claim that name, we have to care. You’re just, we don’t really get the luxury of not caring. And so, man, I saw, people fracturing and splintering over these issues. And I think the pastoral heart in me was burdened for that and burdened to speak into that. because I did not want, I did not want Jesus’s name to be tarnished by our arguments and petty squabbles that the world could tell and that weren’t serving to advance the cause of the gospel.
Chauncey Allmond (11:43):
But I so do appreciate all your work that you are doing and have done in this area because it’s so needed. Like I said, there’s nothing worse than division within the body. And unfortunately, this racism piece and the political piece has, has done just that. And, you know, I talk to people often too, who will say, you know, racism doesn’t exist anymore. And, you know, just get over it. You get that a lot. But just to be clear in terms of making sure we’re on the same page, and, as far as terms go, how do you define racism? Because again, I wonder, people may think one thing and they say it doesn’t exist, but, so just for the purposes of this discussion, how would you define racism then? We’ll, we’ll get into that a little bit more.
Isaac Adams (12:30):
Man. I really appreciate that. And I think it’s really important to talk about definitions because I think often in this conversation we’re using the same words, but different dictionaries. Yes. Or to give us a biblical picture. I think often the race conversation talk feels like talking at the foot of the Tower of Babel. We’re all together, we’re trying to build something, maybe even something good–unlike the Tower of Babel–unity in our church. But we’re using the same, we’re just talking past one another, talking over each other, talking under each other, talking behind each other. So I appreciate that. I’m gonna just read from this little book that came out, you know—
Chauncey Allmond (13:03):
Wonder where that book came from?
Isaac Adams (13:06):
One reason for this, man, is actually in this book. I have a glossary. I don’t know if you can see this. Okay. And the reason is to be like, yo, you might have a different definition of these words, but at least you can know what I mean by them. And I try to define basic things like gospel, Christian church, like I’m not assuming anything. And so I define racism, and here’s what I say, biblically speaking, racism is ethnic partiality. James 2:1. Right. I’m trying to take this from the text. Sure. This partiality can be expressed individually as we see in Numbers 12 with Aaron and Miriam’s with Aaron and Miriam toward Moses’s Ethiopian wife or structurally as we see an Esther with Haman, a state sponsored initiative to annihilate the Jews. And it can be expressed overtly or covertly. So ethnic partiality that can be expressed overtly, covertly, individually or in a group, structurally.
Chauncey Allmond (14:02):
Good definition. And again, I said, people will say, well, it does, it just doesn’t exist anymore. Or I, I don’t see it anymore. What are some examples you can give of clear indications of racism that you see today, that exist today?
Isaac Adams (14:19):
Yeah, I’m gonna answer that question in a minute, but I, I first want to even get at the deeper assumption behind it that I think is frankly at odds with Scripture. And here, it’s okay if racism is a sin, sins don’t have an expiration date on them. For instance, we don’t assume, well, I just don’t see greed anymore. I just don’t see lust anymore. I just don’t see violence anymore. We don’t assume that about any other sin. So my question to that person is often, and probably more gently, you know, I’m sitting on your front porch. But my question is, sister, brother, why do you assume, why is race the one racism, the one sin, that is exempted from, or that you, that somehow got an expiration date, you know, whenever in 1965 with the Voting Rights Act or whatever, and that’s because that person is probably operating with a very specific and narrow definition of racism.
It’s probably, well, I don’t see crosses being burned on people’s yards. I don’t see, you know, whites only over water fountains anymore. So what are y’all talking about? I see a Black president, and we can go on with the examples. So that’s just dealing with the underlying roots of the, of that assumption and assertion. Sure. But sadly, I think there are plenty of examples to point to. So, in the book, I kind of draw out three, I go through historic examples, present day examples, and biblical examples. You ask for a present day example. And I think one we could honestly speak about is abortion, honestly, and this is where this might be a surprising answer to folks, but I think Satan has been pleased to kind of use this issue to actually be a divide, a wedge between people politically and in the church about these issues.
Whereas if you look at the stats on abortion and see how they disproportionately affect minorities, how minorities historically were targeted with this tragedy, how the effects of other past racism create scenarios in which people are so desperate for them, I think you’ll find that there’s some ugly racial history in there. And even Planned Parenthood will admit this with, you know, their founder’s ties to white supremacist groups and eugenics. And so that, so that’s one, and that’s a surprising answer for folks. And, you know, we have, we have heinous examples like Ahmaud Arbery, right. Who, in the book I say is gunned down, but now I can use the word murdered because that’s what was revealed. And it was clearly racially motivated the shootings in Buffalo. So we have the heinous examples, okay? And I think even the most, you know, suspicious person in this conversation will be like, yeah, what happened in Buffalo was terrible, or whatever it might be.
So there’s that, and I can talk about me being called an N-word in broad daylight—that happened in Washington, DC, surprisingly. That’s not yet happened to me in Alabama by God’s grace. But where I would even want to push further, and then I’ll stop talking. I would push further. Often I think, Chauncey, when it comes to the race conversation, people liken racism to matches, and they’re like, man, the match was lit. There was Jim Crow, and, but now those laws are off the books and there’s no more segregation. And the match has been blown out. And I’m like, cool. Praise God. And seriously praise God there, there’s been so much progress that we rob God of glory if we don’t acknowledge and praise him for praise God. The match has been blown out, but is the house still on fire?
That’s the question I want to ask and push on. And I think it is, and I think it’s, when you look at some certain communities and see like, man, you know, segregation has taken its toll on this community. And, you know, people can be, to use a different metaphor, people you might, they might say in their honest moments, like, man, well, people in the inner city, they just act like animals. And I’m like, maybe is it because they’ve been put in a cage? I’m not saying individual agency doesn’t exist. I’m not saying sinners aren’t responsible for their sin. Right. That all theologically, it’s very clear in the text. I also think what’s clear in the text is that people’s circumstances affect them. And, yeah, we can talk more about that. But anyway, there, that would be my long answer to present day and some of the assumptions under, some pushback to that.
Chauncey Allmond (18:42):
Wow. So someone may say, they may hear that, and, and they’re just completely blind to, you know, the things that you mentioned, and you mentioned some of the glaring ones as well. I remember reading a book recently, that talks about lament—biblical lament—and people just kind of jumping to conclusions, kind of like you said, you know, hey, the people are wild and crazy in the inner city. And the book challenged people, and I can’t think of the name of it, I’ll mention it when it comes to mind, the book challenged people to before jumping to conclusions. How about just lament, just lamenting for what people are saying is happening to them? And, you know, let’s start there. Let’s start with having some dinnertime conversations about what each other’s lives are like. Because again, if someone is looking at life through that small lens that you mentioned, they’re gonna miss some things. And, and we’re gonna talk about some things in your church as well, but do you advocate those types of things in your ministry in terms of having conversations for people who may have blinders on to kind of open those blinders up? What kind of steps have you taken to make things a little more clear that may not be as obvious to some?
Isaac Adams (20:01):
Yeah, man, thank you for bringing that up. There’s some good resources of maybe the book you’re talking about. There’s a book called Weep with Me that’s about that. Is it? Okay, Mark Vroegop. Yeah. A friend of mine. Incredible book. It’s really about, I think the subtitle, some like lament affiliation because here, yes, I advocate that. but more importantly, I think the Bible advocates that man. We are people of this book. Right. And a third of the Psalter is lament, is David crying out in pain. We have Jeremiah, the weeping prophet, a book called Lamentations, where so much of the hardship of life is, is lament. And on one hand I can hear people being like, well, the beauty of lament is you’re not saying like, well, ‘oh, that’s all my fault.’ It’s just to say, ‘man, that’s a sad thing.’
Like, I got a phone call earlier today, I’m a pastor, this couple had a stillborn baby. Well, that’s not my fault, but I lament with them. Right. Because it’s a horrible thing. And that’s why I try to, in the book, introduce this language of racial tragedy to say that wherever you’re at on an issue, wherever you’re at with Tyree Nichols, with Ahmaud Arbery, with George Floyd, we can lament that an image bearer is dead. Right. Like, he’s still made in the image of God. We can be sad about that. Right. Right. And we can be sad about the historic tensions tied up in this tragedy. And so some of the steps we’ve tried to take— one thing that book actually suggests is a civil rights tour is just— you know, in Birmingham, Alabama, man, I could throw a rock and I’ll hit a civil rights something.
And so, just taking people to these different spaces and places and being like, man, let’s just read the history about 16th Street Baptist Church, which four little girls, who, by the way, my mom was old enough to be one of those girls– four little girls were killed on the Lord’s Day by a bomb placed outside their church. We can talk about Fred Shuttlesworth, who on Christmas Day, had a bomb detonated in his house in Birmingham. I mean, it’s just, you know, racism is not a respecter of holidays and it’s not a respecter of sacred spaces. And so anyway, all that to say, man, that’s one practice, that we’re trying to do more of, that we’re thinking through and praying through, and that I know Mark Vroegop’s church is a model in is these kind of civil rights tours where you just go and you experience the thing together and you leap that mankind could be so wicked. Right. Our book says, the heart is deceitful and desperately sick.
Chauncey Allmond (22:37):
Isaac Adams (22:38):
The world’s like, follow your heart. The Bible’s like suspicious of your heart.
Chauncey Allmond (22:42):
Right. The opposite
Isaac Adams (22:45):
Deceitful and desperately sick. And the racial history of this country certainly plays that out.
Chauncey Allmond (22:51):
That’s good, man. That’s good. Now I wanna take a big picture. Look, best case scenario, we’re gonna dream for a minute, if we can, in regards to race, what would the church look like? And most importantly, what would it be like in an ideal world, I’m talking about the church, the body as a whole, even, even specifically to the church building itself. In an ideal world, what would that look like?
Isaac Adams (23:34):
We gotta dress rehearsal in our local churches. And man, this is a good question and it’s hard because, you know, it’s kind of like asking, what does a successful marriage look like? What does love in a marriage look like? It’s a place, where at a bare minimum, really to use the metaphor for my book, where the masks are off. And here’s what I mean. I think on this issue, we are so tempted in this conversation, just put on different masks and I mean, just show up to church. I’m not gonna go there. Here’s what I really think, but I’m a front, like I don’t have an opinion because I don’t wanna get into it at church, this is where I worship Jesus.
And it’s like, man, a church is a place, and that has nothing to do with Covid masks. By the way, the book was originally We Wear the Mask and then Covid came out. I just, like, the editor was like, that’s not gonna work. So, but where it’s safe to have these conversations, man, and I think churches, we do have a responsibility to think, because what we have to remember, Chauncey, is that churches, at least in Jim Crow in the South, were the strongest bastions of segregation. Because churches are voluntary institutions. They’re not federally supported, and therefore they cannot be forced to integrate like the public schools. So where did you go when you were mad about that? You went to your church. And so they were the last lines of resistance, the very place that should have been the beacon to the world, all men are created equal here and have equal standing. And we eat of the same loaf because we’re of that one loaf became the very place that denied that message in reality. And I think we have a responsibility to undo that as much as we can. And here’s my, here’s my ideal, is a church that is so full of love, be it in itself or toward another congregation that the world has no choice but to say, look at how those Christians love one another. That’s my ideal. That’s my ideal thousand different ways. But here’s the problem, Chauncey, I think the world looks and they’re like, what’s so special about Christianity? Jesus is raised from a tomb. His people can’t even agree with each other. They don’t even like each other. They don’t even worship together. And so I think we just have a lot of work to do, man.
Chauncey Allmond (26:17):
Yeah. Man, you guys are torn up about who’s running for President and who voted for who and who didn’t vote for whom, and that’s within the church. And so I guess the question then becomes, you know, how do we, I mean, we’ll never get to that, you know, that ideal until heaven as you mentioned, but in the meantime, this dress rehearsal as you called, and I love that the way you put that. You know, what steps do you think we can take to get there? First one I’m gonna answer for you. Go get your book, go get your book and read that book. There you go. Talking about Race. But in addition to that, what, what, I mean, what are some additional practical steps that you think we can take to get to that point where we need to be?
Isaac Adams (27:19):
Yeah, that’s a good question. I think one, man— this is where we need good teaching. And I lay a lot of the blame for present-day divisions, honestly, at pastors’ feet. And I am a pastor, man. Mm-hmm. But I think sometimes, pastors, we have a responsibility to teach our people and they floundered because of it. And so, one, I think we need good teaching on this issue of Christian freedom. The very thing we talked about with the HBCU conversation. Yes. Here’s what I mean, because I’m like, listen, I think it’s legitimate for Christians to have different opinions about a vaccine. There’s some things Christians have to agree on. Racism is a sin. We have to agree. Right? but we can have some differences on how that sin plays out, who perpetuates it, how it manifests, all these things.
But what is a non-negotiable is that we love each other. Meaning it’s possible for me, for you to disagree with me on some things and for me to love you. That’s deeply counter-cultural to our culture today. And so what we need is some teaching on how to do that. It means we need categories to, to see what is a non-negotiable and what’s a negotiable, and why am I treating a negotiable, like it’s a non-negotiable. And the non-negotiables, Jesus getting up from the dead, I’m not even really that excited about it, honestly. Because a lot of us are more excited about our political opinions than we are the fact that our Savior got up from the ground. But that’s a different thing. So we need some teaching on that. Second man, this, this will sound so basic and plain, but lament something.
And I would say, man prayed together about these issues deeply as a church. When a church prays together, it’s not, you know, here are 60 or 300 or whatever size church people having individual quiet times. These people are together grabbing the throne of God. Jesus taught us to pray to our Father—not just my Father, but our Father. And prayer does something, man. It has a way of humbling us. And Jesus said, when it comes to mountains, you know, here’s what you should do, ask me. And you can throw that mountain into the sea. And when we’re looking at the mountain of racial problems in our country, we’re not looking at a foothill, we’re looking at Everest. And it’s like, what do we even do with this, bro? It’s like, we’re a church. We’re not a federal agency. We don’t have, like, we’re a church. What can we do? But we can ask our father and we can continue to ask our father. And Jesus even gave us a parable of the persistent widow. Keep asking that you might get justice. And so that’s what I think. Those are two things any church can do. I’ll throw in a third one for free. And that’s, you know, when someone tells you about their racial experience, believe them.
Chauncey Allmond (30:04):
Yes. That, if I can jump on that one, that one is so important because sometimes I wanna tell people or ask people, do you think we’re making this up? I mean, yes.
Isaac Adams (30:16):
Chauncey Allmond (30:17):
You’ve heard the stories and you’ve probably been a victim of this as well of things like walking around the store and people are following you around the store to see if you’re stealing stuff. You know, I really just want to ask, don’t you think we have better things to do with our time than to make this stuff up? That’s what I really wanna say.
Isaac Adams (30:37):
Like, why would I make this up? Why? Like, man, if you’re from the majority, I want to hear your story too. And man, there’s probably some real things to lament there as well. Why don’t we lament together? Exactly. Yeah, man. Exactly. But you know, it’s sad that I think in a lot of our churches, minorities fear that they won’t be met with humility, but hostility. Yeah. And I think that fear is legitimate.
Chauncey Allmond (31:07):
I agree as well.
Isaac Adams (31:09):
Agree. I don’t think it’s everywhere. and I remember talking once about my kind of positive experiences in predominantly white churches. And, a black brother hit me up and he is like, Hey man, you know, love to talk, yada yada. but I do want to check you on one thing. I think your experience is the exception, not the norm. Mm-hmm. And that was a helpful check for me. And it’s not left. And it gets to your point about having a narrow perspective. Because spoiler alert, minorities can have narrow perspectives too. but it’s something, this is something a pastor named Ed Copeland said, and I think this is so helpful. “Your universe isn’t universal, your universe isn’t universal.” So when you’re like, well, it doesn’t exist in my predominantly white community that everyone looks like me and votes like me and spends and plays their money like me, well, you might need to get out of your universe and realize that your universe isn’t universal. And so I have to remember that we all have to remember that, and I think we’d make a lot of progress in the conversation if we did.
Chauncey Allmond (32:12):
That’s wise. I’m gonna steal that from you. Hey, man.
Isaac Adams (32:15):
I steal it from him.
Chauncey Allmond (32:16):
From him. Alright. We’ll both steal it from him. I love that. Now, when you, if we could talk about your specific church, Iron City, a little bit. it’s been almost a year, I think you said when you first got there. What was the racial or the ethnic ratio or the makeup? Was it predominant Black, predominant white? Was it mixed? What, what was it then and how has it changed over the years?
Isaac Adams (32:40):
Yeah, I would say, well, I’ll say this. So the church was planted eight years ago. I’ve been there for a little over a year. Okay. The church was probably more diverse when I first got here. I would just say more mixed. Like okay. Predominately white would be the largest percentage though, so I wanna make that clear. And I think, you know, the kind of working definition of multiethnic is 80/20, and so I think the church met that. But, you know, COVID hit and, you know, my church wasn’t like every other church. It got rocked by COVID. You had people leave the minority community, it was affected in a different way. And so I think our church is probably more, it probably was probably more white than when I got there. Okay. But I’ll say this man, and I don’t say this to, our church has so many things to figure out, man, it’s not even funny. It’s just like, we don’t, we don’t hold ourselves out as a model. Right. We are just like, we’re on this path, man. But, I think it probably is more of an indictment of how segregated Alabama is that people visit our church and say, this is the most diverse church I’ve been to in the South. Mm.
You know, that this, and I praise God for that. But I really hope that becomes, I really hope that that wouldn’t be the case. I’m like, man, if this is as good as it gets, we have a lot of work to do, bro. And so, so the makeup’s probably around 80/20, 75/25, something like that
Chauncey Allmond (34:12):
Right now. Right. And that’s current day, you say?
Isaac Adams (34:14):
Yeah, that’s current day.
Chauncey Allmond (34:14):
Yep. Okay, good. So when you first came, first went to the church, got to the church, and you know, you’ve written these articles about race and, you know, podcasts about race. How was that received in a majority
Isaac Adams (34:30):
On your face by God’s grace? It was received—well, because this was, this was at the heart of this church. This was at the heart of this church. and I think part of the reason they were interested in having me as their pastor, because they knew they were a church in Birmingham, Alabama. And that presented a special opportunity to minister across historic lines of division to prove that what Jesus has done is legitimate. Right? I think they wanted a pastor who was excited about that and believed in that. And so I think a lot of churches, you know, I’ll be straight, Chauncey—there’s plenty of churches I would not be welcome in as their pastor, but this is not one of them. And I bless the Lord for that. So it was received well, United? We Pray and ministry, I began to help Christians talk and think and pray about racial strife. It’s officially, legally a ministry of this church. They adopted that, right when I got there, basically. And so, man, we’re trying our best and Right. Yeah.
Chauncey Allmond (35:37):
So I have a two-part question as it relates to the church and in terms of multi-ethnic churches. And so what I want to know is there, there may be some pastors who are watching this who pastor multi-ethnic churches where the majority may be, let’s say white and there may be some pastors watching and the majority in their churches are, are black. If you could, I know you mentioned you guys are a work in progress and you’re conscious of these types of things, but what advice would you give, let’s start with the white pastor. What advice would you give the white pastor who has African Americans attending their church churches, to make them feel comfortable, as you just mentioned, some churches you wouldn’t be welcome at? but because, and I’m gonna— lemme give you some background to the question. We know there are obvious differences between “Black” (quote unquote) and white churches in terms of preaching style, in terms of music. And you know, some people, and I’ve heard this, some will say, “I can’t attend that white church because the music is not what I’m used to, or I don’t like that style, or I love the preaching style over here.” So for the white pastor who has some Black attendees at that church, what advice would you give them knowing that, you know, the environment may be not what they’re used to? And then conversely, what would you offer as advice for the black pastor who may have some white attendees at, at his church as well?
Isaac Adams (37:08):
Yeah, that’s a good question, man. I don’t mean it just as a cheesy commercial, but one of the main characters in Talking about Race is a white pastor. And I lay out a whole bunch of steps for this brother. So I would say, read that, read the pastor’s chapter in Talking about Race. And, there’ll be more steps briefly what I, here’s what I would say. We have an article on United? We Pray written by a white brother. And, he’s married to—he’s our executive director—he has a Black wife and he was invited to his wife’s cookout and somehow the grilling fell to him and he was like, I don’t even know what I’m doing. So, he was like, when you find yourself in that kind of scenario or just, you know, even for this pastor, he said, number one, be yourself.
So don’t try to start hooping and hollering. Right. Cause you’re assuming all people, all Black people are used to that and they’re not and all Black people like that, and they don’t. And so don’t start all that. Just be yourself and number two, be the most humble version of yourself. And so what I would say is, man, just name it and be like, “Hey, Jones family, I see y’all been visiting. I just want to name, I know we’re really white and I know that might be a real thing for y’all. And I, I’m, I’m happy to talk about that with y’all if y’all would like to at any point.” And I think that just goes a long way to say you see it.
So I would say name it, name it politely, don’t do it awkwardly like, Hey, first time you’re meeting them, get to know them and treat these people like image bearers. And then, go from there to the, to the Black brother, I would say, you know, on many levels, I think, and it’s interesting to me, I think a lot of white people fear being colonizers in church, Black church and things like that. When the stories I’ve heard at least Black churches are only welcoming folks. And so it’s just, I think, and I hear of Black churches who are like, “We need to be more diverse.” There are biblical injunctions upon us as a community here as well. And so, man, I would say preach those same injunctions, preach the book and we want to see our community. We want to display the reconciling love. And there are, both parties have responsibility in that. And so I would just think through those different levels of responsibility because, you know, comfort is not exclusive to one ethnic group, you know what I mean? It’s just a real American mindset that says, well, I’ve got 40 options and I like this for my own consumer desire. I like the music, I like the preaching. It’s like, if we’re gonna reconcile someone is gonna have to die to themselves.
And actually both parties are gonna have to die to themselves on some things of like, actually I don’t love the style, but I love her, so I’m gonna come to this church, you know? Right. Or whatever it may be. And so you wanna push your people to be thinking about that Black, white, or Asian, in their congregation.
Chauncey Allmond (40:12):
That’s good. And, and, and to kind of piggyback off of that, we talk about quote unquote “Black church,” quote unquote “white church.” And you know, we, we, we sometimes don’t want to use those terms, but the reality is, it, it’s a thing, yes. You know, and you know, it’s Black, white, multiethnic. Do you think in your opinion, and I’m gonna speak specifically about the black church, we talked about HBCUs, in the beginning and right. We know how, how and why they were formed was because black folks couldn’t get into a white university. Same thing with the Black church. Black church was formed because Black people were not welcome or allowed to attend the church, and therefore we wanted to praise and worship and serve the Lord. And so Black churches were formed. But in 2023, do you think there is a place for the Black church? Or should we all work towards multiethnic churches?
Isaac Adams (41:08):
Yes, this is a great question. Yes I do. Because here’s the thing, Chauncey, is like, I meant, I don’t want, I’m not talking about out above sides of my mouth. I think everything I said before was true about our burden to display the reconciling power of the gospel to a watching world that Christ has given the right to make a judgment about us. Do they love each other or not? But Scripture does not say how diverse our churches must be. In other words, a church in the middle of South Dakota is just not gonna have that many Black people in it. So I think we have to add some important caveats unless we wrongly bind consciences and say as much as possible and as much as reflects the community you’ve been placed in, because this is the real damage of segregation historically.
If, if it’s created these communities. And there’s wide between these communities. I mean, Chauncey, we’re talking about the great migration, we’re talking about all these cultural trends that have risen and fallen, that the church cannot itself go incorrect. Right. And so what I want to see is a healthy gospel preaching community, a healthy gospel preaching church in that Black and brown community and in that white community. And Lord willing, they would see that both in, yes, in an ideal world there’d be one Baptist church, but we all know there’s First Baptist on Main Street and First Baptist or Second Baptist on, you know, whatever Ralph Avenue. I would love to see those churches work together, but I don’t think they have to close in order to be faithful. Now, some have decided to do that.
I have notice some churches are like, we should come together because our history is like we were split into these two churches, we should come together. And I praise God for that. But I want to be careful to say, you know, no, all churches must close their doors because here’s the deal. If, if a church, if a, if that church let’s, you should go back to this church in South Dakota. If they’re preaching the gospel, if they’re talking about the issues, if they realize, listen, like we can at least help our kids who probably, you know, some of them may not live here. They might live in a different environment one day, be prepared for this conversation. We can be as welcoming as we can be. We can send money to other churches in Flint, Michigan, or whatever it is. Man, I think that’s faithfulness.
And so the question is what does faithfulness look like for this church? And I think if we say, well, it looks like closing your doors and joining with that church, it’s like maybe, but man, let me just say, as a pastor in a church, like every pastor knows change is tough. Yeah. And like, you still just walk up in there and be like, okay, we’re closing this sucker down. . Right. just does not, well people, life does not work that way. And so change is slow, but change happens over time. And it starts with teaching, it starts with prayer. And so yes, I think there is a place because the world is still very hostile and especially the black church has been a place of refuge for so many different African Americans. And so, I I think people can wrongly can— it, it’s just a tricky thing, man. And I think we can wrongly guilt predominant institutions of any one ethnicity that are predominantly that way. when, yeah, maybe they started that way with bad motivations, but they just are that way now. Like you, they just are. Right. And so we gotta, we gotta live with that.
Chauncey Allmond (44:52):
That’s good. Brother Pastor Isaac Adams, it’s been a pleasure, man. I can, I can keep going all day, but you probably got other things to do. But, thank you for joining us at Logos, man. We really appreciate your wisdom, your insight. It’s been very helpful. And I know people want to get more information about you. They may want to get your book. So if they would like to follow you, let’s say on social media, where can they go? What’s the best way to get in contact with you? And when they’re in Alabama, of course they’re gonna go to Iron City. But in terms of following on social media, man, what’s the, what’s the best way?
Isaac Adams (45:32):
Yeah, man, like, I mean man, I’ll just give a plug for United? We Pray because that’s our pod—that’s a podcast I do with the brother I was mentioning earlier. So you can go to uwepray.org, the letter uwepray.org and check out the resources there. If this conversation’s been helpful, there will be a lot of stuff on that website. You can follow me on Instagram and Twitter. I’m not really on Facebook anymore. just at Isaac Adams, @isickadams, those are my handles and yeah, but check out United?, that’s what I point people to first and foremost.
Chauncey Allmond (46:09):
Sounds good brother. Well thank you so much and go get the book too. bless. Yes. Yeah, hold on one more time. Hold on. There you go. Talking about Race, Isaac Adams. Go get it. Read it. there’s some great information in there and again brother, thank you so much for joining us here at Logos Live and we gotta have you back again soon.
Isaac Adams (46:29):
Hey man, just be, have that Carolina Blue on if I’m gonna come back.
Chauncey Allmond (46:33):
Hey, next time I’m wearing my maroon and orange for Tech. This is the intro one for you.
Isaac Adams (46:38):
Chauncey Allmond (46:40):
There you go. All right, brother. Thank you so much. Thank you everyone. Tune in next time for Logos Live and thank you so much. We appreciate you. We love you.