Jonathan Brooks is a man of many talents—a school teacher, writer, speaker, artist, musician, and community activist, he also serves as the senior pastor at Canaan Community Church on Chicago’s South Side. But whether he’s encouraging young people to serve as leaders in their neighborhoods or finding ways to engage the church in community revitalization, “Pastah J” is guided by a singular God-given calling: transformation.

Where most see Chicago’s West Englewood as a neighborhood known for violence and poverty, Brooks sees potential. His ministry is built around the idea that the church can become “intimately involved in the lives of people to the point where they trust it again and see the church as something that’s there for them, not for its own benefit”:

I engage them right where they are, on a relationship level. Like, I spend a lot of my day playing dominoes and cards on the porch with guys ‘til they trust me. Why is anybody going to listen to anything I have to say until they trust me, right? Especially Millennials—oh my goodness, trust is everything. You get their trust, and it’s deeper than anything you know or you can provide. It’s just that: “Okay, you really are who you say you are.”
Another thing I do is, I intentionally look different. I just chopped off my dreadlocks about a year ago. They were down my back—I had ‘em for 10 years. It was really weird for them that I pastor a straight stained-glass, red-brick steepled church, and when people come in, they’re like “Well, who’s the pastor here?” And I come out, and they’re like “That guy’s the pastor?” Ladies in hats ...
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