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December 21, 2016Interviews

Stay the Course: My Interview with Wilfredo de Jesus on His Recent Book

"Pastor Choco" pastors one of the fastest growing churches in Chicago.
Stay the Course: My Interview with Wilfredo de Jesus on His Recent Book
Image: Pastor De Jesús

Ed:You write in the book that Christ is the True North. It keeps us on track with God and His purposes for us. What advice can you give to help us stay the course when culture is drifting?

Pastor Choco: Let me share a story. I was recently on a two-hour flight from Chicago to Dallas. As I was walked off the airplane after landing, the cockpit opened and I saw the pilot. I asked him, “Can you tell me how many times you guys had to punch all these buttons in the past two hours?”

He responded, “We probably touched them several thousands of times.” “Really?” I asked.

“Absolutely,” he responded. “If you don't continue coming back to the original plan, the route, the plane would end up in the ocean as a result of the headwinds and tailwinds. There is constant drifting, and have to continue to go back to these buttons to make sure we end up in Dallas."

I asked, "Can you give me a percentage that this plane was on target from Chicago to Dallas?" He answered, "Only 1% of the time. The other 99% we're making adjustments."

My advice to all of us is that we’ve got to keep coming back to the basics—the altar, the Bible, our daily devotions, Jesus. We’ve got to keep checking to make sure we’re not drifting with the culture. Every day, we must be check ourselves. If not, we'll drift into the ocean with this culture.

Ed:One of the questions people ask is, “What's the kingdom damage when believers give in and accept the change, when they fiercely oppose change, or when they withdraw because they can't stand the change?” What is your response to this kind of question?

Pastor Choco: I think there are four responses to a culture drift. One of them is when you accommodate the drift. When you accommodate, you begin to lose the truth and your identity. Another response to the culture drift that happens in our culture and in the church is that you begin to oppose it. When you oppose it, then you begin to lose the opportunity to share grace and truth.

Then, there is withdrawing yourself from the culture drift that is happening. You try to ignore what is going on in the world and focus only on yourself. But when you withdraw, people will never hear about the love of Jesus Christ.

All of those responses are wrong. What we should do is do what Jesus did. He engaged culture. He engaged women. He engaged Pharisees. He engaged lepers. The Church has a responsibility to engage the drift that is occurring with the truth, grace, and love of Jesus Christ. When we do that, people will be able to respond and find out more about the love of Christ.

Ed:You advocate in the book that people engage in the culture with a blend of grace and truth. How are you doing that in Chicago?

Pastor Choco: There is a lot of violence occurring in our society, especially in Chicago. As a response, we’ve adopted 15 schools with about 6,000 students total and hosted what was called a Hopefest. We gave every student a book bag and a folder. In each folder, we included some information on what kind of lifestyle we wanted each student to have.

We’ve also engaged police by having roll call in the lobby of our church. We wanted to make sure there was a bridge between the community and the police department. And we have engaged not only the police department, but also the educational department, city government, and the mayor by giving our input about the community as an institution.

My plea to pastors around this country is to be present. We must speak truth about what we're seeing and the injustices in our school systems. For example, in Chicago, most of the money for schools goes to the East Coast or the Gold Coast. Other parts of the city are seeing schools deteriorating. We must stand up for these schools and fight with the school system to make sure we've got new computers and books.

This has nothing to do with preaching on a Sunday morning, but it has everything to do with speaking to injustice. When people see you speaking out, they are more apt to hear about and respond to the gospel. We must care not only about the Bible and the gospel, but also about the sons and daughters who need a good, quality education.

Ed:In the book, you talk about Abraham, Joseph, Joe, David, Peter, Paul, and others who walked with God even though the world was falling apart around them. The last chapter of your book is called "No Excuses.” What are some ways that God uses fire, shears, and I'm quoting from your book, and “the potter's wheel” to shape our lives?

Pastor Choco: Everything that has happened to us has made us stronger. It was good that I was afflicted. It was good, some said, that I suffered. If you look in the Bible, men and women who have gone through suffering have accomplished great things. The Bible says that when Shadrack, Meshach, and Abednego came out of the fire, there was no evidence that they even went through the fire—they didn't even smell like smoke.

When we go through these types of seasons and we're in the potter's wheel, it may be painful. When God turns us, He shapes us and puts us in that fire because He has a plan and a purpose with this vessel. We are instruments of God. We are weapons of God, and we must be sharpened. That shape can only be formed if it's in the fire.

If we want to get from here to there, we can't have excuses. We might have to go through 13 years of prison, 13 years of being accused like Joseph with Potiphar's wife. Sometimes, we might have to go through that season and not create excuses and complain. People often like the end product, but they don't like the process.

Ed:What do you hope Christians will do after reading the book?

Pastor Choco: My hope is that they will get inspired to become salt and light. The Church in America has failed to be salt and light. What Jesus said in Matthew 5 wasn't a compliment; it was a responsibility we should bear. When He said, "You are the salt and you are the light," He was referring to the fact that there is darkness and that we have a responsibility to change that.

My hope is that we would all say with confidence, "I need to stay the course. I need to keep coming back to the True North. I'm called by my community in ______ to be light. I'm called to bring change and to have people look at my lifestyle and make them be thirsty for Jesus because I'm salt.”

We must stay the course in what God has called us. We must be the Church. The political climate is crazy today, but we must continue to be a Church that offers transformation and love to people.

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