Pastor J helps youth connect with God
Jonathan Lambe was the epitome of a church kid.
He grew up in a family of gospel preachers — his dad is Rev Harold Lambe, the senior pastor of Evening Light Pentecostal Church in Pembroke.
But he decided as a youngster he did not want to follow in that same path.
“I didn't want my life to look like a preacher's,” he said. “I wanted to live my life, because ministry is hard.
“Nowadays it looks glamorous, but it isn't at all. It's hard work ministering to people within the complexities of life.
“I ran as far as I could [from it], but you can't out run the call of God.”
He was 15 years old when he preached his first message at a youth convention. Then over time God began changing his heart towards ministry.
“For me it was a gradual deal,” said the 41-year-old, who is currently on Island speaking at a local Youth Explosion event.
“God began to talk to me and show me the lives of people and show me His heart and I began to see people in a different light and see ministry in a different light.
“It wasn't just an occupation for me, but an opportunity to help people connect with the love of God and have a real relationship with Him.
“The key I think for me was I felt like the Lord was saying to me, ‘You don't have to do it the way you've seen it done before' so that freed me up to be creative in my approach. We were able to do things that were kind of unconventional at the time.”
Back in 2001, Jonathan and his wife Candice started a programme known as Club Reign in Kansas City.
At that time they were ministering in an area considered “the poorest of the poor”. The Missouri community was plagued with crime — and young people were being gunned down almost every weekend over a three-month period.
“There was no place designed specifically for them,” said the preacher, affectionately known as Pastor J.
“I thought they needed to be in a safe place, so we hosted a city wide event and had a DJ. It was an outreach event with food and prizes and in the midst of them having fun we began to share the gospel with them.
“It went across denominational and racial lines and people said ‘How did you do this?' And we just said, ‘We love people and weren't afraid to go into areas which traditionally you didn't go into'. We were dealing with young people whose parents weren't forcing them to go to church so it had to be something they wanted to come out to.”
He's been working to find new and innovative ways to reach the youth ever since.
Through his US-based church, Reign Life, Pastor J has held video game tournaments and back to school events to reach the younger generation.
They've even given away groceries to show people a practical example of God's love.
But he hasn't forgotten about his Bermuda roots — and the young people in need here.
One way he's hoping to reach local teens and young adults is through Evening Light's four day event ‘Straight 2 The Streets', which continues today and tomorrow.
He believes young people have been largely “overlooked by the church as a whole”.
“We have the older generation [sitting in the pews] but are missing the 12 to 18 age group, as well as 19 to 25 year-olds.
“A lot of churches have youth groups but normally when children go 16 they transition out of church and we don't see them coming back until they are in their 30s or having children of their own.
“Globally we haven't shifted with the times or the culture to create new ways to reach this generation,” he continued.
“In a lot of settings the church will gripe about the technology and short attention span of young people and social media, but we haven't embraced it in order to reach a generation that's really living in this world.”
Back in the US, Pastor J is also working to connect with young people through Christian based media.
He wrote his first book, The Chronicles of David King, in 2012. It is an urbanised take on the life of King David and was originally written as a movie script.
His hope is that he can use this area of creativity to “modernise this story and illustrate some truths” to a generation that is not familiar with God's word. “I had a lot of young people who read this book and said ‘Pastor J, I want to read the real story of David',” he explained.
“As a result we are launching a new initiative called X3 Media Group, enabling us to now move more into a space where we can offer mentoring around multimedia, creative arts and technology.
“[We want to be able to] give young people things that they love that will also give them life skills and job readiness for the workplace.
“As we're doing that we're teaching them a biblical worldview and about who God created them to be.
“We teach them that our relationship isn't just one that gets us to heaven, but brings heaven to earth.”
The new programme will launch next month in the United States.
• For more information on the youth outreach events happening in Bermuda this weekend, see sidebar.
Look into some churches and you might see a dwindling teen and young adult population.
Evening Light Pentecostal Church is hoping to find a way to change all that.
This weekend, the church’s youth leaders, Shayne and Vanessa Scott, will host a series of events called ‘Straight 2 The Streets’. They have invited Bermudian minister Jonathan Lambe (Pastor J) and his wife, Candace, to lend a hand.
On Thursday they held a youth service and panel discussion, followed by a worship party last night.
Today they will host a scavenger hunt from 1pm until 4pm. Tomorrow there will be a special service at Turtle Bay, next to Clearwater Beach, at 11am.
The goal? To offer young people a fun and safe place to hear the Gospel.
“Evening Light has been a staple in the community for 80 years. It has been an impactful church and had a very rich tradition as well,” Pastor J said.
“They’ve decided even though we do church on Sunday, let’s take the message to the place where kids would like to be.”
Their beach service tomorrow will also be followed by a picnic lunch. All are welcome to attend.
“Come dressed down — it’s really not about clothes, it’s about souls so we want to make sure we are creating the environment where people can really worship God authentically,” Pastor J said.
“We will be doing things a little bit differently to connect with a generation that is afraid of and a little bit tired of church.”
He said many young people saw the church as judgmental — a place that was not relevant any more.
But in his view there is no one with more vision and creativity than God.
“So [what we have to do is] work on executing His vision so we can begin to change and affect the world for the better and bring something to the table that will empower the culture to be better rather than tearing it down,” he said.
They have tried to reach the Island’s youth through informational flyers and social media.
They want it to be a successful event, but more importantly a place where young people can gain a better understanding about God. Pastor J describes it as more of a movement, than a one-off service.
“One of our traditions in the church is to do this big Call to Jesus, but once they have that salvation experience we kind of forget about them,” he said.
“We have young people who want God, but have no one walking with them through this Christian life.
“Our young people need to have people who are consistent and who they can trust. Youth view God based on the relationships they have. If they aren’t used to consistency and accountability then they will think God is not that.
“So the purpose of this event is to show people who God really is.”
• For more information, call 296-5044 or 337-1389.