Platinum selling R&B star–turned–Atlanta-based pastor Montell Jordan joins us for a thought provoking-packed conversation about the beauty and challenges of living together in a diverse country — especially within the church. Don’t miss a single episode of Dinner Conversations. Subscribe below!
TRANSCRIPT FROM THE SHOW
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Mark: Today on Dinner Conversations we have a very interesting guest, who actually was just supposed to do a bumper in one of the other episodes.
Andrew: A breakaway, yeah.
Mark: A breakaway, yeah. And he was such a fascinating guest that we have decided to give him his own episode. His name is Montel Williams. Isn’t it, or is it Jordan?
Andrew: It’s actually Montell Jordan.
Mark: Oh, it’s Jordan!
Andrew: Montel Williams is a famous talk show host.
Mark: Oh, that’s right.
Andrew: Montell Jordan came to notoriety in the ‘90s. I grew up with This is how we do it. Which was a huge platinum-selling R&B single.
Mark: And he sang that?
Andrew: Oh yeah, you remember “This Is How We Do It”?
Mark: No. But it was a big song?
Andrew: Oh, it was multi-platinum. It was an international hit. They still play— This is how we do it, how we do it, do it. That’s Montell Jordan.
Mark: I do remember that.
Andrew: Yeah, and then he had a big R&B career.
Mark: Bill would bring Gloria on with that song.
Andrew: Shut up, that’s not true.
Mark: No, I made that up.
Andrew: That is not true but would’ve been brilliant.
Mark: It would have been.
Andrew: Montell Jordan is brilliant, and we are thrilled to have him in the house.
Mark: He really is.
Andrew: He’s a pastor now, one of the pastors at Victory World Church in Atlanta.
Mark: From this is how we do it to the pulpit. And we have one seat left at the table, and it’s yours! Let’s join the conversation.
Andrew: First thing is according to the internet in 2012 you died.
Montell: Yeah, yeah.
Andrew: So I’m wondering if this is a hologram or an imposter.
Montell: No, I’m real. I got killed on Twitter.
Andrew: Okay, it was Twitter.
Montell: It was a great story behind that. I’ll keep it brief. I took my son to a football field, gonna just catch some football, and I wanted to spend valuable time with him, so I turned my phone off and hopped out, left it in the car, went outside, played football for like 30, 40 minutes, came back, my phone was literally on fire, almost like burning up. My wife was callin’ me, my mom was callin’ me, my closest friends were callin’ me tryin’ to find out what was goin’ on, and so rather than call anybody back, I was like, what is goin’ on? And I kinda looked up social media, and it was just this thread of Montell Jordan dies in his mistress’ downtown Atlanta condo. So I’m like, they killed me, and they didn’t even kill me at home. They killed me at something that doesn’t even exist. So I called my wife, and I called everybody. But the cool thing about that was I learned who I was. It was almost like goin’ to your own funeral.
Andrew: Based on what people are saying?
Montell: Yeah, what do people think about me? Singer who does “This Is How We Do It” dies. “This Is How We Do It” singer dies. R&B singer that did “This Is How We Do It” dies. And I’m like, that’s me? Guy that did “This Is How We Do It” dies? And so from there, I really started to focus on life after the ellipsis. And I think an ellipsis is that little dot, dot, dot. The guy that did “This Is How We Do It,” dot, dot, dot, but went on to lead people to Christ and to do this and to do that. And so that’s how I’ve kinda based my life since that time.
Andrew: I mean, tell me about that, because growing up, Montell Jordan, for me, growing up, Montell Jordan’s an R&B, platinum selling, “This Is How We Do It.” I mean, it’s exactly what you saw. And now, 20 years later, I mean, I’m interested in what happened, what transpired that took you from “This Is How We Do It” to really gettin’ it done spiritually as a worship pastor, and just pastoral in nature here at Victory World Church in Atlanta.
Montell: Well, brought up in church. Church kid raised, sittin’ on a piano from the time, I mean, I was one of those kids that anytime the church doors were open, I was there. Was put on a piano and started doin’ that around the time I was 10, 11-years-old, up until my mid-20s, early 20s I should say. And from that standpoint, I grew up in church and I was in church, but church wasn’t always in me. So I knew all the technical things to do in church. I knew how to follow my pastor, I knew how to play music by ear, I knew how to (hums), I knew how to follow and do things like that, but as far as getting near God or the whole Holy Spirit thing, we were Baptists and so that was kinda taboo.
Andrew: Yeah, right.
Montell: Just navigating those things. So I was always around church and in church, but church wasn’t fully in me until later on in life, and so that was my training ground. I didn’t get my upbringing in bible college or any of those things. It came through the music business later on in life. And I gotta say this, we’re having dinner conversations, and I’ve watched the show and you normally have dinner at Dinner Conversations.
Andrew: That’s true, that’s true. Do you feel jipped?
Montell: And I don’t know if this is a black thing, so I brought my own. I brought my own dinner.
Andrew: Are we gonna break bread together?
Montell: Thank you, Mark. Thank you, Mark. But I brought my own dinner, and we’ll have to do this again and we’ll actually sit down to… I’m joking with you.
Andrew: Now I will tell you not everyone has dinner. I don’t even know how to respond. When you said this is a black thing, I got nothing, 2019, I don’t know if I can say anything.
Montell: Oh no, good, no, no good, it’s good, it’s good.
Andrew: Although I am thrilled you’re here.
Montell: Yeah, thank you.
Andrew: And we’ve known each other a few years now just off and on. And when we began talking, we’ve had several conversations with different people about, you could call it the issue of, or maybe just the conversation of race and the church. And we’re talking about not just one church, we’re talking about–
Montell: The Church.
Andrew: The universal Church, right. And here at Victory World specifically, I’ve noticed a lot in the language of the website and even in, I think I wrote it down, I did, what you said in your bio on the website that one of your favorite parts of the job is leading people of all cultures and nationalities into a deeper and more intimate place of worship with Jesus. And that language is all over the website too. You have over apparently 100 nationalities worshiping across your campuses on any given weekend. Why is that important, not just to your congregation here in Atlanta that you’re a part of, but why is it important to you?
Montell: It’s important to me because I value Kingdom culture over earthly culture, meaning over being African American, which I love. I value Kingdom culture over that, and a lot of people can’t fully understand that, that Jesus would mean more to me than that.
Andrew: Than your heritage.
Montell: Than heritage.
Andrew: As an American man.
Montell: And I love culture, I love heritage, I love our food, I love dress codes, I love lingo, I love all the different things that make me uniquely me, but more than that, I love the fact that you and I can sit down to a table and, or not a table, but you know what I mean.
Andrew: We’ll get past that.
Montell: We can sit down and have… We can sit down and we can have conversations, real conversations, about who we are, who we are in Christ, the things that, we have the ills of society, that we have negative things that happen that impact us, but that we can have conversation about it and the world is very divided in a lot of different areas. If you look at everything from music, there’s R&B music or there’s pop music. What does that mean? There’s CCM, contemporary Christian music, and there’s gospel music. What does that mean? There’s all these different types of… There’s the black church and the evangelical church. What does that mean? There’s these, especially in America, there’s these dividing lines that color has played a huge part in the fabric of who we are. And so somehow my musical journey has allowed me not just to be a part of the community that birthed me but also to cross over into a community that accepted me, and then a world community to where I can go to Japan or Germany or anyplace else and those people embrace because of the music that speaks a universal language. So, that simply means this. We have 140 nations all represented here at Victory World Church, and my training ground, like I said, wasn’t in bible college. It was in the music business. And so now when I stand before 140 different nationalities of people to lead worship, I understand, first of all, nobody’s gonna be happy with worship because everybody wants their own style of music, but ultimately, it’s my job to take what I learned from Japan and from Germany and from Nigeria and place all of those things to focus all of those cultures and those nationalities towards Jesus to be able to say I know what our preferences are and what our human culture is, but if we can put that down for a more Jesus response to who He is to us, we can enter into a place of worship, and that’s one of the things I get to do here week in and week out at Victory.
Andrew: Don’t you think when you say helping, because of your experience all over the world with music, and experiencing different cultures and languages and heritages and then bringing that together, like you said, to point all nationalities to Jesus, don’t you think all nationalities are pointing to Jesus? In the sense of–
Andrew: Isn’t that a spiritual thing?
Montell: I do think all nationalities, many, I would say most are, in some way, if you are in some type of church or some type of religious context–
Andrew: Spiritual, yeah, uh-huh.
Montell: Spirituality, you’re pointing towards Christ. I think the challenge is… I think it’s interesting when you have to be around all white people to get to Christ. Or I’m more comfortable being around all black people coming to Christ. Or all Korean people.
Andrew: Sure, whatever it is, yeah.
Montell: Coming to Christ. All whatever people going to Christ, and so I’m trying to figure out if Christ says, “I’m coming back for a church, for a bride, without spot or blemish.” That, to me, doesn’t say, “I’m coming back for the evangelical church. I’m coming back for the black church, I’m coming back for the Korean church, I’m coming back for the Roman Episcopalian church, I’m coming back for the Catholic.” I think he says, “I’m coming back for my bride.” And I think that bride is consisting of a whole lot of different people and nationalities that Jesus died for. And so with that being said, I just want to do my part. And I understand each church has a great diversity and a great historical value–
Andrew: Right, tradition.
Montell: Tradition, and I understand it ’cause tradition is important. I think what we are to our individual churches is extremely valuable. I think what we are for God’s Church, and I say that specifically who we are for our church, is something that’s very diverse. Who we are for God’s Church I think is very, very inclusive because He’s coming back for His Church. He’s not coming back for a individual piece of the Church. He’s coming back for His body. And so at some point, I love what I get to do at such and such Baptist church because there’s a tradition that’s rich there for that church. Now for the church, how do we take what’s unique and diverse about that and then bring that into the entire body so that the entire body can be expressed in that diversity as opposed to try and keeping it separate? I think it’s a big ploy, Andrew, if I’m honest, just that if we can keep churches segregated and separate from each other, how can God come back for His bride and the bride is split apart?
Andrew: Interesting. Yeah, well and it seems that need to define, that need to divide with definitions, is more reflective of culture, like a humanity, human culture, society, whatever, than it is of God. Because the diversity in the body of Christ, is that not a direct image reflection of God?
Montell: I believe so. I believe so, and I think diversity and division are not the same thing. And so diversity is an inclusive thing that if we have a potluck and I say, “Hey Andrew, will you come up to the house? Bring something that’s unique to you” and John, everybody that comes, somebody may bring Swedish meatballs. Somebody made macaroni and cheese. All the different foods and cultures or whatever, they come together to create this entire big thing where everybody can get sick just based (laughs) on–
Andrew: Yeah, right.
Montell: But the cool thing is you’re getting an experience of kind of everything, and I just, and maybe it’s just me. I’ve traveled the world enough to be able to know there’s such a value in other cultures and those other things that I feel stifled. I feel when I’m just tucked into one place. I just believe God is bigger than that. I value all of those religions. I value all of those different traditional pieces. I’m trying to figure out how can what you have there traditionally be added to the overall body of Christ as opposed to just being… And let me just say this real quickly. You may have to edit this out, I don’t know. But from the standpoint of when it comes to just America in particular because of our background, because of slavery and because of segregation and Jim Crow, a lot of things have led to us not being able to be together as a Church. And when we go to the movie theaters, it’s not like really black theaters and white theaters, everybody goes, but based on maybe what neighborhoods a theater might be in, then you can have maybe more of a particular demographic than another, but ultimately, in our jobs, in movie theaters, in restaurants, all these other places, we go and we’re all together, but when we come to church, that’s the one place where we kinda figure out I’m more comfortable with this group of people or that group of people. When we’re getting closest to God is when we become less close with each other.
Andrew: Which is interesting because it’s as if there’s been an allowance for the things outside of the Church, things you’re mentioning, like slavery, a set of systems outside of the Church, we’ve allowed to impose themselves on the Church.
Montell: Well, what does that say to the millennial generation? The millennial generation says, “I can work with this guy, I can work with an Indian person, I can work with a trans person, I can do this or that or the other, and we go to restaurants and this and that, but when I come to church, it’s this one group of people.” It just kinda says something about–
Andrew: It doesn’t resonate with them, for one. If all this is resonating based on a millennial who is open to all these things, to interacting with so many different people and that did not see that diversity represented–
Montell: In church.
Andrew: In church, makes the church irrelevant to some degree.
Montell: I think so.
Andrew: And I’m not saying church has to match culture, but I’m saying I think their inclusivity in everyday life is actually, and I think what we’re saying, is an opportunity and the right opportunity for the Church.
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Mark: So he said that, which is the case, my uncle in the ’50s told the story of taking a young African American man to his church, a friend, and the deacons met him at the door and said, “He’s not welcome here.” And now, let’s come forward to 2019–
Andrew: 50 years, 60 years.
Mark: I go to a church, Grace Church Humble, where most of the staff is white. They started the church, but most of the church is Latina, African American, and I am a minority. But that’s, I don’t know how it got like that. I don’t know what they did to make it turn into that, other than those communities moved into the area.
Andrew: Yeah, because even Montell’s church in Atlanta, north of Atlanta, Victory World Church, is very diverse, lots of nations represented, lots of racial diversity, age, multi-generational, but that isn’t the norm, so I think it’s an intriguing comment he made that the closer we get to God’s often the further we separate from one another.
Mark: When we go to church.
Andrew: Right, yeah, like, he was saying we eat together—
Mark: Yeah, restaurants.
Andrew: And we go to school together.
Mark: Football games. But when you go to church, is your church mostly white?
Andrew: And is that a bad thing—
Mark: Or black?
Andrew: Too, like is that–
Mark: Is it black?
Andrew: Is that based on the demographic of your community? And some of that’s tradition. I don’t know that–
Mark: And is it a problem?
Andrew: The African American church down the street with the Pentecostal background wants to come to my lily white kind of reserved worship service.
Mark: I don’t wanna go to your lily white reserved service.
Andrew: You’ve been to my reserved service. And you kinda shook it up. But yeah, I don’t know that it’s a bad thing, and I don’t even know that Montell’s saying it’s a bad thing, but it is intriguing. How do we get the body that is the Church, the universal Church, the world-wide Church, the eternal Church of God?
Mark: Well, let’s hear the rest of this conversation.
Andrew: Do you think that racism or prejudice of any sort is an obstacle to the spirit of God being able to move freely through and among us?
Montell: I think the Holy Spirit has a desire to be able to reign free, but I think God is a gentleman. I think that he’s not gonna impose his will on anyone. And so from that standpoint I think that the bible says that there will come a day in time when people will have itching ears, and they’ll just kinda wanna hear what they want to hear. They will say that good is evil and evil is good. So from that standpoint I think we’re livin’ in a day and time where you can hear truth, but people prefer their truth over God’s truth, and there’s a difference. And so from that standpoint, I do believe that the Holy Spirit can be the power that the church can have becomes hindered when we are not showing what Jesus showed, and we’re living more pharisitically. I don’t know if that’s a word.
Andrew: Sounds nice.
Montell: But we’re, it did sound good though, pharisitically.
Andrew: Is that from the music industry or seminary?
Montell: That’s seminary. No, no. No, but when we take on that stance, we look more like the people that are law keepers than the one that Jesus was trying to reach out to, the prostitute, the tax collector, the people that they said, “Why are you hanging with that person or that person?” I think when we live that way, we become this group that are so set in our agendas that we miss God’s agenda of what He’s trying to do in the earth. And there’s nothing in me that believes God is trying to keep us separated from each other. I believe He wants us. I think He’s coming back for us. He’s coming back for His church. And so long as we can’t be a us, I don’t think He can come back. I don’t think He will.
Andrew: Do you think, like we highlight a lot, the division, or we, I don’t know who’s we, but we see a lot whether it’s through social media, through our news media, or just in our conversations, we talk a lot about the division because I think there’s a really deep down innate sense that that’s not the way we’re designed to live, but there is also a lot of unity. I mean, there are stories of you that we don’t hide as much. Do you think, and I don’t know if this is a real fair question, but I’m gonna ask anyway. Do you think that the division among humans, like the divides, you think that’s getting worse?
Montell: I think division amongst humanity right now is getting more defined. So, as far as worse, I think that when you shed a light on something and it becomes more defined, it’s now being more exposed. So I think division has always been there. I just think it’s more defined. I’ll give you an example. I grew up most of my life in Los Angeles, California. Los Angeles is a melting pot of a bunch of different people and nationalities and X, Y, and Z, and if there is racism, and there is racism, it looks different in California than it does in the South. And when you’re in the South, it looks different because it’s more defined here. In Hollywood or in different places in the music business, those different things, it’s just masked differently, and then there are certain places that we don’t cover it up. It is what it is, you are who you are, and it’s like, oh, this is what this is here. And so it doesn’t make it more in the South. It just means it’s more pronounced, or it’s more defined. And so I don’t know if we are getting more divisive. I do believe lines are becoming clearer and being more precision drawn so that you can be able to identify, oh, I know where you stand based on what you’re showing as opposed to I don’t know what this person stands for because they’re not saying anything.
Andrew: Our director of photography, Chris, and I were just talking about this on the way over here, about is sometimes a racist remark or something perceived as racist or is racist, whatever, or a prejudice remark, can come from ignorance, like a lack of knowing. You talk about the difference, kinda the mass prejudice in, out West is different than in the colonial South, which was so entrenched in some systems that were very defined by race. Do you think it’s a lack of education at times, and if it is, whose responsibility, is it responsibility to not only educate ourselves but help educate others?
Montell: This is a tough one. If we were sitting at a table eating, I would probably take a mouthful of food and really kind of focus on answering–
Andrew: Are you repaying me again?
Montell: No, no, I’m not, I’m not. No, I’m done with that. No—
Andrew: Montell, we’ll get you around that table.
Montell: No, we don’t got it like that, I’m tryin’ to get back to the table, that’s all. This is a tough one because what I’ve found is that when you are… America is a very, very unique nation. We were designed and built differently. Small things, small systematic or semantic things, are what are used in what we’re creating here in America. Here’s what I mean by that. I just saw this the other day. Someone shared on social media that there were so many slaves that were brought over from Africa to America. Slaves were brought over on slave ships to America. And someone said, “No, slaves weren’t brought from Africa to America. Doctors and teachers and philosophers were brought over from Africa to America, and they were made into slaves.” Even in that, if you were to understand that it wasn’t slaves brought over, they were doctors and they were this or that or the other that were brought over and they were placed into slavery, then that semantically, meaning just how we speak that, you understand now it wasn’t just people who were slaves that were–
Andrew: Wandering around.
Montell: They were, yeah, they were, and so from that standpoint–
Andrew: People in families.
Montell: I think that we keep a culture, a language culture, that tries to continue to keep people maybe enslaved in a way of thinking, in a way of not having a level playing field, but the advancements I think that people of color have made in America have been astounding. And here’s the point that I’m getting to. The ownness I think is not necessarily on the person who has been oppressed to now try and make amends with everyone. So what will happen is, in Atlanta last year, there was a huge, 2018, we had this huge, a one race movement that took place at Stone Mountain. And you had thousands and thousands of people from different churches all across Georgia come together to ascend Stone Mountain where a lot of things with the KKK and things were founded there. We wanted to pull down those strongholds as a united body of the church. A lot of black people and black churches said, “Yes, we wanna come together with the church, with other churches and come together and pull this thing down.” A lot of white churches, or evangelical churches, had some challenges with that because it’s like, “Well, I don’t know what our church is gonna say about comin’ together with these other churches or what they’re gonna say about racial reconciliation, about tippin’ the apple cart.” And so one of the things that I had told to the guys that were doin’ it, they did a excellent job with it, I said the challenges, if you don’t get the side of, you aren’t a slaveowner. It may have been great-great-great-great-grandfather or maybe not at all, but if I don’t get you and me bein’ able to come together to bring up the questions, to have the conversation, to bring healing, what it seems like is that the black folks or the African Americans are the ones that endured that, but now we’re also the one tryin’ to bring everybody back together. And somebody from the other side needs to be able to say, “Hey, I’m with you in this. Let’s bring everybody back together.” So I think, hopefully not strayin’ too far away from the original question, I think it requires not just people who have been affected by what our nation has been built on, but those that benefitted from, and some, well, we didn’t. Those that benefited from that, I think it’s important for them to be able to help in the healing process because that’s the only way that healing takes place. I don’t wanna shield it, man, and the reality of it is, I mean, there are more movies comin’ out about it now, more storylines, more social media, and Hollywood is tryin’ to shed a light on something to help it be more defined, more pronounced, of some of the things that take place.
Andrew: That happened, yeah.
Montell: If you are speeding and you get pulled over by the police, you’re probably thinking, why is this guy pulling me over? I’m like, if I’m speeding, the same thing that you’re doin’, I’m not thinking, what is he pulling me over for? I’m literally thinking, I don’t know if I’m gonna make it home. And that’s a tough thing to say. It’s a tough thing to say with you or to be on camera, but that’s my reality. And someone said, “Why does he think?” Why do I think that? Because of our history. I know that there are certain things that people will look at you and they’ll look at me, and there’s just a certain thing that the fabric of our nation has me do things differently, and so because of that, if we don’t discuss it and talk about it, then it becomes like we’re overlooking something. We’re getting over something rather than getting through it.
Andrew:: I think that’s an interesting way to put it, which is sweeping it under the rug.
Montell: It’s still there.
Andrew: And ignoring, and that it’s still persistent if it’s still there. It’s still a nag. It’s still an obstacle and a divide. I wonder if curiosity, because so many people don’t either want to receive some kind of blame or they wanna shift blame, and really, like you said, it’s not always about who to blame, it’s just about coming together. I wonder if curiosity, if I could just be curious about your experience, and if you could be curious about mine, then the discussion could open up. Maybe if we could just be curious. I think about people who haven’t had a lot of experience, maybe they haven’t traveled internationally, so they haven’t seen cultures outside of our Western world and American kind of way, or maybe they haven’t traveled, I know people who haven’t traveled out of their home state.
Montell: Never been, or out of the, yeah.
Andrew: Yeah, or out of their circumference of an hour.
Montell: Very narrow scope of what the world looks like.
Andrew: And naturally. You haven’t experienced what you haven’t experienced, so as you begin to experience it, and now more people are able to experience it through the avenues of news media, or even sometimes Hollywood depicting it accurately, et cetera, If I could ask questions about what I don’t know, then you can help me. And if you ask questions about what you don’t know, or ask questions or even I wonder, if I say something, I’m always curious, and we were talking about this again, is if I want to know if I’ve said something, this is anybody that hurts you, that is harmful to you, that is a step backwards instead of a step forwards, and the fact is I don’t always know, but I want to know. So we have to remain curious about each other I guess. Does that resonate with you?
Montell: Absolutely, curiosity, I think it comes through a safety, though. In other words, I think there has to be a safety that only comes through relationship that says, “I trust you, you trust me. You know that I don’t want to hurt you. I know you don’t want to hurt me. There’s some things that I want to know, and can we explore those things?”
Montell: Together, and in that, can we explore them and not get offended with each other? We do that here at this church regularly. My pastor calls himself an equal opportunity offender because when you got so many different nationalities, he’s gonna say something and it’s gonna tick somebody off. But in order for us to all exist, we have to be able to see, well, I know there was not maliciousness in that. There’s some truth in there, there’s some comedy in there, and then there’s some tough parts in there, and all that makes it a reality. So say that there’s you and I, and we’re having conversation, or we’re having those safe curiosity conversations. The conversations are… I will have somebody that said to me that they have never been, when I got to college, they had never been around black people before. They wanted to touch my skin. They had never touched a black person before, and they wanted to touch my skin. Which is weird. But it’s only weird if you don’t have some type of dialogue or trust to understand I’ve been this place all my life, I’ve been in Indiana, I’ve never been around, I saw it on TV or whatever, and now I’m sitting here and I gotta black guy in front of me or whatever, I’ve never seen skin like, what does your skin, but some people are more liberal and they’ll–
Montell: Can I touch your hair or can I, and it’s like, whoa, whoa, whoa.
Andrew: Not at that–
Montell: We’re not at that place of trust.
Andrew: Yeah, you can look at it.
Montell: We build to that place of trust. Different food things, different preferences, body types, all those types of things, you’re able to have conversations about that, and I think when trust is there, you can have those tough conversations. I’ve had people, trust, it comes to the N-word. “Why do you guys get so offended when people say the N-word or whatever?” And then you have to be able to answer and say, “Well, here’s what it means. Here’s why it was offensive, and here’s why X, Y, and Z, and here’s why we turned it into a term of endearment, but it still sucks as a word and it’s not really a term of endearment. We tried to take something bad and make it good, but it’s not good, it’s still derogatory.” And so there’s so many complexities even amongst different races, but if we don’t sit and have the conversation to be able to have a trust in place to be curious about it, you won’t understand and you will just make assumptions. Well, he’s super sensitive about that area. No, not super sensitive about that area. Had a grandfather, watched police pick him up and kick him around the street and call him this, that, or the other. So now that has formed my lens of X, Y, and Z, and you may not understand that unless we have that conversation. It’s like, oh, that’s why.
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Mark: Yeah, so when we have our next conversation, you can have coffee with us. Let’s get back to the conversation.
Andrew: Part of building trust is also me being okay, you being okay when we say, not yet. Or it’s not okay yet, can I touch your skin? Maybe once we know each other. Or something like… I think that’s also what, and I think that proves curiosity, not some kind of, that we’re not science experiments to each other, et cetera, but we’re really curious about one another and when I can say respect and say okay, and I might even explain here’s why. This is, you know, changing my paradigm. If you had… I know you’ve already talked about how complex it is, and I think we all know how complex it is, and perhaps with so many more voices weighing in and having a platform to weigh in, it gets even a little bit more complex ’cause that’s a lot of perspectives. And take away our cultural heritage, take away our skin color, we’re all unique persons individually, period. With that said, if you had to try to boil it down to, I think I’m looking for an action point or interested in, what can we, so we have this tension. I think it would be unrealistic for anyone to think that disappears overnight, and in fact, as long as humanity is human we will find points of tension or we will discover new points of tension that maybe we didn’t even know were points of tension. So that always will be. What do we do when we… How do we live together?
Montell: Great question, I think I have a decent answer for it. How do we live together, live together? I think you have people who exist together, but they don’t live together. My house is a very diverse house. So outside of church, if you come to my home and you sit at the table, not just on special occasions, regularly, I have very different people that sit around my table and we have meals together and we have discussions together, and it’s a common thing. We actually have a thing, look, we built a table, had a table built from scratch that literally can seat 16 people. This gigantic table. Somebody bought us a gift for the table, and we call it This Table. So literally, when we pray, we say, “God, bless This Table, the people that are around This Table.” And so we will call it the, hey, you’re invited to This Table. And from that standpoint, we’re very intentional as a family about reaching people that don’t look like us. And to me, intentionality says, if I can do this in my home, I can do this in a church because how can I take care of God’s house and I’m not taking care of my own house? If the vision of our house is to reconcile cultures, I can’t not reconcile cultures at home and then come to a church and wonder why we’re not comin’ together. The only reason I think I can reach people that don’t look like me or believe what I believe, this or that, is because that’s the life that I live, not what I just… It’s not just how I exist. It’s me intentionally living to love people that don’t look like me or think like me, and I do life with those people. And so I’m the church. I don’t expect the church to be a building or a place. I’m the church. And so that’s a part of me. I don’t know why I’m tearin’ up. That’s a part of me that I love because I think that’s a part that’s integral to what the church is. And so I find myself doing that. How do we do it together? We have to live together. I know people that have all black churches or all white churches, and they will say, “Well, we’re in a neighborhood that just caters to… It’s just where we are demographically. There’s no black people here.” Like, really? Find one. Find someone! Find someone, find a Indian guy. Find somebody that doesn’t look like you, that doesn’t eat with you either, think what you think, or this or that, and just be loving and just say, “Hey, I know this is super awkward, but I don’t know anything about culture or this, that, or the other, and I’m curious if you would be willin’, I’m curious to know why do you eat what you eat or is there a great restaurant around here you can refer me to?” Or, “Are you willin’ to have a conversation? Can I take you for coffee just to know a little bit about your life?” And when you get into life with people, doing life with people outside the church, if we are the Church, we’re not outside the church, we are the Church doin’ life with people, and then our churches start to reflect who we are in life. If I see an all black church, if I see an all white church, it’s probably ’cause most of those people are living all black or all white lives. And I don’t know that for a fact, but I would say there’s a high probability that what their lives look like, it would be hard for me to believe that somebody is living a multi-cultural life with different foods and nationalities and people in their lives, but they go to church and their church is just one race. It’d be hard for me to believe.
Andrew: I think what you’re talking about, it comes almost full circle back to you talking about growing up in the church. The church wasn’t yet inside of you. And now it is.
Montell: I hope so. I hope so. I wanna be a good representation of, and the bible’s filled with people that just failed and sucked. And that’s a prayer that my wife and I have. We have a prayer that we wanna be one of those ones that finish well. I don’t know how that plays out, but that’s our heart’s desire. We wanna finish well. Not just in Heaven, but here on this Earth, that people will be able to look and say, “Man, that guy loved to cross color lines. That guy loved across racial, he loved to cross financial disparity. He was a guy that just loved people.” And I think you can lead people and not be a pastor. I think pastoring requires you to love people. And that’s one of the things, to a fault for me, that I wanna lead people, I wanna help people worship, I wanna see marriages restored, I wanna see men stronger, I wanna see legacies develop. But I wanna love people, man. And I think that’s a lot of what’s missing, is that we have laws and not love. And so for me, that requires a different type of mindset. I don’t have to agree with you to love you. I don’t have to agree with a law that was made or passed. I don’t have to agree with a lifestyle. I don’t have to agree with any of that to love you. And that’s what I believe I’m sent here to do is not to try and judge anything or anyone. My job is to just love people and let God do the rest.
Andrew: I love you, Montell Jordan.
Montell: I love you too, Andrew Greer.
Andrew: Can I touch your skin?
Montell: Off camera.
Andrew: Well, I had so much fun with Montell Jordan in Atlanta.
Mark: I could tell.
Andrew: Oh, yeah. I mean, I am a huge fan first, but then to be also really a fan of his words and his heart and what he has to say, not just about diversity but about the people of God coming together, being together. I love that idea of being together.
Mark: I do too. And we hope you’ll join us next time for another dinner conversation.
Andrew: Turning the light on, one question at a time.
Mark: Did you say anything worth hearing?
Mark: Okay. I hope you recorded all that.
Mark: From This Is How We Do It to the pulpit.
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Watch Our Other Episodes:
S02, E01: A Change of Mind featuring Danny Gokey and Dr. Caroline Leaf
S02, E02: The Last Goodbye featuring Amy Grant
S02, E03: The Humanity of Billy & Ruth Graham featuring Will Graham and Gigi Graham
S02, E04: Life After Divorce featuring Crystal Lewis
S02, E05: Place in this World featuring Michael W. Smith and Ginny Owens
S02, E06: God Is In The Details featuring Kathie Lee Gifford and Rabbi Jason Sobel
S02, E07: Winning Takes Work featuring Scott Hamilton and Paula Trujillo
S02, E08: Mind Matters featuring Dr. Caroline Leaf
S02, E09: The Thin Line Between Priest and Prophet featuring Becca Stevens and Russ Taff
S02, E10: The Color of Love featuring Seth & Nirva and Montell Jordan