Thrive
Podcast

Overview

Dr. Brian Taylor, Asbury Seminary alum, church planter, and lead pastor of Bethel Cincinnati Church, joins me on the podcast today. We learn about his calling, how he and his wife Chavonne planted Bethel Cincinnati Church in 2013. We talk about diversity and discipleship, what reconciliation means and how we can be agents of racial reconciliation in our neighborhoods and communities.

Let’s listen!

Dr. Brian Taylor, Church Planter and Lead Pastor of Bethel Cincinnati Church.

Brian came to Vanderbilt University on a football scholarship in 1997. It was there that God radically changed his life and birthed in him a passion to preach the gospel. It was also at Vanderbilt that he would meet an even better athlete and future wife, Chavonne.

In 2002 Brian began working in full-time ministry after completing the School of Ministry. Brian returned to Nashville where he served as a campus director for Every Nation Ministries on several campuses including: Vanderbilt, Tennessee State, and Fisk University. He also helped lead several mission trips to places such as India, South Africa, and Haiti.

In 2007 Brian and his family moved to Orlando, Fla., to serve alongside Pastor Tim Johnson to help start Orlando World Outreach Center. He has served as youth/campus pastor, associate pastor, and has seen God do amazing things at the University of Central Florida. While in Florida, he also completed his Masters of Arts at Asbury Theological Seminary.

In 2013 the Taylors moved to Cincinnati to launch Bethel Cincinnati. Chavonne works alongside Brian as he pastors and leads the church. Brian is currently working on his doctorate of ministry in preaching and leading. However, Brian and Chavonne’s greatest privilege is being parents to three beautiful children, Elijah, Saniya, and Joshua.

Heidi Wilcox, host of the Thrive Podcast

Writer, podcaster, and social media manager, Heidi Wilcox shares stories of truth, justice, healing and hope. She is best known as the host of Spotlight, (especially her blooper reel) highlighting news, events, culturally relevant topics and stories of the ways alumni, current students and faculty are attempting something big for God. If you can’t find her, she’s probably cheering on her Kentucky Wildcats, enjoying a cup of coffee, reading or spending time with her husband, Wes.



Transcript

Heidi Wilcox:
Hey everyone! Welcome to this week’s episode of the Thrive with Asbury Seminary podcast. I’m your host, Heidi E. Wilcox, bringing you conversations with authors, thought leaders, and people just like you who are looking to connect where your passion and the world’s deep needs connects. Today on the podcast. I’m very excited to get to talk to Brian Taylor. Brian is an Asbury Seminary graduate, and he’s also a church planter and lead pastor of Bethel Cincinnati Church in Cincinnati, Ohio.

Heidi Wilcox:
Brian and his wife Chavonne planted this church in 2013. And Brian was also gracious enough to host us that day. So we took the podcast on the road and got to tour his church and see how God is using Brian and his team and his congregation to be agents of reconciliation in their community. So on today’s show, we talk about church planting, calling and how we can be agents of reconciliation in our world. Let’s listen.

Heidi Wilcox:So I want to talk to you about your church plant at Bethel Cincinnati Church. You and your team planted it in 2013.

Brian Taylor:
Yes.

Heidi Wilcox:
How did you guys get started?

Brian Taylor:
Yeah. Well, it was a little bit of a runway before we actually launched here officially. At the time, I was living in Orlando, Florida. And it’s funny, one of the questions people typically ask me when they hear about where we came from and how we got here, they’ll ask the question, “Well, did you grow up in Cincinnati?” “No.” “Do you have family in Cincinnati?” “No.”

Brian Taylor:
Pretty much what they’re asking, “How in the world did you get here and why are you here?” Over time, God just started putting this city on my heart and on my mind. I would meet people from Cincinnati. I would just pay attention whenever anything Cincinnati would come up. And for a period of about a couple of years, on and off, I would pray for this city, until I had what I really believed was a divine moment with my senior pastor who said, “I’ve been praying.” He knew that was on my heart to one day plant a church. And he asked me about Cincinnati, and we lived in Orlando, Florida, it wasn’t like we lived in Dayton, Ohio.

Brian Taylor:
So we just sensed that God was doing something there. And the more I began to learn about the city, learn about the history, about the great opportunities here, also some of the challenges historically, when it comes to issues of race and some other things, really felt like what God was putting in our hearts to do was going to be a good fit for what this city needed. And that this could be a great launching pad to reach cities beyond just Cincinnati as well.

Brian Taylor:
And so with that said, we had the support of our bigger, larger family that were a part of, Every Nation Ministries and when we started getting to the point of getting ready to plant this church, we had some videos and some ways of getting the word out and there were a few people who said, “You know what? I want to be a part of that.” So some of them were part of our church in Orlando, which their pastor Tim Johnson, shout out to him. They were gracious enough to encourage and bless any of the people that wanted to come with us. They’re crazy enough to leave 75-degree weather in January to come be a part of our team, Lord bless them.

Brian Taylor:
And then we had some people from Nashville, Tennessee, they came as well, which is our North American headquarters for our Every Nation’s family and they came and we had a small but powerful team and started building some rapport with people here in the city. And I moved here in July with my family. We had a preview service, which is a service, a soft launch type service in August, and we had our official launch in September. So not sure that I would advise doing all those things that quickly but that’s how it worked out and God helped us. He really has. And he has continued to help us ever since.

Heidi Wilcox:
Yeah. And it’s going well, you just gave us a tour before we sat down to do this interview.

Brian Taylor:
Yeah.

Heidi Wilcox:
But you weren’t originally in this building. Is that right?

Brian Taylor:
That’s correct. We were in Rec Center. And after that, we were in a Cultural Art Center. So we would have service with these really expensive paintings around on the wall that we’d make sure that nobody touched. And so we did the whole setup tear-down, weekly deal. And we found out that this church building that was literally right across the street from where we were previously meeting, that the church was closing.

Brian Taylor:
They had different reasons. Their pastor had some health issues, their congregation size was dwindling down a little bit. And so it was owned by the Nazarene Church and through a series of conversations, and just a lot of favor, they basically said, “Listen, we have a building, you have a vision. Let’s find a way to use this building to help advance the kingdom of God.” And I really admire them, the Nazarene Church for taking that stance as well. And so we worked out a deal, and we were able to help renovate the space and develop a long-term lease plan.

Brian Taylor:
And so now we’ve got a building, which I believe is in one of the most, not only ethnically, but I think religiously diverse communities in Cincinnati. And so we have a couple of Unitarian Churches across the street, we’re right next to a Seventh Day Adventist just north of us. Couple of doors down we have the mosque. And then we have different types of denominations, but it’s a very diverse religious environment here in this area. And we have the University of Cincinnati, five minutes down the road. I thought this was a really important spot for us to be in as a church.

Heidi Wilcox:
Why did you pick this particular area of Cincinnati? I mean, did you know all of that coming in?

Brian Taylor:
No, I didn’t. In fact, when I first moved here, not having any background in the city was a little bit overwhelming because I just thought, “Where do you start?” Cincinnati has 52 neighborhoods all throughout the city. And we looked at several places throughout the city. And we came and just found… We want to be close to the campus because we do a lot with reaching students.

Brian Taylor:
My life was really impacted as a student-athlete at Vanderbilt University. And I’ve had a chance to work in years as a college campus minister. Before I was here, I did a lot of stuff at University of Central Florida. So by the time I got here, I knew that we were going to be a church that was intentional about reaching the next generation, so to speak. And so we want to make it accessible for college students, but open for all generations and all ages.

Brian Taylor:
And so that was a big factor in all of it. And then just looking at spiritually, where we felt like, “You know what? This is a place where we think that we can really make an impact.” And while there’s a lot of places of worship in this area, we thought that what we brought to the table was unique to this area as well. So it’s been great challenges and great wins all at the same time.

Heidi Wilcox:
Yeah. Why Cincinnati? Because I don’t think you quite said that when we were talking about Orlando.

Brian Taylor:
Yes.

Heidi Wilcox:
Why Cincinnati?

Brian Taylor:
I’ve tried to answer that question beyond just an esoteric, “I felt God calling me here.” Which is actually true. But as I look at the city, I have a desire from here to reach other places throughout the Midwest and I felt like one time Cincinnati was known as the gateway. I don’t know if St. Louis would argue with that. But it was seen as like, “This is the gateway to the west.” And when you come through Cincinnati, the reach to Lexington, Louisville, Columbus, Indianapolis, other major cities that I feel like are very strategic cities for Kingdom advancement. I felt like this would be a great place to see a sending center so to speak.

Brian Taylor:
And so that’s part of the vision, but then also looking at… I feel like Cincinnati is one of those best-kept secrets. It’s not like a Chicago or New York City or LA where everybody knows. There are people moving in and out. But people here have a root. I call Cincinnati the big little city. It’s a big city if you really look at the greater area but there’s so much connectedness within this city and opportunity in this city as well. And I just felt God just uniquely just position my heart and to really love the people here in this city.

Brian Taylor:
And so I’m still learning this city. There’s parts of Cincinnati that I’m like, “I didn’t even know that part of town existed.” And that’s after living here for six years now.

Heidi Wilcox:
Yeah. Wow. Because, I mean, with 52 neighborhoods, it would take a while to get to know all the ins and outs and everything.

Brian Taylor:
Yes.

Heidi Wilcox:
How did you know? You were called to even plant a church?

Brian Taylor:
At first, I wasn’t really sure that I was called to do it. But I had a sense in my mind of the type of church it would be if I ever did. And so I’m like, “If I ever planted a church, this is going to be a multi-ethnic, diverse type church.” I was a part of a church in our Every Nation Network, a family of churches that I was a part of right in Nashville, Tennessee. And you’d walk in you wouldn’t know because today we’re going to have a black preacher, or white preacher, or Asian preacher, we don’t even know. There are flags of all nations on the wall. There was a lot of young people, but yet older, we had gray hair, we had young.

Brian Taylor:
And I’m like, “Man, this is the type of environment that I wanted.” People were getting saved, spirit of God was moving. So I had a picture in my mind with this is kind of church that if I was the lead, it would look like heaven, so to speak, it would look like this. And so over time, I was fortunate enough to be in situations and environments where I was able to, I guess, get some experience in ministry doing a lot of different things.

Heidi Wilcox:
Right. Because you were a pastor before the church planting.

Brian Taylor:
Yes.

Heidi Wilcox:
Okay.

Brian Taylor:
So at one point, I was the associate pastor, the youth pastor and the college campus pastor at the same time, and also did the hospitality and stuff so wore a lot of different hats.

Heidi Wilcox:
Like a one man band.

Brian Taylor:
Yeah. I mean, my job was to take as much pressure off the senior pastor as possible and I got a lot of opportunities, he started giving me more opportunities to preach on Sundays. And we had a campus ministry at UCF that was 150 students. So I had a chance to get my feet wet with leading a group of people that size and I did ministry in Nashville too. But just having a chance to do a lot of different things in my Orlando context, I think really started giving me the sense that, “I think I might be able to do this one day. I think I may be called a wire to do this.”

Brian Taylor:
And then along the way, you have people who affirm different things like, “Yeah, we see it. We see it. We see it.” And so by the time I got to the point of, “Yes, we’re going to plant a church. We sense this is what God is calling us to do.” One of the things our ministry has is something called the assessment center. And I know a lot of denominations have their own versions of assessment centers. But I went to this assessment center and they would give you a green, yellow or red and they would inspect the health of your marriage, they would look at your ability to preach and communicate, working together in teams.

Brian Taylor:
Just a lot of different things, your articulation of the gospel, your heart for evangelism. All these are things that we’re looking at. And fortunately, we got a green, my wife and I, which was a confirmation of what we already sensed in our own hearts that this is what God is calling us to do. So needless to say, here we are. We said yes.

Heidi Wilcox:
So when you planted Bethel Cincinnati Church, what was your goal in planting this church?

Brian Taylor:
Well, survival. No, I’m just joking.

Heidi Wilcox:
Yes, in the beginning probably.

Brian Taylor:
But for me, there was an excitement to have a chance to go into a new area, a new territory and see if I could take all the things that I’ve learned from the past, and apply it in a new context and see God do something great in this city. Our vision was pretty clear from the beginning, reaching a city to touch the world. That is a big vision, especially, when you look and you have 20 people in a room.

Heidi Wilcox:
Is that how many you started with?

Brian Taylor:
Yeah, maybe even less than that. But it’s like, “We’re going to reach the city.” “Okay. Can we get 50 people?” But it was a sense that God was going to call us to do something big here. We didn’t want to just be a church, where people are just here, in a gathering on a Sunday, but we wanted to be a church where people were getting equipped and empowered to go and make a difference and make disciples. And so discipleship was really at the core of what we wanted to do.

Brian Taylor:
And the way that we articulate this, I got this language from Steve Murrell, who wrote this book that was I recommend anybody called a WikiChurch. But he talks about engage in the lost, establish them in the faith and in Christian community, equipping the saints to do the work of ministry, according to Ephesians 4:12. And then empowering believers to go out and make a difference. And so that’s really been our process of how we do everything.

Brian Taylor:
And so when we first came here, we wanted to be a place where we reached the lost and where people were getting discipled, getting connected, and there was community, but it wasn’t just community for the sake of community. It was people in community on mission. A lot of times people like to stress community but they forget the mission. Or they’re all about the mission but they don’t realize that it’s the community that sustains the mission. But we want to be a place where you had both at work.

Brian Taylor:
And so from here, we’ve got some other things going on in Lexington and other places that we want to see grow. But we wanted to be a place, out of Cincinnati, could God touch the world literally? Whether it’s us sending missionaries, whether it’s us helping to support people that’s already doing some things, or whether it’s us starting churches in other cities, and while at the same time, being socially responsible with where God has planted us here, what are the needs that are unique to Cincinnati? How can we help speak to that and minister to that as well?

Brian Taylor:
And we wanted to do that, while being diverse, intentionally. And we wanted to also do that by being intentional about making disciples, teaching people how to follow after Jesus Christ and training them to help other people to follow after Jesus Christ.

Heidi Wilcox:
Yeah. You talked about diversity. What do you mean by diversity?

Brian Taylor:
Sometimes I think we can lack diversity in how we talk about diversity, right?

Heidi Wilcox:
Right.

Brian Taylor:
So when I think about diversity, I think one of the most basics and I think even biblically speaking, you have ethnic diversity, and we want to be a church that is intentionally, ethnically diverse. If you see our logo, you’ll see a picture of a black hand and a white hand together in prayer.

Heidi Wilcox:
I love that.

Brian Taylor:
And that actually came from one of our churches in South Africa. I had a chance to visit them earlier last year. And it came during the time of apartheid, which was a time of a lot of challenging things that brought division amongst the races and other ethnicities in South Africa. And so we applied that here, we got the okay to use that logo here in our context. And so when we think about diversity, very much so we’re thinking ethnically diverse, first and foremost. I think that I wanted this to be a church where you walk in, you’re like, “Man, I can’t tell. Is this black church or white church? Or is this a Latino church. What is this?”

Brian Taylor:
I want it to be one of those places and where that’s reflected in what we do and how we lead. And so not just window dressing but going down to the deep relationships and how we build. So as I like to say, “We don’t just meet together, we got to eat together.” So how do we build from the temple to the table relationships? And then how do we go beyond just relationships but how do we go on mission together in a very diverse manner? And then we want to be economically diverse. I want this to be a place where we have people who maybe are struggling financially.

Brian Taylor:
Cincinnati has a lot of challenges in poverty, especially child poverty. And we’ve had our share of people who have been struggling at different places as well. But then also a place where someone who’s a multi-millionaire can walk in and feel at home and both of them are treated like we were just waiting for them to come. That’s what we want. And then generationally diverse, which has taken us a little bit longer to get to. We actually hit the ethnic diversity before we hit the generational diversity.

Brian Taylor:
And I think we’re really, in the recent past, been growing in that area. But listen, we love reaching the next generation, we really love being intentional about our college campuses, high school students, youth, children. But you know what? We need some grandma’s grandpa’s in here. We need some gray hair. Because I think it takes multiple generations to reach any one generation well.

Heidi Wilcox:
So true. You said you’ve reached your ethnic diversity goal before you reaching the generational goal. How did you grow your ethnic diversity?

Brian Taylor:
First of all, I think it’s a couple of things. So one, I think it’s preaching the vision from the beginning. Now, I know there’s some churches that I know of that started off mono-ethnic and then they transitioned to become multi-ethnic or become diverse. And many times they’ve done that with great challenges to do that. But God bless them. I mean, I think it’s been… And I’ve known of some churches that have done that really well.

Brian Taylor:
Now, from my research, you find that most churches that transition from mono-ethnic to multi-ethnic, tend to be churches that are predominantly white, that become multi-ethnic, but churches that are predominantly Latino, Asian or black rarely transition from there to a multi-ethnic, that’s more my research stuff. So we wanted to preach it from the beginning. We want to preach this is the vision of who we are. This is what we’re believing for at the very onset of our church, and almost an unwillingness to settle for anything less than that.

Brian Taylor:
But it wasn’t just preaching it there had to be some actions to back that up. So I think as we were looking at our initial team and how we built… Now, I wish I could say I was smart enough to form the team that we have. But it’s amazing how people were attracted to the vision from different ethnicities. So from the beginning, what we saw was, we had a team, my associate pastor happens to be a white man who’s a little bit older than I am. And he’s a great associate pastor, he just preached this past Sunday, lights out, did a great job.

Brian Taylor:
But you have the both of us who are black and white. And then we have a diversity on our worship team. You probably caught some of the conversation that I was having before this meeting, where we’re talking about walking with intention, learning how to live with intentions. In Cincinnati, Ohio, really the big divide is between black and white. But if you get that divide well, then it’s amazing how some of the other ethnicities start coming into play. And we have a pretty strong outreach to international students that you see as well. And so I’ve been excited. We have a lot of international dinners that we have at homes.

Brian Taylor:
We still have to figure out the language challenges. But so all of the say, preaching it, modeling it in our leadership, in our core team from the beginning. And at times, where it felt like, “Okay, we might be leaning one way or the other in terms of stylistically or what’s on stage.” We actually think about that. It’s almost second nature where we don’t have to talk about it as much now. But very early days, we would think about, “Okay, who’s on stage?” If we see all of one ethnicity on stage, we need to consider that and how do we make sure that there’s multiple voices that people see?

Brian Taylor:
I do think sometimes that it makes you grow slower than some. But I think we’ve built that foundation of, “This is the expectation when people walk into this place now.” And so from there, now, it’s continuing to see it grow and see even other ethnicities and nationalities come.

Heidi Wilcox:
That’s awesome.

Brian Taylor:
Yeah.

Heidi Wilcox:
That’s so cool. I want to talk a little bit about the discipleship that you mentioned.

Brian Taylor:
Yes.

Heidi Wilcox:
Training people who are already in your church to learn how to disciple other people and to be on mission. What are some of the ways that you all are doing that?

Brian Taylor:
Yes. So I’ll talk about formal and informal ways.

Heidi Wilcox:
Okay.

Brian Taylor:
So in a formal basis, one of the things we have which I’ve been really excited about, we do something called discipleship 201. And that’s 12 weeks of Wednesday night classes. But these classes are set within a discipleship relationship. So everyone going through it has a mentor, and they’re in small groups within the class. And we teach on everything from Jesus’ vision of what leadership looks like, to understanding… Because there’s a lot of faulty ideas of what leadership looks like in this world. And Jesus tends to correct that.

Brian Taylor:
And so we teach on that, we teach on how to share the gospel, we teach on different types of evangelism where there’s relational evangelism, event evangelism, you have service evangelism, just different ways that you can evangelize. And then we teach people how to lead life groups, how to pray for someone. And some of the basis. One of the things I like to say is that not everybody is called to be a doctor but everybody can learn first aid.

Heidi Wilcox:
For sure.

Brian Taylor:
And that can save somebody’s life.

Heidi Wilcox:
Absolutely.

Brian Taylor:
So this is not Seminary, it’s not training you to be a theologian. We do have how to read your Bible, how to prepare a Bible study. Some basics, that I think that anybody can learn. And so that is the first aid so to speak of what we want to teach every single believer that desires to be trained. And so that’s 12 weeks. But on an informal basis, where a lot of the training equipment happens, it’s come watch, do it with me, now do it. The Jesus with his 12 disciples.

Brian Taylor:
And so what that looks like very practically, for one of the things that I’ve had to learn and continue to grow in as a leader, myself is that when I do ministry, don’t do it alone now. I’ve got to make sure I’m bringing somebody with me. So if I’m going to do some ministry with the football team, I work a lot with the UC football team. So first few years, it’s like me just going out there doing. It’s like, “No, I need to… Someone needs to come with me. So that it’s not just me but I’m training other people how to do this.”

Brian Taylor:
If I’m leading the life group, which is what we call our small group, do I have somebody in this group with me that I’m teaching on how to do this? If I’m praying for somebody upfront, do I have another person that I’m teaching how to pray over somebody with me? So those are just some of the tools. We have many of our students on our campus missionaries, you know a couple of them.

Heidi Wilcox:
Yes.

Brian Taylor:
When they go on campus, now, it’s great for them to start conversations with people we have something that’s called the God test, which is just starting a God conversation with people. Many times you have a lot of different responses but bringing somebody with you to see, “Okay, this is what it’s like. Oh, yeah. You just saw me get rejected by that student.” And then, “Oh, you just saw what happens when you just step out in faith. We led this person to Christ, this person said, “I don’t want to have anything to do with you.” That person cursed us out. But you know what? But this is all part of what we do.” And so these are ways that we try to get people involved with discipleship.

Brian Taylor:
And one of the things we try to dispel of, referring back to that WikiChurch book I told you about before, is the myth of maturity. And what I mean by that is the idea that you mature, mature, mature, mature, mature, mature, now minister. Because I think reality is that much of your maturity comes as you learn to minister. Now, I’m not saying you got to learn some things. We don’t want to encourage people to just go and spout heresy everywhere and just say, “Well, it doesn’t matter long as you’re sincere.” No, you got to learn some things.

Brian Taylor:
You don’t have to be a physician, you can just learn CPR. And CPR can save somebody’s life. Now, there are surgeons, and there are doctors, and we’ll let them do their job too. So don’t try to be more than what you are. But be faithful in doing the basics.

Heidi Wilcox:
One of the things when we talked before and I know your church is doing a lot of work in this area, too, is the issue of racial reconciliation. So why did you guys pick that issue?

Brian Taylor:
For me, it’s not just racial reconciliation as an issue. I honestly believe that reconciliation is at the heart of the gospel message. And so when I think about reconciliation, we think from the vertical to the horizontal. And that’s really looking at Ephesians 2, right? The first half of Ephesians 2 is talking about we were dead in your trespasses, by nature children of wrath but God by his grace has saved you and you hear about we’re saved by grace through faith in Ephesians 2:8.

Brian Taylor:
And then you get to the second half and it starts talking about the implications of that. It starts talking about the barrier that was separating us has now been torn down and we are one new humanity and it starts speaking of horizontally, how the Jew and Gentile has now been reconciled back together. And so I look at it as when the horizontal has been reconciled, then the same thing that separates us from God, I really believe it’s the same thing that separates us from one another and that’s sin.

Brian Taylor:
When Adam was hiding from God, walking in the garden, he was also covering himself from Eve as well. There was breaks horizontally. So when I look at this, I look at it as foundational to the gospel message. And so it becomes a witness for a world… I mean, if there’s anything that’s true about America today in 2020 is that we are a nation that is divided, the divided States of America in many ways, right?

Heidi Wilcox:
True.

Brian Taylor:
And so what a opportunity for the church in this season of time, for us to be a picture of what it can be when there’s, “Okay, this is what reconciliation looks like.”

Heidi Wilcox:
Yeah. What does that look like?

Brian Taylor:
It doesn’t look like we always agree, it doesn’t mean that we vote the same, it does not mean that there’s never tensions or frustrations. It means that there’s something bigger than just my own personal preference that keeps me tied to you. We’re not just connected because I like your music and you like my music. We’re not just connected because you vote conservative and I vote conservative, or you vote liberal and I’m liberal.

Brian Taylor:
There’s something deeper than all of that that keeps us together. And that is our love for Jesus Christ, that we were all sinners, we were all in need of reconciliation, and Christ reconciled us to himself. And because of that, we are willing to walk together. And so if I can give you tangible picture, there was this thing called the 2016 elections. And if you remember, first of all, I’ve talked to several pastors who lead multi-ethnic churches. When I say several actually is more than several.

Brian Taylor:
I’ve talked to a lot of pastors who lead multi-ethnic churches during the 2016 election. Watch there’ll be someone listening to the podcast, “I know one exception.” Almost, without exception. Almost without exception. 2016 was the hardest time for leading the multi-ethnic church.

Heidi Wilcox:
I bet.

Brian Taylor:
There are some very polarizing things and issues and even personalities that came as a result. And so within our church… Social media didn’t help. Because people who will say, hello to you on Sunday, will also soon as they get back to their computer, or they don’t even wait till they get to their computer. Soon they get on their phone will start letting you know what they really think.

Brian Taylor:
We saw times where people like, “How can I go to church with somebody who would vote like that? I don’t understand why this person would do that. I don’t even know if I could worship with them. This person seems to be supporting Black Lives Matter. They trying to say they don’t care about white lives.” You get this in a church? And so here’s what reconciliation because the test of reconciliation is not how does things work when there’s no real…

Brian Taylor:
“Let’s just avoid all heart issues. So we can be reconciled.” That’s not real reconciliation. Reconciliation is when you have that barrier of, “I don’t understand why you did this. And when you said this, that offended me and I’m hurt because you voted this way. But yet, I’m not going to walk away at this point. Now, we got to draw even closer. Help me understand you, help me to understand why you voted this way, why you think this way, why you posted this on your social media.” And they walk out of the meeting not agreeing but understanding and having a greater appreciation for each other as a brother and sister in Christ. That to me is what reconciliation looks like.

Brian Taylor:
And I think what we’ve settled for in our culture many times is a surface level, or not even a surface level but a cheapened version of reconciliation. It’s, “We can get along as long as we don’t have to deal with really hard issues.” Or, “I get along with you, as long as you’re saying what I want to say.” But I’m like, “That’s not real reconciliation.” In a marriage, if a couple is telling me, “We’ve never argued before.” I had a couple tell me that in another state in another town, when they were in their pre-marital, they’re like, “We’ve never got in an argument before.”

Brian Taylor:
Unfortunately, they’re not married anymore. And I look and I’m like, “Are you sure you never had a disagreement?”

Heidi Wilcox:
Or did you just skirt around?

Brian Taylor:
Or did you just skirt around it? And it’s like, “Okay, you guys, can be happily ever laughter. But at some point, there’s going to be an issue that comes up that you’re going to have to address and deal with, where there’s two different people in two different ways of seeing it. And you’re going to have to find a way to not just walk out at the first sign of disagreement.” That’s where a relationship is built at a deeper level. And that’s the type of reconciliation I believe that the body of Christ can offer to the world that’s different than what the world has to offer.

Heidi Wilcox:
For sure. I think when we talked before when we were chatting for Your Voice’s story, you said that reconciliation starts at a personal level, but then goes on to transform communities. What did you mean by that? And then how do you live that out in your church as you train people?

Brian Taylor:
Well, I could speak about this in a couple of different ways. A good friend of mine who’s also a pastor, who’s actually finishing his D.Min with Asbury Theological Seminary as well. But Chris Johnson said this before and I agree with it. He said, “If you want to have a reconciled, a multi-ethnic church, you got to live a multi-ethnic life.” And what he was getting at is the idea that you have to… I can preach this all day long but at the end of the day, when was the last time I had someone who didn’t look like me at my dinner table? Which is not hard for me to answer. That’s like the other day.

Brian Taylor:
But that’s a question, I think as a leader, you got to ask, as a follower of Jesus, we have to ask. I think it is personal because if this is not deep in your heart, if this is not a conviction, then there will come times where doing this really doesn’t seem to… There’s an easier way to do it, there’s an easier way to build your church than try to do it in a diverse way. It’s just easier to do it other ways. And if this is a grow your church fast scheme, or if this is, “Hey, this is our unique twist of how we like to do church.”

Brian Taylor:
If it’s just that then 2020 elections are coming. And it’s not going to be worth it for you to go through it. It’s got to be a conviction that you hold personally deep in your heart. And I think that’s where it starts. And so as you are personally, living a life that’s reconciled to God and reconciled to those around you, then I think that transfers into everything else that you do. And so how it transforms community, it means that I can love you and serve you even if you don’t like me or agree with me. I don’t have to wait for you to agree with me before I can start loving you. Sounds a little bit like Jesus, right?

Heidi Wilcox:
Yeah, it sounds also hard to actually do that.

Brian Taylor:
Yeah. It’s not hard. It’s just impossible. Unless you die to yourself. I mean, I think what a wonderful opportunity to live out, taking up your cross and dying to yourself. If the message of the cross is not presented with the message of multi-ethnic ministry and reconciliation, then I think you really only are going to touch the surface of what Jesus intended. Because I think the only way that you live reconciled with other people, and that you become an agent of reconciliation, is that you die to yourself, and you die to your cross.

Brian Taylor:
And one of the sayings around here that I like to say is, “Jesus isn’t just telling us to do more, he’s telling us to die more.” And if we’re going to make an impact and it’s not just do more, but it’s die to your preferences sometimes, die to what you really feel like it. So that we can really live to the life that Jesus has called us to live. So when I think about transforming our communities, sometimes the things that we do collectively as the body of Christ, and then sometimes God gives people unique passions and things that they have a heart for, that maybe they are not doing with everybody in the church, but they’re doing it and they feel the support and the love and the backing of their family.

Brian Taylor:
So when we talk about our discipleship 201 and we’re equipping people to do the work of ministry, we understand that’s going to be fleshed out in a lot of different contexts. But wherever you go, be a reconciler, be a reflection of the kingdom of God wherever you go. So that’s how I look at it.

Heidi Wilcox:
Yeah. Have you seen reconciliation start in your congregation and then go out into the community around you?

Brian Taylor:
Yeah. You say how have I or have I?

Heidi Wilcox:
Yeah, how.

Brian Taylor:
Yeah. So when I look at our church and what we do in the community. So first of all, strategically when we think about where we’re serving as a congregation, we looked in this Clifton area. And again, Cincinnati is big so we may do things sometimes around the greater Cincinnati area. But we actually look and say, “Okay, what’s right around us.” Fortunately, we live in a diverse area. And like I said, not only religiously but ethnically and culturally, one of the most diverse parts of the city.

Heidi Wilcox:
And economically too.

Brian Taylor:
And economically diverse. So fortunately for us, we don’t have to go super far from where we are to start having a very diverse impact. And so as a church, we serve in different types of communities. And what I love, we had a story of this lady who has becomes such a big part of our community, and she happens to be a white lady and I can remember she was saying… We asked her to come tutor with her in a inner city school right down the street from us. And she was a little bit nervous to do it at first and she shared that with me like, “I don’t know. I heard it’s a little bit dangerous around here.”

Brian Taylor:
She started doing it, fell in love with the kids, started developing a passion. And so she started getting involved in another inner city school down the street. And as she started serving, becoming a big part, she brought another lady who’s a part of our church here to come and be a part of it with her. And so you have this black lady and this white lady mentoring young girls at this school.

Brian Taylor:
And so to me, that’s a win. That’s a picture of what we value here going beyond just the impact and influence of what we do here. But it goes and impacts the community of what we do. And there’s other examples like that as well. So that to me, is what it would look like.

Heidi Wilcox:
Yeah. But I’m sure it hasn’t all been easy. I know that Cincinnati… I mean, you laugh. But I know that Cincinnati itself has just had a lot of… We’re talking about racial reconciliation but reconciliation, in general, is had a lot of racial tension. What struggles have you and your church faced with that too?

Brian Taylor:
Yeah. So first of all, I think some things I’ll say this was a struggle. Other things, I’d say it was just a dose of reality.

Heidi Wilcox:
Okay.

Brian Taylor:
And it was like, “This is what you’re facing.”

Heidi Wilcox:
Okay.

Brian Taylor:
I remember, there was a particular meeting, I’m trying to be as vague as possible. But there was a particular meeting that was called by this area that our church was in. And they have these meetings different times. And I can remember I was asking one of the people who was a board member of this meeting for the community, to give me a little bit of history of that board meeting and some of those meetings surrounding and the person who said to me said, “This meeting was intentionally started to keep black people from being a part of the community.”

Brian Taylor:
And you know how you wait for someone to smirk and say, “But you know I’m just joking.” And the response was, “And as you can look around, it seems like we’ve done a pretty good job.” And so just so happened, my wife and I happened to be the only people who are not white that were there. And that was early on, that was a few years. I wasn’t scarred by it but it definitely was a, “Okay, this is why we’re here. This is what we’re up against. Okay.” So I think there’s a soberness of realizing that there’s work to do, there’s definitely work to do.

Heidi Wilcox:
Yeah, but it makes you or helps you, maybe not always in the easiest ways realize, even more, the need for the reconciliation, the horizontal and the vertical.

Brian Taylor:
Yeah, absolutely. And I’m not sure what this person identified as a Christian or not. But to me, it wasn’t even about that person, it was just about understanding if that viewpoint wasn’t owned by that person is at least was understood as a common viewpoint that was held by people in the area where our church was located. I can remember times where certain things have gone on in the news… Because there was a time where it felt like every other week, there was some racially-charged event going on.

Brian Taylor:
And it still happens but it doesn’t feel like it’s happened with the same regularity that it was a couple years ago. Now, I can remember, was it a year ago? Two years? I can’t even remember how long ago it was, there was something that I just wanted to address from the stage and pray for. I figured out, “Man, this is safe.” Nobody can disagree with praying in church. That’s a safe way to talk about the issue. Let’s just all pray together. But because of, I think heightened sensitivities what it did was it caused a response.

Brian Taylor:
I remember getting an email. It was several pages about, “What about this?” In that person’s eyes, I’ve taken more of a liberal stance and I’m like, “First of all, politically, I’m not very liberal on certain issues.” But I also don’t want to identify and pigeonhole myself. And so that was just an example of, “What about black on black crime? And what about this?” I’m like, “Okay.” Now, fortunately, through several interactions with that person, this person is still a part of the community, they’re still growing and still loving Jesus and I think we’ve grown from that as well.

Heidi Wilcox:
Because he took the time to talk to each other and have that relationship.

Brian Taylor:
Yeah. But it was a concern. There’s people who’ve never had a black pastor leading them. And I do think, I will say this, it’s one thing to say, “I enjoy listening to this pastor on a podcast, and I’m willing to be in a context where I’m following after his leadership.” That’s a different type of thing. And I’ve heard several comments, too many to name about hurdles that people have had to overcome in being in an environment where a black man is the pastor of a church, people with different ethnicities.

Brian Taylor:
And I think with me, even being aware of some of the things that I know when I stand in front of people, I realized that for those are new at this church they’re seeing, “Okay.” Sometimes you got to prove. Just in my mind, I’m like, “I’m here to minister the word. I’m doing what I do and I’ll let you deal with the rest.” And so it’s just those things. How do you address political issues when they come? Sometimes people feel like you’re not addressing things enough.

Brian Taylor:
I’ve gotten to complain of, “Forget about people’s fragility, and how fragile they are. Forget it, just speak the truth and don’t even care about it.” I’m like, “It’s easy to say when you aren’t pastor in the church. You’re just thinking about you but I got to think about everybody to some degree.” Yeah. But I don’t want to do that and jeopardize me being true to things that I feel like is important to address either.

Heidi Wilcox:
Right. For those of us who are listening and want to take a next step on our journey toward reconciliation, whatever that looks like, what are a couple things that we can do to just do one thing that moves us in the right direction?

Brian Taylor:
Well, first of all, I think there’s a couple of books, I think it’s helpful. These are the classic books that a lot of people in this space have read. You have United by Faith and the Divided by Faith. And Michael Emerson… Geez, I forgot the guy who wrote it with him.

Heidi Wilcox:
That’s okay. We’ll find it. We’ll link it in the show notes.

Brian Taylor:
Those were very helpful in my early reading on some of this. I think they’ve done a good job of giving a little bit of a history. Because if you’re going to talk about segregated churches, you’ve got to understand how we got here in the first place.

Heidi Wilcox:
Yes.

Brian Taylor:
So before there were segregated churches, they were segregated pews in these churches. And so how do we learn some of the history of… Read about Absalom Jones. I think you got a chapel on campus in the Seminary. Absalom Jones chapel. But learn about his story and this gives us a little insight of what it was like. It’s back in the 1800s. And so we got to understand a little bit of the history, I think those books could give a little bit more context of what is the challenge? Where are we today? Before just commenting.

Heidi Wilcox:
Right. Because it’s easy to just look at it from the perspective of 2020, right?

Brian Taylor:
Yes.

Heidi Wilcox:
Without knowing any of the history, any of the stories, any of the anything, any of the hurts that happened.

Brian Taylor:
Yeah. And I know there’s definitely more than just black, white. So in that other context, you have to think about what the divides, the deep divides are. I believe wherever the gospel goes, Jew, Gentile, black, white, whatever that divide looks like, I feel like the gospel speaks to that divide. In our context, it just so happens that it’s the black and white divide. But I feel like one of the first steps is understanding. Sometimes people have asked questions like, “Why do we have to have black churches?”

Brian Taylor:
The same question people ask, “Why do we have black colleges? What’s the importance of historically black colleges and universities?” Well, learn about a little bit of the history of why we have that in the first place. So you can appreciate. When we talk about diversity a lot of times people don’t consider what a lot of minorities have to give up to be a part of a multi-ethnic space. And if you don’t understand that, then it’s hard to just talk about, “Well, we should all just get along.”

Brian Taylor:
What you don’t realize that you’re doing is what’s called ethnocentrism. And that’s the idea where you don’t… It’s not saying, “I think that our culture is better than yours.” It’s saying, “I think our culture is normal and your culture is foreign. And if my culture becomes the norm and your culture becomes the foreign, then you will always find yourself having to adjust to my normal in order to fit in.” And that’s what happens in a lot of spaces where we talk about multi-ethnic, multi-cultural. It’s one group of two or three groups having to conform to the normal of a dominant group.

Brian Taylor:
And so you asked me about the first step, educate yourself a little bit on it, learn. I mean, there’s plenty of other books as well, that have been very helpful but those will be two starting places. And then I would also say, be okay putting yourself in environments where you have to learn about other cultures and other ethnicities to be around. If you are never in a place where you have had to be the minority in the space that you’re in. I challenge you, go to… I’m not saying leave your churches, I’m not saying leave whatever groups that you’re a part of. I’m not saying that.

Brian Taylor:
But give yourself exposure to be a part of another environment where… You know what? There are other ways to worship, there are other styles, there are other things. And at the very least, learn to appreciate how multi-colored the kingdom of God really is. And so those would be a couple of steps that I would take.

Heidi Wilcox:
That’s great. Is there anything else you want to talk about that I haven’t asked before we wrap this up?

Brian Taylor:
No, you know what? I realized that on one hand there’s a lot of work to do but I’m encouraged deeply because I feel like there’s a growing number of people that are dissatisfied with status quo. And as much as I love and value diversity in our church. I don’t want people who are in more modern ethnic environments to feel demonized or to feel like, “We must be doing something wrong, everything we’ve built is wrong.” No, sometimes there may be a certain role that God’s called you and your church to have in the body of Christ.

Brian Taylor:
And so if you are anything church, or predominantly anything church, praise God for the people that God has called you to pastor and build within your church. But just remember that the body of Christ is bigger than just your tribe and your people and give yourself opportunities to be exposed to the larger body of Christ, or else heaven is going to be a big shot. So that’s pretty much it.

Heidi Wilcox:
Well, we have one question that we ask everyone as we wrap up the podcast.

Brian Taylor:
Wonderful.

Heidi Wilcox:
So it’s called the Thrive with Asbury Seminary podcast.

Brian Taylor:
Okay.

Heidi Wilcox:
What is one practice that can be spiritual or something like binging and watching Netflix? It can be anything. What is one practice that is helping you thrive in your life right now?

Brian Taylor:
One practice that is helping me thrive in my life. So I could give the basic, “I spend time with Jesus every morning.” I feel like that’s already taken. So let me just give another one. Exercising consistently. Like I was telling you a little bit earlier, I’ve got a date with an elliptical machine tonight. And it is waiting and I cannot stand it up. But I just enjoy going out and working out with other people, bringing people to the midst of that.

Brian Taylor:
And I put on some good worship music or some good Christian hip hop, and I just get it going. And it’s time to get after it for a little bit. And it’s a great opportunity to take everything I’ve been doing in the course of the day and take a long exhale, work it out and feel good about yourself after.

Heidi Wilcox:
Yeah, for sure.

Brian Taylor:
I guess that’s my thriving advice.

Heidi Wilcox:
Yeah, for sure. So Brian, thank you so much.

Brian Taylor:
Absolutely.

Heidi Wilcox:
For our conversation today. I really appreciate you taking the time. And I’ve learned so much as a part of it. So thank you.

Brian Taylor:
Wonderful. Thank you. I enjoyed this. And I never told you, thank you again for the couple of years ago with the piece that you had a chance to do. It was a joy to be a part of that. And I showed it to my mama. So she loved it.

Heidi Wilcox:
Well, I really appreciate the opportunity to reconnect. So thank you.

Brian Taylor:
All right, you take care.

Heidi Wilcox:
Hey, ya’ll! Thank you so much for joining me for today’s conversation with Brian. Isn’t he great? I just loved today’s conversation, and I hope you did as well. One of the things I’ve been thinking about since our conversation is how I can go on and be an agent of reconciliation. So I hope as you listen, you start thinking about the same things, and that we can each take one step to be an agent of reconciliation where God has us right now.

Heidi Wilcox:
You can, of course, follow us in all the places on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram at @asburyseminary. So until next time, have a great day ya’ll and go do something that helps you thrive.