Church vs. Culture: A Conversation with Pastor Tommy Kyllonen

We are faced with many challenges in discovering what our purpose is and how to fully tap into what God has for us. The road is not always meant to be understood by those around us.

At some point you have to be bold enough to take control of your own path. In this episode, the crew dives deep into the adversity with following your vision, culture and ministry with former rap artist, Pastor Tommy Kyllonen of Crossover Church.

Being Biblically accurate and culturally sensitive

Pastor Tommy Kyllonen grew up around the church as just a kid from Philadelphia. It was in the city of brotherly love that cultivated his love for Hip-hop and the culture. He would soon follow another passion that later grew into part of his purpose by becoming a youth Pastor. But, instead of giving up one for the other, he decided to pursue both commitments.

“I felt the Lord saying to me, be you. You could still rap. You could still wear your Js. And you’re still going to reach people.” Pastor Tommy admits his struggles of wondering if two different worlds could possibly coexist.

The Holy Spirit gave him the green light as Pastor Tommy states. He started a rap group in college in which he describes as a ministry tool used to teach young kids the gospel. “We had them on the edge of their seats and our testimonies. We share the gospel and like the whole room got saved”.

It wasn’t long before the rap group decided to become an official student ministry. The group renamed itself as the “Urban Disciples”. Pastor Tommy and his partner would not only reach kids throughout the program but taught the gospel at inner city churches as well. “We had a lot of questions, but we have the freedom”.


With change there’s bound to be some backlash. Pastor Tommy talked about the negative opinions he received with his new way of teaching the gospel. “So even if there were haters, which there was we saw the fruit of people authentically getting discipled”. He decided to focus on the people that were being affected by his group in a positive way. There were so many miracle stories because of his new approach and style of ministry.

“Having a relevant worship experience where people can come in and just be themselves. And so that fueled us to be like, we don’t care what anybody says”.

Go by Yourself

Comfortability is the true test of following your calling. The decision to step out on your own in an unfamiliar space. You may not always have the support or community that understands. Pastor Tommy made this transition along the way. He was able to continue on God’s path and eventually he would attract the community he was looking for.


“I think with every generation churches need to be willing to evolve”. The guys discuss how church and culture can both coexist. Churches have to be able to change with the times or generations that’s being represented. Pastor Tommy believes this is the only way to reach more people and continue building a strong community.

“We gotta stay with the pulse of what’s happening with our people, our communities and our culture.” Pastor Tommy has had the same discussions with his group. He emphasizes on how hip hop will change 10 years from now. That in order to stay relevant they have to evolve with where the industry is going.

“I think a lot of the styles we do are always going to mimic what’s in popular culture.” Although he is not chasing after culture, Pastor Tommy does believe it’s important to have that aspect or sound in his music. “We’re trying to be innovators and trendsetters ourselves.”

The Journey Continues

Pastor Tommy wraps up this great conversation with discussing his new vendor “Entrepreneur Ministry”. The new ministry helps people become business owners with business programs, Ted Talks, summits etc. all based inside his church. “We had over 200 people come, and over half of them had never stepped foot in our building before.”

For more information on Crossover Church and their ministries, visit

Join Church on the Block for real talk about the church, the streets and hip hop every Sunday morning at 10 am est. | 9 am cst. on Holy Culture Radio Sirius XM, Channel 154. Follow our hosts on Twitter at Pastor Phil, Pastah J, and DJ Ruckus to join the conversation.

Church vs Culture with Pastor Tommy "Urban D" Kyllonen

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