Shining a Light in Dark Places: The Power of Love and Authenticity

Welcome to another episode of Church on the Block. Our show is all about having real, raw conversations about life on the streets and faith. We often receive messages from our listeners on Instagram, sharing their experiences and perspectives. We’re here to challenge you to think about your own views on the streets. Are they influenced by the media, or are they shaped by personal experiences? Our special guest, entrepreneur Jeff Russell joins us for a candid conversation about the church and street ministry.

We believe in the importance of being authentic and incarnational with our brothers and sisters in the streets. We want to show love and help those who have been marginalized or left to fend for themselves. We’re inspired by Jesus, who spent most of his time outside of religious buildings, interacting with people who needed him the most.

However, we often feel frustrated when people in the church are disconnected from the realities of life outside of God. We want to be a light in dark places and help others find their way.

The Dangers of Religious Environments

We often reflect on the dangers of religious environments. They can make it difficult for people to reconcile their own darkness with the light they are supposed to represent. We believe in the need for authenticity and the willingness to face darkness, even on our worst days.

We’ve faced opposition and judgment from the church when we tried to be authentic and incarnational in unconventional ways. But we believe in staying true to our calling and recognizing the impact we are making in people’s lives.

From Darkness to Light: Jeff Russell’s Journey

In this episode, we’re joined by Jeff Russell, who shares his journey from a life of selling drugs to finding redemption. Jeff’s story is a testament to the fact that God can work through anyone, even if they are not part of the church.

Jeff lived next to a pastor while he was selling drugs, and the pastor’s presence and example influenced him to leave that life behind. We believe in the power of being present and allowing God to work through us without trying to control the narrative.

Shining a Light in the Midst of Darkness

We discuss the importance of shining our light in the midst of darkness and how it can make a difference in the lives of others. We share stories of our outreach efforts, where we would go to corners where drug dealers were hanging out and spend time with them, showing love and support. We believe that showing genuine care and being present can earn respect and open doors for deeper connections.

The Power of Everyday Acts of Love and Kindness

We believe in the power of everyday acts of love and kindness. Whether it’s buying ice cream for kids, baking cookies, or cooking a meal, we believe that these simple acts can make a significant impact.

We share a story about a house service we had on the block one night. We went out after the service to sing and rap with people in the neighborhood. We prayed with them, showed them love, and listened to their stories. We believe that by consistently chipping away at the darkness and trauma in the neighborhood through these acts, the church can make a significant impact.

A Call to Action

We encourage believers to step out of their comfort zones and engage with people in their communities. We urge you to be relevant and relatable to others, showing them through your own lives that you are also trying to figure things out.

Just as Christ came from heaven to earth for our sake, we should be willing to be used by God in peculiar and mysterious ways. We conclude this episode by thanking our listeners and inviting you to join us again next week as we continue to shine a light in the darkness.

cotb ep 65 firehouse pic alt image 1 love & outreach
The Firehouse Creative Arts Center, Chicago


The streets and the church (00:00:59) The hosts discuss their perspective on the streets and their desire to be authentic and incarnational with people in that context.

Being incarnational with folks on the street (00:02:05) The hosts emphasize the importance of being incarnational with people on the street and helping them understand God’s love for them.

Taking the light to dark places (00:08:05) The hosts talk about the importance of being a light in dark places and helping others find their way through faith and hope.

The dangers of religious environments (00:09:26) Discussion on how religious environments can make it difficult for people to reconcile being a light in the face of darkness.

The importance of authenticity and being tested (00:12:03) Exploration of the true test of authenticity and the need to test the light in the face of darkness.

From streets to church (00:16:11) Jeff’s personal story of going from hopelessness and wanting to be a drug dealer to finding hope and purpose in the church.

The journey of hopelessness and functioning in the streets (00:19:06) The speakers discuss the mindset of hopelessness and functioning in the context of the streets and the journey of being “Nino Brown.”

The redemptive power of God in the midst of functioning (00:20:00) They talk about how God was still at work even in the midst of merely functioning and how one drug dealer gave the speaker an opportunity to change his path.

The impact of a pastor living next to a drug dealer (00:26:13) The speakers discuss how a pastor living next door to the drug dealer influenced the speaker’s decision to leave that life and how the pastor’s life and family served as an inspiration.

The light in the darkness (00:29:39) Discussion on the importance of shining one’s light in dark places and being present in the midst of darkness.

Being present on the block (00:30:35) The hosts discuss the actions of Pastor Phil, who would visit corners where drug dealers were hanging out and spend time with them, even during times of mourning.

Showing love and being present (00:34:50) The hosts share personal stories and emphasize the importance of being present, loving people, and showing up as oneself to make a positive impact on the community.

The Streets as a Ministry (00:39:04) Pastor Phil shares a story about holding a house service on the block, praying with people, and loving on them without judgment.

God’s Multidimensional Nature (00:43:30) Pastor Jay and Jeff discuss the need to see God in multifaceted ways and how it can break forth in different directions within communities.

Consistently Chipping Away (00:45:26) Pastor Jay emphasizes the importance of consistently living out the mundane activities of life and telling stories of transformation to chip away at the enemy’s hold on the culture.

The incarnation of Jesus (00:48:23) Discussion about the importance of living life with people and being incarnational, just like Jesus did.

The story of the eagle (00:49:15) A story about an eagle struggling to let go of something it had gripped onto and the lesson it teaches about throwing off hindrances.

Throwing off hindrances (00:50:49) Encouragement to throw off anything that hinders and to allow oneself to be used by God in peculiar and mysterious ways.

Related Radio Show: CHURCH ON THE BLOCK