Calvary Chapel Pastor Ray Dash
Calvary Chapel Pastor Ray Dash

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Calvary Chapel Pastor Ray Dash, of Rock Christian Fellowship, NJ, Shares His Insights Into Ministering in Urban Communities

The following excerpts were edited by Sean Labar 

Ray Dash, lead pastor of Rock Christian Fellowship in Newark, NJ, a Calvary Chapel affiliate, is interviewed by Tom Price, editor of Calvary Chapel Magazine. Sensing the Lord’s leading, several years ago Ray, his wife Ruthie, and their four children moved from the comfortable suburbs to the heart of the inner city where they now minister alongside of two major housing projects. Below are excerpts from that conversation.

Pastor Ray DashCan you tell the Calvary Chapel community about your calling to pick up your life, job, and family to serve the Lord in the heart of Newark where you serve two housing projects in a low-income part of town?

Four years ago, I moved the whole family down here. I packed up. I lived in the suburbs, and God said, “Nope, that's over. You’ve lived the American dream. It's time to go down and roll up your sleeves and be right on site.” We are trying to put the “neighbor” back into the hood so it will no longer just be “hood.” And we have the willingness from the guys here. I think it's prime time with what's going on in the world. People are waking up asking themselves, “What have I done?” Honestly, I really believe it's a reaping time. It doesn't mean that there can't be revival. It doesn’t mean there can't be an awakening.

What are the main issues facing your community right now?

In our community, one of the biggest problems we are dealing with is that the great majority of our people don’t have the influence of a true father figure. The fathers are in jail or just absent. There’s a young guy in the neighborhood, about 12 years old. Every time he sees me, he runs to me. I go to give him a handshake and he jumps into my arms. We have a few young girls staying with us right now and their dads aren’t involved in their life. There is no investment in their lives. You don’t know how valuable a father’s role is, especially for males because boys come to an age where they’re like “Oh, if my Mom hits me, that doesn’t faze me.” They end up doing what they want. If every time you walk out of the door you have the pressure of being in gangs and you see those are the guys that have the protection and all of the things, you’re going to want that lifestyle unless you have guidance.

How can suburban Calvary Chapel churches help urban ministries in this time of racial tension and change in the country? One of the ways that would be helpful is utilizing your platform to stand with hurting, broken brothers and sisters in the Lord. Allow your platform to speak to people that maybe don’t look like you, think like you, and act like you, that we have commonality in Christ. Bridge those gaps and really be intentional about having those conversations. We have biases where we need dialogue. We often don’t even know how biases are played out, because we don’t have that conversation. I believe if you want to go deeper in a relationship, you must have the difficult conversations. A lot of the time, I’m around people who want to keep their relationships on the surface. They don’t really want you to know, but then sometimes sparks fly, and someone says, “Oh, I was offended by that.” We tip-toe around certain conversations and there is really a shallowness. It’s important to dig deeper.

We hear the word “uncomfortable” thrown around often when it comes to these sensitive issues, but as followers of Christ we know we have a duty. What would you say to members of Calvary Chapel who want to help but may feel uncomfortable?

Get uncomfortable. Just the same way that Pastor Chuck Smith got uncomfortable when hippies were coming in the church. God tells us “Don't be afraid of men’s faces.” You know what, there's a lot of tattoos. There's a lot of external, ‘rough and tough,’ and all that stuff. But underneath those layers is tenderness, value, and purpose, and just like any one of us. I would just come see it for yourself. A lot of the time we are letting the media narrate our realities and that’s not the reality. Everybody in this neighborhood is not a killer, and even the killers I know have a tender side to them. Everybody is not trying to rob you. If you are here with us, God is our protector. The Lord has given us favor in this neighborhood because we have engaged with the community. We have an opportunity right now to redevelop this place. I believe if we build supplemental income and engage the young people of the community to be the employees of these places, it will truly revitalize the community.

Is simply sharing the Gospels enough?

What I find a lot of times, is people are hiding behind the knowledge of the Word. Their defense is “The Bible says this, so this is the fix-all cure-all,” and we don’t actually get to the person and the true message. It’s like the Bible is their shield and they never let you into the place where they are truly hurting. That’s a beginning place to start, but it needs to be a continual conversation. We must challenge the people of our congregations, invite people into our homes. We must get back to the real true form of evangelism. Is there a mindset we can develop as Christians to better navigate these situations?

I think we all need to embrace a Kingdom mindset, right? When you have a Kingdom mindset, you can go into the grocery store [without fear]. You can go and pray. It doesn’t matter where you are. I think we need discernment to know what the Spirit of God is saying and who we should be engaging with, and who He's saying “Not right now.” God has spoken to this. This is not my stuff. This is God's stuff. And so, therefore I'm going to go and invest in that network. We give Him that authority, then, you know what, we're able to again function in a Kingdom mindset wherever God has us. We just recognize we're just the vessels of his stuff, stewarding his stuff.

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