After 54 years of pastoring Bishop Roger Jones finds leading a congregation presents many new challenges with each generation.
It is a challenge he is ready to accept, and he has the background to make a difference with this new generation. You see, Jones pastor of Greater Holy Temple COGIC, has been where some of his congregants are today – without hope.
The greatest challenge he says he faces is to articulate an ongoing message of hope when there seems to be no end to the personal crises of so many.
“My total endeavor in ministry is to be a beacon of hope for those who feel hopeless.” -Bishop Roger Jones, Sr.
He understands what it is to succumb to vulnerabilities and has personally experienced brokenness, hurt and hopelessness. He knows this can happen to someone in the pulpit, just as it can to anyone sitting in the pews.
Jones fell into drug addiction some time ago, after he had been preaching for many years. He says it was a life-altering, humbling experience. It was also an experience that showed him he needed to help other ministers and Christian leaders who are too afraid to seek help, just as he was once afraid to talk to anyone about his struggle.
“When a pastor or Christian leader falls into temptation, who can that person turn to without being harshly condemned and ridiculed?” asks Jones. “We need to make sure we are not treating pastors and Christian leaders as if they are incapable of making mistakes.”
He believes the insight he gained from overcoming his addiction better equipped him to minister to youth who are saddled with hopelessness and frequently do not know how or who to reach out to for help. Encountering so many young people who feel hopeless is shocking and very hurtful to him, and he wants to be there to help as many as possible.
When he meets a struggling young person he doesn’t dwell on what has been done in his or her life, but instead has only one thought – encouraging that young person and telling him or her the church is an alternative, and it offers hope.
Still, he realizes this is a very different generation than the one he grew up in. Therefore, the church must adjust its approach while not abandoning its principles and values.
“We must meet our young people where they are rather than rejecting them because they are not where we want them to be,” he says.
After overcoming his own addiction and being fully healed and restored, he helped establish the C.O.G.I.C Ministries of Deliverance with a focus on “Hope, Healing, and Restoration.” He serves as the national director.
The COGIC Ministries of Deliverance was created by the National COGIC Church. It is a ministry designed to foster deliverance, healing and restoration in the lives of those who are suffering from brokenness, addiction, suicide and other problems that often lead to hopelessness and tragedy.
Greater Holy Temple COGIC was the launching pad for the national model for all COGIC churches. It serves as the template and primary resource for training and direction.
The church, Jones says, must serve as a hospital of hope where people are loved unconditionally.
That church, however, is not only a beacon of hope to Flint residents of every age and creed. Greater Holy Temple also is a primary help center, which is funded by Pepsi, the Mott Foundation and state resources.
The help center provides services for more than 1,200 residents each week. Monday thru Thursday residents can drive through to pick up water, food and whatever personal care items are available.
In addition, Greater Holy Temple delivers food, water and personal care items to more than 600 families across Flint on a weekly basis. It has also taken over “The Closet” of Carriage Town Ministries and provides clothing to Flint residents.
These are just some of the services the church provides to residents to help them get through the tough times and find hope.
Throughout his tenure as pastor of Greater Holy Temple, Jones has encountered countless residents who absolutely feel as though they are on a dead-end street with nowhere to go. They often believe they have no hope, no aspiration, no goals and no future they can envision.
They merely exist.
Jones wants to change that.
“My total endeavor in ministry is to be a beacon of hope for those who feel hopeless,” he says. “The Gospel of Jesus Christ has liberated so many as it forecasts there is always hope, no matter situation you might find yourselves in.”
Greater Holy Temple serves residents who are homeless, without income, without clothing, without job skills, without food, without literacy skills and, in many instances, without any place to worship. It also serves those in jail and prison as well as returning citizens.
The church, Jones says, must serve as a hospital of hope where people are loved unconditionally. It must not judge or condemn those who are struggling with poor lifestyle choices that might lead to some of their own problems. Instead, every church needs to have a compassionate attitude towards people who have fallen into their own vulnerabilities.
Only then, he says, can the church become the mission, the hospital and the hope of the lost.
That compassion must also extend to those inside the church, including church leaders who sometimes fall from grace, he says, pointing out there is nothing more important in life than having an expectation of God’s intervention when things get worse in our lives.
Where there is no belief in God, people tend to fall for anything they believe offers hope, not matter how detrimental it is to them. Instead, he says, it is important people understand if they believe in God, they can do anything.
Through his personal testimony and endless commitment to bringing healing and restoration to everyone who needs it, Bishop Roger Jones Sr. has indeed helped countless embrace a better future – a future with hope.
What becomes of a community without faith? Flint’s residents hope they’ll never know. Made up of not only a mix of churches and other worship centers, the city has a devoted number of mission outlets and faith-based outreach programs. These parishes and organizations offer guidance, encouragement and a sense of stability, even during the city’s most challenging times. TheHUB’s Keeping the Faith series profiles the work spiritual leaders and their meaning to the community they serve.
See more of TheHUB’s coverage of Flint’s faithful: