Posted on : Wednesday April 27, 2016

By Sharon Mager


Joel Kurz, pastor of The Garden Church, Baltimore

ROSEDALE, Md.— Hundreds attended “Unplugged 2016,” hosted by Freedom Church and the Mid-Atlantic Baptist Network on April 24. The annual event is unscripted and Holy Spirit led. Guests included Joel Kurz, pastor of The Garden Church, Baltimore, Writer and Hip-Hop Artist Jackie Hill- Perry, and Drew Shofner, pastor of The Church at Severn Run. Michael Crawford, pastor of Freedom Church, and church multiplication team strategist for the Mid-Atlantic Baptist Network originated Unplugged.

Joel Kurz, using the Exodus account of the Israelites in slavery, said slavery is a metaphor for sin. The Israelite’s enslavement represented the “empire of darkness,” desiring to enslave believers in sin, chains and darkness.

“The empire of darkness seeks to destroy you,” Kurz said. The enemy wants every young man to believe the corner is his only hope so he can be destroyed.

“The empire of sin wants racism to take root and continue to hold onto our city,” he said. “Racism is rooted in pride, which is rooted in the abandonment of the image of God placed on every single human being, and that is idolatry,” he said.

There’s a lot more to gathering for church than sitting in a pew, Kurz said. “This assembly is one way to fight, to go to war. Every Sunday feels very ordinary, but you are going to war against the empire of sin and death.”

Kurz related that while discipling a believer recently, the man declared a great truth. He said, “Oh, I get it! It’s like we’re rescuing souls from the kingdom of darkness and bringing them into the kingdom of light!”

The good news, Kurz said, is that the enemy of darkness cannot destroy what God is doing, and cannot destroy God’s promises. The empire of darkness will be destroyed.

And, the empire can’t stop what Jesus is doing. Jesus said, “I will build my church and the gates of hell will not overpower it.

“Slavery will not be eradicated by any small means,” Kurz said. Referring to a quote by escaped slave and abolitionist Frederick Douglass, Kurz said, “It is not light that is needed, but fire; it is not the gentle shower, but thunder…. We need the storm, the whirlwind, and the earthquake.”

Kurz added, “Above all, we need Jesus, the ‘consuming fire.'”

As if she was sitting and chatting with a friend over coffee, Jackie Hill Perry shared about her struggles with same-sex attraction and her gay lifestyle before committing her life to Christ. She was poignant, at times, pretty funny, and authentic.

Perry said, “People don’t understand that Lazarus was minor in terms of what God does when he saves them. God resurrects people. That’s a miracle.”

Jackie Hill-Perry

Jackie Hill-Perry

Many times people say they ask God to make them “straight,” Perry said. “They say, ‘I asked God to change me but he didn’t. I’m still gay.’

“The problem with that is that you went to God with one aspect you want changing. You went to God thinking that the whole other part of you is okay with Him. That’s self-righteousness. The truth is, our hearts have a problem. We are born enemies of God and that manifests itself in how we act out our sexuality, how we treat other people, how we see our relationships and even how we see ourselves. Christ came to restore us back. That’s what the world needs to hear.

“There’s this idea of deliverance in the church that I don’t like. A lot of times, deliverance is presented as an absence of temptation. So you’ll hear people say, ‘If I was delivered I shouldn’t feel this way.’ That’s not biblical!” She stressed. “Even Jesus was tempted. Temptation doesn’t define my standing with God; it’s how I respond to the temptation.

“We need to be honest with people and the Christian experience. Yes you have imputed righteousness, eternal life and Jesus, but narrow is the way, and it’s hard – it’s hard with joy. You’ve got Jesus.”

Perry said she grew up in church. She sensed the sin. No Christians tried to share the Gospel with her and encourage her to give her life to Christ. All she got were some “looks,” she said. But God was dealing with her heart and He rescued her.

Attendees ate their lunches while in breakout sessions on relationships between people and police, challenges facing women in the church, church planting, and entrepreneurship.

The Baltimore City Choir returned this year to sing and they brought many folks to a stand, clapping, stomping, and swaying.

Drew Shofner

Drew Shofner

In the afternoon session, Drew Shofner recounted his feelings of worthlessness and loneliness growing up. He noted that Christ sees us with infinite worth.

Shofner spoke about Jesus as the Good Shepherd. He challenged attendees to move beyond the confines of religion, which he said can sometimes be a “cliff pretending to be a bridge,” and to embrace true relationships with one another.

“There are 37.2 trillion cells in your body working together in harmony when you’re healthy. That’s the way it is in the church when we’re working together,” Shofner said.

Michael Crawford closed with a benediction.