I have been a lead pastor for three churches for a total of 34 years; additionally, I am an author of discipleship books and the founder or co-founder of three national disciple making networks: Renew.org, Discipleship.org, and the Relational Discipleship Network. Many church leaders around the country look to me to help them think through discipleship. They consider me an expert on what it means to be a disciple of Jesus and make disciples.
But Jason Whitlock is discipling me right now.
I became friends with Jason Whitlock in 2020. We met on the set of my friend Carol Swain’s internet talk-show. We immediately connected around a concern for culture, Critical Race Theory, and most importantly, Jesus. Jason has been turning back to his childhood faith in Jesus over the last few years.
I honestly did not know who Jason Whitlock was before I met him. I have not been an active fan of ESPN or Fox Sports in the last 10+ years and I normally do not follow football teams outside Tennessee. I am an avid Predators hockey fan (and a secondary Calgary Flames fan), but Whitlock does not cover hockey.
If you are unfamiliar with Jason Whitlock, here’s what you want to know:
Jason is a 50-something, well-known African American sports columnist/commentator formerly with Fox Sports and ESPN. He is also a cultural columnist/commentator, introduced to many last year by his television interview with Donald Trump when he worked at Outkick with Clay Travis. He is a regular on the Tucker Carlson show.
Jason started calling me for guidance about what the Bible teaches. He did not know any ministers/pastors as a new Nashvillian in 2020. So, I became his fill-in pastor living in nearby Franklin. He called on various occasions. He called to talk about the events of January 6th. I shared articles giving the background of cultural issues from Renew.org. Jason talked to me about manhood issues. We talked about “woke pastors” and “progressive, liberal churches.”
Neither of us are fans of the last two. More on that below.
Then in June he called me and asked me to join him 2-3 times a month on his new TV show on the Blaze network (Blaze features Glen Beck, Phil Robertson, Allie Beth Stuckey, Dave Rubin, etc.). He asked me to join a regular segment on Wednesdays called “Tennessee Harmony.” Jason believes that “harmony” in the US will only come when the nation shifts back to the Judeo-Christian foundations of the Bible.
The show has been going for two months and our relationship has deepened. I’m supposed to be discipling him, but, again, there are important areas in which he’s discipling me.
Here are my top five.
#1 – We must be fearless today.
Many people have told me that I’m very bold (and sometimes they mean that in a not-good way). I am a Canadian transplant living in the South, who grew up in a truck driver’s family in a rough-and-tumble blue-collar community, and I was born with a dominant personality, to boot. I have tried to tone myself down. Yet, Jason is making me rethink my toned-down self.
He believes we need to speak the truth and be “fearless” (hence, the name of his show).
We had a long phone conversation last Sunday night about evil and Satan’s role in the world. We talked through 2 Corinthians 11:14 where Paul talks about Satan appearing as an angel of light. Then he wanted me to explain 2 Thessalonians 2:1-12 about the end-times’ lawless one. We talked a lot about the deception of truth and how Satan causes that.
On Monday his column came out and it did not contain anything we discussed, so I called him and apologized if I wasn’t helpful. “No,” he said, “it was extremely helpful and it will come out in time.” Then, that evening, he was being interviewed on the Tucker Carlson show when he boldly stated something that raised eyebrows: he believes that many of the radical left-wing views are Satanic.
He said that on the most popular news show in cable TV?
I thought only backwoods, fundamentalist preachers got away with saying that kind of thing. And then to my surprise, Tucker Carlson agreed with him (see more here).
Jason followed that up with a Tuesday morning column on the Blaze, titled: “A Lot of What the Political Left Supports is Satanic.” Within a short period of time, I had pastor friends from large churches in Idaho, Washington, etc., telling me that they were shocked at his boldness—yet they were grateful that he had the courage to speak truth.
In case this appears to be a matter of a conservative simply calling his political opponents “satanic,” it’s important to note that neither Jason nor I believe that the true solution to our nation’s problems lies in rightist politics. People on the right and the left need to humble themselves before God. Yet it is clear that Satan is gaining an increasing foothold in our culture, and it can be seen in some of the radical left-wing views.
As Jason has shown us, we need to be able to fearlessly call it out, too.
#2 – Effective moral critiques should come with ruthless honesty about our own sins.
I’m talking about the plank-in-the-eye thing Jesus talked about in his Sermon on the Mount (Matt. 7:3-4).
Jason regularly confesses his sin. He confesses his struggle with gluttony and other sins. Another example: Jason talks about how homosexual sex is wrong according to the Bible, but he quickly adds that he is just as much in sin because of his promiscuous sexual past. He does not live in a glass house. Read his words for yourself:
“Fifteen years ago, after a night of drinking, I engaged in unprotected sex with a friend. She became pregnant. She never informed me. She moved back to her hometown and had an abortion. She told me a year later what had happened. At the time, I felt a mixture of sadness and relief. I did not want to have a child outside marriage. I had no interest in marrying the woman I impregnated. At the time, I was quite promiscuous.…I share all this because I want you to fully grasp my point of view. I am a sinner. I have no interest in redefining my sins as virtues or sound, pragmatic decision-making. Sex outside marriage is sinful and therefore rooted in satanism. Every time I’ve done it, it’s been wrong and satanic.”
That foundation of ruthless transparency of his own sins is the foundation by which Jason calls out homosexual sin, fatherlessness, and false religion.
We can best call out sin in others when we are transparent about our own.
#3 – There will be little unity in America without our Judeo-Christian heritage.
When Jason told me that the title of the Wednesday segment of his show was going to be called “Tennessee Harmony,” I was not a fan. I told myself, Tennessee is too narrow and Jesus often divides (e.g., Luke 12:53). But it was Jason’s show, and I just went along with him without protest.
Jason wanted two Tennessee pastors—one white (me) and the other black (typically Anthony Walker)—to talk about Scripture as well as racial unity.
I wondered about the show, if it was going to stick. I smiled when Jason started the first episode of Tennessee Harmony saying, “We are going to try to do a show directed at harmony.…This will be the first show where I will attempt that.” Maybe Jason wasn’t too sure of how the show would work? I thought.
But he called me after the first one to tell me that it went even better than he even thought it would go.
Now, after two months, I have come to see that Jason has a kind of brilliance.
He is exceptionally insightful about our culture. He understands our problems of racism as a black man; he knows sports culture; he knows the behind-the-scenes of television and social media pushes; and he knows American public culture really well. Jason understands that cultural Marxism now dominates our universities, social media, tech companies, national news organizations, human resource departments, and most institutions of society.
It is now just about the way Antonio Gramsci (1891-1937) and then Rudi Dutschke in the 1960s foretold the future by their use of the expression “the long March through the institutions of society.”
Cultural Marxism and its expressions in LGBTQ+, Critical Theory, Intersectionality, and BLM movements put themselves in opposition to Judeo-Christian beliefs. The leaders of our institutions are now at war against our heritage. They have undisguised contempt for the Judeo-Christian foundations on sexuality, traditional marriage and family, and merit-based achievement (rejecting equality of opportunity for equity of outcome). Many of them even put themselves at war against the objectivity of truth itself.
We are locked in a cultural civil war between those who want us to adhere to our traditional Judeo-Christian foundation and those who want us to embrace cultural Marxism.
As nice as it would be, there is no neutral place to stand in this civil war.
Jason knows that if Cultural Marxism wins, then hatred and discord will grow, and morality, marriage, and the family are doomed. More and more conflict is on its way.
That’s why we need harmony.
Only going back to Jesus and Scripture will bring harmony to our nation. A couple of pastors who live in Tennessee are now gladly helping Jason make that case.
As Jason was helping me to see this truth, I ran across Os Guinness’s new book that came out in May of this year, The Magna Carta of Humanity: Sinai’s Revolutionary Faith and the Future of Freedom. Os was trained in sociology at Oxford, where he received his PhD. He has written around thirty books for academics, preachers, and serious disciples.
I was surprised to find Os Guinness making Jason’s intuitive argument in a sophisticated academic book. No one has been more respected in the evangelical community for their insights into our culture over the past fifty years than Os.
You can listen to a sixty-minute video/audio presentation on the thesis of the book he recorded for the C.S. Lewis Institute called, “Where is America Headed? The Decline of Culture and How Christians Can Respond.”
Jason is unknowingly discipling me into what Os Guinness teaches.
#4 – We must reclaim a vision of manhood based upon Jesus Christ.
Whitlock is a man’s man. He is a sports guy. He played football and knows other big-time football and basketball players. He knows and loves sports and competition, who has talent and who doesn’t.
Because he knows the male mind so well, he’s concerned about the feminized and androgenous man our culture is creating. He thinks this vision is bad for boys, bad for men, bad for women, bad for families, bad for communities, and bad for the country.
I agree. Strongly.
Jason thinks this vision is especially bad for the black community.
In our private conversations and on the show, Jason regularly brings up this topic. It was our focus this past Wednesday. Before I tell you about this recent show, let me preface it by saying that, at the end of it, Jason said, “This is the best ‘Tennessee Harmony’ yet.”
We discussed what is a simple summary of manhood based upon the twelve-part series we recently published at Renew.org (For the best overview, I recommend starting with Part 12). I am grateful to God for what happened.
Anthony Walker and I started by pointing out that no one seems to be able to tell men what it uniquely means to be a man today.
Men are confused as to what masculinity is—and are being increasingly taught that it’s a bad thing. Consider the following:
- Society rejects traditional manhood (saying that it is toxic) and yet promotes womanhood.
- Men, especially under age 35, are in a state of confusion and existential crisis. They find themselves passive and confused—or angry and confused.
- Men are now starting to wear dresses/high heels or androgynous clothes.
In addition, marriages and families are shattering.
- The number of young adult men saying that “having a successful marriage is one of the most important things in life” has decreased to less than 30%.
- Twelfth graders saying they have never dated increased from 15% forty years ago to nearly 50% recently.
- 76% of young men are now regularly using pornography.
- Most people now choose to live together before marriage or without marriage.
- The majority of all children in the US are now born outside of wedlock.
- Fewer men than women are graduating from high school.
- Fewer men than women are graduating from college.
- Women now outnumber men seeking master’s degrees, law degrees, medical degrees, and PhDs.
Sadly, males are not thriving: After decades and decades of social dominance, men are now entering adulthood with less education, less money, less ambition, and fewer achievements than their female counterparts. On top of this, they literally do not know what it means to be a man as distinct from a woman.
In the show, we then described the Christlike man…
For example, here’s a Christlike husband according to the New Testament:
Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her (Eph. 5:25).
The Christlike man is a REAL man. This means that he
R- rejects passivity,
E- expects God’s reward, as he
A- accepts responsibility and
L- leads courageously.
In future episodes, Jason wants to come back to this theme. I hope he does it often. He is giving me hope and a desire to talk and write a lot more about manhood. The stakes couldn’t be higher.
#5 – Black leaders deserve our admiration and support, and they have much to teach those of us who are white.
There are important conversations that need to be had about race today. Christians should not ignore this issue but should engage from a Christ-centered perspective. As it stands, Cultural Marxism is now dominant and gets its fuel by provoking racial conflict and hatred. This trend makes it appear that racism is more prevalent today than before the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s, and almost as bad as before the Civil War. In order to stoke conflict, there is a lot of serious history re-writing going on today.
Lest we overreact too strongly and opt for a baptized view of our country, let me add an important clarification.
Throughout American history, a lot of white Christians have done a lot of awful things to people of color. Disturbingly, some church leaders and churches have been among the worst perpetrators. Most white Christian leaders today want to do better, but they do not know how. As a result of history, many black leaders have a strong distrust of white leaders, white churches, and white people. If you have earnestly tried to have honest, healing, cross-racial conversations, you know how hard it can be to have them.
For example, a black co-minister friend of mine helped me to see last year that I misunderstood the reactions that black people had to George Floyd. Last year, following the George Floyd tragedy—and after a lot of hard conversations about race and Critical Race Theory—this friend told me that he arrived at the best way to explain things. “Just think PTSD,” he said. “That is what African Americans experienced in light of George Floyd. It brought to the surface all our previous pain.”
That one statement helped me to understand African American pain better than any book I’ve read or any other conversation I’ve had.
I am sorry for all the trauma that is real for black people from past mistreatments. I get that really, really painful and ongoing problems are often triggered by these public events. I haven’t walked in the shoes of African Americans and I hate that they must bear that pain.
But, as much as I want to help bring about healing, I am still white. This still makes me way less effective if I want to address issues in the black community and culture—whether it be Critical Race Theory or the manhood crisis or crime statistics or drug use or other issues. It can be very hard to hear the things I say because my skin color shouts so loudly.
But Jason Whitlock has earned the right to say what needs to be said. He is a black man living in and connected to the black community, with roots in economic and familial disadvantage. So have Renew.org leaders, writers, and speakers like Anthony Walker, Michael Patterson, Carol Swain, Orpheus Heyward, Kelvin Teamer, Ronnie Rose, and more. Each has a unique, powerful perspective and important things to say to help bring healing and direction for the black community, and for all of us.
I want to humbly ask leaders of color to follow Jason’s lead in helping call our communities to remember Jesus.
They are heroes.
I do not know how long I will be on “Tennessee Harmony” or even how long the show will last. I hope it lasts a long time.
But I am really grateful for Jason Whitlock and for what he’s doing.
He is helping me to be a better disciple of Jesus.