The Gospel, a Turntable and a Microphone
You walk into a dimly lit room with flashing, colored lights; you hear rhythm and blues music pulsing in the background. You see a disc jockey spinning a turntable in the back of the room, as people begin to pour in. Where do you think you are? A café? A club? Guess again. You’re at Revolution Church with DJ Rhino A.K.A. Ryan Flemming (’97), a former Christian ministries major and current pastor.
As you may have noticed already, Revolution Church is not your typical church. Located in the heart of Gary, Ind., this church focuses on contextualization and reaching the inner-city people to develop fully committed disciples of Jesus. When asked what inspired Flemming to start a church, His answer was short and to the point.
“God,” says Flemming.
Flemming describes how everything about his ministry stems from a passion for God. So in January 1999, when Flemming was called to serve in Gary, he did not hesitate. He and his wife planted a church in an area that had a clear need.
“Church planting — sometimes it can be seen as very romantic, like a beautiful adventure that has roses and everything tied to it,” says Flemming. “And there is beauty there, but there are also a lot of challenges.”
Like how to relate and speak the language of those in the inner city. Flemming realized the only way to reach this unconventional crowd would be through unconventional means. He and his wife hung fliers in barber shops, beauty salons and liquor stores.
One of the ways Revolution Church contextualizes their services is through their musical styling. There have never been any instruments at Revolution Church, only a turntable with Flemming as the DJ.
“People outside of churches, they’re going to clubs and they’re going to restaurants, and they’re going to concerts and events where DJs are always involved, so they understand that. It’s a common language to them,” says Flemming.
DJing is also something that Flemming has been interested in since high school when he first saw DJ Roc Raida perform on a morning news program. Flemming has always enjoyed making mix tapes for people, and DJing is a way for him to mix music and make something beautiful as a result.
“I love seeing how music can move people and take them on a journey,” says Flemming.
That is exactly what Revolution Church does with their turntables. Most of their target market listens to R & B, rap or electronic music. So a folk-style band would not have the same effect. Flemming takes the music that is most familiar to the people in Gary, and uses it to teach the message of the gospel.
When asked how Revolution Church differs from other churches, Flemming answers that it is just a church, and he doesn’t see it as odd or different. Like most churches, Revolution Church focuses on the message of Jesus Christ and the relationships they build with others in the community. Whether through a turntable or guitar, in jeans or a suit, during morning services or evening services, most churches have the same goal: to bring people to Christ. And this is exactly what Flemming is trying to do.