The Bridge Chicago is a way to offer the resources of Mission:USA to help people do good ministry.
Our friends at Salt and Light Mag interviewed Glen, Jed and Lee about ministry on Tumblr and the web.
If you’ve been in the Tumblr world for a while, you have most likely visited the blogs of, or encountered a quote from Unka Glen, Lee Younger, and Jed Brewer. These three gentlemen have been using this modern platform to share words of not just personal wisdom but GODLY wisdom to young people all over the world—a ministry that the Salt and Light Mag team looks up to.
Glen Fitzjerrel (aka Unka Glen)
Lee, Jed, and Unka Glen (who is Glen Fitzjerrell in real life) were accustomed to a Christian environment and got to accept Christ at an early age at a very young age. Lee was raised in various Baptist Churches in the Southern US, Jed went to a Christian school, and Unka Glen always visited a grandmother who’d always take him to church. Their relationship with God became deeper and more personal though as they grew up.
When Lee was 19, he started dating the girl who is now her wife, Cristy, who had an intimate walk with Christ. Lee shares,
“The more I got to know her, the more I wanted to know Jesus the way she did. Watching her and my college roommate Charlie live their lives for Jesus changed everything for me. I would say I met Jesus as a kid, but I fell in love with Him in college. That’s when I truly started to walk with Him.”
Jed, on the other hand, started his deeper walk with God in his early twenties. Jed shares,
“…my relationship with God started to become something healthy and vibrant, built on His love for me, instead of a fear of punishment. That came about because of a lot of love and encouragement and discipleship from Unka Glen.”
When he was 13, Unka Glen got into drugs and got sent to reform school at 15. And it was hitting rock bottom that made him realize that it was time to truly make a change, recalling the story of the Prodigal Son. From then on, he got involved in youth group, and did volunteer ministry at the local juvenile prison, and eventually got to find what he wanted to for the rest of his life.
HOW THEY BEGAN ON TUMBLR
S&L: When did you start to use Tumblr to give godly counsel to folks from all over the world? How did this start? Was it something you intended to do or did it just eventually pick up?
Lee: The Tumblr thing was an accident. I had a blog on Google for 6 years that only my friends and family read. One day, I stumbled upon Tumblr and thought the design was beautiful, so I switched my blog over to that site and things just began to happen. Some of my friends like Matt King and Glen Fitzjerrell [Unka Glen] started to get on it as well and we all began to see that there is a whole world full of Christian kids who have no shepherd. These kids have so many questions, but no one to answer them. Basically, we stumbled into a world of hurt and God opened the door to minister to them across oceans and time zones. It really surprised all of us.
Jed: A little bit over a year ago. Glen started his blog right at the beginning of 2011, and then, maybe four months later, he convinced me to make a blog and give it a try. To be honest, we were both pretty amazed by the response we saw online. We’re dealing mostly with young people, and there’s an incredible honesty, vulnerability, and hunger there that we hadn’t gotten to see in other venues. The men and women that we work with behind bars are very, very serious about their faith. But, a lot of our experiences outside of the jailhouse could be underwhelming by comparison. When we started blogging, the young people we were dealing with had the same passion and hunger we saw in prison, and that totally hooked us.
Unka Glen: I started in January of 2011, and I was really just playing around with Tumblr to see if it would be a good fit for us to use in our inner-city ministry. I thought I might end up posting stuff about our ministry, but instead a few friends of mine who were in ministry started writing in anonymous questions so that they could steal my answers and use them in their ministries, lol! So I turned off the ability to ask anonymous questions, and to my surprise I started getting all kinds of questions from people I didn’t know. It just took off from there.
ON COMMON ISSUES ENCOUNTERED BY THE WEBSPACE POPULATION
S&L: From the questions that you get via Tumblr, what can you say has been the most common concern of your blog followers?
Lee: If I was to melt all of the questions I get on my blog down into one question that sums them all up, it would be something like this: “Here’s the messy truth of my life. Does God hate me, or does He love me?”
Jed: Well, of course, I think a lot of folks want to know if anybody will ever love them, and if it’ll be the right person, and how they [can] figure all that out. In addition to that, I think the two questions that come up the most are variations [of] “Can God handle *my* sins?” and “How do I be loving in the midst of this really tough, confusing situation I’m in?”
In all three cases, I think people are trying to figure out how to work out being a Christian in the down-and-dirty details of their own lives—which is just right. (Galatians 5:25-26,MSG)
Unka Glen: I get questions about EVERYTHING, I mean anything you can imagine, I’ve been asked about it. But the posts that get the most response are always the ones that have to do with dating and relationships. Overall, the main thing I get asked about is, here’s what I’m doing, is this a sin? And I should say, I only publish a small fraction of the questions I get, most of them I answer in person.
S&L: What words of wisdom do you think you could share to young people all over the world who have a lot of questions about their belief and practical application of their faith?
Lee: Don’t be afraid to ask. It’s cliche to say this, but there are no stupid questions. Look for a Christian older than yourself who has a solid walk with Jesus, a happy marriage and a ministry they love. Then, when you find that person, grab onto him/her and become their best friend. Let them teach you and mold you. Listen to them, and do what they say. Lastly, just love Jesus. Love Him like your life depends on it, because, it does.
Jed: Choose love over fear. Choose confronting your problems head-on over denying and repressing them. Choose to believe God when he tells you that he is crazy in love with you, and let that drive everything else.
When in doubt, go back to the basics. 95% of Christianity is contained in these words:
Jesus loves me, this I know
For the Bible tells me so
Little ones to him belong
They are weak, and He is strong
Yes, Jesus loves me
The Bible tells me so
Unka Glen: I’d mention two things that come up quite often on the blog, first, instead of asking “is this a sin?”, ask “how righteous could it be?”. Second, I’d say, strip away fear, shame, and guilt from your walk, and don’t let other people use fear, shame, or guilt to manipulate you. Pray for courage, zeal, and conviction, not fear, shame, and guilt.
ON BEING SALT AND LIGHT
S&L: How do you think you become ‘salt and light’ in your own way?
Lee: My goal on Tumblr (and in all my ministry, really) is to show people who Jesus really is. I want them to know how much He loves them and how beautiful, full and free a life with Him is. I try to be salt and light by writing songs that directly address the struggles my followers face. I try to write posts that show them who they are and who Jesus it. My friends Glen, Jed, Matt and I produce a podcast that aims to make kids laugh and show them what it means to walk with Him. [Editor’s note: more on this podcast later in this article!]
Jed: Anything plus love can change the world. Mother Teresa said that there’s no such thing as great deeds, only small deeds done with great love. I think she’s right. Find people who don’t think anybody loves them, and show them God’s love in the most fun, creative, imaginative ways you can think of. And you will be salt and light.
Unka Glen: I want to do as much one-on-one ministry as I can. That is, just me and one other person, where I can give them my full focus, and I can listen to what’s going on with them. I do plenty of preaching and speaking to large crowds, but the way I measure the effectiveness of my ministry is how much quality one-on-one time I have throughout the week. That’s the cool thing about Tumblr. [It] allows me to make that direct contact with people.
SAY THAT! AND THEIR OTHER MINISTRIES
S&L: Right now, you also do Say Anything; could you tell us a little more about that?
Lee: Say That was Matt King’s idea. He has always loved comedy, and many of his favorite comedians produce these free radio shows on iTunes called, “podcasts.” His idea was to take the Q&A element of all of our blogs and turn that into a podcast. That way kids could download and listen for free. They could not only get our answers to their questions, but they could hear the love we have for them in our voices. When we started it, we hoped that a few of our Tumblr followers would listen, but the response has been overwhelming. There are folks all over the world listening to the show every single week—writing in questions, sending us care packages of food from across the globe and encouraging us like crazy. It’s been a blast.
Jed: The basic idea of the show is very similar to what we each do with our blogs we take anything-goes questions on spiritual stuff, but we answer the questions as a group. What makes it fun is that we get to build off of each other and, in the process, deliver some pretty cool answers.
Unka Glen: We were approached by Matt King who wanted to do an all-star podcast where he would take [me], Lee Younger, and Jed Brewer, and ask us questions, similar to the way we answer stuff on our respective blogs. Of course I thought it was an awesome idea. We all have different styles and approaches and personalities, so you’re going to get a variety of perspectives on the kinds of struggles that people ask us about. And there’s quite a bit of humor in there as well.
S&L: What else do you love doing for God other than ministering via your blog, and doing Say Anything?
Lee: Well, my favorite thing in the world is my marriage to my best friend Christy. She is precious to me. We’ve been married almost 11 years now and have three really cool kids together. (By the way, Christy actually went to high school in Manila.) [Editor’s Note: Woohoooo!] I am actually a pastor at a church in East Tennessee called Christ Community Church of Oak Ridge where I write and lead worship music, shepherd high school and middle school kids and preach. I am a volunteer Young Life leader, which is an outreach ministry to high school students, and my fellow church pastors and I minister in our local jailhouse every week. I also produce another podcast called The Watertower that is a whole worship service in 30 minutes. (It’s free on the iTunes store!) And, thanks to world-class record producer Jed Brewer, I have 5 albums of original music on the iTunes store. [Editor’s Note: Get his albums HERE!]
Jed: Well, my day job is working with folks coming out of prison, street gangs, and drug addiction. And, I absolutely love it. A big part of that job is producing media music, movies, etc. to help these men and women make a successful transition to the next phase of their life. And that is the coolest thing in the universe. The idea that I could write a song, and God would use it to help a person recovering from addiction to heroin stay clean another day? Money, my friends. Money. [Editor’s Note: Jed is also involved in Mission:USA.]
Unka Glen: Well, of course there’s my day job which is working with gang members, ex-cons, and addicts here in Chicago, and I love traveling around doing the occasional speaking engagement or ministry training event. [Editor’s Note: Unka Glen is president of Mission:USA, a missionary organization that aims to reach out to inmates and gang members. Know more about them via the link above.]
ON MAKING A DIFFERENCE USING TECHNOLOGY
S&L: What words of wisdom do you think you could share to other folks who aspire to make a difference in the Web space?
Lee: Jump in there and get started. Tell the Lord you’re willing to be used and most importantly, be yourself. Don’t try to be anyone else out there. Just be you. There’s someone out there who needs exactly what you bring to the table and Jesus is ready for you to bring just that.
Jed: If you want to make a difference in people’s lives, start by communicating love. Spend a long time listening to the people you want to minister to, getting a sense of their story, and what’s important to them. And then, set them free. Everybody’s bound up by something—greed, lust, insecurity, whatever. And that thing is based on some kind of a lie. Don’t beat up on them for being stuck. Just help them get unstuck. That means helping them see the lie for the falsehood that it is, and helping them grasp the truth that God wants them to have instead. So, for example, let’s look at greed. One of the lies that greed is based on is: if you get just a little bit more, you’ll be OK. Well, if we have somebody we love who’s hung up on greed, then we want to, gently and respectfully, drag that lie into the light. By that, I mean helping them to understand the absurdity of what the lie is claiming. So, if you have a little more than you do now, you’ll be good! Well, dang, if that were true, then Britney Spears would be one of the happiest people on earth. And so would Michael Vick. But they aren’t because money, including a little more, never had the power to make anybody happy. And then we bring in the truth: God wants to satisfy you in a way that money cannot, and you can start to take a hold of that today you don’t have to wait.
Unka Glen: Earn the right to be heard. When I started the blog I spent maybe an hour a day on stuff I wanted to post, and two plus hours a day reading other people’s posts, liking them, sending messages to them about how cool I thought their post was, and so forth. This helped me learn a lot about the needs out there, but it was also a way of showing that I cared. It wasn’t about writing the most amazing post, it was about ministering to people and taking about THEIR posts before I even got down to doing MY posting.
Get to know more about what Unka Glen, Lee Younger, and Jed Brewer do by visiting their blogs:
Emphasis are the editor’s.