People to Know: Rev. C.J. Rhodes, Jr.

About 100 years ago, one of the best compliments you could receive from an African-American leader from another African-American leader was that you were a “Race man.” Through the twilight of slavery into Emancipation, Reconstruction and Jim Crow, African-Americans maintained a stalwart self-help mentality. We had to. We were all we had. “Uplift” was the rallying cry. There was the immediate sense that survival depended upon African Americans doing for themselves what must be done to build community and “civilization.” There was the clear and present danger of outside forces suppressing, oppressing and harassing the community–Sanballots hindering the work of rebuilding. But over and against all of that were the “Race men” who both defended against outside attack and nurtured within a sense of dignity, progress, achievement and aspiration for our people.

I’ve not met Rev. C.J. Rhodes, Jr. personally. I pray the Lord allows me the grace of doing so before too long. But I’ve followed his ministry with encouragement and interest since I first heard of him about ten years ago. I think he’s someone you should know. I think he is in bearing, education, and service a “Race man” in the finest sense of the term.

Rev. Rhodes serves as the pastor of Mt. Helm Baptist Church in Jackson, MS. Mt. Helm’s history dates back to the days immediately following the Emancipation Proclamation, when former slaves formed it as the first African American congregation in Jackson. It’s been a flagship congregation since that time. At his calling, Rev. Rhodes became it’s youngest pastor:

Upon returning to Mississippi, Rev. Rhodes worked for Mission Mississippi, a statewide Christian movement demonstrating and promoting racial and denominational reconciliation. Licensed into Gospel ministry by Bishop Arnold Stanton (New Life Cathedral of Worship- Hazlehurst, MS) and ordained in 2009 by Rev. Dr. Maurice Wallace (Cornerstone Church- Durham, NC), Rev. Rhodes’ passionate preaching and global Christian vision have been shaped by Christ’s prayer for unity among all his disciples.

In 2010 Rev. Rhodes became the youngest pastor of Mt Helm Baptist Church, Jackson’s oldest historically African-American congregation. Under his transformative leadership, Mt Helm regained its local and statewide status as a flagship church, became more engaged in evangelism and advocacy, and modeled adaptive paradigms that made the nearly two century old church more relevant and visible for 21st century ministry.

In 2013 Rev. Rhodes was one of fifty persons selected to participate in the Inaugural Institute of Black Theology and Leadership at Princeton Theological Seminary. That same year he was employed by Alcorn State University to lead religious life of the campus and to teach courses in Philosophy. Rev. Rhodes is presently a candidate for the Doctor of Ministry in Pastoral Leadership for Transformational Ministry at Wesley Biblical Seminary.

Rhodes’ ministry touches church, campus and culture. He hosts a weekly radio show and is helping to spiritually shape a generation of college students. The brother is tireless.

Here’s a bit of his personal story in an interview with our sister Lisa Fields of the Jude 3 Project (be sure to check Lisa’s work out!):

Rhodes joined Ed Stetzer at the Billy Graham Center at Wheaton College to talk about “The State of the Gospel and the Church Today”:

A few years back, Rev. Rhodes hosted a conference on the Black Church along with our brother Dr. Anthony Bradley. Here’s an address he gave there entitled, “The Black Church as an Apostle of Liberation”:

I suspect we will hear a great deal more from our brother in the years ahead. Get to know his ministry now so you can say, “I knew him when….”

Thabiti Anyabwile
Thabiti Anyabwile serves as a pastor of Anacostia River Church (Washington DC). He is the happy husband of Kristie and the adoring father of two daughters and one son. Holler at him on Twitter: @ThabitiAnyabwil

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