From Virtual to Reality: The Pass the Mic Meet Up at Just Gospel ’17

Jemar Tisby

My index finger paused above the ‘enter’ button on my keyboard. I had just finished creating the Facebook page for the Reformed African American Network, and in that moment I sensed something important was about to happen–something over which I would have no control once it got started. I hesitated because I wasn’t sure I could handle the responsibility. I didn’t know if I’d have the time or the wisdom to lead this initiative. Thankfully, boldness won. With the press of a button the RAANetwork became a reality.

What makes the Reformed African American Network distinct is that last word…”network.” When we first birthed the idea for this organization, the most important goal was to connect like-minded people, specifically African Americans who self-identify as theologically Reformed. While we couldn’t all be in the same physical space, we hoped to facilitate fellowship through a virtual community. We wanted to harness the power of the Internet and social media to definitively answer the question many Reformed African Americans ask, “Am I the only one?”

No. You are not the only one.

We are thankful that in the past five and a half years of our existence we launched a Facebook page and then a Twitter account. Today our social media has a combined presence of nearly 25,000 followers. We also started a website in October 2012 where we post blogs and Christian resources. The website allowed us to generate our own content and begin making the distinctive voice of Reformed African Americans and their allies more well-known. We don’t claim to speak for the entire Reformed and black community, we simply provide a platform for individuals to speak. As we like to say, “We’re not the voice, we’re the microphone.” We have published hundreds of posts and have hosted over 1.5 million visitors to the site. Decades from now, researchers and Christians this content will be a “paper trail” of thought about life as a Christian and an African American.

In January 2014, we started the Pass The Mic podcast. Beau York joined us as the producer helping with everything from post-production edits to marketing. Shortly thereafter, Tyler Burns joined me as the co-host of the podcast. So far we have hosted dozens of guests from all over the nation and addressed topics from the presidential election to self-care to movie reviews. Feedback about the podcast started to generate so much discussion that we created a private Facebook group to host the discussions and foster dialogue across racial and cultural lines. Today the PTM Facebook group has nearly 3,000 members and is growing.

In the midst of all our growth, the most satisfying part is the chance to see the Network move from virtual to reality. At the Just Gospel conference in Atlanta, we hosted our second Pass The Mic meet up. Knowing many members from the private Facebook group would be attending the conference, we decided to utilize the moment to gather face-to-face.

Forty people, most of whom had never met each other in person, gathered at a local restaurant and modeled biblical community. We had people of several races and ethnicities present as well as multi-generational representation which demonstrated that even a ministry with “African American” in the name has space for all kinds of people. Throughout the event I kept sitting back and observing. Seeing the smiles, hearing the laughter, and sensing the unity in the room was all a bit overwhelming. To think that such a beautiful gathering could start with a single individual and the press of a button.

God has built the Reformed African American Network and Pass the Mic from an idea into a true Network. All of the staff members of the RAANetwork–Elodie, Earon, Tyler, and I–are immensely grateful to God for the people he has gathered through this meager ministry. We look forward to continued meet-ups and hope you will join us every week for the podcast. Remember to subscribe, rate, and review the podcast. Spread the word about the Network, and we’ll see you soon on the next Pass the Mic!

5 thoughts on “From Virtual to Reality: The Pass the Mic Meet Up at Just Gospel ’17

  1. Ifeoluwa Akinduyo

    The work of God pays better. It also comes with blessing

  2. Liffe

    The work of God is always without end. i am really blessed

  3. JOHN

    Its a blessing indeed

  4. Terri

    I was SO blessed to be in that room with you all that day. My eyes were a bit moist. 😉

  5. Conrad Deitrick

    I was blessed to be there!

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