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You can listen to Noah Filipiak’s “Behind the Curtain” Podcast interview with Tyler St. Clair on the Podbean Player below or you can subscribe to all “Behind the Curtain” Ministry Podcast episodes on iTunes. (Podcast listening tip: use the podcasts app on your smartphone and listen while driving, doing chores, or working out)

Two years ago, Pastor Tyler St. Clair was interviewed in Episode 17 of the Behind the Curtain Ministry Podcast, discussing what it was like to gear up for his urban church plant in Detroit and what it was like to do fundraising as a black pastor.  Today, Noah Filipiak catches back up with Pastor Tyler to see what actually planting and pastoring has been like after all the hype has died down.  The two church planters talk about life in the trenches of pastoral / church planting ministry and about how important it is to keep realistic and biblical expectations as a pastor.  Tyler also discusses the Contend Conference, coming up in Detroit on February 28th.

Tyler on Twitter

Tyler on Facebook

Tyler on Instagram

Tyler’s Blog

An abbreviated version of this article was published on the Transforming Center’s website: What does transforming leadership look like for Pastor Noah Filipiak?  Here is the full version:


I love seminary.


I have one seminary degree and look forward to going back for more.


With that said, my experience in a Transforming Community has been the most important ministry leadership training I have ever received.  It’s not that it’s a competition between the type of things you learn in seminary and the type of things learned through the Transforming Community, it’s just very noticeable which ones are more emphasized in the Church today (and in my own ministry leadership life up to this point).  Noticeable due to the amount of pain and personal struggle I and so many other ministry leaders have endured in our untransformed selves.


I’ve seen the same concept true at the gym.  You often see people at the gym, usually fellow men, who are incredibly muscular.  Muscles on top of muscles and they are straining to build even more muscles.  I often wonder if these are NFL players or ditch diggers or some other occupation where this sort of strength would be beneficial.  Obviously the strength isn’t there for pragmatic reasons.  Meanwhile, as a former college track and cross country runner myself, I rarely see these muscle-bound titans hop on the treadmill or exercise bike.  Lots of muscle is great, but if it’s the only thing that’s ever focused on, a person can spend all that time in the gym and still be a very ineffective athlete.  After all, it’s pretty hard to be athletic if you can’t breathe!  There’s nothing wrong with being a bodybuilder or doing a lot of strength training, it’s just caused me to notice an interesting parallel to ministry training.

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Ministry burnout; despair; discouragement.  This 3-headed monster and its ugly cousins usually come visit me when I ponder how much “bad” is out there in contrast to my ability to do anything about it.  The Bible commands me to do something about it, but that can’t mean I’m to live in debilitating despair, right?  Because as a competitor, it certainly feels like my team is losing.  These are easy topics to preach sermons on, but much more challenging to internalize at the core of our being.  The following four points have been given to me recently by people who have been on this road much longer than me and I hope they help you at the soul-level the way they have helped me:

1. Pray that God will raise up the Church

I’m not in this alone.  There is massive need out there.  Tons of people who don’t know Jesus.  And tons of people enduring incredible suffering.  Jesus didn’t say to his disciples, “Go and glean the entire harvest” in Matthew 9:37-38 and Luke 10:2, he said “Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field” (italics added).  God didn’t leave the world with me as its hope to bring it the good news of the Kingdom, he left it with his Church!  I’m not talking about apathetic laziness, waiting for others to do what I’m supposed to do.  I’m talking about realizing which is the better hope for my low-income neighborhood to find Jesus’s Kingdom:  me working 5x harder than I currently am, or me staying faithful in small ways and praying that God will either raise up 5 more Christians from within the neighborhood to help me and/or have them move in from outside.  Me thinking it’s my job to reach the whole city or praying that God will raise up dozens of churches to reach the whole city.  I can lose sleep over the sex trafficking industry, gang violence, drug use, global poverty and oppression as well as the many unreached countries of the world…or I can pray for them!  Praying that God will bring a revival to his Church, sending out many into the local harvest fields that are ripe for picking.

2. Remember the Holy Spirit is in charge of the Church and Jesus promises the gates of hell won’t prevail against it. 

I’m not in charge of the Church, the Holy Spirit is.  Pressure off.  Do you remember Pentecost?  Prior to this event, Jesus told his disciples not to do outreach (Luke 24:49; Acts 1:4) until the Holy Spirit came.  The gathering of believers wasn’t enough; the Holy Spirit was and still is needed.  What a relief to know that the Holy Spirit is not only guiding me, but that I’m a small part of a huge body and the Holy Spirit is guiding and empowering the entire thing.

3. Don’t let condemnation rule over you

Romans 8:1 is so clear and beautiful: there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.  Again, easy to preach, hard to internalize.  What’s helpful to remember is whenever you are feeling inadequate, you know that message of condemnation is from Satan and you can reject it.  You are fully adequate based on what Jesus did for you on the cross (Colossians 1:22, et al).  Satan wants us to think our adequacy comes from producing results for God, so when we see the suffering or we see those who are lost, we feel like it’s our fault or we haven’t done enough (bringing despair, burnout, discouragement).

4. Don’t create a new “Law” to be enslaved to

This is closely related to #3.  Jesus went through a whole lot to free us from the power of the law (Galatians 2:21; Gal. 5:4).  The law enslaves.  You can never do enough under the law because you can always do better and be better than what you’ve done.  When you translate this to a zeal for ministry, there is always more ministry to be done!  More people to reach, more people to help.  Ministry can be a very subtle slave-master.  Under grace, we abide relationally in Jesus (John 15) and we stay faithful to him, one small day at a time, one small interaction at a time.  The point isn’t results, it’s faithfulness and abiding.  If we believe that this isn’t enough, we’ve believed the lie that Law will bring us life.  Reject this and cling to grace.  As you share the message of grace to the world, live in the grace that all that is needed has already been done on the cross.  Reject any message that what you already have in Jesus isn’t enough!

at a crossroads behind the curtain ministry podcast noah filipiakNoah Filipiak interviews Pastor Tyler St. Clair about his upcoming church plant on the NW side of Detroit, the neighborhood Tyler and his wife both grew up in.  Tyler’s target location is one of the “bad parts” of Detroit, with all of the symptoms of urban poverty ever-present.  After being guided to plant in other more financially viable areas, Tyler discusses why he is staying committed to this needy area.  Noah and Tyler discuss white privilege and the challenge of ministry fundraising as a black man.  They also discuss the lost emphasis Scripture puts on loving and ministering to the poor and the need for the Church to be the body and not hoard all of the resources in suburban areas.  They also discuss how a lot of church planting movements want to make it look like they are ministering in the poor parts of Detroit, when they really aren’t.  Tyler also shares about a season of his life where he rejected black preaching and theologians, and how God brought him back to his roots and ethnic identity by introducing him to many spiritual giants of the Christian faith who come from the African-American Church.

Subscribe to all “Behind the Curtain” Ministry Podcast episodes on iTunes

Listen to the Tyler St. Clair podcast episode here:


Connect with Tyler:

Tyler on Twitter

Tyler on Facebook

Tyler on Instagram

Tyler’s Blog

Email Tyler ( about joining his fundraising team (tax-deductible)

Click for Tyler’s Prayer Newsletter, with link at the bottom to subscribe to future Prayer Newsletters (click “Forward” at the very bottom of the Newsletter and enter your email in both email lines)

Resources mentioned in the interview:

Tyler’s Blog Post “Forgetting Giants” about great black theologians of the past

Divided by Faith: Evangelical Religion and the Problem of Race in America by Michael Emerson and Christian Smith

African American theologians and preachers of the past:

Phillis Wheatley.

Lemuel Haynes

Richard Allen

Gardner C. Taylor

E.K. Bailey

A. Louis Patterson

African American theologians and preachers of the present:

John Perkins

Eric Mason

Tony Evans

Crawford Lorrits

Bryan Lorrits

H.B. Charles Jr. – On Preaching book – H.B. Charles Jr.’s Podcast

Charlie Dates

Robert Smith Jr. – Doctrine that Dances book

James Earl Massey


In January 2006, I officially left my position as a youth pastor and set off full-time as a church planter in Lansing, MI.  I was 22 when I went to the assessment center in August 2005 and was ready to save the world a few months later at 23.

I was naive, arrogant, insecure and full of subconscious motives.

Now I’ve just turned 33 (the age Jesus died; several of my pastor friends reminded me of this), and this September our church will celebrate the 10 year anniversary of our public launch.  Here’s some of the biggest things I’ve learned over the past 10 years:

Don’t Throw Stones

So much arrogance can be cloaked in “critical thinking” and “observation.”  10 years ago, I felt superior to the way the established church was doing things.  I would throw stones in private conversations at specific established churches, typically the larger ones in my area.  What a direct rebellion against Jesus’ desire for the Church to be unified!  What an insult to the Kingdom of God. Continue Reading…