One of the things Reverend Jahkimmo Smith loves most about Jesus’s ministry is His ability to break down barriers and go against social norms.
Through the Scriptures, he learnt how Jesus disregarded social stigmas and upset religious restrictions just to be in a relationship with those that society had turned its back on.
“Jesus came to the aid of those whom the religious elite of his day had disqualified,” Rev Smith said.
“He would eat with sinners and tax collectors. He would befriend a cheat and a thief like Zacchaeus. He would reveal himself to a doubting Thomas.
“He would give another chance to a sell-out like Peter. He embraced a former prostitute named Martha as one of his disciples and engaged with many outside his ethnicity.”
It’s for this reason that Mr Smith’s church, Mt Zion AME, has made it a priority to find more creative ways to minister to people of all ages, from all walks of life.
On Thursday, the church will host Beyond the Walls, a free, open-air concert, in the Town Square in St George starting at 7.30pm.
Mt Zion has held the event at venues across the island almost every summer since 2006. It returns this week, after a year’s break.
The Southampton church’s praise team and dancers will perform, along with its male voice choir.
“The open-air concert is our way of amplifying the gospel message through song in a family-friendly non-traditional environment,” said Mr Smith.
“I believe it’s important to spread the gospel across as many platforms, in as many places and in as many ways as possible.
“The summer concert is just a natural outgrowth of our church’s vision and mission, which is to connect people to God and each other and to advance the gospel of Jesus Christ and develop disciples of Jesus in a safe and loving environment.”
Rev Smith said he understands that the traditional church environment may not always feel like a welcome place for everyone.
Popular culture often promotes a negative perception of the church, which can become a barrier for people who do not regularly attend, he believes.
“Other barriers can be what is often seen as the countercultural values of the church in an increasingly secular environment,” the minister said. “Some barriers that people have are their own negative past experiences with the church or with someone that claimed to represent the church and its values.
“The truth is the church is made up of imperfect people and some people have difficulty reconciling that fact with what they believe the church should represent.
“As a result, the imperfections or shortcomings of the church obscure some people’s ability to receive its message.
“The truth is, those of us who make up the church fall woefully short of the message that we lift up, but that’s why we need God’s grace and mercy.”
At Thursday’s event, people can expect an authentic and life-changing encounter with God “in a friendly, fun, welcoming and loving environment”, Rev Smith added.
The hope is that people leave with a deep appreciation for the power of God; a sense that they are loved and valued by an awesome Creator; and a belief that the best is yet to come in their lives.
•For more information visit www.mtzion.bm</i>