Tyler Detrick is the organizing pastor of First Street Reformed Fellowship in Dayton, OH. Tyler is one of the younger and newer OPC ministers. He interned with Brad Peppo and then was ordained and installed in Dayton in November of 2020. He and his wife, Natalie, have a one-year old son. Tyler grew up 20 miles from Dayton in a broadly evangelical Lutheran Church before ending up in OPC churches. Working alongside Brad Peppo, and now on his own in Dayton, Tyler has had opportunities to minister to diverse people. Dayton has many homeless and Tyler frequently interacts with people who have mental illness or are seriously damaged by drugs. Tylers shares this tidbit that creates a vivid image for us:
“The first time I ever walked into our worship space, a tall man wearing ragged clothes and holding a judge’s gavel told me he would use that gavel if I ever spoke falsely during the sermon!”
Dayton is also home to a large population of college students, millennials, and refugees from a wide variety of nations.
We asked Tyler 6 questions…we share the first 3 responses this week and next week the rest of the interview.
Question: What is something that you believe and/or do in regards to outreach that has changed over your time in ministry?
Tyler: I believe that awkwardness in outreach is something to be embraced. I don’t mean that we should intentionally make our outreach to the lost miserably uncomfortable or that we can’t work on becoming more natural in our conversations and efforts… but I spent far too much time at the beginning of my time in ministry worrying about whether I had “said the right thing” or “seized the right moment,” and I think I neglected outreach as a result. I have come to believe that most conversations about Christ and faith are simply going to feel awkward since we are strangers and exiles in this world. When we embrace awkwardness, we can start to focus instead on genuine relationships with those we are reaching out to with the gospel.
Question: If the OPC and OPC churches want to continue to grow in our effectiveness in reaching the lost-what is the most important thing we need to work on and how or in what way(s) should we be working on it?
Tyler: I believe that if the OPC wants to grow in effectively reaching the lost, the most important thing we ought to be doing to grow in our effectiveness is spending intentional time with people who do not know Jesus. We must pray and discuss evangelism, but we do not realize our purpose until we step into the lives of people who are stumbling along through this dark world and point them in personal ways to the Savior.
How do we make that step–both as individuals and as church communities? One place we might start is by showing hospitality to non-Christian friends and neighbors. I’ve seen many OPC churches that are excellent at welcoming fellow brothers in sisters in Christ into their homes. Good food and friendly faces create an atmosphere where people can speak honestly and vulnerably. What if those doors of our homes opened not only to fellow believers but also to the Hindu family next-door or the guy holding a “God is Dead” sign on the street-corner? What if OPC families (or churches) started to invite their neighborhood blocks to open-houses? If those things start to happen, conversations might become much more uncomfortable. Parents might worry about what their kids are hearing from their guests around the dinner table… but at the same time our unbelieving neighbors would start to see a living picture of the warm welcome that God gives in the gospel. Not only that, but we would start to understand specific details of the lives of the lost, and we could begin to find winsome ways to commend the gospel and to welcome these friends to church.
Question: What is something that has surprised you about outreach and evangelism to the lost as you have done it?
Tyler: I’ve been genuinely surprised by how my own faith has deepened through hard questions from the lost. The other day a young skeptic at a coffee shop asked me a series of “thorny” questions: “How can you say that God is really good if he commanded many wars in the Old Testament?” and “Are you really telling me that I must believe that a divine being speaks to me through a bunch of ancient documents when he could just appear in front of me right now?” As I unpacked these questions for my new friend, I felt flustered that my answers would probably not prove persuasive. I felt that with every answer I offered that I became more and more a stranger to this young man and an outsider to the ways of this world. And yet, I was amazed at how the Scriptures provided rich answers to each question that opened doors for me to talk about Jesus. I don’t know if this young man ultimately accepted my answers to his questions, but God used this conversation to strengthen my own confidence in the faith!
We appreciate Tyler’s thoughtfulness and we’ll hear the rest of the interview next week…….
What’s one thing you will take away from Tyler’s thoughts this week?