Zoe Bible Church: Filling the Earth with the Life of God

Since the day it opened its doors in 1997, the mission of Zoe Bible Church hasn’t changed. It is simply filling the earth with the life of God. During a recent conversation with the church’s pastor, Iverson Jackson, he tells me their mission comes from John 10:10, where Jesus says, “I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly.” He explains that zoe means “life as God has it.” “Life as it was meant to be lived. Our goal is to fill this earth with his life, and that’s through the teaching of the Word of God.” Pastor Jackson is quick to quote Scripture throughout our wide-ranging conversation. For him and the people of Zoe Bible Church, God’s Word is the final authority, and from it, we discover the full and abundant life that Jesus promised to give us. For Pastor Jackson, that includes challenging every believer at Zoe Bible Church to pursue God’s desire for their lives.

For this local expression of the Body of Christ, they want to see the church be the center of family and community life. To do this, the church provides staff and facilities, including a gym, library, help centers for youth and the elderly (City of Gold Senior Village), a career counseling center, a place where students can get assistance with homework (Homework Heaven), and a financial learning center and economic development foundation. Everything Zoe Bible Church does is to help the Body of Christ grow and prosper in maturity, love, and unity.

Unity in Diversity

One of Pastor Jackson’s strongest convictions is that there is unity in diversity within the Body of Christ. “Every church has its own flavor and personality. Throughout church history, people fought over different doctrines and other things, but in reality, it was just a lack of understanding,” Pastor Jackson tells me. “Paul says in First Corinthians 13:9 that ‘we know in part.’ There are certain things we know and are set on—the fundamentals, the non-negotiables—and other things we only know in part. That means we don’t have to agree on everything, but we can get along and get the work done that God’s called us to do. We all have a part, and every church should feel like what they do is the most important thing. Some people ask me, “Do you have a food bank?” and the answer is no. For Zoe Bible Church, it’s not what we do. I feel like our part is to teach people not to need it. Now, there’s a church down the way that can feed you because you have to eat while you’re learning. That’s their thing, and I’ll send you down there to get that. Once we understand that we’re different parts in the Body of Christ, we don’t have to fight or be divided.”

“We’re all part of the same Body in Christ, and so it is with an actual body. How many different organs do we have in our body? Around eighty, and each one is essential because, if one were not essential, God wouldn’t have put it there. Once we understand that about the Body of Christ, it’s a lot easier to receive each other and respect what God has called you to do and what he has called me to do. That’s why Jesus said, ‘By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another’ (John 13:35). You’re not going to love someone you constantly have a conflict with and bicker with over little things. We have to get the work of Christ done and not get bogged down on these little things that your group got in a corner and figured your way was the only way, and the other group went to their corner instead of us coming to the middle of the room and getting the work done.”

If You Don’t Succeed, I Don’t Succeed

For a time such as this in our country, where we see increasing division and strife, Pastor Jackson’s words remind us that we, as believers, are truly better together. “We need to have that understanding that each of us only knows in part and that each of us cannot complete the work God has put us on this earth to do without connecting with others.” Pastor Jackson goes on to share an illustration of this truth from his own conversion experience. “I remember when I got saved. I had been in church all my life, but I didn’t come to have a personal relationship with the Lord until I was twenty-four years old. The church we were going to was stuck in traditionalism, so my sister started going to this other church that taught more of the Word and was active in the community. So, I started going with her, but I never looked outside to see what the name of the church was. It just didn’t dawn on me. What I saw was the love of Christ and the love of the church. I saw the pastor preaching the Word of God and my life was changing. I don’t remember paying attention to what the name of the church was. It was the power of God I was experiencing in my life, which was something I had never experienced before. A lot of times, we get hung up on what the name of the church is or what kind of church it is. Really, we are all one church, the Body of Christ. If we can see that, then I can see my brother or sister in Christ as vital to my success; If you don’t succeed, I don’t succeed.” 

Because of where Zoe Bible Church is located in Pulaski County, some have told Pastor Jackson, “I didn’t come to your church because I thought it was a white church,” or “I didn’t come because I thought it was a black church.” This strikes Pastor Jackson as odd. “What difference does it make?! One time, I told someone, ‘Well, the building is white. It’s got white siding. So is that what you mean by a white church?’ It reminds me of what Paul wrote in Second Corinthians 5:16-17: ‘Wherefore henceforth know we no man after the flesh: yea, though we have known Christ after the flesh, yet now henceforth know we him no more. Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.’ We aren’t the black church, white church, or hispanic church. We are the Body of Christ.”

“One of the things I love about CityChurch Network is how it helps churches work together. We have our issues. If they had them in the first-century church, we’re going to have them now. But we have to work past our issues and not take it personally. It says something about the value you assign to a relationship when you’re willing to work past issues for the sake of the relationship. That’s why I like that CityChurch Network helps bring churches together. I love going to different churches in different areas of the city for CityChurch Network events.”

Helping One Another Grow in Christ

Later in our conversation, I tell Pastor Jackson that I’m a new dad and how many spiritual insights that experience has given me having to care for a four-month-old. This reminds him of when he first became a father and what that taught him about leading and equipping others. “I remember when our oldest daughter, India, was born. We were in the hospital, and she was in a little bassinet. She was just a couple of days old. And it just hit me like a ton of bricks. You are responsible for another life. I told my wife, and she was like, “Yeah. Wow! We sure are!” The Scripture always parallels life. When someone is born again, they are a newborn babe in Christ. As 1 Peter 2:2 says: “As newborn babes, desire the sincere milk of the word.” When someone is born again spiritually, they are no different than a newborn baby, and we have to be just as watchful over that newborn spiritual babe as we are over a newborn natural babe because they are in the same condition with the same vulnerabilities. I say it like this at the church when a baby’s born, you don’t bring them home, put them in a chair and tell them, ‘Hey, if you get hungry, there’s some milk in the refrigerator. The bathroom’s down the hallway. I’ll be back to check on you.’ That would be called child abuse or child abandonment. The baby would be taken out of your house. You may even go to jail. But, too often, we do that spiritually.”

“Spiritually, a newborn believer is the same. If a baby messes on itself, you clean it up. You don’t throw the baby out. You don’t discipline them because they haven’t been trained yet. That’s what I see as my responsibility. We’re a teaching ministry at Zoe Bible Church. We have a radio program. I love teaching the basics, bringing it from the need for Christ to walking them through growing in Christ. We do a lot of teaching to help people grow once they receive Christ. I love watching them grow and getting people to focus on the Word of God. We walk by faith. We live by faith. That’s what we have to teach people. If we get our focus on Christ, he’ll use people with all different gifts in the Body of Christ to speak to us and help us grow.” 

“Life as God has it” is a life where, collectively, we’re helping one another to grow in Christ. That is a community project for the church. Or, as Pastor Jackson explains, “If you take a piece of coal out of the fire, without the energy of the pile, the coal will go out. It’s the same with us. You can’t have a barbecue with one coal. We’re called the Body of Christ for a reason. We have to wake up and see that it is a ploy of the enemy to divide and separate people from the Body of Christ. If he does that, we’re not going to last. We may hold a little heat for a while, but eventually, we’re going to go out. We are interdependent in our relationships. We need each other to live ‘life as God has it.’”

Nothing Can Overcome Love

Much of the division we see in our country today relates to race. Some groups and organizations promote an ideology that views all of life and the issues we face today, first and foremost, through the lens of race. For Pastor Jackson, this ideological thinking is an anathema to him. “It’s a 180 from what Scripture teaches. I did a Sunday school series called “One Man: One Blood, All Nations” from the Book of Acts. It was a sixteen-part series, and I talked about slavery from the time of Adam to the American experience. What you find throughout history is what Paul wrote in 1 Timothy 6:10: ‘For the love of money is the root of all evil.’ Ultimately, race has nothing to do with the color of your skin. It has to do with money. It’s very profitable to keep people divided because race hustling is a big business.”

“That makes it even more important that the Body of Christ is united. How will they know we are his disciples? Because you have love, one for the other. Not because you’re this color or that color, you’re from the South or the North, or you speak this language or that language. No, because you have love for one another. Nothing can overcome love because God is love, and he has made us overcomers with him. In Christ, we are all one. That was the great mystery that Paul was talking about in Galatians 3:28: ‘There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus.’”

The Final Word

What encouragement would Pastor Jackson give to pastors and churches in our city? “A plant can’t grow without sunshine. Jesus said we are the light of the world. Don’t look at your church as just one individual church, whether you have one member or a thousand members. You have an assignment that is absolutely critical to the Body of Christ. So, work on your assignment. Understand what it is, and work on it. And remember that you are a part of the Body of Christ. My heart is not jealous of my lungs. My heart is doing its job. It’s pumping blood. And my lungs are doing their job. They’re pumping air. They are not in competition. They are working together. We are, as Paul says, “co-workers in God’s service” (1 Corinthians 3:9). That’s what we have to be.”

We are thankful for the exceptional work of Zoe Bible Church and all the churches in our city uniting the Body of Christ in our communities. They’re helping the whole Church grow.

Speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ. From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work.

Ephesians 4:15-16

Chris Loux, Communications Director – CityChurch Network

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