A Meaningful Conversation Between James Robison and Pastor Chris Hodges
Birmingham pastor shares how The Church of the Highlands is sharing God’s love while reaching the community as a coronavirus drive-through test site.
Editor’s Note: The Stream’s founder, James Robison, first met Pastor Chris Hodges in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. Here, they discuss the coronavirus crisis and how God is using The Church of the Highlands in Birmingham, Alabama, to meet the physical and spiritual needs of the community.
James Robison: Chris, you’ve been chosen as a leader, like an apostolic or New Testament voice, in this age. I believe with all my heart you will be as instrumental as a channel of God’s insight, wisdom and direction as anybody in the country.
Yesterday morning, the Lord showed me that coronavirus is a visible manifestation of what’s happening in the invisible realm of the Spirit. Satan, the enemy of everything pertaining to life and godliness has lost ground. He lost ground he controlled as it relates to the preciousness of every life; all aspects of godliness including marriage, family, sex (including gender); true freedom; limited government and the foolishness of depending on any form of power outside of the wisdom, shadow and shelter of the Father and the guidance of the Shepherd. Satan is furious and is trying to take back ground he has lost.
This virus shows that the elders and people who are older are like a remnant that have eyes to see and ears to hear what the Spirit is saying and revealing to the church for the glory of God and the benefit of the people Jesus died for. It is very important for people to see that the enemy is attacking the kingdom purpose of God in the life of every believer and the Body of Christ, the church. The sooner we show people how special they are in the eyes of God, they will realize why the enemy has targeted the kingdom purpose of God in and through their life.
Chris, tell me what you are seeing through your church — The Church of the Highlands — that we need to hear right now — not only in the spiritual realm, but in the physical.
Chris Hodges: I think the Lord has been offended at what has happened globally. A lot of times in our prosperity, we tend to run away from God.
I don’t think God created this [coronavirus]. I think He has allowed this to create a shaking to remind us where our true sustenance, our life comes from. I think it’s interesting that it started in an area of the world, China, where the government was cracking down on the underground church. We know of places where they were imprisoning and executing pastors in some places.
At our church, we’ve seen people who have never been open to the Lord who are running to God. This past Sunday, during spring break, we would typically have been down 20% to about 40,000 people — and we had 250,000 people watch the service live. My message to pastors and leaders: Don’t be part of the fear. It’s real, but be part of the hopeful message of turning people to God in their desperation.
James: Let me respond to what you said as it relates to China and any nation that casts aside the Word of God and no longer glorifies Him as God. They change His truth into a lie and are given over to appetites beyond their control. Then given over to reprobate thinking to where they can’t think straight, determine right from wrong, or good from evil. They are persecuting the church that is praying for a miracle of God. The enemy wants to destroy everything pertaining to life and godliness. It appears the Chinese government wants that. There are other governments who want that too. The Chinese government leaders don’t care if many people die. In fact, they often eliminate people rapidly on purpose.
Be assured, there is a great remnant of people who are serious about God, just like the underground Christians in China are. So what is it that God wants to accomplish in spite of how bad things are? He shares in Romans 8 that He, “Works all things together for good (including the bad) to fulfill His kingdom purpose.”
He desires to shape us into a vessel that honors Him. As believers, we are to be yielded clay in the hands of the Master Potter, God Himself, allowing Him to shape Christlikeness into us. Jesus prayed in John 17 that all believers would come together in supernatural unity and the world would recognize we are truly His disciples, God’s family.
My prayer is that the shepherds and pastors will show God’s family — the church — the heart of the Father allowing Him to accomplish His will.
Chris, The Church of the Highlands is becoming an answer to the prayer and the needs of the community, and an example of the unity God wants in the family and that we desperately need in our nation. Can you explain what have you done to try to help people in your community during this time of crisis? I think you have set a great example for all of us, and I am so grateful.
Chris: Thank you. What we have done, we put into place before this happened. We trained more than 26,000 volunteers and put ourselves in a position financially where we have margins so that when crises like this happen, we can step up. We haven’t had to take an offering, we haven’t had to train volunteers — they were already ready.
We have a medical clinic downtown that we started and funded. It’s under a separate 501(c)(3), but it is our medical clinic called Christ Health Center, and we are using our largest location as a drive-through testing site for coronavirus. Because we had lines of cars for miles, we had to move the location to another place due to the overwhelming response.
As people get within three miles of the campus, they are directed to tune into a short-wave FM radio station. It is playing worship music, playing the Word of God, telling them God loves them, letting them know fear isn’t of God and giving them instructions about what the procedures are like when they pull up to the medical professionals.
We’re letting people know that we’re trying to take care of their physical needs, but I think people have spiritual and emotional needs as great as the physical ones right now. The fear, panic and hysteria that is in people’s hearts is grounded on a reality, but it can pollute the soul of a person while they are trying to deal with their physical needs. Doctors can address the physical, but it takes the gospel to address the emotional and spiritual. When you combine those two together, James, you have a powerful thing that happens, and the city is really responding to it.
In addition to that, we are assisting our local schools to provide meals not only to the children who are out of school, but also to the elderly who can’t even get to the store right now. We’re going through our widows’ list and elderly list to care for those who need it at this time.
I don’t like what is happening, but I am grateful for the opportunity for the church to arise and do what only the church can do.
James: I love that.
My son was taping a television program with my wife, Betty, and me yesterday for “LIFE Today,” and he said, “You know, God didn’t give us a spirit of fear. What did He give us? In that same passage [2 Timothy 1:7], it says He gave us “power, love and a sound mind.” Chris, you are demonstrating that in what you are doing.
If there are pastors who bear witness with the Father’s heart expressed through you and want to help in their community, is there any source they can go to expedite their ability to also do some of the things you are doing?
Chris: My strongest calling in life is to serve churches. On growleader.com and arcchurches.com, we have already uploaded everything we know about serving communities, the resources needed to do church services and a virtual online kind of way that even smaller churches can use. Everything we’re doing, we automatically uploaded to these two sites for pastors and churches to download. Everything is “white-labeled,” meaning we take off our own logo so they can put their logo on it, and it even looks like they created it. We don’t want any credit, and they don’t have to mention where they got it. We just want them to get out there and let their local church shine in the middle of this crisis.
James: Chris, I can’t tell you how much I hear the heart of the Father expressed through you — even in only wanting the credit and glory to go to God. We’re a family that is supposed to show people what the perfect Father looks like. I pray that everybody who reads this will realize that God has placed in us the ability, when we are connected to one another, to express His love and life and transforming truth through us like a river.
This is an opportunity for the love of God to flow more freely and clearly than in any time in history. What would you like the church to hear from you as a pastor and shepherd?
Chris: The first thing I would want them to hear is that the Bible was written during times of uncertainty and crisis. They can lean on the power and comfort that comes from God’s Word. We truly need to “cast our cares on Him” because He cares for us.
I’m getting ready to send a video message to our entire church, quoting Jeremiah 29:11, where it says God has both a “hope and a future” for us, and it’s good. He has “plans for us,” to “prosper us,” to “give us a hope and a future.” We don’t know what it is, but God does. I’m completely comforted, knowing that the One in control of my life has the plan. In fact, I’m glad I’m not the one with the plan. I’m glad God has the plans for my life.
I’m telling my church to balance the amount of information you’re allowing in your mind that you need to be informed … with God’s Word, worship and prayer, and fear will not be able to overtake your life while you are being informed about this crisis.
James: God tells us to pray for those in authority, and we know there is one King who can move all kings and all powers. Since you’ve been praying for those in authority and have been up close and observed our national leadership, even in the White House, do you believe the prayers of God’s people would actually move in a positive way this present king and our national leadership?
Chris: Oh, 100%. There were several of us who asked President Trump to call a National Day of Prayer. The proclamation, which I would urge every American to read, quotes scripture three times. This is the time to pray, and I really do believe that even in the next few weeks we are going to see this thing turn because of prayer. That is the promise of 2 Chronicles 7:14: “If My people who are called by My name humble themselves and pray and seek My face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, will forgive their sin and will heal their land.”
Our land needs healing now on many different dimensions, and I believe prayer is what’s going to turn it.
James: I really do want to thank you for your leadership. If people want to hear the message you are putting online, how would they find it?
Chris: The easiest one is on my Instagram site, pastorchrishodges. It’s going to be uploaded by the end of the day, and I believe it will be a tremendous encouragement to our church family and to everyone who watches.
James: I really want to thank you for your friendship and for being yielded clay in the hands of the Master Potter. Let’s pray that the entire church body would realize they are in the Master Potter’s hand, and that the pressure that shapes us all either comes from His fingers or is filtered through His fingers. We need to be grateful for the shaping process, even though pressure oftentimes feels very uncomfortable. Do you agree that this would be a good prayer for us to pray together?
Chris: Absolutely. And I want to thank you for not only being a father to me and so many pastors and leaders, but you really have a prophetic, apostolic voice. I feel comforted by your leadership. We need you, we need what your ministry does, and I’m grateful for you. What you’ve done, James, is consistently modeled your own pliability and the softening of that clay in the Master’s hands, and it inspires the rest of us. We’re grateful to God for you.
James: Thank you, Chris. You’re a wonderful family member. Anything else you would like to close with?
Chris: The message for the church right now is 2 Chronicles 7:14. We need to humble ourselves. We’re all being humbled — we’re being forced to stay home. And that is not all bad. I am being humbled, and it’s making me cry out to God. God is going to hear our prayers, and it is time for the church to rise up in that kind of calling out to God.
James: You and I both love sports and the outdoors, including golf. Probably for you and me, the “Super Bowl” of our sports year was coming up at the Masters Golf Tournament, and we’re not going to get to watch that. Since we can’t be watching the Masters, we should just spend more time talking to the Master. Wouldn’t that be a good suggestion?
Chris: Yes, that’s awesome. You’re the best.
James Robison is The Stream’s founder and publisher. He is co-founder of LIFE Outreach International and co-host of LIFE Today. He’s the author of many books, including Indivisible (with Jay Richards) and Living Amazed.