Joey is currently the pastor at Woodruff Place Baptist Church. He lives with his wonderful wife Sarah and has three children. They love living just a couple blocks away from the church and greeting their neighbors on their way to and from church. Their community on the Near Eastside of Indianapolis is especially important to them. Joey loves his church community and guiding the congregation during this exciting time.

The Space Between: 2016

February 23, 2017 | Posted in News & Updates | By

2016 was a year of transition for us as we at WPBC regrouped after Tom Eden’s long tenure as pastor.  We called 2016 a time of “liminal space” and within this space we looked for how the Spirit of God would move and direct us.  As much as we wished God would lay out a clear path so we would know what lay behind every bend in the journey, he did not.  Instead we learned in new and marvelous ways how God leads his children by faith.  When I look back at 2016 and all that God had done- during all the uncertainty and the many decisions- I have one word, Awe.  God’s work in our lives was amazing.  God took us down this journey to grow us up, prepare us, and raise up new leaders in the church.  He has prepared us for the next chapter. But most of all, we testify that this liminal space has brought God glory.

God desires to use this weak rag tag group of Woodruffians to shine his light like crazy to proclaim his kingdom.  We testify that when we are weak, he is strong.  The fact that we have been in our changing community for over 120 years and have thrived through this transition is a testimony to the Lord’s strength and faithfulness.  It is lesson to remember as we embark on our next chapter.  We have been called to leave this liminal space for yet another liminal space.  Such is the adventure of faith.  Are we all not called to live outside our comfort zones, in liminal spaces, so we would lean more on Christ?  May we never get lax in our faith!

In 2016 God blessed us with a wonderful year of renovation.  Our building renovation is a physical expression of what God has been doing in our congregational life.   Several groups assisted us with repairs, like First Baptist Church of Douglassville who refurbished our church sign and installed lights for it.  The renovations helped us welcome back Youthworks for the summer.  Together we provided a dynamic opportunity for hundreds of teenagers to grow deeper in their faith while staying in our church building.  It was wonderful to build some great relationships with the young staff and provide for them a context of incarnational urban ministry.

At the end of 2016, we have welcomed our new pastor, Ron Nunez, who moved from the San Francisco Bay Area.  (That’s another faith journey I’d love to tell share!)  Our church stood ready and expectant for what Christ will do as we embraced Pastor Ron and his family and showed them true Woodruffians hospitality.  The church rallied behind the process and we had a lot of fun getting their new home ready and welcoming them to Indianapolis.  We joked at their willingness to move from the warm Bay Area in the middle of our cold Midwestern January.  But such is faith, it has us do some strange things.

Pastor Ron’s background is diverse and urban.  He has straddled social and racial differences in the two churches he has pastored while navigating those churches toward community and outreach.  In addition, he has spent the last two years working with people who have mental illness to guide them in their life choices.  God has prepared his heart to value how we model our ministry in Christ through intentional community.  This was immediately apparent upon their family’s visit.  It was if they had come home.

Pastor Ron has already called us further into discipleship.  He has the experience to engage our extremely diverse context- smack dab in the middle of the city.  He also has the attitude to listen and learn as he takes on a new leadership role.  Please pray with us for the new liminal space we have entered with our new lead pastor.

The high call of ministry on the Near Eastside of Indianapolis is a wonderful privilege for us.  We delight in the ways God is working in our church and neighborhood.  We proclaim there is a still small voice that endures through our bullhorn sounding culture.  Indeed, the mustard seed revolution will have its way.  The word of God will not return void.  We sing that truth loud and clear in our worship.  We are the people who sing- who love to sing with our lives the gospel story.  Together we praise God in our Woodruffian way.

In Christ!

Joey Newsom

Pastor of Community Outreach, Woodruff Place Baptist Church

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Prayer Walk

September 22, 2016 | Posted in News & Updates | By

Our prayer walk yesterday came about because we wanted to respond to the violence in our community.  It was only after planning the event that I realized it was the International Day of Peace.  We began our prayer walk at the church building and made several stops along the way to pray.  We sat together in a backyard and prayed together.  We read Scripture together.  We sang together.  We ended the prayer walk where there was a recent murder.  It was here the words below were said and prayed.  May they come true!  Peace is found in the deep and abiding love of Jesus Christ!

We face today in our nations, in our homes, and in ourselves a spiritual poverty that encourages violence and rebellion against each other.  In the Bible story of two brothers, Cain and Abel, Cain murdered Abel, and the blood of his brother cried out to God from the ground.  Cain proclaimed against God, “Am I my brother’s keeper?”  Cain denied his responsibility- his actions as they grieved the Lord.  We proclaim today- not to sweep under the rug the death and violence in our midst and to hope it goes away.  Nor do we shrink back in fear and let our nightmares overcome us.  Neither do we seek to strike back with a vengeance of our own.  We are here to proclaim Jesus as Lord.  He is the Prince of Peace.  We are here to proclaim his reign.  We pray that he would be proclaimed in our neighborhood.  We pray for the families devastated by violence and unnecessary tragedy.  We pray that respect would be held for law enforcement and that our officers would be just and fair.  We pray that all will know, we are indeed our brother’s keepers and we have a responsibility to watch out for one another.  We pray that his love will penetrate the darkest corners and his light will shine in every heart, in every home, and indeed in our nation today.  Only then will there be peace.  

As the blood spilled in violence and injustice defiles our land, so we anoint this land for God’s purpose and his will.  We proclaim God’s victory even in this.  We grieve but we also rejoice in the peace Jesus gives us.

The land is anointed.

(Let us remember that love compelled Christ Jesus to give his blood for us and by his wounds we are healed.


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Mustard Seed Revolution

March 20, 2016 | Posted in Worship Service Notes | By

Entry into Jerusalem

Mustard Seed Revolution: Luke 19:28-40

My favorite musical is Les Miserables for many reasons. On a personal note the musical represents an important milestone for my married life with Sarah.  On October 18, 2002 we went on our first date together.  We knew each other well but that was our first official date.  We went to see Les Miserables.  And exactly one year later, October 18, 2003 we were married here in this sanctuary.  I feel incredibly blessed to have Les Miserables to be our first date.  The powerful themes of mercy and love are great truths to build a marriage upon.

I won’t go into the details of the plot now but I would like to emphasize two contrasting themes pitted against one another: the revolution from a political uprising forms the backdrop of the revolution of one man’s heart. Jean Valjean is the main character who was a criminal and has an experience with a priest that changes his life.  The priest could have turned him in and sent him to jail but instead granted him grace and a chance to start his life over.  That one act starts the revolution of the heart in Valjean.  He becomes a man that embraces the radical teachings of Jesus from the Sermon on the Mount; meanwhile the world around him dissolves into political turmoil.  The musical number that provides a theme to the political turmoil is, “Do you here the people sing?”  The chorus goes like this-

“Do you hear the people sing?

Singing the song of angry men?

It is the music of the people

Who will not be slaves again!

When the beating of your heart

Echoes the beating of the drums

There is a life about to start

When tomorrow comes.”

To incite his friends to the revolution, one of the student protestors asks-

“Will you join in our crusade?

Who will be strong and stand with me?

Beyond the barricade

Is there a world you long to see?

Then join in the fight

That will give you the right to be free!”


Again let me state, the song provides a backdrop for a political revolution, meanwhile another revolution is playing out in the lives of Valjean and those around him- the revolution of the heart.

In Jesus day there was a sense of growing unease and many were calling for a political revolution. In our reading today we see that many of the followers of Jesus saw him as king, which he was.  They expected Jesus to start a political revolution and restore Israel to its former glory- a country free from Roman rule or for Jesus to lead them to a new nation/state.  Either way the hope was for Jesus to provide them with political liberation.  Who among his followers could have known that that Jesus’ revolution had already started?  Jesus said it best, the kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed- the smallest garden seed but it will grow to become the largest tree in the garden.  Jesus’ revolution starts as a revolution of the heart- and Jesus is about to provide the ultimate example to confront the powers.  The way of the cross- that we would be people of the cross- confronting injustice and evil, transformed from the inside out- free to love and free to stand for God.

As in Jesus’s day many today in America want a political revolution as well. Some are looking at the presidential candidates to ignite that revolution and the two figures that stand out are Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders.  There are people who would vote for either one just to shake up Washington even though the two have very different ideas about how they will do that.  Their slogans represent two different approaches with Donald Trump saying, “Make America great again.” And Bernie Sanders, “A political revolution is coming.” One says in a sense- we need to go back in a revolutionary way- send them back, if they have a problem send them all back, and tighten up the ranks- while the other says in a sense “Let’s go forward in a revolutionary way and make the rich pay for it.”

History attests to the frequency of revolutions, we’ve seen them before and should be cautioned against letting anger and raw emotion rule the day. Case in point we have the revolutionary figures of Hitler and Stalin who seem more radicle to us now than Trump and Sanders but bear in mind their slogans would have been exactly the same.  Hitler wanted to make Germany great again by sending them back and Stalin wanted to make Russia great again by making the rich pay for it.  My point is not to strike fear into our hearts but a healthy dose of reality.  When people speak of revolution we need to ask, Revolution to what and think through the ramifications.

Perhaps there is a quiet desperation lurking within our nation. People want a higher calling to lead us out of this pervasive sense of meaninglessness.  As Ecclesiastes states, “Meaningless, meaningless, everything is meaningless.”  Or in other translations, “Vanity, vanity, everything is vanity.”  Yet vanity pervades our postmodern existence and we see people floundering around.

A political revolution promises no more floundering but eventually a political revolution needs to come to terms that the greatest danger of a revolution is indeed our own vanity- our lust for power.

On the opposite spectrum to political revolution we witness today many people embracing yoga and meditation to find inner peace. There is a sense that we need a spiritual revolution.

A spiritual revolution promises inner peace and personal fulfillment but eventually a spiritual revolution needs to come to terms with our political realities and the suffering of others or it will be a cold selfish reality.

Today people are desperate for a revolution. Do you hear the people sing?  Singing the songs of angry men?

But in Jesus both the spiritual and the political revolution are united into one. We see in Jesus the king coming to his city, Jerusalem- a political and spiritual statement.  His coming to Jerusalem- his death, burial, and resurrection is to give us spiritual freedom so we can live for Christ in the political reality of our day proclaiming the kingdom of God.   As in Jesus day when his followers proclaimed him king on the road- even our praise is a political and spiritual statement.  It is political because we are proclaiming the true king and our allegiance to him and spiritual because our hearts are right and free when they are praising our Lord.


Indeed Jesus is a revolutionary and spiritual guru who offers us himself. It is a mustard seed revolution.  A political revolution that starts in the heart- changes us from the inside out- frees us to live for God and we can follow the example of Jesus Christ.  It is the way of the cross.  We are called to take up our cross daily deny ourselves and follow.  We are also called to confront the social evils of the day and embrace the hurting and sick because the revolution of the Jesus Christ, the way of the cross, is a revolution of love.

As believers of Jesus Christ may we attest to the coming kingdom of God? The mustard seed will grow and become the largest tree in the garden (although not technically a tree in the scientific sense).

Through the cross and the power of the resurrection, Christ has overcome the powers

From the powers of sin- he frees our hearts

From the powers of the state- we have a freedom and hope that is more profound than political freedom.

While people all around us are calling for a revolution we called to already be living one. History has seen revolutions before.  Nations rise and fall but those who embrace the mustard seed and nurture it in the heart- though it is the smallest seed, it will become the largest tree in the garden.  We can use the final song in Les Miserables as our song- the song of those that embrace the mustard seed revolution.

“Do you hear the people sing?

Lost in the valley of the night

It is the music of a people

Who are climbing to the light


For the wretched of the earth

There is a flame that never dies

Even the darkest night will end

And the sun will rise.


They will live again in freedom

In the garden of the Lord

We will walk behind the plough-share

We will put away the sword

The chain will be broken

And all men will have their reward!


Will you join in our crusade?

Who will be strong and stand with me?

Somewhere beyond the barricade

Is there a world you long to see?

Do you hear the people sing?

Say, do you hear the distant drums?

It is the future that we bring

When tomorrow comes!

Will you join in our crusade?

Who will be strong and stand with me?

Somewhere beyond the barricade

Is there a world you long to see?

Do you hear the people sing?

Say, do you hear the distant drums?

It is the future that we bring

When tomorrow comes!

Tomorrow comes!

Tomorrow comes!


The mustard seed revolution is assured of a bright tomorrow! Has it come into your heart?  Is it growing?  You can be assured that this revolution will never die!

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