Dr. Brian S. Lewis, senior pastor of the booming Feel Your Faith Church, is no ordinary pastor. How many Christian clergymen, for example, are former Marines who served their country honorably during Operation Desert Storm? How many beat out a bunch of law school grads and Ivy Leaguers to land a spot in the coveted agent trainee program at International Creative Management (ICM)? And – get this – how many are nice Jewish boys married to African American women?
In an odd sort of way, Pastor Brian reminds me of Timothy Keller, the esteemed founding pastor of Redeemer Presbyterian Church in Manhattan. Both have the enviable ability to reach young, urbane audiences in wildly secular places (Manhattan and Beverly Hills, respectively); and both are intellectually and emotionally appealing to seekers and skeptics alike.
But the similarity ends there. Whereas Timothy Keller is cerebral, and has the bookish look of a college professor, Pastor Brian is fit, handsome and enormously charismatic. Watching Pastor Brian preach is a turbo-charged wild ride – a high energy event, if you will.
Arguably, one of his most fascinating qualities is a unique ability to seamlessly sprinkle his sermons with African American-influenced vocal inflections and expressions while at the same time, remaining articulate and contemporary. Moreover, because Pastor Brian is a Jew, he always emphasizes the Jewish relevance of the Christian faith and incorporates seasonal Jewish roots teaching into his sermons.
Interestingly enough, a frequent visitor to Feel Your Faith is a Muslim woman; in light of this, I asked Pastor Brian to comment on the proposed (and wildly controversial) “mega mosque” at the site of the September 11th terrorist attacks.
“This act is an act of total indifference and understanding for the people who lost loved ones during 911 and for America as a whole,” he says. “The fact that it has even been proposed that a 13 story mega mosque be built at Ground Zero in NYC is a sign that our outreach and evangelism to the Muslim community in America has become a mega mess.”
“We need to reach out to our Muslim brothers and sisters with the love of Jesus Christ. Their anger and their hate are fueled by 4,000 years of rejection and pain that they suffered through Ishmael at the hands of Abraham. I like knowing a Muslim woman is drawn to Feel Your Faith. Jesus loves the Muslim. He gave His life and shed His blood to save them from their sins too. We are no better than they and they are no better than us. It is not our tolerance or our social justice, but His love operating in our lives that provokes her to come every week.”
Indeed, His love is operating in a lot of people who are coming to Feel Your Faith every week. They’re coming to a tree rooted in the love and life of Jesus – a tree that is growing – miraculously – in the secular concrete jungle that is Beverly Hills, California.