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‘Theology of suffering’ focus of new teaching ministry

The Journey Church Lead Pastor Erik Reed (right) launched Knowing Jesus Ministries in 2020, months after the death of his son Kaleb, seated center. This 2019 photo also includes Reed’s wife Katrina and their two daughters, Kaleigh and Kyra. Submitted photo

LEBANON, Tenn. (BP) – Kaleb Reed was just 2 months old when doctors sought to remove a faulty kidney and made the mistake of taking the good kidney as well, putting the firstborn child of pastor Erik and Katrina Reed on a lifelong trajectory of health challenges.

The Reeds’ journey with Kaleb, who died in 2019 at age 15, helped the family develop what the pastor calls a “theology of suffering,” which Erik Reed hopes to advance in his newly birthed Knowing Jesus Ministries, a teaching ministry that includes respite weekends for parents who’ve dealt with the pain of losing a child. The ministry is in addition to Reed’s post as lead pastor of The Journey Church, which he planted in 2006 in Lebanon, Tenn.

“We’ve just been able to reach people with a very raw and real message. We’ve had to cling to Christ very closely over these years, and we’ve had to develop a theology of suffering,” Reed said. “The ministry that I’m able to do … resonates with people, because they know we’re living this stuff. When I talk about trusting the Lord, they know that’s not just theoretical. We’re living it.”

Reed launched Knowing Jesus Ministries in the summer of 2020 to extend his outreach beyond the walls of The Journey Church. The respite weekends, which he hopes to launch this year at no cost to enrollees, are only one aspect of Knowing Jesus Ministries.

Ministry resources are designed to help Christians understand communion with God, gain an accurate understanding of God, counter biblical illiteracy, develop a theology of suffering and stand on biblical principles in the midst of a worldly culture.

“We want to help people to know how to walk out their faith in the midst of a culture that’s not going to be celebratory of their faith,” Reed said. “This is withstanding cultural conformity, not bowing the knee to the world.”

Gaining a biblical understanding of God is vital in living a Christian life, Reed said.

“Many people get very disoriented with their faith when suffering comes, and their views of God that are often not biblical get shattered,” he said. “And as a result of that, their expectation of what they thought God would do, their expectations of how they thought life was supposed to go if they’re a faithful Christian, get thrown upside down. It leaves a lot of people really disenfranchised, wondering did God forget them, did they not do something right. These are not biblical ways of thinking.

“Unfortunately, we’ve adopted this thinking that if we’re a Christian, God’s promise to us is glassy seas. When the sea’s not glassy, and instead it’s really rough, a lot of people aren’t grounded in their faith enough to know how to navigate it.”

Reed and his wife Katrina grew to forgive the doctor who mistakenly took both of Kaleb’s kidneys, and learned lessons that have strengthened their faith.

“From a spiritual side we were devastated, and we dealt with a lot of anger and bitterness,” Reed said. “We dealt with a lot of anger and a lot of unforgiveness for about a year after that. The Lord began to deal with us on that, on learning to forgive as we’ve been forgiven. And it wasn’t something you can flip on and off like a light switch. It just has to develop.”

Among Knowing Jesus Ministries’ free resources are articles, sermons, devotionals and videos on theology. Plans for respite weekends, conferences and other events are forthcoming.

Reed describes the resources as accessible to everyday believers, but not shallow in substance.

“These are resources that provide deep-held, substantive content, but on the lower shelf for anybody to access,” he said.