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How Do I Deal With This?”
By S. Michael Craven
A young pastor in Arkansas, a world on fire, and a story of hope
Walnut Street Baptist Church stands just off the highway in Jonesboro, Arkansas. Founded out of a revival in 1913, the church bought its current property in the 80s, in what was then a remote location. At the time, no such highway existed. It now sits in a prominent location, easily spotted from all around. Walnut Street pastor Grey Falanga rightly attributes this to the Lord’s providence.
In the church’s 111-year history, God has sustained Walnut Street Baptist. He continues to do so to this day, even through the cultural upheaval of the last several years. In the chaos of 2020, amid COVID-19 lockdowns, racial tensions, and political upheaval, Grey recognized a troubling trend:
“Everything was perceived as a catastrophe. It seemed like we had lost our minds. We bought into what the culture was saying—that the world was on fire and there was no hope.”
Grey found himself searching for a way to articulate the hope of the Gospel in light of the specific issues his congregation were grappling with—from George Floyd to COVID-19 and more.
“As a young pastor, I had all these people looking at me, asking, ‘How do I deal with this?’ I found myself searching for something to offer answers because I knew this thinking wasn’t biblical. Rome isn’t burning. Everything isn’t a catastrophe.” Through Breakpoint, he found a source of clarity and a lens through which to view the upheaval around him—from political unrest to racial tensions to the advance of Critical Theory.

Equip the Saints

Grey’s story resembles that of many pastors and churches today who are disoriented because of the rapid ideological changes happening in quick succession. That's why we launched the Colson Fellows Church Affiliate program. This initiative was born out of our experience with what has now become thousands of individual Christians participating in the Colson Fellows program. These thoughtful believers are concerned about the state of culture and are struggling to find answers.
In 2023, Walnut Street leaders considered how they could equip their congregation to live faithfully in an election year. Grey and four other pastors on staff joined the Colson Fellows program in 2023. Lord willing, they will launch the inaugural Colson Fellows Church Affiliate at Walnut Street Baptist Church this fall. Their objective?
How do we pass hope to our people to not buy into what the culture and the media say, and to live out the biblical hope that Christ has determined our cultural moment? God has determined for us to live in this day and this time, which means that He gives us a purpose for this time. There’s a lot of hope that comes with that truth.
As a Church Affiliate, church members participate in the Colson Fellows program, led by leaders from their church who have already completed the program. While the Colson Fellows program reaches individual Christians across the country, the Church Affiliate initiative serves entire congregations with robust worldview training.

As Grey told me, “If four people in my church are struggling with questions about an issue”—whether it’s Critical Race Theory, LGBTQ issues, or something else—“I know that’s only a sliver of the people in my church who are struggling with the same questions.” Alongside these on-the-ground issues, Grey cited the staggering statistics about basic evangelical beliefs in the U.S. According to LifeWay Research and Ligonier Ministries, 43% of Evangelicals in the U.S. believe that Jesus was merely a good teacher. If such a large percentage of U.S. evangelicals don’t believe a foundational matter of historic Christian orthodoxy, how much less are they equipped to deal with issues of sexuality, race, marriage, and politics with Christian wisdom?

Grey Falanga,
Pastor of Walnut Street Baptist Church
Grey has already started using the teachings of the Colson Fellows program to instruct his congregation on Wednesday evenings, showing them that there is a worldview behind everything “they listen to, who they watch on TV, who they listen to on the radio, what they read.” The program has already shaped his preaching, helping him challenge his congregation to think deeper.

To some extent [as a pastor], you’re supposed to be the expert in everything, but I’m certainly not an expert at much of anything. That’s why I’m so grateful for the Colson Fellows. They’re bringing in people who have thought critically through some of these tough issues and handed them to me in a way that is accessible at the level of everyday people.
“They’re bringing in people who have thought critically through some of these tough issues and handed them to me in a way that is accessible at the level of everyday people.”

Serve the Church

The growth of the Church Affiliate program means more stories like that of Grey and Walnut Street Baptist Church. The beauty of this program is how scalable it is. There is no ceiling to its growth. Every church that becomes an Affiliate is a self-sustaining hub for the Colson Fellows program. While the national program is housed in cohorts in larger metropolitan areas, the Church Affiliate program can flourish in small towns where a national cohort could not. Affiliates can launch in a city church of 1,000 or a rural country church of 100 people. That is why we invest in our Church Affiliates, and why our ministry partners are mission critical.
To remove any potential obstacles for interested churches to participate, the Colson Center offers up to four free seats in the program for those who plan to start a Church Affiliate. These leaders are trained so they can lead their congregation through the program the following year. That’s up to $3,600 in revenue we invest per church to build up future Affiliate leaders to launch, and this is largely underwritten by the tuition we receive from participants in the national Colson Fellows program. To date, we’ve given $68,900 in Colson Fellows seats for future Church Affiliate leaders (76 leaders in total).

Outpacing Current Capacity

We currently have 586 participants across 88 churches in the Church Affiliate program. By 2027, we estimate that the number will grow to 1,300 participants. This kind of growth is why ministry partners like you are critical. You fund the ability to scale our team and infrastructure to meet the demands of the program’s growth. Tiffany Granderson, our fearless Colson Fellows Senior Relationship Manager, currently handles the logistics for our 88 Church Affiliates.
Tiffany Granderson,
Senior Relationship Manager, Church Affiliate Program

But she will likely reach capacity when that number reaches 100. We will meet that benchmark, Lord-willing, by the end of this recruiting season. This means we have the privilege and challenge of hiring more full-time staff. To handle the growing Church Affiliate program demands, we will need two full-time staffers. Moreover, program growth calls for upgraded systems: A university-caliber client-management system, an educational platform that can handle our ever-growing number of participants, and more funds to support the free seats in the Colson Fellows program offered to future Church Affiliate leaders.
We are immensely grateful to the Lord for the growth He has brought to both the Colson Fellows and Church Affiliate program. In light of this growth and the changes it will require, your financial support is vital. When you give to the Colson Center before our 2024 fiscal year-end, you directly fund the training of new Church Affiliate leaders, the hiring of staff to manage program growth, and the critical expansion of our participant-management and educational systems.
But the ultimate result of your support is the increase in clarity, confidence, and courage among churches and pastors across the country (and the world). Pastor Grey said it best: “This is not the time for us to freak out and lose our minds. This is time for us to dig in, stand on the foundation that Christ is risen indeed, that He is Lord of all reigning supreme, and that He’s determined for us to live in these days.”


S. Michael Craven is the Vice President of Equipping at the Colson Center for Christian Worldview where he oversees The Colson Fellows Program. He is a sought-after author and speaker, and prior to serving at the Colson Center he was the president of BridgeBuilders, an inner-city ministry where he pioneered a missional strategy for transforming the "culture of poverty" that has come to dominate so many of America's inner-city communities. Michael lives in Dallas, TX with his wife Carol, where they both enjoy spending time with their three grown children and two grandchildren.