Church Forsaken

Practicing Presence in Neglected Neighborhoods

by Jonathan Brooks

Church Forsaken
  • Length: 220 pages
  • Published: November 2018
  •  Forthcoming
  • ISBN: 978-0-8308-4555-2
  • Item Code: 4555

"There are no God-forsaken places, just church-forsaken places." —Jon Fuller, OMF International

Jonathan Brooks was raised in the Englewood neighborhood on the south side of Chicago. As soon as he was able, he left the community and moved as far away as he could. But through a remarkable turn of events, he reluctantly returned and found himself not only back in Englewood but also serving as a pastor ("Pastah J") and community leader.

In Church Forsaken, Brooks challenges local churches to rediscover that loving our neighbors means loving our neighborhoods. Unpacking the themes of Jeremiah 29, he shows how Christians can be fully present in local communities, building homes and planting gardens for the common good. His holistic vision and practical work offers good news for forgotten people and places. And community stakeholders and civic leaders will rediscover that churches are viable partners in community transformation in ways that they may never have considered.

God has always been at work in neglected neighborhoods. Join Pastah J on this journey and discover new hope for your community.

"Jonathan Brooks ("Pastah J") is one of the most authentic, credible, and prophetic voices in the church today. Church Forsaken is a holy wake-up call for every Christian to not overlook the beauty in the brokenness around us. This book will have you looking for the glory of God in every place and person including yourself."

Shawn Casselberry, executive director of Mission Year, coauthor of Soul Force: Seven Pivots Toward Courage, Community, and Change

"Church Forsaken brilliantly demonstrates that we love God by loving our neighbor, and one of the primary ways we love our neighbor is by loving our neighborhood. This book is a bold dare to all followers of Jesus to (re)discover the scale of God's good news by becoming faithfully present within our parishes, not just as individuals, but as the body of Christ. Jonathan Brooks fosters a desire within me to be part of a real local church."

Dwight J. Friesen, associate professor of practical theology at the Seattle School of Theology & Psychology, author of Thy Kingdom Connected

"Jonathan Brooks is a leader of our time whose commitment to local community, the church, and people gives us an example of pastoral presence that is quite inspiring. Jonathan's commitment to place goes unmatched. The choice to return to a neighborhood that many escape from radiates hope. The stories display the power of presence from unexpected places and push us to believe. I highly recommend this book to read over and over again as a blueprint for community engagement."

Leroy Barber, cofounder of The Voices Project, director of innovation at the United Methodist Church Greater Northwest

"Theology of place is one of the most critical foundations of community transformation. Pastor Jonathan Brooks outlines a biblical and practical approach to understanding the importance of location in the life of a church and Christian communities. The stories told, mistakes made, and victories won in this book are authentic and relevant. I have longed for a book with this level of integrity and wisdom on the topic of the church intentionally living in and with a community. No fronting or faking here. These examples and principles of solidarity and mutuality have transformed Pastor Jonathan's community, may they do the same for all who read and apply it."

Sandra Maria Van Opstal, pastor, activist, author of The Next Worship

"I don't know a more faithful, committed, and compassionate person when it comes to caring for one's neighborhood and truly living the gospel of Jesus Christ. Jonathan is for the people—for the hearts and souls that make up a community. He calls all of us good church folks to fall in love with our neighborhoods and join in with the work of renewal that God is up to in communities. Church Forsaken is a call to remember who we are for and what's at stake when we forget each other."

Rozella Haydée White, owner of Restoring Hearts to Wholeness LLC

"In Church Forsaken, Jonathan Brooks beautifully weaves the lessons he's learned on his journey as a pastor in Chicago's Englewood neighborhood with the instructions the Israelites are given while in exile in Babylon (Jeremiah 29). Brooks writes with raw and honest emotion about his journey as a pastor and father. The questions he raises about where and with whom get to the heart of the vision he sees for Christians and the local church. Filled with stories that draw the reader into Brooks's life and into the lives of his neighbors in Englewood, Church Forsaken offers a stirring invitation to practice presence, thereby opening opportunities for authentic transformation that have the power to change each one of us and the local church."

Mackenzi Huyser, executive director of Chicago Semester, professor of social work at Trinity Christian College

"In this book you will find the future of the church—faithfully present, contagiously hopeful, and unflinchingly honest. Jonathan Brooks has written a must-read book that draws from his very particular life and neighborhood, but has universal lessons that are critical for all of us. Stop what you are doing and read this book—it's that important."

Tim Soerens, coauthor of The New Parish, cofounder of the Inhabit Conference

"Jonathan Brooks is a phenomenal pastor. In Church Forsaken, he weaves his story of deep pastoring experience with very practical and theological truths through his church and community ministry. Jonathan's personal story is powerful and has helped me be a better pastor. I loved reading this book and so will you."

Wayne Gordon, founding pastor of Lawndale Community Church, chairman of CCDA

"Working closely with Pastah J has really helped me shift my perspective about the black church. Pastah J showed me and others in our association R.A.G.E. that there are faith-based leaders who understand and embrace their role as a valuable asset in our communities. He is thoughtful and sensitive to the issues in our neighborhood and continues to work collectively with not only the members of his church but with the entire Greater Englewood community. So proud to have him as a member and thought leader of the Resident Association of Greater Englewood."

Asiaha Butler, cofounder and president, Resident Association of Greater Englewood (R.A.G.E.)

"Jonathan Brooks's voice and leadership are rooted in Scripture and grounded in his community. In Church Forsaken, the story of Jonathan's Englewood community in Chicago unfolds alongside the story of Jeremiah. Jonathan explores the connections between calling and community, activism and service, and the power in partnership. Let the words here convict you, challenge you, and call you home."

Amena Brown, spoken-word poet, author of How to Fix a Broken Record

"Nobody—and I mean nobody—tells it like Jonathan Brooks! How is it even possible to live in a neighborhood with church buildings on every main street corner and not be able to find the real presence of the church itself in the community? Our neighborhoods are not God forsaken—they are church forsaken. Get your people together and go deep into these chapters. It's time to start praying and plotting the return of the local church. Church Forsaken is the wake-up call we have needed. But beware—the ringtone is jacked into hip-hop beats, street preaching, and some of the most binge-worthy front porch storytelling you can find. I'm giving it to everyone."

Paul Sparks, cofounding director of the Parish Collective, coauthor of The New Parish: How Neighborhood Churches Are Transforming Mission, Discipleship, and Community


Practice 1: The Church-Forsaken Position: Reside Where You Don’t Want to Be
Introduction: From the Mind of an Exile

Practice 2: The Church-Forsaken Process: Return to Previously Forsaken Places
1. Welcome Home
2. That’s Not My Dream

Practice 3: The Church-Forsaken Plan: Reconnect to the Whole Gospel
3. Co-ops, Cafés, Gardens, and Grocery Stores
4. Why Saving Souls Ain’t Enough

Practice 4: The Church-Forsaken Place: Reestablish the Value of Place
5. God, Have You Looked Out Your Window?
6. Promising Place

Practice 5: The Church-Forsaken People: Remember the Poor and Marginalized
7. No More Outreach
8. Ain’t a That Good News?

Practice 6: The Church-Forsaken Purpose: Remind One Another of Our Collective Power
9. Shut Down the Churches
10. The Power of Partnership

Practice 7: The Church-Forsaken Perspective: Reorient Our Vision to See Like God
Conclusion: Seeing the World the Way God Does


Jonathan Brooks ("Pastah J") is senior pastor of Canaan Community Church in Chicago's Englewood neighborhood. A sought after speaker, writer, and artist, he has contributed to two books: Banned Questions for Christians by Christian Piatt and Making Neighborhoods Whole by John Perkins and Wayne Gordon.

Jonathan has a master's of divinity in Christian community development from Northern Seminary, and taught elementary education and arts in inner city Chicago for over a decade. A firm believer in investing in the community you grew up in, he has a deep desire to impress this virtue on the students and young people in his congregation, classroom, and community. His projects include the Canaan Community Redevelopment Corporation (CCRC), a not-for-profit community development company that provides youth development, holistic health options, college scholarships, music lessons, and continual support to the incarcerated and their families. He is also a recording artist with the hip-hop group Out-World and has been featured on numerous albums with artists such as Lecrae, Tedashii, Shai Linne, and Sho Baraka.

Jonathan lives in West Englewood with his wife and two daughters.

BY Jonathan Brooks

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