Pastor Timothy Alden may be the only white pastor in the cast of “Preachers of Detroit” but that isn’t his most defining characteristic. UrbanFaith.com had a chance to talk with the Detroit born and raised pastor about how he sees himself, his hopes for the city of Detroit, the influence of reality TV and much more.
This interview was edited for length and clarity.
How has the move back to Detroit gone and what are the challenges you’ve faced with being on the show?
I still live in LA so I didn’t move physically back to Detroit. I’ve been going back and forth to Detroit because I have family there and I do ministry on and off at different churches and different events in Detroit. But, I definitely have been home more frequently. Some of the challenges of that have been just feeling the city, feeling what the city has been through, and then really committing to hoping there will be a comeback for Detroit.
Considering that Detroit is a city in a state of disrepair, what would you say are your specific hopes and dreams for the city especially as it pertains to your work and the show?
My passion in ministry has always been youth and I believe that when a city goes through the things that Detroit goes through, the ones that really catch the brunt of it, are the youth of the city. The youth having hope for a bright future, which is difficult living in Detroit with so much hopelessness surrounding them, is important. So my passion has really been how to reach the youth.
Do you have any specific ideas about how you want to do that?
Well I gear the message to young people at every church I go; everywhere I have an opportunity to speak I talk about young people about having vision, hope for the future. I also have a platform of abstinence that I preach to young people, I bring that message with me and it’s one that I model myself because I’m still a virgin and unmarried and committed to a life of abstinence and celibacy until I get married and I believe that’s a real important message for our youth with the statistics of STDs, teenage pregnancies, and high school dropouts. And that’s one of the important messages that I do stress when I have an opportunity to speak to them.
What is the practical advice that you give young people and your congregants on the regular about maintaining celibacy and abstinence in a culture such as we exist in?
That’s a great question and it’s one that I answer frequently because it is a message that’s targeted toward youth but it certainly applies to people of all ages. Basically it’s that we are all born with a purpose and we all have a reason for being on the planet and the relationships that we have should compliment that not serve as a distraction from that. There’s a scripture from the Bible that I use, “Without a vision the people perish,” and the word perish in the Hebrew translation means “they die for lack of discipline or their dreams and their hopes die for lack of discipline.” So to not get involved in the relationship in an intimate or serious way is a discipline issue. And how many people have gotten off track and maybe never gotten back on track as it relates to their education, their entrepreneurial dreams, their skills, their talents, how many have never developed themselves because they’ve invested a lot of time and energy into a relationship that they weren’t really ready for or that wasn’t really right for them.
So I just really teach people who, “You are complete as an individual, you don’t have to succumb to trying to be with somebody to get over your loneliness, you don’t have to succumb to the pressure of just getting with anybody or hooking up—as they say—because you’re feeling those temporary emotions like loneliness and heartache that you can push through it and focus on the bigger picture of where you want to be in your future and God will send the right people and the right person in a mate that will compliment that.
We have to know who we are before are ready to connect with someone on that intimate level.
Given your single and celibate status, are you going to be like the Bishop Noel Jones of Detroit?
Well there is another single pastor, there’s actually two of us. For myself I wouldn’t compare myself to Noel Jones or say that I’m going to be the Noel Jones of Detroit, I’m very different from the rest of the cast from Preachers of LA. This is a different show, it’s a unique show, a unique cast, a different city, a different flavor. So I think people are going to be surprised in a good way at the differences. I don’t think you can really compare any of the cast to the cast of Preachers of LA, it’s a completely different group of people who bring a different, unique perspective to the show.
What compels you to participate in a show such as “Preachers of Detroit” given what some people think is what can be or what is the negative influence of reality television?
That’s a good question. First of all I was in one episode of “Preachers of LA,” one episode in the last season, so I’m already familiar with the producers of show because the producer, Lemuel Plummer, is from Detroit and his dad is a pastor in Detroit. So I know his dad and I know him and when I was approached about “Preachers of Detroit,” being from Detroit, Lemuel thought it would be a good idea to bring me in as one of the cast members, considering that I am from there and I love the city and have a heart for the city. So when I agreed to do the show, I really listened to what their motivation was: to specifically highlight Detroit and how different this show was going to be, and that’s what encouraged me to commit to doing it.
As far as the negativity of reality TV, I think that reality TV itself isn’t negative, it could be some of what is portrayed on reality TV that could be considered negative. So I wanted to be a positive contributor to reality TV since it does have such a huge platform in our culture today, I really felt impressed to bring a different message other than what people have seen, typically, in reality television.
Many would say that a pastor participating in a show, even about pastors, is slipping into being of the world instead of in the world. So what is your response to those types of detractors?
My response has been, because I’ve heard that, the Scripture talks about us being “salt and light” and being “a city sat on a hill” and I really believe it’s time for the church to come out of the four walls and the stained glass windows and really speak to culture and spark some important conversations. Of course my story is unique in a lot of ways with abstinence, virginity, and celibacy…I was adopted by an African-American family and that’s going to be part of the story of the show as well. So it gives me an opportunity to speak about some issues that need to have a bigger platform as far as the conversation is concerned. I think the church has been happy with just TBN and some smaller Christian networks, but I believe God is opening a great opportunity for us to bring something to a bigger audience, not just church and religious people. Jesus was often accused of hanging out with sinners and hanging out with people who the religious Pharisees of the day thought that he shouldn’t be with and he definitely impacted the culture in a very profound way by being with people who some people thought he shouldn’t be hanging out with, those kind of people.
What is your relationship like with other pastors on the show?
Well me being born and raised in Detroit, I’m familiar with most of the cast already, some of them I’ve had personal interaction with, some of them I’ve not. But you’ll see a really unique group of people come together and it’ll be very unique to see how we relate to each other and how we get to know each other on another level. I think this is what’s going to make the show really good.
What was your experience like being adopted by an African-American family, when did that happen and what does that mean that you are the lone white pastor in the midst of this community of black pastors on the show?
Well I’ll say as a teenager, experiencing some things in my biological family which of course was the opening for me to really be introduced to a culture where I found an overwhelming amount of love and acceptance from a teenager on up into adulthood, it impacted my life just the way I was embraced and loved and received just blew me away. So people who look different from you and aren’t necessarily blood related but love you just the same, that’s been the stabilizing factor, that made a difference in my life, that was the most impactful thing.
The other part of your question about being the white pastor, I kind of don’t see myself as being a white pastor because I was born and raised in Detroit. I’m really with people who I’m used to being with. Of course I know other people looking on the outside will see that, but I’m very comfortable with it. With the show, with Detroit, it’s so unique because it brings a different flavor to the cast. We have two women on the show as well. So it’s going to be very unique to see the cast in its uniqueness. I am a white pastor but I’m not a typical white guy and people will see that and it will open up the door to talk about an important conversation that we need to have in our nation regarding race and racial reconciliation.
On the topic of racial reconciliation, what are you hoping to communicate?
I think what I would like people to see, with my life in general, is that love really has no color, it’s just one layer of skin that separates us. Underneath that skin we’re all the same and we all need love and acceptance and it can happen to people who are different from another. Our diversity really makes us stronger, and a lot of the problems and issues we see in our culture is because people are divided.
On your church website you mention the gift of prophecy and the accuracy of your prophecy. What does being a prophet mean to you and will we see some of that gifting released on the show?
Well there’s a variety of things you will see on the show, some services in there, some more personal sides. I don’t know that the show is going to necessarily highlight that aspect of my ministry.
What I think is important about prophecy and being an important gift is that the Bible says that the church is built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets and those gifts are often misunderstood and misrepresented or not represented at all. And the thing that’s unique about a prophet or flowing in a prophetic gift is it’s not necessarily something that comes from your head. Or if, like, I’m teaching a message I can study ahead of time, I can have an outline, I can have scriptures, and I can have Greek and Hebrew words defined. But when I minister to a person, and something is revealed to me that I didn’t know about that person, and it’s something that ministers to them and they know that it had to be God to expose that because they know I don’t know them, then it just really builds the faith of the individual that receives the ministry. It’s kind of like knowing God is really real because I know this person doesn’t know this about me.
Also, stay tuned to UrbanFaith.com as we will be interviewing some of the other cast members in the weeks to come.