Oxford pastor wears several hats in serving his congregation and community
By Carter Diggs
Originally published by Oxford Stories
Justin “Fish” Robinson’s “day” began with an hours-long drive back to Oxford. The pastor had spent the previous night spotting for a radio station broadcasting the Ole Miss-Alabama game.
After witnessing the Rebels’ defeat at the hands of Alabama, he immediately set out for home in the bitter night. Only when he arrived back at his office at 3 a.m. did he earn a few hours of respite.
Lack of sleep wasn’t enough to stop Robinson, however. In just four hours, he was back up, driving his truck over to Community Church. Days like this aren’t the exception for Robinson; they’re the norm.
Robinson’s church doesn’t meet in a room ordained with stained glass windows, magnanimous pipe organs, or anything of the sort. In fact, the congregation doesn’t meet in a traditional church building at all; rather, at Lafayette Middle School.
This venue decision was made by Robinson and other church leaders to keep upkeep costs minimal and use offering and donation money primarily to fuel outreach and charity purposes.
Arriving at Community Church, Robinson and other church members began to unload the large black trailer connected to the back of his truck.
“This trailer is the church,” Robinson said. “Everything that we use each Sunday can fit into here.”
With preparations set, Robinson ducked into the school’s cafeteria to awaken with a cup of coffee and the room’s overpowering air conditioner. Laying his tablet and a notebook down on one of the tables, he began to outline his plan for the day’s sermon. He’d read over the week’s passages about 30 to 40 times, but hadn’t gotten a chance to put his plans to paper until now.
“For me, the big words are Sunday’s coming,” Robinson said. “You can’t really wing it completely; I’ll always read the week’s passage as much as I can to prepare for the sermon.”
Soon enough, people began to file into church, filling the empty halls and auditorium with a warm atmosphere. Churchgoers clustered together, talking about their weeks and current events as Robinson emerged from the cafeteria to greet everyone.
As the clock struck nine, Robinson pulled back all the musicians and speakers and led a quick prayer before the service started.
To start off the church’s early service, Music and Creative Pastor Charlie Tynes took the stage. He sang a song with the audience to lift their spirits before handing the stage off to Robinson.
“Me and Robinson knew each other from doing camps,” Tynes said. “When he started planning out the church, it was right when I was planning to move to Oxford, so we connected, and I started playing here.”
Robinson opened up the sermon with a faux-somber tone.
“We’re all in mourning together,” Robinson said to the audience, alluding to the Rebels’ defeat the previous night.
Robinson continued to share his week and joke with everyone for a few minutes, telling the crowd to “live a little bit, relax a little bit,” before he dove into the reading. This week, continuing with the church’s theme of the Gospel of Matthew, Robinson preached from the parables of The Two Sons and The Tenants.
After the service, Robinson spent the time he had off to check on volunteers looking after the children and infant area. In an hour, the late service came around, and he returned to the stage to preach the sermon again.
Once the late service had ended, noon passed and his family was ready to have lunch and spend some time with their father. After a meal with his loved ones, Robinson settled down to take a long, well-deserved nap.
Robinson wasn’t done for the day, however. Later that evening, he and his wife set out for the church’s evening small groups. There, they shared dinner with several friends and talked over a chapter of “Explicit Gospel,” a book everyone had been reading.
“Working with Fish is definitely an experience since we’re both at two ends of a spectrum,” Jeff Evans, leader of the small group, said. “I’m more structured and on-task, but Robinson is good with letting the conversation flow.”
After the weekly discussions had come to a close, Robinson mentioned that the church would be out on the Square giving free rides again.
This “Square ministry” is something that Community Church often does on Thursday nights. Robinson and a few others will go out on the Square’s party night and offer free rides to students who might have trouble getting home. Robinson does this to help those under the influence avoid dangerous situations, like trying to drive while intoxicated or getting lost.
“We really feel like it’s an opportunity to connect with the students,” Robinson said. “As a church, we want to help keep them safe and see if there’s anything we can pray for them about.”