Long before Pastor Touré Roberts founded one of the fastest growing churches in Los Angeles, California, he was nursing a gunshot wound as a youth in the city.
The 45-year-old pastor, who leads The Potter's House at One LA in Los Angeles, California, and The Potter's House of Denver in Colorado with his wife Sarah Jakes Roberts, has paved an unconventional path to the pulpit. In his recently released second book, Wholeness: Winning in Life From the Inside Out, Roberts reveals the intimate details of his life struggles before he pursued ministry full-time.
At the age of 16, Roberts was the victim of a drive-by shooting, which he admitted was a memory that he blocked out of his adult life. As an adult, Roberts became apprehensive about addressing the matter.
"I felt ashamed and extremely self-conscious about being shot. ... What type of person gets shot," Roberts wrote in his book. "Maybe they would think I was some sort of drug dealer or thug. As a black male, I knew I could easily be stereotyped."
After being raised in a single parent household and growing up in a tough Los Angeles neighborhood filled with drugs and gangs, Roberts went to college and made a name for himself as a successful businessman in the technology industry. Eventually, God called him to lead people in the faith that his mother instilled in him and he obeyed that call to start One Church LA over 15 years ago.
Even though Roberts has managed to help and inspire countless people as a pastor, he buried much of the emotional pain that accumulated during his youth. From blocking out the memory of his shooting to feeling rejected from his father, Roberts had to confront a number of traumatizing moments while writing the book that he believes will help others heal from brokenness and become whole.
In a conversation with The Christian Post, Roberts admitted that addressing some unresolved feelings about his now deceased father proved to be the most painful area of his life to work through.
"I had to acknowledge that I was hurt and to a certain degree deeply damaged by the rejection of my father. In that chapter, I found myself with my back against the wall," he told CP. "That was really an earth-shattering, life-changing moment. Just really acknowledging, 'hey it hurts.'"
As a man, Roberts said it became easy for him to ignore his painful past.
"It's not exclusive to [men] but most of the time we feel like we always have to have it together and we don't say that things hurt," Roberts told CP. "We feel like saying something hurts, that's weakness or what have you. So we walk around with pain inside that can never be healed because it's never addressed."
The preacher and author cried when writing each chapter of the book that he believes "God wants to get into a lot of people's hands and hearts," because he believes it will help both men and women identify and overcome their own issues.
The megachurch pastor believes marrying into the family of Bishop T.D. Jakes in 2014 has helped him on his own path to healing. Bishop Jakes is the founder of The Potter's House church, which has campuses in North Dallas, Fort Worth, Texas, Denver, and has now taken Roberts' One Church International in Hollywood under its wing.
Roberts' father-in-law admitted to being skeptical about the younger pastor during the early stages of dating Sarah, but later "traded my skeptical glare for a gaze of deep admiration."
Jakes wrote about his respect for Roberts in the forward of Wholeness, affirming him as a preacher, author and son.
"Although I originally met him as the guy who seemed 'too good to be true,' he quickly turned into a resource and I wondered how we ever did anything of consequence without him," Jakes wrote.
For Roberts, hearing this type of affirmation from his spiritual father is invaluable.
"As a man, you at some point in your life have to hear from a man, preferably a successful man, that you are enough because that's something we're always asking ourselves. To have him say I am enough brought a level of healing and a level of confidence," Roberts revealed. "While I appreciate the accolades and the applause from my peers, what I also realize is kind of similar to what the Apostle Paul said, 'I haven't arrived and I have to press toward the mark toward the upward prize of my calling.' I think as a leader, the affirmation of what I have accomplished but the challenge to accomplish more has been one of the greatest deposits he has made in my life."
The depth of the pair's relationship became evident when Roberts and his wife Sarah announced that they would take over The Potter's House of Denver last year following an alleged adultery scandal that resulted in the resignation of former senior pastor Chris Hill. Roberts visited Denver last March in support of Jakes, who was there to determine the next direction for the church.
However, the unexpected happened.
"I went there because of my heart for Bishop Jakes. I left there with a heart for the people," he said. "It didn't make sense. Here [I've] got a thriving church in L.A., why do [I] care about what's going on in Denver?"
Still, Roberts knew he had to be obedient to the call of God.
"My experience with God is this, 'I belong to you. Whatever you want me to do, if it requires being awkward, uncomfortable or in some cases giving up what I have established I am going to faithfully pursue You," he told CP. "So I embraced the fact that God was calling us to Denver."
After working for over a decade to create a megachurch in Los Angeles, Roberts had to also submit to the fact that he would now merge the church he founded with his father-in-law's body of churches. The decision wasn't an easy one, but ultimately Roberts took on duties in Denver and transitioned his California church into The Potter's House at One LA.
"There's a part of me that was like, 'no, I built this and I don't want to do it.' Sometimes submitting to authority, covering and the ancillary benefits that go along with that are everything," he said. "So we made the decision 'yes, we are going to take over Denver but we are not going to leave L.A.' We decided to merge One Church LA to the Potter's House Family."
Roberts and his wife Sarah have been "multiplying and conquering" by splitting their time between Denver and Los Angeles. When Roberts is preaching in one city, Sarah is in the other and they both come together to preach at one place once each month.
"It has worked incredibly. Both campuses have continued to grow and thrive in a very healthy way," he said. "I really believe this was just the unfolding of God's ultimate plan. Our willingness to say 'yes' and to obey has caused this incredible thing to happen."
While other churches are struggling to engage millennials, Roberts and his wife have a relatable preaching style that seems to attract the younger generation. The pastor believes that when he speaks to millennials in a language that they can identify with and relate to, they are more receptive to listening to the messages in church.
He likens the concept to the day of Pentecost when the Holy Spirit enabled a multitude of people to connect to God in different tongues.
"On the day of Pentecost when the Spirit of God fell down for the very first time, depending on which Christian background you come from, we [place] an emphasis on speaking in tongues. Really what that was about was language," he explained. "It was effective because everyone who was there heard the Gospel in their own language and that's how the church was started. I think one of the challenges is sometimes we can be lazy and say, 'no, we want the world to adapt to our church language, our Christian experience,' etc."
That type of approach causes isolation and alienation, and causes people to leave, Roberts said.
He and Sarah are intentional about "the generation that we're preaching in" and try to translate the Gospel in a way they will receive it.
To some, it may seem Roberts has things all figured out but the preacher insisted he is far from perfect. The author admitted that just like countless others, things like getting upset over bad customer service on an airplane can give him a reason to repent.
While he agrees that pastors should be held to a high standard, he believes many may be misunderstood.
"I think we are often misunderstood. I think that every pastor, behind this image of adoration and admiration is a human being with real issues, real feelings," Roberts told CP. "I think that we ought to have high expectations that we follow for those who profess to commit their life to the cause of Christ. I'm in full agreement of that but at the same time not so high that they don't make mistakes. You might catch them on a bad day."
"We're not always going to always get it right, but God has this wonderful way of doing perfect things with imperfect people."
For more information about Pastor Touré Roberts, click here.