Can Jay Bakker Redeem Minnesota?

Jay Bakker (Kyndell Harkness/StarTribune)

A month ago, my friend Jay Bakker and his wife, Karin, arrived in Minnesota. They moved here from Brooklyn, New York, she to start a new job, he to start a new church.

In Sunday’s paper, Rose French profiled Jay and noted the many connections he’s already got with my home state:

While Bakker spent his early youth in North Carolina where the PTL ministry was based, he has strong roots in Minnesota. His mother was from International Falls. His parents met at what was then North Central Bible College. His father served nearly four years in federal prison in Rochester for his part in the PTL fraud, and Jay visited him there as a teen.

Indeed, Rose interviewed Jay in the shadow of North Central University, a college that has banned me from their campus. In one of the photos in the video* that accompanies the article, Jay is standing in a skyway that connects two of the buildings at North Central — his father donated that skyway when his fortunes were high; North Central removed Jim Bakker’s name from the skyway when his fortunes were low.

As I said in the article, Jay’s is a message that I think will resonate with many people in Minneapolis. While most people here did not grow up amidst the conservative Christian culture that he did — like the SBC and the AoG — many are nonetheless disenfranchised with Christianity. What you don’t find in Minnesota is much vitriolic atheism. What you do find, especially in the Uptown neighborhood of Minneapolis where Jay is starting his new Revolution Church, is a whole lot of “nones.”

Jay’s new book lays out his message to the nones. In Faith, Doubt, and Other Lines I’ve Crossed: Walking with the Unknown God, Jay largely leaves his family story behind and ventures into new theological territory. Written in short, almost devotional-length sub-chapters, Jay reflects on the marriage of doubt and faith. He writes convincingly how doubt and faith are inextricable; how you cannot have one without the other.

Although Solomon’s Porch is my ecclesial home, I’m glad to be helping Jay launch Revolution in Minneapolis. I think his articulation of the biblical message of Christ’s love will be a fresh take on the church scene in the Land of Lake Wobegon.

*I will send a copy of Jay’s book to the first person who correctly guesses where he was sitting for his interview on the video.

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  • Dale Friesen

    The Jones/Perry living room

  • Paisley Park?

    (I’m not too familiar with places in Minneapolis that aren’t in PURPLE RAIN.)

  • Solomon’s Porch offices.

  • A bathroom

  • The Bakkers may have roots in Minnesota, but they were never very well received here. Most Lake Wobegon residents are have no patience of snake-oil salesmen, and could see through Jim and Tammy Faye from the start, even before the courts confirmed what Minnesotans already knew about them.

    I like what Jay is doing, but another Bakker starting a church here will be a bit of a swim against the current.

  • Carl

    Pizzeria Lola.

  • Phil Miller

    A Dunn Bros coffee shop.

  • Jay Bakker

    I forgot why I gave up reading comment sections for a minute.. Curtis G just reminded me.

    Thanks for the kind words Tony!

    • My comment wasn’t meant to be unkind — just a reflection of the hard reality, and built-in bias, than a pastor named “Bakker” is going to face in Minnesota. If you’re looking for unkind comments, check out the ones on the Star Tribune.

      I actually like what you are doing, and may stop by sometime to say ‘hi’. But I assume you are not going into this with the idea that Minneapolis will be an easy row to hoe. Jesus never calls us to do the easy thing. I wish you well.

      • I disagree, Curtis. I think that few people here have a history with the Bakkers, especially of the age demographic that Jay will attract. And just last night I was out at dinner with Jay and Karin, and we were approached by a server who told Jay how much she loved Tammy Faye and misses her.

    • Love you, Jay. Hey to Karin!

  • The Video locale is Doug Pagitt’s office. Springsteen book is a dead giveaway.

    Thanks for a consistently readable blog!

    • You got it, Lorinda!

      • Thanks for the book, Tony!

        Thanks for writing the book, Jay! I’m glad for your presence and impact in Uptown. {insert awkward hipster style fist bump}. I’m excited and, admittedly, a bit fascinated by your move to MN. I wish you all the best.

        As a small child, I once sent $5 to the PTL club. One could surmise that I paid for part of your college education. You’re welcome!

  • Mr. Rundquist

    why are you banned from north central?

    • Read the link in the post to see why.

    • Mr. Rundquist

      That’s why one should look at something more carefully… That’s why a certain Rabbi likes teaching students about CRITICAL reading… So one looks at things more CRITICALLY…

  • Lisa

    George MacDonald said, “The man that feareth, Lord, to doubt, in that fear doubteth thee.” Love to hear of this, Jay. I grew up with my mom watching your dad every day and struggled through most of life with faith. God is the true father though, and he was never afraid of my doubt.

  • Simon

    The bench he is sitting on is definitely in Elliot Park.

  • Scott

    No. His “church” isn’t the church. It’s evil. It will fail but unfortunately take down people with him,

  • I wish Jay well.

    Those in the SW suburbs (IGH, SSP, WSP, Woodbury, Hastings) looking for a similar church experience are welcome to look us up. We’re in that ballpark.

    Pete Benedict

  • Oh man, there are SO many vitriolic atheists here, you just probably are not found in the same circles as them.

    Also, why did he have to pick uptown? Talk about the one part of Minneapolis that anyone who lives in any other neighborhood NEVER wants to go to. Oh well. Blame my pessimism on this weird snow-like substance that we’re getting here in Minnesota, today.

    • Larry Barber

      “Also, why did he have to pick uptown? Talk about the one part of Minneapolis that anyone who lives in any other neighborhood NEVER wants to go to.”

      Perhaps that’s the reason he chose that neighborhood is because nobody else wants to go there?

      • You’d have to be from Minneapolis to understand Brianna’s point. Uptown is the most white / affluent / hipster / pretentious neighborhood in Minneapolis. It is pretty much populated by 20-somethings from rich suburban families who want a hip place to party and hang out until they get married and move back to the rich suburbs. There is not much real city in Uptown.

        Everyone else in Minneapolis, who want to enjoy all the city has to offer, pretty much avoid Uptown, because there is not much real city there. Except maybe to pop into the Landmark theater to catch a good movie.

        Okay, I don’t mean to start a flame war with the many fine Uptown residents. There are many good things happening there too. I’m just trying to give my take on Brianna’s point, which I generally agree with. That’s not to say there isn’t good work to do in Uptown; everybody needs ministry. I would think Uptown rent would be prohibitive for a start-up ministry. There are so many other parts of Minneapolis where real urban life is happening, and where rent is way cheaper. The affluent, consumer-based Uptown area is an interesting choice for ministry.

        • Dude, you and Brianna are wrong about this. Linden Hills is far whiter and more affluent than Uptown. Uptown is whiter and richer than North Minneapolis, to be sure, but there are several neighborhoods to the south that are whiter, richer, and even more hipster.

          • Yeah, but Linden Hills has a Sebastian Joes. Many sins can be covered up with good ice cream!

            • Kimberly Marshall

              Uptown has Sebastian Joes too (Hennepin & Franklin) 🙂

  • gregolem

    As a long time practitioner of Eastern faiths, Yoga and Buddhism, and growing up as a Catholic, Jay is the first Christian author that I have found that I can relate and connect to. This is because he is actually living and practicing the life of Jesus in the postmodern age, the Christ whom I found long missing in established churches and through Christian media outlets. Through Jay, I have learned about the Emergent Church and have started to read more authors from this perspective. I feel Jays commitment to his vision, the love, compassion and creativity that emanates from his words and ministry, not to mention the openness of arms and acceptance he extends to anyone who has fallen through the institutional cracks or not welcome inside mainstream Christianity. I am humbled by his attempt against strong odds and pressure to continue on his personal journey, never losing track of the inner voice that guides him. I finally feel that I can see and feel Christ’s presence in my life, and that my friends, is simply amazing.

    As to where Jay was sitting for the video interview, I’d say in our hearts,… while talking to our minds about the real and raw possibilities of Grace in our lives.

  • Very excited about what Jay is doing in Minnesota. My sister attended Jay’s church in New York – I believe it met in a bar then? This was several years ago, but she is the one who introduced me to him. Exciting times ahead for Minnesota, to be sure.

  • Jay Bakker

    Prince has a song about uptown…

    I like uptown I’ve meet some really nice folks here and the cool thing is there are so many diverse churches in Minneapolis you don’t need to come to Revolution if the location is an issue for you.

  • Hey, don’t take my comments wrong. I’ve always liked this blog because it is less of a hug fest and more of a place to air out honest questions and skepticism. Any new ministry is going to face skeptical questions; I’m just giving you a taste.

    One thing that most outsiders feel in Minneapolis is that the local culture is quite insular. Minnesotans are just not accustomed to having many folks from out-of-town around. Most of the people who live hear also grew up here, so we are not very good at being welcoming. It is a weakness of the local culture that will hopefully improve; maybe the younger folks can show us how?

    I wish you all the best in Minneapolis. Let us know when your doors open; we’ll all be there to support you.

  • Jay Bakker

    I movid here from Williamsburg Brooklyn, the same things were said when I moved there and have you seen me, I’m kinda a hipster…

  • Jay Bakker

    It’s strange, I’m setting in a coffee shop in up town and the majority of the folks here are over 50…

    • gregolem

      Yes Jay, some of us old hippie geezers, who are still clinging to life by our fingertips, do go to coffee shops and contemplate the remaining days we have left on the planet, wondering what it would have been like to be young again,… and a hipster in search of Grace.

  • Jay Bakker


    My reson for saying that was becase one of the other commenters said Uptown was full of 20 something trustfund hipsters… My experience has been that there is quite a bit of diversity (age, race, sexuality and economics) and I like that!

    • gregolem

      Thanks Jay, I was just ribbing you concerning your statement being in an environment with a majority of people over 50. As an over 50 geezer I thought it was a funny observation on its own and outside the context to the original post concerning the Uptown area being filled with 20 something hipsters. You’ve proven over the years to a very inclusive person, so I am with you on your observations and proven openness to diversity. Best wishes to you in Minneapolis, and I am looking forward to your podcasts from the your new home.

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