BY MARILYN TINNIN
Justin Jones-Fosu, author, entrepreneur, CEO, professional speaker, and—oh yes, seminary student, has a resume longer than my arm. He also has an impressive list of awards, not the least of which is one of EBONY magazine’s 2008 “30 Young Leaders on the Rise.” His accomplishments have earned him features in SmartCEO magazine and the Baltimore Business Journal.
A four-year resident of Clinton, Mississippi, Justin has been a student at Reformed Theological Seminary while continuing to travel all over the country doing leadership seminars for professionals, corporations, and organizations. However, he will tell you in a New York minute that his role as husband to Stephanie and father to Lydia (5) and Peter (2) is his number one job and the one by which he measures the success of his life.
Justin’s father and mother divorced when he was just four years old. Although his father tried to stay involved in his life, there were big gaps of time throughout his childhood and adolescence when he was just not there. When his dad remarried and had a second family, the visits were fewer and farther between. Justin says, “I am not sure I totally realized the impact of not having a father in my life on a consistent basis until I was grown. That memory has really challenged me to be the best father I can be to Lydia and Peter.”
He describes a Christian rapper named Lecrae whose rap song “I Want to Be Like You” pierces him to the core every time he hears it. He uses it often when he speaks in certain venues to illustrate how very real and deep is the hunger in a child’s soul to have the relationship and approval of a dad. And he emphasizes how far a little boy will go to seek out that paternal affirmation even it is by following in the footsteps of a very poor role model.
He lived with his mother and older brother in Grand Rapids, Michigan—not a city of affluence. His mom returned to school to get a teaching degree so that she could support Justin and his brother. In the interim, they shopped at the Salvation Army thrift store and lived largely on a welfare check. Even then, however, he describes a committed mother who had high expectations for her children. “She really created a culture within a culture for us,” he says. They may have lived in a poor neighborhood, but she constantly challenged her children academically requiring them to do book reports for her in addition to maintaining stellar grades in school. Justin gravitated to leadership within numerous school organizations, and he had a special gift for public speaking.
He was also an outstanding athlete, and sports were a great complement to the academic standards his mother demanded. Thankfully, he had no time left over to get into mischief!
At Morgan State University in Baltimore, Justin continued to be tapped for leadership positions, especially those that required him to stand up in front of groups. He loved it never once feeling self-conscious. It was soon after he graduated that he was invited to a leadership workshop given by a campus honorary. When he finished his presentation, he had several people ask for his business card. They wanted to know how much he charged for a speech. He had no idea people could earn a living speaking, but he had been a business major in college and quickly gave the answer, “Oh, I will work within your budget.”
Justin founded his company that very week and has not looked back!
During his time in Baltimore, he began attending Faith Christian Fellowship Church where he “fell in love with theology and the concept of multi-ethnic churches.” He had applied to and been accepted at Syracuse University for graduate school where he intended to work toward an MBA in business.
However, the idea of the multi-ethnic churches kept coming to his mind—and heart. He began to research seminaries, just in case. He discovered Reformed Theological Seminary in Jackson, and it seemed to have the best program and a mission most aligned with his goals. He has not been disappointed.
His unique skill set will help him work with churches who are trying to figure out how to think through the whole “multi-ethnic” picture and provide training, theological, historical and practical perspective to successfully transition in the present culture. He is passionate about it, and so ready to embrace the challenge as he moves to Charlotte, North Carolina, this summer to complete his RTS degree at the Charlotte campus and to work in a multi-ethnic church doing exactly what he thinks God has called him to do.
He has a few other goals that actually take precedence over everything else. Time—lots of time—with his family is his great priority, second only to his relationship with Christ. “I want my children to know Christ, to be captured by his grace. I also want them to know sound theology in their beliefs and I realize I am their primary theology teacher. I don’t care whether they go to Ivy League schools or whether or not they make a million dollars in their careers eventually. All the other accomplishments don’t mean a thing if they don’t know Christ.”
Justin Fosu-Jones is definitely worth researching! See JustinInspires.com. He continues to speak to both students and corporate entities.