Tommy Kyllonen- Church Ministries
Christian rapper and pastor Tommy Kyllonen started as a rebellious preacher's kid in Philadelphia. He says Southeastern helped him channel his rebelliousness into new ways to reach and disciple the hip-hop generation.
Working with a homeless ministry in Philadelphia sparked Kyllonen's desire to evangelize in the inner city. After passing out sandwiches and blankets in subway stations, Kyllonen (pronounced "ki-LOWnun") prayed for the homeless men he served. His involvement with a youth ministry in the city further fueled his interest in urban ministry. Kyllonen says he transferred to Southeastern from a college close to home to pursue his new call away from the negative influences of non-Christian friends and others.
Southeastern prepared Kyllonen to become a pastor by helping him sharpen his communication skills, develop new evangelistic methods, and gain substantive experience in ministry. Since he graduated from Southeastern in 1996, Kyllonen has become the senior pastor of a 600-member church that integrates hip-hop music and dance into its ministry. Kyllonen also has released five hip-hop CDs under the stage name Urban D. (The "D" stands for "disciple.") Kyllonen's sixth CD will be released by EMI, which records major artists, such as Grammy-winning vocalist Norah Jones. Kyllonen also has just inked a deal with prominent Christian publisher Zondervan Publishing House to publish his first book.
Kyllonen says Southeastern English professor Dr. Rickey Cotton taught him how to better communicate through writing, which he employs in his sermons, song lyrics, and new book. In both his book and his new CD Kyllonen discusses experiences that shaped him for ministry and explains how hip-hop can be used in ministry.
In addition to Dr. Cotton, religion professors at Southeastern also had an impact upon Kyllonen. When he first enrolled at Southeastern, Kyllonen tried to get out of taking religion classes that he didn't think would help him become a youth minister. Thankfully, his academic advisor changed his mind, he says. Now, Kyllonen finds that his classes in church history and theology have equipped him to explain how Christianity differs from other religions.
A course on the book of Job with Dr. Steve Fettke also helped Kyllonen prepare for ministry. Research Kyllonen performed for a paper about the high rates of drug abuse and poverty in a Philadelphia neighborhood gave Kyllonen a glimpse of the suffering he would encounter in urban ministry, he said.
While Kyllonen learned plenty at Southeastern, he also came with ideas of his own. A former Southeastern evangelism professor was supportive of Kyllonen's non-traditional ideas for community outreach, which included organizing basketball leagues and hip-hop concerts. For the professor's evangelism class Kyllonen designed a basketball league to reach a city neighborhood. Kyllonen used this outreach model in his senior-year internship at First Assembly of God in Clearwater, Florida. Sixty teenagers participated in the basketball league.