Fair warning: I may make a lot of people angry with what I have to say, but I have to say it. The Bible tells us we are to “preach the truth in love” (Ephesians 4:15) and that after some of Jesus’ sermons, some said “this was a hard teaching” and “many followed Him no more” (John 6:60, 66). I invite you to pick up your Bible and study this for yourself, because in the Old Testament, God tells us through the prophet Hosea (Hosea 4:6) that, “My people perish for a lack of knowledge.” We still do.
The Black community is at a great cross-road in our evolution as a people. We’ve gotten away from some of the core issues that made us strong, and kept us strong throughout slavery, the civil rights movement, and other milestones in our history. If we are to progress, we must return to those principles. Through a series of blog posts, I hope to explore what I think are some of our most pressing problems, and what we can do to surmount them. I will begin with the foundation: our spirituality.
Today, in Atlanta, it was expected that a man named Eddie Long would “step down” as “Bishop” at New Birth Missionary Baptist Church amid rumors of sexual misconduct with young male congregants.
I have often stated that I do not like the term, “The Black Church” because Jesus purchased His church, and “there is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free man, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus” (Galatians 3:28). Further, Acts 10:34 says God is “not One to show partiality.” I only use the term to describe an historical and cultural institution, not a spiritual one. That is my first issue as I discuss the things that plague our community: We have to get back to our spiritual roots and stop putting men (and women) in the place of God.
It has been alleged that Mr. Long had these male parishioners call him “Daddy.” He is also called “Bishop,” but what does God call him? To be a “bishop” (note the small b), an office also translated “pastor, elder or overseer” (note that none have capital letters!), the Bible tells us:
“1 This is a faithful saying: If a man desires the position of a bishop,he desires a good work. 2 A bishop then must be blameless, the husband of one wife, temperate, sober-minded, of good behavior, hospitable, able to teach; 3 not given to wine, not violent, not greedy for money,but gentle, not quarrelsome, not covetous; 4 one who rules his own house well, having his children in submission with all reverence 5 (for if a man does not know how to rule his own house, how will he take care of the church of God?); 6 not a novice, lest being puffed up with pride he fall into the same condemnation as the devil. 7 Moreover he must have a good testimony among those who are outside, lest he fall into reproach and the snare of the devil.” (1 Timothy 3:1-7).
5 For this reason I left you in Crete, that you should set in order the things that are lacking, and appoint elders in every city as I commanded you— 6 if a man is blameless, the husband of one wife, having faithful children not accused of dissipation or insubordination. 7 For a bishopmust be blameless, as a steward of God, not self-willed, not quick-tempered, not given to wine, not violent, not greedy for money, 8 but hospitable, a lover of what is good, sober-minded, just, holy, self-controlled, 9 holding fast the faithful word as he has been taught, that he may be able, by sound doctrine, both to exhort and convict those who contradict. (Titus 1:5-9).
We entrust our souls to people who do not teach what the Bible says. We give them inflated titles that are not found in Scripture, or are a perversion of Scripture — such as capitalizing them to make some sort of “title” rather than an office held. This goes for titles such as:
Father: “Do not call anyone on earth your father; for One is your Father, He who is in heaven. (Matthew 23:9).
Reverend: 9He sent redemption unto his people: he hath commanded his covenant for ever: holy and reverend is his name (Psalm 111:9). Please note that this is the only time the word “reverend” is used in the Bible, and it does not refer to a title, but rather an attribute of God Himself.
My point in this is: We have got to stop merely “showing up” to church and feeding off of what we are told by mere mortals. The Bible tells us:
21Prove all things; hold fast that which is good. (1 Thessalonians 5:21; KJV)
11Now these were more noble-minded than those in Thessalonica, for they received the word with great eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see whether these things were so. (Acts 17:11, NKJV).
Study to show yourself approved to God, a workman that needs not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth. (2 Timothy 2:15; American King James Version)
How many times have I heard in the Black community, “My Pastor said…?” Our salvation is not by osmosis (nor, as President Obama posits, is it collective). We will each be judged for our own works (John 12:48), thus, we have to study for ourselves and apply that knowledge to ourselves. We perish for lack of knowledge.
We must stop treating the church as a social institution, or a fashion show. Not that there is anything wrong with dressing our best for God, but when we put emphasis on the outward, we do so to our own detriment. 1 Peter 3:3-4 tells us:
3 Your adornment must not be merely external–braiding the hair, and wearing gold jewelry, or putting on dresses; 4but let it be the hidden person of the heart, with the imperishable quality of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is precious in the sight of God.
We’ve got to stop just showing up for special “holy days” like Easter and Christmas — how would we like it if God only answered our prayers two days out of the year? — We owe Him our best service!
We have to get back to the word. We’ve got to talk our values, walk our values and vote our values. We cannot put mere men — Eddie Long, whether or not the allegations are true or [insert name of your favorite preacher or “Pastor” here] — up on a pedestal. My grandfather taught me that only One ever walked perfectly in this world, and He is the One who died for His church and He is the One we should emulate: Jesus.
Next up in this series: No Wedding, No Womb: Out of Wedlock Births in the Black Community.