That NEW Adage

A pressure-relief valve about God, and just about everything else.

“See How They Love One Another!”


This post is lonnnng overdue.

I want to — need to — tell you about my church.

I grew up in a Black Baptist church. I began going there when I was a pre-teen. I got baptized at fourteen years old. My church experience was the typical one: get up early,  go, listen to many songs, some shouting and crying, many announcements, stand for the entrance of the pastor, give tithes and or offerings, turn to my neighbor and say, “naaybuh…”, listen to some more songs (an “A” and a “B” selection), listen to a sermon, more shouting and crying, some falling out, watch the “urshers” attend the fallen, watch as “the doors of the church are opened,” listen to testimonies, sit through still MORE announcements, hear the benediction, wake my baby sister up, go home.

The service was replete with emotional outpourings. I, being a complete introvert, often felt uncomfortable with the displays, and was usually made to feel that I somehow did not love the Lord enough because I did not jump, shout, dance, and fall out like some of the others did.

Even though I knew that the Lord made me that way, this way, it took a long time for me to understand that there was more than one way to worship God, and that they are acceptable. I never thought the dancers were wrong (except for those I “discerned” were doing it for show), and I never once gave in to the crushing pressure to be untrue to my own character and worship Him in an insincere fashion.

But as I grew and learned, and visited, or played in, many other churches, I discovered two disturbing things.

1. While the adoration for God was ever on display, there simultaneously existed a frustrating absence of intellectual balance in the congregation.

2. The Church in America is painfully segregated.

People at my church, and others that I attended were sorely lacking in the knowledge necessary to love God “with our minds” as well as with the heart and soul as we are told to do. False doctrine was rampant, especially the prosperity teaching. Folk would break out in “tongues” with the impunity of knowing that no one had the information to challenge them for interpretations, stuff was being named and claimed, blabbed and grabbed, and legalism not unlike that of the Pharisees ran throughout. People were easily misled, and spouted the many disjointed Scripture verses they knew woefully out of context. No one seemed to be learning anything at all except how to shout like sister Davis, and “hoop” like the pastor.

And I rarely saw any White people. Unless some judge or prospective city councilman stopped by to ask for a vote.

I had always thought that if one were a true Christian, prejudice could not exist. I foolishly thought that racism was hatred and that one could not enter Heaven if he hated anyone. Stupid me! I live in, what I understand is, the second most segregated city in this country, next to DEtroit. That fact plays itself out in no more vivid way than on Sunday. I pass Methodist and Presbyterian and Southern Baptist churches and see NO Black people! There are churches here that I remember being White years ago that are now Black, not because they were outgrown, but because the neighborhood went Black and the Whites went away. Far, far away.

It always broke my heart that it appeared that the Christian life wasn’t being lived out because we could not open our hearts and truly allow God to reallychange us. The same people who denied me jobs, clutched purses when I walked by, ignored me when standing in line, pulled me over for no good reason, called me “nigrah”, and moved out when I moved in went to — go to — these churches. I am not fooled. Heck, the Klan burn CROSSES! Crosses, not pentagrams or some other symbol of racism, but the very emblem of suffering and shame by which God saved His people! Some of the people in my all-White-but-for-us neighborhood who never speak to us go to church, too!

Even the music is segregated! Go to a Christian music store and notice the “Christian” category versus the “Gospel” category.

After years of frustration over these two issues, I left my church (not the Lord, though) in the hopes of eventually finding a place where God was both worshipped AND known, and where people of all races felt welcome.

By the time I got married five years ago, I wasn’t even going to church. I was sick of all the empty, clanging emotionalism that was void of even the basic hermeneutical understanding necessary to avoid falling into the trap of materialism and cult worship. My wife grew up in the Church of God in Christ (Which is the Baptist church on Red Bull and amphetamines!I certainly wasn’t going there!), and I didn’t want to take her to my old church and expose her to the status quo. Many Christians today, yes many Black people, get caught up in false teaching because of the charisma and style of the speaker. They can’t see why Oprah is not a Christian. I am speaking in general, of course, but I have spent most of my life being Black. I have seen these things first hand. The “Black Church” is largely driven by emotion, and the congregants often don’t know God the way they need to. This grieves me.

While in Lifeway Christian Bookstore one day a few years ago, my wife and I ran into one of her co-workers. Their conversation eventually led to the church, and after hearing Kathy’s friend talk about hers, I told Kathy in the car afterward that that was our church! It was doctrinally sound and it was run by people who had moved here (Memphis) from all over the country to specifically reconcile the races here! Sold!!

We have been members of Fellowship Bible Church, Memphis since July of 2005, and for the first time in my life, I love church. It is not all of one thing or the other. There are those who are (politically) liberal, and those who are conservative. There are those who throw up hands and sing, and there are those who don’t. There are doctors and there are African refugees. There are Blacks, Whites, Latinos, Asians, and just about any other race you can think of. And there is this…

They LOVE!  Hard! All the way! They break open their lives like biscuits and share them freely without pretense or prejudice. I have never in my whole life experienced the openness and acceptance evident there. From all sides. It is Christian life in HD, 1080i, one billion megapixels, on a two mile screen. Believe me!

There are three teaching pastors, (Bryan Loritts, John Bryson, and Ben Parkinson) the lead teacher being Black. We don’t shy away from issues of race as many do in diverse environments, and they don’t give lip service to injustice. The idea is to take people from the comfort of the common ways of thinking and force them to live as Christ demands: loving thy neighbors as thyself, even the ones who look funny, dance off beat, or laugh loudly in theaters!

Growing up in Memphis has afforded me the opportunity to experience racism on a first-hand basis. I know what it looks like, which is why I hate and confront it here. I know what it feels like to be left out, unwanted. I know what the stares and the codewords mean. I have spent time away from Memphis, and have interacted with those of other races. But I have never had the wonderful fellowship I have now. We love each other like family! We spend time together, in each others’ homes. We use each others’ bathrooms!

I have stories of selfless acts of love that made Kathy cry (I don’t cry!) and that amaze us. I can’t recount them all. This church has shown me what I suspected but never witnessed; that God has true Christians of various hues who love each other unconditionally. And be sure that this love extends like climbing vines beyond the church and into the community in a tangible way. We give money and time to schools, and certain members have sought to live in rough neighborhoods in order to be change agents.

Maybe you have seen this but I, and those I know, never have. When Kathy gave birth to Max, we were amazed to find that every day women were coming to bring food until she was well enough to get around. Just the other day, one of the members, Megan, brought her son to the house and spent hoursputting our sunroom together. (Kathy is eight months pregnant, and we have never cleaned that room out) Wendy, (these ain’t Black names, you see…) came to the house last week to measure the windows in the kids’ room in order to hand make some curtains. Much, much more could be said. Much more.

Some of them read my New Year’s Eve post and chided me for not letting them keep Max when I was in a tight spot. These people take actual time and serve one another. Without seeking anything in return. I have never met so many affluent-yet-unpretentious people, White OR Black, in my life! (It was a whole year before I knew that “Eddie” was a freekin’ doctor! He was just Eddie to us)
These folks love us to death! And not as pets, which used to be the case back in the day. We are all equals. I don’t have to dilute my “Brotherness” in order to be seen as viable. And we love them! I would not trade this church for any other. And I tell my Black friends about it all the time.

We Black folk have a comfort zone, too. We like our food seasoned a certain way, our chitlins cleaned just so, our Gospel music sung a certain style, and our preachin’ hooped at a particular point in the service. I wish that we all could open ourselves up to the fact that God is not an American, that He made us all, and that we all find our reflection in Him. But we have been burned. Rejected and relegated. It is hard to break old habits. Not ALL White folks hate you.

Lest you think I am unwittingly in some CULT, understand that this church is populated by those who seek a full-orbed relationship with God. They know why they know what they know. And if they don’t, they are being taught by those who do. Our leaders are schooled, educated, and qualified. And they are humble. There are no titles, and we do not rise at their entrance. They stress servant leadership, not forced exaltation. They expect us to check their biblical work and are not offended by being questioned.

Of course there are differences in non-essential issues. No human-run organization is perfect. There are dispensationalists, amillenialists, charismatics, cessationists, Calvinists, and Arminians. But we all agree on the essential points of the Faith. And the spiritually sick are ministered to.

We are not taught the Bible in bullet-points, but by books. In context! We just got through with Ecclesiastes.

There is no Word of Faith doctrine or Prosperity pimpin’ going on here. No focus on the accruement of stuff. Rich and poor, sick and well alike, all enjoy the true prosperity of real life and Heavenly hope. Money is a tool and not a goal.

We worship individually and collectively in the way that God designed us to, and there is no peer-pressure. Some answer with “amen” and some nod quietly. Some stand and sing, and some simply stand.

Of course, there are problems that arise, but they are handled in a measured, Godly fashion. I truly feel that I have, in Fellowship, a small glimpse of what Heaven will be like in terms of our interaction with each other.

I know that some of you feel the same way about your place of worship. I hope you do. I know that some feel that if you are not of their particular denomination (CoC?) you are lost. This is in no way my assertion. It is just that in the course of writing my blog, the impression may be that there is a level of displeasure and despair, and that I don’t experience true Christian fellowship. Not true.

I just wanted to introduce you to my Family. The people I love.

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January 15, 2008 - Posted by | Christian Life, Christianity, Church Life, Culture, Diversity, False Doctrine, False Teachers, Hypocrisy, Love, Prosperity Gospel, Pulpit Pimps, Race, Racial Reconciliation, Racism

24 Comments »

  1. Thats a great testimony. I have some good friends there. BJ Adam T, and Lecrae. B.J has been trying to get me to move to Memphis for over a year. I don’t know bro, but we will see. God bless.

    Comment by lionelwoods7 | January 15, 2008 | Reply

  2. I do not see intellectuals walking out of biker bars either. Sometimes birds of a feather (or neighborhood) flock together. I appreciate the fact that our area is predominantly white and that most of the members at our church are caucasian, however we have some very lovely and wonder whites that do not like the contemporary music I like and prefer the old hymns and pipe organ. No more or less spiritual but at least it is not like my childhood church where a deacon was in the lobby to keep the blacks out.

    Comment by Big Al | January 15, 2008 | Reply

  3. Good to see you, Lionel! Thanks for reading.

    Comment by maxdaddy | January 15, 2008 | Reply

  4. Al, I appreciate your comment. I agree that there are sometimes other reasons for all White or all Black churches existing.

    We often, though, do not seek to interact with those different from us, and I think that we who claim Christ should.

    Comment by maxdaddy | January 15, 2008 | Reply

  5. This is the first time I’ve commented on my husband’s blog. I tend to leave the writing to him. God has truly blessed us at Fellowship. I don’t think that I would be the wife and mother that I am if it wasn’t for the men and women at this church. They have had a huge impact on my life. I’m not from Memphis, and my view of this city is very low. For the first time in my life I’ve had to deal with in-your-face racism. If I could leave today I would catch the midnight train to Georgia (Whooo Whoooooo). But since we have been attending this church and experiencing the love of Christ through all races of people, I am excited to see what impact this church will have on racial reconciliation in this town.

    Please keep reading Derrick’s blog. This is an opportunity for him to spread the love of God through his words.

    Comment by Kathy aka "Maxmomma" | January 15, 2008 | Reply

  6. I had to stop reading halfway through to say “amen” so amen. Going back to read now.

    Comment by sara | January 15, 2008 | Reply

  7. OK, done reading. You hit on soooo many subject here. and I agree with you all the way. Black most of your life. that’s funny! Anyway, you are so very blessed to have fellowship like that.

    Comment by sara | January 15, 2008 | Reply

  8. OH, I’m a comment hog, but I want to say hi to Kathy. I hope you’re feeling well.

    Comment by sara | January 15, 2008 | Reply

  9. […] relations and a bunch of other stuff This is really […]

    Pingback by race relations and a bunch of other stuff « Breaking Ground | January 15, 2008 | Reply

  10. Sara, you know you can comment as much as you like! We are blessed.
    Kathy says, “hi”. She’s having some Braxton Hicks action right now, I think…
    Thanks so much for the link.

    Comment by maxdaddy | January 16, 2008 | Reply

  11. I’ve always wanted to attend a racially diverse church — I think it’s most representative of what heaven will be like. No segregation there.

    My church is probably more black now, than it’s ever been. It has always been predominately black, with a sprinkling of white folks. I’m rarely there, unfortunately, because of a “work every Sunday” schedule. But I appreciate the spiritual foundation I received, and the willingness of my pastor, to push Christ-like race relations.

    Comment by ANappyGirl | January 16, 2008 | Reply

  12. Derrick, here via Sara’s link to you. Ya hit the nail on the head! I grew up in Dearborn and know what you speak of! *sigh* I’ve been embarssed on multitudes of occasiona to tell anyone I’m from there just for the reasons you refer to.

    I seem to have travel a similar path as you…born Catholic, found Lutheranism in college, and still felt I must be missing something. Where was the LOVE of Christ? Where was the hunger for the Word? While I was also made to feel awkward re: any emotional outbursts, but where were the people IN LOVE, like crazy in love with Jesus and trying to know Him better and act like Him more?

    After a VERY convoluted path, I married the son of a Pentecostal preacher and received my “baptism” (if you’ll pardon the pun) into Church of God of Prophecy – an integrated, on-fire, Bible-believing, submitted to our pastor congregation! What a difference! LOL

    Glad you found your “home” here on earth as well! Blessings!

    Comment by Beth/Mom2TwoVIkings | January 16, 2008 | Reply

  13. Thanks, guys!

    Comment by maxdaddy | January 17, 2008 | Reply

  14. Amen hermano Derrick! I am part of the Latin/Mexican contingency at Fellowship and could not agree more on the comments made by Derrick. Our family has also been greatly blessed by at Fellowship and we still have a sense of great excitement for what God is still doing with all of us at Fellowship for His glory!

    HEYYYY, Rafael!! Good to hear from you! Thanks! We, too have been blessed.

    Comment by Rafael | January 22, 2008 | Reply

  15. I found your blog by searching for blogs about racial unity…two hours later and lots of polital and racially slanted blogs yours was the first I found written from the heart of God. I being white most of my life, thought I had overcome prejudice as one of my best friends was black, and the church I had started attending was dedicated to tearing down racial walls…then I went to college. I met a wonderful man that challenged my theology because he was black. After 14 wonderful years of marriage, 3 children, and an incredible church, it is my hearts desire to see the church tackle the issue of race. Thanks for sharing your story. I intend to check out your church on the web. I hope they have a website. Thanks again for sharing your story.

    Comment by HFuller | January 24, 2008 | Reply

  16. You have SURELY blessed me!!! Yes, we have a website. It is on my blogroll.

    Comment by maxdaddy | January 24, 2008 | Reply

  17. I went to your churches website. The ERACE groups sound so much like what God has been putting in my heart to do at our church. We might have to take a trip to Memphis this summer. I look forward to following your church and your blog. Thanks for sharing your story.

    Comment by HFuller | January 24, 2008 | Reply

  18. I linked this post to my blog, I hope that is OK.

    Comment by HFuller | January 24, 2008 | Reply

  19. By all means… Come on!

    If you click the “listen and learn” tab, you will see how you can hear the podcast of the sermons, and hear past ones on Fellowship radio.

    Thank you so much! Keep reading and spread the word about what we are doing here. Feel free to link as well.

    Comment by maxdaddy | January 24, 2008 | Reply

  20. I got on your web site searching for something on the prosperity gospel. I recently had someone pray and command curses against my health and prosperity to be removed. I’m
    embarrassed because I’m still sick. I feel really blessed
    by God and I don’t feel cursed even though I have health problems, I’m low income and single with four kids. I feel wealthy because of my inheritance of eternity with God. In churches around here I have these choices: A place where they can recite the gospel “ABC’s” and they tell you how to get people to come to church but the people sitting there on Sunday file in as if they are sleep walking, sit as if in a stupor and leave the way they came in. A church like the one you described growing up in- only mostly white. Then the prosperity gospel type (who apparently think I’m cursed). I would really love some fellowship with people who love God and really study the Bible. Please pray for me. Thank you – what you had to say encouraged me to hope that I might find a place to fellowship.

    Comment by lynnesmith | January 26, 2008 | Reply

  21. First of all, Let me say, Don’t be embarrassed! What they “prayed” over you was the ignorant muttering of biblical illiteracy!

    Secondly, what you said next — true health and true wealth — was right on the mark! You have the right idea! God is blessing you, and WILL bless you with what you need. The prosperity gospel is the result of greed and selfishness — a desire to live pain-free, suffer-free lives.

    Jesus’ example was of sacrifice and of suffering and of serving.
    Your story is exactly why I rant about those who prey on those in need. I wish I could “lay hands on them”!!

    I most certainly will pray for you, and will ask here that others do so, too:

    Dear LORD, thank You for Lynne, and for the chance to lay her concerns before You! Please see fit to meet her needs and desires.

    Please, if it is in Your will, help her through the health issues she faces. Heal her if You will, but give her mercy at any rate.

    Please provide her with the financial resources with which to take good care of herself and her children. Please bring her into contact with those who will love, aid, and encourage her according to Your abundant grace and provision.

    Thank You for the wisdom you have given her to know that she HAS wealth in eternity, and the promise from You to care for her. Thank You for giving her peace in her struggles. But, Lord, give her Your strength, for ours often fails.

    Give her the wonderful fellowship You have given me and so many others who so desperately needed it. Give her an Earthly glimpse of the diversity, soundness, and love that You have given ME.

    Show her, and whoever else reads this, who You are, and how “BAD” You REALLY are! Do those wonderous and unbelievable things that You do when our faith wavers and when we begin to doubt Your true capabilities.
    Bless her, Lord, and make her an example of how You care for Your children! And let those who only seek to get something from You be ashamed, convicted and changed.

    I ask these things according to Your Word and in the Name of Your Son, Jesus! Amen.

    Comment by maxdaddy | January 26, 2008 | Reply

  22. Hello. You find yourself looking at life and asking, what happened? Whos battle gound is this? Whos side am I sopposed to be on? Please just stop hating each other? oh if only people could listen to that. I believe that there is a true God and a false god. I believe that there is a right and a wrong. I believe there is good and evil. I believe there is a heavy burden I MUST carry. The road is NARROW. The righteous are FEW. When I reach the end of the road then I may have peace, then the door will open wide with the white light of Love shining through, then I will rest in the arms of a God whos Love and Power and Authority are scorned by men. The world peirces my soul with its obsesion with sex, power, money, and fame. These things have become the god it prays to every night. These things have become the god the world bows down to. These things have become the god with which the world has some shalow empty relationship. The God I know is all powerful and deeply LIKES His children and is ABLE to comfort and protect them. The God I know even asks us to LIKE our enemies, to forgive them. And my God is NOT free will, or any human power, or sex, or any worldly wealth. Those things are not my God. My consceince would not rest if I were to think otherwise. I simply can’t. Some people are far too eager to try and push Gods loving arms away. Well that makes me a little angry.

    If your church treats cults as people to be shuned and hated or if your church treats hyper-calvinists as people top be shuned and hated, then of what Love do you speak? If it does not involve people wanting and liking each other then of what Love do you speak? Would I be treated as second class garbage if I visited your church for having some idea you disagree with? Would I be forced to aviod certain peole if I were to go to your church. Does your church get angry without someone elses anger being the cause? Do you treat hyper-calvinists, or calvinists or arminians like scum or do you really truly love as you say?

    Do you have “one a month” visists or do you guys fellowship often? Is there any tendancy to aviod sleep overs?

    Ok Ive asked all I can ask. No wait. Does this church value loving fellowship with God and man as the MOST important form of obedience as far as obedience to God is concerned?

    Will anyone carry this burden with me or will I go on carrying it by myself?

    names? emails?

    Hey, Chris. Thanks for inquiring. I couldn’t really follow the entire bent of your comment (especially the first part), but I’ll say this: My church is a church that adheres to the Word as properly interpreted.

    It is a house of prayer and of love. But you must understand that there is an element of correction and discipline to true love. Love is not just a touchy-feely, gooey emotion that tells people that they are all right in whatever they do.

    We call sin sin, too. You may come as you are, but you may not necessarily stay that way! There is no hate taught here. But understand, too, that if I tell you that I disagree with a particular lifestyle, and that that lifestyle is wrong, that is not hate.

    Cults are dangerous and deadly organizations. Those caught in them can not only forfeit their lives, but their souls as well! Is it not love to warn those entangled in them to stay away? However, apologetics is not the focus of Fellowship Bible Church Memphis.

    You can click the link on the blog and find all you need to know, and the pastors will most certainly answer your queries.

    I don’t know what you mean by sleepovers, though. You might want to be more clear there…

    Comment by Chris Bell | February 3, 2008 | Reply

  23. I understand completely. I was raised on the Southside of Chicago. I experienced many of the same things you did.
    Only in a far different way.

    I was the only white kid in a black church. You at least worshipped with your own.

    Comment by frank | March 5, 2010 | Reply

  24. Blessings to you!
    I am intrigued by your post. Just wanted to say that I found it interesting that all of the leaders you named are men.

    Comment by freeindeedproductions@yahoo.com | May 27, 2011 | Reply


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