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Supersized Jesus

Can somebody please explain to me what is up with the whole “One church in three locations” thing?? Is it just a black mega-church phenomenon? There are a number of these in my city.

It is just about the most irritating thing to see preachers like Michael Freeman , Bishop Paul Morton, and Brandon Porter (here in my town) advertise all their locations like they are opening Wal-Marts or McDonalds’. What, the Lord can’t call another preacher? Is the force of your personality so strong, are you just so popular that people won’t come unless YOU are there preaching? Can God not Get His Word preached unless YOU are the one doing it? We let these dudes get away with anything!

I have friends who play at these franchises, and they tell me how the pastor has to preach the nine o’clock service at one church, leave before the benediction to make the ten thirty at site two just in time to preach the sermon, and rush back to the first for a noon service, and finally preach a six o’clock at the third! Morton said that he takes a helicopter or a plane from one place in Georgia to New Orleans every Sunday.

How can you be any good to any flock at that rate? Let somebody else preach! Christianity looks like just another business when it is done like this. It looks like you are just collecting three paychecks.

One church here has one location that is in the middle of a community that is falling apart and rife with crime. Isn’t there enough work to do there without having to make a giant triangle across the county to “help” those in the outlying areas?

One might think that it is because you have to maintain your nearly million-dollar estate, with your five figure home theater and sound system, and I wouldn’t want anyone to think you were pimping the Gospel. I wouldn’t want anyone to think that because you are going so far as to suggest that people pawn their jewelry and such, you are struggling to maintain a lifestyle and that this is why you keep opening up new franchises. (You know who you are. I know, because I know the guys who installed your system, and I know what they think of Christ as a result of seeing how you live versus how your church communities live.)

Memphis, where I live, is a town with nearly one church per person! It makes me sick to see churches, often of the same denomination, within a rock’s throw of each other. Some of these preachers could shut down and work at one of the franchises. But nooooo! Everybody has got to be the HPIC! Just greed masquerading as shepherding. Even Jesus delegated! My goodness!

Why do we put up with stuff in God’s name that we wouldn’t let a cop or a congressman do if he were in our own family?!?

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September 16, 2008 Posted by | Bishop Paul S. Morton, Brandon B. Porter, Christ, Christianity, Church Life, False Doctrine, False Teachers, God, Hypocrisy, Michael Freeman, Prosperity Gospel, Pulpit Pimps, Rant, Word Network, Word of Faith | 11 Comments

Pastor Peas

We have had, in this recent torrid election season, prime reasons why we should not vote for a person because of what faith they claim.

The Religious Right (I really think that, to them, the “RIGHT” is more than a compass point but a perspective. I don’t like it) hold so much sway in politics these days in terms of getting people elected and furthering certain agendas that now every public official has to have a personal pan pastor on his arm like a prom date in order to win, and put at ease, that sizeable body.

“He must be a good person! He parts his hair on the left side, he wears a blue suit and a red tie, and Jerry Falwell likes him!”

Maybe we ARE sheep!

John McCain, after losing his last presidential bid, was known to have cussed out that evangelical body. They didn’t offer him their ring to be kissed, and he felt they cost him.

So, this time, he was running around (like Jim Valvano after winning the NCAA champeenship looking for somebody to hug) trying to get what HE thought were powerful, influential pastors to use as cufflinks and flag pins.

Just to show how unaware McCain is, he chose two of the most theological off-base, Word of Faith, Prosperity purveyors out there!

Rod Parsley is one of the biggest names in the pulpit pimp stables. He raises money for TBN regularly, telling folk that, basically, sending money to TBN will activate the will, blessings, and power of God on their behalf. Basic “Give to Get.”

I saw this tactical shift of his a couple of years ago to issues of abortion and gay rights (two of my own sticking points) and I realized that he was aiming to do just what he has done; get aligned with this powerful constituency. He began writing patriotic books on winning back America and such, and to the untrained eye, he looked to be just as orthodox as Dobson or Stanley or the late Adrian Rogers. His doctrine, however, is still as foul as it ever was. McCain seemed to miss that. No. What made HIM jump ship was that Parsley made negative comments about Islam. That made him sever his ties. As if it is the responsibility of a “Christian” pastor to uphold the tenets — equally– of Christianity and Islam. Or any other faith, for that matter… I have friends who are Muslim, and I dare not water down the Truth of Christianity for the sake of harmony. I respect them, but do not have to believe what they believe, any more than they believe what I believe!

Then there’s John Hagee! This man is cut from the same cloth as the others — Copeland, Hagin, Creflo, Hinn– but he comes across simply as a “fire and brimstone Texas preacher.” What McCain didn’t know, or perhaps care to know, was that Hagee has said that the Jews came to Jesus to be the Messiah to them, and that Jesus “flatly refused!” WOW! He is known to be one of these guys who interprets the Bible with a newspaper. He predicts, with every new disaster, that that is a further sign of the Apocalypse, and that each new dictator on the scene was spoken of in Revelation. Never mind the huge pile of unfulfilled prophecies behind the curtain on the stage…

It is his belief (along with many other evangelicals) that the desire of God is for the current generation of Jews (were these people of Russian and Polish and German descent the SAME people spoken of in the Bible??? Just wondering) is going to suffer His wrath for the Jews who rejected Him two centuries ago. Hagee — and just about every other American Christian church — thinks that the Jews are to be herded back to Israel in order for the events in Revelation, Daniel, Thessalonians, and other parts of Scripture to happen. I believe it is called “Zionism.”

So, he is a “friend” of the Jews. He seems to make his living from that starting point. It is all he talks about. What he doesn’t say, though, is that these biblical events, in his understanding, mean that two thirds of the returning Jews are to be killed after all the Christians are “raptured” away, a la the “Left Behind” series of books, by Tim LaHaye.

Wonder if they would consider him a friend if they knew that…? Hagee, it seems, believes that the Jews can be saved without acknowledging Jesus as Messiah and Savior. Many Christians today believe this, it seems. This is another subject for another time. I am still studying on it.

He has also regularly appeared on the TBN telethons raising money to support a lie.

It would seem that McCain, who champions campaign finance reform and honest fundraising, would have stayed away from these two men just based on the fact that they have been involved in fleecing the weak in the most egregious type of fundraising there is!

Okay, then there is Rev. Jeremiah Wright.

There is an incendiary preacher here in Memphis, Bill Adkins, who preaches and conducts church in what appears to be the same way Wright did. Liberation Theology. They preach from an Afro-centric perspective rather than a Christo-centric one, it appears. They wear the dashikis and the kufis and lament the ills and injustices of black American life with a little bit of Jesus and the way of salvation and holiness sprinkled on the top.

Listen, to be honest, a lot of the emotion with which they speak, the mistreatment and alienation, echo in my spirit as well. I understand the idea of seeing America from the point of view of an abused step-child who loves the parent but calls him out on the realities of the relationship. But I don’t ever let that supersede my faith! In Christ, there is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free…!

The irony here is that Bill Adkins, the aforementioned pastor, used to be the associate pastor at my old church. He was there when I was a kid. He was over the vacation bible school program, and upon preaching the Gospel and explaining what salvation meant, I — a fourteen-year-old boy– stood up to be saved and baptized, and I made my sisters get up and come, too! In front of all those other kids! In other words, he led me to Christ, along with my family members. I looked up to him and sat under his teaching, but I don’t agree with some of the things he has said in his pulpit. Hmmm…

While a lot of what these guys preach have a secular truth to it, while in the speeches of MLK a lot of the same tones are touched, their theology can sometimes alienate rather than unify. While I may shout, “amen” to acknowledging the injustices, I have to be careful to remember that if I don’t forgive my brother, God said that He won’t forgive me! While I am an activist at heart, wanting to right the wrongs of The Man against mine, I must — if my faith is real — realize that God let’s nothing slide! He will get the revenge that I sinfully want to mete out.

But to be honest, my educated guess is that Obama, wanting to be in a position to do some good in the black Chicago community, wanting to be relevant to black folk who can sometimes be rough to folk who are not just like them, went to this church back then because it fit his criteria. This pastor had influence and charisma, and it was probably to Obama’s benefit to link himself to this inner-city black church. He probably wasn’t going to bible study on Wednesday night! He, as any other politician, was surely not sitting at church every Sunday!

The Mayor here is a member of my old church, and he was there maybe once every two months! 

It sounds opportunistic, yes, but I submit that all politicians are opportunists at heart. I have, over the years, seen dozens of people, white AND black, running for judge or mayor or congress or senate or the school board or sheriff or roach killer or night manager come to my church to beg for a vote only to leave right after they finish talking! 

Hillary didn’t need a pastor. Her church is Feminism, and they are their own gods. 🙂

If these candy dates were truly well-versed in the faith that they claim, they would NOT be in support of killing an unborn baby, or denying real help to those who can’t help, or sanctioning the wedding of two dudes, or racist policies, or teaching evolution, or  any other Democratic or Republican tenet that violates the way of God. Their Faith would inform and influence their decisions in a tangible, visible way. Both parties have Spiritual dealbreakers in their core principles. Jesus is neither Democrat nor Republican. Christians in the Bible pooled all the resources and doled them out as needed! (Hear that, bootstrappers?) But Jesus ain’t a Communist, either! I will vote, but I won’t vote based on who the Christian is. Otherwise, I’d vote for my pastor!

How can Christians be effective no matter which group is in control? That is the question.

My feeling is that we cannot look to any politician or party to be the governmental conduit through which our faith changes the world. These latest “pastor problems” highlight that fact.

 

May 28, 2008 Posted by | Abortion, Barack Obama, Benny Hinn, Christ, Christianity, Church Life, Current Events, Democrats, Elections, False Prophets, False Teachers, Hillary Clinton, Jesus, John Hagee, John McCain, Kenneth Copeland, Liberals, Prosperity Gospel, Pulpit Pimps, Religious Right, Republicans, TBN, Zionism | 4 Comments

The Rest of the Story

I said that when I got more time, I would write more on what happened when Diana was born. Seeing how things have been this last week, I know now that I’ll NEVER have any more time!

Kathy began having real contractions Wednesday night. By Thursday, they were coming steadily enough so that our friend, Megan who is trained as a labor and delivery nurse, took basically her whole day — Excuse me. Both babies just woke up yelling and crying from different rooms at the SAME time!!!— to walk Kathy through a nearby park in order to bring on the true labor Kathy wanted. (Our last birth was a c-section, and Kathy really wanted to have a conventional birth!) Megan homeschools her kids, one of whom was sick, and she forsook that all to spend hours helping my wife!

Thursday night/Friday morning at around three, She started to have strong contractions at from six or seven minutes apart to four or five. Even though I’m a night owl, going to sleep at around three or four every morning, I was really sleepy. Kathy was taking one of thee thousands of showers she had been taking all day to soothe her pain when I finally fell off to sleep. As soon as I did, she came into the room and said that she was ready to go. Wishful thinking made me stay in the bed.

“When I get dressed, I’m goin’ to tha hospital, whether you’re ready or not!” she said, rummaging through her drawers. It took her forty minutes to put some clothes on. It takes longer when you have to stop and pray to Jeessussss every four minutes…

“Oh,” I croaked, “You were serious?”

“Yeah! This is IT! The contractions have been four minutes apart for an hour.”

We got to the hospital at 4:45 AM. Megan, the angel, had met us at the house and followed us. My parents, who were going to keep Max for us, were waiting for us when we got there. They took him home with them shortly after Kathy was admitted.

Kathy was scheduled to have a c-section on Saturday, but she and her doctor wanted her to try to have her “the regular way.” Max was a c-section baby, and weighed in at nine pounds, six ounces! She was more than a week past the due date and the baby was only getting bigger. We felt now that the Lord had answered Kathy’s fervent prayer in the affirmative with all these labor pains and stuff.

Kathy’s friends, Heather, and Lisa, who took all those pictures, arrived at between 6 and 8 am. They both have families, and left them to stay with Kathy. Her mother came to town to stay with us for a week, and got to the hospital at around 9 am. We all thought that, at this rate, she would be having the baby by no later than twelve noon or one at the latest. HA!

I had a gig that night which Kathy had no problem with me making, and since it started at 10:30 that night, we both knew I would make it ok. HA!

Her contractions were coming steadily (every two or four minutes) for hours, and she took them like a champ until around 10 am or so when she asked for an epidural. This involves injecting an anesthetic through a catheter inserted into a canal in the doggone spine! And how is this better, I wonder…?

To make a long story long, Kathy endured the process of physical and mental stress (which was probably worse) until 7:30 pm. The doctors and she were trying to wait for her cervix to dilate to the point where Diana could pass naturally. “I don’t want to be gutted like a fish!” Kathy would repeatedly say, only partly in jest.

Just as with Max, it would never happen.

Through all of this, Heather and Lisa stayed! Hour upon hour of stress, tedium, pain, and varying opinions on what to do and they just called husbands, arranged for kids to be picked up, and stayed right there with her. Never had we experienced such friendship and dedication. Even after I left to work, (musicians don’t have workman’s compensation! No play, no pay! Kathy’s maternity pay is a little bit less than her regular pay, so I had to go get it!) Megan returned, and Lisa and Heather stayed into Saturday morning until I told Kathy to have them go home!

I am so blessed (Kathy, too…) to have people who love my wife so much. She is not from Memphis, and used to fret about not having ties here. This is an answer to that prayer, because she has friends now from all strata who love her like family!

Yes, they attend that church I rave about. (And Heather wants me to tell you that in spite of the name, she IS black! 🙂 )

It was obvious after all these hours that Diana was not going to push her way out. There was a lot of back and forth about what should happen, so the nurse — at Kathy’s request — cleared the room. Kathy, now crying,  called me back, and while I had a whole line prepared — excuse me, Diana just started to wail again — about how God knows better than we do what is best, and that this is His will, and that we have to get in line with that will… But she wasn’t crying about having to have another c-section. Suffice it to say that she was worried that her friends’ feelings would be hurt through all of this.

So, after much travail, much of which would be politically and socially improper for me to tell, Diana was pulled into this world at exactly eight o’clock looking just like her brother did, and suspiciously like a little Eskimo lady. (Kathy spent four years living in Alaska…) Actually, my grandfather had a white father and a Cherokee mother, so that is why they come out looking so U.N.

I spent an hour or so with them and left for my gig with my wife’s blessing. They started late waiting for me.

For the next two weeks in what is apparently a tradition in many churches (NOT the one I attended!), we will be receiving meals cooked by different women in the church. When this happened with Max, we were blown away! It is a wonderful thing to see the Body of Christ work in such fluid and effective fashion.

And just as we cannot do anything to warrant God’s Sacrifice and favor, we have not done anything to deserve being loved in so great a way by so many!

April 1, 2008 Posted by | Birth, Children, Christian Life, Christianity, Church Life, Family, Fatherhood, Kids, Life, Love, Marriage, Motherhood, Parenthood, Parenting, Pregnancy | 4 Comments

“Go, Tell it in the Suburbs!”

Last night, I was listening to black conservative radio host, Larry Elder, the author of “Stupid Black Men”, tell Hannity and Colmes that “this is not your grandfather’s America anymore,” and that blacks can have whatever they want through hard work. He then proceeded to buttress his point by mentioning Colin and Condoleezza, and Oprah. Anecdotal evidence.

 I found myself trying to figure out why he and guys like Ken Hamlin, Clarence Thomas, and the Re’m Jessie Lee Peterson irritate me so! Even though I myself possess many conservative values.

Why, if I agree that the black out-of-wedlock birthrate and absentee father rate is the root of many of our problems, do I find these guys so unpleasant? Why, if I agree that crime should be punished effectively, do they bother me so? Why, if I agree that personal responsibility is paramount, do they make me so angry?

What I came up with is this: These men freely spout — to whatever white (possibly racist) teevee talking head and radio yapper — the ills and sins of American blacks. But the trouble is that they leave NOTHING for white folk to do! They completely leave their “in” box empty! No “post-it notes”, no “to do” lists. Guys like Hannity regularly trot them out whenever they want to show America that racism is largely, like a musket, a bygone entity. And then they proceed — like they did last night — to run down a list of cases where democrats made racist statements, killing their own premise in the process!!! The Elders and the Petersons leave them feeling that the house has been painted — that the tumor has successfully been excised.

This does as much harm as does outright discrimination. Who would continue to run hard if he thinks the race is through? I have NO problem dealing with my folk when it is necessary, but in fairness, (as I’ve said before) there is a reason why there are so many of us in jail, in trouble, in menial labor, in poverty, out of school, out of a job, and out of the loop! We are NOT cursed, lazy, (My wife asked me, “Who is the lazy one? The slave, or the one who works the slave so he can sit and sip mint juleps?) or genetically inferior.

The problem will not be solved until we address the core issues and hand out the “work orders” to the proper parties! And if you don’t believe it from a black mouth (mine), take a few minutes and hear it from a white one:

This past Sunday, as part of my church’s Black History Month series, a sermon entitled, “Being White in America” was preached by Ben Parkinson, a white member of our leadership. It is, to say the least, groundbreaking and unprecedented! Please take the time to listen, and come back to let me know what you think!

http://www.fellowshipradio.org/?p=147  

He has said things — in public — that no black person could tell a white person. With biting, unvarnished truth and introspection. As I told him, “put these words in the mouth of Farrakhan or Sharpton, and Fox News (which I like) would be all over it!” He desires no pats on the back, and in fact, doesn’t see it as being controversial. He says he just told the truth.

As I have said before, we don’t play at my church! We are about the business of doing life the way God intended it to be!

Edit: Mr. Roach left this interesting and revealing comment;

We paid at the office, home boy. Have you seen a rich white person’s tax return lately! Wow, it’s a lot of dough going to welfare queens, midnight basketball, and paying for all those section 8 housing vouchers.

February 15, 2008 Posted by | Affirmative Action, Christianity, Church Life, Civil Rights, Clarence Thomas, Diversity, Larry Elder, Politics, Race, Racial Reconciliation, Racism, Sean Hannity | 24 Comments

A Mighty Rushing Wind Saved My Ceiling

This is about God, not the people involved.

There is a line from one of my favorite movies, “The Count of Monte Cristo”, that often pops into my head when I think of how the Lord always looks after me: “Once again, God sees you out the corner of His eye!”

We’ve had some crazy weather these last couple weeks. One day, it’ll be sunny and warm, and the next day will be sub-freezing. About a week and a half ago, the wind was blowing high, breaking branches, causing accidents, and blowing down a large portion of the six-foot wooden fence in my back yard.

I didn’t even know it until my neighbor, Keith, told Kathy when she was coming in from work three days ago. I haven’t been back there much since Max got here, and it is quite a bit more neglected than is the front yard.

I asked my friend and church member, Tim (who, by the way, is the reason I blog at all) to come and look at it when he got the chance. He is in the process of putting up a fence of his own at his house, and I figured he would know how to do more than just nail it back up, which is what I was going to do. He came today.

While I was looking at the fence, which Keith said he would take care of, Tim noticed water leaking from the soffit (haha! Soffit! I know this word because I was on track to becoming an architect before I got bit by the starving artist bug!), the overhanging part of the roof.

“Hey, Derrick, let’s take a look at this…” he said, pointing to all that water dripping from somewhere inside my attic on this sunny, cloudless day. This could NOT be good. I stiffened my upper lip and set my jaw for the financial disaster dripping like sulfuric acid from my roof, or attic.

“Is your water heater in your attic?” he asked.

“Yes,” I answered weakly, trying to hide the dread I was suddenly feeling. “What genius thought to do THAT?”

I mean, yeah, you save space, but there can’t be that much security in having forty gallons of boiling hot water two feet above your head!

Okay, Kathy and I own our little three-bedroom house. That is, the BANK owns it, and lets us live here as long as we pay the mortgage (Fixed-rate. Really low interest rate. That’s another whole story…). There is no way that any two other people who make as little as we do, and who are as deep in debt as we are, could live where and how we live! She is a tech-support/customer service rep for a cellphone company, and I play music “from time to time.” Yet we do it. We have two cars — one of which we bought new two years ago — and we have never missed a payment. This is what God does. Kathy has two loaves of bread, and I have  couple of fish, and God stretches it to an unbelievable degree! Plus we are almost the parents of two children! We have no business being as blessed as we are! It is amazing to watch how He, in Indiana Jonesian fashion, brings us through one near-miss after another. It is incredibly faith-building!

We had AHS appliance insurance, but I cancelled it after we paid a 500-some dollar yearly payment and our dishwasher began leaking and we called them and they came out (for a $50 DEDUCTIBLE!!!) and ran the washer through three rinse cycles and told me that the problem was soap suds from diswashing liquid and left!!! Heck, with my payment plus the deductible, I bought a dishwasher and a washing machine! All for the guy to tell me to use different soap! Insurance is a racket! But what can you do?

Anyway, Tim got out his drill, unscrewed the grate from the soffit, and found that the water was coming from a pipe in the attic, probably the runoff from the overflow pan. Me with no appliance insurance. My game of “Chicken” was about to come to a head! I was 911’ing the Lord as we took the death march into the house and up to the attic.

I tried to display some inner faith: “Whatever happens, the Lord will work it out. I won’t really worry…”

We get up to the attic, and sure enough, there is about an inch of water in the overflow pan. There is a stream of water running down the side of the water heater, and after some inspection, Tim sees that the cold water pipe on the top of the heater is squirting out a thin stream.

He turns off the line, removes the hose, and shows it to me. As we are loading into the car on the way to Home Depot, he says in that cool Texas drawl, “Man, the Lord shooore does look after YOU!” The hose looked to be moments from bursting and spewing water all over the attic!

“Yeah,” I said, “I couldn’t possibly be an atheist, as many times as He’s pulled me through!” The replacement pipe cost $4.89.

Had that windstorm not blown down my fence, and had my neighbor not just happened to see Kathy coming into the house, and had not Tim agreed to come and take a look at it, and had I not gone with him into the back yard (which I rarely do) and had he not been looking around and had he not noticed that leak, there is no telling what would have happened, and how much money it would have taken to fix it.

THAT is how God works through events and through people to work His magic. Yes, bad things often happen. People get hurt and they sometimes die. But because I have seen how He works, my faith (not my WORD of Faith!) is increased. Driving a new car inspires confidence, but nowhere near the confidence that God will see me through soundly to my destination. God always sees me out the corner of His eye.

February 3, 2008 Posted by | Christian Life, Christianity, Church Life, Faith, God, Jesus, Life | 4 Comments

“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.

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