PLEASE STOP WHITEWASHING CHRISTIANITY

By: Ernest Grant (Article Orginally Posted at iamernestgrant.com)

When the Academy of Motion Picture and Science announced early this year that only white actors and actresses were among those selected to be chosen for an academy award for the second year in a row, it ignited a firestorm.

It resulted in the resurgence of the social mediahashtag #OscarsSoWhite and raised a bevy of concerns about the lack of diversity in motion pictures.[1]

“Whitewashing” is the purposeful exclusion of ethnic minorities in mainstream leading roles, leaving them only to play supporting or villainous ones. It goes back as far as Elizabeth Taylor playing the role of Cleopatra in the 1960s, and sadly, over a half-century later, whites are still cast into minority roles.

It’s a shameful depiction and representation of people of color that exposes the underlying racial prejudice of Hollywood, and in the words of Dr. Michael Eric Dyson, it feeds into the perception that “black people just don’t quite measure up.”

It’s Crept into the Church as Well

Sadly, however, the practice of whitewashing has subtly crept into Christianity. Whitewashing Christianity occurs institutionally and structurally when the contributions of the African Diaspora to theology, ethics, and culture are largely ignored, and the influence of people groups of European descent are accentuated.

It demonstrates the implicit cultural and historical bias within conservative Evangelical communities and bolsters the notion that people of color will remain unequal to our white counterparts, regardless of our credentialing or accomplishment[2]

Maybe you are curious about the whitewashing of evangelicalism or are suspicious about its existence. If so, here are three areas where we see such whitewashing in the evangelical community.

1) Conservative Evangelicals Tend to be More Informed about European Participation in the History of Christianity than we are of African Involvement.

As one noted scholar stated so eloquently, the prominent distinguishing factor of African-Americans is the history of social, economic and political oppression that they have experienced based upon color discrimination.[3]

Such oppression has lead to systemic and institutional racism, violence, and discrimination, but it’s also contributed to the widespread ignorance of the African-Americas influence in this country.

It can be equally true within evangelical circles because many of my white brothers and sisters are largely ignorant of the Christian communities that thrived in Africa following Christianity’s inceptions.

North Africa

In North Africa, Christianity spread more broadly and more quickly than other parts of the Roman Empire, and as one scholar noted, it was through Africa that Christianity became the religion of the world.[4] It’s credited with nearly half of the most prominent church leaders in the first few centuries, and a fair number of them were fairly dark in complexion. The Gospel found one of its surest homes until it grew weaker because of internal doctrinal schisms and Islamic conquests sweeping the region.

Nubia

A little further south in Nubia, Christianity continued to grow rapidly in the region and archeologist discovered that his splendor was similar to Rome. The first non-Jewish Christian in the New Testament, The Ethiopian Eunuch, who came to faith in Acts 8, was a high-ranking member of Queen Candace’s court, represented the ancient Nubian civilization.

It continued to flourish into the 300s and 400s and became a predominately Christian nation, when it’s ruler, who practiced human sacrifices at the time, converted to Christianity in the 400s.

Nubians accepted Christianity without the sway of Roman influence and clung to it tenaciously despite organizational weakness and Islamic conquest in most of North Africa. It would eventually succumb, but it was a brilliant Christian civilization that remained largely forgotten until archeologist discovered it’s remarkable accomplishments in the second half of the 21st century.[5]

Abyssinia

Abyssinia, or Ethiopia, in East Africa, holds a very significant place in Christian history. Christianity became the religion of Ethiopia around the same time that it became the state religion of Rome. It accepted the same doctrines of North Africa while formally recognizing the Councils of Nicea (325 A.D.), Constantinople (381 A.D.), and Ephesus (431 A.D.). Ethiopia may have been the most open and ready nation in which Christianity has ever taken root. When Islam began to spread, it was Ethiopia that fought for the rights of oppressed Christians in foreign lands and it’s the first Sub-Sahara nation to accept Christianity.[6]

We cannot become a victim of European historiography that exclusively acknowledges its own cultural and historical contributions, then assumes that the resulting ethnocentric position represents the only history worth engaging. Such philosophy only reinforces the false assumption that our history is substandard to other cultures in general, but to the dominant culture in particular.

2) Whitewashing has Crept into the Ivory Towers of Many Conservative Evangelical Seminary

Minority students in conservative evangelical seminaries have unwittingly experienced the effects of this phenomenon, as well. While being educated in some of our schools, minorities will study the Apostolic Fathers, Ante-Nicene Writers, The Medieval Church, Scholasticism, the Reformation, the Enlightenment Church, Modern & Post-Modern Churches, but have little to no working knowledge of African-American history, especially key periods and social movements in African-American Religious History.

They have no working knowledge of the history of Christianity in Africa (i.e. North Africa, Nubia, Abyssinia, etc.), the African-American Church, the Reconstruction period, The Great Migration, the Civil Rights Movement, the rise of Black Nationalism, nor have they read any books by contemporary African-American authors. Because of this many graduates and find themselves largely unequipped to minister in minority context because they lack a socio-historical lens to pastor people of color.

What’s even more unnerving is the growing number of African-Americans, especially in Reformed circles, who will not listen to sermons by black pastors unless they’ve received a stamp of approval from an evangelical Christian leader, blogged for TGC, are a part of Acts29 or the Southern Baptist Conference, or have preached in the reformed conference circuit. It’s saddening.

3) Whitewashing Implies that Being a Christian Means Assimilating into the Dominant Culture.

At times, many White Americans assume that “being Christian” means assuming into the values and norms of the majority context, and some of the same members object when ethnic minorities seek to learn more about their heritage and focus much of their effort on the betterment of their own people.

As lovers of Jesus who are unified by his atoning work, we cannot define unity in terms that suppress rather than welcomes brothers and sisters discovering our cultural heritage.  As Christians, when we recognize the credence of other ethnicities and the value of their distinctive customs, lifestyles, dress, food preference, and particularly their economic and political beliefs it causes us to appreciate God using them as agents of gospel witnesses in their communities.

At times when minorities assimilate into the dominant culture and dismiss their cultural heritage, it leaves them unable to culturally connect and find solidarity with marginalized communities.

Takeaway

There’s much that we can talk about regarding this subject. Instead of whitewashing, let’s give credence to the contributions of minority cultures to Christianity and western civilization as a whole, and reverse the effects of whitewashing by affirming Paul’s great call for racial, social, gender, and cultural equality (Gal. 3:28) in Christ Jesus.

Talk to you soon.

Grace and peace.

[1]HTTP://WWW.LATIMES.COM/ENTERTAINMENT/LA-ET-OSCARS-SO-WHITE-REACTION-HTMLSTORY.HTML

[2][3] LANE, E. B. (1997). THE AFRICAN AMERICAN CHRISTIAN MAN: RECLAIMING THE VILLAGE. DALLAS: BLACK FAMILY PRESS, 156.

[3] IBN, 24

[4] USRY, G., & KEENER, C. S. (1996). BLACK MAN’S RELIGION: CAN CHRISTIANITY BE AFROCENTRIC? DOWNERS GROVE, IL: INTERVARSITY PRESS, 33

[5] Davidson, Basil. Africa in History: Themes and Outlines. New York: Collier, 1991. 102

[6] Hansberry, W. L., & Harris, J. E. (1974). Pillars in Ethiopian history. Washington: Howard University Press.


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 Ernest Grant, II is an inner city missionary with a heart for the urban context. He’s served as the Connections Pastor at Epiphany Fellowship of Camden for the past 5 years, and his role focuses on community outreach, civic engagement, the assimilation of new converts & disenfranchised Christians into the life and mission of the church, and discovering new & innovative ways to reach people in his city for Jesus. He graduated with a degree in Earth Science from Kean University and worked at a large Environmental Investigation/Remediation firm before completing his Master’s at Reformed Theological Seminary (D.C). He’s currently pursuing his Doctorate of Education in Organizational Leadership at Richard Stockton University and is  privileged to be married to the love of his life, Sarah. The two have a beautiful baby girl named Amaela Folasade.

Black Church Figures You Should Know - Nat Turner

Why the series?

Historical Theology and Church History in the African American context is rarely celebrated. That is a very sad occasion. There is much we can learn from the rich tradition of the African American church. When we do, it affirms the great doctrine that all men are created in the Image of God and it kills the great sin of intellectual racism.

What about the series?

A few things must be noted about our list. First and foremost, please be aware that appearances on the list do not automatically confirm theological content and biblical orthodoxy. Please consider each figure in light on proper biblical interpretation and refer to our statement of beliefs when in doubt. Secondly, this list is nowhere near being exhaustive in scope or content. We are barely scratching the surface and this is merely the tip of the iceberg. We considered appearances on the list by surveying several avid supporters for their considerations based upon the figures of significant impact, rich content, and historical significance.

Nathaniel “Nat” Turner

Nathaniel “Nat” Turner was born on October 2, 1800 as a slave in Southampton County, Virginia.  His mother was named Nancy, was a native African.  His owner, Benjamin Turner, allowed Nat to be instructed in reading, writing, and religion.  Early on, he devoted much of his time reading the Bible, praying, and fasting.  It is said that Nat had the ability to describe things that happened before his birth.  Some ventured to say that he “surely would become a prophet” based on his ability to see signs.

By the early 1820s, Nat had worked on a number of plantations.  In 1821, he ran from his current owner Samuel Turner’s (brother of Benjamin Turner) plantation.  It was while in hiding that Nat believed he received a sign from God telling him that he was to lead his people from bondage.  So he returned to the plantation and began to preach to the slaves who began calling him “the Prophet”.

In February of 1831, Nat Turner received another sign, in the form of a solar eclipse, to signify to him that the time for revolt was imminent.  He spent months developing his plan and gathering recruits.  On August 21, 1831, Turner and seven other slaves began the only effective, sustained slave rebellion in U.S. history.  The Nat Turner revolt resulted in a gathering of nearly 40-50 slaves securing arms and horses to murder about 55 white men and the spread of terror across the South.  Although the revolt caused stricter legislation prohibiting the education, movement, and assembly of slaves up until the Civil war in 1861, it also eradicated the myth that slaves were either content being slaves or were too submissive to mount an armed revolt. 

Nat turner was eventually found and hanged in Jerusalem (now Courtland), VA on November 11, 1831.  It is believed that for many years subsequent to Turner’s death, Black churches throughout the country referred to the name Jerusalem not only from the bible but also covertly to the place of Nat Turner’s execution.  

For more information, visit:

A Rebellion to Remember: The Legacy of Nat Turner

History.com – Nat Turner

 

 

Getting Specific: Engaging {Black} Hebrew Israelites Pt. 1

By: Cam Triggs

Here is an example of {Black} Hebrew Israelites presumably debating a Christian. They are debating the extent of the law in a person's life. 

The "apparent" nail in the coffin is the quoting of Romans 3:31 which states:

"Do we then overthrow the law by this faith? By no means! On the contrary, we uphold the law." - Romans 3:31 (ESV)

From this verse, it would appear that the ceremonial laws of the Old Covenant are still binding on believers. HOWEVER, if you read the context of Romans 3, a solid biblical answer would be provided:

"Then what becomes of our boasting? It is excluded. By what kind of law? By a law of works? No, but by the law of faith. For we hold that one is justified by faith apart from works of the law. Or is God the God of Jews only? Is he not the God of Gentiles also? Yes, of Gentiles also, since God is one-who  will justify the circumcised by faith and the uncircumcised through faith." - Romans 3:27-30 (ESV)
 

So what is the law mentioned in verse 31? The law of works? The law of Moses? NO! The law of faith! The law of faith in Christ (Romans 10:4). We love according to justification by faith alone but a faith that is never alone.  In other words, faith produces good works. Good works will never produce justification. In the same letter, Paul states:

"But now we are released from the law, having died to that which held us captive, so that we serve in the new way of the Spirit and not in the old way of the written code." - Romans 7:6 (ESV)

How do we keep this law? Let Paul speak for himself again in Romans 13:

"Owe no one anything, except to love each other, for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law. For the commandments, 'You shall not commit adultery, You shall not murder, You shall not steal, You shall not covet,' and any other commandment, are summed up in this word: 'You shall love your neighbor as yourself.' Love does no wrong to a neighbor; herefore love is the fulfilling of the law."- Romans 13:8-10 (ESV)

This new moral code is exemplified in Romans 12 and additional handling of laws is expressed in Romans 14.

And by the way, how did keeping the law of Moses work for Israelites? Again, in the SAME letter Paul writes in Romans 9:

"What shall we say, then? That Gentiles who did not pursue righteousness have attained it, that is, a righteousness that is by faith; but that Israel who pursued a law that would lead to righteousness did not succeed in reaching that law. Why? Because they did not pursue it by faith, but as if it were based on works. They have stumbled over the stumbling stone." - Romans 9:30-32 (ESV)

Lessons learned here:

  1. Stick with YOUR Bible! Pull it up. Read four verses above and four verses after to establish grammatical and canonical context. Turn to additional passages within the book. Remember when dealing with cults, they often borrow and pervert Christian truth. That's the bad news. Good news? We have home field advantage; the Bible. Let's practice at home so we may put up a good fight.
  2. Develop a biblical theology that can answer weightier questions of hermeneutics. Study good biblical theologies that present the redemptive story of God.
  3. Ask the Holy Spirit to give you wisdom and discernment on how to engage those who disagree. There is great wisdom needed as to when to answer a person according to their responses or giving no response at all.


Recommended Reading:
40 Questions about Interpreting the Bible by Robert Plummer

40 Questions about Christians and Biblical Law by Thomas Schreiner

 

Also, check out Jude 3's Interview on Hebrew Israelites:


Cam Triggs loves Jesus. God saved Cam from wrath, sin, death, and Satan in 2005. He began studies at University of Central Florida as a Religious Studies major & continued his education at Reformed Theological Seminary where he earned a Masters of Arts in Theological Studies. During his time at RTS, Cam was privileged to study under the apologist John Frame. In the future,  he looks forward to further study in the areas of philosophy, theology, and African American studies. He now enjoys loving God & loving students at Shiloh Church. More importantly, he is married to his beautiful best friend Tymara Triggs and the proud father of Cameron Triggs II. Stay connected with him atcamtriggs.com

WHO ARE THE HEBREW ISRAELITES AND WHAT DO THEY BELIEVE?

By: Vocab Malone of Urban Theologian Radio

Hebrew Israelite groups gather and proselytize in metropolitan areas. This group is usually made up of black and brown Americans who claim to be the true Israelites and that modern day Jews are impostors. Their presence in America has increased over the past decade. They have stepped up their efforts and are growing - both online and on the streets. This is a current cultural issue, especially in the urban community.

If you live in a major city and haven’t met a Hebrew Israelite yet, give it time – you will. Whether clad in camo or purple and gold, the Hebrew Israelites go where you go. Yelling, swearing, debating, pointing, and loudly pontificating; they go hard. They usually pick a favorite spot and post up every Saturday. In Phoenix, I’ve seen them at the light rail station, the State Fair, Super Bowl XLIX, Arizona State University and the Occupy Phoenix protests. They’ve even been known to storm in churches and disrupt services. 

Some think this group is obscure and irrelevant. Amar’e Stoudemire disagrees. The former Phoenix Sun and NBA star identifies as a Hebrew Israelite. When SB1070 (a controversial immigration bill) was the hot topic in Arizona, Stoudemire tweeted out his disagreement with the legislation. The reason? The “Latin community” is part of “the 12 tribes of Israel,” which is, “one nation under Yah.” Stoudemire is an executive producer of “Village of Peace”, a documentary about Chicago-based Hebrew Israelites moving to Israel in the 60’s. He’s applied for Israeli citizenship and is part owner of an Israeli basketball team. I could go on: St. Louis rapper Chingy of “Right Thurr” fame and Antoine Dodson of “Bed Intruder” fame both came out as Hebrew Israelites. Boyz II Men crooners Shawn Stockman and Wayna Morris claim this faith. Whitney Houston visited a Hebrew Israelite leader when she went to Israel. Hebrew Israelite influence outweighs their numbers.

If you run into a Hebrew Israelite, you’d be wise to know what they believe. Even though they often yell and curse, knowing something about their ideology can assist you in having a more productive dialogue.

10 Hebrew Israelite Beliefs

  1. Hebrew Israelites believe those whose ancestors were put in bondage during the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade are the true descendants of Biblical Israel.
  2. Hebrew Israelites believe modern day Israelites and Europeanized Jews are impostors and not the real descendants of true Israel.
  3. Hebrew Israelites usually hold the King James Version of the Bible as authoritative. Some only hold to the Old Testament. Most hold to the Apocrypha as well.
  4. Hebrew Israelites believe the “time of the Gentiles” means “the time of the white Europeans”, whom they refer to as Edomites or Esau. They believe this time is almost over; America and its allies will soon be judged.
  5. Hebrew Israelites believe righteousness is achieved by law keeping. Strict Sabbath-keeping, dietary restrictions and a certain physical appearance is important (e.g., fringes and beards are good).
  6. Hebrew Israelites believe Jesus Christ (although they use a different name - “Yahshuah” - or some other name) was a black man.
  7. Many (not all) Hebrew Israelites believe “Edomites” (white people) can’t be saved. They are destined to be killed or slaves for Hebrew Israelites after the Messiah returns. Others believe “Gentiles” (non-Hebrew Israelites) can be grafted into the Kingdom if they keep the law and are under the authority of a Hebrew Israelite.
  8. Hebrew Israelites believe both heaven and hell are conditions – mere “states of mind”. Neither are viewed as metaphysical realities as they are in orthodox Christianity.
  9. Hebrew Israelites are usually part of the Sacred Name movement: they believe you must refer to God as “Yah” (or some other name). Their preference for God’s name usually depends on their individual sect (which they call “camp”).
  10. Hebrew Israelites believe by spreading their message they are gathering the scattered Israelites who do not yet know their true ancestry and heritage. In essence, their mission is to build a nation.

Five Common Practices/Characteristics

  1. On the street, Hebrew Israelites tend to be boisterous, belligerent and bold. They blurt, blare and bellow. If you engage a member on the street, be prepared for a noisy encounter. They often enjoy shouting obscenities at pedestrians and onlookers, especially those whom they deem to be morally repugnant (e.g., women wearing pants, black-and-white couples, etc.).
  2. Hebrew Israelites craft their own signage. Common images include politicians with devil horns, “white Jesus” portrayals, images of slavery (men with scarred backs, slave ship diagrams, etc.) and the all-important 12 Tribes of Israel genealogy chart. For example, the Tribe of Judah is said to be the ancestors of black Americans, Isaachar for Mexicans and Gad for Native Americans.
  3. Hebrew Israelites travel in groups. I’ve seen anywhere from three to a dozen congregate.
  4. Hebrew Israelites members love to carry tattered old Bibles. Their messages include heavy doses of Scripture. Usually, there is a primary speaker and then a Scripture reader. The speaker will shout a verse to the reader - “Give me that Deuteronomy 28!” – and then the reader yells it out – loudly.
  5. Most Hebrew Israelites will engage you – to a certain extent. If they view you as “having a demon” (a common accusation they make against opponents), they act dismissive and aggressive. If they see you as interested (but not too “talky”), they love the chance to lecture and even “cross-examine” you (“What does ADAM mean?” “What does Judah mean?”).

If you are a Christian, you should engage Hebrew Israelites when you see them. Why? They will benefit from well-informed brothers and sisters in Christ dropping knowledge. If you call yourself a Christian but don’t know your stuff, study up and come back – they eat the biblically ignorant alive!

Remember, it’s not just knowledge they need; the Hebrew Israelites need to see authentic love, joy, peace, kindness, goodness, gentleness, faithfulness, self-control and patience. If you are going to converse with them, ask the Lord for a double-dose of the last one – patience.

If you know the Bible well and are quick on your feet, they may show some extra respect to you, but then again, they may become more irritated than usual – it all depends on the makeup of the group and the nature of the crowd. As you can imagine, engaging a Hebrew Israelite in this environment can be intimidating.

My main goal in this piece was to give the reader the basics about the Hebrew Israelites. It is not intended to be an all-out rebuttal; I’m writing more in the vein of “heads up, coming at you.” In the future, I’d love to tackle some of the truth claims Hebrew Israelite adherents make.

For more information about Black Hebrew Israelites, check out Vocab's interview with the Jude 3 Project below:


Vocab Malone is a Christian hip hop artist and slam poet as well as Pastor of Teaching and Outreach at Roosevelt Community Church. He obtained a Master’s Degree from Phoenix Seminary. Vocab is currently enrolled at Talbot School of Theology, working on a doctorate of ministry under philosophers Garrett DeWeese and JP Moreland. Vocab loves to geek out with his wife, Nicole. Together, they have four children who have been adopted.

Block Apologetics 101

By: Ernest Grant, II (Originally posted on www.iamernestgrant.com)

After waking up in the middle of the night to the signature high-pitched cries of my sweet daughter, I rolled out of bed to warm a bottle of milk and reached for my iPhone.  When my blurry sight cleared, I saw that I received a text message from a pastor at my church; it was a link to a recent interview by the hip-hop and social media phenom Kevin Gates.

His interviews always provide cultural insight. With over a million people following his Instagram account, he has a cult-like following that adhere to his words and rhymes like he’s a modern hip-hop prophet. So, after putting the baby to sleep, I popped in my headphones and listened to the controversial Baton Rogue rapper open up about his marriage, new album, and belief in God.

He was very upfront about his beliefs. It was a combination of Islamic and Christian thought laced with rawness and profanity. He believed that each religion served the same God and could be reduced to three principles: love God, love your neighbor, and love everyone around you. Because of his worldview, it wouldn’t be uncommon for him to pull the tour bus over to pray to the east, get religious tattoos, or be seen reading the Bible.

Before falling into an exhaustion-induced coma, I thought about how Gates’ philosophy of religion was not much different from the people that we encounter everyday in the inner city. He confirmed what inner-city missionaries have long known–many people in the urban context have complex, ever-evolving pluralistic religious worldviews. They combine different, often contradictory, spiritual elements and blend religious practices to form a personal pseudo-religion that suits their lifestyles and passions. It’s urban syncretism in its purest sense.

I probably shouldn’t be, but I’m always surprised by the number and variety of worldviews masquerading as truth, especially in our inner cities. So how is the Christian to engage the multiplicity of religious viewpoints? How do I combat heresy in a way that conveys God’s truth in a faithful manner? The answer is simple, but not easy. Be a block apologist! Drink deeply from the Scriptures, live dependently upon the Spirit, and contend for the faith with coherent responses to skeptics.

Here’s a crash course in what I like to call “Block Apologetics 101.”

Apologetics is “the art of explaining the faith in such a way as to make a reasoned defense against its detractors.” [1] It’s was originally used as a speech of defense in a courtroom as part of the judicial system, and a classic example of this is Paul’s verbal sparring match in the Areopagus (Acts 17). He observed, listened, reasoned, and disputed pluralistic claims of the philosophers.

With this in mind, I want to give you 3 helpful tidbits about being a Block Apologist in your context.

1) Develop a Robust Foundation

This may sound rudimentary, but it’s essential. Relieve yourself of the pressure to know everything about all of the convoluted worldviews in the inner city. You should definitely know about competing religious views, but you can accumulate your knowledge progressively. That’s one of the biggest pressures we face. Know the Gospel cold! Nail down key doctrines like the Trinity, deity of Christ, and defending the authority of Scripture, specifically the accurate transmission and translation of the Bible. This is your sure foundation! (Acts 18:28, Eph 2:20) Memorize some scriptures location and have a quick reference key in your bible with a list of go to verses. This will aid you in your engagement.

2) Don’t Be Afraid to “Catch an ‘L’”

Few things are more humbling than “catching an ‘L.’” You’re not always going to have the answer to obscure bible questions, and sometimes you’ll get tripped up while evangelizing. I was evangelizing once and a young lady flipped me like a pancake when I explained the Trinity. It was embarrassing, but it turned out to be one of the most fruitful experiences of my spiritual life. The Lord used the event to spark fervor for the study of the Scriptures. So, when you’re on the block and get stumped by some confusing line of reasoning, simply tell the person you want to do more research, grab their contact information, and reach out to them once you’ve studied more. God uses little experiences like this to build relational bridges and sanctify us.

3) Earnestly Desire the Salvation of the People You Engage

Finally, when I hit the block, I keep in mind that God has sent me as his witness. I’m not out there to win debates or be a theological bully. I’m there to display the excellence of Christ in my witness and to invite people into a relationship with Him. Every time I get on the street I ask God to help me earnestly desire the salvation of people. I believe that many of the people that He is drawing near to Himself are in those streets, and I want them to know the power of the atoning work of my Lord! I always pray through 2 Thessalonians. 3:1 “Finally, brothers, pray for us, that the word of the Lord may speed ahead and be honored.” I want the Word of God to be honored and I’m praying that he does the work before I hit the block.

What are some helpful ways you’ve sought to share Christ in your city?

Feel free to leave your thoughts in the section below.

Grace and peace!

 

[1] Manser, M. H. (2009). Dictionary of Bible Themes: The Accessible and Comprehensive Tool for Topical Studies. London: Martin Manser.


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 Ernest Grant, II is an inner city missionary with a heart for the urban context. He’s served as the Connections Pastor at Epiphany Fellowship of Camden for the past 5 years, and his role focuses on community outreach, civic engagement, the assimilation of new converts & disenfranchised Christians into the life and mission of the church, and discovering new & innovative ways to reach people in his city for Jesus. He graduated with a degree in Earth Science from Kean University and worked at a large Environmental Investigation/Remediation firm before completing his Master’s at Reformed Theological Seminary (D.C). He’s currently pursuing his Doctorate of Education in Organizational Leadership at Richard Stockton University and is  privileged to be married to the love of his life, Sarah. The two have a beautiful baby girl named Amaela Folasade.

Urban and Black ARE NOT Synonymous

By: Lisa Fields

As I scroll through my social media timelines, I am constantly struck by the use of the word “urban” in the idea of black apologetic ministry. While urban is usually synonymous with major metropolitan cities, it seems to be taking on another meaning in the minds of many. Now instead of thinking of urban as metropolitan cities, it now seems to be synonymous with blacks in the inner city. This redefinition of urban seems to have infiltrated the minds of many evangelicals and has limited their scope in the area of apologetics. Now in the minds of some, urban apologetics is synonymous with black apologetics in the context of the inner city. As a person who has devoted my life to helping black people know what they believe and why they believe it, many people assume that my focus is limited to their idea of urban. That is not the case. It is of the utmost importance that we understand that urban and black aren’t synonymous.

The black church not only has a diversity of thought, but it also has diversity in its socioeconomic status. While many black churches are located in the inner city, many are not populated with those that have the same struggles as those in the inner city. Several black churches located in the inner city are populated with the black middle class. In the book Preaching to the Black Middle Class, Dr. Marvin McMickle explained, “The people inside and outside the black churches of inner city America may look like each other, but in terms of values, vocabulary, world-view, and a vision for the future, the socioeconomic factors that divide them are far more significant than the single racial identification that links them together.”[1] In other words, while our skin color may unite us, our experiences divide us.

The issues that plague the inner city are not always the same issues that plague the black middle class. Therefore, painting with a broad brush is very dangerous. Hence, we must have a holistic approach to apologetic ministry tailored to all black communities.  To effectively engage all black communities, I believe that there are three essential keys:

1.       Don’t assume.

Assumptions are deadly things. Assumptions allow our presuppositions to dictate our approach. Not every black person is wrestling with whether or not Christianity is the white man’s religion. Neither are they troubled by the racist history of evangelicalism. Many are more concerned with the problem of evil, authority of scripture, exclusivity of salvation, the doctrine of hell, etc.

2.       Listen.

Many times we try to answer questions people are not even asking. Remember we are all are complex. Many times we fall into the trap of viewing people through the lenses of statistics and media depictions and fail to actually listen and get to know them. I have discovered that often people’s issues with the Christian faith are related to deeper emotional experiences that we have not dealt with.

3.       Acknowledge.

Sometimes, we are too defensive when it comes to objections to our faith. It is important that we acknowledge that the questions and challenges that people have are valid.

If we approach every situation without assuming, listening intently, and making sure to acknowledge; we will be more effective at defending the faith. In order to effectively engage Black culture, we must always remember that there are subcultures within the community. Furthermore, to successfully contend for the faith, we must acknowledge the diversity within races in the faith.

 

[1] McMickle, Marvin Andrew. Preaching to the Black Middle Class: Words of Challenge, Words of Hope. Judson Press, 2000., 2


Lisa Fields graduated from the University of North Florida  with a Bachelor of Science in Communications and Religious Studies and Liberty University with a Master of Divinity with a focus in Theology. She has spoken at evangelism, apologetic, and biblical literacy events at various universities and churches and is also the founder and President of the Jude 3 Project.

Black Church Figures You Should Know - Howard Thurman

Why the series?

Historical Theology and Church History in the African American context is rarely celebrated. That is a very sad occasion. There is much we can learn from the rich tradition of the African American church. When we do, it affirms the great doctrine that all men are created in the Image of God and it kills the great sin of intellectual racism.

What about the series?

A few things must be noted about our list. First and foremost, please be aware that appearances on the list do not automatically confirm theological content and biblical orthodoxy. Please consider each figure in light on proper biblical interpretation and refer to our statement of beliefs when in doubt. Secondly, this list is nowhere near being exhaustive in scope or content. We are barely scratching the surface and this is merely the tip of the iceberg. We considered appearances on the list by surveying several avid supporters for their considerations based upon the figures of significant impact, rich content, and historical significance.

Howard Thurman (1899-1981)

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Howard Thurman is a native of Daytona Beach, Florida, born on November 18, 1899. Among being known as a Baptist preacher, theologian, and educator, Thurman is noted for being the first African American dean of a predominantly white university and the founder of the first interracial interfaith congregation in the United States. Born the grandson of former slaves, it was instilled to Thurman the importance of gaining the best education possible. It was his grandmother who also nurtured his ability to critically read and understand the Bible. Once he reached the eighth grade, Thurman worked in a dry-cleaning business while attending school. He was the first black child to receive an eighth grade certificate from Daytona’s public school system. After the eighth grade, he was sent off to Jacksonville to attend what was the nearest high school that blacks were allowed to attend, Florida Baptist Academy. Subsequently, he graduated and proceeded to receive his bachelor’s degree in economics from Morehouse College in 1923.

After receiving a Bachelor’s of Divinity degree from Rochester Theological Seminary in 1926, he served as pastor at Mt. Zion Baptist Church in Oberlin, Ohio, while pursuing a graduate degree in theology at Oberlin College. In January of 1929, Thurman resigned as pastor and began graduate studies at Haverford College under the leadership of Quaker theologian Rufus M. Jones. It was there that he developed a burden to not only preach but to also develop disciples.

In the fall of 1929, Howard Thurman became a professor at Morehouse College. In 1932 he became the dean of Rankin Chapel at Howard University. After meeting with Mohandas Gandhi in 1934, Thurman set himself on a path towards nonviolent protests against segregation. In addition to founding the Church for the Fellowship of All Peoples, Thurman also became a voice of inspiration for students committed to social justice and participation in the civil rights movement, including Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Dying in 1981, Howard Thurman’s teachings and influence can still be heard today through the many books he wrote and monumental leaders he taught.

For more information visit:

BU.edu – Who Was Howard Thurman?

American National Biography – Howard Thurman

PBS.Org: This Far by Faith

Black Church Figures You Should Know - Samuel Cornish

Why the series?

Historical Theology and Church History in the African American context is rarely celebrated. That is a very sad occasion. There is much we can learn from the rich tradition of the African American church. When we do, it affirms the great doctrine that all men are created in the Image of God and it kills the great sin of intellectual racism.

What about the series?

A few things must be noted about our list. First and foremost, please be aware that appearances on the list do not automatically confirm theological content and biblical orthodoxy. Please consider each figure in light on proper biblical interpretation and refer to our statement of beliefs when in doubt. Secondly, this list is nowhere near being exhaustive in scope or content. We are barely scratching the surface and this is merely the tip of the iceberg. We considered appearances on the list by surveying several avid supporters for their considerations based upon the figures of significant impact, rich content, and historical significance.

Samuel Cornish

Samuel Cornish may not be a frontrunner of familiarity concerning black history but he is definitely noteworthy nonetheless.  Cornish along with John B. Russworn founded the first black newspaper in the United States: Freedom's Journal.

Samuel Cornish was born of free parents in Sussex County, Delaware in 1795. He was then raised in Philadelphia where he graduated from the Free African school. Shortly after, he began training to become a Presbyterian minister under the leadership of John Gloucester. In 1822, Cornish was ordained and subsequently organized the first black Presbyterian Church in New York, the New Demeter Street Presbyterian Church.

In addition to being a pastor, Cornish also became a journalist.  It was the goal of Cornish and John Russwurm to create a medium to allow blacks to "plead our own cause." Out of that motivation, the Freedom's Journal was birthed on March 16, 1827.  The newspaper was circulated througout 11 states and there were even issues in Canada, Europe, and Hati.

Cornish continued to be an advocate for African Americans as he was also an abolishionist, a leader at the New York African Free School promoting the need for parents to send their children to school and he also served as an editor for various publications across the country whose goal was to promote the welfare of blacks in America. Cornish died in Brooklyn on November 6, 1858.

For more information visit:

Blackpast.org: Samuel Cornish(http://www.blackpast.org/aah/cornish-samuel-eli-1795-1858)

NYHistory.org: Samuel Cornish (https://www.nyhistory.org/web/africanfreeschool/bios/samuel-cornish.html)

PBS - Freedom's Journal(http://www.pbs.org/blackpress/news_bios/newbios/nwsppr/freedom/freedom.html)


Black Church Figures You Should Know - Dr. Gardner C. Taylor

Why the series?

Historical Theology and Church History in the African American context is rarely celebrated. That is a very sad occasion. There is much we can learn from the rich tradition of the African American church. When we do, it affirms the great doctrine that all men are created in the Image of God and it kills the great sin of intellectual racism.

What about the series?

A few things must be noted about our list. First and foremost, please be aware that appearances on the list do not automatically confirm theological content and biblical orthodoxy. Please consider each figure in light on proper biblical interpretation and refer to our statement of beliefs when in doubt. Secondly, this list is nowhere near being exhaustive in scope or content. We are barely scratching the surface and this is merely the tip of the iceberg. We considered appearances on the list by surveying several avid supporters for their considerations based upon the figures of significant impact, rich content, and historical significance.

Dr. Gardner C. Taylor - The Dean of American Preachers

The Rev. Gardner Calvin Taylor, celebrated preacher, scholar, and former pastor of The Concord Baptist Church of Christ in Brooklyn, NY was born to Washington Monroe Taylor and Selina Taylor in Baton Rouge, LA on June 18, 1918. In his early years he was baptized into the fellowship of the church where his father served as pastor, Mount Zion Baptist Church, where years later he also served as pastor.

After finishing at Leland College in 1937, Dr. Taylor earned his bachelor of Divinity degree at the Oberlin School of Theology. In addition, he was awarded numerous honorary doctorate degrees throughout his ministry. Dr. Taylor was a member of The Boule', a 33rd Degree Mason and member of Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity, Incorporated.

In 1948 Dr., Taylor was called to pastor The Concord Baptist Church, one of the most influential Christian churches in America. During this time, notoriety spread as he preached nationally and internationally, lectured at numerous seminaries, and served as president of Progressive National Baptist Convention. Dr. Taylor lectured at numerous seminaries, and served at Concord Baptist Church until in retirement in 1990.

Known as "The Dean of American preachers," he was a mentor and close friend to Martin Luther King, Jr. and was a prominent figure in the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960's. He preached the sermon for President William Jefferson Clinton in 1993 and in 2000 was awarded the nation's highest civilian honor by President Clinton, the Presidential Medal of Freedom. 

Over 2000 of Dr. Taylor's sermons are archived at the Robert W. Woodruff Library in Atlanta, GA and many can read in his collection of sermons, The Words of Gardner Taylor: 50 years of timeless treasures. He quietly transitioned into eternity on Resurrection Sunday, April 5th 2015 at Duke University Medical center in Durham, NC at the age of 96. (Bio copied from Obituary)

For more information visit:

The Washington Post, April 5, 2015:  Civil rights leader, friend of MLK and iconic preacher Gardner C. Taylor has died.

The New York Times, Dec. 30, 2011:  A Lion of the Pulpit, Aging Now, Has a Message for New Generations.

Religion and Ethics Newsweekly, Aug. 18, 2006: Reverend Gardner C. Taylor Extended Interview

From UrbanFaith.com, June 18, 2009: The Pulpit King.

Check out a lecture by Dr. Taylor:

3 Reasons Why We Do Apologetics

BY: JOSEPH TORRES

If we love Jesus and take what he said seriously we’ll listen to his spokesmen, the apostles. And the passion of the apostles was twofold. First, they wanted Christians to know the riches of God’s grace.  Grasping the gospel was of “first importance” (1 Cor. 15). Second, they wanted Christians fueled by the grace of the gospel to go out and tell people about it.  King Jesus, welding his unique authority as the risen and rightful ruler of creation, commanded his people to spread out and fill the earth with disciples (Matt. 28:18-20). Jude 3 urges us to contend for the once-all-all delivered faith. Paul modeled for us what it looks like to tear down strongholds and every lofty opinion raised up in opposition to God (2 Cor. 10:4-5). And lastly, Peter provided God’s kingdom people with the directive to always be ready to give an account for the hope they have within (1 Pet. 3:15).

Taking these words seriously, both in theory and practice, gets to the heart of Christian apologetics. But is there any motive greater than mere duty in defending the faith against all would-be contenders? Let me suggest three benefits to studying and practicing apologetics.

First, apologetics encourages the believer to develop a distinctively Christian theory of knowledge. Apologetics deals with defending and commending the Christian faith. As a result, it deals with knowledge claims. We claim to know multiple things, things like God exists, that he is a trinity, that humans are his fallen image-bearers, that Jesus of Nazareth is the Son of God, and that this Jesus rose from the dead, etc. We don’t have faith in faith. Apologists are commending a concrete faith arising from a concrete source (the Bible).

When we’re talking about knowledge claims (religious or otherwise) we’re dealing with issues in the field of epistemology. Epistemology is the subdivision in philosophy that explores knowledge and the questions that come along with exploring what that means. These are some epistemological questions: How do we know things? How we determine true knowledge from opinion? How do we know truth? In the history of philosophy many schools of thought have put forward their epistemologies, but the Christian apologists shouldn’t be tossed back and forth with each passing philosophical fad.  We can only embrace an approach to knowledge that conforms to the Bible.

Apologetics should ask the standard epistemological questions (how do I know? etc.) and look for their answers with an open Bible. By doing this we demonstrate a submission to God’s word as our ultimate standard not only for so-called “religious” knowledge, but for all knowledge. Likewise, in doing this we “love the Lord our God with all… our minds” (Lk. 10:27). Scripture is filled with passages that address our thought-life. We are to “take every thought captive” (2 Cor. 10:4-5) to Christ “in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge” (Col. 2:3). It also speaks of the saving knowledge of God that Christians have, as well as the paradoxical nature of the unbeliever’s knowledge of God.

Second, apologetics strengthens, confirms, and emboldens Christians in their faith. When Christians follow the 1 Pet. 3:15 command to defend their faith several things happen. First, their faith is confirmed. Those who have professed Christ for any length of time know that doubt occasionally creeps in and can cause them to second guess the truth of Christianity. The careful study of apologetics brings encouragement to the believer, reassuring them that their commitment to Jesus is not based on myth, speculation, or fairy tale, but instead is grounded in real history. Furthermore, when we see that only Christianity provides a true understanding of the world we come to trust our Creator and Lord with renewed vigor and strengthened faith.

Finally, the study of apologetics emboldens us for engagement with non-Christians. Here I’m not simply referring to apologetic debate, but also for personal evangelism and other venues of Christian/non-Christian dialogue. If the message of creation-fall-redemption in Christ is true, and the goal of apologetics is to demonstrate the truth of the Christian worldview, then pouring time into knowing how to handle objections, unbelieving philosophies, and various other unchristian ways of thinking is a vital means the Holy Spirit may use in communicating the gospel in a sin-sick world.

Third, apologetics serves as a vital aid in the work of missions, evangelism, and cultural engagement. How is this different from what was written in the paragraph above? There I was addressing the emboldening Christian confidence in encounters with non-Christians. Now we’re switching our emphasis a bit and focusing on the help apologetic provides in Christian understanding.

Evangelism. In the course of familiarizing oneself with the case for the Christian worldview we must familiarize ourselves to common misunderstanding, misrepresentations, and objections to the faith. This is a matter of love, since knowing what weighs most heavily on the minds and hearts of unbelievers demonstrates that we take them seriously. More often than you’d imagine, you’ll encounter the same objections and questions repeatedly. We should take stock of such common objections. Knowing these objections greatly reduces the chances of being caught off guard. It will also communicate that we’ve put some serious thought into our faith commitment. Many unbelievers haven’t ever heard an informed, rational defense of biblical faith. Here are some more specifics on how knowledge of apologetics aids relating to non-Christians. We should know why we believe the Bible is God’s book, why Christianity is different from other religions, and what practical difference does it make for the potential convert.

Missions. Apologetics also helps in the work of missions. Those to whom we commend the faith may be under serious social pressure to remain as they are, whether in intensely religious countries or secular nations. They need to know why they should risk persecution for committing their life to Christ. Are they committing social suicide? Are they committing intellectual suicide? Another major issue for a theology of missions is the question of religious pluralism. Are all religions the same? Are they all legit pathways to God?[1]

Cultural engagement and the final apologetic. Christians are to be “in” the world, yet not “of” the world (Jn 17:14–19). We live among unbelievers as spiritual ambassadors for Christ’s kingdom. We shouldn’t live in step with the agenda of unbelief. Apologists must be counter-cultural, developing a distinctively Christian critique of cultural trends as well as positively commending biblical alternatives. This takes a lot of study, effort, and prayer. Lastly, non-Christians need to see how we love one another. They need to see and experience for themselves that we, like the Master, come not to be served, but to serve (cf. Mk. 10:45). The manner with which we speak, both to other Christians as well as to non-Christians, conveys a lot. The church is Christ’s body on this earth. Do we reflect His character? Non-Christians aren’t naive. They notice insincerity and pride. But both are reasoned responses as well as our observed behavior we convey a powerful message: This is what God is like.

Let’s not give false testimony.

 

 

 

 

[1] Of course, the answer to this question is “no.” It’s both philosophically wrong (because so many religions make contradictory claims), and biblically dangerous (Jesus is the only way to God, cf. John 14:6, Acts 4:12). But the point is that as we study apologetics we learn both how to develop this claim (so the unbeliever sees the Biblical rationale for it), as well as how to persuasively communicate it.


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Joseph E.Torres is the editor and co-author with John M. Frame of Apologetics: A Justification of Christian Belief (P&R Publishing, 2015). He has served as professor for Adult Studies at Belhaven University in Orlando, Florida, as well as an adjunct in the department of Biblical and Theological studies at Nyack College (in his home town of New York City). He earned an M.A. in Christian Thought at Reformed Theological Seminary in Orlando, Florida and his B.A. in Biblical and Theological studies. He has been blogging at KINGDOMVIEW (apolojet.wordpress.com) since 2007.

Black Church Figures You Should Know - Mahalia Jackson

Why the series?

Historical Theology and Church History in the African American context is rarely celebrated. That is a very sad occasion. There is much we can learn from the rich tradition of the African American church. When we do, it affirms the great doctrine that all men are created in the Image of God and it kills the great sin of intellectual racism.

What about the series?

A few things must be noted about our list. First and foremost, please be aware that appearances on the list do not automatically confirm theological content and biblical orthodoxy. Please consider each figure in light on proper biblical interpretation and refer to our statement of beliefs when in doubt. Secondly, this list is nowhere near being exhaustive in scope or content. We are barely scratching the surface and this is merely the tip of the iceberg. We considered appearances on the list by surveying several avid supporters for their considerations based upon the figures of significant impact, rich content, and historical significance.

Mahalia Jackson (1911-1972) – The Queen of Gospel

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It is seldom that you hear of a person that has been familiar with American music for any significant amount of time and has not at least heard of Mahalia Jackson. Known as the Queen of Gospel, Mahalia Jackson has been acclaimed as one of the greatest musical figures in United States history.

Born October 26, 1911 in New Orleans, LA, Jackson began singing as a child at Mt. Moriah Baptist church where her father, Johnny, was pastor. Living in the heart of the birthplace of Jazz music, Mahalia was influenced by many styles and artists including Louis Armstrong, Fletcher Henderson and others. At 16 she joined the Great Northern Migration and moved to Chicago where she worked as a laundress. Immediately her talent was recognized and in 1934 she recorded her first single, “God’s Gonna Separate the Wheat from the Tares”.

In 1936, she marred IssacHockenhull who urged her to sing popular music but she refused. She continued to sing in churches all over the country. In 1937 she connected with the renown gospel composer Thomas A. Dorsey who served as her musical advisor and accompanist. In 1947, after joining Apollo Records, she recorded what was the best-selling Gospel song of all time, “Move On Up a Little Higher.

In addition to her international fame and influence of gospel music, Jackson was also a supporter of the Civil Rights Movement. Befriended to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr, she sang at the March on Washington at Dr. King’s request. After singing at Dr. King’s funeral she withdrew from public political activities.

Several hospitalizations forced Mahalia to give up singing abroad. Her final concert was in Munich, Germany in 1971. She succumbed to a heart attack on January 27, 1972. Her legendary influence still lives on today as she is a foundational pillar in music everywhere, especially gospel music.

For more information visit:

Black History Now-Mahalia Jackson

Biography.com – Mahalia Jackson

Black Church Figures You Should Know - Dr. Ralph West

Why the series?

Historical Theology and Church History in the African American context is rarely celebrated. That is a very sad occasion. There is much we can learn from the rich tradition of the African American church. When we do, it affirms the great doctrine that all men are created in the Image of God and it kills the great sin of intellectual racism.

What about the series?

A few things must be noted about our list. First and foremost, please be aware that appearances on the list do not automatically confirm theological content and biblical orthodoxy. Please consider each figure in light on proper biblical interpretation and refer to our statement of beliefs when in doubt. Secondly, this list is nowhere near being exhaustive in scope or content. We are barely scratching the surface and this is merely the tip of the iceberg. We considered appearances on the list by surveying several avid supporters for their considerations based upon the figures of significant impact, rich content, and historical significance.

Ralph D. West – Giant Preacher and Humble Pastor

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A native of Houston, Texas, Dr. Ralph Douglass West is one of the most sought out preachers in the country.  First preaching at sixteen years of age, Dr. West is now the pastor and founder of Brookhollow Baptist Church, also known as “The Church Without Walls”, in Houston, TX.  Initially beginning with 32 members, the church now has a membership of over 24,000 in three locations.

Pastor West received a Bachelor’s Degree in Religion and Philosophy from Bishop College, in Dallas, TX; a Master of Divinity degree with Biblical Languages from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, Fort Worth, TX; and a Doctor of Ministry degree from Samford University’s Beeson Divinity School, Birmingham, AL.  He also has received honorary Doctor of Divinity degrees from the Interdenominational Theological Center at Morehouse School of Religion, Atlanta, GA and Paul Quinn College, Dallas, TX.  He serves as Adjunct Professor of Preaching at the George W. Truett Theological Seminary, Baylor University.

It is Dr. West’s philosophy that the academy and the church are mutually dependent upon each other.  That the church directs the work of the academy and the academy helps to illustrate scripture, inform the worship of the church, and directs its course in return.  It is this way of thinking that allows Pastor West to be effective in both lecture halls and pulpits nationwide.  He has a unique ability to enhance his sermons by thorough exposition of Scripture coupled with the use relevant illustrations, all while maintaining the preaching tradition of church and culture. 

West is well respected as a great preacher who maintains a pastor’s heart.  He is married to SherettaMachell Grays West and has two sons: Ralph Douglass II, and RalphealDanial.

For more information, visit:

The Church Without Walls

Ralph West.org

 

Check out a sermon by Dr. West: 

 

Black Church Figures You Should Know - Richard Allen

Why the series?

Historical Theology and Church History in the African American context is rarely celebrated. That is a very sad occasion. There is much we can learn from the rich tradition of the African American church. When we do, it affirms the great doctrine that all men are created in the Image of God and it kills the great sin of intellectual racism.

What about the series?

A few things must be noted about our list. First and foremost, please be aware that appearances on the list do not automatically confirm theological content and biblical orthodoxy. Please consider each figure in light on proper biblical interpretation and refer to our statement of beliefs when in doubt. Secondly, this list is nowhere near being exhaustive in scope or content. We are barely scratching the surface and this is merely the tip of the iceberg. We considered appearances on the list by surveying several avid supporters for their considerations based upon the figures of significant impact, rich content, and historical significance.

Richard Allen (1760-1831) – Father of the AME Church

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Bishop Richard Allen, the founder of the African Methodist Episcopal (AME) Church was born on February 14, 1760 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Born in slavery to Mr. Benjamin Chew, a former Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, Allen was also the son of an African father and a bi-racial mother. At the age of seven, the Allen family was sold to Stokley Sturgis, a plantation owner in Delaware. He was later separated from his mother and three of six of her children as they were sold again to another slave owner, while his sister and older brother remained. As he and his brother aged, they were permitted to attend religious meetings of the Methodist Society. At the age of seventeen, Allen and his brother were converted to Christianity and they joined the Methodist Society. Their example and leadership on the plantation subsequently caused many, including his owner Sturgis, to believe in the faith and they were later able to earn their freedom. In 1783, Allen began to preach the Gospel across the northeast. As knowledge of him spread, he was invited in 1786 to preach regularly at St. George’s Methodist Episcopal Church. As the amount of black attendees grew, hostility developed within the church. That led them to separate and found the Free African Society(FAS) in 1787, led by Richard Allen and Absalom Jones-Richard’s friend in the ministry. In 1795 a meeting place was constructed, named “The Blacksmith Shop Meeting House”. The church eventually would be named “Bethel”. In April of 1816, Allen and 15 representatives from other Black Methodist congregations convened at the Bethel church to establish and organize the African Methodist Episcopal Church, the first black independent denomination, with Allen as their first Bishop. Today the AME church has membership in thirty-nine countries on five continents.

For more information visit:

The AME Church

A Brief History of the Black Church

Mother Bethel

BlackPast.org: Richard Allen

Black Church Figures You Should Know - John Gloucester

Why the series?


Historical Theology and Church History in the African American context is rarely celebrated. That is a very sad occasion. There is much we can learn from the rich tradition of the African American church. When we do, it affirms the great doctrine that all men are created in the Image of God and it kills the great sin of intellectual racism.

What about the series?

A few things must be noted about our list. First and foremost, please be aware that appearances on the list do not automatically confirm theological content and biblical orthodoxy. Please consider each figure in light on proper biblical interpretation and refer to our statement of beliefs when in doubt. Secondly, this list is nowhere near being exhaustive in scope or content. We are barely scratching the surface and this is merely the tip of the iceberg. We considered appearances on the list by surveying several avid supporters for their considerations based upon the figures of significant impact, rich content, and historical significance.

 

John Gloucester (1776-1822) – Pioneer of the Presbyterian Church

 

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John Gloucester, originally named as Jack by his slave master, became the founder of the first African American Presbyterian Church in the United States. Gloucester was born in 1776 as a slave in Blount County, Tennessee. Rev. Gideon Blackburn, a Presbyterian minister and evangelist, recognized Jack’s potential and proceeded to teach him theology. Subsequently, Blackburn purchased Jack’s freedom, changed his name to John Gloucester, and proceeded to train Gloucester in the ministry. In 1805, Blackburn took Gloucester to a meeting of the Presbyter of the Union where he was licensed and authorized to “preach to the Africans”. A year later, on November 5, 1806, Gloucester began his formal training at Greeneville College, becoming the first African American to attend the school. After completing his training, he traveled to Philadelphia with Blackburn and it was there that the first African Presbyterian church was formed in 1807. John was married to Rhonda and together they had five children who were also all freed from slavery. Of those five children, all four of his sons became Presbyterian ministers-three of which also formed their own congregations. Gloucester continued his dedication to the ministry until his death in 1822 to pneumonia. In 1910, the John Gloucester Memorial and Historical society began to promote and preserve his legacy and continues today. In addition, the Presbytery of Boston, Ma sponsors John Gloucester Memorial scholarships for Presbyterian students nationwide.

For more information visit:

BlackPast.org: John Gloucester

Westminster Sermons: John Gloucester and the First African Presbyterian Church

Historical Society of Pennsylvania: The Home of African American Presbyterianism

Facts on Faith Web: John Gloucester

Overview of Rastafarianism

By: D.A Horton (Article Originally Posted on dahorton.com on Sept. 27, 2015)

The Founder: In Rastafarianism no one person is championed as the founder. The movement is seen as the fulfillment of a prophecy of Marcus Garvey. Marcus Garvey was born in Jamaica in 1887 and was the leading advocate for the Back to African movement.[1] Garvey encouraged both Jamaicans and African-Americans to not be ashamed of the African heritage and return to Africa. Garvey is credited with publicly declaring/prophesying a king rising out of Africa that will be the redeemer for those of African descent living in the west.[2]

On November 2, 1930 Ras Tafari Makonnen was crowned Emperor Halie Selassie I of Ethopia, an event that would lead Leonard P. Howell to declare Selassie as the “great Black Messiah”, the Second Coming of Jesus, before declaring himself as Selassie’s representative in Jamaica.[3]Howell view heavily influenced by his time with Marcus Garvey in addition to the work of Reverend Fritz Balintine Pettersburgh.[4] Howell returned to Jamaica in 1933 and began a faith healing ministry that he would use to gain a platform in preaching his beliefs regarding Selassie being God incarnate. Howell was soon charged with preaching doctrines that were deemed to be anti-church, was arrested and sentenced to prison. When he was released in 1940 he founded the first Rastafarian village in Jamaica that sat on 400 acres at Sligoville, St. Catherine.[5]

On April 21, 1966 Emperor Haile Selassie visited Jamaica and was welcomed by the largest crowd every gathered at the Norman Manley International Airport in Kingston.[6] During his visit, Selassie, encouraged the Jamaicans to not depart from their land and immigrate to Ethiopia but rather remain and work to liberate their own countrymen.[7] Selassie endured much turbulence during his reign in Ethiopia and was eventually forced out of office in 1974 when revolutionaries performed a successful overthrow. Selassie’s death a year later would be interpreted by Rastafarians as everything from a lie to inconsequential as he was deity and death could not be a reality for him.

The Followers: Estimates range between 200,000 and 2 million people that are identified by Rastafarian faith and or lifestyle. Adherents.com identifies the current number as 600,000[8] with sizable groups in such US cities as; Boston, Chicago, Houston, Los Angeles, Miami, New York, Philadelphia, and Washington D.C.[9]Perhaps the Rastafarian faith’s most public and known adherent was the Reggae artist Bob Marley.

The Focus: The suppression of Black in Babylon (Jamaica) will come to an end and a migration to Zion (Ethiopia) will become a reality.

The Faith: Much of the Rastafarian belief systems is taken from the Bible alongside the interpretation of Howell’s writing, The Promised Key.

The Friction: Since there is no official organized and recognized leader of the Rastafarian movement, the beliefs of each congregation differ from each other. There are however some similar teachings that are embraced by many Rastafarians. Howell identified the foundational beliefs of Rastafarian doctrine as; Anglo-Saxons are inferior while the Black race is superior[10], Ras Tafari is God Incarnate who provides salvation for his oppressed Black people[11], the Pope is the Devil who uses the hypocritical religious system called the Church to keep people ignorant, and heaven being a place in the afterlife is a lie that has prevented the Black man from enjoying this life and pursuing earthly riches[12].

Since Howell’s contributions there have been other theological expansions in Rastafarian doctrine that include; Jeremiah 8:21 serving as a proof text of Selassie being God incarnate, further development of Selassie being from the lineage of the Queen of Sheep and King Solomon’s union[13], Marijuana being seen as the holy herb to be used as a form of sacrament that can be ingested through smoking or drinking in tea[14], dreadlocks are seen as physical evidence of communal unity with Rastas worldwide and is often supported by citing no biblical passage describing Jesus ever cutting his hair.[15]

Notes:


D.A. HORTON currently is preparing to relocate his family to Los Angeles to plant a church. During this season of preparation he will be serving on staff at Summit Churchwhile continuing his speaking and writing ministries. Prior to his current role he served as; the National Coordinator for Urban Student Missions at the North American Mission Board (NAMB), the Executive Director of ReachLife Ministries, the non-profit ministry of Reach Records and as an urban church planter, pastor and Lead Teaching Elder in Kansas City, MO for close to 6 years. For over 16 years D.A. also used the medium of Rap music as a tool to help educate the people of God on the precepts of Scripture as well as how to evangelize to the lost by presenting them with the Gospel of Jesus Christ. D.A. also has served as an Adjunct Professor at Calvary Bible College teaching systematic and contemporary theology courses in addition to the seven urban-focused courses he wrote for the Urban Studies major. D.A. earned his Bachelor’s Degree in Biblical Studies at Calvary Bible College and his Master’s Degree in Christian Studies from Calvary Theological Seminary. D.A. is currently working towards his PhD in Applied Theology with a North American Missions emphasis at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary.

With a heart to provide local churches with quality Bible-centered tools and resources for evangelism and discipleship, D.A. wrote two books; G.O.S.P.E.L. and DNA: Foundations of the Faith both published through Moody Publishers. His third book, Bound to Be Free: Escaping Performance to be Captured by Grace, will be released through NavPress in spring 2016. He and his wife of 12 years Elicia have two daughters, Izabelle and Lola and one son, D.A. Jr. (aka Duce). If you would like to book DA for an event, please contact his manager Elicia by email at e.horton82@gmail.com

Overview of The Black Hebrew Israelites

By: D.A Horton (Article Originally Posted on dahorton.com on Sept. 26, 2015)

Heads upsince there is no “one set of beliefs” that all Black Hebrews, Black Hebrew Israelites, and Hebrew Israelites fall under, this blog will highlight a few of the movements that are often identified as having similar beliefs. This section will be longer than others as I’ve attempted to consolidate several different movements under the term Black Hebrew Israelite while giving each respected entity recognition for it unique nuance and history.

The Founders: Most groups that identify themselves with being Black Hebrew Israelites residing in America trace their inception back to the Pre-Civil War era of American History. One of the first preachers known to harmonize the American slaves with the biblical account of the Israelites was Martin Prosser, a slave preacher in Richmond, VA. In 1800 he helped his brother Gabriel organize what is now known as Gabriel’s rebellion.[1] The first known leader to organize a movement around the connection between American slavery and the Israelite narrative recorded in the Bible was William Saunders Crowdy.

Crowdy, a Civial War veteran established the establishing of The Church of God and Saints in Christ (COGASC) in 1896.[2] Crowdy began to preach new revelations that God gave Him known as the “Seven Keys”[3] that make up the doctrine of the COGASC. Crowdy remained the leader of congregation until his death on August 4, 1908 after which Bishop James M. Grove was elected as the new leader.[4]

In 1866 F.S. Cherry organized the Church of the Living God, Pillar of Truth for All Nations in Chattanooga, TN.[5] Cherry’s doctrine focused on the blackness of Adam, Eve and Jesus while arguing the white/white Jews altering of the blackness of biblical figures to fit their purposes. Cherry claimed his call to ministry was given by God to make Blacks aware that their true religion was indeed Judaism.[6] Cherry also taught Blacks were of the lineage of Jacob and God hated White Jews because they rejected Jesus while using Revelation 3:9 as his proof text. Cherry moved the church from Chattanooga to Philadelphia in 1915 and remained the leader of the church until his death in 1965 after which, his son Benjamin Cherry took over as the leader.

In 1919 in Harlem, New York the Commandment Keepers of the Living God (also known as the Royal Order of Ethiopian Hebrews)[7] began assembling under the leadership of Rabbi Wentworth A. Matthew.[8] The group gained momentum due to their response to the Great Depression, World War II, and the Italian invasion of Ethiopia. Matthew, born is West Africa but raise in the Caribbean created a hybrid theology that had influences from March Garvey, Arnold Josiah Ford to the point he took over Ford’s congregation when he left for Ethiopia.[9] Matthew’s congregation stayed in tact while other organizations around them were closing their doors, most notably Garvey’s Universal Negro Improvement Association. Matthew’s views and practices were known to be the closest of all Black Jewish movements to Orthodox Judaism yet at the same time, he taught; original Jews were black and white Jews are products of generational intermarriage with Europeans and the sufferings of Blacks was caused by their violation of God’s commandments.[10] Before his death in 1973 Matthew ordained his grandson, Rabbi David Dore to be his successor. At the time of his ordination, Dore was only seventeen years old. His ordination caused a great division between Dore and Rabbi Chaim White that lasted for over three decades that eventually led to self-destruction.[11]

In the 1960’s Ebner ben Yomin (also known as Abba Bivens) left the Commandment Keepers and began the Israeli School of Universal Practical Knowledge. Three of Bivens’ followers teamed up with four “high priests” to take over the school and were collectively known as the “Seven Heads”.[12] These leaders later changed the name of the school to the Israelite Church of Universal Practical Knowledge and then changing the name again to rebrand because of a failed prophecy of Christ’ return in 2000, the name became the Israelite Church of God in Jesus Christ, Inc.[13] The current leader, Apostle and Chief High Priest Tazadaqyah, born Jermaine Grant, rose to power after Ahrayah’s, one of Bivens disciples, prophecy of Christ’s return in 2000 to “slay or enslave” all the Edomites (whites) failed to come to pass.[14] Tazadagyah is known by his followers as the Comforter, a direct reference to Holy Spirit and is propagated as such at the website dedicated to him.[15]

Yahweh ben Yahweh was born Hulon Mitchell, Jr on October 27, 1935 in Kingfisher, OK to a pentecostal minister. After graduating high school he served in the Air Force, earned a degree in Psychology from Phillips College in Oklahoma before earning a master’s degree in economics from Atlanta University.[16] He was briefly involved with the Nation of Islam before moving to Miami, FL in 1979 when where he declared himself as Yahweh ben Yahweh and began the Nation of Yahweh.[17]His ministry was to rebuild the Liberty City section of Miami and by October 7, 1990 Miami Mayor Xavier Suarez declared the day to be Yahweh ben Yahweh Day all the while a federal grand jury was preparing to indict he and over a dozen of his followers with charges ranging from extortion, racketeering and over a dozen murders.[18]The trial ended with a conviction that landed him in prison for 18 years but only served 11 of those years and after his release was informed he could not have any contact with any of the members of his group. On May 7, 2007 he passed away from cancer.[19]

The Followers: It is hard to identify how many followers in the United States align themselves with the various groups that identify with the Black Hebrew Israelites. Part of the challenge is due to the strong emphasis put on a Jewish bloodline as being a prerequisite. According to an article by Michael Gelbwasser published in 1998 there were he cites Robin Washington (who organized the Alliance of Black Jews) claim of 260,000 black Jews practicing Judaism in America.[20]Although the entirety of this number does not state how many align with Black Hebrew Israelite teachings, those who do would argue there are more since Black Hebrew Israelites include Latino and Native American heritages as well.[21]

The Focus: The overall focus of all groups regardless of Scriptural interpretation is to bring an awareness of Israelite identity to those living in America that are unaware of such heritage. In addition, they live to see all true Israelites obey the Commandments of the Only True and Living God and forsake all forms of paganism. Some groups such as African Hebrew Israelites of Jerusalem go as far as mandating a migration to Israel.[22]

The Faith: Many Black Hebrew Israelites affirm the King James (1611) Version of the Bible as their only rule of faith and practice and the interpretation of it is reserved for their ordained leader. Some groups accept some books of the New Covenant (New Testament) yet, many reject Paul’s writings on the idea, they were used often by White masters during the American slavery years.

The Friction: In addition to a high regard for the KJV, other Black Hebrew Israelites look to the Torah alone or Talmud while others the ApocryphaBook of EnochBook of Jasher, andPseudepigrapha texts as being with equal with the KJV. Many Black Hebrew Israelites reject God’s nature being triune and separates Jesus from God the Father by forcing a dichotomy between the Supreme Being in the Universe and Jesus the “mere human being, a noteworthy prophet”.[23]Jesus is then also seen as one who practiced Judaism, did not change any laws in Torah, lived an exemplary life.

According to the Hebrew Israelites sin is defined by 1 John 3:4 which says, “Everyone who practices sin also practices lawlessness; and sin is lawlessness”, but on their website they quote the KJV which says, “Whosoever committeth sin transgresseth also the law: for sin is the transgression of the law” (italics original).[24] They go onto to explain the “laws of Yah can be found in the first five books Scripture which are known as the Torah or Instructions” which include the Ten Commandments and various dietary laws. In addition, many Black Hebrew Israelites teach the only days that are to be celebrated are the Feasts found in Scripture.[25]

Salvation to many Black Hebrew Israelites is defined by one of two schools of thought; it is obtained through total obedience to the Law of Moses and calling on the Hebrew name of God (or Jesus for those who see Him as the Messiah) or exclusive to those who have a bloodline that leads back to Israel. According to the ICOGIJC, different nations who believe in the Lord Jesus “will not be spared from God’s wrath” using Isaiah 14:1—3, 34:1—3, and 66:15—6; Jeremiah 3:23; Daniel 2:44; Micah 4:11—3; and Revelation 19:11—5 as proof texts. They also say only the 12 Tribes of Israel will be saved and spared from His wrath.[26] Heaven and hell are seen as states of mind not literal locations.

Notes:


D.A. HORTON currently is preparing to relocate his family to Los Angeles to plant a church. During this season of preparation he will be serving on staff at Summit Churchwhile continuing his speaking and writing ministries. Prior to his current role he served as; the National Coordinator for Urban Student Missions at the North American Mission Board (NAMB), the Executive Director of ReachLife Ministries, the non-profit ministry of Reach Records and as an urban church planter, pastor and Lead Teaching Elder in Kansas City, MO for close to 6 years. For over 16 years D.A. also used the medium of Rap music as a tool to help educate the people of God on the precepts of Scripture as well as how to evangelize to the lost by presenting them with the Gospel of Jesus Christ. D.A. also has served as an Adjunct Professor at Calvary Bible College teaching systematic and contemporary theology courses in addition to the seven urban-focused courses he wrote for the Urban Studies major. D.A. earned his Bachelor’s Degree in Biblical Studies at Calvary Bible College and his Master’s Degree in Christian Studies from Calvary Theological Seminary. D.A. is currently working towards his PhD in Applied Theology with a North American Missions emphasis at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary.

With a heart to provide local churches with quality Bible-centered tools and resources for evangelism and discipleship, D.A. wrote two books; G.O.S.P.E.L. and DNA: Foundations of the Faith both published through Moody Publishers. His third book, Bound to Be Free: Escaping Performance to be Captured by Grace, will be released through NavPress in spring 2016. He and his wife of 12 years Elicia have two daughters, Izabelle and Lola and one son, D.A. Jr. (aka Duce). If you would like to book DA for an event, please contact his manager Elicia by email at e.horton82@gmail.com

Jerry Falwell and the Notion of "Good People"

By: Melody Monroe

Recently, Liberty University President Jerry Falwell Jr. fell under heavy criticism for his remarks regarding the mass shooting in San Bernardino, California. On Friday, December 4, 2015, at the close of Convocation (a weekly gathering undergraduate students are mandated to attend), Falwell urged every student in the audience to get their carrying license and take the free concealed weapon license course offered by the university under the premise, "if more good people had concealed-carry permits, then we could end those Muslims before they walked in..."

Many people felt that Falwell's statements reeked of traditional, conservative presumptions and Islamophobia. Falwell is quoted in The Washington Times as saying he was only referring to Islamic terrorists, specifically those behind the attacks in Paris and in San Bernardino and “That’s the only thing I would clarify.” But after the smoke from each side of the conversation has cleared, there is a question that remains: just what makes a good person? 

Tales of heroes and villains have always been entertained and loved in our culture - bad guys vs. good guys, Spiderman vs.The Green Goblin, Batman vs. Joker, but when it comes to the gun law debate, is it really that cut and dry?

4 Questions To Consider In Response To Jerry Falwell Jr.


1) What does it mean to be good?

Fundamentally, Christians believe that no one is purely good except God. This fact makes Falwell's statements all the more crass. Romans 3:23 says "For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God." (HCSB) This would include, well, everyone. However, doesn’t “good” mean to be devoid of flaws? From a non-Christian, moral standpoint, it could be said that "good" refers to anyone that doesn't have violent intentions, but intentions alone are not enough to keep us from doing what we wish we wouldn't sometimes. Everyone can attest to that.


2) Who is considered good? 

As Falwell was met with raving applause during his closing remarks, it was easy to notice that nearly everyone in the stadium was White. Falwell's tone seemed to suggest that "if more good people [like us] had concealed-carry permits...” America would be a better place.  The question has to be asked: for who?  Because, recent trends indicate not everyone is welcomed into the Good Person Society, on account of certain biological “hindrances”.  Historically, when people of color carry guns, violence is imposed on them. It puts them more at risk of being stereotyped, profiled, and victims of unwarranted criminalization. We can simply look to the examples of John Crawford III and Tamir Rice who were both shot and killed while handling only toy guns. For Middle Easterners it typically takes much less, like simply existing. So who are the “good people”, exactly?


3) Are good people allowed to make mistakes?

The truth is, "good" people are still people and are prone to make mistakes by default. There's liability coverage for drivers who make mistakes. There's even coverage for boats, but none of such exist for firearm owners. That isn't to say gun accidents occur any less. Studies show a disproportionately high number of 5-14 year olds died from suicide, homicide, and unintentional firearm deaths in states and regions where guns were more prevalent, most of which involved family and friends. Gun accidents leave riveting, irreplaceable effects on the lives involved.

Beyond that, Falwell seems to think that being a good person is all that is required for self-defense. During his remarks, he quoted Mike Madden, a first responder on the scene of the San Bernardino shooting, saying "...when you see the carnage and smell the gun powder, it's just something you could never be prepared for..." What makes Falwell think an ordinary, untrained citizen would know how to control a mass shooting in the moment? And if they didn't, does that make them a bad person?

4) Will more guns = more good?

Ultimately, in the interest of goodness, the real question to ask is will supplying more Americans with guns result in more overall good? A recent meta-analysis revealed that easy access to firearms doubled the risk of homicide and tripled the risk for suicide among all household members. Studies also show that mass shootings only continue to rise in number, with this year totaling to 355 to date.

While gun law reform is not an easy issue to tackle, it's worth confronting the complexities that lie within it, despite how bad or good they may be for goodness sake.  


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Melody Monroe is a musician and entrepreneur. She earned her B.A. in Business Management from East Carolina University and M.A. in Theological Studies from Liberty Theological Seminary. Monroe has been featured in various national and international publications as a music artist and is currently working toward her first EP. Her work as an artist and businesswoman is fueled by a desire to make an eternal impact on the lives of others. She enjoys traveling, live concerts, chai tea, and dogs. Find out more at www.msmelodymonroe.com 

 

Genesis 1, 3, and a lil' Marvin Sapp

By: Jared Smith

As the new year has rolled in and I reflect on the past year, I’ve come to the realization that 2015 may be one of the most saddening years in my short lifetime. The drive behind my despair is the dying relationship between the police force and the citizens within their constituency.  I look back on the number of Black brothers and sisters killed in the presence, custody, or at the hands of police and I find nothing but despair.  Despair for the communities that have lost trust in those that are supposed to protect and serve.  Despair in how the media has taken each case and used it for their own advantage and not for truth and justice.  Despair for the continuing onslaught of black, white relations in this country.  I'm sure there are many friendships lost over this time period due to the differing opinions on each case.  And I have fear for my son, who will one day be a Black teenager, yet cynically thankful that his German and Irish roots show through in his appearance (sadly, a line that should be taken jovially is a reality for myself and many, hoping our sons can pass the “threatening negro” test).  Yet, I find despair most in the fact that many who were on the wrong side of these tragedies were probably raised in a home where the Scriptures or at least the Golden Rule was emphasized, and yet many seem to forget both.

Many forget not only the Golden Rule, but the very first chapter in Holy Scripture.  Right in the beginning of Scripture we are informed that the entire universe was created by the Sovereign hand of a good God.  And this good God, in love, created human beings in His very image.[i] Once God was finished with His creation, He blessed the entire world declaring it good and calling his human representatives on earth “very good.”[ii]  Now the reality is, many of us do not have a hard time believing this goodness about ourselves or about those we love.  The difficulty comes when we have to believe this about those we do not know, or those we quickly judge.  In those we find undeserving of the claim of goodness, we generally go straight for Genesis 3 in which we see humanity is fallen, sinful, and out of sync with God's purposes.  We begin to make our own declarations about them: untrustworthy, violent, liars, despicable, and not worthy of respect and love.  I once heard Dr. Mark Futato of Reformed Theological Seminary-Orlando ask in a lecture, “How do you view people?  Is it primarily from the lens of Genesis 1 or Genesis 3?  Do you see people for their beauty and goodness, or for their fallen-ness?”  How you answer this determines whether you see people as innocent until proven guilty or guilty until proven innocent. 

And here is where the problems lies.  Our mirrors are focused on Genesis 1, while our glasses zoom on Genesis 3.  Yet it is not just the police who view black and brown citizens with their glasses on.  How do we as non-whites now view the police: authoritarians, violent, despicable, and untrustworthy.  Many of us who were not even allowed to listen to rap in our younger years (thankfully my wife is bringing me up to speed), mentally throw up single fingers to the police and believe that 911 is simply a joke in our respective neighborhoods.  Yet, as believers in the Gospel of Jesus Christ, I'm urging that we all – black or white, police and citizen alike – sing a different song.  Though we deeply know the sinfulness of humanity, we are called to see the best in people, when everyone else around sees thugs – with or without a badge – we see those created in the marvelous image of God.  Only then will we serve our cities with love and wisdom, and respect those whom God has placed in these positions.  My prayer is that I won't have to copy and paste this article come 2017.


[i]Genesis 1.26,27

[ii]Genesis 1.3


Jared Smith was born and raised in New Jersey.  He is married to his beautiful wife Adia and they are blessed with three children.  Jared received his Bachelor's in Bible and Pastoral Ministry from Philadelphia Biblical University (presently Cairn University) and a Master of Arts in Biblical Studies from Reformed Theological Seminary in Orlando, FL .  Jared has previously served as a Youth Minister, Associate Minister, and Assistant Director of an inner city mentoring program.  He currently works as a longshoreman at the Port of NY/NJ and fellowships at Covenant Presbyterian Church of Milburn, NJ.

Make Up: The Ministry of Reconciliation

BY: CRYSTAL CHARLEY

Relationships can be messy. Reconciling them can be even messier. I am not speaking only of relationships between a girl and a guy. I speak of all forms of relationships - friendships, co-workers, family, etc. But why? Why do they require so much of us? Why can’t we have the perfect family, friendship, or love story, where both parties say and act actually like we want them to. What about those great romantic movies that give us goosebumps with the guy saying all the right things, and the girl who falls head over heels for the guy. Where is the reality of that in our lives?

Honestly, I am not a sucker for romance movies; actually, I almost despise them. All of them seem to have the typical helpless love plot with a happily ever after ending.  However, I must admit, I’ve had my share of watching them and shedding a tear or two. Surprisingly, there is one romantic comedy that happens to be a favorite, particularly because the ending is not the typical happily ever after we usually see.

 “The Break Up”, starring Jennifer Aniston as ‘Brooke’ and Vince Vaughn as ‘Gary’, begins like any other love story: they met each other at a baseball game and fall in love. However, as time passed, the unappreciated and neglected girlfriend, Brooke, ends their relationship in hopes that Gary will miss her. Neither are willing to leave the condo they shared, so they become hostile roommates. The rest of the movie shows the sneaky schemes each roommate uses to get the other to cave in.

Gary, on the other hand, misunderstands her true intention (as if men can read minds), both follow the wrong advice of family members and friends, beginning a war of the sexes; ultimately, no one really wins. In the end, after a friend told Gary the truth about his self-centeredness throughout their friendship, Gary finally comes to the revelation that everything he has done in all of his relationships and friendships were centered on what he wanted. This exposed truth leads him to Brooke to admit his selfishness and brokenness in their relationship. He desired her forgiveness and for their relationship to be restored.

Surprisingly, his honesty and desire to have her back did not result in them coming back together as a couple – to live happily ever after, as inmost romantic films. That’s right! The girl does not get the guy she fought to love back, and the guy does not get the girl that he finally opened up to back.

Instead, they went their separate ways. At the very end of the movie, however, they cross paths and exchange friendly conversation as if nothing happened in the past.

Why did I love this story so much, besides enjoying a non-traditional ending? The core of it comes from the reconciliation process they experienced.

What is reconciliation? Most dictionaries define reconciliation as the restoration of friendly relations or the action of making one view or belief compatible with another. However, the root of the word, conciliation, means the action of stopping someone from being angry. In other words, reconciliation means we restore our relationship with someone, which allows us to be in friendly fellowship with one another again.

Now, biblically, the word reconciliation is commonly translated as the English word atonement. Atonement simply means a condition without tension. That’s why, when Christ died on the cross, he removed the tension between us and God (2 Corinthians 5:16-21). Our need for reconciliation with God means there was once hostility between us that only Christ could restore. How did Christ restore us? He gave himself. This is seen in 2 Corinthians 5:18a, which states, “ …who through Christ reconciled us to himself…”  

Think, isn’t it amazing that out of all the ways God could have reconciled the world, he chose to give himself. Laying down his life for an enemy, so he may call them friends (Romans 5:10; John 15:15). So, we can live in friendly fellowship with God again. That’s purely unselfish, right? Then He goes so far as to give us purpose and something to do – the ministry of reconciliation -- to give others the message to be restored to the Father by his Son, who does not count your sins against you (2 Corinthians 5:19). Ultimately, we carry the message of peace despite the cause of the hostility between us. So, we have in our hand the ministry of reconciliation as a representative delivering Christ’s terms of peace. However, how does the call to be reconciled to God direct us to reconcile with others?

Before we bring ourselves before the altar (Matthew 5:21-25), let’s look at God’s priority for us to first be reconciled to one another, quickly, if we have unresolved disagreements. By no means will we have to agree with one another for conflict to be resolved. But, certainly, God beckons us to submit to his call of restoring relationships that allows us to be in friendly fellowship with one another again. Maybe that means you admitting to being wrong or misunderstanding what was said. Or maybe there is no wrong to admit, but you can tell the person that you respect and love them and care about the relationship over being right. We can all examine our own heart to make an effort to live in harmony.

When it comes to building or rebuilding relationships, we may be our own stumbling block. We have various types of selfish intentions, unforgiveness, baggage, and even religious preferences that we throw on people -- Jesus even taught that restoring relationships are more important than religious practices in Matthew 12:1-8.  

So, what does this mean for Gary and Brooke? The hostility they faced in their relationship all came from their own selfish motives – Brooke wanting to manipulate Gary to miss her and change, and Gary wanting the satisfaction of proving he didn’t need Brooke and that he was perfect. But, ultimately, it did not get them anywhere except on a broken emotional cycle. The breakthrough came when Gary finally was honest with himself that he was selfish and everything really was centered around him. After this revelation, he went to her and confessed wholeheartedly. Gary took his eyes off himself and cared about the relationship at hand. His desire was to get back together again; however, they did not. And that’s okay. Reconciliation still happened. Though they did not end up back in a dating relationship, they made an effort to restore the once hostile friendship to a state of peace and friendly fellowship.

We may not always go back to the original state of a relationship, but we can have joy and peace knowing we have made every effort to value relationships as God values his relationship with you over every law or rule you and I have broken. Christ’s finished reconciled work on the cross allows us to cross paths with God, similar to how Gary and Brooke crossed paths, exchanging friendly conversation as if nothing had ever happened in the past.

This article is not encouraging anyone to stay in a relationship or friendship that is abusive in any nature. This is not even to get you to run back to your ex-boyfriend or ex-girlfriend in hopes of rekindling a dating relationship.  This article is simply encouraging you to demonstrate to a broken world the ministry of reconciliation. We do not reconcile out of obligation (God did not). Ultimately, what should drive us to reconcile with others is love and humility.

I write with conviction knowing I have not always practiced or cherished this truth of being reconciled with others nor had the desire to do so. So, I am crippled and challenged in this area. Yet, I hope in Him who went to the ends of the earth to reconcile us, and I am hopeful in God’s hand on our lives to reconcile our friendships and relationships with one another. God’s reconciling work is finished. Yet, from the finished work on the cross He is still reconciling us to himself and to others. I pray God’s strength and love would compel us to make every effort to live in harmony with one another, even in the midst of a break up.


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Crystal Charley is a ministry student and servant leader. She is currently at student at Palm Beach Atlantic University. She is devoted to the work of the ministry as a teacher, advisor, and disciple maker in her local church and community. She will marry her best friend Alex West in December. Crystal is currently developing Redeemed Creation (birthed from Galatians 2:20), a ministry that desires to capture and redeem women and children to a life of restoration in Christ.