Just yesterday, I had a discussion with a fellow Minister in Chicago about my future endeavors in ministry. And--if you know anything about me--you know that when it comes to this topic, I can be extremely direct in some areas--especially when it comes to issues that I find as real problems in the church today. And generally, when I bring up these particular issues (especially when it deals with the state of the black church), they are either met with a hearty "Amen" or with a strong "Anathema".
So naturally, I was not surprised when we discussed issues that I had with the black church today, that it didn't go over very well with him. For example, I mentioned that one of the things that bother me about today's black church today was the "enslavement of traditions" over and beyond the primary foci of the church as a whole. And when I explained to him what I meant, he accused me of not respecting the traditions of the church and said that it would be difficult for me to find a future pastorate with this mindset.
Now, I must admit that when I became Reformed back in 2001, there were some of beliefs within the scope of the black church that I laughed at and ridiculed then that I do not criticize (at least not as much) now. Some of these things include the doctrinal depth of the songs, the devotion service, the anniversaries for every department in the church, and the heavily accepted Charismatic teachings that are so widely accepted amongst our people. However, while I have either softened my stance or see these things from a different angle, I have to honestly admit that my feelings overall have not changed. In short, what I told my fellow Minister yesterday is the same way I felt back then and will feel throughout the duration of my ministry career.
As a black church, we must realize that we must line up EVERYTHING we do against the written Word of God. In short, the Bible must be our guide in all matters of worship. Just because we desire a worship that is more emotional, more social driven, and highlights our cultural identity, does not mean we have the freedom to disregard God's Word in bringing it about. We are not immune to doing things the way God wants just because we have been a people of struggle. So, while I will be the first the state that I see nothing inherently wrong with wearing white on first Sundays, having three of four types of choirs, wearing a robe in the pulpit while preaching, and lining the hymns in worship, if these things become the staple principles for a church in lieu of the solid teaching of God's Word, the right administration of the sacraments, and the practice of self-discipline--the church is in error! No questions asked!!!!!!
So, if Scripture tells us we must teach God's Word with seriousness and careful instruction, then our focus should not be on trying to get the crowd up by "hooping" or"singing" during our messages. If the Bible tells us that one of the qualifications for an Elder is to be"the husband of one wife", we should not go on crusades to ordain women as pastors. In short, we don't get an "out" in our worship practice based on our historical plights or traditions.
And, from a personal standpoint, if these beliefs prevent me from receiving a pastorate in a black church, I am willing to accept the consequences. Because to quote Martin Luther: "My conscience is captive to the Word of God, and to violate conscience is neither right nor safe"!!!!!!