Saturday, April 29, 2006

A Letter to John Piper

My dear friend Michael Leach and the good folks at All Saints Redeemer Church have written an open letter to John Piper. Check it out.

Home Again!

Returned home last night from the Together for the Gospel Conference. In a word or two (or three), "It was Glorious!" I will have more to say about the content of the messages next week. For now, let me just say that if you were not there, you should have been. If you were there, your only regret is that it had to end. There was not one bad session. Nor was there a time when I desired to be in another place, maybe another seat, but not another place :-). If you are so inclined, and you should be, you can order the audio set of the conference from Sovereign Grace Ministries. Again, I will say more later. However, I will share with you a quote from John Owen that was shared by CJ Mahaney. CJ delivered a powerfully challenging and important message on the importance of ministers watching their life and doctrine. He made the comment that we have not truly learned the Scriptures until we live the Scriptures. According to Owen, "As we learn all to practice, so we learn much by practice." I would add, respectfully, to Owen's comment, that as we learn all to practice, so we must seek to practice all that we learn. Let us not only theorize on the glories of a sovereign God; let us not only preach the glories of a sovereign God, but let us also and equally live before the face of the glories of a Sovereign God (coram deo).

Friday, April 21, 2006

Our Legacy Begins in Jerusalem

"But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth" (Acts 1:8).
Our Lord's words to the disciples as they gathered for His ascension served as the strategical foundation for apostolic ministry in the book of Acts. According to these prophetic words, we see that the spread of the church followed this three-tiered development, "in Jerusalem (3:1-8:1), to Judea and Samaria, even Antioch (8:1-12:25), and ultimately to the ends of the earth (13:1-28:31)." Here we have a strategy based upon the premise that the work of the ministry must be firmly laid at home, or in our immediate context, and then from there it gains influence, strength, and has success in transforming the world to the Glory of God. Recently someone asked me if I had a strategy for leaving a legacy and reaching the next generation of African-Americans with Reformed Theology. Indeed I do and it flows from the strategy set forth by our Lord at his ascension and it begins at home.
The Lord is calling us to be witnesses of His power and His truth. The calling has not changed. Being convinced of the Biblical accuracy of Reformed theology, the truth of God starts there. But where do I start dispensing it? The answer is "in Jerusalem." In other words, I begin where I am, at home. If Reformed Theology is true then it must first be reflected in me and my family. I am called to witness the truth and power of God under my roof, with my wife and kids. We must not miss the importance of this foundational principle. If God's truth and power is not effective in changing the way I love my wife and parent my kids, then I have failed to be a witness of my ascended Lord. It must start at home. The passing along of Reformed Theology to my children is first and foremost in my eyes.
Most of us are first generation Reformed Christians. Very few among us have had the blessed privilege of having grandparents, or even parents pass along the Reformed faith. Consequently, I must be aware of the necessity of laying a solid foundation upon which this legacy of gospel truth and conviction can stand.
My challenge begins with making sure that my wife does not see hypocrisy in my life. My ministry in public must be an accurate reflection of my ministry at home. The Reformed theology that I preach must also be the Reformed theology my wife sees and knows that I practice. As Reformed African-Americans we can not underestimate or take lightly the importance of building solid familial relationships from which to spread the gospel. We are all too aware of the horrifying statistics of the disintegration of the Black family in America. Yet, we must insist that these statistics be not representative of our families. If the Black family is to be redeemed, it must first be redeemed under my roof. As a Reformed Christian I must commit to being a husband who loves and sacrifices for his wife (Eph. 5:25ff). My wife must be a women who respects and submits to her husband (Eph. 5:22-24). I must be a father who provides for and trains up his children to love, glory, and hope in Christ (Eph. 6:4). How hypocritical of us to believe that we can take Reformed Theology to the ends of the world, or even the black community, before we have consistently and intentionally taken it to Jerusalem, namely our own homes? Brothers and sisters, this is no light matter.
There are too many men, young and old, seeking to proclaim the truths of the gospel and Reformed theology, but neither the gospel or their theology has made much impact upon their relationship with their wife and kids. Away with this foolishness! Here's a strategy for reaching the next generation, start by reaching your spouse and your kids. My strategy is simple. I want my son to take Reformed Theology to places I could only dream of. I want my son and daughters to introduce people to Reformed Theology that I could have only dreamed of meeting. But first they must fall in love with Reformed Theology. They must fall in love with it because it is the most biblically consistent expression of God known to humanity. But not only that, they must also fall in love with it because they loved how reformed theology caused me to love them. They must love Reformed Theology because of the way it caused me to love their mother. They must love it because of the way it instructed their mother to lovingly and joyfully submit to their father in all things. As we continue the discussion for the future of Reformed theology among African-Americans, let us not neglect to speak biblically about the need to lay a foundation in Jerusalem before we articulate these grand visions of the end of the earth. Train your children first! Love and instruct your wife first! And if God gives you leave and time, perhaps you will be able to reach out to Judea and Samaria. And if He is merciful and gracious, perhaps you will see some fruits in other parts of the world. But whether or not He gives such leave and time, and whether or not He is so merciful and gracious, the primary task is to make sure that those within our immediate sphere of influence are being changed and encouraged by these truths because they see we have been so changed by them.
Believe it or not my friends, I have no grand visions of personally reaching all of Black America with Reformed Theology. My vision is for the equipping of my son and daughters for that task. My immediate goal is Jerusalem, though I am well aware of the need and am preparing should God call me to minister for a time in Judea and Samaria. Yet my legacy begins in Jerusalem. I must make sure those walls are standing strong first.
So, if you are in Judea and Samaria, and have your eyes set upon the rest of the world, and yet your Jerusalem is falling apart, my message to you is "Get back Home!" God is not impressed. And when those to whom you minister find out, they will not be impressed either.

Thursday, April 20, 2006

Reading Now II

A couple of months ago I shared with you what I was reading then. I do believe it is time for another update. My reading usually centers around something I am either writing or preaching on at the time. I continue to read books on worship, though I am beginning to pick up a few others as well. The following are books I have recently read or am currently reading. Again, feel free to share a few of your recent favorite reads:

African-American Christian Worship by Melva Wilson Costen. Here is a historical and somewhat theology look at the roots of African-American Christian Worship. It is at times an insightful read, though it tends to be sympathetic to traditions that have proved more detrimental than helpful to the development of African-American Christianity.

With Reverence and Awe by D.G. Hart and John R. Muether. Here is a good book on the basics of historic Reformed worship. Written from a soundly presbyterian perspective, you are given good historical, confessional, and biblical arguments for the regulative principle in worship. This book has been quite helpful to me.

Uprooting Anger by Robert Jones. I am currently reading this book with a gentleman in our church. We have agreed to read it and get together frequently to discuss what challenges the book brings to us and the answers it offers in bringing this all too recurring sin into obedience to Christ. So far, I am inclined to highly recommend this book for everyone.

High Impact African-American Churches by George Barna and Harry Jackson. I have read it once, and for research purposes am reading it again. Besides the survey results the only real redeeming quality of this book is that it sets before us what biblical Christianity is not. If you don't have it, don't bother. If you do, don't tell anyone.

Black and Tan by Doug Wilson. I have just begun to make my way though this one. Doug Wilson is often interesting and provocative, though I find myself often on the opposite side of his interpretation of history. You may recall a few years ago that Doug and a friend published a controversial little book on Southern Slavery As It Was. In Black and Tan, Doug has cleaned up the contents of that little book and has included it in this present collection of essays on, as he calls it, Slavery, Culture War, and Scripture in America. I learn when I read Doug Wilson, even when I disagree.

The Baptism of Disciples Alone by Fred Malone. Here is the best argument for Reformed Baptist Covenantal Theology that I have read. Contrary to what many covenant theology advocates teach, according to Fred Malone, you don't have to be paedobaptistic in order to embrace covenant theology. Fred Malone is a former presbyterian pastor, turned baptist. He knows the arguments well, and those so inclined to read him will find many of his arguments and interpretations compelling.

Lastly, my son and I daily read Spurgeon's Morning and Evening. We read it separately and then throughout our day discuss what Spurgeon wrote and seek to understand God through it. He challenges me to stay on task with it and I challenge him. It has been quite rewarding.

"Louer Dieu!"

Excuse my French, but I have learned a new word today. The word is voir dire which in English means "to say the truth." Those of you who are more renaissance than me probably already knew that, so cut the brother a little slack. Anyway, I learned this new word because Philip Duncanson has started blogging and his blog is titled "Voir Dire." As you know, I am always eager to hear from other reformed brothers and sisters and am encouraging us all to make our voices and praises known for God's glory and the good of His people. Philip has a heart for God and for his brothers and sisters in Christ. I, for one, am looking forward to Philip sharing his heart with us. Therefore, I encourage you to check out Voir Dire.

By the way, "Louer Dieu" means "Praise God"....I think.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Funding for an RTS Education

Reformed Blacks of America are reporting that Reformed Theological Seminary in Orlando is making available scholarship money for African-American students seeking a Master of Divinity degree. All I have to say is...well, its about time! I could only have been so fortunate as to have had this opportunity while I was toiling at RTS. Yet, I praise God that they are taking this initiative and I pray that these funds will find the right person and be put to great use for the Kingdom. If you or someone you know are interested in pursuing this, please contact Michael Mewborn at RBA.

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

An Acceptable Worship

"Therefore let us be grateful for receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, and thus let us offer to God acceptable worship, with reverence and awe, for our God is a consuming fire" (Heb. 12:28-29).
Worship in the predominantly African-American church should cause us to pause. While we have a wonderful tradition of gospel experience and inspirational music, we have allowed our experience to dictate and in many instance even trump truth. This has resulted in churches and denominations full of people who claim to know much of the "Spirit" but when examined have little understanding of the "Truth." Subsequently, the secular and the sacred are so blurred that rarely is the discussion undertaken to determine if a church's worship is more secular than it is sacred. Gospel artists and secular artists trade platforms and positions as easily as today's black bishops change robes. Looking at the landscape of the predominantly African-American church, it should cause us to examine exactly what we mean when we worship our Lord. It should make us examine our idea of worship. We should ask, "Why is it so easy to move from the sacred altar to the secular auditoriums and vice versa?" I would suggest to you that the reason so many musical performers can move so comfortably in and out of the church, and so many preachers are apt at entertaining is because the lines between worship and entertainment have been blurred - and in many places totally obliterated.
Biblical worship is not a sanctified worldly event. In other words, it is not simply taking the methods and means the world employs to produce a good time, and using them to produce a "good time in the Lord." That may be sanctified entertainment, but that is not worship. Worship is other worldly. It is an encounter with Jesus that takes us out of this world. It is so distinct that those who are most intoned to the world will know unmistakably that the event on Sunday morning or even Saturday evening is something distinct and different - appropriately causing them to draw back in fear or draw near in awe.
Worship is not entertainment. This needs to be reiterated. Indeed, it is a thin line between worship and entertainment, particular among African-Americans. Nevertheless, it is a line that must be drawn and a line that must be maintained if we are ever going to know and teach what it means to offer a worship that is "acceptable." Though there may be some entertaining qualities to worship[1], nevertheless, worship and entertainment have two differing and conflicting agendas. Entertainment is predominantly passive, whereas worship is predominantly active. Entertainment is audience-driven. Worship is God-driven. These are key components to understand if we are going to worship well. Unfortunately, too often what we want in worship is entertainment because this is what we get during the week. This is really what most of us (young and old) are asking for without even knowing it. You see, from television to the theater, from computer programs to computer games, from instant messaging to instant coffee, this generation is treated to a wealth of entertainment, information, and resources graphically designed and instantly delivered. It is fast-paced. It is always new and improved. This creates a low threshold for the slow-paced, meditative, reflective life that is often Christianity. The result is an easy boredom, and a lack of appreciation for the quietness and stillness that often is required in hearing from God. Thus when we come to church, we want in church what we so readily receive all the week long - a fast-paced, up-to-the-minute, quality, graphic entertainment. Unfortunately, too many places on Sunday morning are eager to give people what they want in an effort to reach them, or more accurately, woo them into membership. When this happens, according to Marva Dawn, "the focus then becomes not so much to display the glory of God as to delight the people who come." [2] What is not realized is that these places are doing nothing more than scratching a worldly people where they itch. They are perpetuating a superficial faith. They never penetrate to the deeper places of humanity and substantial Christian experience. This superficiality fails to lead people to see that a relationship, a lasting relationship with God is not accomplished in a fast-paced, hurried, entertainment-driven mode. It comes in getting before God and spending time, often long and quiet times, with Him. This indispensable exercise of Christian devotion is what church is supposed to prepare people for. This is what the church is to prepare people to encounter - a God who is bigger and better than we first imagined, but is never boring, even in the quietest times.

[1] According John M. Frame, "There are some criteria for good entertainment that are also criteria for God-honoring worship. In worship, sermons should be well-organized and clear, maintaining the attention of the worshipers. Music ought to be of high quality led by skillful (1Chron. 15:22; 2Chron. 34:12; Ps. 33:3) artists. It should be memorable, bring its text to dwell in the heart anThosend. Thos in attendance should feel welcome, among friends. Humor is sometimes valuable in worship, since there is humor in Scripture itself. When these criteria are observed, worship inevitably becomes something like entertainment." Contemporary Worship Music: A Biblical Defense (Phillipsburg, NJ: Presbyterian and Reformed Press, 1997), p. 60.
[2] Marva Dawn, How Shall We Worship?, p. 67

Sunday, April 16, 2006

Trust the Resurrected King

On this Blessed Day I am reminded that we have a High Priest who sympathizes with our weaknesses. Therefore we can with confidence draw near unto the Throne of Grace and receive mercy and help for our lean souls.

Hast thou been hungry, child of Mine?
I, too, have needed bread;
For forty days I tasted naught
Till by the angels fed.
Hast thou been thirsty? On the cross
I suffered thirst for thee;
I've promised to supply thy need,
My child, come unto Me.

Perhaps thy way is weary oft,
Thy feet grow tired and lame;
I wearied when I reached the well,
I suffered just the same:
And I bore the heavy cross
I fainted 'neath the load;
And so I've promised rest to all
Who walk the weary road.
Doth Satan sometimes buffet thee,
And tempt thy soul to sin?
Do faith and hope and love grow weak?
Are doubts and fears within?
Remember I was tempted thrice
By this same foe of thine;
But he could not resist the Word,
Nor conquer pow'r divine.

When thou art sad and tears fall fast
My heart goes out to thee,
For I wept o'er Jerusalem --
The place so dear to me:
And when I came to Lazarus' tomb
I wept -- my heart was sore;
I'll comfort thee when thou dost weep,
Till sorrows all are o'er.
Do hearts prove false when thine is true?
I know the bitter dart;
I was betrayed by one I loved --
Who lay close to my heart.
I loved My own, they love Me not,
My heart was lonely too;
I'll never leave thee, child of Mine,
My loving heart is true.
Have courage, then, My faithful one,
I suffered all the way,
Thy sensitive and loving heart
I understand today;
Whate'er thy grief, whate'er thy care
Just bring it unto Me;
Yea, in thy day of trouble call,
I will deliver thee.
(by Susan Umlauf)

Friday, April 14, 2006

Pre-Assembly Convocation

This year The Presbyterian Church of America is holding its General Assembly in Atlanta, GA on June 20-23. Just prior to the general assembly, The African-American Ministries of the PCA will be holding its annual Pre-General Assembly Convocation on June 16-18 at Redemption Fellowship in Fayetteville, GA. Sharing in the word will be pastors Lance Lewis, Mike Jones, Thurman Williams, and African-American Ministries Coordinator Wy Plummer. If you are in the area, you will want to go and be a part.

Tony's Progress

My son is blogging. It is hard to believe that my boy is growing and learning such that he would have something to share with others. Albeit, his spiritual steps are small, they are nonetheless rich and pleasing. It has been a joy to watch Tony's Progress in faith toward Christ. Lord willing, we will enjoy many more years of God's faithful fruit through him. Do visit his blog and encourage him. Though the bud is just beginning to blossom, he's excited.

Thursday, April 13, 2006

Who is Ron Burns?

Last November I had the privilege of making the acquaintance of one Thabiti Anyabwile. He is Assistant Pastor at Capitol Hill Baptist Church in Washington, DC. He is also a brother I highly enjoyed speaking with and getting to know, though all too briefly. I have also enjoyed listening to his sermons and reading some of what he has written. He is a gifted brother, and is positioned to do much for the glory of God and the good of His people. I do recommend you get to know Thabiti too. One of the ways you can learn about him is by reading God Has Set Me Free, an interview recently conducted with him on the Capitol Hill website. Before you do, however, let me give you a heads up. His birth name is not Thabiti, it's Ron Burns. Go figure :-).

Monday, April 10, 2006

What a Reformed Black Christian is Not...

According to our brother Xavier Pickett, it may be wise to understand what a Reformed Black Chrsitian is not, even as we express who we are. These 15 identity statements are provocative, clear, humorous, and true. While you're at Reformed Blacks of America, you may want to check out Lance Lewis' latest installment of Battle Stations.

Speaking of Conferences...

It appears that Carl Trueman has had enough of conferences. He is challenging us to think soberly about our approach to establishing and attending so many conferences. His thoughts are worthy of our careful and honest considerations. You can read his comments and the responses by Rick Phillips and others over at Reformation 21.

Saturday, April 08, 2006

Together for the Gospel

There is much discussion concerning unity. A few people have expressed concern that my lastest thoughts may engender disunity or at least put to risk the unity of the Reformed church. Listen, I have no intention of destroying the unity between blacks and whites within the Reformed church. Though I have not witnessed this mass expression of unity between blacks and whites, since I am not omniscient I will take other's word for it that this unity does exist. Therefore, let me say without horns that I am for unity. In fact, unity is one of the driving forces behind my push for having our own.

You see, in a couple of weeks, some friends and I will have the opportunity to travel to Louisville and fellowship with over 2000 other men at Together For The Gospel Conference. I have long anticipated this event and am eager to be in attendance. Yet this conference strikes me as an amazing expression of disunity. You see, two of the primary architects of this conference are CJ Mahaney of Sovereign Grace Ministries and Ligon Duncan of First Presbyterian Church in Jackson, MS. Apparently these men are good friends and fellow citizens and members of the household of God. Yet they could not be more different. They have different views on church government, spiritual gifts, order of service, even proper attire :-). CJ could never pastor First Presbyterian and Ligon could never be comfortable in the Sovereign Grace movement. Ah, mayber for unity sake, someone needs to tell CJ he just needs to stop being who he is and join the PCA and become a member of First Presbyterian in Jackson. Does Ligon not realize that he is destroying the unity of Christians by not being a pastor in a Sovereign Grace church? Of course I speak foolish, but the point needs to be made. These men are friends and are unified and we need not question their unity, though different they may be. Unity is not sitting next to one another in church. Unity is not singing the same songs. Unity is not following the same order of worship. CJ is more unified with Ligon than he is with many who would hold to CJ's view of the spiritual gifts. Ligon is more unified with CJ than he is with many who hold to Ligon's view of church order. Likewise, I am more unified with my white Reformed brothers and sisters than I am with most of the Christians I know who are black. And just as CJ and Ligon do not have to be in the same church in order to express and appreciate that unity, I do not have to be in the same denomination or local church with my white reformed brothers and sisters to express and appreciate our unity.
Unity is showing a deep appreciation for each others gifts, and being willing to bless God for the demonstration of those gifts for His glory. As different as CJ and Ligon are, they have come to understand their need to learn from one another because they have come to respect the gifts each brings to the other. And though this respect and unity may manifest itself in them worshiping in the same building, on the same day, at the same time, it does not necessarily have to. Can I not seek to minister to black Christians and seek to call my brothers and sisters to do the same, and yet still be unified with my white brothers and sisters? Of course I can! Because our togetherness is not that we sit on the same pew, but our Togetherness is for the Gospel.

Thursday, April 06, 2006

This Thing of Ours, Again

You know I couldn't make reference to Godfather I without doing due diligence and giving Godfather II its due. I am always torn between which of the two movies was the best. I generally rank them as 1A and 1B on the list of greatest movies I have ever seen (Godfather III is a pitiful, poor imitation of the first two). In Godfather II, Michael Corleone picks up La Cosa Nostra where his father Vito Corleone left off. I too would like to pick up where I last left off.

In 2003 I had the unique privilege of delivering the Pastoral Address at the Bethlehem Pastors Conference in Minneapolis MN. Having met John Piper a couple of years prior, and having been duly impressed with his heart for God's glory and his passion for racial harmony, I was more than eager to be a part of the Bethlehem Conference. It was a time I will never forget. Not only did I have opportunity to spend more time talking and sharing with Piper, but I also shared the platform with two other wonderful and affable Christians, Sinclair Ferguson and Philemon Yong. Getting to know them was well worth the trip to Minnesota.
Also, I worked at Ligonier Ministries for 5 years during my time at Seminary. I learned much and became more impressed with the labors of RC Sproul and how diligently he works to maintain the theological and practical integrity of Ligonier Ministries. Both John Piper and RC Sproul have been and continue to be encouragements to me and my ministry, as well as to my family. However, as I continue to consider This Thing of Ours, I am inclined to suggest to you that my excitement for Bethlehem and Ligonier has been displaced by some of our own things.

I have never been asked to speak at Ligonier's National Conference, and I may never again be asked to speak at Bethlehem's Conference for Pastors. Yet, I am not waiting by my phone at night or watching my mailbox for such invitations. If they come, I will, needless say, probably respond in the affirmative. Yet, I remain unimpressed with the possibilities. However, I am overly enthusiastic about the prospect of speaking at New Life Bible Conference in June and Miami's Pastor's Conference in November. You see, while Ligonier and Bethlehem have much to offer me, New Life and Miami has much to offer our churches. Not only do they have much to offer in content, but they also are positioned to make significant contributions in the way of example. These conferences are our conferences in the sense that they are developed by us, designed by us, funded by us, and therefore should be supported by us. They demonstrate that not only can we do our own thing, but we can do it well. Yet, it is not only conferences that I have in mind when I say "our own thing."

As one who has had the fortune of having a book published by a reputable publisher, I know how hard it is to get these Christian publishers to invest in your work. If your name is not RC Sproul, John Piper, or Rick Warren you will find many doors closed, though your material is well worth publishing and would be beneficial to the faith. This is particularly true for Black authors. The amount of Christian Black authors at companies like P&R, Crossway, and Multnomah could easily be counted on your hands. This is not to only point the finger at P&R, Crossway, and Multnomah because few big name Christian publishers have evangelical African-Americans within their stable of authors (IVP may be the lone exception, having made an intentional effort to publish books for and by African-Americans, also Moody has done a good job at publishing Tony Evans, but we seen how far Tony's theology has falling of late). Most of these companies see no immediate personal interest in investing in issues that may only speak to the predominantly African-American church. It would not enhance their bottom line, nor do they believe it would serve their perceived clientele. What should be our response to this?
Well, here's a suggestion I believe you can't refuse. While we may continue to pursue publication with these companies, I am inclined to believe that we need to begin publishing ventures of our own. I know too many Reformed Black brothers and sisters who have much to contribute but have few significant avenues for publishing their thoughts and ideas. We could not only serve ourselves and the predominantly black church by making books by Reformed African-Americans more accessible, but we would also serve the greater Christian community as well. We would be making this worthwhile material available to them and make them aware of what they have been so passively neglecting. We can not continue to look to the majority Reformed Christianity to answer and address all our questions. We must seek to address and answer those questions ourselves. We must seek to make those answers available to all, particularly to all of our own. If we refuse this suggestion, we will have only ourselves to blame for the horseheads :-).

Monday, April 03, 2006

La Cosa Nostra "This Thing of Ours"

As you can see from my profile, one of my favorite movies is The Godfather. The mafia has long affectionately referred to their organization of crime as La Cosa Nostra, in English meaning "This Thing of Ours." Or as we like to say it, "Our Thang." As I have been seeking to communicate the need for the Reformed Black community to establish itself distinct though not entirely independent from the broader predominantly reformed white community, I say it affectionately and hopefully effectively, we need "Our Own Thang."

When I went to seminary at Reformed Theological Seminary in Orlando FL, all of my theological heroes were white. All of my pastoral and preaching heroes were white. As I entered seminary I consciously on one level, and subconsciously at another level, believed that if I was going to be reformed and articulate a theology that was reminiscent of the theology of my heroes then I would inevitably have to be like them. I would have to write like them (as much as possible). I would have to preach like them (as much as possible). I would have to seek to emulate them in word and deed. And I was prepared to pursue that course until God providential gave me a conversation with a wise and gifted (though sometimes over the top :-) professor, who told me straightforwardly that God wanted me to be me. God wanted me to hold the theology that I hold, but to use the experiences He has given me and to use the personality that He has developed in me to speak His truth in my context. In the professor's words, "God uses our experiences to make us more capable theologians." For me, that conversation was not only eye-opening, but epochal in my development as a Reformed thinker and preacher. That conversation, and others with him, planted the seeds, not only for my book On Being Black and Reformed, but the seeds for my coming to say without hesitation that we need "our own thang".
To have our own thang is to do what I am doing with this blog and what we are doing with Cyrene Ministries. It is doing what guys like Reformed Blacks of America, Black Puritan, Joshua Parker and others are doing on the internet. We are all in one sense or another seeking to bring a Reformed worldview to bear upon our cultural context. We are seeking to be used by God according to our gifts and insights for the furtherance of truth to our people. Yet the internet is just the first, indeed baby steps in our being all we should be. We must write books, even have the vision to print and publish these books, that speak with our unique voices and address our unique concerns and the concerns of the broader Christian community. We must not simply write on socio-economic issues or race and racism, but we must also write on theology, worship, biblical manhood and womanhood, the person and nature of Christ, etc. Though when we write it may sound like those voices that have so well trained us (and well it should since we are not reinventing the theological wheel), and yet it won't be their voices or experiences, but our voices and experiences that make our theology real to those who read and listen.
Also, we must have a vision for more of our own conferences on the Bible and theology. We must plan to attend conferences like New Life Bible Conference in Chicago and Miami Pastor's Conference at Glendale Baptist Church. While we admire and even look to conferences like Ligonier, Piper's Bethlehem Pastors, MacArthur's Shepherd, Philadelphia Conference on Reformed Theology, and even the Together for the Gospel (which I highly anticipate), we must find ourselves more eager and more excited about developing and sustaining our "own thang". We must not only plan to attend these conferences, but we must also desire and indeed develop more of these conferences - conferences and seminars where there is more of us than there is of them; where we are the majority platform speakers and they are the guests. (to be continued...)