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 :-).


Eric M Washington said...

Tony, I understand your concern; but do you think WE need to stand out at the possible expense of true Christian unity? This is a difficult thing, and I'm torn. Shall I continue to wait for pastoral opportunities in Reformed Baptist circles that are nearly lilly white? Or should I pursue ventures in traditional Black Baptist churches and seek to reform them to the glory of God? My brother, you have pointed out a huge dilemma for a few of us.

ajcarter said...

My brother Eric, unity is what we seek. But there can not be unity among non-equals. I believe we will be even more unified once we understand our place and exercise our gifts freely. Until your white majority Reformed Baptist churches begin seeing your ethnicity in calling you to pastor a predominantly white church as an asset rather than a liability, there may be nothing for you but a church plant. This is not a bad thing. We need to plant more Reformed churches. However, if you have opportunity to take an existing church and slowly shepherd them to embrace Reformed theology as Ken Jones did at Greater Union and as we are doing in Atlanta, I would pray that you would seriously consider that option as well. This indeed is a serious dilemma. But it is not unresolvable. The Kingdom of God goes forward and we go forward with it. We do not have a pessimistic missiology or eschatology (personal or collective). Be not dismay. And let not our hearts be troubled. We are Together for the Gospel :-).

Pastor Lance Lewis said...

Greetings brothers,

please forgive my naivete but could you inform me as to the function of this unity that's being written about? I understand the basis for our unity, (the biblical gospel as declared and held to by those who identify ourselves as Reformed believers)however I'm a bit fuzzy on how it's currently working to reach and impact the masses of black folk.

For example, have denominations such as the SBC, EV Free or PCA declared intentions to fund, train and then send reformed church planters to reach African-Americans?

Have any reformed publishers approached some of our good reformed black pastors and asked about publishing books of their sermons?

Have any of the many conferences sponsored by our good white brothers asked ministries like Cyrene or RBA to speak to their attendees concerning their mission and perhaps even ask for support?

Do any of you black brothers regularly blog on white reformed sites and if so could you let me know what they are?

Are there any scholarships for minorities who wish to receive a sound reformed seminary education? I ask that since I have to young men at my church who struggle to pay the seminary tuition, board and fees. Although I'd love for our church to do so, we are small and just don't have the funds. (Yes, we're an African-American reformed church in a mainly Anglo denomination)

I ask these questions because it appears prudent to define the function of our unity before we suggest or imply that it is being threatened.

Finally, if I may be so bold (maybe I need to start blogging on my site, or wait for one of my good Anglo reformed brothers to invite me to his) might I suggest that we take some time to read, think through and pray about Numbers 32; Joshua 4:1-12 and Joshua 22:1-6 as we continue this most necessary discussion on authentic, biblical unity.

Peace with Truth

ajcarter said...

Brother Lance, it is good hearing your chime in. Your words are true. True. True.

I emailed you a couple of weeks ago to say that I liked the new website and I continue to be encouraged by the vision. By the way, are you having the conference this year?

Also, it was the conversation you and I had briefly in Miami that began my mind thinking along these lines. Do you remember?

Stay on the frontlines and be encouraged.

Pastor Lance said...

Yo brother AC,

you're blogs have been a great encouragement to me. Thanks for bringing up the convo about having our own, it's long overdue.

No we won't be having the conference again this year. There's a big CCDA conference in Philly scheduled for the same time and I've decided to put our energies into that. Lord willing we'll resume next year. Of course I need to get you up to Philly one year to bless us with a message at the conference.

I do remember our fellowship in Miami and look forward to continuing our discussion on this crucial issue.

I plan to be in the ATL from June 16-22 for some PCA biz and would love to get together with you then.

Again, thanks for the encouragement brother, I anticipate reading more soon.


btw, I didn't get that email, pls let me know what address you sent it to so can try and find it.

Ayisha said...

nice site for more books I have some more gifts..

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