Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Reforming the Black Church...

is it possible? This is the question raised by our brother Thabiti over at Pure Church. It is indeed an important question and one that surely deserves our attention.

I honestly believe that we have the awesome privilege of witnessing and even participating with an awakening of sorts in our day. Reformed theology is once again being faithfully preached and taught in a wider and ever-growing populace. There is energy and excitement around biblical theology once again as more and more churches and individuals are coming to see the dearth of theological reflection that has been so popular in the church and are awakening to the truth and experiential depth that is Reformed Theology. And as Reformed theology has found a wider audience in our day, it should not surprise us that this interest and rise includes the rise of Reformed theology within the predominantly black church.

And yet, as some blacks begin to embrace true biblical and historical theology, the question necessarily arises, "Can the Black church in America be Reformed?" While this is a question dear to my heart, before I address it at any length (in future post), I must first add this caveat to the question. In all honesty, the question is actually a question that should be asked of the rest of the Christian church in American, even as it is asked of the predominantly Black one.

Can the Church in America be Reformed? It is easy to look at some of the debilitating error of the Black church and miss that at some level the Black church in America is a reflection, almost microcosm, of the greater Christian expression in America. The vast majority of white churches in America need the theology of the Reformation as much as the Black church. The vast majority of white churches in America are full of erroneous theology and practices as are the black churches. In fact, it could be argued that the hindrances to bringing reformed theology to predominantly white churches is actually greater that it is in the predominantly black church.
For example, according to George Barna and his associates, black Christians in America are more likely to attend church, read their Bibles, believe the Bible is true, pray and fast, believe in the sovereignty of God over all of life, and trust the word of their preachers more than white Christians (see George Barna and Harry Jackson in High Impact African-American Churches). These statistics would seem to suggest that it would be easier to bring Reformed theology to people in Black churches than it would be to bring it to people in White churches.

Subsequently, to ask the question of the Black church is to beg the question for the White church. Alas, if the Black church in America can not be reformed, what hope is there for the predominantly White church? What hope do we have for Christianity in America? Well, actually a lot. And in fact, it may lie in examining the possibility of Reformed theology within the broader Black Christian context. I will examine this point next.

Monday, January 29, 2007

Prophets in the Land?

For some reason I have come across some rather provocative sermons lately. Here, however, may be the most provocative of them all. I am not familiar with this gentleman; but one thing is for sure, he does not care. He only desires that you hear this message.

(And Louis, you told me that there were no more prophets today. Do you wanna rethink that?)

Sunday, January 28, 2007

Solus Christus

I have been doing a little work in with the Five Solas of the Reformation lately. I came across this wonderful quote from Calvin in the Institutes. It sums up Solus Christus (Christ Alone) as only Calvin could:

"We see that our whole salvation and all its parts are comprehended in Christ (Acts 4:12). We should therefore take care not to derive the least portion of it from anywhere else. If we seek salvation, we are taught by the very name of Jesus that it is “of him” (1Cor. 1:30). If we seek any other gifts of the Spirit, they will be found in his anointing. If we seek strength, it lies in his dominion; if purity, in his conception; if gentleness, it appears in his birth. For by his birth he was made like us in all respects (Heb. 2:17), that he might learn to feel our pain (cf. Heb. 5:2). If we seek redemption, it lies in his passion; if acquittal, in his condemnation; if remission of the curse, in his cross (Gal. 3:13); if satisfaction, in his sacrifice; if purification, in his blood; if reconciliation, in his descent into hell; if mortification of the flesh, in his tomb; if newness of life, in his resurrection; if immortality in the same; if inheritance of the Heavenly Kingdom, in his entrance into heaven; of protection, if security, if abundant supply of all blessings, in his Kingdom; if untroubled expectation of judgment, in the power given to him to judge. In short, since rich store of every king of good abounds in him, let us drink our fill from this fountain, and from none other." (Institutes of the Christian Religion, Book 2, Ch. 16, Sec. 19)

Friday, January 26, 2007

More of Voddie's Message

Thanks to a heads up from our friend Chuck, you can read some of the family worship distinctives of Grace Family Baptist Church, where Voddie Baucham serves. Also, some of you have expressed a desire to hear the rest of Voddie's message. You can listen to rest of the message here.

Thursday, January 25, 2007

At Home Youth Ministry

Here is a message (powerful and controversial) by Voddie Baucham that was recently brought to my attention. Voddie has a passion and pleasure for the family. In Voddie I hear a man with whose heart I can identify. I have been saying much of what Voddie is saying in this message, but I just never have said it so clearly and convincingly. And so I thank God for Voddie's insights. This message was given to a group of Southern Baptist pastors and he challenged them to rethink youth ministry and the need to develop and support what I like to think of as Home Youth Ministry. The message is called The Home is the Key. Check it out. But be warned, Voddie does not play nice with our churches' popular understanding of ministry to our children.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Abortion As Racism

It is a known fact that the majority of Planned Parenthood clinics are in the areas where there is a predominantly African-American population. It is also a known fact that the percentage of aborted African-American babies is drastically disproportionate to the percentage of African-American women in this country. It would not be hard to deduce from these facts and others that racism has a part in the continuing rise of African-American abortions. It is also not hard to see, as one writer put it, that the abortion industry is decimating the black community.

This past weekend, John Piper preached a sermon, When Abortion is Racism, in which he decried the inherent racism in the increasing disproportionate numbers of abortions among African-Americans. May the holocaust of the unborn be a continuing cry of African-American preachers until we hear all those newly conceived babies cry for themselves. And may our churches be places where women and men can come and have the blood of the unborn washed from their guilty consciences by the blood of Jesus.

Monday, January 22, 2007


Growing up in a rural African-American family, our lives were surrounded by myths and legends of the seen and unseen. I could tell you countless stories of the unexplained and unexplainable that have been past down through generations of my family. Most of the stories were merely folklore that provided interesting conversation for the young people as we listened attentively and fascinated by the stories of our elders (besides, in the woods of northern Michigan, there wasn't a lot of interesting things going on). I have long lost faith in most of the stories, though from time to time I past them along to my children in hopes of giving them a sense of our history and provide them with questions to ask their grandmother. Yet, there are a few of tales that continue to intrigue me because I can remember a few odd incidents occurring when I was present. Yet, apparently my family is not the only one who has tales of ghosts and the paranormal.

One of our favorite restaurants in the Atlanta area is The Green Manor. It is an old plantation house that has been turned into a restaurant that offers one of the finest buffets of southern cooking you will find anywhere. According to the good folks at The Green Manor, not only is there good food on the grounds, but there is also a rather friendly ghost residing there. Apparently some ghostbusters have been called in to search out for the apparition. All I know is that the next time I am at The Green Manor, I will let them know that I will take the the turkey, ham, dressing, sweet potatoes, and peach cobbler, but they hold the ghost.

Saturday, January 20, 2007

Radical vs. Regurgitation

Anthony Bradley has written another thought-provoking (as he is want to do) article entitled Wanted: Black Reformed Churches That Radicalize Beyond Regurgitation. Without a doubt, Bradley is one of the more progressive yet grounded theological minds we have today. And to God's glory he's Black and Reformed (or should I say Reformed and Black, Mike? :-). Check out the article. Anthony always gives interesting fodder for theological and cultural reflection.

A Short History of Being Black and Reformed

Dr. Bob Price is the Home Missions ministry team leader for all Christian Reformed black ministries in the Christian Reformed Church. I have had the pleasure of getting to know Bob over the last few years and have found him to be a brother of geniune faith and insight. He has written a brief article entitled A Short History of Being Black and Reformed for their denominational magazine Banner. It seems that Bob has the seedlings for a book here. I for one hopes he pursues it.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

On the Cross of Christ

This morning Samuel Rutherford reminded me of the beauty of bearing the cross of Christ. Rutherford suffered much for the cause of Christ and has much to teach us in our dangerous comforts of life:

"O how sweet are the sufferings of Christ for Christ! God forgive them that raise an ill report upon the sweet cross of Christ. It is but our weak and dim eyes, and our looking only to the black side, that makes us mistake. Those who can take that crabbed tree handsomely upon their back, and fasten it on cannily, shall find it such a burden as wings unto a bird or sails to a ship."

Monday, January 15, 2007

Strength to Love

I grew up listening to Dr. King's speeches and sermons. By the time I was in high school, I could quote many of his more famous sermons verbatim. Without a doubt, Dr. King's oratory skills had a profound effect upon me and my subsequent development as a preacher. People may not always agree with Dr. King's theology and may question some of his politics, but there is no questioning the fact that he was a first rate orator. And yet, not only was he a great orator, but he was a fine writer and a most erudite man. Anyone who would take the time to read The Letter from Birmingham Jail and realize that the letter was written on paper that was smuggled in to him and that he had no literary resources available to him, one would have to admit that Dr. King's mind and heart were full of knowledge and passion. The Letter from Birmingham Jail is a undeniable classic piece of American literature. Yet, for me, my favorite writings of Dr. King are in the book Strength to Love. This a collection of some of his more powerful and insightful sermons concerning America and the Civil Rights Movement.
I first came in contact with Strength to Love during my freshman year of college. And it has been a staple in my library ever since. I have read it and reread it countless time. I have referenced it directly and indirectly in my writings and preaching. I not only learned about the mind of Dr. King, but Dr. King through these sermons introduced me to other intellectual and spiritual giants, whom he quotes.

Admittedly, Dr. King's theology leaves a bit to be desired. His misrepresentation of Calvinism, Reformed theology, and particularly the doctrine of total depravity in his sermon "The Answer to a Perplexing Question," is not to be expected of a man with such learning. His assessment was indeed a caricature of the truth of Calvinism and probably the result of interactions with liberal professors and his own political expedience. Nevertheless, I won't dismiss Dr. King because he lacked theological acuteness. I don't read King for that. I read King so as to be inspired by his pathos and his ability to articulate that passion in words. King reminds me that true theological/biblical preaching must not be dry and ordinary. If he could use colorful, inspiring words for the cause of Civil Rights, how much more should I strive to use them for the cause of Christ. Here is an example and one of my favorite passages from his sermon Loving Your Enemies:
To our most bitter opponents we say: "We shall match your capacity to inflict suffering by our capacity to endure suffering. We shall meet your physical force with soul force. Do to us what you will, and we shall continue to love you. We cannot in all good conscience obey your unjust laws, because noncooperation with evil is as much a moral obligation as is cooperation with good. Throw us in jail, and we will still love you. Bomb our homes and threaten our children, and we will still love you. Send your hooded perpetrators of violence into our community at the midnight hour and beat us and leave us half dead, and we shall still love you. But be ye assured that we will wear you down by our capacity to suffer. One day we shall win freedom, but not only for ourselves. We shall so appeal to your heart and conscience that we shall win you in the process, and our victory will be a double victory."

My edition of Strength to Love is an old hardback edition published shortly after Dr. King's death. I have worn it out pretty good. Some of the pages have been taped together and the binding is not as strong as it once was. Nevertheless, the words are still intact and never cease to make an impact on me no matter how many times I read them. If you are looking for some way to remember Dr. King and his message this year, do yourself and all those around you a favor and read Strength to Love. It may strengthen your resolve to love as Christ did and to preach with more passion for HIM.

Another Soldier Is Gone

Dora McDonald, Dr. Martin Luther King's personal secretary, died this past weekend. She was 81 years old and a faithful friend to Dr. King 'til the end. Here is the story.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

A Presidentially Approved Convention?

The Southern Baptist Convention is at it again. It appears that some of the issues that split the Baptist over a century and a half ago, are raising their heads and threatening to split them again. This time the split has a presidential seal of approval. It will be interesting to see how far this goes.

Monday, January 08, 2007

Bringin da Reformation home

My man Scotty (Black Creole Reformer) has returned from his trip to Switzerland. He has posted a must see photo. It is a reminder to us all that God is doing (and has long been doing) a great and wonderful thing in our world. If there is ever a time to say "non nobis Domine" it is in light of this photo.

What is culture?

Over at PureChurch, our brother TA has been doing an interesting, even thought-provoking, series on the church and culture. In one of his post he raised the question, "What is culture?" I find trying to define culture is like trying to define "mother." I may not be able to define it, but I sure know what it is.

Sunday, January 07, 2007

Baby in the Tree

Can you see the baby in the tree?

Friday, January 05, 2007

But God...

Except God had opened my eyes to his sovereign amazing grace, this too would be my song. May God open the eyes of those who sing with passion but lack understanding.


And may we all better understand and worship the God 0f Daniel 4:35-36:

At the end of the days I, Nebuchadnezzar, lifted my eyes to heaven, and my reason returned to me, and I blessed the Most High, and praised and honored him who lives forever, for his dominion is an everlasting dominion, and his kingdom endures from generation to generation; 35 all the inhabitants of the earth are accounted as nothing, and he does according to his will among the host of heaven and among the inhabitants of the earth; and none can stay his hand or say to him, "What have you done?"

Thursday, January 04, 2007

The Year with Rutherford

Last year my morning devotions were spent with Spurgeon in Morning and Evening. This year I have chosen to use The Letters of Samuel Rutherford as my morning spiritual wake up. The Letters of Samuel Rutherford come with high recommendations. Some have referred to these letters as: "the most remarkable series of devotional letters that the literature of the Reformed churches can show." It was said of Robert Murray M'Cheyne that "the Letters of Samuel Rutherford were often in his hand." Richard Baxter's view was that, apart from the Bible, "such a book as Mr. Rutherford's Letters the world never saw the like," while to Charles Spurgeon they were "the nearest thing to inspiration which can be found in all the writings of mere men."

Monday, January 01, 2007

New Year's Eve Prayer

Last evening at Southwest Christian Fellowship, in our annual joint New Year's Eve Service with Berean Bible Baptist Church, this prayer was offered up at the conclusion of our time together:

Dear God, Great and Holy, Just and True, One and Only God,

This night we have gathered to offer to you the first fruits of 2007. As you have been faithful in bearing us over into another year, may we be faithful in making your name known.

As we enter this year, we begin with praying for forgiveness. Forgive us for how often this past year we have taken unto ourselves the glory that was due only unto you. Forgive us for how often this past year our hearts have wandered and strayed at the enticements of this world. Forgive us for how often this past year we have allowed anxiety to dim the light of our faith and steal the wealth of our joy.

And yet, in spite of our sin, even our lack of faithfulness, you have remained faithful. In spite of our wandering, you have never for one moment left us or forsaken us. And as we enter this new year, may we honor you not only with the first fruits, but may you bear fruit through us all year long.

Be praised God, Holy Father
Be praised God, Holy Son
Be praised God, Holy Spirit
Be praised Holy God, Three in One

Be praised this night and all year long. Amen.