Friday, February 23, 2007

Trip Highlights in Pictures

Here are some pictures from the recent dialogue Thabiti participated in with a Muslim apologist in SE Asia. He will provide further highlights and reflections when he returns next week, Lord willing. Your continued prayers are appreciated!

Bro. Hamed & Thabiti were the speakers

They were given 30 minutes each to speak on the subject "Who is Jesus Christ?" in light of the Bible and the Quran.

Estimated at 200 in attendance, mostly students from university

q & a

Saturday, February 17, 2007

Prayer Request

Tomorrow, a friend from church and I have the privilege of traveling to Southeast Asia for a week. We'll be there visiting some friends. The Lord has opened an opportunity to engage in a public dialogue with a leading Muslim apologist on the Person and work of Jesus. It'll be second such dialogue I've had the privilege of participating in. I'll also have an opportunity to preach at a church there pastored by a dear friend.

Please pray for our trip if the Lord lays it on your hearts. Pray that Christ Jesus would be high and lifted up and for the saving power of the Gospel to work in the audience of 99% Muslim men and women. Pray that we might have boldness as we ought, and that the Lord would fill our mouths once opened.

I'll try to post some trip highlights during the week, though that may be tough. Lord willing, when we return, we'll resume blogging with a couple concluding posts on reform in the predominantly African-American church.

Grace and peace in Him who has purchased us with His own blood.

Friday, February 16, 2007

Who's Who in Black Spirituality

Beliefnet recently published their list of "who's who" in African-American spiritual circles (HT: Tim Challies). It's an interesting smorgasborg of spiritual ideas, and exhibit A in why the African-American church needs to be reformed! And what a most tragic report to release in African-American history month....

The list includes (see if you can match my description with the actual person):

1. A man who denies the Trinity

2. A New Age Yoruba priestess

3. A man with the rare experience of being disciplined by his denomination for heresy and even shunned by the likes of the man who denies the Trinity!

4. A preacher who "discipled" Touch By An Angel co-star Della Reese

5. The dean of black preaching (whom I like in a grandfatherly sort of way, but I've never read a clear gospel presentation in his collected sermons)

6. Dubbed "cashflow" by family members, this preacher needs a personal jet to fly to his million dollar Manhattan weekend apartment.

There are others that might be named as more influential than many on the list. Tony Evans? James Cone? Ken Hutcherson??? Even Al Sharpton and Jessee Jackson.

If you've been following the posts "Can the Predominantly African-American Church Be Reformed?" you'll notice the social justice/economic and social development strain of the church prominently on display in many of the biographies. It would be interesting to know how many of the people that tout these achievements and interests are consistent in their proclamation of the Gospel. I honestly don't know. I pray that they all do. But if not, then you'll no doubt see the problem: it's tremendously easy to lose the gospel in the midst of caring for seemingly intractable social ills.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Can the Predominantly African-American Church Be Reformed? 6

My good and faithful brother Eric asked me to put forward a bare-bones Christ-centered solution for disentangling "blackness" and "whiteness" from "church." If I understood his comments correctly, there is a good and natural question about how to jettison idolatrous notions of blackness and preserve a recognition of the imago dei in black folks. He asks: "what aspects of the image of God in browner skin tones will/should remain when "'black'ness" is Reformed?" A great question.

Trusting Eric's discernment, I've probably reached the point where I need to get past lament and offer some thoughts aimed more clearly at solution. And to do that, I want to be as "bare-bones" about it as I can. And to do that... let me simply ask and answer the question, "Ideally, what kind of church would I really, really like to belong to or pastor?"

Here are my answers in descending importance. "I would really, really like to belong to or pastor a church where":

1. The gospel of Jesus Christ is faithfully preached each Lord's Day and consistently applied to the Christian and non-Christian. I would love to belong to a church or pastor a church where the teachers "bring da Word," rightly divided, in season and out of season, where the Gospel is proclaimed and protected by leaders and members who search the Scripture.

2. People love radically. Across class, ethnic, language, political, citizenship status, gender, generational and every other natural division. A church of deep and wide fellowship between members, not just on Sundays but daily from house to house and in the workplace. Rejoicing together, mourning together, bearing with one another, receiving the weaker brothers, laying down liberties. A church where the watching world says, "Yep... those folks must be Jesus followers. Surely God sent Jesus to save the world. Look at how they love!"

3. The saints are called up into heaven or call heaven down in prayer. Put me in a church where the people of God call on the God of the people day and night with fervency, expectation, and joy.

4. People are growing and are concerned to help others grow. The fruit of the Spirit are evident and lasting. The brances are abiding in the True Vine. Bible knowledge increases, but so too does obedience to what the Bible teaches, and all without arrogance or being puffed up.

5. Clear, healthy, loving distinctions are kept between those professing faith in Christ and those not professing faith. I'd love to belong to a church that owns its responsibility for knowing the spiritual state of its members and for calling its members to live holy lives depending upon God's gracious aid.

6. Members are zealous in doing good. A church where members are first focused on the needs of the body and secondly the community. Where there are no limits to their generosity, compassion, and commitment to serving others. And the one good they do at all times is spread the Good News to every creature.

7. Family worship is modeled and practiced by all with families. Where Christianity is not a solo sport and nor is it a public, pay-per-view event but is practiced in homes when no one is watching but the children and the Lord. Where seeds are planted and watered by fathers and mothers, husbands and wives, and God gives abundant increase in the conversion and discipleship of young people.

8. Missions is a high priority budgetarily and in individual personal decisions.

Okay... this is the church I'd love to join or pastor. Right about now, the old joke is ringing in my head. "If you find a perfect church, don't join it. Because if you do, it won't be perfect anymore." There are probably other things I'd consider in some measure, but I think this is the meat. And I think this would be a bare-bones, Christ-centered corporate body. Now, to return to Eric's question....

Nothing is said in this list about culture or ethnicity. How much of our cultural identity (black, white, Asian, etc.) needs to be put aside and how much retained? We need put aside everything that hinders the 8 items above, in my opinion. If these 8 things are more or less indicative of the agenda of Jesus in the Church, His body, and if anything associated with our identity hinders any of these eight things, then our "identity" has crossed a very wide and important line.

I receive a fair amount of email from good white brothers in the Lord asking, "How much should I be willing to do to accomodate non-white attenders and members in the church?" And I get an equal amount of mail from good black brothers in the Lord asking, "How much of my culture should I give up in order to join predominantly white churches?" (Notice how both questions arc in the same direction... blacks joining white churches. I almost never get these same questions from the vantage point of whites joining black churches).

The answer in both cases is the same, I think. Accomodate or give up as much as is necessary to live like Jesus in the church, as much as is necessary to live out these eight things (or some similar but better defined list).

Make no mistake. The cost of doing this is quite high--especially for ethnic minorities joining predominantly white churches (again, that's the direction most of this conversation takes. I assume there may be similar costs for white brethren joining predominantly black churches; I just don't have any real data). We might measure the costs on an increasing scale that looks something like this:
  • Mild discomfort at being "the only one."
  • A sense of alienation triggered by "foreign" or "white" music styles, sermon illustrations, or jokes
  • Loss of genuine fellowship and friendship with other Christians at the "white church"
  • Family mildly, half-jokingly questions your racial identity or loyalty to the community
  • Family and "friends" reject you as "too white"; loss of significant friendships and relationships in your native community and your "white church"
  • Troubled self-perception; internalized self-hatred as an ethnic minority
  • Isolation, misunderstanding, fear and in some cases depression
  • Parents watch their children experience pains of confused ethnic identity
These aren't strictly linear or stagewise. Not everyone experiences the same thing or the same degree of intensity. But these are some of the real costs.

My white brethren need to understand that these are real costs experienced by the brave who would live, love and labor together across ethnic lines, and that a staunch, uncritical adherence to "white" (misread, "neutral") cultural styles is inflicting unnecessary harm on their brown brethren. My black brethren need to trust God that the potential costs will be met (if not in this life time, then in glory) with staggering rewards and crowns of rejoicing. More of my white brethren need to experience these costs and take these risks of faith by joining predominantly black churches instead of driving by half a dozen to find the nice suburban white church. More of my black brethren need to actively seek non-blacks to be a part of their spiritual family. All of us need to risk as much as we can for a vision of a reformed church where all nations are welcomed and loved.

The cost is high, but great are the rewards if we by God's grace can live this way.

I've stayed away from discussing corporate worship (music styles and singing) in pretty much all the posts I've written on race and culture and the church. Eric politely called me on it :-) I've stayed away from it because (a) it's emotional and explosive for many, often leading to unproductive conversations, and (b) I don't think it's really the issue that matters most. In other words, if we really wanted to live like Jesus would have us live in the church, we'd figure something out. We wouldn't mind singing something from 16th century Europe or Latin America or a hymn in Swahili from East Africa (groups ranging from Selah to Donnie McClurkin have figured out how to do this) as long as it celebrated and exalted our one Jesus.

I'm musically illiterate, but I sing just about everything except that rock stuff (I don't get it... where's the beauty?). I've learned to enjoy most classical. Hymns of the Reformation are cool. Mahalia Jackson is still the queen. Fairfield Four... Gaithers... Mercy Me... Budy Jewell... Peter Tosh... Dinah Washington... Marian Anderson... Kathy Trocolli... Phillips, Craig and Dean... Albertina Walker... Kurt Carr. This is a partial list of the artists I'm looking at in my bookshelf right now. Half the folks aren't "native" to me, culturally speaking. But there's much I've learned to appreciate. And learning to appreciate is another way of saying learning to love. And perhaps that's what's missing in our churches when it comes to Christ-centered reform and questions of culture... we've not yet learned to love the way Jesus loves.

At the end of the day, my hunch is that our churches are not integrated--not because our cultural heritages are so intractable and music styles so divergent--but because we're not even trying. We have all the omnipotent aid of heaven to sustain us in our efforts and an omniscient wisdom to guide us in our thinking. There's really no excuse; we're complacent in our cultural enclaves. It's to the church's shame that Jackie Robinson integrated baseball before the church has integrated. It's to our shame that Brown v. Board integrated public schools before the churches have integrated. It's to our shame that the military beat us to it by several decades. It's to our shame that unregenerate men have made more progress on at least co-existing in the same space than the blood-bought church of Jesus Christ has made on loving across boundaries.

I want to join a church so deeply marked by those eight things above that cultural reforms in the church, if not easy, are at least considered an essential part of what it means to be the body of Christ. What parts of the imago dei in darker hue will remain? I suspect the parts that have nothing to do with hue... but with love, peace, reconciliation, and union with Jesus. I also suspect that will be costly.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Can the Predominantly African-American Church Be Reformed? 5

Not without reforming the pastor.

It seems that so much of the church's health rides on the health of the pastors/elders and the men of the church. And that's by God's design.

Pastors and elders are to be examples to the flock in everything (1 Tim. 4:12b). They are rightly looked to as a model of Christian faith, conduct and virtue. And their prominence and teaching role in the congregation more or less guarantees that they will impress their character upon that of the congregation. The congregation, over time, will think and act much like the elders/pastors think and act. Which is to say, over time they will think and act more like Jesus if that's the pastors' manner, or they will think and act in ways well beneath the calling of Christ if that be the pastors' way of life.

This makes reforming the man in the ministry of paramount importance. Will he leave the imprimatur of Christ on the people of God, or will he leave them stamped with the stains of his deficiency and unprepared to meet Christ on the Day of Judgment? Each time we enter the pulpit, each time we gather as the church, we confess our belief in the coming Day of the Lord. We need the kind of reformation of pastors that makes such faith in the coming Day clear in our lives, our pursuits, our preaching, etc. Here's how Lemuel Haynes expressed it in one ordination sermon:
[His preaching] is not to display his talents; but like one who feels the weight of eternal things, he will not address his hearers as though judgment was a mere empty sound; but viewing eternity just before him, and a congregation on the frontiers of it, whose eternal state depends upon a few uncertain moments; Oh! with what zeal and fervor will he speak! How will death, judgment, and eternity appear as it were in every feature, and every word! Out of the abundance of his heart, his mouth will speak. His hearers will easily perceive, that the preacher is one who expects to give account. He will study and preach with reference to a judgment to come, and deliver every sermon in some respects, as if it were his last, not knowing when his Lord will call him, or his hearers to account. —We are not to suppose that his zeal will vent itself in the frightful bellowings of enthusiasm; but he will speak forth the words of truth in soberness, with modesty, and Christian decency.
The reformation of the African-American church--again, the entire church--will come when the men who shepherd her "feel the weight of eternal things" and leave off vain and trivial trifles. Eternity will press itself into their personal lives and will overflow in their public ministry. Fitness for heaven will be their grand theme. He will disdain the praise and applause of men, the diversions of the world, and the trappings of a perishing society, and choose instead the ineffable joys of glory in the presence of the Father and the Risen Lamb!

You don't get this at convention meetings, or seminaries for that matter. You get this primarily by sitting at the Master's feet, seeing the world the way He does, and usually through the careful discipleship and training offered by a godly, seasoned, serious pastor. The Lord and the church train men for this kind of ministry.

A couple weeks ago, a small swirl was created when Bro. Piper issued a call for ethnic minorities to join his staff. Now I, for one, would send every prospective African-American pastor I know to Bethlehem to learn from John. I would send every prospective African-American pastor I know to the internship program at Capitol Hill Baptist Church. Both of these congregations and pastors give themselves to training future pastors, and I'd have no problem flooding their efforts with young ethnic brothers. Never mind the politics of race or the angst of affirmative action. We want the church reformed according to the Word of God and that will require reforming the men who lead her--"by any godly means necessary!"

I wish every solid African-American church had a similar training effort. But even lacking that, I would send every prospective African-American pastor I know to learn from Ken Jones, Tony Carter, Michael Leach and a thousand other faithful shepherds laboring in anonymity with the weight of eternity resting on their hearts and minds.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Can the Predominantly African-American Church Be Reformed? 4

This weekend, I had the disquieting experience of attending a local church in my home town. It was "disquieting" for a number of reasons.

1. There was the blend of hope and history so characteristic of African-American churches. What's wrong with that? Well... at first glance, nothing. But... it was a humanistic hope and a selective history.

2. The sermon was full of truth and the preacher said some things that took real boldness and love. But... almost none of it had anything to do with his chosen text nor were Gospel links and implications drawn out. Good truth... no grounding.

3. The songs... well, it was a Black church! The songs were great. There was good theology in most of them, sung in the experiential key of black folks. I was moved. Then, the shoutin' began. One lady immediately in front of me; I placed a stiff arm in the small of her back and tucked my feet and toes under the pew. A few moments later a lady sitting next to my wife and youngest daughter lept from her seat. An older woman left the choir stand and began shouting. The pastor, a slight fellow with a big mouth (his self-description), tried to hold her up but was buried beneath her when she came down on him in piles! The most disquieting moment came in the midst of all this when my 7 year old daughter looked up at my wife and said, "It's a zoo in here!" We don't know where she got the phrase from; we don't like the overtones that she is oblivious to but we know all too well; we don't want her confused theologically or practically about what she saw and its appropriateness; we are concerned about her conception of black religious expression and identity; and, yet, the ethos feels so important, so essential to our experience.

It was a disquieting Sunday.

Perhaps it became a bit clearer for me that reforming the African American church isn't merely a matter of adopting a preaching technique or membership procedures. Those help, and I'd argue are essential. However, there's that something more. There is that something that leaps to the mind and the heart for most African Americans when you say "black church." There is an emotional memory and a certain longing for place and space that intertwines itself with the very definition of blackness itself--even when the person you're speaking with isn't a Christian or church attender.

In one sense, talk of reforming the Black church is or can be a call to re-evaluate the concept of "blackness" itself. In the secular literature, Debra Dickerson has called for just such a re-evaluation. Meanwhile, in the African-American religious literature, the concept of blackness is central, defining to the point of launching the school of Black Theology that makes an idol in black face. All the while, most black folks go on somewhere in the middle, thinking that our core notions of blackness are just fine. Don't get me wrong. I don't know many folks who aren't at least privately troubled by images of blackness in the latest rap video or prime time news. And I don't know many people who don't lament absentee fathers, youth under achievement and crime, and a host of other problems that get lumped together rightly or wrongly with "blackness."

But to lament the problematic conception of blackness where the Black church is concerned appears to me exponentially explosive... not just because of the likely reaction from the uncritical apologist of the Black church but more importantly because it conjures questions of identity that no one seems capable of resolving or addressing. "Blackness" and a certain expressive/emotional spiritually are siamese twins in the minds of most. You can't separate them without risking traumatic complications.

And yet... from my little beach side perch in the Caribbean... the surgery to separate historical notions of blackness (and all the memory and emotion it entails) from a much-needed contemporary call to church reform is critically urgent. Put another way... I left church Sunday thinking, "There's no way to reform the Black church without detangling the adjective 'Black' from the noun 'Church'." And I'm concerned that the surgical incision will cause the patient to convulse and hemorrhage in revolt against the procedure. It is quite possible that the patient has grown so accustomed to life with ailments that they'd rather the debilitating disease than the painful cure.

For the longest while I've been thinking that we need a new theological anthropology for our day, one that addresses the question of our humanity with a particular eye toward "race," culture, and the church. The historical formulations seem so inadequate to me. Our "natural" thinking seems wholly inadequate for fostering reform inside the church--black, white, Asian, and Hispanic/Latino.

Can the predominantly African-American church be reformed? Am I the only one that thinks this question is a little like asking, "Can 'blackness' be reformed?"

Friday, February 09, 2007

Can the Predominantly African-American Church Be Reformed? 3

Can the predominantly African-American church be reformed? If so, almost certainly it will require a revival of sound, biblical preaching.

The last post explored the assertion that by any historical definition of "true church" the African American church (writ large) is not one. At the top of the list of woes contributing to this situation was this critique:

The Word is not rightly preached in most African American churches. That is, the biblical Gospel is wholly absent in far too many churches. Forget about a commitment to exposition... topical rules the day and ironically, many African-American preachers sound like white plantation preachers (only it's not "slave don't steal massa's chicken," it's "black folks, you gotta vote democratic down the line or God wants you rich"). Different lyrics, same tired tune.

This is by no means an original observation. There is a trail of African Americans lamenting the woeful state of black preaching, including some of African America's greatest church statesmen.

For example, Bishop Daniel A. Payne, one of the most influential and tireless bishops of the African Methodist Episcopal Church described the preaching in his day this way:
First, then, the preaching of the Gospel. What do we understand by this? Various are the answers given. Some there are who believe it to consist in loud declamation and vociferous talking; some in whooping, stamping and beating the Bible or desk with their fists, and in cutting as many odd capers as a wild imagination can suggest; and some err so grievously on this subject as to think that he who hallooes the loudest and speaks the longest is the best preacher. Now all these crude ideas have their origin in our education, for we believe just what we have been taught. But if any man wishes to know what is preaching the Gospel, let him not ask of mere mortal man, but let him find his answer in the teachings of Him who spake, and whose wisdom is without mixture of error. Hear him in the matchless sermon on the Mount, teaching us to find blessedness in poverty and meekness, in peace and righteousness, in mercy and purity, and to find exceeding great joy in persecution for righteousness sake. See with what divine skill he expounds the moral law, and carries its application beyond the outward and visible conduct into the interior and invisible workings of the human soul. Behold Him either in private houses or on the sea shore, or in the temple, by parables of the most striking beauty and simplicity, unfolding the great principles upon which the moral government of the universe is based, enlightening their understandings and warming their hearts with the sunbeams of eternal truth. This is preaching—preaching of the highest kind. We will do well to imitate it.... ("Who Is Sufficient for These Things?", 1852).

Payne's assessment of African-American preaching prior to Emancipation was that it was largely a product of education (read, miseducation) and full of "loud declamation and vociferous talking." He is, in effect, calling for preaching that takes Jesus as the model, that is preaching that is expositional, doctrinal and application oriented.

Dr. Frances J. Grimke, for 55 years the pastor of the prominent 15th Street Presbyterian Church in Washington, D.C. and long-time activist in the cause of racial equality, assessed the African-American pulpit of his day in these words: "If we turn now and examine carefully the character of the pulpit ministrations of the Afro-American pulpit, its three leading characteristics will be found to be emotionalism, levity or frivolity, and a greed for money." Does that ring a bell for us?

Grimke went on at length to describe the emotionalism, frivolity and greed he saw. Consider this long description of emotionalism and its effects (I'd highly commend the entire sermon, "The Afro-American Pulpit in Relation to Race Elevation," 1892):

First, it is emotion. The aim seems to be to get up an excitement, to arouse the feelings, to create an audible outburst or emotion, or, in the popular phraseology, to get up a shout to make people “happy.” In many churches where this result is not realized, where the minister is unable by sheer force of lung power, and strength of imagination, to produce this state of commotion, he is looked upon as a failure. Even where there is an attempt to instruct, in the great majority of cases this idea is almost sure to assert itself, and become the dominant one.Now, where emotionalism prevails, three things will be found to be true: First, there will be little of no instruction from the pulpit. The minister whose sole or chief aim is to get up a shout, to excite animal spirits, will not give much time to the study of God’s word, or to the instruction of the people in the practical duties of

Second: Where emotionalism prevails there will be a low state of spirituality among the people, and necessarily so. Christian character is not built up in that way. It is a growth, and comes from the knowledge and practice of Christian principles. If the body is to grow, it must be fed, and fed on wholesome and nutritious food. And the same is true of the soul; and that food is God’s Word, line upon line, and precept upon precept. There is no other way of getting up out of the bogs and malarious atmosphere of selfishness and pride, and ill-will and hatred, and the many things which degrade and brutalize into the higher regions of love and purity and obedience and felicity, except by the assimilation of Christian principles, except by holy and loving obedience to the will of God. We cannot get up there on the wings of emotion; we cannot shout ourselves up to a high Christian manhood and womanhood any more than we can shout ourselves into Heaven. We must grow up to it. And until this fact is distinctly understood, and fully appreciated, and allowed to have its weight in out pulpit ministrations, the plane of spirituality upon which the masses of our people move will continue low. Shouting is not religion. The ability to make a noise is no test of Christian character. The noisiest Christians are not the most saintly; those who shout the most vigorously are not always the most exemplary in character and conduct.

Third: Where emotionalism prevails the underlying conception of religion will be found to be false, pernicious, and degrading. The conception which James gives us of religion is this: “Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this—To visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world.” The conception which Paul gives is,—“Covet earnestly the best gifts, and yet show I you a more excellent way.” “Charity suffereth long and is kind,” etc. The conception which Micah gives is: “What doth the Lord require of thee but to do justly and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God” (Micah 6:8). The conception which the blessed Lord himself gives is: “When I was an hungered, ye gave me meat; thirsty, ye gave me drink; sick and in prison, and ye visited me” (Matt. 25:35), etc. Running through all these statements of principles, the dominant, controlling idea is character. In emotionalism, however, this element is entirely overlooked, or sinks almost entirely out of sight. The measure of one’s piety is made to depend upon the strength and the amount of his emotions. Thus the true ideal is shut out from view, the standard set up is a false one, and the result is not only stagnation but degradation. The ideal of religion which is held up in our pulpits, and which is cherished by the people, must be in harmony with the facts as revealed in the Word of God, if it is to have an elevating and ennobling effect upon their everyday life.

Ouch. Just scanning the popular preaching of our day, the preaching that most regard as "good Black preaching," I'd have to say we've not made much progress since Payne or Grimke. I'd have to conclude that emotionalism, frivolity, and greed are still ravaging too many pulpits.

If reform is to happen, we need men in the pulpits of our churches who are:
  • Committed to bring the Word of God to the people of God as the only manna by which they must be nourished. Teaching is needed, not entertainment. God's Word is needed, not pop psychology and the latest business fads. Now this will mean distinguishing between style and substance (and casting off "style"); faith that God works in the world by His Word; a life of serious study; reverence before God knowing that those who teach receive a stricter judgment; and great love for the people of God such that we want to see them grow up into Christ in all things. What an abuse it is to take the Word of God out of the mouths of God's people. What an unloving and hateful practice.
  • Committed to exposition. Exposition of the Scriptures should be the primary form of that teaching. Personally, I tend to think we need men to teach through entire books of the Bible. Having said that, though, even topical series should be comprised of solid expositions. We need men to open the meaning of God's Word and convey that meaning as the main point of their sermons week after week.
  • Doctrinally sound. Most revivals in church history have accompanied doctrinally rich preaching. Moreover, emotions rise and fall, so preaching to emotions or felt needs inevitably leave people "tossed to and fro by every wind of doctrine." We need preachers rooted in solid systematic and biblical theologies, and who bring those categories to their preaching and to their people.
  • Evangelistic preaching. In every sermon, we need men to preach the gospel. We may preach more than the gospel, but we should never preach less than the gospel. The Good News of Jesus Christ must be prominent, clear, penetratingly applied, and driven from the text. If, as Jesus taught, all of Scripture points to Him, then all of our preaching should point to Him whether in the OT or the NT, and specifically point to Him as the only fulfillment of God's promises and man's need for a Savior.
Apart from the recovery of expositional, doctrinally-rich and sound, evangelistic preaching, reform and revival are impossible in the predominantly African-American church--in any church.

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Desiring God Pastors' Conference, 2

Did you know that Desiring God has launched a new blog? Several of the DG staff contribute to the blog and they've been posting audio and some text of the DG Pastors' Conference going on now. Check it out.

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

DG Pastors' Conference

Last night the DG pastors' conference kicked off! It was a great start to the conference. 1,200 men singing, as Luther put it, "lustily," to the glory of God! The conference theme is the holiness of God. Who better to be the opening speaker than R.C. Sproul? He was vintage R.C.! I never tire of hearing him expound Isaiah 6! If you haven't read any of R.C.'s works or listened to him teach, you owe that to yourself. Consider starting with The Holiness of God or Grace Unknown: The Heart of Reformed Theology.

The thing that most encouraged and impressed me on the first night happened before the conference. The speakers and their wives were having dinner, and at one point R.C. expressed his great confidence in the Word of God as the power of God. It wasn't a long statement or great treatise... just a humble confession of confidence in the God of the Word and the Word of God. And it was great to hear and see such confidence in a man that has written over 60 books, led a ministry for over thirty years, and who is nearing the end of his ministry. The same unwaivering confidence. I pray we all have it.

Friday, February 02, 2007

Heading to the Frozen Tundra!

About 3pm today, I'm abandoning the 75+ degree climes of sunny Grand Cayman and heading off to the frozen tundra of Minneapolis, MN! I know... I know... why?!

Well, to enjoy the fellowship and instruction of godly pastors, church leaders, and saints at the Desiring God Pastor's Conference! I'm looking forward to the time and hope to meet many of you there! Perhaps we can even collectively lobby Bro. Piper to move the conference to Cayman next February! :-)

Lord willing, I'll pick up posting again on Monday with some thoughts from the conference and continuing to ponder the question, "Can the predominantly African-American church be reformed?" Grace and peace in Him who purchased us with His own blood!