Saturday, October 29, 2011
I listen to a nationally syndicated radio host sometime in the afternoon. This guy has a show from time to time called “Pimps in the Pulpit”. It sounds bad, I know, but is there a hint of truth to that description. Trust me, I know that talking about religion or the church is never a good idea. Having said that, I’m sure I will be berated for this writing but I hope most will understand that my point is this: when will the black church community take an honest look at itself?
Don’t get me wrong. I love the “lawd” as much as the next person who claims that they do. I also love and can appreciate “The Word” and I respect pastors, and there are many good ones out there. I think we should do more to support and honor the good ones. I have several in my family. I also know that there are some who have raised hell all of their lives, gone to prison and worse, who now claim to have been called. So I know, in many cases, all are not what they seem or claim to be. Lest, be careful and not confuse the man or church with Christianity or Spirituality.
Let’s be real, you know the scenario – I’ll call it the drama. A pastor gets caught in some scandalous behavior like stealing money, committing adultery, having a child by a member or worse. The word spreads, a few fed-up members leave the church. The “incident” is down-played or swept under the rug and eventually the congregation moves on as if nothing ever happened. Black churches are notorious for their unwillingness to shake bad leaders. Even in the face of undeniable evidence of gross sin, some congregations maintain their commitments to shady characters with an almost addictive-like quality.
When this happens it tends to inflect damage far greater than their collective work. Frankly, it spells disaster for its mission, its people, and its community. The little country church I attended as a child had a preacher that I always admired because he told the truth. He once said, “The bible has been rewritten 28 times. If the first version was God’s word; Why then would man need to rewrite the order God left for us?” When I got older and saw him outside of the church in his Caddie, he told me that, “There is a lot of money in Jesus name”.
I thought then, and do sometimes now, that it is like the wolf guarding the sheep. There was a time when the church was there for the community and now it seems the people are there for the church. Think about that for a moment. During the Civil Rights era, black preachers changed the world; put their lives on the line, and many died for their community and the people of it. Do you know one preacher who would do that today? Probably not!
I went to church a few weeks ago - a mega church. The first thing I saw was an ATM machine and the pastor that day was ten years old. What came to mind was the day Jesus turned over the tables of the money changers in the temple and with respect to the ten year old preacher – Negro Please! My point is this; let thee be guarded with respect to the messenger. Some churchgoers believe pastors (even bad ones) are virtually untouchable or they are all knowing like God speaks through them. They are human and most have an agenda. Let me add that in most cases it’s not you.
Because of their position and function within the church, they are seen as being above any charge of indiscretion. People who hold this view will protect a corrupt pastor by immediately denying and dismissing any allegation of misconduct before careful consideration. Sometimes the congregation will blame the victims for their own victimization. For instance, many women find themselves blamed for having been sexually harassed by a corrupt pastor. Should they find the courage to speak out, they are often branded as “trouble makers” and/or demonized as a part of the devil’s scheme to bring down the ministry.
What a shame that many in the congregation feel that as long as he/she shows up on Sunday, in his Caddie, and performs all the public duties of a pastor, their private life should be virtually off limits in spite of it sometimes being masked with sinister intentions. Some people tolerate pastoral misconduct because it gives them political leverage over a compromised pastor or secures their position within the church. They keep pastoral indiscretions a secret in exchange for certain favors from their leader or out of fear that if he should lose his power, so would they.
For the record, the Bible does offer human protections for congregations in the form of multiple pastors. It also promotes real pastoral accountability from a group of people who know the day-to-day ins and outs of that particular congregation and who are qualified to recognize and call out pastoral misconduct. I know this is a HUGE paradigm shift but before you prejudge it, check out these biblical references to see if they support a single or a multiple pastor model for local churches. (see Acts 11:30, 14:23, 20:17, Philippians 1:1, Titus 1:5, 1 Timothy 5:17, James 5:14)
The Bible never says that Christians should remain loyal to corrupt leaders. In fact, the Bible clearly forbids churches from clinging to such pastors. 1 Timothy 5:20 says “As for those [pastors] who persist in sin, rebuke them in the presence of all, so that the rest may stand in fear.” There are precious few congregations willing to obey this biblical command. Can you imagine a local Black church publicly reprimanding a corrupt pastor by bringing him before the congregation, calling out his sin, and “sitting him down?” I doubt it!
However in many cases, this is exactly what God’s word calls us to do. For you haters who will offer negative comments concerning this article. I simply ask that you judge not. This can be done by looking in the mirror. Further, you need look no further than your local or national news to see that there are wolves preying upon their flocks. 1 Timothy 5:21 insists that even pastors should receive no special favors or leniency when it comes to sin. It says “In the presence of God and of Christ Jesus and of the elect angels I charge you to keep these rules without prejudging, doing nothing from partiality.”
Pastors aren’t above God’s law– Churches dishonor the Lord himself by acting as if they are. In cases like Eddie Wrong and others, and you know some, I say, we need to take pastoral integrity very seriously and avoid the physical, psychological, and spiritual devastation to our communities and ourselves, simply by demanding that pastors obey the Bible’s clear direction in this area. If you noticed I stopped short of agreeing with the radio host but “game knows games” and most are playing a game with your soul. I know this is lengthy but that’s my Thought Provoking Perspective.