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Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Black & Blue: Francis Grimke’ on the Afro-American Pulpit and Race Elevation

Hard to believe that this sermon is from around 1896...

What you will see below is an excerpt from the book, The Faithful Preacher. It is a sermon by an African-American minister, Francis Grimke’, where he deals with the issues that plague the African-American religious experience in terms of Christianity. Amazingly (as well as unfortunately), this message is extremely prophetic and timely. It appears as though the pastor’s warnings have gone largely unheeded by our community, with the rise various forms of religious ideologies that seem to have more traction in the present day climate of Christianity (i.e. Prosperity Gospel, Black Liberation Theology, etc.). I post this with the hope and prayer that all will be challenged and convicted by what they read here, regardless of color or status…

Soli Deo Gloria,

If we turn now and examine carefully the character of the ministrations of the Afro-American pulpit, its three leading characteristics will be found to be emotionalism, levity or frivolity, and a greed for money.

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...

 The second characteristic of the Afro-American pulpit is levity, frivolity, a lack of seriousness. There is entirely too much place given to making fun, to joking, to exciting laughter. The minister too often becomes a jester, a buffoon, a clown. Thus all solemnity is destroyed, and the House of God in many cases becomes a mere playhouse for the entertainment or amusement of the people. This has become so prevalent in many of our churches that the people have come to expect it with the same regularity as they expect to hear preaching. If the minister after he has preached before closing does not make a fool of himself and set the people grinning, a sense of disappointment and incompleteness is felt. Again and again I have sat in churches and have been saddened and disgusted by what I have seen in this direction. And the most serious part of it all is that this levity comes at the very time when it is most baneful. If it came before preaching, it would not be quite so bad, though even then it would be a thing to be regretted. But coming as it does after the sermon, the effect is to entirely obliterate whatever good impression has been made and thus to defeat the very purpose for which the church has been organized. Sometimes I have said, what is the use of preaching—why not introduce the buffoon, the clown, at once, and when he is through bring the service to a close? 

The third characteristic of the Afro-American pulpit is a greed for money. Everything seems to be arranged with reference to the collection. The great objective point seems to be to reach the pocketbooks of the people. Here is where the greatest amount of interest is manifested; here is where there is the greatest concentration of energy. However tame the services may be up to this point, here everybody seems to wake up, and new life seems to be infused into everything, as if to say, “Now is the time when the real business for which we have met will begin.” There is no harm, of course, in raising money. The church cannot get along without it. Its just debts must be paid; its obligations must be met. The complaint is not against raising money but against the abuse of this, against the undue prominence that is given to it in the Afro-American pulpit. It overshadows every other interest. The ability to raise money is more highly esteemed than the ability to preach the Word effectively. The greatest financier, the most successful money gatherer, receives the best place and is most highly esteemed by those in authority. The result is, the church is rapidly becoming a mere institution for raising money, with preaching, singing, and praying being only incidental, and the ministry is rapidly degenerating into a mere agency for begging. The perceived problem is not how to elevate the people, how to bring them into the Kingdom of Christ, how to save them from their sins and sanctify them, but how to get their money.

A ministry whose chief characteristics are emotionalism, frivolity, and greed for money is not a ministry to inspire hope and is not a source of strength but of weakness. And this is the charge I make against the Afro-American pulpit today. It is not living up to its opportunities; it is not doing the work that it ought to do. It is not putting the emphasis where it ought to be put. It is frittering away its energies upon things of minor importance, to the neglect of those things that are fundamental and without which we cannot hope for any permanent prosperity. And this is why as a people we have made so little progress morally. The fault is due very largely to the character of our pulpit ministrations. If there had been less effort made at emotional effects and less jesting and less prominence given to finances and more time and attention given to the great fundamental principles of religion and morality (the bedrock upon which character is built) and to the patient, painstaking instruction of the people in the practical duties of life, the outlook would be very much brighter than it is today. The moral plane upon which the masses of our people move is confessedly not very high and in view of their past antecedents could not be expected to be high. But if they had had the proper kind of instruction from the pulpit, there is every reason to believe that they would stand very much higher today than they do. The thing most to be deplored in our condition today is not our poverty, nor our ignorance, but our moral deficiencies, and for these deficiencies the Afro-American pulpit is in a very large measure responsible. The very fact that our people have had a long schooling in slavery, the tendency of which has been to blunt the moral sensibilities and to degrade the whole moral nature, makes it all the more important that special attention should be given to their development in this direction and renders the character of much of our pulpit ministration all the more reprehensible.

In palliation of this it has been said, I know, that the people prefer the noise and excitement that come from ranting and bluster. There may be some truth in this, but the mission of the pulpit is not to cater to the vitiated tastes of the people and is not to give them what they want but what they ought to have—to lift up a standard for them, to set before them right and wrong, whether it accords with their tastes or not. The plea that the people prefer a certain thing can never be an excuse or justification for giving them that thing unless it is good in itself, unless it would be beneficial to them. The problem that the Afro-American pulpit has to solve is not what will be most congenial to the people but what will be most helpful to them; not what kind of preaching they like best but what kind of preaching will be the most effective in developing in them a true manhood and womanhood, in making them good fathers and mothers, good husbands and wives, good citizens and neighbors, what kind of preaching will yield the largest returns in purity, honesty, sobriety, sweetness, gentleness. And the pulpit that has the wisdom to answer this question intelligently and the courage to act out its convictions is the pulpit that we need and that we must have if “on steppingstones of our dead selves” we are “to rise to higher things” [Booker T. Washington].


Not the Gospel

 "So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ."  - Romans 10:14-17 ESV

What I’m about to say may make you hostile
We may even part ways on bad terms after, but here goes…
There. I said it.
And even if you get mad, I still don’t regret it.
You know why? Because…
In no way, shape, form, or fashion –
Your testimony may be impressive, homie
But it doesn’t mean much when we don’t come from the same background
It’s not the songs you sing or how many you can bring to church
Or even the logos on your t-shirts
And I know by now you wanna hurt me, but it’s true…
I don’t know how else to say it.
Sure, you love Jesus and you’re unashamed to say so
Well if that’s the case, then you need to stop hidin’ behind YOU and let it go
And while we’re on the subject, neither are your political views
It doesn’t matter that you vote “conservative” in every election
Or how you interpret the evening news
My dude...
So let’s review…
Not me, not you, not Sproul, Piper, Calvin, Wesley, Arminius
Or, dare I say, Luther
And just in case you’re wondering, I’m pretty sure they’d all agree with me too…

Or at this point, maybe I should say “we”
Because none of us had anything to do with hangin’ from a tree
Except for the fact that we are the cause of it
It’s not what we’re about
But what we should proclaim with our mouths
With no fear…Let ‘em hear it

Good news. THE GOSPEL IS

Seeing mankind in his fallen state
And saving him from the punishment due
By sending His own son to take their place
While we were still at odds (enemies, to be exact)
Doing the best thing that could’ve ever happened
To save us from something worse than we could ever imagine
Father, Son and Spirit in eternity past
Making within Himself a covenant
To ensure that it would come to past
Knowing that the Devil wanted us dead
He sent the Son of Man to put a boot to his head
And crush him
Allowing the Son to be bruised
So that He could raise him three days later
Now those who believe are safe in Him, never refused

You see, there’s no need for any extra
It doesn’t need anything added to it
And doesn’t need your life to make up the Et cetera, Et cetera
We are nothing more than beggars, messengers and recipients
So the only thing left for us to do is to just believe and repent.

“For while we were still weak, at the right time, Christ died for the ungodly.”
Does this have anything to do with what you’ve done? Hardly.

"The times of ignorance God overlooked, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent, because he has fixed a day on which he will judge the world in righteousness by a man whom he has appointed; and of this he has given assurance to all by raising him from the dead."  - Acts 17:22-34 ESV

Soli Deo Gloria,

Monday, February 27, 2012

Middle Passage

From the Middle Passage to character assassination
To the assassination of leaders in a nation fueled by the hatred
Of lies propagated as truth; but at the root of it all was a sinister plan
To destroy the dignity of Man and lay waste to his beauty
Since the beginning, our adamic nature rejected divine legislature
Hating himself in the process by denouncing his most prominent feature
Self-made man hates the helping hand of another
So, inevitably, he can’t stand on his own two feet
So he’ll ride the backs of his brothers…
(Or what he calls, “others”)

And by that, we always mean “less than”, never “equal” or “greater”
Because to admit that would mean he’d have to give up some acres
Next thing you know, we’re down the road hundreds of years later
Hands and feet now unshackled, but hearts and minds remain in slavery

Fast forward …
Now our apathy toward our past has damned us to repeat it
Beat us down and left us in a coma
Only to wake up and find ourselves in a state of full-blown xenophobia
And everyone says, “Yay! Our president is black!”
But does it really matter when the state of the union is still whack?!
Think about this way:
They’ve had black leaders in Africa since way back
And over there, it’s still jacked up…seriously corrupt
(But we’ll save that for another discussion)

So what’s really the matter?
Our pockets got a little fatter
We got our seats back at the front of the bus
But, what does that really have to do with…us?
By us, I mean all of God’s people
Because our final destination leaves us all under one steeple…

Dr. King’s dream comes to fruition in Revelation 5 -
That’s why he knew he’d probably never get to see it in his lifetime
Anything less than that is a gross misinterpretation
As “We shall overcome” is reduced to bleak sensationalism
Sayin’, “YES WE CAN!” to “hope and change”
But without the true Agent of hope, everything remains the same

A dream deferred only dries up like a raisin in the sun
When we place our hope of its awakening
In something other than the Risen One
That’s why Phyllis Wheatley says that mercy brought her from a pagan land
And Jupiter Hammon took no issue with being another’s slave hand
They understood that captivity served a greater purpose
And they wouldn’t truly have freedom ‘til they reached the Kingdom of glory
The invisible hand of Providence makes all of the suffering relevant
Through the proclamation of the Gospel
Is where we see God’s truest benevolence

So I soldier on as a witness to posterity
As the witnesses who came before me who spoke with such boldness and sincerity
Emancipation through propitiation - blood bought freedom
The highest price that any could be paid with
Behind the dark and shameful past that we try to conceal
Is the mystery unfolding, just waiting for the glory to be revealed
God made flesh; crushed for our sins
Tending to our greatest need
To be freed from the master of death
And if the Son of Man has set you free
 Then you are free indeed

 So Jesus said to the Jews who had believed him, “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” They answered him, “We are offspring of Abraham and have never been enslaved to anyone. How is it that you say, ‘You will become free’?”
Jesus answered them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, everyone who practices sin is a slave to sin. The slave does not remain in the house forever; the son remains forever. So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed. I know that you are offspring of Abraham; yet you seek to kill me because my word finds no place in you. I speak of what I have seen with my Father, and you do what you have heard from your father.”
(John 8:31-38 ESV)

 And they sang a new song, saying,
 “Worthy are you to take the scroll
  and to open its seals,
 for you were slain, and by your blood you ransomed people for God
 from every tribe and language and people and nation,
 and you have made them a kingdom and priests to our God,
 and they shall reign on the earth.”

(Revelation 5:9-10 ESV)

Soli Deo Gloria,

Wednesday, February 22, 2012



 "He must increase, but I must decrease."
   (John 3:30-36 ESV)


I have arrogantly waved my flag of independence.

But now it’s time for me to surrender…

I am guilty as charged; I waive my rights as the defendant

It finally caught up with me – all of the crimes I’ve committed

In the name of freedom have turned me into a captive and a drone

I now stand alone in the courtroom of my own tyranny;

Tattoo on my chest – “Only God can judge me”

But right now, that’s the last thing I wanna confess

If I truly believe my ink, then this is gonna stink…

Because I’ve got a fink of a conscious

And my sandcastle kingdom is about to start crumbling all around me

When sandcastles fall, do they make a sound? No.

They just collapse and fold; quietly suffocating everything and everyone inside

So this is what it feels like when ants die…who knew…


You’ve heard it a hundred times before:

Man gains the whole world and loses soul

But you never think you’ll be the one to make the headline

Because you know the score

But I forgot to factor in what would happen when I lost count

Of what should’ve counted most – I started counting in ounces

Now, the weight of self-glory doesn’t measure up on the scales of eternal justice

I’ve committed the crime of a lifetime

Only to find out that my getaway car has an engine that’s busted

Crime doesn’t pay because the Law never sleeps

The Judge owns the cattle on a thousand hills and He knows all of the sheep


Then there’s me; making my last stand with no leg to stand on

And my accomplice now stands as the prosecutor –

Accusing me of abusing and mistreating his daughter, even though he introduced us

And practically begged me to marry her

But our picture perfect matrimony ended in a bad scene -

Her standing there holding my coat

Playing the role of hapless victim (a performance worthy of the silver screen)

While I play the sucker and the scapegoat

I should’ve said no when he asked, but you know me and my ego

We love to impress people…

By the way, conversations never end well when they convene at the top of a steeple

And now all she wants them to do is give me the needle


I had a desire for her beauty and she was murder for hire

And I went along for the ride; running from this trial for a while now

And it’s left me used up and tired

At this point, invoking my Fifth Amendment right would be a mistake

And an attempt at a daylight escape, to say the least, would be fruitless


It’s useless…I stand in contempt

I’ve committed treason and for no other reason than I just wanted to be myself

But now in this moment, I can think of nothing sweeter

Than switching places with someone else

This is the hand I’ve dealt from the bottom of the deck

And there’s only one viable option …


‘Kill the mirage of yourself as God.’

Our Father who is in Heaven, with who I’m currently at odds…



Soli Deo Gloria,


Posted via email from THE CENTER (ROOM 116)

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

The Greatest of These (That Hideous Strength)

  Set me as a seal upon your heart,
  as a seal upon your arm,
 for love is strong as death,
  jealousy is fierce as the grave.
 Its flashes are flashes of fire,
  the very flame of the LORD.
(Song of Solomon 8:6 ESV)

 For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.
(Romans 8:38-39 ESV)

Some mismanage it
Manhandle and then abandon it
Left for dead under the overpass
After it’s been bruised up and damaged
Highly disregarded and discarded with ease
Unknown to the world, yet still, it’s the greatest of these

Still looking for answers while we put a band-aid on our cancer
It patiently waits in the dark; on the ready with the brightest of lanterns
Ready to guide us through the blinding mire of hostility
With the smoldering flame of an uncommon humility
Men say that they’d give up the world just to possess it
Only to rent it out for a meager profit, then strip it down and redress it
Even refusing to call it by its name –
Because it only responds to the truth
And they just want to defame it…

Punched, kicked, held in contempt and battered
But in spite of swollen eyes, its gaze is fixed
As if none of it matters
Never raises its voice to try to plead its case…
It carries on ‘til the end
Even if forever is however long that it takes

Pain is not the pleasure, but services as the vessel
Takes it to the final destination
Delivering the greater message
Delivered without measure – digging up the buried treasure
Hidden under the weight humanity’s mess
A task that no other could dare endeavor

To hell and back -
When we refused to bleed, it bled for us
Got stabbed in the robbery and still took on the death sentence
Parted the head of the warden and beat a path back up from the bottom
Set the captives free when it flooded their prison cells with that living water
Instead of coveting lust, it holds a covenant up in front of us
Reflects the beauty of its purity and shows us truly wonderful
Faith unwavering and a hope assured that never expires
Its power never ceases even after the world that we know is retired

Not to be confused with seductive bedroom eyes
Pursuit of the one night stand or catching a glimpse of her thighs
A strong back to hold onto while you’re lying in bed
Or lies that he’ll wanna tell so that you’ll open your legs
Sex out of context is only there for a moment
And involves giving up your ghost to someone who doesn’t own it
Less than and three may put a heart on your screen
But it’ll never give you a love that’s greater than these

When I’m worse it makes me better
When I wanna quit, it tells me, “never”
When I can’t stand, it keeps me movin’
When I fall apart, it holds me together
It reminds me that I’m cherished
And that I’ll never ever be severed
Forgives all of my inadequacy
And never lets me for get it

When I start to believe that redemption is completely impossible
It lifts up my heavy head through the grace of the Gospel
The same that gave sight to blind men and dead men life
Is the same that can take a whore and turn her into a wife
No matter how promiscuous, this thing is so relentless
It pursues to the end and will have your beggin’ for forgiveness
Yes, there’s only one thing that can remove our stain and our stench…

Love is stronger than death; such a hideous strength.

 So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love.
(1 Corinthians 13:13 ESV)
 There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love. We love because he first loved us.
(1 John 4:18-19 ESV)

Soli Deo Gloria,

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