The parable that stopped the third bite.

There was once an imperfect man who loved. He loved because it was lovable. It had purpose. It was such a great thing. It came at a time. And there you have it. It was amazing. So much good came.

Well kind of …

As time went on, the man would be invited to what he thought was safe, but when he placed his hand in the safe place, it was not safe. It would bite the man. It would not only bite, but would wildly shake the hand of the man and damage the man’s hand badly.

Time would go on. The hand would heal, but it was scared. The man though, did not seem to care. He kept loving it anyway. It was lovable. It had purpose.

Time passed. Life was good. Enjoyable. Hopeful. Those in the house observed and were blessed. Even the neighbors observed and joined in. Amazing. Greatest time.

But then … oh my … it happened … again …

The man was invited again to the safe place. He thought “it will not be the same. It’s better now.” It was not better. The man pulled his hand back in dismay that he had injuries worse than before. Worse because he could see the scars from the first bite. And then the new scars. The man was damaged not only physically but emotionally. A soul wound.

But then an amazing thing happened. It quickly crawled over, humble, and laid next to the man. The man was stunned again. Didn’t know what to do with it. He just sat with it. Then, he raised his hand of the right side of his chair and pet it. The man could feel the humility and love. It actually slept in peace.

The hand healed again. It actually enjoyed, engaged, and encouraged. And the man, well he was so tender and gullible. He just seemed to move on as if the wind were in his hair. He never told the house or neighbors about the first two bites. Seemed so unneeded and dishonorable for him to embarrass it or hurt it now. So …

Time passed …
Life lived …
Surely no more … right?

The question became “would that man put his hand in the safe place again?” A third time? He has been bit twice.

Twice bit
A crown of thorns
Heaven split
Relationship torn.

It happened again.

Deceptive.
Disingenuous.
Decisive.

The man walked up to the safe place. The walk was not malicious in motive or action. As he got to the safe place, he looked in. There it was. Seeming to look like a tender shepherd ready. The man’s mind was processing going in yet at the same moment his eyes lowered to glance his right hand. It was then he got it.

Twice bit
A crown of thorns
Heaven split
Relationship torn.

The question became “would that man put his hand in the safe place again?” A third time? He has been bit twice. And he needed use of his hand. His hand helped him also.

The smile of the shepherd was so appealing and seemed wise, but in that moment standing at the safe place the man saw in its face a wildly ravenous wolf.

And at that the man turned to never go to that safe place again.

It was forgiven already.
But trust was gone.
The man’s hand grew steady.
The man moved on.

As the man moved on, he thought of the subtle warnings he heard before the first bite. It had happened before. There was a pattern. It was overlooked, but was a costly view. The man was tempted to lose trust in all others. But he knew that would only increase the festering of the soul wound.
Become … 
Deceptive.
Disingenuous.
Divisive.
Unforgiveness?
Bitterness?
Extended?
That would not be an option for the man. It would kill his soul. 
It was forgiven already.
But trust was gone.
The man’s hand grew more steady.
The man completely moved on.
And the soul wound was healed, forever.

The remedy for the arrogance of politics and race.

I have never seen the political scene as bleak as it is now in my adult life. When I was a boy I remember the resignation of President Nixon. It was sad. Today, we have two pretty bad candidates. Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump. We are in a bad place as a nation. We are bad on race and bad on politics. And our approach to both is sad. Many are seeking answers for complex problems with worldly means. Many Christ followers are doing this also. I’m tempted to do it. However, it’s a dead end road.

Police shootings of Black men. Sharp shooting Police officers at rallies. Black lives Matter. All lives matter. The aftermath of slavery into the civil rights movement up into our day. The situation is complex. What’s the answer? I thought race relations would be better under President Obama. they’re not. They are worse. Why? Because he never made it an early priority. He was forced to address it after a litany of Travon Martin type episodes.

We have complex problems. There are two approaches to finding answers. God and the gospel or the ways of the world. The ways of the world: legislation, laws, norms, hopes ands dreams of finding the answers. During the civil rights movement Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was able to leverage the heart of God against the conscience of our nation. Those days are past. Those victories are won. Now our culture has changed. It’s eerily brazen without conscience. What’s the answer to the issues of race and political wars? The other approach is God.

God and the gospel. These are the only ultimate ways to fix the complex issues we face. The world does its thing, but we followers of the King must not trust the world’s method. The gospel is the only hope. It can’t be mixed with culture. Jesus alone. The gospel alone (1 Cor 15:3-4; Gal 2:20) is the only answer. Our elected officials only use God when convenient. Our churches are not preaching Jesus is the answer to our issues because race and politics as application are risky. Yet Christ, and Christ Jesus alone must be presented as the only alternative to our issues.

Trump. Clinton. I laugh at the idea that either of these two are good. They are not. They are both lost. I have no biblical indication either is saved. And they don’t have to be to be president. It’s not required. It’s also not required for me to use their methods. At some point, supporting either is a compromise of the soul. I’m not saying don’t vote. I’m saying when you do, you’re not clean. I’m always amazed at those who act as if there is moral high ground in their candidate. People who act is if they are not biased, but they are.

I vote for Jesus Christ. He is the answer to our problems. The church needs to preach this radically in the next three months. Encourage people with the hope of Christ.

It’s arrogant to assume we can fix the complex problems of our culture by siding with human means to the extent of leaving God out. Let’s avoid that. Humility is a friend. James 4:6 says, “But He gives great grace. Therefore He says: God resists the proud, but give grace to the humble.” And James 4:10 says, “Humble yourselves before the Lord, and He will exalt you.” Stay on your knees. Pride is the enemy. Humility provides the victory.

 

7 things I learned from Black preachers and preaching.

IMG_0749I have been privileged to live in a multicultural neighborhood most of my life. I’ve always had Black friends. I grew up in Florida. Then I was Army. Then as I became a Christian, I was influenced by the Black Church. My first influence was by Pastor Onnie I. Kirk of the Unity Missionary Baptist Church in El Paso, Texas. Then Pastor Elijah Mitchell  of the Grace Missionary Baptist Church in Schweinfurt, Germany, was a huge influence on me. He taught me preaching at the local church level, in a class. When I went to preaching class in seminary, I was not surprised. I was prepared. Then I went Cornerstone Baptist Church in Arlington, Texas. Pastor Dwight McKissic is the Senior Pastor. And while there I ran into the legend – Dr. Lloyd C. Blue. It was at Cornerstone that I was exposed to some of the best preaching in the world. We expected good preaching, but we brought in some of the big preachers of African-American culture.

What did I learn and what can you learn?

  1. Black preaching is an experience. The great Henry Mitchell once said, “The Black Bible is a living epistle, and the elaborations never take the form of coldly abstract formulations” (Black Preaching: The Recovery of a Powerful Art). He was right. In a Black preaching experience, the event is just that, an experience. It’s rarely, if ever, a lecture. If it is a lecture, experience will leak out even then. There is always an expectation of “what will happen today when the preacher preaches?” White preaching is often too didactic. It’s a lecture devoid of experience and application in listeners real lives. To my White preaching friends, put some experience in the preaching. Be yourself, as no one likes a White preacher trying to be something he is not. But take a risk. Get outside the box.
  2. Black preaching is rooted in the Exodus experience.
    The Exodus experience is simple: “let my people go.” Cleophus LaRue (The Heart of Black Preaching), Preaching Professor at Harvard confirms the symbol of oppression is the single symbol that illustrates the Black preaching experience best. It’s a church message that the Black Church has lived within America for not yet two hundred years. This is in part the social gospel, but it is more than that. Black Preaching ultimately includes the oppressions faced by anyone oppressed. The White Church and preachers can take a lesson here. Preach to those who have problems and lift them above those problems with the gospel. Tell them there is a better way. There is hope.
  3. Black preaching is emotional and passionate. When I first heard Black preaching, I thought to myself, “Is someone in trouble? Should we leave? What’s the preacher so angry about?” Then I came to realize Black preaching is rooted in the face that the church is often the only safe place for the Black message to get out. It’s also rooted in cultural fact that African culture is a singing culture. So it is not uncommon for a song to break out during the preaching. In Black preaching, the preaching “whoops.” It celebrates at the end of the sermon. When I first saw Pastor Kirk do this, I was blown away. He would run down the aisle celebrating Jesus waving a handkerchief. White preaching needs to add some passion through delivery. Yet passion and emotion alone can never make up for content.
  4. Black preaching is scripture driven. Narrative. Black preaching is narrative. It’s story. Even when a Black pastor preaches using the letters of Paul, rarely will he just go line by line first. There will be a wrapping of the exposition into a larger contextual story from scripture, then the lives of listeners. Haddon Robinson teaches us to know the big idea. I’ve seen the old school Black preaching by outline that actually searches out the big idea in the pulpit. To preach out of context would never be acceptable in Black preaching. While there are times I’ve seen Black preaching more emotion than scripture, it’s rare. And it is usually done by the younger, inexperienced preachers. White culture preaching would do well to learn to preach not only the context of scripture, but the grander narrative of God’s story in our own lives.
  5. Black preaching is as much art as it is science. There are tools to preaching. Those tools in a preaching course can be tools. They can come across as mechanical. The exegetical idea, the preaching idea, sermon purpose, outline or movements, illustrations, applications, introductions and conclusions. These all are tools. Yet in Black preaching the homiletical is as much art as science. There is much more exploring with the tools. I first learned first person narrative preaching from Black culture not White. Haddon Robinson showed us how to do it with his many sermons, but EK Bailey was the first pastor I saw do it. It was art and science.
  6. Black preaching is influenced by White preaching. The African context is often left out of the academy of preaching especially because Christianity became much more academic and educational. The European Christianity from the third century to the 1500s set the stage for Western Christianity. Of course in many ways that was good. God chose to do it. Much of European Christianity is now dead, dark and detrimental to the Great Commission now. But the influence of Black Christianity by White is good. It’s not just an educational influence. It’s a content influence. It’s a melding of cultures. My Pastor at Cornerstone, Dwight McKissic is an excellent example of what I’m trying to say. He is an excellent preacher. I’ve seen him light up a room. But he is not just a preacher who uses passion and force. He is also a teacher who can give amazing content. He realized like many Black preachers, African-Americans today do not just want emotion. It’s an interesting topic. They want content also. And while content does not originate from White preaching, White culture is a partner and conduit of content. In other words, the White preaching style is appealing to Black people. Today, they listen to John MacArthur, Charles Stanley, David Jeremiah and the like as well as their own preachers.
  7. Black preaching is influencing White preaching. More and more White preachers are taking the natural things of Black preaching into the pulpit. The ideas of creativity, passion, emotion, force as well as hermeneutic and homily of the academy are found in the White preaching context. Steven Furtick is a good example. White people desire emotion. We are often too cognitive. And lecturing does not meet real life on the street. The best story of Black preaching changing and influencing White preaching is found in Dr. Joel Gregory. He is what I call the darling of the Black church. After his departure from FBC Dallas, it was EK Bailey who started the Black Church journey for Gregory. Joel Gregory embodies the best of Black and White preaching. He masters content and delivers like a Black preacher. Dr. Ralph West does the same but with a unique, God given giftedness. These two men have modeled for out culture what White and Black preaching can give each other for the cause of the Great Commission.

There can be no writing on this subject without the mention of Dr. Lloyd C. Blue. This man started out as my boss, mentor and example at Cornerstone. He soon became a friend, fishing partner and adopted father. He’s an amazing man, but for this topic an amazing preacher. I’ve personally watched him preach. He has the style of both Black and White preaching styles. He knows how to be who God needs him to be in any culture. He taught me how to outline a passage with unique, precise ability to see the text’s meaning quickly. That meaning became the bridge to the hearts of men and women in the audience. My relationship with Dr. Blue is irreplaceable.. My relationship with Black culture so unique. Most White pastors and people never get these experiences and education from Black culture. These are 7 things I have learned from the academy of Black preaching. Go … and do likewise.