I guess I should interject here that this is not my autobiography, just a blog to highlight various spiritual encounters that shaped who I would later become. The 1970’s was a blessed decade for me. The emergence of what was termed “The Charismatic Movement” gave me an opportunity to see the Holy Spirit in operation outside of what I was raised to believe was only in my own denominational boundaries. It also gave me an opportunity to perfect my teaching gift outside of my racial and denominational restrictions.
By the mid-seventies I felt like a yo-yo pulled on a double string in opposite directions. In the Black church I was becoming popular as a keyboard player with Gospel music and in mostly Caucasian churches a developing bible teacher around the country. In fact, at times I felt like I had a double identity. A “superman” complex began to emerge. As “Clark Kent” I served as a musician and as my alter ego, I was becoming a gifted teacher. Ultimately what should I do? How could I balance music and ministry? Was there a balance or should I replace one for the other?
I have to confess here that it was my “Charismatic” worship experiences that began to put my spiritual gifting in perspective. So as I traveled around the world with various “Charismatic Teachers” of the day and increased my personal and professional bible study, a new man was emerging. While at the same time I was serving various ministry functions within the Black church. It was during this season, my ministry developed from imitating preaching styles I was accustomed to – to initiating a unique teaching style of my own.
This is Part 9 of the series “My Personal Journey”
Today marks the official memorial of my first public sermon, July 28, 1963. My first sermon title was “Saved by Hope – Romans 8:24-25. Although I have had a media library for the last 30 years, I haven’t been one to log my sermons, so I couldn’t tell you how many sermons or lessons I taught over the last fifty years. For me the point is not how many, but how many have been effective and productive.
You see when I finally did get my GED in the military and got to my first bible college experience, I failed “Homiletics.” My professors tried to get me to write my sermons out and I wanted to just talk them out. When I started in the ministry I was under the impression, “You just open your mouth and God would speak for you.” However, I did learn structure in college and eventually how to outline my sermons.
However, my journey is just that. My journey. Of course with the triumphs there were many mistakes and failures along the way. That is the beauty of survival and longevity in ministry. You learn from mistakes, repent and move on to teach others the wisdom you learned, if you learned and they will listen.
Even though I was only fifteen, going to church for me meant a lot more than the music, the preaching, the devotions, and the activities. I wanted so much to gain an understanding of what I believed and why. I had no mentors or spiritual fathers to guide me, so with a hunger that was eating at my insides and a poem that filled my mind, my spiritual journey began. It wasn’t so much the peer pressure that made me leave school as the need to not socialize and be alone that was consuming me.
Learning to navigate around the bible was instilled in me early. I learned the books of the bible, the divisions, the authors, and any basic bible knowledge I could retain. My mother taught me the importance of prayer and that it was those private times with God that were more important than the information I was trying to ingest.
I haven’t spoken much about my spiritual encounters that I guess began as early as when I was 8 years old. I would have strange dreams of the future and see ghostly figures come to my room at night. It was not the normal nightmares of children because with most of these I was fully awake. They didn’t frighten me just disturbed me. For the next few years I got used to nightly visitors to my room. But by the time I was twelve, they suddenly stopped. Now before you think I am crazy, let me interject that my childhood development sat the stage for my later spiritual maturity.
This is Part 4 of a series. Part 1 can be found at –
We are in a war between “rights” and “morals” and it obvious who is winning. America has a history of making what Christians have called in the past “vices” legal. When gambling became legal we got the lottery. When alcohol became legal we got state run stores. When churches became legal we got tax exempt status. What do we do when sin in general becomes legal? Constitutionally, we are enforcing the very core of this country’s real purpose. We were not formed to make a Christian nation, but a nation of individual rights. Everything in between we owe God praise and honor for the breathe He allowed us to experience. Government of the people, by the people, and for the people. A melting pot of culture, religion, and the right to live my life my way. If institutions interfere with my rights then we just have to change the institutions.
We really can’t expect the world to comply with what they have not embraced. Jesus command was to “Go make disciples.” The Church needs to return to evangelism. When was the last time you heard the terms “repent”, “sin”, even a call to salvation in churches? We have become so self-absorbed in marketing our empires all we worry about is getting enough money to, as they say. “Advance the kingdom.” But don’t we really care who is populating the kingdom as long as they have a contribution to make. Have they been discipled or merely celebrated because of their contribution? We even have this attitude in churches and congregations are running the vision and mission of the church in the name of the people. We have rights – yes – the right to live and die. Everything in between we owe God praise and honor for the breath He allowed us to experience.
The “Light” is getting dim in America. Who has the courage to flip the switch back on to the “Light” of God’s Glory? Who is on the Lord’s side, let them come forward and pray not fight.
I’m not writing all this as a neighborhood scold just to make you feel rotten. I’m writing as a father to you, my children. I love you and want you to grow up well, not spoiled. There are a lot of people around who can’t wait to tell you what you’ve done wrong, but there aren’t many fathers willing to take the time and effort to help you grow up. It was as Jesus helped me proclaim God’s Message to you that I became your father. I’m not, you know, asking you to do anything I’m not already doing myself.
(1 Corinthians 4:14-16) The Message (MSG)
Throughout the world, believers have been tempted to look upon those they call “spiritual fathers” who are mere mortals as if they were an individual’s supreme source of spiritual instruction, nourishment, and protection. The tendency to turn mere men into “gurus” is worldwide. The pattern is we honor or respect men in their positions, but we reverence and worship for His person. When this passage is taken in context it makes good sense. Spiritual fathers are not just after instruction, servitude and correction, but maturity and love for the spiritual son to become a proclaimer of the Gospel. Real fathers then proclaim the Gospel of Jesus Christ, not the elevation of one’s status. Real sons accept it by faith. Ultimately, The Lord is our supreme protector, provider, and instructor. Correspondingly, it is wrong to view any individual other than God as having these roles except as a proclaimer of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Spiritual fatherhood should refer to those who are wise counselors, not controlling freaks.
Our culture today urges us to seek our identity in our possessions, our personal achievements or some lofty title to impress others. The Church has brought into this false sense of self-worth and is not sounding the alarm while society is decaying. Yet Scripture tells us our identity is not derived from these things. It depends not on how others see us, but how God sees us. But a proper understanding of basic Christian beliefs helps one wrestle with questions that have baffled people for centuries. In our day there is a wishy-washy relativism that masquerades as faith. “It doesn’t matter what you believe, just as long as you believe.” “All roads lead to God.” “The important thing is to be sincere.” If we know what we believe, we will resist such shallow claims. God is personal. He has told us about himself and what he requires of us. All the rich knowledge of God is expressed through our Christian beliefs. Christian beliefs not only guide our thinking but also direct our behavior. In our day we desperately need leaders of integrity, people who are living examples of biblical values. As we learn these basic values, the Holy Spirit gradually transforms us into the likeness of Christ himself. Christian beliefs build Christian character.
The current climate in churches today is not to create an atmosphere to worship and praise God but to attract and appease people. Most people are only attracted to a church where they can “feel” God. A George Gallup polls suggest that, “We are having a revival of feelings and not the knowledge of God.” The church today is more guided by feelings than motivated by knowledge. We want a good feeling, not a good experience with God in worship. That was the attraction of the two “Great Awakenings” a need to experience God emotionally apart from what we knew intellectually. It also was the motivation of Western “Pentecost.” In 1906 with the popularity of the Azusa Street Revival, we shifted worship from getting to know God to seeking to be empowered by the presence of God with major spiritual empowerments.
Passion for God – the ability to seek God with your total being has been substituted for a need to express my release emotionally while addressing my status as a gifted saint. Is it wrong then to want to feel God? No, but it is danger if all we want to do is “feel” and not get to know God. That is the beauty of intimacy. Not just the feeling but the communication. We move from one extreme to the other. If we seek knowledge from God the danger is being labeled an “egghead” and “dry.” If we seek the presence of God only in music and song, the danger is becoming “too emotional” and surface orientated. The balance is expressed when we can seek God intellectually without getting “puffed up.” Then we can become “passionate” for God without it becoming a celebration of my talent and not an elevation of God’s Glory. Keep in mind promotion carries two parallels. The danger of pride and the demotion of self-glory to the danger of becoming more than a player on the cosmic stage to the star of the show.
When I researched what we term, “The early or primitive church,” I was amazed at the amount of cautions and warnings regarding false teachers. They were constantly commanded to guard their faith and salvation. We are also challenged to build ourselves up through prayer and discernment. Jude v20, “but you, dear friends, by building yourselves up in your most holy faith, by praying in the Holy Spirit” (Net Bible). Jude v3 suggests that we should contend for the Faith – this means we should fight, question, and stand firm against heresies that arise in opposition to the faith of the Church. Jude states, “ Dear friends, although I was eager to write to you about the salvation we share, I found it necessary to write to you and urge you to continue your vigorous defense of the faith that was passed down to the saints once and for all.” (ISV) The Apostles expected believers to be able to discipline themselves in doctrine and maintain strong Christian values. However, it became evident quickly that this was not going to happen without teachers and prophets (Acts 13:1). The lack of strong Christian conviction continues today. We can not make people confess what they don’t believe, and we can not live what we don’t confess. I believe the defense today should not be on the principle of sin, but the activity of sin, not by sinners , but by believers.
Oddly stated, but profoundly true when we view the development of Christian thought and practice. A lot of what we accept or believe is not a sole background of scripture, but a combination of traditional history and acceptable scripture. In today’s social climate the relationship between Scripture and tradition clash with our need to defend individual liberties. But neither can be studied in isolation. They interact with one another if only through a third party: the church visible. It might help to define the two terms. The term, scripture refers to the canonical writings of both testaments. “Tradition”, most times, refer solely to extra-scriptural or even un-scriptural traditions. But tradition is needed to supplement what we know about Scripture, to provide historical teaching not found in Scripture. Apostolic tradition as a supplement to Scripture was a constant guide to Christian lifestyles very early in church history. However, theologians were slow to defend beliefs which they acknowledged not to be in Scripture. Most Christian can’t comprehend the relationship between Tradition and Scripture today. Even though, all religious groups have some form of tradition. No matter how liberal a group tries to alienate itself from the modern church, they still have some authority structure, some standards of what is and is not “Christian.”
This modern era of believers are putting more confidence in faith as a verb than faith as a noun. In the Greek, the word for faith, “pistis” is both a noun and a verb. More emphasis has been put on the verb usage that the noun. We want to see faith in action rather have confidence in the assurance of faith. The proper idea is that we have “Faith.” That is we have confidence, assurance, hope in someone or something we can trust in (I Cor 15:58). The real test of Faith is not just in what you know about scripture, but how much of scripture knows you. The faithful have to know that healings, deliverance, miracles, and power are not always the word of the day. Sometime in spite of it all, patience, hope, and love have to sustain us even when it seems there is no light at the end of a long tunnel.