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”
I could recount all the miraculous times the Lord rescued me from danger over my brief military career. However, let me conclude that it doesn’t take a “rocket scientist” to discover that there was purpose on my life. So in Anchorage, AL in 1969, my spiritual journey got a boost from a little red cover book I was introduced to titled “The Spiritual Man” by Watchman Nee. The impact of the insights I gained from this series revolutionized my thinking for years to come.
By the time I returned from the military I was a changed man. I had developed from the boy preacher, I left as, into a developing teacher with some life experience. Somehow I managed to maintain the nick name “rev” throughout my military career. However, various bible schools and self-study materials was now answering questions for me, while my prayer life was blooming.
When I returned to Baltimore I also returned to my Dad’s church as an organist and later assistant pastor of the church. I knew by then that “Bible-Teaching” was going to be my passion. The church atmosphere I found myself in though was more conducive to preaching instead of teaching. It didn’t take me long to figure out people were more interested in having their emotions stirred than their minds caressed. I was often branded “dry” and “slow” in my presentations, so I retreated to my music while secretly increasing my personal bible study.
This is Part 8 of the series “My Personal Journey”
I spent a lot of time in my teens building my library from the local “Baptist Book Store.” Seemed strange since my classical apostolic background was anti-Baptist. But I was really led to Church History and Biblical Interpretation. So while my musical skills were growing and I played the organ regularly in churches around town, my hunger for God was being pursued in my private prayer and study times.
I have at admit my real introduction to life outside my small church and social community in Baltimore in the 1960’s was being drafted in the Army. I had few friends; I was a loner and deep thinker; and my dad’s church had done a good indoctrination job on me. I had more questions than those around me could adequately answer. So I entered the military with a limited world view of society at large but I got a quick education in people, relationships, and religion.
My best friend in Basic Training was a red neck from Kentucky who had never personally interacted with Black people before. We seemed to be drawn to each other out of the shock of the new environment we found ourselves ultimately having to adjust to. Our favorite pastime was singing “Sly Stone’s ‘60’s hit, “Don’t Call Me Niger, Whitey.” It really didn’t take me long to score high with a rifle and become an expert in hand-to-hand combat. So while the army was molding me into a soldier, I was also developing discipline that would shape my ministry career for many years to come. All the while trying to figure out where I should go from here.
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.
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.
We need a new breed of worship leaders that understand the mandate of prayer and praise. New leaders who are not making news headlines, but delivering the Good News of the kingdom; Honest leaders that will take the time to sanctify themselves to and for God in this hour; Charismatic leaders that are not just speaking for God (prophets) but speaking to God (priests) regarding the sins of nations, governments, societies, and churches. Leaders that will propel us into the future with a healthy perspective of lessons from the past. Finally, we need true intercession in this hour, warfare prayer that restores and refreshes the supernatural power of God in the earth. Not by a troop of gossiping prayer bands, but a worship leader who can both discern and command the conflict and calm the storms of life.
The methodology of worship has dominated the Christian Church world as we are more focused on how we express our worship (my way) than how it is regulated to please God. What worship should accomplish is to get us into God’s presence. The purpose of worship in the body of Christ is not to appease God and make one feel good and enjoy all the blessings of prosperity. No it is to honor the Father through Jesus Christ as our mediator with the aid of the Holy Spirit. We are as divided over worship as we are over doctrine. In fact, worship has gotten so systematized in America that we offer people a menu of choices like a restaurant. Instead of fighting over styles today we just blend a choice of options – Traditional, Modern, or Contemporary. Take your choice and sit and enjoy the sideshow of worship being focused on your taste instead of God’s glory. So we divide over the day, style, music, and prayer language in our worship services.
I hope we are taking a cautious look at what we accept, believe, and declare about our salvation. We are faced with dangerous theological rat traps all the time. The media attention Christianity is getting lately might cause many to believe what they see rather than what they know to be true. I know that the best way to administer poison is to hide it in something good. So, false teachers are not standing up waving a flag saying they are teaching false doctrine. No, they are mixing truths, lowing standards, and secretly denying canal doctrines of the faith. The Word of God is said to be “nourishment, energy, and development” in truth. Any sort of theological poison that is planted in the midst of a solid base of truth will upset the balance. We must be on guard by studying (2 Tim 2:14-15), praying (Eph 6:18), and trusting God (Heb 11:6).
Today we are really faced with wrestling with Historical Christianity and following the traditions that were established by the Church; to canonical Christianity and trying to reconcile scripture to modern living; or possibly hearing a new “Word” from the Lord for a change of course through a new prophetic voice. What course do we really take? And, how do we mix or separate all or any of these?
I want to stress that these issues need prayer and dialogue as we try to maintain stability and hope for real kingdom manifestation to appear. What we must remember is that the Lord is not preparing us for escape, but victory. However, the only way the church is going to achieve power and strength is by making a united stand against the kingdom of darkness. Not a militant stand against physical forces, but a spiritual stand against forces that are desperately trying to influence our worldview through the impact of our minds. This has taken shape in our educational institutions; in our businesses; in entertainment; and yes, even in the church herself. We are under attack with values, ethics, and character defects, while the glamor of fame and fortune intoxicate us.
Many of the ills in our society can be traced to the fact that too many men have abandoned their roles as leaders and providers in the home, leaving a generation of fatherless children. Many women have opted for careers instead of motherhood, abandoning the bond of mother and child. And many children have lost respect because there are no family classes in the home. No communication or education from within, only what they can receive externally. They spend too much time alone and not enough family time. Our family of faith is at the heart of the issue here. We need to make a declarative statement like Joshua to Israel in Joshua 24:15. Regardless of what everybody else is saying or doing I have drawn the line and we will serve the Lord.