Some congregations are struggling with how Christians respond to the racial tension that prevails in their cultural environment. Some preachers and teachers, I believe, are afraid to even speak about the subject of black/white relations. But I believe that the Bible speaks clearly about our treatment of one another as well as what has its place in worship and what does not.
There are congregations of which I am aware which celebrated Black History Month inside of their worship services. In one particular such service, the minister mentioned that the church at that place exists in that southern city because the “whites did not want the blacks worshipping with them.” While such a statement, sadly, may be accurate, I would still ask whether such a statement and celebration is appropriate in a worship service of the Lord’s church.
Another congregation in Alabama recently celebrated Black History Month and the preacher allowed, from the pulpit, that Jesus was a black man; a statement both inaccurate and inappropriate.
My husband recently received a phone call from one of our old and dear friends, a preacher of the gospel. He wanted to talk over some problems he was having as he was preaching for a mostly black church. He is a black man. Here is what he said: “I’ve been preaching on what the Bible says about ordaining elders. I have been saying that we are doing wrong when we simply choose not to have elders—that it is simply wrong when we do not want elders. Several brothers in the church here are criticizing me and asserting that I am ‘preaching white’.”
Sisters, I don’t know what you are thinking about such a statement, but when any preacher, black or white, is teaching what the Bible says about a subject, fellow Christians should never criticize him because of some kind of breach of loyalty to his culture. Our loyalty is not ever primarily to culture. Our loyalty is primarily to Christ and to the Holy Spirit of God, Who has revealed His will to us in the Holy Scriptures. Our worship, our goals as congregations, our lifestyles, our families, our political decisions, yes, even our allegiances to ethnicity—all of us; heart, soul strength and mind—should be wholly directed and affected by the New Testament.
I believe, if we are not very careful, we can allow the world to have its way into our attitudes and assemblies. There are lots of ways to be conformed to this world. When the world is focused on an issue, it’s important to address the subject of focus from a Biblical standpoint, if the New Testament speaks to the subject at all. It is even more important that we do not allow cultural ideas and norms to move us from Biblical principles. Truth must trump culture every single time.
Next time: Specific Concerns about the Church in these Troublesome Times