Dear African American Churches of Christ,
I extend the warm peace and grace of God through Christ to you all. God has blessed us richly and continues to use us for His glory in this world. I praise God that God has and continues to use us for His glory through our efforts in sharing the gospel of Jesus. Our rich heritage has a reputation of being very diligent and passionate in sharing the good news to those who are not in a reconciled relationship with God.
My beloved heritage, it was you who birthed me into my spiritual journey and it was you who raised me while on the journey. Thank you for teaching me about Jesus. Thank you for being a firm foundation. Thank you for the investment you have made in the lives of many young people like me. You have taught me to study Scripture and have integrity with it. You have taught me in many ways to trust God at any cost. You have taught me to be a defender of truth at any cost. Thank you so much for the foundation that you have laid for me to walk in.
The Early Stage of my Journey
Throughout my journey, I have been in awe of the pulpit icons within our heritage. I have been impressed with the great defenders of truth, as well as the astonishing expositors within our heritage. And since I strongly desire to be a preacher, I have always patterned myself after the great pulpit icons. I remember quite vividly, attending many debates and gospel/tent meetings which were focused on “exposing truth and error, “ while calling those who were in error to leave their denominations and to join the “one true church.”
As a result, I have witnessed many people come to Jesus in response to such strong passionate sermons focused on the one true church.
I remember a few years after I accepted the call to preach. I attended an event where a popular evangelist was preaching at a well-known African American Church of Christ in Dallas. The preacher was well dressed, covered with jewelry, and had a smooth persona. He spoke with a deep bass voice, words of scripture, and persuasive rhetoric all flowing of his mouth with regard to the churches of Christ. After about an hour and a half of preaching, ten people responded to his invitation and committed their lives to Jesus in baptism. By the end of the gospel meeting, a total of forty-six people all decided to be followers of Jesus. As a young man, witnessing such moments deeply impressed me and created a passion which likewise called me to be a strong and persuasive defender of the one true church.
I enjoyed many such remarkable experiences during the early stages of my journey of faith and benefited by sitting at the feet of outstanding expository preachers in churches of Christ. Eventually, I too was baptized and raised in a congregation of the churches of Christ which was led by one of the leading expositors in our heritage. In fact, when I informed him that I wanted to become a preacher, he personally mentored me and introduced me to expository preaching. Expository preaching, at the time, was thought to be radically different from the style of older preachers who were considered defenders of truth whose style was more topical. Indeed, these differences—between expository and topical preaching—led to real tensions between stalwart “defenders of truth.” I entered the fray by accepting expository preaching as the most honest and rigorous approach to Scripture. I still harbor this belief today.
Throughout the earlier parts of my journey, dear churches of Christ, I have observed you carefully. Like a child committed to her or his parents, I have entrusted you to rear me in the ways I should go. I have watched how you chastised nonbelievers using our interpretative style to send them to hell. I have seen how you invested money, attention, and time into gospel meetings, lectureships, and Southwestern Christian College. I have appreciated how you went door knocking and asked people if they believed in the Bible, if they believed that Christ has built one church, and if they wanted to be added to the church. In these things I witnessed your heart to save people and your courageous defense of the truth.
I also observed how preachers in our heritage fought against one another over worship styles and personal morality. I read letters, unloving letters, written by Preachers and sealed with the closing “said in love”. Dear Preachers, I even noticed how some of you marginalized preachers’ sins, but magnified other preachers’ sins. You played the game of favoritism with one another. You isolated those who did not agree with your beliefs. Consequently, you encouraged our heritage to speak truth with aggressiveness, conning persuasion, but not primarily in love. My beloved heritage, I watched you, and I imitated you in so many ways.