Sunday, May 27, 2007

Bringing Knives to a Gunfight

I recently visited a relatively new website, The Black Church Page . I guess you might call this the Wal-Mart of online "black" church information. You name it, you can find some info about it at this site. Unfortunately, like many "black" churches this site is heavy on culture and light on Scripture.

Desiring to understand the foundation on which this site was built, I naturally visited the site's "About Us" page. I could not help but to shake my head in disbelief at what I found. You know that I had to get in touch with "The Black Church Page". Here is my e-mail . . .

" Dear Mr. Matthews,

My name is Keith L. Tolbert. I am a newcomer to your website. I was struck by the opening paragraph of the "about us" section . . .

'God implanted into the spirit of Alphonse D. Matthews long ago that the answers to the socio-economic problems that exist with The African American community are within the African American church. The answers to unemployment, wealth creation, education, poverty, drug abuse all are within the walls of the African American church.'

I have always heard that the best way to chop down a tree is not by cutting off the branches, one by one; but by chopping it down at the trunk where the whole tree will fall down. Why is solving 'socio-economic problems' viewed to be the most pressing need in the 'black' church? It is plainly evident, according to Scripture, that the most pressing need for the "black" church as well as the body of Christ as a whole (where does the Bible ever address a 'black' church?) is to deal with that which so easily entangles us all . . . sin. "Sin" is the tree, our 'socio-economic' problems, et al, are but branches on this tree.

All of us (black, white, yellow, red, etc.), even the saved among us, are still encumbered with a sin nature (indewlling sin). And until this root issue is confronted by the glorious gospel of Jesus Christ, the tree (sin) will live and the branches will grow back two for every one you chop off. When will we, especially the 'black' church, understand that our temporal issues such as racism, poverty, education, equal opportunity, etc. are just that, TEMPORAL. As Christians, we are to be fervently mindful of eternal verities. As we deal with the true culprit behind our temporal troubles, we become less vulnerable to them.

The truth is we may not overcome most of these temporal issues in this life. Contrary to popular teaching, the Kingdom of God has not been consumated yet and this life is filled with tribulations and trials. All due to our own sinfulness. The Gospel of Jesus Christ ALONE is the antidote for all of this. And there is less and less of this being taught today in the church, yes even the 'black church.

And when I say the Gospel of Jesus Christ, I do not only mean Jesus' death, burial and resurrection that is only part of the story which is all too easily romanticized. I additionally mean Jesus' sinless life that fulfilled the requirements of God's holy law which qualified Jesus as a perfect sacrifice. I mean His selfless suffering in our stead that we now (as was the apostle Paul) are blessed (yes, BLESSED) to share in (see Phillipians 1:29; Romans 8:17 etc.). His current reign and intercession at the right hand of the Father on behalf of His people.

We often acknowledge that this life is brief and but a vapor; but we still cling to it as if it were all there is. Should not our attitude, and consequently the message of websites like this one, be like that of Paul's who taught us in ll Corinthians 4:7-18 that 'though we are afflicted, we are not crushed. Though we are perplexed, we are not driven to despair. Though persecuted, we are not forsaken; struck down but not destroyed. That this "slight momentary affliction is PREPARING for us an ETERNAL (not temporal) weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look NOT to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are UNSEEN are ETERNAL'.

Since Jesus' ascension back to the Father the church has endured great suffering for the cause of the Gospel. Our brothers and sisters in Christ (not just black folks) have endured being fed to lions, burnings, disembowelment, and relentless torture for THIS cause. Not for "socio-economic" empowerment. I think that it is past time for this shallow, Christ-betraying selfish hew and cry for material health and prosperity. Jesus made it crystal clear that these things make entering His Kingdom
difficult (Matthew 19:23), please consider why we should play up a mindset that only makes our ultimate goal of living with our LORD and Savior, eternally, more difficult.

I think you would be hard pressed to confirm anywhere in Scripture where the goal of the church has been to remedy 'unemployment, wealth creation, education, poverty' and 'drug abuse'. The clear purpose of the church, biblically, is to train God's people in holiness and righteousness and to facilitate their maturing in Jesus Christ and the Christian faith. Success in these areas will necesarily lead to a Christ-like response to the problems you have cited.

Pleae don't misunderstand me, I am not suggesting that we show no concern about these problems. But if any of these issues of socio-economic problems are to be lessened in this lifetime, it will NOT be by focusing the 'branches', we absolutely must deal with the "trunk" continuously. You have quite an opportunity to make a difference with this website. Please do not squander it by joining in with the 'popular' nonsense that is being promoted by far too many pulpits ( black and white) today. We must stand on the firm foundation of Jesus Christ and His Word. Not what itching ears want to hear.

He who has an ear . . . "

To this Matthews replied . . .

"Keith Tolbert,

I appreciate you sharing your viewpoint, however with all due respect this is misdirected. Unless your view is one of I am either lying on God, or I am mistaken about what He shared with me...You would have to take this up with God as to why He gave me this information.

If you do feel that I am lying, or that I am mistaken, then you should pray me and/or this site.

But based on the fruit of this site, and where He is currently taking us, I am going to hold on to what I believe He told me.

Thank you for your comments,
Alphonse D. Matthews
The Black Church Page"

Now, I have no problem with Mr. Matthews sticking to the direction he has chosen; but I would have appreciated a response to the BIBLICAL objections that I raised. Do you notice how he immediately retreated to a self-defensive posture? I didn't accuse him of lying on God or lying at all. I merely challenged him to do what Scripture tells us to do anytime we receive an impression on our "spirit". I John 4:1 admonishes us to "test the spirits". Had Mr. Matthews done this, I believe there would have been a chance that he might have discerned much of what I said to him in my e-mail.

I replied to Mr. Matthews reply with this . . .

"Mr. Matthews,

I am in no way accusing you of lying on God. In fact, I'm not accusing you of anything at all. I just wanted to express my hope that your website would be bold enough to take the less traveled path of refusing to cater to the least common denominators among man: self and materialism. I wanted to both encourage you and prove to you that there is in the 'black' church a market for the strong meat of God's word, sound Biblical exposition and a Christianity that is not characterized by earthly-mindedness. Please do not leave us out of your considerations for the content of this website.

Thanks for reading, considering and responding to my comments. May God bless all of your Christ-centered endeavors!"

And . . .

"Mr. Matthews,

Upon further reflection on your response to my e-mail, I just wanted to ask you what you meant by my viewpoint being "misdirected". I am positive that I presented a purely Biblical viewpoint which was worthy of consideration.

Your response addressed none of the Biblical points I made and seemed to immediately retreat to a defensive position. Please understand that my comments were not an attack upon your website. As I stated in my previous reply, I only hope that you will also consider the needs of the full spectrum of believers within the "black" church community. Such as those who hold to a Reformed, Christ-centered, Biblical perspective of the historic Christian faith; rather than only the man-centered, materialistic, emotion-driven variety. Or should we look for another . . ."

To which he replied . . .

"Mr. Tolbert,

The way your email was presented, it basically stated that the direction that I received from God was not correct. You are entitled to your opinion, but this one you would have to take up with God; not me. (Misdirected)


O.K., maybe I got a little dig in there with the "the man-centered, materialistic, emotion-driven variety." thing; but if this website wants to be the site for the "black" church, it ought to "represent" for all of the "black" church! You betta reckanize!

It seems that the Bible is off-limits at this website. So, if you are in the mood for more "Christianity-lite" please visit "The Black Church Page". Be warned, if you want to be armed for a deeper walk with Jesus, these guys can only give you a knife for a gunfight.

Be Like the Bereans, Baby!!!


AndyHigg said...

Let me start with saying that I appreciate you for having the courage to call a spade a spade! Having read the letters to and from Black Church Page, I agree that you have done nothing more than bring to their attention that you are not represented by their site since they are not representing the gospel.

Know that you have support and are not alone in your desire to serve our Lord with faithfulness!

Keith L. Tolbert said...

Thank you, andyhigg! I truly believe that there is a surge building of believers who want the true Gospel.

Let's all continue to pray for reformation and revival in our time.

Lionel Woods said...

Well put brother. I appreciate your tenacity and courage to not ignore the grave need of Cross Centered Christianity. Love the letter, and I hate to say it, but it is common for individuals like Mr. Matthews to hide behind a "God told me so you can't question me" theology. I pray that this conversation was a catalyst for him to search the deeper truths of the Holy Scriptures. God bless and thanks for the comments. I will email Mr. Sproul after I finish "On Being Black and Reformed". Mr. Prickett has already came for my head and has challenged me. What do you think I can do to help the inner city?