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“Hello!  Zach here with the following blog article written by my good friend, Alan Stoddard, Senior Pastor of First Baptist Church of Ruidoso – in Ruidoso, NM.  After reading it, I asked Alan if I could present it to my readership as a guest post.  With his permission and my honor, I present…Alan Stoddard…enjoy!”

 

I have been privileged to live in a multicultural neighborhood most of my life. I’ve always had Black friends. I grew up in Florida. Then I was Army. Then as I became a Christian, I was influenced by the Black Church. My first influence was by Pastor Onnie I. Kirk of the Unity Missionary Baptist Church in El Paso, Texas. Then Pastor Elijah Mitchell  of the Grace Missionary Baptist Church in Schweinfurt, Germany, was a huge influence on me. He taught me preaching at the local church level, in a class. When I went to preaching class in seminary, I was not surprised. I was prepared. Then I went Cornerstone Baptist Church in Arlington, Texas. Pastor Dwight McKissic is the Senior Pastor. And while there I ran into the legend – Dr. Lloyd C. Blue. It was at Cornerstone that I was exposed to some of the best preaching in the world. We expected good preaching, but we brought in some of the big preachers of African-American culture.

The Exodus experience is simple: “Let my people go.”

What did I learn and what can you learn?

  1. Black preaching is an experience. The great Henry Mitchell once said, “The Black Bible is a living epistle, and the elaborations never take the form of coldly abstract formulations” (Black Preaching: The Recovery of a Powerful Art). He was right. In a Black preaching experience, the event is just that, an experience. It’s rarely, if ever, a lecture. If it is a lecture, experience will leak out even then. There is always an expectation of “what will happen today when the preacher preaches?” White preaching is often too didactic. It’s a lecture devoid of experience and application in listeners real lives. To my White preaching friends, put some experience in the preaching. Be yourself, as no one likes a White preacher trying to be something he is not. But take a risk. Get outside the box.
  2. Black preaching is rooted in the Exodus experience.
    The Exodus experience is simple: “let my people go.” Cleophus LaRue (The Heart of Black Preaching), Preaching Professor at Harvard confirms the symbol of oppression is the single symbol that illustrates the Black preaching experience best. It’s a church message that the Black Church has lived within America for not yet two hundred years. This is in part the social gospel, but it is more than that. Black Preaching ultimately includes the oppressions faced by anyone oppressed. The White Church and preachers can take a lesson here. Preach to those who have problems and lift them above those problems with the gospel. Tell them there is a better way. There is hope.
  3. Black preaching is emotional and passionate. When I first heard Black preaching, I thought to myself, “Is someone in trouble? Should we leave? What’s the preacher so angry about?” Then I came to realize Black preaching is rooted in the face that the church is often the only safe place for the Black message to get out. It’s also rooted in cultural fact that African culture is a singing culture. So it is not uncommon for a song to break out during the preaching. In Black preaching, the preaching “whoops.” It celebrates at the end of the sermon. When I first saw Pastor Kirk do this, I was blown away. He would run down the aisle celebrating Jesus waving a handkerchief. White preaching needs to add some passion through delivery. Yet passion and emotion alone can never make up for content.
  4. Black preaching is scripture driven. Narrative. Black preaching is narrative. It’s story. Even when a Black pastor preaches using the letters of Paul, rarely will he just go line by line first. There will be a wrapping of the exposition into a larger contextual story from scripture, then the lives of listeners. Haddon Robinson teaches us to know the big idea. I’ve seen the old school Black preaching by outline that actually searches out the big idea in the pulpit. To preach out of context would never be acceptable in Black preaching. While there are times I’ve seen Black preaching more emotion than scripture, it’s rare. And it is usually done by the younger, inexperienced preachers. White culture preaching would do well to learn to preach not only the context of scripture, but the grander narrative of God’s story in our own lives.
  5. Black preaching is as much art as it is science. There are tools to preaching. Those tools in a preaching course can be tools. They can come across as mechanical. The exegetical idea, the preaching idea, sermon purpose, outline or movements, illustrations, applications, introductions and conclusions. These all are tools. Yet in Black preaching the homiletical is as much art as science. There is much more exploring with the tools. I first learned first person narrative preaching from Black culture not White. Haddon Robinson showed us how to do it with his many sermons, but EK Bailey was the first pastor I saw do it. It was art and science.
  6. Black preaching is influenced by White preaching. The African context is often left out of the academy of preaching especially because Christianity became much more academic and educational. The European Christianity from the third century to the 1500s set the stage for Western Christianity. Of course in many ways that was good. God chose to do it. Much of European Christianity is now dead, dark and detrimental to the Great Commission now. But the influence of Black Christianity by White is good. It’s not just an educational influence. It’s a content influence. It’s a melding of cultures. My Pastor at Cornerstone, Dwight McKissic is an excellent example of what I’m trying to say. He is an excellent preacher. I’ve seen him light up a room. But he is not just a preacher who uses passion and force. He is also a teacher who can give amazing content. He realized like many Black preachers, African-Americans today do not just want emotion. It’s an interesting topic. They want content also. And while content does not originate from White preaching, White culture is a partner and conduit of content. In other words, the White preaching style is appealing to Black people. Today, they listen to John MacArthur, Charles Stanley, David Jeremiah and the like as well as their own preachers.
  7. Black preaching is influencing White preaching. More and more White preachers are taking the natural things of Black preaching into the pulpit. The ideas of creativity, passion, emotion, force as well as hermeneutic and homily of the academy are found in the White preaching context. Steven Furtick is a good example. White people desire emotion. We are often too cognitive. And lecturing does not meet real life on the street. The best story of Black preaching changing and influencing White preaching is found in Dr. Joel Gregory. He is what I call the darling of the Black church. After his departure from FBC Dallas, it was EK Bailey who started the Black Church journey for Gregory. Joel Gregory embodies the best of Black and White preaching. He masters content and delivers like a Black preacher. Dr. Ralph West does the same but with a unique, God given giftedness. These two men have modeled for out culture what White and Black preaching can give each other for the cause of the Great Commission.

There can be no writing on this subject without the mention of Dr. Lloyd C. Blue. This man started out as my boss, mentor and example at Cornerstone. He soon became a friend, fishing partner and adopted father. He’s an amazing man, but for this topic an amazing preacher. I’ve personally watched him preach. He has the style of both Black and White preaching styles. He knows how to be who God needs him to be in any culture. He taught me how to outline a passage with unique, precise ability to see the text’s meaning quickly. That meaning became the bridge to the hearts of men and women in the audience. My relationship with Dr. Blue is irreplaceable.. My relationship with Black culture so unique. Most White pastors and people never get these experiences and education from Black culture. These are 7 things I have learned from the academy of Black preaching. Go … and do the same.

A Tumbleweed Christmas

January 4, 2014

The following article was written by a good friend of mine, Bradley White.  I also asked Bradley if he would bless my readership with his testimony.  He graciously agreed to do so.  I have included his testimony at the end of his article below:

 

by Bradley White

For most people around the world Christmas is a time of joy, family gatherings, giving, receiving and enjoying food that is generally too rich and served in great quantities.

There will be hectic shopping sprees and “to do” lists a mile long. Some will spend enormous amounts of time, money and effort as they scrounge through dark, dusty attics and garages searching for carefully packed decorations that they have accumulated over the years. I have spent many an hour performing the same routine each year. For me, however, this year will be very different. In the last year or so I have suffered the loss of my aunt, grandmother, uncle and my mother just a few weeks ago. You see, this will be the first Christmas in 48 years I will be spending without my mother.

“We were broke, we did not receive many gifts but Mom and Dad found a way to make that Christmas my favorite.”

I could simply not celebrate. In fact, until this morning that was exactly what I intended to do. However, for some reason, I thought about tumbleweeds. My mind was changed and I started decorating today. I guess, someway or somehow, my Mother dropped a memory in my heart and mind. It is suddenly 1968 and I am 4 years old again. I am transported back to Monahans, Texas where my mother worked as a legal secretary and my father owned his own business. He was a Master Electrician. I remember that year our family was broke. Dad was struggling in his business and my parents explained that our Christmas was going to be extremely lean. I was only 4 but I will never forget the night Dad said, “You all pop some popcorn. I’ll be back in a little bit.”

We, with Mom’s help, popped popcorn and in about an hour Dad came home. In his hand was a sack from the local market. He handed the bag to Mom and asked my brother and me to help him get something out of the car. In the trunk of the car were three tumbleweeds. One was large, another a little smaller and the third smaller still. We dutifully carried them into the den of our home. You may have guessed the rest of the story. While Dad was assembling the weeds, Mom opened the bag revealing six or seven cans of artificial, spray-on snow. We all took turns transforming the dead weeds into a beautiful, snow covered tree. My sister and Mom began stringing popcorn while being careful to instruct my brother and me on ways to place ornaments. As always, Dad enjoyed the honor of placing the angel at the top of the tree.

We were broke, we did not receive many gifts but Mom and Dad found a way to make that Christmas my favorite. I will never forget our Tumbleweed Christmas!

My father died of a heart attack in 1978. I was 13 and he was just 43 years old. After 34 years, Mom and Dad will enjoy another Christmas together. If there are tumbleweeds in Heaven, I think Dad will build a tumbleweed Christmas tree for Mom. Only this time, they are not broke and they will feast and look down and enjoy their kids, grand-kids and great grand-kids.

Here’s to all! Wishing you a very Tumbleweed Christmas.

 

Here is Bradley’s testimony as promised:

 

by Bradley White

My name is Bradley White.  I have been asked to give my testimony by Pastor Zach.

We all go through trials and, to each of us, it seems to always be a “trial by fire” no matter the situation.  Here is what God has seen me through in the past few years.

In December of 2007, I moved back home to Abilene, Texas with my mother.  She, along with failing health went with me because her Mother, my Grandmother was in her nineties and needed constant care.  We’ll call my Grandmother “Momo” because that is what I called her.  When we got to Abilene, things were tough.  I was having health issues as well.  While caring for Momo, I was finally diagnosed with a brain aneurysm…after almost 20 years of mis-diagnoses.  One day, while driving to work, I lost my vision and underwent brain surgery in 2009.  I looked like Frankenstein!  Still caring for Momo even with staples in my head.

Then the heart issues started.  Suffice it to say, since 2011 I have suffered four heart attacks and underwent triple bypass surgery.  During this time,  I lost my Aunt, Momo, Uncle, Mom, and another Grandmother.  I ended up back in New Mexico where, due to family disfunction, I ended up homeless and without a job.

I found myself in Ruidoso, NM on the street with no place to stay and “Baby, It’s Cold Outside”!  But God had a different plan.  I was given Pastor Zach’s number by the local police department.  He saw to it that I had a place to stay for that night.

I believe that was in June of 2013.  Shortly thereafter, I went to California to care for an elderly friend.  That didn’t work out, however.  BUT, it was all still in God’s plan.

You see, years ago, I lived in California for about 16 years.  In that time I was a Minister of Music.  Long story short, I stopped going to church and went through a divorce.  I gave up singing and playing for God.  Instead, I became a professional pianist for another 16 years or so.

What I didn’t know was that a young man that I had ministered to in that church had been looking for me for 16 years.  He knew I was in New Mexico and every time he would visit the state, he would look through phone books in his hotel room to try and find me.

You see, I met Laban when he was two years old.  His Mom visited our church and asked me to hold him.  I took the toe-headed two year old and he immediately clung to me and put his head on my shoulder.  I’ve never been the same since.  Have you ever had that instant connection with another human being?  If you haven’t, hold on because you’ll never be the same.

When I was in California, Laban found me on Facebook.  Immediately contacted me and made plans for me to fly to Georgia where I now live.  I’ll never forget the night I landed…

We drove home and stayed up all night talking, catching up.  As soon as we got to the house, he said, “Come here I have something for you.”  We walked to his and his wife’s bedroom and he reached up on the chest of drawers and handed me something.

It was MY Bible!  When I left California 16 plus years before I left my Bible on one of the pews in the church.  He went through the Army, several moves but never lost my Bible.  By the way, he was 12 years old when he saw my Bible on the pew and “snatched it up”…his words.  He told me later that night that the reason he was so drawn to me was because I always had a kind word for him when he was growing up.  Kind words go a long way, my friends.

That was in August of 2013.  I now have a great job making very good money.  Have purchased a new car and am back in church worshipping God.  God is truly amazing.

Please remember, you may be down but you’re NEVER alone!

Pastor Zach is adding this testimony to a post of a short story that I wrote about a month after my Mother passed.  It is a true story.  I hope you enjoy it.

Thank you, Pastor Zach for showing me the true love of Jesus!  I consider you a very dear friend and a true man of God.

 

Editor’s note:  If any of you would care to personally write a line to Bradley White, just click on the Contact Us at the top of the page and I will personally forward all correspondence to him.  He would love hearing from you.

 

ENCOURAGE US:  Would you please share your testimony with the group in the comments?