Should Training for Ministry Be Optional?

 

Leonard Lovett. Ph.D

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When I received my calling to preach as a teen-ager, Evangelist Alonzo T. Turner from Bridgeport, Connecticut wrote me a letter and admonished me to read Paul’s letter to Timothy in I Timothy 4: and II Timothy 2:. There it was like a gem almost out of sight, (II Timothy 2:15 MLV) “Do your utmost to present yourself to God, approved, a workman who has no cause to be ashamed, correctly interpreting the message of the truth.” (15v. KJV) “Study to Shew thyself”) I literally memorized both chapters and held them as a sacred gift from my God-father in ministry. He was the annual guest revivalist at my step-father’s church, Thomas Temple COGIC, Pompano Beach, Florida, named in his honor, [Pastor Charles Thomas] I received Christ as Lord with the Baptism of the Sprit. It is unlikely that the Evangelist had a clue that he was transmitting a sacred trust to a little stringy teen-ager who would later become the pioneer dean of the first fully accredited Pentecostal Seminary in North America, the C.H. Mason Seminary, an affiliate of the Interdenominational Theological Center, Atlanta, Georgia. I was so thirsty for truth; I saved enough to purchase a Westminster Dictionary of the Bible, edited by Henry Snyder Gehman, Princeton Theological Seminary. My training began as I read the Bible intensely and became a fierce defender of doctrine, as I understood it.

     Mother Annie M. Ridley, Delray Beach Florida, a District Missionary saw my sincerity and raised funds every fifth Sunday afternoon to make sure I entered College. My father had deceased six years earlier and my mother’s financial resources were completely depleted. They made an investment in me which I view to this day as an act of grace and love. I went to Mississippi to Saints Jr College, the Church of God in Christ’s  only school that was accredited by the State. I transferred to Morehouse where I struggled academically, but through faith and perseverance graduated. My acceptance at Crozer Theological Seminary represented a shift in my theological terrain because of its reputation for theological liberalism. My field work assignment in ministry was performed at Memorial Church of God in Christ in Haverford, Pennsylvania at the request of the late Bishop OT Jones, Jr. pastor, who became my primary mentor in ministry.

      Recently I asked my ophthalmologist surgeon how long was my surgery, and what was his level of skill and training. He remarked that the surgery was between eleven and seventeen minutes. That beyond his graduate training it would take around 1,000 surgeries to achieve his level of competence with this particular surgical procedure with all the advances in technology. I observed that it took three (3) years of graduate training in law for my youngest son to receive a Doctor of Jurisprudence degree. It takes an average of seven years to qualify as a general practitioner of medicine. How is it that a hardened criminal can come out of prison, join our church, confess a call to ministry within twelve months, receive ordination, get assigned to a church, pay a jurisdictional report and qualify to become a Bishop with less than a High School diploma?

  We have an unlearned contingency within the church who would defend such a person with the reasoning, that if the Lord called them to preach, who are we to judge? There are people among us who believe that God will anoint ignorance and curse intelligence. Dr. Martin Luther King once spoke about ministers who generate “more heat than light” and more “perspiration” than “inspiration.” There are still jealous leaders among us who speak of a Seminary as a “cemetery” in order to generate a laugh. Such persons even contend that “if you open your mouth, the Lord will fill it.” To that reasoning I say “God will fill your mouth with air.” Does it make common sense that you will not trust an untrained teacher with your children, an untrained doctor with your body, an untrained lawyer with your legal issues, but no training is required with your soul and spiritual life? Lazy people should stay away from ministry.

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The Main Meal is Coming…the Elusive Nature of Justice in Shades of Gray

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Leonard Lovett, Ph. D

 

“I want to see a mighty flood of justice…a torrent of doing good” – Amos 5:24 (LB) True justice is elusive. When Baltimore State Attorney Marilyn J. Mosby charged six police officers in the death of Freddie Gray, the air was filled with jubilation as people danced in the street. We are proned to engage in a hollow pre-celebration at the time when police officers are charged for heinous crimes. Remember, this is just the appetizer, not the main meal. America does not convict police officers guilty of criminal behavior, even with forensic evidence and live video camera. There are similarities in the narratives dealing with Mike Brown in Ferguson, Travon Martin in Florida, and Eric Garner in Staten Island, whose last words were “I can’t breathe” for illegally selling worthless cigarettes, approximately ten miles from Wall Street where major thievery is the order of the day. The conclusion of those cases have been unbelievable. When law enforcement personnel are accused of doing bad things, they follow a script. The Police Union enshrouds them with secrecy while conservative news pundits begin a blame the victim campaign, that will demonize the Prosecutor and victim. Remember, the media shapes public opinion. The police union will hire its best defense lawyers, because they believe they are entitled to what is commonly labeled “due process.” Simple justice is all we desire as a people. We are not objects, slaves or flotsam jetsam floating on the sea of humanity, we are the consequence of our Creators grand design. We expect and will not settle for nothing less than simple justice in a court of law. I am neither pro-police or anti-police. With gusto, I am radically pro-justice. I honestly doubt there will be criminal convictions for the Baltimore police officers charged in the senseless death of Freddie Gray. I believe this case will end up being a civil suit where the family of the deceased victim will be initially awarded a major amount of money that will be later reduced by the city on appeal, and we will return to business as usual.

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The Main Meal is Coming…

CAN CHURCH POLITICS DESTROY A MINISTRY?

Leonard Lovett, PhD

Nail in handRighteousness exalts a nation but sin is a reproach to any people” –Proverbs 14:34

     Aristotle the renowned Greek philosopher defined politics as “the art of achieving the possible.” Church politics has a tendency to destroy what is possible and leaves carnage and multiple casualties strewn in its pathway. Church politics is fueled by several factors such as the lust for power, dominance, selfishness, greed, avarice, self-aggrandizement, vice and unrestrained wickedness. 1. Church politics is the sledge hammer that destroys the careers and lives of others without any remorse. An unrestrained lust for power is at the heart of such senseless behavior. The dictum by the Englishman Lord Acton is fitting: “power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.”   An unrestrained lust for power in the church has not only destroyed careers but has divided families and in some instances resulted in the death of sisters and brothers in the faith. A church leader once told me that the way to remove a person from office is to withdraw the resources from that particular position. To this day I wonder whether this leader has a clue as to the meaning of deceit. 2. Church politics is the cancer in the church that turns brothers and sisters against each other for all the wrong reasons…

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Re- con- cilia –tion Less Metanoia (Repentance) Equals Zero

 

foundin-fathers-praying_edited-2Leonard Lovett, Ph. D

Bishop Thomas Dexter Jakes: Let me commend you for having the courage to do “something” instead of “nothing” as a response to the escalating crisis on race in America. You have quite an array of names included in the one hundred and fifty (150) leaders from the Faith Community invited to the one day forum at your church on the 2015 King Holiday. I was startled to see that Pastor Frederick Haynes or Tony Evans were not in the line up since both have been most vocal in Dallas to challenge social evil and injustice while other leaders have lived under the cloud of stark silence except for media show time. Your partnering with Bishop Harry Jackson of the High Impact Leadership Coalition is of special interest. I wish Washington Post columnist Hamil R. Harris (January article) would have done a little more research to set the context for your interview. He would have discovered that what you are attempting is a dated simulated replay of what was optimistically called the “1994 Memphis Miracle.” A premature celebration took place on the eve of the1994 Conference after symbolic gestures took place such as white leaders washing the feet of black leaders with the love embrace of forgiveness. Many left on the high notion of celebration that racism among the Pentecostal- Charismatic Movement had suffered a fatal blow. I led in the drafting of a “Manifesto on Racial Reconciliation” which was to be sure evidence of our profound intent and gut level seriousness. Some twenty-one (21) years later, not only are many of the key participants deceased, but what was touted as a miracle was a mirage. The problem then was that repentance was not taken seriously. So, here we go again, same call, different players.

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Please Reset Your Clock-A Response to the Not Guilty Zimmerman Verdict: (July 18, 2013)

A Response to the Not Guilty Zimmerman Verdict

Dr. Leonard Lovett

clockJuly 18, 2013

     On Saturday evening July 13, 2013 10:00 PM, when the Jury in Sanford, Florida announced the verdict of NOT GUILTY for George Zimmerman in the unfortunate decimation of the life of Trayvon Martin, the time clock of the wheels of justice for these United States of America, land of the free, was turned back fifty-eight years. Please remember we live in a moral universe that demands a verdict. God is not bound by any verdict that has evolved from a court of law. Unfortunately we appear to be trapped in a time warp when we critically look at the criminal justice system in our nation. It was precisely fifty-eight years ago (1955) that a young fifteen year old teen from Chicago went to a small country store in Money, Mississippi with his cousins (Wheeler Parker/Curtis Jones) to buy candy and ended up being lynched for having been accused of flirting with a white female Carolyn Bryant. Emmett Till’s body was bludgeoned and disfigured almost beyond recognition by Roy Bryant and his half-brother J.W. Milam who were later acquitted by an all white jury who joked during the entire trial. Milam died of cancer in 1980 at age 61. Roy Bryant store was boycotted which later led to bankruptcy, and later divorce. He died of cancer as a broken man at age 63 in 2004. Decades later (2005) the United States Department of Justice re-opened the case and exhumed Till’s remains to further investigate whether anyone else was involved in this heinous lynching. The unfortunate untimely death of Emmett Till was a pivotal turning point in the Civil Rights Movement and the high priority quest for justice for people of color.

Fifty-eight years later on the rainy evening of February 26, 2012, in the city of Sanford, Florida, Trayvon Martin goes to a neighborhood store for candy and is confronted by George Zimmerman a self-appointed neighborhood watchman. A struggles ensues and an unarmed sixteen year old black African-American youth dies in an incident perceived by many as preventable. Yes, Zimmerman is free based on the legal statutes under which he was tried, but he is not innocent. Clearly this is a case about racial profiling. Is law sacred? Not according to St Augustine. It was St. Augustine who succinctly stated that ‘an unjust law is not law at all.’ In other words, “an unjust law would be a law, that takes away ones freedom, or causes harm, or basically just causes chaos, which is the exact opposite of what a law is put in place to do.” When Dr. Martin Luther King was arrested for challenging his right to demonstrate without a permit and asked where did he get the authority to break segregated laws. Relying upon Augustinian reasoning, Dr. King contended that “an unjust law is a code that is out of harmony with the moral law.” He further argues that “A just law is a man-made code that squares with the moral law or the law of God. Any law that uplifts human personality is just. Likewise, “Any law that degrades human personality is unjust. An unjust law is a code that a numerical or power majority group compels a minority group to obey but does not make binding on itself.”  If the “stand your ground” law is a pre-text for causing chaos and harm or to deprive unarmed teens of the gift of life simply because either party involved in a physical altercation feels threatened and fear for their life, then it is time for a national moratorium against such a law. We respectfully disagree with this verdict. Remember to reset your Justice scalesclock!

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Why We Must Get Along: Biblical Reconciliation Part 2

Charles E. Morgan, MSW, M.Div.

 

Jesus Christ hath given to us the ministry of reconciliation”…2 Corinthians 5:19   Reconciled means to bring into agreement or harmony; to restore to communion; to restore to friendship, compatibility Paul informs us that God first reconciled His Saints to Himself! Then He entrusted us with the “ministry of reconciliation”, to “reconcile the world to himself!” In order to be reconciled with God, we must first “be reconciled” with one another. Only then can we be effective ambassadors to the world. I find the 2014 international theme of the Church of God in Christ somewhat provocative: “We are called to minister and witness to a deeply distressed and troubled world,” It points to the “ministry of reconciliation” that God “hath given to us.” God has reconciled us to Himself and charged us to do the work assigned us in both the Great Commission in Matt 28: 16-20 and in Acts 1:8, in both of which passages Christ’s Church is called to seriously be about the ministry of “reconciliation,” evangelizing, harmonizing, restoring the world to God.

 What better time than during the liturgical season of Advent (coming) to focus and reflect on reconciliation. Advent is the first of the seven seasons on the ecclesiastical calendar, which always begins four Sundays before Christmas Day. Advent is when we celebrate God’s visit to the earth as the Prince of Peace, Emmanuel, God with us. What a wonderful mandate we have, to witness to the deeply distressed and troubled world in which we live. God has given us a charge worthy of our LORD; a mandate to be ambassadors, reconciling humanity to its Creator. And O how desperately the world needs reconciliation to its Creator! The list of examples is inexhaustible. We find evidence of the need for true reconciliation all over the planet.

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Biblical Reconciliation Part 2

Can’t We All Get Along?…Biblical Reconciliation: Part 1

                                             Pastor Charles Morgan

 If I had the gift of being able to speak in other languages without learning them, and could speak in every language there is in all of heaven and earth but didn’t love others, I would only be making noise…Even if I had the gift of faith so that I could speak to a mountain and make it move, I would still be worth nothing at all without love I would only be making noise.” First Corinthians 13:2 (LAB)   Rodney King uttered the words in our title as a plea for sanity as Los Angeles experienced a racial holocaust over a Grand Jury verdict exonerating Simi Valley police officers in 1991. Over this last month, as a Pastor in the Church of God In Christ, I have done much reflection on the exchanges between Evangelist Dr. Earl Carter and Presiding Bishop regarding the message on Saturday night of our 2014 Convocation. Other voices have joined in the conversation. To our dismay the wrong message went viral across social media and many of us are bearing the brunt of embarrassment and mockery in the public square.

 First of all I unequivocally love the Church of God in Christ! There is no other Church in the world in which I would rather serve and I am Godly proud of its leadership. Whatever I state is in no way intended to be disrespectful to the leadership of the great legacy of Charles Harrison Mason. We are all capable of making errors of judgment. Paul lets us know in Gal. 2:11-21 that he openly confronted the leadership of the first century Church when they were clearly at fault. He writes in v. 11But when Peter was come to Antioch, I withstood him to the face, because he was to be blamed.” And further, Luke makes us aware of a conflict between Paul and Barnabas that he describes in Acts 15:39-41, saying “the contention was so sharp between them, that they departed asunder one from the other: and so Barnabas took Mark, and sailed unto Cyprus…v.40 And Paul chose Silas, and departed, …v.41 And he went through Syria and Cilicia, confirming the churches.”(KJV) They “literally” traveled in opposite directions.

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Can’t We All Get Along?

When Justice Means …”Just Us”

Leonard Lovett, Ph.d

“Those who make peaceful evolution impossible make violent revolution inevitable” are poignant words spoken by the late John Fitzgerald Kennedy, President of the United States of America. After watching this blatant miscarriage of justice displayed before the world in Ferguson and New York, my modicum of faith in the criminal justice system has been crushed. After two parallel federal investigations are concluded, my faith in the American system of jurisprudence is reeling. Rodney King, Trayvon Martin, Mike Brown and now Eric Garnes is reprehensible in a nation that is supposed to be a template to the world what a democratic experiment is supposed to look like. Accused officer Darren Wilson could easily win a Grammy for his well coached testimony regarding the final confrontation with the deceased victim, Mike Brown. He had enough time (three 3 months) to rehearse this speech. The irregular presentation of the case by the prosecutor with a jury of (12) twelve consisting of nine whites and three blacks which was not reflective of the immediate community is troubling. There is a divide among attorneys on the way the case was litigated that reflected racial bias. I will not get into the legalities of the process, I leave that to Mark O’Mara (prosecutor for the Trayvon Martin case and now an analyst for CNN on legal issues regarding deadly force by law enforcement officers). Do you see how the system works? O’Mara has been rewarded for litigating a case that was decided before the trial began by the social media and has become a temporary expert on the legal process. In the social chaos of the moment across the nation with rioting in the street, there exists an element of hope. Most of the demonstrators around the nation are not people of color and are youthful. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. once stated that “a riot is the language of the unheard.”…

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Can Nepotism Destroy A Ministry?

                                                                       Leonard Lovett, Ph. D

     Nep-o-tism =  favoritism and patronage based on family relationship. Proverbs 15:27 “He that is greedy of gain troubleth his own house…” There appears to be a correlation between greed and nepotism in ministry. When independent  ministries are founded by a single person and their families, there is a tendency to think of the ministry in individualistic  rather than communal terms.  During the early stages of such ministries the musicians, teachers and staff consists of family. As the ministry expands, family members are replaced at the base and move upward toward the seat of power which is the pastoral office. A common trend is to place one’s siblings near the top in order to preserve family lineage.

It is crucial to understand the dynamics and in some instances justifiable reason this is done. In many instances control is the primary motivation for keeping family at the center and the top of the ministry. To be fair it is not wisdom to hold one’s siblings back who too are qualified to lead. On the other hand it is unfair to advance one’s siblings based on kinship and not qualification. Too often it is the latter notion that prevails. When ministry is viewed as personal property rather than the fruit of spiritual labor, it is driven by greed which is a form of idolatry. Once the ministry is fueled and motivated by greed, there are no boundaries or checkpoints sufficient to contain whatever takes place.

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  Dr. Leonard Lovett, Ecumenical Officer of the Church of God in Christ

Funeral Arrangement for a Dying Church Part 1

 

                                     (A Prophetic Challenge to the Faith Community)

         Bishop Martin L. Johnson

 

Death is inevitable whether it be persons, movements or institutions, it is a part of life. A little over five decades ago a movement labeled death of God theology emerged. This theological movement contended that belief in the traditional theistic God was absent and new ways and language about God was needed. Main proponents of this radical theology were Gabriel Vahanian, Paul Van Buren, William Hamilton, John A.T. Robinson, Thomas J.J. Altizer, John D.Caputo and Rabbi Richard L. Rubenstein. For them God had been reduced to a historical process and a renewed experience of deity was needed for modern humankind. The God-is-dead movement died, and rarely is it mentioned except in an academic course. This is adequate testimony that in many instances, death has its say, even with theological movements.

     While death is a part of the human-biological process, it is not a reality to which persons eagerly look forward. We are informed by the experiences of those who lived before us that the impending biological process will ultimately take its course and that those of us who are alive will eventually encounter the final denominator of life, death. It is rather encouraging that in recent years we have witnessed phenomenal strides in death and dying issues. While I am not an authority on euthanasia, I am informed that a slow death is in fact more traumatic and anxiety-producing than a sudden death. For in a sudden death one has less time to suffer and agonize over what will happen. During the period of a prolonged death one has options. In a hospice where palliative care is provided, one has the choice of pain medication, therapeutic exercises, counseling, bargaining, grief or accepting the inevitability of their demise. Nations, communities and even institutions, including the church resort to denial. Denial says, “It is not happening to us.” During the denial stage we tend to exhibit behavior that suggests to our significant others that we are okay, only to experience the calamity, of certain death.

     The supporting text for this brief reflection is Jeremiah, 9:17-19, which suggests a specific admonition to the impending reality of national death. For years we have utilized this passage as a divine call to revival. Contextually, the mourning, cunning and wailing women were only called or summoned in the event of a death. For the women designated in the text were members of a professional guild of mourners tasked with the function of mourning where there was a shortage of bereaved relatives. Indeed these were professional mourners. Jeremiah views this apparent cultural reality as having prophetic significance and inserts it into the message of his time to dramatize the dire straits of Israel’s tragic situation. While Israel appeared to exist as a nation, the prophet speaks with a strong sense of urgency of its imminent demise and proceeds to call for funeral arrangements. The Nation is dead with no one left to mourn its demise. (I Timothy 5:6.[KJV] ”But she that liveth in pleasure is dead while she liveth.”) I am inclined to state the obvious: funeral plans are not appropriated until death has occurred.

     While the notion of a “funeral arrangement” is used in a metaphorical sense I am compelled to speak prophetically. The Church has always had its Prophets and Priests, even though their roles and tenure varied. While the Priests spoke to God for humankind, the Prophet spoke to humankind for God. Additionally, the Priests lived long enough to retire but the Prophet died on the job. The role of the Prophet was a significant one in Ancient Israel in the sense that it called attention to the current and impending condition of the nation. The Prophet Jeremiah fulfills that role during the dark and final days of Judah’s daunting history. This pre-exilic Prophet lived during what was Judah’s final days as a Nation. It was his sad duty to announce to the Nation her impending death, by citing a funeral practice as an analogy and metaphor to describe Israel’s potential future. Because of the religious and political situations evident and the imminent political catastrophe, the Prophet Jeremiah utilizes a commonly practiced cultural and religious ceremony well understood in Judah.

Judah is now in the Land of Promise. She has long rejected theocratic rule. She has experienced many years of nationhood under Saul, David and Solomon. She has had a number of cross-cultural encounters, military engagements, and has been challenged religiously by alien gods and ritualistic practices that were totally different from the God of their fathers: Abraham, Isaac and Moses. Judah gradually forsook, the God of deliverance from Egypt, and from those nations in whose land she dwelt and gradually became servants of strange gods. It was the denial and rejection of Israel’s God that led to the demise of the Nation. Jeremiah chapter nine (9) capsules the alarming predicament in which the Nation found itself; imminent invasion, deportation and amalgamation into captivity. No one is exempt from the judgment of God, not even churches and denominations. We are all under judgment which begins at the House of God according to First Peter 4: 17.

     There are obvious signs of dying institutions and all livings things. When institutions are dying they resort to outside help; when institutions are dying they begin crash planning sessions; when churches are dying they interject programs but no progress, motion but no movement, numbers but no vision, things but no substance, bureaucracy but no bounty and, quantity but no quality. They suffer loss of identity. The loss of a social club within a particular community is not really serious. When a church dies it is major. One sign of the imminent death of a church is a gradual departure from the foundational tenets of one’s faith. Psalm 11:3 (KJV) “If the foundations be destroyed what can the righteous do?” Death is imminent:

   When Spiritually is Faked

When we place Programs above People

When we Worship the Creature above the Creator

                 When Ethics, Moral Principles and Standards become Secondary

                         When Ritual Replaces Righteousness

                               When Revivals become Fundraising

                                     When we Lose Our Voice as the People of God

 

SHOULD WE CALL THE MORTICIAN ?


Bishop Martin L. Johnson is guest columnist for The Agora Blog for September 8 the week of the celebration of the Founder of the Church of God in Christ, Founding Chief Apostle Bishop Charles Harrison Mason. His brief reflective tome challenges and stretches us toward the high road if we are to be relevant in our time. He is no stranger to the academy having graduated from the Interdenominational Theological Seminary as a Mason Seminary student. He ranks among the top tier of graduate students that I have taught, having completed extensive doctoral studies in Education/History at New York University. Retired as a Colonel having served as a Commissioner of Chaplains for the Armed Forces Institutional Chaplaincy. Bishop Johnson is the senior prelate of the First Jurisdiction of New Jersey and pastor the Mt. Olive Church of God in Christ in Neptune, NJ. He has authored several books including Stony the Road We Trod: David Walkers Concept of Freedom and Theological Approaches to Pastoral Care; Is Anybody Listening?First Publisher (Available in Bookstores nation wide)     Chief Editor; Dr. Leonard Lovett www.theagora.net