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Red and Yellow, Black and White


Jesus loves the little children,

All the children of the world;
Red and yellow, black and whiteé─ţ

They are precious in his sight.
Jesus loves the little children of the world.

I sang that song as a child in Sunday School. Maybe you did, too. In these ridiculously sensitive times, I doné─˘t know if anyone sings it anymore, but the simple truth of it endures.

Indulge me as I ramble a bit. While I sang and was taught that Jesus loves all children of all colors, all those children were really very far away. I knew a few of the é─˙red,é─¨ but é─˙yellowé─¨ and é─˙blacké─¨ were exotic varieties that I knew only from television and the pictures missionaries brought. This was not the result of racism. My family was not avoiding people of other ethnicities, choosing our neighborhoods according to who inhabited them; it was just the way it worked out. We couldné─˘t have integrated if we wanted too, because there just wasné─˘t anyone to integrate with. My life has been spent almost entirely in rural states where é─˙minorityé─¨ means German in a Scandinavian community or, as is our current situation, Norwegian in a German community. So I roll my eyes when some é─˙racial reconciliationé─¨ zealot contends that if I doné─˘t have any black friends, or if my church is all white, I have a problem that needs correcting. Sorry, but I cané─˘t help it; there are nearly as many snakes in Ireland as black folks in my county.

So the lack of ethnic diversity in my community does not concern me. It is virtually unavoidable, however, that we are somewhat ignorant of the cultures that are not here represented.

That is one reason I have been eager to read The Faithful Preacher: Recapturing the Vision of Three Pioneering African-American Pastors by Thabiti Anyabwile. John Piper writes in the Preface:

image   In this book, we who are not African-American receive the double profit of not only reading across a culture but across the centuriesé─ţand thus across another culture. And, of course, that implies that the African-American reader will read across another culture as well. My guess and my prayer is that these unusual crossings will weave our lives and ministries together in ways we have not foreseen.

é─ţJohn Piper, Preface to Thabiti Anyabwile, The Faithful Preacher: Recapturing the Vision of Three Pioneering African-American Pastors (Crossway, 2007), 9.

That is my hope as well.

I remember the first time I heard a black preacher on the radio, riding in the back seat somewhere in South Dakota. (This was back when pretty much everyone had AM radios in their cars, most had FM, and some had eight-track tape decks. Cassettes were a few years away. I was really young.) I have no idea what denomination he was, but he was wild. I doné─˘t mean like a loud-mouth yelling Baptist. He was as much singing as preaching, and was accompanied by an organ and drums. It reminded me a little of the é─˘70s rock-and-roll I sometimes listened to on the sly on my transistor radio. The congregation was clapping and hooting and holleringé─ţman, he was cool, and I took note of the time so I could try to catch him again. That was my introduction to black church.

Since then, I have wondered about the state of churches that are predominantly black. Are they all marked by out-of-control emotions and shallow theology? How did they get this way? Have they always been this way? Apparently not. Thabiti introduces us to three black pastors whose lives spanned nearly two hundred years, and demonstrates that Americaé─˘s spiritual heritage was not passed down from Anglo divines only, but from godly, erudite men of African descent as well. And we would do well to learn from them.

From the introduction:

ththabitianyabwilesmall.png   As I have prepared for my own journey into ministry, wading through a truckload of trees used to print hundreds of books aimed at pastors, my experience confirmed that that old folk wisdom, é─˙all that glitters is not goldé─¨é─ţespecially when it is extolled as a new form of gold. As I have sought for a better way, a better understanding, and a biblically faithful perspective it has pleased my soul to realize that the old ideas are still the best ideas. Those who have gone before us, old friends with old ideas, have left a proven track record of faithfulness and fruitfulness. And the two do go together: where there is faithfulness, fruitfulness is sure to follow.

We are told from the time we are schoolchildren that é─˙those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it.é─¨ Maintaining an ignorance of history will not result in the replication of greatness and earlier success. Those who learn from history, who wisely consult those who have gone before, are the only ones who have a real chance at succeeding and avoiding pitfalls. Faithfulness and fruitfulness in ministry require wisdom, hard work, time, and the providential blessings of God, all of which are enhanced by a humble study of our predecessors.

The best place to learn and prepare for the ministry is still at the feet of the Master Himself, and from His apostles. Who would not want to study under Paul or Peter? To hear their account of firsthand experiences with our Lord? Jesus, Paul, Peter, and others are still available to us, to speak with us through Godé─˘s Word. And I trust that every faithful pastor is learning, studying, praying, and seeking wisdom and grace for the task from them.

But also available to us are the é─˙lesseré─¨ luminaries, men who were not apostles but who were faithful students and shepherds. Christian history is filled with Spurgeons, Calvins, Luthers, and others who have had to answer tough questions, face uncertainties, and persevere in faith as they led Godé─˘s people. From them the wise pastor gains valuable insights and observes patterns of godliness for his own ministry.

é─ţThabiti Anyabwile, ibid., 14é─ý15.



Posted 2009·03·12 by David Kjos
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Posted in: Church History · Thabiti Anyabwile · The Faithful Preacher
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