Poor Blacks and Rich Pastors
“Pastors are no longer solely interested in getting people to Heaven; they’ve devised intelligent ways to make good money while reaching out to souls.” Mfonobong Nsehe, Forbes Contributor
“After these things I looked, and behold, a great multitude which no one could count, from every nation and all tribes and peoples and tongues, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, and palm branches were in their hands; and they cry out with a loud voice, saying, ‘Salvation to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb.’” Revelation 7:9-10
(A commentary by Seth Dunn)
While reading an article entitled “Top 10 Richest Pastors in the World 2014”, it’s hard not to notice one thing that almost every man on the list has in common. Seven out of ten of these men are black. When considering that Billy Graham doesn’t really belong on the list since he is not the pastor of a local church, only two members of the list are not black: Joseph Prince (an Asian) and Benny Hinn (a Greek). The list, again with the exception of Graham, is full of prosperity preachers. This certainly seems peculiar given that there is not one black person among the ten richest people in the world. Why are black people, worldwide, comparatively poorer than other races and cultures while black preachers, worldwide, are comparatively richer and more influential than other preachers? Where is all the prosperity, about which black prosperity preachers are preaching, in the black community? It’s certainly not in the congregation. Sadly, it’s in the pulpit.
Consider the black church in the United States. It is not uncommon for pastors in majority black churches to have perks such as automobile and clothing allowances. In fact, it is sometimes necessary for black pastors to have such allowance. Many black congregations expect their preachers to appear exceedingly prosperous. After all, who is going to take seriously a sermon about God’s material blessings given by a man with no gold watch, no fine suit, and no Cadillac? Absolutely no one. Further complicating the atmosphere in the black church, especially mega-churches like those founded by Creflo Dollar and Eddie Long, is the absolutely authority vested in the senior pastor. Many black pastors are not subject to boards and elders or committees of deacons, but only to the Lord himself…and how could God’s man ever be wrong?
What is to be done about such a sad situation? The solution is a simple one: share the gospel. Be open to inviting people from other races and cultures to your church. No church should be “black” or “white” but Christian. Furthermore, don’t just assume that because a person is in church, that he is in a good church. In fact, investigate any flashy pastors at churches in your town until you are sure that they are not fleecing their congregations while preaching prosperity or liberation theology. (While you’re at it, investigate the Pentecostal churches. Prosperity Pentecostalism is seems to be more a function of poverty than of race.) Learn the message of such churches. Just as “white” churches can become more concerned with American politics and the modern nation of Israel than God’s plan for the world, “black” churches can become caught up in black liberation theology, the prosperity gospel, or the social gospel. Be prepared to preach the gospel and not politics. Politics have failed all of us, none more so than the black church. Since the 1960s, society has seen a decline in black employment and 2-parent black households. At the same time, the black church has experienced a rise in rich, prosperity preachers. There’s a disconnect there. Like the great disconnect between God and man caused by the fall, there is but one solution to fix it: the gospel of Jesus Christ.
(A reflection on the above by Kofi Adu-Boahen)
“At this point, some will argue, “What right does Bro. Seth have to say these things about the ‘black church’?” I know they will because this is the usual response when someone who isn’t black says something about the ‘black church’. Well as a young man of African descent whose father has been a Pentecostal pastor for close to 15 years and who has moved in ‘black church’ circles, I’d like to add my perspective as someone who has seen it all from inside.
The reality is that the ‘black church’ of recent years has failed in its ability to self-reflect on its many failings. Slogans designed to discourage any sort of critical thinking include:
Don’t put your mouth on the man of God…
Don’t be touching the Lord’s anointed…
Don’t be a Uncle Tom now…
I experienced this firsthand when I went to the Strange Fire Conference last October and heard Pastor Conrad Mbewe’s two fantastic messages addressing issues relative to the state of much of the church in Africa. I came home only to hear a popular Ghanaian radio show here on my side of the Pond state in no uncertain terms that Pastor Mbewe has engaged in the sin of touching the Lord’s anointed and that people should steer well clear of his teachings. No discussion of the issues he raised, no thoughtful reflection as to whether we need to clean house in our circles – just closing down the ranks and ending any and all dissenting discussion.
In the last few years, as I’ve thought on this issue, a verse from Paul’s admonition to the Corinthians regarding their misbehaviour at the Lord’s Table has stuck with me. It’s 1 Cor 11:31: “But if we judged ourselves truly, we would not be judged.” Is it no wonder large segments of the ‘black church’ have been left to their own devices when we clearly shut down our spiritual immune systems (or had them shut down for us) through constant exposure to the false gospels Bro. Seth mentioned in his article.
Maybe if more prominent voices in our own circles began asking difficult questions, you wouldn’t get all in your feelings that someone ‘outside the family’ had to point out why the house is a mess.
[Contributed by Seth Dunn and Kofi Adu-Boahen]
*Please note that the preceding is my personal opinion. It is not necessarily the opinion of any entity by which I am employed, any church at which I am a member, any church which I attend, or the educational institution at which I am enrolled. Any copyrighted material displayed or referenced is done under the doctrine of fair use.
Member of the Evangelical Theological Society
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