These Preachers Ain’t Loyal: Why Jamal Harrison Bryant is Symptomatic of a Deeper Problem
I am thankful that good preaching knows no racial boundaries. I am as blessed by the careful, deliberate style of Dr John MacArthur as I am by the thundering and borderline-melodic style of Dr Eric Mason because in my book, the message is greater than the delivery style of the messenger. At the heart of that commitment is the presupposition that the one preaching is indeed preaching the truth.
I begin with that because the clip I am about to show you offends me not because of his style but because it is symptomatic of a deeper problem. The clip is from Dr Jamal Harrison Bryant, minister of the Empowerment Temple AME Church in Baltimore, MD and is taken from a sermon entitled, “I’m My Enemies’ Worst Nightmare”:
Now for the less culturally-adept among us, that line, “These h__s ain’t loyal” is a line from a popular song by RnB artist Chris Brown. I won’t post the lyrics to the song as a whole, but suffice it to say it is not a song you should even be listening to, talk less of quoting in a sermon. But my focus is not so much the quote – it is the ethic of preaching that leads you to think that is even a good idea. Four thoughts emerge from my mind as I think about preaching in some circles like the ones in which Dr Bryant moves in:
1. Preaching is to entertain, not edify:
Lest I be accused of jumping on a small section of a 30-minute-or-so sermon, here’s a link to the full sermon – it’s a sermon full of motivational snippets, social analysis and a lot of shouting. To most, that’s being “relevant” but I don’t get up on Sunday, maneuver through London traffic and sit in a pew that is often uncomfortable to hear all that – I go to worship the Lord with song, prayer and the hearing of his word. In short, I go to hear a word from the Lord – as my pastors say regularly, “We’re waiters – we just deliver the meal, we don’t make one”
When people are told through years and years of tradition that a sermon ought to entertain and make them shout and holler and preachers preach in such a way as to elicit that response as the mark of solid preaching, you have a problem. Now hear me – I am not against emotional responses to preaching if they are genuine responses to the truth of the Word, but what you see is not that. It’s folks responding to fine-sounding, entertaining speeches that don’t edify – and that is a problem.
2. Preaching a crucified Christ requires a crucified style:
I’m indebted to Dr Art Azurdia of Trinity Portland and a message that he gave at the Aberstwyth Conference over on my side of the Pond for this second thought. It’s a quote from Puritan writer and minister John Flavel and I think it provides a worthy ethic for how we go about Gospel ministry in general and the ministry of preaching in particular. Too often we forget we are not the focus and so our personality, our intellect, our knowledge, our reading and study end up on parade and not Christ and Him crucified. A preacher would do well to remember Ephesians 4:20-21 and the truth it teaches:
But you did not learn Christ in this way, if indeed you have heard Him and have been taught in Him, just as truth is in Jesus,
The Ephesian Christians had never seen Jesus – but they had heard Him in the preaching of His Gospel! If a style of ministry leads you away from a crucified proclamation of the crucified Saviour, re-examine that style of ministry and come back when you have one that does.
3. Deficient preaching is a sign of disloyalty:
It is an irony that Dr Bryant decided to drop a line about loose women being disloyal when he is himself being a paragon of disloyalty to his Master by not preaching His Word.
When preaching degrades itself to the level of Dr Bryant’s sermon (and I encourage you to watch it with any pain medication you may need nearby), it is a defiant and disloyal gesture against the Lord we profess to serve who has commanded those of us who preach:
2 Tim 4:1-2 I solemnly charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by His appearing and His kingdom: preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort, with great patience and instruction.
Just how much chutzpah does it take to ignore a command like that to do your own thing?
I’d like to argue the loose woman serves her master better than a preacher like Dr Bryant does. Or to put it another way, some of these preachers just ain’t loyal.
[Contibuted by Kofi Adu-Boahen]