Thursday, May 31, 2007

Case Study

Well it seems that every time I begin the post on why we should hold onto Scripture alone as the only authoritative voice of the living God something else comes up. The latest is a post on brother Keith Tolbert’s blog ‘In Submission To Sovereignty’. I strongly suggest you click on the link and read the entire article. Brother Keith came across a website called and was quite disturbed (as he should have been) when he read the site’s ‘about page’. According to the site owner a Mr. Alphonse D. Matthews, the blackchurchpage exists because “'God implanted into the spirit of Alphonse D. Matthews long ago that the answers to the socio-economic problems that exist with The African American community are within the African American church. The answers to unemployment, wealth creation, education, poverty, drug abuse all are within the walls of the African American church.'

Upon reading the brother Keith rightly contacted the brother to question this twisting of the mission of God’s church (black, white or otherwise).

Brother Keith ended the post with this insightful paragraph “I think you would be hard pressed to confirm anywhere in Scripture where the goal of the church has been to remedy 'unemployment, wealth creation, education poverty' and 'drug abuse'. The clear purpose of the church, biblically, is to train God's people in holiness and righteousness and to facilitate their maturing in Jesus Christ and the Christian faith. Success in these areas will necessarily lead to a Christ-like response to the problems you have cited.”

Brother Keith’s contention is clear. Despite what you may believe God told you, He has already clearly laid out the mission for His church in Scripture. Therefore since the church and all who would claim to be within her must submit to her Lord no one can just arbitrarily decide to change the church’s mission. The issue isn’t what you think God told you, but what He’s already told the church in Scripture.

Here is Mr. Matthews’ reply: “I appreciate you sharing your viewpoint, however with all due respect this is misdirected. Unless your view is one of I am either lying on God, or I am mistaken about what He shared with me...You would have to take this up with God as to why He gave me this information. (my italics)
If you do feel that I am lying, or that I am mistaken, then you should pray me and/or this site.
But based on the fruit of this site, and where He is currently taking us, I am going to hold on to what I believe He told me.”

Notice what this brother said. First of all he claimed that all Keith did was share his own personal viewpoint. In other words the passages and biblical themes he brought forward don’t matter. Keith has a particular personal viewpoint and that’s all it is.
Second he said that if Keith believes he’s lying or mistaken then he should take that up with God. BUT HOW! If we can’t appeal to God’s word to settle the issue concerning the mission of God’s church where do we turn? I’ll tell you. We each go to our own personal, private revelations that are above questioning and not even subject to the written word of God!
Here is where the zealous conviction that God now speaks to me in personal, private and authoritative ways leads to subordinating Scripture beneath my impressions. Even if you believe Mr. Matthews convictions regarding the purpose of the church, shouldn’t he at least base them on Scripture? Or does Scripture even matter anymore?

Sadly it appears that according to this brother it simply does not.

To Him Who Loves Us…
Pastor Lance


ajcarter said...

Man the implications of Mr. Matthew's thinking and his work is staggering. If I was not a Calvinist, I might despair. Is this what our thinking has come to? Are we to understand that the majority of "Black Church" leaders think like Matthews? God sure is making sure our work is cut out for us, is He not?

Keep keeping on, my brother.

AndyHigg said...

Being a brother of the Caucasian variety, I am very unfamiliar with how much "private revelation" or "prophetic messages" play a part in AfAm theology.

I personally would appreciate a brief history of the development of this phenomenon.

Keith L. Tolbert said...

Pastor Lance,

Thank you for the mention.

This wall, like Jericho's, will ultimately come down!

Pastor Lance said...

greetings all. thanks keith for bringing your exchange to our attention. it shows that the challenge may be far deeper than we first supposed.

andy, thanks for checking in. as far as a brief history that may too much for a response to a post so I may drop you an email later. for now as far as I can discern african-american theology having grown out of our experience with slavery and segregation tended to focus on God nearness, power and readiness to help the poor and oppressed. from there it may be easy to see how a God who is near, powerful and compassionate may be willing to give personal, private direction to those who need it.

brother anthony, looking forward to seeing you next month. i think it may be true that the majority of the black church thinks much the same as brother Matthews. if that's the case I pray that they are sincerely wrong. by that I mean that they are genuinely mistaken and through prayer and teaching can seek the Lord through His word alone.
of course Mr. Matthews is only a reflection of the thinking of Mr. Deere which also shows that this is a problem for the church at large.

the Lord's Peace