Saturday, September 10, 2005

First Corinthians circa 2005

I am preaching on First Corinthians tomorrow. When we speak of restoring the New Testament church, the church at Corinth is NOT the one we are referring to! Yet, with all the problems there, Paul still refers to them as brothers, beloved, and fellows in Christ. Regardless of the serious issues that plagued the Corinthian church, they were regarded as Christians, sons and daughters of God and, therefore, Paul's spiritual siblings.

After our three AM services I will take a prospective youth minister and his family out to lunch and then return to the building for a 3PM special event. African American churches from Detroit and Pontiac are coming up to our building to join with us and other area congregations in Oakland County for an hour (or two) of prayer, praise and then a special contribution to the victims of Katrina. We are expecting around 2000 people for this event -- and for most it will be the first time they have worshipped with their brethren of a different race. That is shameful enough, but there is more to mourn.

My associate minister and son-in-law, Joshua Graves ( has been calling all area Caucasian churches and asking them to join us in this historic event, but most have turned him down. Here is a quote from one that was echoed by most of the others: "We aren't happy with the direction of Rochester College so I don't think we can support this. We will probably do something on our own for the hurricane victims."

It is hard to describe just how wrong that attitude is. First, we are not Rochester College nor has our congregation ever been called the official church of that college. We are next door to it and many of the professors and students attend here (yeah!) and the college president will be one of the MC's at this event. That's it. Second, if Paul can still treat the Corinthians as brothers and sisters and rejoice that they are fellow laborers in the Lord... why can't these brethren work with us? Third, when the chance comes to break down racial walls, just how little does it take to make us turn aside and refuse to participate in the reconciliation? Fourth, we will "probably" do something for the hurricane victims? What is the church? Is it a glorified Masonic lodge with oaths, ceremonies, and attendance rules and expected dues or is it a transformed community living out the story of Jesus, putting their own desires and lives on the cross for the Kingdom's sake?

Two last things: FIRST: this may not be smart to say, but I said it last week from the pulpit and our African American members came up and hugged me so I'm going to say it again) If it takes a hurricane to help us break down the barriers of culture, distance, and race then thank God for Katrina. While we will rebuild homes and cities, let us never rebuild the walls that kept us apart.

SECOND: Snowflakes are fragile things. Try to examine one or do anything with one and you find that it collapses and disappears. But put enough snowflakes together and you can stop a bulldozer. Too many brethren insist on staying snowflakes. They consider isolation and weakness to be their badge of honor. "I can't join with you to do good because you -- use multiple cups, sing the wrong songs, don't use enough Scripture, use the wrong version, read books by a guy I don't fellowship, etc. ad nauseum. I'll just stay a snowflake and try to impact the world that way." Good luck. God insisted on unity, even within the Corinthian church. What makes you think He wants something different today?

Be a part of God's blizzard. By yourself you're, well, just a flake.


At 9/10/2005 04:16:00 PM , Blogger Me said...

good post....keep it up...

At 9/10/2005 04:31:00 PM , Blogger CrazyJo said...

Just because we may not agree with a church in some areas does not mean we can't get together with them for fellowship. It is so sad when we allow our differences to keep us apart instead of letting the great thing we have in common - salvation through the blood of our Messiah - bring us together in brotherly love. It's like in marriage - you don't have to agree with your spouse 100% to be married to that person.
Some one close to me has said that they will NOT allow their children to marry a black person. They say they think black people are equal in God's eyes, and we (white people) can fellowship with them, but can't marry them (tries to say that it will cause medical problems somehow). I don't agree with this at all and it grieves my heart. The qualifications I'm looking for in a spouse for my children would be A) that they are one of the Redeemed with a true relationship with our Messiah and B) that they truly love my child and will treat them as God wants my child treated. Man looks on the outward appearance but God looks at the heart.

At 9/10/2005 04:58:00 PM , Blogger Lee Hodges said...

Preach on my brother. I am writing from Long Beach, Mississippi. For the last few days I have watched brethern black and white work side by side to feed any one and everyone regardless of race or creed. It is the church at its best. I would to God we could be so united in all our efforts.

At 9/10/2005 05:57:00 PM , Blogger DJG said...

Your are so right! There are way too many flakes in the church!

At 9/10/2005 11:21:00 PM , Blogger salguod said...

Well said Patrick, very well said.

At 9/11/2005 11:23:00 AM , Blogger Laurie said...


I really appreciate your post on 1Corinthians and working together. Thanks! I believe that there are only 7 absolutes that must be agreed upon (Eph 4), after that we must do as directed and apply Romans 14. I wonder what causes all the division and tyranny in some branches of the brother/sisterhood? I haven't yet figured it out. What say you?


At 9/11/2005 12:59:00 PM , Blogger Jeff Slater said...

Excellent. I wish I could be there for the meeting today.

A few years ago I preached a series on racial reconciliation. Some of the white folks were NOT happy with the messages or with me. But I will always remember the reaction of our black brothers and sisters. They just thanked me over and over again. One dear black lady (who was usually pretty reserved) came up, held my face in her hands and planted a big kiss on my face! She had tears in her eyes and she just said, "Thank you."

Keep the faith, Bro.


At 9/11/2005 06:52:00 PM , Blogger Glenda said...

I attended the historic occasion at Rochester Church on 9/11/05. There are not enough words to express the fulfillment of the event! The coming together in one place is truly a beginning toward what God intended. So many ministers, elders, deacons ,brothers and sisters all together singing, prayer, speaking and giving in Jesus' name.

Pres Mike Westerfield and Dr. James Thompson were great together! The singing was wonderful!

So much togetherness.

I feel especially blessed because for a while Rochester was my church home and to be there with African American brothers and sisters whom I have not seen for a while and to back at RC was like a family reunion for me.

So many people came to me and said how happy they are and other ideas have spurred from this event.

We took up $110,000 +

God, Thank you! Thank you for touching all of us to come and be together in Jesus' name. Thank you for letting us see what first things really are first.

Signing Off,
In His Service

Glenda Thomas

At 9/11/2005 08:47:00 PM , Blogger David U said...

All your posts are super.....but this one is SUPER-DUPER! :) Do some Christians REALLY believe that Heaven will be SEGREGATED? They act as if they think that. Or wait a minute.......could it be that they believe only THEIR race or THEIR church will make it to Heaven, so their won't be any need for segregation? Even more scary, huh?

Keep em coming, brother!

At 9/12/2005 03:29:00 AM , Blogger Tony Myles said...

Ha! Loved the tag at the end!

At 9/12/2005 08:53:00 AM , Blogger markemason said...

I can't believe we are still dealing with this in the Kingdom - but I guess sin, like the poor, we will always have with us.

I have thought about this issue for years, and I can't help but wonder if we would be better off dropping altogether from our vocabulary the following terms: black, white, and race. All three, when applied to individuals and groups, are figments of the modern imagination. Have you ever REALLY seen a "white" or a "black" person? Are we not just different shades of pigment? "Race" is a term inherited from evolutionary theorists of the past that were pure "racists," and yet, we use the term as if it is a valid category. I wish we would stop using those words, and teach our people to stop using them. That might be a good start in getting where we need to be

And, by the way, the terms "liberal" and "conservative", when used to describe religious groups, are pretty much useless as well...

At 9/12/2005 11:37:00 AM , Blogger Cheetah, the cheetah said...

I would have liked to be there yesterday and share in your cool event. There are some who says things that are either just thoughtless or plain cruel and hurtfull, but there are many of us who don't think that way. Yah, I wish I could have been there. Blessings on your fine eldership!

At 9/12/2005 05:07:00 PM , Blogger KentF said...

It will be hard for me to view poverty the same way again after Katrina. Jesus always exposes the truth, and it appears some will shy away from the truth of bigotry and poverty.

At 9/12/2005 06:08:00 PM , Blogger Neal W. said...

I once worked for a church where the leadership was pretty racist. I was let go, among other things, for trying to bring "those people" into the church. My last words to them: "It's a pleasure to be fired by you."

At 9/12/2005 08:49:00 PM , Blogger PatrickMead said...

It was a glorious Sunday. We were happy to see each other -- the largest mixed race gathering I have seen outside of a sporting event! Over $110,000 was raised for the survivors of Katrina and our teams are already delivering goods and materials in LA and MS. Praise God our family is back together again -- and no one cares who is what color or who sings what songs or what version they use when they read God's Word.

At 9/13/2005 10:41:00 AM , Blogger Keith said...

Great closing comments on Katrina and the snowflakes. We dont address unity much in the church as it pertains to compromise with believers who meet in different shaped boxes. Its so easy to be a snowflake but so much more rewarding to be a snowball. Thanks for your insight.

At 9/13/2005 10:37:00 PM , Blogger Gem said...

I remember Mark saying a while back from our pulpit that there is an entire fellowship of African American churches of Christ in our area that the white CoC's are totally unaware of, and that is just sad. I'm sorry we missed the event at Rochester, we had a huge Friend Day Sunday at Trenton, then our small group met. Now I wish we'd cancelled group and all gone up to Rochester together.

At 9/14/2005 10:52:00 AM , Blogger Larry said...

While I can't speak for other CoC congregations, my experience has been that the racially different churches do little to help each other.

I once attended a gospel meeting in a small California town presented by the African American CoC, and not one member of the Caucasian church in this community was present. The reverse was evident when the Caucasian church had their annual meeting, no African Americans showed up to support their brethren either.

Both groups need to learn to support each other, whether in the same congregation or in separate groups.


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