During the mid-1990s, while I was a member of an inner-city ministry, I had a dream that showed a black river flowing out of the inner cities to every city and town in America. The dream zoomed in for a closeup of the river, revealing it not to be a river but an army of black preachers. These men of God had scars and tattoos covering their arms. Many were ex-cons. Their message was the same that John the Baptist preached two thousand years ago: “Repent for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.”
I somehow knew these men were not seminary trained, but were taught by the Holy Spirit. Their faith had been forged in the brutal fires of inner-city life, but it was their eyes that captured my attention. Their eyes burned with a love for Jesus, a love not matched by any other generation of preachers before them. I felt these black men were sent to deliver the rest of America from false religious views.
Before you reject my dream as a pizza-induced fantasy, let me share another one from the same time period.
In this particular dream, I saw a race war between black Americans and whites taking place in our nation. As most know, dreams can be weird, but it was not the case for this one. It was a straight forward, four-color documentary of possible future tragic events.
The dream opened up with a large army of inner-city black youths marching into upscale white neighborhoods. The youths carried AK-47s, AR-15s, Glock pistols and knives. They went from house to house, slaughtering white men, women, children and babies. None of the victims defended themselves nor did anyone attempt to stop the youths in their thirst for blood. When they finished, the youths torched the homes and danced in the streets, firing their guns in the air.
The next segment of the dream showed politicians attempting to handle the outbreak of racial hostilities with words, committee meetings and new laws. Although the leaders of both major parties condemned the violence, all worried about losing votes in their upcoming elections. Therefore, a political stalemate arose with nothing concrete being done.
The final portion of the dream showed white Americans hiring trained mercenaries to hunt down the black youths. The mercenaries went into America’s inner cities, killing young black males and filling the streets with their dead bodies. I knew as I looked at the bullet-riddled corpses lying on the asphalt that a whole generation of black leaders had been wiped out.
If both dreams are actually from the Lord, how can they be such polar opposites?
Okay, I wrote the above 439 words as an opening for an article to be published on WND.com. Then I wrote another four hundred words of blah, blah, blah and more blah.
Thank God, they chose not to publish the article because it stunk. Period!
Hopefully, this series will provide a roadmap for our prayers and for our ministry efforts in America’s inner cities. But to do so, we need to heed some wise advice:
Whatever we wish to achieve in the future, it must begin by knowing where we are in the present – not where we wish we were, or where we wish others to think we are, but where we are in fact. (Thomas Sowell)
70% of African-Americans live in America’s inner cities or inner-ring suburbs. Most of the following facts refer to that 70% of African-Americans. These facts are not written to throw stones at our inner city black brothers and sisters, but to show where they are right now.
- The abortion rate for African-American women is five times higher than it is for white women, accounting for 37% of all abortions in America.
- 1 in 3 African-American men can expect to spend time in prison during their lifetimes.
- 70% of juvenile arrests in America are African-American youths.
- One third of all welfare recipients are African-Americans.
- Each year, roughly 7,000 blacks are murdered. Ninety-four percent of the time, the murderer is another black person.
- 72 percent of black babies are born out of wedlock.
- Poverty rate among African-Americans is 36%.
- The homicide rate among males between the ages of 14 and 17 is nearly 10 times higher for blacks than for whites and Hispanics combined.
- The preponderance of school violence in America occurs in big-city schools attended by inner city black students.
- Black education is in a state of shambles for elementary and high schools in most inner cities of America.
Without a doubt, the above facts are discouraging, but here’s the irony of it all:
- Inner city African-Americans are the most devout Christian group in America and the difference is 21 percentage points higher than the next group.
With the exception of the inner cities blacks being devout Christians, these facts are disheartening.
They remind me of the time a little black six-year old black girl named Cici sat on my lap during a church service at the inner city ministry I attended during the 1990s. She looked up at me and asked, “Can I go home with you and live with you?”
I was shocked at her words. “You want to leave your mother and live with me?” I replied.
Cici nodded her head up and down.
I understood her feelings about her home life. Her mom was a drug addict. Her dad was in jail, but numerous men lived with her mom at various times. Her four brothers and sisters ranged in age from two to twelve years old. Not enough money. Not enough love. Not enough personal attention.
I actually prayed about doing what she asked, but my life was a mess, too.
Cici would be thirty-two years old today…if she’s still alive.
“Life does not ask what we want. It presents us with options.” (Thomas Sowell)
“I’m here because somebody marched,” Obama said in a speech in Selma, Ala. “I’m here because you all sacrificed for me. I stand on the shoulders of giants.” (Barack Obama, Selma, Alabama, March 2007)
During his first run for president, Barack Obama seemed poised to achieve many of the goals that activists like the Greensboro Four had first set. It was a mantle that he explicitly took up, calling himself a member of the “Joshua Generation.” As in: Moses got the Hebrews out of Egypt and nearly to the Promised Land, but he couldn’t cross over the Jordan. That task was left to Joshua.
“The previous generation, the Moses generation, pointed the way. They took us 90 percent of the way there. But we still got that 10 percent in order to cross over to the other side,”Obama said in Selma, Alabama, in March 2007. “So the question, I guess, that I have today is what’s called of us in this Joshua generation?” (David A. Graham, The Atlantic, October 12, 2016)
In one of the ironies of ironies, whites brought the gospel of the kingdom of God to the blacks. Some heard about Jesus from Moravian missionaries that boarded slave ships to the West Indies. There on the islands of St. Thomas and St. Croix they preached the good news to the slaves.
But most black slaves received the gospel with the backing of their Southern white plantation owners who were mainly Baptists. These same owners allowed certain black men to receive a little schooling so they could read the Bible and become pastors to the slaves.
These black pastors who could read studied how God delivered Israel from Egypt. This became the slaves’ hope – “if God delivered Jewish slaves, He will do it for black slaves, too.
Negro spirituals, such as “We Shall Overcome,” “Go Down, Moses,” “Wade in the Water,” and others gave voice to the slaves’ faith in God and encouraged other slaves. The songs were acts of faith and prayers at the same time.
There’s not much good which can be said about the evils of slavery, except that it produced a depth of the spirit in black Americans. This spiritual depth brought forth the Civil Rights marches and men like Martin Luther King, Jr., Ralph Abernathy and others who were determined to see the blacks set free.
The importance black churches played in the Civil Rights Movement and the years afterward can not be overstated. They focused their communities on the long-held promises of freedom and kept them moving toward their goal.
Yet, I believe Barack Obama spoke prophetically that black Americans “still got that 10 percent in order to cross over to the other side.”
How will this be achieved?
“American Christianity would collapse if the pastors were removed.” (Frank Viola)
The Greek word poimēn is translated into the English word pastor(s) only one time in the New Testament.
And He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers (Ephesians 4:11)
The other seventeen times the Greek word poimēn is used in the New Testament, it is translated into the English word shepherd(s), as in –
I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd gives His life for the sheep. (John 10:11)
But a hireling, he who is not the shepherd, one who does not own the sheep, sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and flees; and the wolf catches the sheep and scatters them. (John 10:12)
There is no evidence in the New Testament of a pastor – or shepherd – being the scripturally chosen person to preach a sermon every Sunday to a church and also being the CEO in charge of the affairs of that group of believers. Not one mention!
Even Paul in his letters to the churches did not address his messages to pastors. He wrote to all of the believers. Only in one letter did Paul make a special reference to elders, and that was a fleeting one in the first verse of Philippians.
So, how does a modern pastor justify his position as the CEO of a church?
Mainly through tradition.
Where did the tradition of the pastor begin?
Martin Luther dropped the title of priest from himself during the reformation and added the title of pastor instead. From that point forward, pastors became the heads of the Protestant churches.
Now, just so you know, I do not disagree that God has used many pastors over the centuries as His anointed leaders. Yet even so, we are in the last days, and I believe God wants His Son to take His rightful place in His body —
For there is one God and one Mediator between God and men, the Man Christ Jesus, ( 1 Timothy 2:5)
I think Frank Viola exaggerated a little bit about American Christianity collapsing if the pastors are removed because many hundreds of thousands of strong believers have already walked away from the traditional church. These believers would not be affected by pastors being removed from the religious scene.
But if Viola would have narrowed his focus and said, “Black Christianity would collapse if its pastors were removed,” then I believe he would have been closer to the truth.
“With all that is going on around social justice, churches must calibrate what that means for them in the present,” said the Rev. Dr. Yolanda Pierce, a black professor and dean of the Howard University School of Divinity. “Churches have to ask the fundamental question: ‘Are we going to be at the forefront of struggles for justice, or are we always going to be catching up to where the arc of justice will literally take us.’”
“The one thing that would be dishonorable for us is to bring all this attention to the assassination of Dr. King (fifty years later) and not have a resurrection of the efforts and the unfinished business dealing with systemic racism, systemic poverty,” said Dr. Barber, pastor of Greenleaf Christian Church in Goldsboro, N.C.
The black church was the stabilizing institution which emerged from the horrible pit of slavery after the Civil War. Black pastors then became the preeminent leaders and spokesmen for both the Christian and non-Christian community alike. These pastors focused themselves on meeting the needs of individuals, preaching messages, building self-esteem of an oppressed people and addressing the concerns of their communities in a segregated society.
In the the 1950s and 60s, Reverend Martin Luther King Jr. added a new role for black pastors: that of being a prophetic voice demanding the freedom of God’s people. They then became social justice warriors, too.
It’s hard not look at the roles that black pastors fill in their communities and then not shake our heads in wonder and amazement at what they have accomplished. They have been the glue that has held Christianity together in America’s inner cities.
But even so, we need to remember that Moses never led Israel into the Promised Land. It was a non-priest named Joshua who completed the task.
So, will a Joshua generation of leaders rise up to lead the inner cities into their divine destinies?
The following was my post on July 18, 2019. I’ve included ti again to remind us that God’s word is meant for both white and black Americans.
We can learn much about the Kingdom of God and also the Church by looking at God’s first kingdom venture on earth (after the fall): Israel.
God’s desire for Israel was that the nation would have no king and no standing army. God would be the Israelites’ King and their defense. Israel was divided up into twelve parcels, one for each tribe. The leaders for each tribe would be elders, heads of families and families. Israel was set up to be a loosely governed confederation of tribes and families, unlike any other nation at the time.
In approximately 1043 BC, the elders came to Samuel the prophet and said, “Samuel, you are old. Now make for us a king to rule over us like all of the other nations.”
Samuel felt bad, but God told him, “Listen to the people. They have not rejected you, but they have rejected Me, that I should no longer reign over them.”
God warned Israel, telling them all that the kings would do to abuse their authority over Israel. Yet, the people of Israel still said, “We want a king so we are like the other nations.”
From 1043 BC with King Saul until the fall of Jerusalem under King Zedekiah in 586 BC, Israel and Judah had a government headed by a king. They were like the other nations with a hierarchal governmental system. It was a total failure.
God said it would fail and it did.
Okay, now let’s look at the American Church system.
“You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. It shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant and whoever would be first among you must be your slave, even as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” (Matthew 20:25-28)
Thousands of American believers are praying for revival, which they hope will bring a move of the Spirit to America’s churches and change our nation. Hey, if it happens, I will join my brothers and sisters in celebration.
But…I don’t believe it will happen.
Most of America’s churches resemble Israel with a hierarchal government reigning over them. The New Testament name – pastor – sounds better than king, but make no doubt about it, the American pastor is generally an overlord in charge of the membership. He’s the CEO! This type of church system has been in place since Martin Luther reformed the church in 1517. Five hundred years!
Now, many will say that God has often revived the Church in times past. And yes, He has, but He also sent some good kings to Israel and Judah until He didn’t send them anymore. Maybe the American church system is in the same season that Israel was when its hierarchal government failed.
So don’t stay with the same-o same-o attitude about traditional churches just because God has not reformed the wineskin in times past. Seek the Lord.
I believe God will totally reform the church, preparing it for the End Times.
So what if the men I saw in my vision of a black river flowing out of the inner cities of American were black apostles sent by the Lord to reform our traditional church system? Would we submit to them and change?
The Apostle Paul’s greatest adversary was not Satan or the Romans, but instead, it was the Jews, his fellow countrymen. In fact, many believe, including me, that Paul’s thorn in the flesh was not a sickness, but a Jew or a group of Jews that followed and stalked him so that he was continually persecuted wherever he went. (Paul used the words “messenger of Satan” to describe his thorn.)
Five times, Paul received savage beatings from the Jews. He was stoned by Jews at Lystra, drug out of the city and left for dead. More than forty Jews took a vow not to eat until they had killed Paul. Almost every city Paul entered to preach the gospel, the Jews caused riots against him.
If ever a person had a good reason to hate a specific group of people, it was the Apostle Paul, but read what he wrote:
It’s so easy to skip over this verse and believe that Paul was using an analogy to describe his love for the Jews, but he wasn’t. The two verses before this onedescribes his feelings and heart desire about this.
That’s right! Paul was willing to give up his salvation and go to Hell for the sake of the Jews. Now, that’s agape love!
Everyone who hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him. (1 John 3:15)
There are more Christians percentage-wise in the inner cities of American than in any other location, but ironically, there are more homicides committed in the inner cities than any other place. In fact, if you removed the homicides committed in the inner cities by blacks (94% of which are committed against other blacks) from the statistics, the murder rates in America would drop in half.
Most social justice leaders, politicians and others give various reasons for why there are so many murders in America’s inner cities, but none of their answers seem to help. So, what’s the problem?
I believe the main problem is the deep-rooted hatred blacks have toward white Americans. No doubt, it’s easy to justify this black hatred because of slavery, Jim Crow, segregation and countless other slights by whites, but still, justifying a sin does not stop the consequences from taking place.
At the beginning of evil King Jehoiakim’s reign over Judah, Jeremiah stood in the court of the Temple and prophesied a stern message to the people of Jerusalem:
“If you will not listen to me, to walk in my law that I have set before you, and to listen to the words of my servants the prophets whom I send to you urgently, though you have not listened, then I will make this house like Shiloh, and I will make this city a curse for all the nations of the earth.”(Jeremiah 26:4-6)
God caused His tabernacle to first be set up in Shiloh during Joshua’s days. It remained there until Eli’s two evil sons decided to bring the Ark of the Covenant from Shiloh into Israel’s army camp in hopes God would help the nation defeat the Philistines. The Philistines then defeated the Israelites and captured the Ark of the Covenant. God’s tabernacle and the Ark of the Covenant never returned to Shiloh again.
Shiloh represented a time when God’s glory departed from Israel.
Jeremiah’s words instantly stirred up the prophets and priests of the Temple. They demanded that Jeremiah be killed for his blasphemous words.
Some wiser officials compared Jeremiah’s words to the prophet Micah who prophesied stern words against Jerusalem during King Hezekiah’s reign. Micah’s life was not threatened. Thus, Jeremiah’s life was spared for the same reasons.
Yet at the same time, another prophet named Uriah prophesied almost the exact same words about Jerusalem. He was hunted down by King Jehoiakim’s warriors, captured, brought before the king and killed by a sword. His body was dumped into a common grave, which was not the usual burial place for prophets.
Now think about this for a moment. Both prophets – Jeremiah and Uriah – stood before the Lord, heard His voice and then spoke the word of the Lord to Jerusalem. Yet Jeremiah’s life was protected and spared, but Uriah’s life was not protected. He was killed.
Why did God allow this to happen?
I can’t say for sure, but I do know that God uses martyrs as His witnesses to nations, groups of people and before His throne. The blood of the martyrs cry out to the Lord and says, “How long, O Lord, holy and true, until You judge and avenge our blood…”
Can we expect something like this to happen in America’s inner cities?
I have used the story about a black preacher walking into a small town with mainly white citizens to hold a healing crusade many times in the past. (See here.) But today, I want to offer a take-off from that one and write about a white prophet going into an inner city to speak the word of the Lord to its black citizens.
Can you imagine an old white guy driving a red Ford pickup into the middle of a crowd of people at a rally? And honking his horn at the same time? I couldn’t imagine something like that ever happening until it did last Saturday afternoon.
Maybe I should start at the beginning and tell the whole story, okay?
My name is Jalen Simmons. I write a syndicated newspaper column entitled, “Unashamed Angry Black Voice.” The column appears in sixty major newspapers throughout our nation. I also appear on TV as a contributor on inner city happenings.
A week ago, a friend suggested I should attend a black activist rally taking place in West Englewood at Ogden Park. This inner-city area of Chicago is the city’s most dangerous neighborhood where poverty and crime are off the charts and lives matter little to police and politicians.
On that day, I positioned myself in the middle of the crowd, estimated at five thousand black people, to better hear and understand the crowd’s reactions to the fiery speakers. The first three speakers raised their voices against the city of Chicago, its police department and white supremacy for the wrongs done to black people. Each moved the crowd closer and closer to its emotional edge.
But just as the militant keynote speaker, Deshaun Lewis, was being introduced on the platform, new sounds could be heard. A honking horn. An engine being revved up. And people screaming, “Look out! He’ll run us over!”
I looked over my left shoulder and saw a red pickup truck heading straight toward me. I jumped out of the way along with the rest of the crowd. The truck stopped right in front of me.
The driver, a seventyish white male, jumped out of the Ford pickup and into the back of the truck almost in one motion. He held a wireless microphone in his right hand which was connected to a speaker system.
“Listen up,” he said, “I have come here today to speak to you in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ.”
A united “No” was shouted by the crowd. Black men stepped forth to remove the so-called white prophet and his truck.
“Do not touch my truck or the hand of the Lord will come upon you and strike you blind for a time,” said the white man.
The crowd laughed until twenty-three men touched the pickup truck and began screaming, “I’m blind. Help me! Help me!” Then, the laughter stopped and fear gripped the crowd.
“Men, keep quiet. Sit down and when I’m done I will lay hands on you and your sight will immediately return.”
The twenty-three men sat down.
The old white man had the attention of the whole crowd. Everyone stood in silence, even those on the speakers platform.
“The Lord has sent me to tell you,” proclaimed the white man, “your problems are not caused by the city of Chicago, its police department or white Americans. Your problems are caused by your sins and your bitterness. You need to first ask the Lord for His forgiveness and then most of you will have to ask forgiveness of white Americans for your hatred toward them, too.
“If you choose to humble yourself before God and men, God will pour out a blessing on West Englewood. Murders will stop. Crime will end. Jobs will open up. You will be able to walk on the sidewalks of your neighborhood without fear once again. West Englewood will be known as a place of light and a refuge for all.
“But if you ignore these words and continue in the direction you’re heading, your streets will be covered with the bodies of your dead sons and daughters. And this will happen soon!”
He paused and looked around at the crowd. His blue eyes looked right into my heart.
“God’s words to you are the same ones Moses said to Israel, ‘I have set before you life and good, death and evil.” Now, you must choose which way you will walk from this day forward.”
The white prophet jumped down onto the ground. He laid hands on and prayed for each blind man. They all received their sight again.
Then, he climbed into his pickup and drove off.
Was he a prophet sent by God?
Twenty-four men have no doubts and I pray all of the crowd will agree with us.
Eleven years ago, I somehow found myself in a long discussion with Dr. Michael Brown, who I admire, on his website. An aide of his had written an article about prophets and prophecy. The discussion centered on these few words: “From this we can learn that a ‘go alone (New Testament) prophet’ is not good, nor biblical..”
I disagreed with the writer’s assertions that God would no longer send an individual prophet to a city or a region to prophesy to the people like He did in the Old Testament. I felt there was no scripture to back up their words. I believe God will do whatever He wants. He’s God!
Dr. Brown’s belief was that in the New Testament there are leadership teams or a leadership hierarchy over a city. This would mainly be a group of pastors. Thus, God would work through this governing hierarchy and the individual prophet would go to these chosen pastors and speak his words to them.
Looking back, I missed an important point.
Dr. Michael Brown and the others were thinking and commenting from a traditional church mindset. They saw – and probably still do – pastors as CEOs and heads of churches. I don’t believe this is scriptural!
For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus (1 Timothy 2:5)
Apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers are not go-betweens or middlemen between God and men. They are not under-shepards. None are needed to fill that role because Jesus already fills that calling for us. Jesus is our middleman, go-between and mediator between God and us.
Apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers (five-fold callings) are gifts to the Church. These five callings are supposed to equip the members of the Church for the work of ministry, build up the members and help us attain the unity of the faith and maturity. But these callings are absolutely not given authority by God to rule over believers.
So, when I wrote about a white prophet going into an inner city to bring the word of the Lord to black people, I never considered a governing body of pastors over that city. I was thinking about setting the captives free. It was the same when I wrote the fictional story about a black prophet going to a mainly white, small town.
Is this important for the inner cities? And the rest of America?
(Continued in Part 11)