Pastor Michael R. Jordan of the New Era Baptist Church in Birmingham, Alabama has some strong words for Church of the Highlands and its Pastor Chris Hodges which plans to build a location near the inner city. WVTM first reported the story on Monday and the story and one Pastor’s response has since gone semi-viral on social media. Pastor Jordan’s words were harsh, direct and focused. On the front part of his church marquee a message: “White Folks Refused to Be Our Neighbor”. His stance is strong, implying that the church is coming into the inner city to take from residents there and ultimately erode local church membership under the false guise of fighting crime.
I am a black man and have experienced both overt and covert racism inside the four walls of the church. It has not been pleasant and I have vowed to never be silenced in my fight to expose the social ill of racism in America. I have also enjoyed robust relationships with non-blacks at church. Nothing makes my heart more glad than racial unity! In fact, we don’t have to wait to get to Heaven to experience it-it’s part of the church’s mission!
There are points of agreement with Pastor Jordan, but there are points he makes that are outlandishly unproven. There are multi-racial churches in the south getting it done the right way! Instances of multi-generational, multi-racial churches getting it done are Transformation Church in Tulsa, Oklahoma, Gateway Church in Southlake, Texas, Relentless Church in Greenville, South Carolina and The Potter’s House in Dallas, Texas. It can be done and it is being done. With yielded hearts, Pastor Woodfin, Pastor Hodge and inner city faith leadership can come to a workable solution that acknowledges the past and commits to a better future.
First, allow me to distance myself from conjecture: Pastor Jordan’s passion is infectious. It’s also riotous and falls just short of an educated opinion. Calling the yet to be determined black Pastor of the satellite location “token” and declaring that the Pastor’s sermons would be monitored in some way are to date without credibility. While I do applaud Pastor Jordan’s boldness, I do believe that our ultimate goal should always be fellowship within the confines of the Kingdom of Christ as laid out in Galatians 6:10 and Hebrews 12:18.
Buried deep In Pastor Jordan’s diatribe is years and years of the heartbreak of segregation. Those dismissing Pastor Jordan as a hatemonger are probably unaware of the trauma the black church experienced when many congregations were bombed. Remember the 16th Street Baptist Church bombing that claimed the lives of those four little girls? Birmingham has come a long way but still quite a way to go in the process of racial reconciliation and repairing the breach between its citizens. Mayor Woodfin’s plan is commendable, but is dangerously making a bigger statement that churches in the community can’t or aren’t getting the job done. This is sure to alienate him from many of the supporters that helped him win the mayoral election.
I was going to share this yesterday but I needed more time to process it. He’s got very valid points and I must admit that he’s probably the only person I’ve seen go this far! Pastor T. L. Lewis voiced his disapproval of Mayor Randall Woodfin’s plan to work with Pastor Hodges as: “a slap in the face“. While I don’t fully discourage the proposed church plant, I would advise Church of the Highlands to start with a street team, first. Get to know the neighborhood and people you will welcome into your congregation so you won’t be shocked when they show up!! Perhaps the ministry wouldn’t even need to use their resources in that way over there. Maybe a food bank or resource center…doesn’t ways have to be a church!
I’m starting to think that we “church” in lieu of the hard work 21st century ministry requires. Many ministries have invested more in church services, accommodations and accoutrements and have all but abandoned the time tested act of outreach. I’ve seen people in church almost do away with the concept of inviting visitors and adding new members. They just expect people to want to join or even visit because the doors are open, the choir is good or the preacher can preach.
One constant in the gripe against church leadership and a main excuse for not attending church is the shape of the community. Why is there a demand on the church, but not city leaders? Pastors aren’t civic leaders and evangelism isn’t always a crime deterrent or economic boon. It baffles me that people in communities are so hard on churches and not city leaders or police. Pastor Jordan’s complaints merits a sit down meeting with the Pastor Hodge, Mayor Woodfin and other faith leaders in the area. That to me, would be the biggest and greatest victory in this situation.