Why Should Christians Have Churchwide Conferences?

Why Should Christians Have Churchwide Conferences?

Summer is in full swing, and people all across the country have fired up their grills, purchased their summer wardrobes, and started traveling. For Black folks, summer often means family reunions (especially after the pandemic lockdown), barbecues (cookouts/kickbacks/get-togethers/BBQs), and finding things for the kids to do (like sports, activities, or playing outside). We all look forward to summer vacations, summer hours, and summer…denominational general conferences?

 

For whatever reason (probably the pandemic), 2021 has been the year of many denominational general conferences when the saints of God have gathered together to elect new leadership, hear inspiring teaching, and debate church policy. Some people are not looking forward to these conferences every few years, and many believers don’t even know they are happening. A lot of us don’t even have denominations to host conferences, and we’re fortunate if our church leadership gets together with other leaders to decide how to more effectively love God and love people.

But more than ever, people are actually hearing about these conferences, usually because of controversy. We have heard everything from debates about same sex marriage to whether systemic racism is real. We have seen rejoicing and anxiety over the appointment of new leaders, reports of how to handle abuse and instructions on how to handle finances. And many Christians ask, why are we having these conferences? Why are these issues being debated? Why aren’t we just doing what the Bible says?

Well, we are actually doing exactly what the Bible says. The Bible is where we find the church resolving debates over contemporary issues and developing administration together in Acts 6, the commissioning of Barnabas and Paul (Saul) in Acts 13, and the first church-wide conference at Jerusalem in Acts 15. At that conference, the Gospel was articulated for Gentiles. Plus, we see Apollos teaching right doctrine after meeting with Priscilla and Aquila in Acts 18. There is no law in scripture for every situation, especially as the world changes and God continues calling us to follow Him. We need a relationship with God and the power of the Holy Spirit to lead us into all truth. It was the Pharisees and Sadducees who believed they could keep the letter of the law perfectly and had no need for God’s Spirit to lead them.

In the Old Testament, we read that before any major decisions were made, the kings of Israel sought wise counsel–not just as advice–but as wisdom from collaboration. The prophets, priests, and advisors would weigh in, and they would all pray to receive God’s wisdom for leadership. In the New Testament, we read that the apostles and elders were accountable to the community of believers and met together to pray and seek God’s guidance and receive instruction for the churches they led. None of these people were perfect.n the contrary, God met them with wisdom in the midst of their flaws.

We should continue to value church conferences and approach them with honor and hope. We cannot take for granted that many believers across the world cannot gather together publicly in general, let alone in large conferences. We should embrace and celebrate our opportunities to do so. If God was able to show up with wisdom for believers in the Bible, we know that despite our flaws and problems, God can show up for us with  wisdom as well.

Diary of a Celebrity Makeup Maven: Entry 3

Diary of a Celebrity Makeup Maven: Entry 3

Deida PhotoHere is the third blog entry from Celebrity Makeup Artist Deida Massey on her experience as a Christian makeup artist in the entertainment industry. Dive deeper into Deida’s world as she answers our third question below and check back next week for Deida’s final blog entry.

What is a typical day like for you as an entrepreneur and celebrity makeup artist?

A typical day for me is, first, waking up and starting my day in worship and prayer.

There are two worship songs I love to play by Pastor William Murphy: “Amazing GOD” and “We Ain’t in Church.” Prayer and worship help me to command my day.

When I’m not on set, that time gives me a chance to respond to emails and catch up on work for my non-for-profit Reel Beauty, Inc. Currently, the organization is inside Chicago Public Schools. If I have the time, I like to go and visit my girls to see how well they are doing with the program. My team always likes when I come in to encourage the girls to stick to their commitment to the program.

I’m always researching new ways to better my businesses and looking for ways to make more money. After checking emails, I usually have board meetings to attend for my organization or my brand.

I’m truly a visionary and, therefore, I’m always dreaming and talking openly to GOD about what’s next or what’s on my mind. I have several books I’m currently reading and, when time permits, I enjoy catching up on my reading.

Running errands is also a huge part of my day. Whether it’s for my business or personal, I’m always running errands. I believe your day should be productive. Keeping an agenda or, as some people like to call it, a “Things To Do List” helps to give order to your day.

I am also often on set for film and television. I currently work as an additional day player on Chicago Fire. While on set, my day is consumed with production. I spend my mornings in the makeup trailer helping to prepare the actors for their scenes. Sometimes I’m also called to set to cover the actors that are already there.

I am truly grateful and love working in film and television. It’s really amazing to be behind the scenes and see how an entire production comes to life. More importantly, I love working with creative people and seeing everyone operate in their gifts that GOD gave them. We are usually on set for 10-12 hours and, therefore, my day in production is pretty full.

Being an entrepreneur is one of the most rewarding parts of my life. My days are pretty flexible if I’m not on set working. Although I have a team of consultants who go into the schools to help facilitate and implement our Reel Beauty curriculum, I am very grateful for those volunteers who are passionate and committed to the work we do. Their commitment helps me to further the mission for my non-for-profit and work in my gift as a make-up artist.

I live by the words “Time is valuable.” When we work for someone else, we are on their time but when we work for ourselves 365 days of the year, it’s so much more rewarding.

 

Did you miss Deida’s other blog entries? Start with the first entry here.

Learn more about Deida and her life in the industry here.

The GOP’s ‘Black’ Problem

The GOP’s ‘Black’ Problem

WELCOME TO TAMPA: Some 200 protesters braved inclement weather from Tropical Storm Isaac today to rally against the presence of the GOP convention in Tampa, Florida. Protesters cried out against Republican policies on immigration, health care, and the economy. (Photo: Mladen Antonov/Newscom)

News that a Republican candidate is getting a low percentage of the black vote typically draws a yawn.

But prominent black Republicans, such as Romney-Ryan adviser Tara Wall, likely gasped at the new NBC-Wall Street Journal poll that suggests the ticket is currently getting zero percent of the black vote. How do you get zero percent with all those #BlackConservativeForMittRomney tags on Twitter?

Truthfully, the poll’s results aren’t literal, being within the 3.1 percent margin of error. But there’s a link between the poll and Romney’s actions that should cause black Republicans like Wall to do some soul-searching.

Since May, Wall has been Romney’s senior communications adviser emphasizing African American outreach (UrbanFaith news editor Christine Scheller spoke to her back in June). Wall held a similar role with President George W. Bush’s 2004 reelection campaign where he gained 11 percent of the black vote. She’s among a group of black advisers who have been schooling (apparently not well) Romney on what black voters need to hear from him. They don’t expect to outpoint the nation’s first African American president, but want Romney to at least hold on to the 4 percent of the black vote that McCain received in his 2008 loss to Obama.

I interviewed Wall last week on my radio show and her comments about the poll were predictable: You can make numbers say anything you want. Obviously, black Republicans weren’t among those polled. Excitement for President Obama has dipped as people continue to struggle economically. Efforts to appeal to black voters are gearing up (at this writing there was no section on Romney’s website under the “communities” geared specifically towards black or Hispanic voters).

However, I was struck by Wall’s response concerning the GOP’s elephant in the room — its race-baiting tactics.

It’s often said that blacks, particularly black Christians, are as socially conservative (pro-life, pro traditional marriage) as the Republican platform claims to be.  So why aren’t black voters aligned with Republicans over Democrats? The GOP’s racist bent is what keeps black voters at bay. Wall objected passionately.

“That’s false. I reject that notion,” she said. “… Racism comes in many forms. I think that is a discussion in a broader context that we as a community have to have on an ongoing basis. But to simply blanketly [sic] say that Republicans don’t speak out and are racist, I think that’s patently false. There are racist elements in society everywhere and in every party and in every place.”

TOUGH TASK AHEAD: Tara Wall is charged with shaping the Romney campaign’s communication strategy — including its message to the black community, which is presently showing no love for Mitt.

That last sentence is certainly true. Democrats play race games as well and President Obama has been tepid on addressing racism. However, it’s well documented that much of today’s Republican base is of the Dixiecrat tradition — anti-big government, pro-state’s rights, segregationists. In response to Democrat President Lyndon B. Johnson signing civil rights legislation in the 1960s (Northern moderate Republicans urged him to), Southern conservative democrats began fleeing to the GOP. They were lured by the GOP’s “Southern strategy” during the Goldwater and Nixon years. To compete with Democratic gains, the GOP saw white southerners as fertile ground for new voters. Understanding the buttons to push, they stirred fears of big government and black people to win them over. No deep ideological motive, just money + votes = power.

Blue states turned red. The party of Abraham Lincoln took on the spirit of Andrew Johnson. Blacks fled the GOP. The legacy continues today.

Wall and other black Republicans know this history well. She has been among those critical of the GOP’s alienating minorities, especially in light of America’s “browning” as Hispanic populations grow. She has even produced a documentary about this titled, Souled Out that has apparently been tucked away for the moment.

As an independent who votes his interests, I admire black conservatives who are truly sincere in their beliefs to diversify the GOP. Think about it. If Romney beats Obama, who would be at the table of influence in the West Wing fighting for black issues? We need advocates in both political parties. Besides, there are sellouts on both sides who dine and grow fat as the masses of black people suffer from high unemployment, health disparities, incarceration rates, and wealth gaps.

The gentleman in me held my tongue from lashing out at Wall about the race baiting. I didn’t have to. The following day her boss, during a campaign stump in Michigan where he and his wife, Ann, were born, pulled a line from the Southern strategy playbook. Before an overwhelmingly white audience, Romney quipped: “No one’s ever asked to see my birth certificate; they know that this is the place that we were born and raised.”

It was an obvious wink to the birthers who believe Obama is un-American, unqualified, and should go back to Africa.

Sound familiar?

Yawn.

The Thankful Blues

The Thankful Blues

BLUES SINGERS: Until their departure last night, Howard University's Afro-Blue turned heads with their tight, melodic sounds on NBC's "The Sing-Off."

“In everything give thanks for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.” 
1 Thessalonians 5:18 (KJV)

In everything.

Really.

Everything.

As I reflect on this Thanksgiving holiday, I can’t avoid thinking about many of the difficult things I’ve endured in the last 12 months.

Five months ago, I lost a part-time job in church ministry, a job in which I learned a lot, grew a lot, made a lot of great relationships, and felt a such a keen sense of calling and belonging that it became a core part of my identity.

Less than a week ago, I lost another part-time job in public speaking, a job in which I learned a lot, grew a lot, made a lot of great relationships, and felt such a keen sense of calling and belonging that it became a core part of my identity.

In both cases, I was immediately aware of some of the logistical benefits of freeing that time up to pursue other things, but that knowledge did nothing to blunt the sting of loss.

Losing those jobs hurt, and hurt bad.

Times like these, I have a hard time giving thanks.

Until, that is, I remember that many of the things I’m currently thankful for now — areas of success or blessing or peaceful satisfaction … these things have all been intimately intertwined with events and seasons of crushing pain and humbling defeat.

Struggles embattled give way to humility embraced, which leads to victory empowered.

Because this is beginning to sound a bit too much like a motivational poster, let me give you an example.

While I was on staff at my last church, I developed a technique to leading worship music that helped to compensate for a lack of a consistent band. It involved creating and replaying accompaniment tracks in the form of patterns, which helped me with all of my multitasking (leading vocals, leading the band, directing the singers, et cetera). I got pretty good at it, and when I realized that there were no existing resources to help others do the same thing, I decided to start one.

This was a pivotal decision for me, because it represented a strategic convergence of so many of my interests. Beginning this work, I felt as though I’d finally identified my calling from God. I was excited, motivated, and full of vision.

The irony of the situation, however, was that despite the fact that the genesis of my idea flowed out of my passion for multicultural corporate worship music, the logistical and emotional demands of my church job were such that I was unable to make much headway on my idea. So being asked to resign was, while difficult and painful, quite beneficial to the long-term success of my entrepreneurial ministry venture. It was, in many ways, the best-case scenario — despite the fact that it felt like my world was coming to an end.

Struggles embattled, humility embraced, victory empowered.

This is a lesson that all successful people have to embrace at some point, whether it’s Conan O’Brien getting kicked off The Tonight Show, or Afro-Blue being booted off The Sing Off.

And believe me, I was among the legion of fans shocked and offended by that last outcome, reading Ben Folds‘ explanation did little to assuage my anger. That Conan thing was sad and ridiculous, but this Afro-Blue thing feels like a travesty.

Yet, as I look back on that whole Tonight Show brouhaha, I can tell that Conan has become better for it. Conan himself was able to articulate this painful-yet-positive dynamic when he said the following:

There are few things more liberating in this life than having your worst fear realized.… it’s not easy, but if you accept your misfortune and handle it right, your perceived failure can become a catalyst for profound reinvention.

My man Coco said these words last June during his commencement speech at Dartmouth College, an ironic note since Afro-Blue was eliminated from The Sing-Off in favor of The Dartmouth Aires, the Ivy League show choir from Hanover. And I have no doubt that the men and women of Afro-Blue, the pride of Howard University and DC’s finest, will continue to exhibit the poise, heart and talent that propelled them to their fourth-place showing on the megahit NBC a cappella singing competition.

I’m hopeful, of course, and not just for the obvious reason that all of the singers in Afro-Blue still have a tremendous future in music ahead of them (especially lead vocalist Danielle Withers).

I’m hopeful because, in the grand scheme of things, God can and does use all things to take his children and mold them into the people that He wants and calls them to be. And the extent to which we become more like Him is the extent to which we submit to His will, which sometimes requires profound heartbreak.

So in the meantime, I will have to resign myself to replaying Afro-Blue’s cover of “Put Your Records On” over and over, because … wow, that is my jam right now.

And for this, as for so many other things in life, good and bad, I will do what Paul charged the church in Thessalonica to do.

I will give thanks.

Raising Cain

Raising Cain

MAN ON THE RISE: Herman Cain at the Family Research Council's Values Voter Summit in Washington, D.C., last week. (Photo: Nicholas Kamm/Newscom)

While reports of his imminent demise persist, Herman Cain is nonetheless “raising cane” in the race for the Republican presidential nomination. In fact, a just-released NBC/Wall Street Journal poll places him as the current frontrunner in the GOP race for president.

He’s been termed a “marginal candidate” by the likes of conservative operatives like Fred Barnes.

He’s been deemed unelectable by likely voters.

He’s been charged by conservatives like Michael Medved with the crime of “needlessly” playing the race card when he called a spade a spade in his repudiation of the “N-word” scrawled on an edifice at the Perry family ranch.

Yet, Cain rises.

Despite the pessimism of prognosticators, pundits, and party elites, businessman Herman Cain has emerged as the “yes we can” of the political right.

Compared to the presumed nominee Mitt Romney, Cain has managed to inspire the right’s base. Cain musters 31 percent support from self-described conservatives, compared to Romney’s 15 percent support among the same. Tea Partiers are sipping the Cain Kool-Aid too, with 24 percent support of their heft backing Cain and only 17 percent support for Romney. Pure social conservatives love Cain too — while he came in second place at the Values Voter Summit this month, Tony Perkins of the host group, the Family Research Council, noted that Cain was the obvious winner since 600 of Ron Paul’s minions conveniently flooded the conference only for the Straw Poll on the Saturday morning of the conference.

Perkins said values voters are excited by Herman Cain. “He is a success story,” Perkins told CNN. “If you look at his life — how he has grown up and how he was successful in the business world, and those principles of hard work, of faith, of following the teachings of Scripture and Jesus Christ — he is an example of that, and it’s reflective in his success.”

What are we to make of this apparent surge? Whether Democrat or Republican, ambivalent or animated about the primaries, it would be wise to take Cain’s candidacy seriously.

Recall that four years ago, a rising star in the Democratic primary race was counted out as inexperienced and unelectable, despite his rousing oratory. And he’s now President.

Comparisons of Cain to President Obama are inevitable for obvious reasons. And it wouldn’t be the first time that Republicans sought their own “Black Conservative” answer to the phenomenon that is Barack Obama. Yet, this time the candidate isn’t a drafted carpetbagger who’s being rushed onto the stage solely because of his skin color and loud voice. Cain appears to be his own man.

Pundits and pollsters have too easily dismissed Herman Cain’s candidacy, but the conservative base appears to have a new anointed one — at least for the time being. He’s not the clear frontrunner just yet, but he’s certainly raising cane in the Republican contest. Still, it wasn’t that long ago that Michele Bachmann (remember her?) and Rick Perry had all the buzz and momentum. In a GOP race that discards the favored ones just as quickly as it elevates them, can Cain keep it up?