Readers' Forum

Avoid Negative Image Of Afro-Americans

I have found that many of the articles [in Pulpit Helps] have been both informative and edifying. The articles have helped to bring clarity to many subjects that are church and ministry related. However, As I have looked through the magazine, I have noticed that other than ads that are commercially objective—choir robes, colleges, seminaries, etc., there are very few human-interest stories that show how African Americans through faith and doctrinal application have been successful in marriage, ministry, missions, and education.

My concern, however, is the portrayal of a negative image of African Americans in the minds of your subscribers, e.g., the article (in the June issue) by Bill Denton titled, "Conscienceless Youth," which I thought gave some challenging information. The picture that was offered shows three males, two African Americans and one white or Hispanic male. One of the African American males has the gun in his hand.

The image of the black youth with the gun contributes to what I will call "Negrophobia," an unrealistic and unfounded fear and perception of African American people. This is a tradition that can be traced back to slavery, when scientists, philosophers, and theologians taught that blacks were not human. The era of Jim Crow and separate but "unequal" restrooms, drinking fountains, restaurants, and even cemeteries perpetuated the thoughts of inferiority.

Even in supermarkets today the remnants of marketing "Negrophobia" are prevalent: "Uncle Ben" on the box of rice, "Aunt Jemima" on pancake mix, and "Rasmus" on boxes of Cream of Wheat.

I would like to see Pulpit Helps be the example of practical doctrinal purity when opportunities come for human-interest stories. That African Americans be portrayed like everyone else—sinners saved by grace. Sinners who without Christ can reach the depths of depravity. But also by God's amazing grace can reach great heights as African Americans, like Chief of Neurosurgery Ben Carson at Johns Hopkins Medical Center, or Atlanta's successful pastor and family man, Dr. John McNeal, missionary Montrose Waite, and sixty-year marriage of Walter and Alma Jones.

We need responsible journalism in America that will aid us in our primary objectives to "go into all the world and preach the gospel."

Pastor Kevin J. Lavender, Sr.
Bible Baptist Church
Kalamazoo, MI

Editor's response: The picture accompanying Bill Denton's article was a stock photo intended to represent the gang sub-culture found in our cities—and that is not an "unfounded fear." We intended no racial implications. As for human interest stories, Pulpit Helps has never run many, as we lean much more heavily toward encouraging all to "run with patience the race that is set before us," through Bible commentary and articles on practical Christianity. However, we do run a few human-interest stories, when we find good ones—note, for instance, the article on "The Prince of Black Preachers" in the August issue.

Exegetical Preaching Article Off-Base

In the July issue Pulpit Helps printed an article "The need for Biblical Preaching" by Albert Mohler, that deeply concerns me. Dr. Mohler's article attacked topical and "needs based" preaching, arguing instead for strict exegetical preaching. In this article arguing for biblical preaching, not one Bible verse was cited. No biblical example was given. It had no biblical authority.

Could the reason no verses were cited in an article arguing against topical preaching is because the style of Jesus Christ was topical? The Sermon on the Mount is very needs-based! Jesus taught in "parables." That's not my analysis, that's what the Bible says! Parables aren't exegetical, are they?

The Sermon on the Mount uses a host of Scriptures as Jesus says: "You have heard it said…." He's not just quoting from a single text; the entire body of Scripture is His reference.

The style of Paul was topical in Athens as he presented people with the "unknown" God (Acts 17:23). Most scholars tell us that James is written in the form of a New Testament sermon. I would say it's one of those "needs based" sermons Dr. Mohler objected to. Peter preached a topical message at Pentecost.

I challenge you to find one example of exegetical preaching in the New Testament.

Friends, the point of preaching is not always to dissect the text, it is to tell the story of the risen Christ! What is truly being lost in arguments about exegetical and topical preaching is the cross as our center.

Show me one single instance when the style or form of the sermon was an issue the first century Christians even bothered to debate. Apollos certainly didn't preach like Paul, but neither was his approach condemned as more worldly. Can't you be content saying: If they are not against us, they are for us! At least the cross is preached! But your publication and Dr. Mohler have now determined the right method of preaching; how arrogant! Show me the Scripture you base this on!

I am concerned about unbiblical preaching, such as I hear from the pulpit of Joel Osteen and some others. This is a health and wealth gospel without any preaching of sin. However, the problem is not the outline, it's the omission of sin.

By suggesting that topical preaching is some kind of new problem arising at the end of the 20th century is simply historically inaccurate. What about men like George Truett? My grandfather gave me his library; it was full of topical, "needs based" sermon outlines from the 1920s-1960s.

As a pastor of a military congregation, I usually preach exegetical messages. However, there are times when I preach on: fear, war, marriage, the deity of Christ, prayer, and more, using a more topical approach. One approach is not more holy or sanctified than another.

Since Spurgeon was cited, did you look through your own issue of Pulpit Helps? Spurgeon's sermon, "The Kings Gardens," certainly wasn't exegetical!

Jesus did not say: "Go preach exegetical messages"; Jesus told us to go preach.

David Squyres
Palms Baptist Church
29 Palms, CA

Editor's response: We think your words, "the cross as our center!" hit the nail on the head. The trouble—as Mohler points out—is with "feel-good" messages that neither bring sinners to repentance nor strengthen and encourage believers in the way of righteousness. We agree that there is a place for topical sermons—when employed as our Lord used them.

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