Friday, August 31, 2012

On Ministers of the Gospel

from the Introduction of Africa and African Methodism
by Alfred Lee Ridgel
written by Henry McNeal Turner
March 20, 1896

Ministers of the gospel in the main no longer hunger and thirst for a profound knowledge of the Bible and a thorough familiarity with theological lore. The chief aim is to squeeze by the committees on examination and get to be deacons and elders, regardless of the necessary qualifications to meet the requirements therewith connected. And if they can flaunt a diploma from some third-class institution of learning, they feign to be insulted if a committee should subject them to a reasonable examination; and when once admitted into the ministry, study and protracted meditation cease to be a virtue. A large majority appear to be ignorant of the fact, that true education requires a lifetime of hard study, and that wit, anecdotes, florid sentences and a few rhetorical embellishments are no test of profundity, either in a literary or an intellectual aspect. Thousands of gospel ministers seem to think they can trick and cunning their way to the hearts of the people, or to their attention at least, and finally to a seat in heaven, without half of the proficiency required of a blacksmith, or a carpenter, or in any other mechanical profession, because it involves talk, forgetful that when talk is defective, or trivial and light, that the people will fully realize it and grade their intelligence and ability accordingly. I know of ministers carrying the title of D.D. who will go to bed at the earliest opportunity and lie there till ten and eleven o'clock next day and complain about not having time to read. Such moral sluggards God never intended to be the directors of His people. Ministerial fitness and fidelity call for industry, patience, endurance, invincibility and consecrated devotion, as well as the sacrifice of self, in all the phases that involve the individual himself, or his family and domestic relations. And in as much as his calling is infinitely more lofty than the statesman, the jurist, the warrior, the explorer, the inventor, the discoverer, or any other pursuit or profession of a secular nature, so his sacrifices heroism, adventures and risks should be infinitely more stupendous and mighty, especially so as Christ Jesus our Lord has promised to be with him till the world shall end.

Among the ministry of African descent in the United States, where they are found in the largest numbers outside of Africa proper, profundity, thoroughness, self-abnegation and the spirit of sacrifice, are at a discount that is alarming, especially in the light of divine revelation. Few of the American Africans, or negroes, if you prefer the term, are willing to make any sacrifice in a physical or secular manner for the amelioration of our condition. No one appears to be willing to sacrifice life, money, or even risk any bodily comforts for the betterment of the masses. No self-protecting organizations exist, no secret pass-words, or forms of expression have been agreed upon as a call to rally to each other's defense when the bloody lynchers are doing their work of death and destruction among our people. And even when one would dare to enter a protest against existing evils, they will fly to the North and play the scullion through the day and write a tissue of abuses at night which is of no practical benefit. It is useless, however, to draw a picture of existing things in a material and moral point of view. The American black man is without a single hero. Indeed, the bulk of them have no proper conception of the meaning of the term.

Churchiologically, the same condition of things exists. The only aspiration for fame, honor and immortality that exists to an insignificant exception is at the expense of others. Many of the pastors will build large churches on credit and have their names engraved on the corner-stone, and hasten away for another minister and the congregation to pay the debt. Those who aspire to distinction in the ranks of the ministry, do so almost invariably through the votes of others, seeking to be elected to the Bishopric, or to some general office, instead of aspiring to distinction by writing hymns or learned works on Theology, Astronomy, Geology, Geography, Chemistry, Intellectual and Moral Philosophy, or delivering a series of lectures on Ancient History, or delving into the labyrinths of Archaeology and
establishing the claims of nature to the primitive color of man, and showing through it that all men started black and remained so till God said, "Let there be white," just as He said "Let there be light."

No honors conferred can equal those that come through merit, but meritorious honor and distinction are at a low ebb among negro ecclesiastics, because it involves, as we have said before, an amount of labor, patience, self-abnegation and sacrifice, which is foreign to the age, and especially to the American black man.

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