By now, many of you have heard about the inflammatory statement Pastor Jamal Bryant made in a recent sermon entitled “I Am My Enemy’s Worst Nightmare.” Bryant, dressed in an electric-blue suit coat, yelled “THESE H*ES AIN’T LOYAL,” a popular Rap lyric from singer Chris Brown, to his congregation during the sermon about Pontius Pilate and his wife’s premonition about crucifying Jesus. Now, if you find difficulty making the connection between “disloyal h*es” and Pilate’s wife, you’re not alone. There’s not enough space or time to really explore the context of the scripture or his comment, but what there is time for is to talk about the loyalty in and purpose of preaching.
Before the influx of social media, preachers had to have a literal platform – a storefront church, a borrowed pulpit, a makeshift theater, a lived-in basement, some form of physical location for the Word of God to go forth. Technology has eradicated the need for a physical platform, making the preaching moment a virtual one where people all over the world can participate in the going forth of the Gospel.
This has presented, however, a challenge in authenticating the voice and role of preaching as the influx of social media and influence of popular culture has removed the need for traditional validation and divine vocational call. It is the inundation people who have taken up the role of “preacher” simply because there is new “real estate” for them to preach without counting the cost.
It is the push to be relevant, known, have the most followers or retweets that has removed the sacredness of the preaching moment and turned it into a 140-character preach-off. Many young preachers find themselves using popular culture as a catalyst for “viral” exposure, maybe with the good intentions to increase their platform to spread the Gospel. But what it does, however, is push the preacher’s personality and viral moment past the Gospel, overshadowing the richness of the preaching moment.
Preaching, as defined by Isaac Rufus Clark, is a “divine activity wherein the Word of God is proclaimed or announced on a contemporary issue with an ultimate response to our God.”
While the aforementioned definition presents a specific concern for modern preaching, I argue what Clark says Black preaching in particular should do: the liberative power of preaching becomes the marker of good preaching.
Today’s preacher finds difficulty in offering liberation to those who listen as the personal agenda of s/he who proselytizes does not “[get] at the deep, fundamental, serious questions of life that people are concerned about.” The role of liberation, then, gets lost in the preacher’s inability to know the “what” and do the “why” and “how” of preaching, the part that gets the root of the deep human and theological questions with which the congregants and communities wrestle.
In layman’s terms: preaching like Pastor Bryant’s is shallow. Nothing in his sermon answered any “deep, fundamental, serious questions of life that people are concerned about.” The sermon pushed around all-too-familiar pulpit clichés that get the people riled up but offer no sustainable solutions. If anything, they exasperated deeply rooted, oppressive ideas about Black men, Black women, sexuality, relationships, and God.
The problem with Pastor Bryant actually goes beyond the ill-placed use of a misogynistic Rap lyric. The issue lies in Bryant’s inability to do what preachers are called to do: liberate people.
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SOURCE: Urban Faith