Our Inadequacy and Christ’s Sufficiency

How do you handle feeling inadequate? Recently, someone asked me this question in reference to my clinical practice. But I have recently become a parent, which has revealed my insufficiency. I can’t distinguish her screams. I can’t get her to sleep when I want her to. I don’t know what is wrong with her sometimes. I feel inadequate.   

It is antithetical to our sinful nature to admit our inadequacies. According to Elliot Aronson, our brain labors to convince us our actions are right, despite contrary evidence. In the words of Paul Tripp, we have an “inner defense lawyer.” Our inner defense lawyer argues for our competency. Before the judge of life, it offers various excuses as to why we are sufficient.  Although, that is not what the Bible says.

Sinful Inadequacy

Russell Moore was asked by Anderson Cooper about a tweet in which he was called “a nasty guy with no heart.” Moore said he agreed with the tweet and “we sing worse things about ourselves on Sunday mornings. Our hymns contain harsh language about us, which aligns with Scripture. We are born in sin and by nature, we are children of wrath (Psalm 51:5; Ephesians 2:3). We are unrighteous and our righteous deeds are like filthy rags (Romans 3:10-11; Isaiah 64:6). Our hearts are deceitful and desperately sick (Jeremiah 17:9). Evil thoughts, fornications, thefts, murders, and adulteries are within our hearts (Mark7:21). Sin touches every word, deed, and thought. Sin makes us inadequate.

Christ Is Sufficient

Nothing is outside the power of Jesus Christ. Christ created everything and he upholds it (Colossians 1:15-17). The Lord has the power to change hearts (Proverbs 21:1).

In other words, “He’s got the whole world in his hands.” Nobody has the power to stay his hand (Daniel 4:35).  In him, there is no darkness or trace of sin (1 John 1:5). He is perfectly pure. He has no equal. His power knows no end. Sin and Satan are subject to him. Christ is sufficient.

Look to Jesus

We lack the ability to have completely pure motives. Sin contaminates every aspect of us. It makes our service, worship, and work impure. Compared to Christ we are inadequate. Apart from Christ, we can literally do nothing (John 15:5). This is our reality until Christ comes or we go to meet him.

Let your impotent state cause you to look to Christ. Jesus sanctifies every aspect of us. He makes our impure service, worship, and work pleasing to the Father. Whenever you see your inadequacy gaze at the sufficiency of Christ. Robert Murray McCheyne says “For every look at self—take ten looks at Christ!” How do I handle feeling inadequate? I embrace it and let it lead me to gaze upon Christ.

I don’t have the power to sway the hearts of men, but Jesus does. My words don’t hold the power to save, but His word does. I am powerless on my own, but he is almighty. My intelligence has its limits, but he knows all. Beloved, don’t trust yourself. We are weak, foolish men. Trust in Jesus with all your heart (Proverbs 3:5).  Trust God is more than enough even in your inadequacy and He always will be.

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Is It Because I Am Black?

I wonder if he just noticed what just happened.” I was on a recruiting trip at a conference and it was lunch time. My white colleague and I decided to explore the mall in hopes of finding a place to eat. After looking at the long line and the other restaurants we decided to eat at a place that served chicken and waffles. There was no line. A Caucasian girl was taking orders and preparing food. We ordered the same meal. Before we received our order of chicken and waffles she asked if we wanted hot sauce and honey. We were both are from the south so we said “YES” without hesitation.

I watched her pour the honey into one cup. The bottle of honey was almost empty. She squeezed the bottle until no more honey would come out. The cup was filled halfway. Then she went to the back to get a new bottle. She finished filling the first cup to the brim. Then she filled the second cup only halfway. Next, she started to pour the hot sauce.  She filled the first cup, but the second cup was only filled halfway. When I saw the unequal portions of the cups I thought “She is going to give me the cups that are partially filled.” I waited, hoping I was wrong.  Sadly, I was right she handed me the half-filled cups.

I walked away wondering if my white colleague saw what happened. I also pondered another question, “Was I given less because of my blackness?”

The Hovering Question 

Is it because I am black?” I ponder this question quite often. Often I walk into spaces where I stick out because of my darker skin tone. However, I imagine many other African Americans ponder this question as well. But situations like the one mentioned above always bring the question back to mind. My white colleague was dressed similar to me, ordered the same meal, but he received more. I don’t know the reason the girl gave him more, so I am just left with assumptions. However, this is not the case in other situations.

The Hovering Facts

Black people make up 13.3 percent of the population in America. We make up 37.7 percent of the prison population in America. Black people make up 38 percent of the people in poverty in America. More than half of black children in America are born in single parent homes. Twenty-four percent of the people shot and killed by police in 2015 were African American. The unemployment rate for African Americans is 7.9 compared to the 3.8 white unemployment rate. African American boys are perceived to be older and are not perceived to have the same childhood innocence as their white counterparts.

I know that is a lot of stats and you may be able to forget them. I can’t. I was the black boy who was assumed to be older. I have family in prison. I grew up in poverty and in a single parent home. I have seen the videos of African Americans killed unjustly by police. I have family members who desired a job but struggled to find one. These stats haunt me because those numbers have names and faces attached.

The Steadfast God 

I am troubled by the assumptions and stats, but I am comforted by the God who is mindful and cares for us (Psalm 8:4). My soul rests in the fact that His love and His mercy is never ending (Lamentations 3:22). The hairs on my head are numbered. He knows and controls the stats. His sovereignty is enough to calm my vexed soul. However, I still have questions.

Though the stats may hover and assumptions may be many, my God is still on the throne. He knows what happens because of my blackness and He will never give me less than what is good for me (Romans 8:28; Matthew 7:11).

 

Would love to hear others share their stories or thoughts….

 

10 Reasons Why The Southern Baptist Convention Is Stained By Racism

Jones, K., & Williams, J. J. (2017). Removing The Stain of Racism From The Southern Baptist Convention: Diverse African American and White Perspectives. Broad & Holman

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My thankfulness for the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) is difficult to express. If I were to attempt to verbalize it I would exhaust my vocabulary. A Southern Baptist collegiate ministry was instrumental in my salvation. God allowed me to be a part of various mission trips sponsored by Southern Baptists. My theological education has been at a Southern Baptist seminary. I have work for collegiate ministries sponsored by the Southern Baptist Convention. I love the universal church, but the Southern Baptist tribe has a special place in my heart.

But I love the SBC enough, to tell the truth about it. Our convention is stained by racism. The stained has affected every entity of the SBC. Jarvis Williams, Kevin Jones, and the other contributors give multiple reasons why the stain persists, but I will only mention ten.

1) Insufficient Follow-Up

 “Since the formation of the SBC in 1845, the denomination’s leaders have passed thirty-one resolutions on race. Each one resulted from a growing realization that things were not right.”

Craig Mitchell (62)

2) Divorcing History

 “But I am convinced we need to make sure we allow the ghost of our racist forebears to haunt us. We need to be reminded often that we are no different from them and that we are just as susceptible to hatred, pride, and wickedness apart from the mercy of God.”

Dr. Matthew Hall (14)

3) Intellectual Racism

“Among the most significant instances of racial disparity in South Baptist life is intellectual racism”

Dr. Jarvis Williams (19)

“Black and Brown scholarship is either dismissed or ignored in many colleges universities and seminaries”

Dr. Jarvis Williams (20)

4) Inferior Theological Development

“Formal theology has been disproportionately conducted by white men and the context of their theology affirms has become standardized”

Walter Strickland II (55)

“Superior theological development results for the diverse collective of the church (across age, genders, races, and cultures) rather than from individual or believers  isolated in their cultural context.”

Walter Strickland II (58)

5) Inadequate Pastoral Guidance

“Regarding the particular sin of racism, at least three consideration are relevant to preachers and pastors: their personal relationships, their understanding of leading from the pulpit, and their understanding of what repentance looks like in their particular context”

Dr. Kevin Smith (74)

6) Prayers for Revival But Not Reconciliation

“Our prayers for revival must include prayers for reconciliation in our denomination. However, prayer is not enough! We must pray and act. If when we rise from our knees God gives us hearts to love all races in our denomination, then we will see revival”

Mark A. Croston Sr. (87)

7) Minority Access to Education

“If Southern Baptist churches cooperate cross-racially to enhance ethnic minorities’ access to education, then we can make the stain less apparent”

 Dr. Kevin Jones  (92).

“Yet many of those same seminaries, especially Southern Baptist seminaries, often have failed to recruit and retain minorities”

Dr. Kevin Jones (91)

8) Mediocre News

“The gospel inherently entails reconciliation. So-called gospel publishing that neglects illustrating this unity in diversity may well not qualify as “good news” publishing, for it publishes only mediocre news”

Toby Jennings (109)

9) Whitewashed Teachings

“the SBC has historically neglected and still neglects to teach about people of color–including African/blacks–who played significant roles in the Old and New Testament, many Southern Baptists view biblical characters as being white, including Jesus.”

W. Dwight McKissic Sr. (133)

10) Indifferent Racism

“What you often find is not an active aggressive racism so much as a passive and indifferent racism. I gather with my tribe, and of course my tribe tends to look a whole like me. People of different ethnicities are certainly welcome to join us on our terms, adapting to our context and way of doing things. However, don’t expect us to change. Change is the responsibility of the others.”

Dr. Daniel Akin (138-139)

Another Racial Parable

(Inspired by reading Divided by Faith)

Joe and James were best friends and high school seniors aspiring to attend the same notable college.  They both enrolled in an ACT Prep course hoping to attain an ACT score of 25, which was a requirement for the college they wanted to attend. They enrolled the same day but were placed in different classes.

Joe was placed in a class that was comprised of the top students in their county. They each had their own cubicle, which contained a laptop, a calculator, and ACT Prep books. Each student was given a significant amount of one-on-one sessions with an instructor.

James was placed in a class that was comprised of students who were struggling academically. They were given pencil, paper, and several ACT prep books they had to share.  The instructor was always late for their classes, so they were never able to cover all the required material. The room was over populated so the instructor was not able to answer all the questions posed by the students.

Joe and James took the ACT on the same day. Once they received their score Joe revealed he made a 20 on the ACT. Although, James scored a 14.  Joe was applauded and asked, “James, how could you make a 14 with the help of this prep course? Were you listening in class?”

They both decided to take the prep course again in hopes of getting a 25.  Joe was placed in a similar class to his previous one. James was placed in an overpopulated class, again. They took the test again and Joe received a 25. Sadly, James received a 15.

Joe was upset because he believed James had not applied himself. “These instructors are trying to help us, but I guess you don’t want to go to college. Why did you even come to this program if you weren’t going to try?” said Joe.

James said as he wiped tears from his eyes “I want to go to college. My whole family wants me to go so I can be the first male to get a college education. I really tried in this course. I think we had different experiences.” Joe ended the conversation by saying “Well you just have to try harder next time because this program is set up to help us, and I think they tried really hard too.”

“Joe, I sat in a crowded classroom with kids who were struggling academically. I had to share my ACT prep books. My teacher always showed up late and never finished covering all the information,” said James. Tears began to fall down Joe’s cheek and he said “I didn’t know. I just didn’t know.” Joe and James cried together. After that, Joe said, “Let’s go talk to that ACT prep course and demand they give you the same treatment they gave me.” “We should demand fair treatment for everyone,” said James.

“….to engage in a serious discussion about race in America, we must begin not with the problems of black people, but with the flaws of American society-flaws rooted in historic inequalities and longstanding cultural stereotypes. And we must acknowledge that structures and behavior are inseparable, that institutions and values go hand in hand”

Cornel West 

Key Points

  • The assumption that we all receive the same treatment ignores the facts.
  • Defending a structure without an adequate amount of information is dangerous.
  • Individual effort coupled with a broken structure is disheartening.
  • Listening can produce lasting fruit to assist in bridging the racial gap.
  • Listening moves you to have compassion.
  • There is hope.

 

 

 

Confessions of A Black Seminarian Pt 3: Letter to Black Seminarians

Dear Black Seminary Student, 

God has used you to encourage my soul. I remember so many moments where we discussed our shared experience. You come from various places, but God has allowed us to connect. Your stories have been inspiring and saddening.

I remember the time you told me your child was a victim of discrimination on campus. You have been disrespected in class for telling about the about the African-American perspective. I was there when they misrepresented you. I know how you feel when people call you an Oreo because you do not fit a stereotype.

I understand the burden of having to be bicultural to survive. It is tiresome, feeling like you to have to know about the dominant culture and your own to succeed. I know how hard it is to learn about another culture while trying to hang on to your own.

You have told me about your frustrations. You are in a white space and it is obvious. All your professors are white. The preachers in chapel services are white. The scholars are white. The administration is white. Most of the people in your class are white. You wonder most days “Where the brothers at?”  It causes you to wonder “Who represents you here?” You expressed to me how saddened you are we don’t have more diversity. It is easy to seat back, do your work, be quiet, and get through your degree.

I know it is difficult but, don’t lose heart. Don’t give up on our brothers and sisters from the dominant culture. Don’t give up on the seminary. They need you. Do you remember the time you explained the difference between diversity and multiculturalism? Your classmates needed to hear that. What about the time you discussed pro-life vs anti-abortion? You stated pro-life must include black people killed on the streets. Or what about the time you helped your classmates view the black church rightly? Your voice is essential. Remaining silent denies the seminary the privilege of knowing you and your culture.
Brothers, there are so many people who are part of the seminary community who long to hear your voice. They want to know what you think so they may love their neighbor rightly. They are wrestling with ideas about Black Lives Matter, Racial Reconciliation, and cultural differences too. Several of them might call you a heretic, race-baiter, or black nationalist. In those moments remember “A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger” (Proverbs 15:1)  and “The way of a fool is right in his own eyes, but a wise man listens to advice” (Proverbs 12:15).
Beloved, it is tough being a minority here, but we must stay because Jesus prayed that we might be one (John 17:11). The ability to become one is a product of the gospel (Ephesians 2:11-22).  Becoming one requires growing pains look at the early church in Rome of Ephesus. Our oneness will not come if we chose to retreat to mono-ethnic settings. We can’t complain that 11 am is the most segregated hour if we are not willing to sit a few minutes in another culture’s classroom or pew.

May Grace and Peace Be Multiplied to You,

Your Fellow Classmate

 

Confessions of A Black Seminarian Pt.2: Letter to Seminary Students

Dear Seminary Student,

We have been friends for a long time. Thank you for sharing your stories about the grace of God in your life. I love hearing about what God is teaching you through your classes. Thank you for enduring my conversations about racial issues. Thank you for displaying humility and asking me difficult questions. Thank you for not unfriending me after reading my social media posts. Thank you for your encouragement.

I know you want the church to dwell together in unity. You have expressed your desire to plant a multi-ethnic church. I have heard about your racist family members and church members. I know you love the church.

But I confess I get upset with us. We are quick to speak and slow to listen. Often I find myself more concerned about responding than listening. We need to consider asking more questions, before speaking. The bible tells us the one who responds before he listens “it is to his folly” (Proverbs 18:13). We must learn to listen for understanding, not to respond. The fool takes pleasure in expressing his opinion, not gaining understanding (Proverbs 18:2).

We have discussed doctrine a lot. We have discussed ethics, ecclesiology, and hermeneutics. You know God has given humans value because he has made them in his image. I can see you are quick to rebuke false doctrine. But I have observed you are slow to rebuke false practice. I don’t see you speak out against discrimination. Discrimination infringes upon the God-given worth of minorities like me. I want to hear you like Paul rebuke those who are out of step with the gospel.

Many injustices have occurred since we have known each other. Each one cut me like a knife, and I confess I kept it to myself. I saw you posting about how I shouldn’t feel hurt. You underestimate the sin of racism in America. You can identify individualistic racism, but not structural racism. You don’t believe it is in our seminary and churches. I have seen you question anyone who says otherwise.

Do you remember all those conversations about racial issues? I have enjoyed them all. Thanks for listening to me. But I want you to know I don’t have any special knowledge or skills. In other words, I ain’t got all the answers about racial unity. We have received similar educations. We are both capable of researching and discerning. I have to do research often about racial issues. You can do this too. I would love to talk about your research if you decide to do it. This research will help us develop a broader base for cultural apologetics.

You could start here. If you want to know how to think critically about racial topics from a Christian perspective look up: Jemar Tisby, Thabiti Anyabwile, Dr. Jarvis Williams, Dr. Anthony Bradley, D. A. Horton, and Trillia Newbell. These are only a few.

You are my brothers and sisters in Christ and I desire us to have racial unity. I desire us to see racial reconciliation as a gospel issue. We are the next generation of church, ministry, and denominational leaders. We are being equipped in seminary to reach the lost. We must dwell together in unity to reach the lost. The great commission is a multi-ethnic mission and our collaboration must start in seminary.

May the God of endurance and encouragement grant you to live in such harmony with one another, in accord with Christ Jesus, that together you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore welcome one another as Christ has welcomed you, for the glory of God.

Romans 15:5-7

Sincerely,

Your Fellow Classmate

Supplemental Resources:

Jarvis Williams: How the Gospel addresses racial issues

Calling The Next Generation to Racial Reconciliation – Trip Lee Message

Racial Reconciliation, the Church, and the Gospel

Black, and White, and Red All Over: Why Racial Reconciliation is a Gospel Issue | Russell Moore

Panel on Race & Reconciliation in USA – Excerpt 3

Part One Letter to a Seminary Professor

P.S. You are welcome to comment, but I also invite you to sit down and talk about anything that you believe requires clarity. 

 

Confessions of A Black Seminarian Part 1: Letter to Seminary Professors

Dear Seminary Professor,

The Lord has used you to sanctify me and enhance my ministry. Thank you for introducing me to Augustine and Justin Martyr. Thank you for teaching me how to do a sermon outline. Thank you for challenging me to survey the whole counsel of God. I am grateful for the work that you do.

But I confess your syllabus is offensive to me. Your syllabus leaves scholars of color outside the gates. It’s segregated. I have listened to your lectures on the Reformation to Modern church history. I did all the assigned reading and book reviews. Where were the faithful African-American believers? 

You taught be about the preaching of Adrian Rogers, Billy Graham, and Joel Gregory. But you left out the prophetic voices from the black church like E.K. Bailey, E.V. Hill, and Gardner C. Taylor. I learned about William Carey and Adoniram Judson from you. You told me they were the first international missionaries. But you excluded George Lisle, an emancipated slave, who went to Jamaica.

You advanced my knowledge of the Old Testament and the New Testament in your classes. So is there a text that allows you to continue to make African-Americans feel like Gentiles? Paul in Galatians 2:11-14 stood up and rebuked Peter for his racism. Stand up and rebuke prominent Christain figures for statements like this:

As for the lawfulness of keeping slaves, I have no doubt. … It is plain to a demonstration, that hot countries cannot be cultivated without Negroes. What a flourishing country might Georgia have been, had the use of them been permitted years ago? How many white people have been destroyed for want of them, and how many thousands of pounds spent to no purpose at all?

(George Whitefield)

Keep in the step with the truth of the gospel. Stand up for us in your classroom like Paul. The other option is to do what’s acceptable by the majority like Peter.

You taught me about the Southern Baptist Convention in Baptist Heritage. Our forefathers had strong convictions about holding slaves. They believed in white supremacy. Your classroom could be breeding more white supremacists. You must take action. Teach your students about scholars of color and the value of the black church. Without action, they will continue to believe you have to be white to be right.

I am hurt. I sit in class after class feeling like a Gentile. You want me to conform to your laws and practices for an “A”. You want me to leave my culture and history outside the door of your classroom to be perceived as intellectual. I confess I have sat quietly in your classroom, but I won’t any longer.

The theology of the civil rights moment is relevant in church history. The discussion of racism is part of the doctrine of sin. Proclaiming the bible is not limited to one culture’s way of preaching. Racial reconciliation and social justice deserve a lecture in your ethics class.

Your instruction will influence future pastors and denominational leaders. I beg you don’t leave my people out of your syllabus. Let your students know how diverse the church is. I plead with you, let your students know about the real black church. T.D. Jakes, Creflo Dollar, and James Cone don’t represent the black church.

Teach them about faithful believers of color. Use your instruction to bridge the racial divide in the church. Integrate your curriculum. A segregated syllabus creates divided seminary students. Divided seminary students will lead divided churches.

Sincerely,

A concerned Seminary Student

Supplemental Resources:

5 WAYS CHRISTIAN INSTITUTIONS OF HIGHER EDUCATION CAN AVOID WHITE SUPREMACY

ARE ETHNIC MINORITIES EMOTIONALLY SAFE IN WHITE CHRISTIAN SPACES?

RACISM AND ELITISM IN HIGHER EDUCATION

For the City: Race, urban ministry, and cultural engagement

 Feel free to share your thoughts…..