Monday, July 30, 2007

The Death of Prophecy

Let me begin by saying this weeks meditation is not a selfish plug. I’m writing out of a desire to process the sorrow I feel related to the shadows I wrote about on last week. To recap, last week I spoke of the dread that comes with doing our best to let that little light shine when our light appears as the flickering of a flashlight at midnight. Just a little light and a consuming darkness to overcome.
What appears as a plug is this-I’m close to completing my second novel. The title is “Backslide” and it is certain to raise eyebrows for its candor. In it, Simon, the Preacha’ Man, starts a new ministry. He does so with a faith and courage that comes with having functioned for years as the whipping boy of a traditionally minded church. Finally, after pondering the consequences of being free from the political machine we call the Church, he steps away from it all at the end of Preacha’ Man. He decides that being a person is more important than being the robot of the Church.
Problem is this thing called a calling. For those not bond to this prevailing force, there is a significant difference between a job and a calling. Those of you privileged enough to function with the freedom that comes with finding a job, holding a job and seeking a new job-enjoy all of that. Those called lack the freedom that comes with taking your credentials to the highest bidder. Callings require sacrifice, and sacrifice comes with pain.
Years back, I wrote a paper for a seminar at the University of Chicago. The title of the piece is “Prophetic Voice in Public Space”. I based the paper on Melissa Harris-Lacewell’s book Barbershops, Bibles & BET. Melissa used me as a subject for her research on how the church molds the political ideologies of those who attend. Melissa took my columns (at the time with the Herald-Sun) and sermons (then at the Orange Grove Missionary Baptist Church) and went about t he business of analyzing how much of what I wrote and preached about was believed by those in the church.
Part of my tussle over the years has been with maintaining integrity as a prophetic voice within the context of community enamored with maintaining a traditional model of faith. What it means to be faith minded has changed over the years. The tradition with traditional churches has been fractured by the influences of the mega-Church movement. The consequence is the minimizing of prophetic voice while accentuating the merits of the individual’s quest for prosperity.
An example is an article I read this week from the Baltimore Sun. I felt the zeal of God when I read the account of the First Mount Olive Free Will Baptist Church. They really love their pastor. The good Christians went and purchased Bishop Oscar E. Brown a luxurious custom built Bentley two summers ago. The members of the church yelled “praise Him,” as he backed the car, estimated to cost between $130,000 to $150,000, out from the church parking lot. Its not like the good Bishop needed a car-he also owns a Lexus SC430 sports car.
Before you jump down my throat and call me a playa hater, let me finish the story. The church is facing foreclosure for failing to pay a $12,000 water bill. In addition to failing to pay the water bill the church was notified the property would be auctioned at the end of the month for defaulting on its $1.5 million mortgage. The plot thickens. The church was recently destroyed in a fire days after receiving notification of the auction.
The article in the Baltimore Sun ended with addressing the Empowerment Temple. The church leases its pastor, Jamal-Harrison Bryant, a 2006 Bentley Continental Flying Spur. Churches seemingly aren’t disturbed, in fact they seem to enjoy, providing lavish lifestyles to those called to be prophetic. The Christians in Atlanta have made Creflo “Give Me Some” Dollars and Eddie Long millionaires. It’s not uncommon to hear of churches willing to purchase planes to make it easier for the pastor to make those trips to the money making conferences across the country. The prophetic voice of the Church has been cashed in for a more lucrative enterprise-the marketing of Jesus for personal gain.
Which brings me back to that selfish plug-it doesn’t pay being prophetic. The best way to run people away from God is to talk about God. That’s crazy, you say. Is it? When’s the last time you’ve seen a movement to bring people together that didn’t involve a $100, $50, $25 line for those willing to make a seed offering to build the work of the kingdom? When is the last time you’ve heard a person talk about taking that money and placing it into the hands of the homeless, the addicted, the afflicted or rejected? When is the last time you heard someone promote a message of inclusion? No, that’s too much like Jesus who welcomed people in rather than finding ways to throw people out!
Where in the gospel did Jesus engage in an act that promoted his need? Imagine Jesus saying, “The Father has shared with me our need to purchase me a Bentley. I need it to prove to the lost that God is a provider. God is using me to show you what can be yours in the kingdom.” Can you imagine Jesus saying something like that? If not, why are we suckered into believing it’s legitimate for those called to serve Christ?
The answer is simple. The calling is treated like a job. We are not called to promote our own agenda. We are called to advance the kingdom of God. The kingdom needs servants willing to stand above and beyond the common trend. This is risky business. Being called isn’t profitable. People hate watching a called servant. It exposes the truth regarding the hypocrisy of their faith. They desire the easy life. They want leaders to make them feel comfortable about their own decisions.
Simon learns the lesson. They kill prophets. Like they say, nothing under the sun has changed. The only thing that has changed is the Pharisees are driving Bentleys.


  1. Reverend Kenney, that is so no point. People are luring unchurched people into pews by promising them that if they sow into "their" ministry they will prosper. LIE,LIE,LIE. And when the people's expectations aren't met they are worse off than they were before coming and it will be harder to bring them back. Shame on every dollar preaching_______ what ever it is that they are calling themselves for using the kingdom for their own gain. Thank you Reverend for standing your ground and being a voice in the wilderness because the church isn't producing a lot of believers in the kingdom. People are coming to Christ not to be saved from eternal death but death to debt and tribulation.

  2. Have to agree with Shanda...If there is one thing I am sick of in our society it is the amount of false prophets that find out peoples desires and preach to them...They tell the Church lady who desires a husband that one is the way, they tell the Entrepreneur that his ship is coming in, knowing all the time that he is heading in that direction..they tell the sick that a cure is at their hand.......There are true prophets and visionaries and ministers out there, and Rev. Carl Kenney, i count you among well as among my friends...

  3. I want to be completely transparent here. My wife and I were members of Orange Grove Missionary Baptist Church briefly in 1996 -- 1997. We were drawn to Pastor Kenny's practical sermons and social activism.

    While I agree that the "prosperity" message has been misinterpreted and confused by many who have used a false image of "prosperity" to dupe many, this does not apply to all.

    True "prosperity" covers spiritual, soul, relational, financial and phyical areas of your life. The term "prosperity" has become erroneously synonomous with just finances.

    This brings me to another point. The decision to "sow" tithes and offerings into the life of a man or woman of God is completely Biblical, as long as it is done as expression of love for God. If it is done to curry favor with the Pastor, it is idol worship. Recently, my wife and I have started a Bible Study/Ministry for family and friends in the Raleigh, NC area. As it relates to "offerings" we encourage our attendees to pray and ask for God's direction before deciding to give. In fact, if they have been impacted by other ministries, broadcasts, etc, we encourage them to "sow" into those ministries. The bottom-line here is that it is time for those who sit in the pew to seek God's Word for themselves. It is also time for Christians to demonstrate the Gospel while trying to spread it to others.

    We must be careful to spend more time with God and His Word in order to do our part as Christians. I hope that this adds clarity to the discussion.

    I was a proud member of Orange Grove during Pastor Kenney's tenure. And, by the way, I am a proud member of World Changers Church International and have learned more over the last 9 years about the power of God's love than at any time in my adult life.

    I would be happy to answer any direct questions about how Dr. Dollar's teaching and World Changers Church International have impacted my life.

  4. Carl:

    Maybe I'm just getting old but what you're talking about here is something we all should have learned about human nature when we were very young (Remember the little poster that says "Everything I need to know I learned in Kindergarten?). The people you're talking to and about know darn well what they're doing. They are playing along in the hopes that some of that money will come their way. They also know that your way is hard work. That's human nature. While what you're saying is true enough I think it misses the point. These people aren't stupid - they've made a choice. Sometimes I know I should go jogging or exercise in some manner but instead I have a glass of wine and watch a Law and Order I've seen ten times.

    You may have the calling - but not everybody does. I understand that you believe it is your calling to show people the way. Like I said, its hard work. Not everybody is up to it. Some people go to church, or temple, or whatever just to go with the flow.

    Are you going to be reading from your book when it comes out? I'm on your email list. I'll come here you (and yes, buy a copy, if you'll sign it).


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