Preachers in the Black church tradition preach many messages. However there are a few that jump out at you. In this series we first looked at the idea that God Will Hook You Up. That message is definitely in the tradition and we cannot forget it. However, in these days, many are ONLY preaching this message. In addition, some are preaching a distorted caricature of this message. But, God skillfully used this message to help Black folks through some dark days in America. In addition, many people of other ethnicities have been helped as their preachers have preached this message.
Next, we looked at the sermonic idea God Will Fix It Up. Here we noted the “prophetic” angle that many Black preachers use. Here the preacher talks about structures that oppress and how they will be torn down. The preacher notes the power of God over all kinds of oppression. Just as in the other message, this is not unique to the Black preacher. Especially in America, white and Black preachers have engaged in what has been called the “Jermiad.” Here the preacher talks about the punishment of a nation for wrongdoing. That is a part of this message here. But as before, some preachers only preach this and end up with a distorted message.
Cleaning Up Individuals
Before we talked about cleaning up structures, but here the Black preacher speaks of cleaning up individuals. Just as the holiness teachers that sprung out of Wesleyanism, many Black preachers emphasize that God is gonna do something for me. God is gonna change me. God is gonna clean me. Certainly this is not a component of all Black preaching, but it is strongly in the tradition. One can see this in the oft spoken cliche’ “I looked at my hands and they looked new, I looked at my feet, and they did too.”
The Black preacher notices that something is wrong when we you are railing against structures and your own heart isn’t being changed. Something is wrong when some have to go outside of the community to be treated well. Because of this, the preacher will sometimes have to “step on toes.” This message is encouraging the people to live the life that God has made them able to live by God’s work on our behalf.
This message includes the work of Jesus. While “God is not finished with me yet,” Jesus who “began a good work in you is faithful to complete it.” The emphasis of this message is as Mahalia Jackson said to “live the life I sing about in my song.”
Preaching the Responsibilities
Sometimes preachers can emphasize this too much also. People end up just getting beaten up never seeing the grace of God or what God has done for us independent of us, namely the Cross. In addition, sometimes preachers only talk about this kind of cleaning and never speak of the cleaning that happens to structures when the people of God live like the people of God. However, this message is often neglected by others in the church. Telling people to clean up is never a popular message. Because of this, we can sometimes ignore it for other messages. However, to be true to the tradition and the Gospel that God has given us to preach, we must include this message. The Gospel is important, doing the work of the prophet is important, talking about the benefits of the Gospel is important, but also talking about the responsibilities of the Gospel is important.