In my last post, I reflected on great things that I learned from my Black Baptist church upbringing that have benefited me as I’ve become more reformed in my faith. But, I unfortunately learned a lot of things (I’ll call it ‘Black spirituality’) in the Black church that I am still unlearning at times. So I want to highlight some of those things here, and I know for sure that my husband will be writing on this topic soon. So, this will be pretty brief.
Hearing God and Personal Maturity
I have plenty of stories I could tell you that fit under this category, but I won’t amuse you with the details. Basically, in my church, it was normal for people to hear the audible voice of God (yes, I did say audible) and have visions and dreams. It was so normal that it gave the impression (and verification) that you were truly a child of God and were more mature in your Christian walk. So if you couldn’t readily say, “God told me……..” or “God revealed to me that………” then you were not really progressing and you may want to check if you were really His child.
As you can imagine, I questioned my salvation for years because I didn’t really have those experiences. I knew it wasn’t right to fake it, and I always prayed for God to reveal Himself to me. But I never seemed to have the same experiences that other people I knew had. So in my mind, I was an ‘inferior’ Christian, or at least a really immature one. Eventually, I did learn (influence of Reformed theology from my future husband when we were friends) that those things were not normal at all to regular Christians, and if they are normal to a person, then they may need to change their diet and get their blood pressure checked more regularly.
Being Called to the Ministry
Long story short, my Black church experience taught me that virtually anyone could be called to the ministry, which isn’t bad in itself. The bad part is that my experience also taught me that you could not refute or disagree with anyone who felt personally called to the ministry because you don’t know what God has told them.
Now, witnessing my mom feel personally convinced that she was supposed to be in ministry and eventually become ordained though plenty of people disagreed is probably what brought this to my attention in the first place. But the effect of my mom’s ordination was that I saw countless women (and men) become “ordained” for lots of things in the church because they felt they had inward calls. And basically, it appeared that there was no verification process to that at all.
Unfortunately, this worsened when I went to college in Atlanta. I saw all kinds of 18 and 19 year olds ordained as ministers, bishops, and even apostles! (That’s what happens when you attend a historically Black college in the South) And you could not tell them that they were not called. Even as they engaged in sexual sins and other obvious transgressions, they were “anointed” by God to walk in their calling. We were just exhorted to pray for them and continue to “speak life” to them.
The last major thing that I want to mention here is on the subject of worshipping God. Growing up in the Black church, I never saw anything wrong with a “praise break” in the middle of service. I mean, in my mind, God is just that good that sometimes you should literally stop everything to praise Him. I remember as a child seeing my cousin’s grandmother take off running almost every Sunday whenever she couldn’t hold it in any longer. We would make bets amongst ourselves on how many times she would run a loop around the sanctuary in her 4 inch heels all the time!
And then, you would also have those who could speak in tongues busting out all over the place. From lay people in the middle of service to the soloist and my mom, you could find handkerchiefs waving, random utterances of tongues that all strangely sounded similar, people doing their little praise jigs, and people falling out across the floor under the anointing every Sunday morning. I guess if I could sum up the theme of the worship service that everyone seemed to hold, it would be Jeremiah 20:9:
If I say, “I will not mention him, or speak any more in his name,” there is in my heart as it were a burning fire shut up in my bones, and I am weary with holding it in, and I cannot.
Now, we all know that this verse was taken way out of context, but it was the justification I’ve heard all of my life. So I hope you were able to have a good laugh on this post. Fortunately, this is about the end of my own Reformed journey. I am still learning a lot every week, but as I mentioned, I am still working on reconciling a lot of things that I learned over the years with the Reformed faith. As a Black woman, I can tell you that systematically rejecting your religious traditions, especially when they are held closely by your family, is not an easy task. So, hopefully I can write a little more on what I’m coming to understand better in the future. Thanks for reading!