(ThyBlackMan.com) In the aftermath of Harvey Joel Osteen’s reputation was caught in the flood of a social media hurricane.
Osteen, senior pastor of Lakewood Church, a 16,800-seat non-denominational megachurch, was accused of refusing to “open the doors of the church” (pun intended) so that displaced citizens could find refuge from the rising water that overtook Houston.
Neither Osteen’s professed innocence nor his alleged guilt serves as the focus of this opinion; I’m leaving that lively debate to the social media mavens. Instead, I will utilize the backdrop of this deliberation to expose a border view. How many other churches behave in the manner that Osteen is being accused of?
If you consider the border view, I am somewhat confused as to why Joel Osteen is being taken to the woodshed. If truth – not feelings – is to serve as the order of the day then know that an unconscionable number of churches operate in the vein in which Osteen has been accused of.
Far too many churches will not open their doors to anything other than their regularly scheduled programs – bible study, ministry meetings, weddings, funerals and of course worship services. And far too many good going church folks subscribe to the theory that the church is a sacred sanctuary to be used exclusively for the purpose of bringing lives to Christ.
For non-members, most churches limit the services they’ll provide. I’ve attended my fair share of funerals held in parlor rooms at funeral homes because the deceased wasn’t a member of a church even when the deceased was a relative of a tithe paying church member. Membership has its benefits.
As I pen this I can hear my detractors promoting their programs that feed the homeless or the funds they allocate to citizens in need. Ok – but where are the progressive programs that systemically move the needle for social advocacy in substantiate and collaborative ways?
According to www.christianpost.com, there are more than 300,000 churches in America. If this is so and there are, according to www.socialsolutions.com, 564,708 homeless people in America living on the streets, then it appears to me that Joel Osteen isn’t alone in keeping his doors close during deadly storms.
I do not expect the body of the church to exclusively solve the world’s social problems, but when the body of the church proclaims to be a representative of the body of Christ, I do expect their presence to be as visible as, let’s say drug traffic on a street corner. This begins when the doors of the church mean more than just the accumulation of new members who then participate exclusively in the regularly scheduled programming.
One of many issues that I have with today’s church is the wall erected by an inordinate amount of churches. I grew up during a time when the church was the center of everything that took place in the community. I attended Mount Moriah Baptist Church, a rural North Carolina church that once doubled as a school during segregation; it served as a venue to hold community meetings. Because our community neither had a community center nor a city park, the church erected our first basketball court (it stills stands 45 years later) giving us kids somewhere to play basketball. Oh – the court wasn’t just for church kids who lived in the neighborhood; youth from as far away as 25 miles showed up daily to play.
Historically mass meetings to include civil rights meetings were hosted in churches. The planning for the Montgomery Bus Boycott was held in an Alabama church. During those meetings, money was collected to fund civil rights initiatives, pay fines and make bail on behalf of those citizens arrested for their advocacy. Yesterday’s church provided a safe sanctuary from violent hate groups.
In 1867 Augusta Theological Institute was established. In 1879 they changed their name to Atlanta Baptist Seminary and was renamed Atlanta Baptist College in 1897. In 1913 Atlanta Baptist College was renamed Morehouse College. What began in the basement of Springfield Baptist Church (Augusta held services in Springfield’s basement) matured into the nation’s largest men’s college, an educational institution that educated men like Mordecai Johnson, the first African-American to serve as President of Howard University; Maynard Jackson, the first African-American mayor of Atlanta and of course Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Augusta Theological partook in more than just regular scheduled programming.
If Joel Osteen is indeed guilty of not opening his doors he’s not alone. The category 4 storm experienced in Houston is played out every day in the lives of many Americans – trauma, unaddressed and repressed trauma, despair, and all kinds of hurt. Despite the floods rising in the lives of those living in the kingdom, the doors to the church remain closed – well that is unless you go to bible study, attend a ministry event or show up at the regularly scheduled worship service.
When is the last time you visited a church for something other than what is essentially a fixed church activity? I’ll wait!
Staff Writer; Reginald Williams
Speaker, Facilitator, Trainer, Behavioral Enterventionist…
Official website; http://reginaldwilliams.org