OKLAHOMA CITY—The world’s brokenness calls out for Christians who will speak courageously on behalf of justice and fairness, a trio of pastors told participants at the New Baptist Covenant II satellite sessions in Oklahoma City.
About 200 people attended St. John Missionary Baptist Church, an African-American congregation in the city’s northeastern sector. Although the Oklahoma City numbers did not match organizer’s hopes, diversity did. Participants primarily included African Americans and Anglos, but Hispanics and Native Americans also joined in.
In addition to viewing the New Baptist Covenant broadcast feeds from Atlanta, the Oklahoma City event also featured local sermons, breakout sessions and a mission project designed to highlight the dangers of payday lending.
America needs a generation of “meddlin’ preachers,” insisted John Reed, pastor of Fairview Baptist Church in Oklahoma City. He preached on the ministry of the Old Testament prophet Amos, who condemned injustice and inequality in the nation of Israel.
Conditions back then mirror conditions in America today, Reed observed, noting very few Amoses have stepped forward to do anything about it.
“Very little meddlin’ preaching is taking place in America today,” he lamented. “Most preachers don’t have the courage to speak it.”
If enough preachers would pronounce God’s judgment on injustice, “the race problem would end, poverty would end, wars would end and we would shake Washington,” he said. “But things are getting progressively worse. Most of our pulpits aren’t really saying anything.”
That must change soon, Reed charged.
“I pray every day the Lord would give us some preachers who dare to preach the word of the Lord,” he said. Like ancient Israel, America today often is “externally correct but internally wrong.”
“We need preaching that purges and purifies, that comforts the afflicted and afflicts the comfortable. We need preaching that will shake the foundations of government and organized religion.
“Things are more critical than you know, and it’s later than you think.”
America is wracked by a slumping economy, the highest unemployment since the Great Depression and a decade of war,” noted Charles Johnson, pastor of First Baptist Church in Desdemona, Texas, and Bread Fellowship in Fort Worth. On top of that, churches are dispirited, pastors demoralized and denominations divided, he added.
In the face of so much adversity, “let us recover a prophetic imagination,” Johnson urged.
“We need to climb up in that pulpit and raise hell,” he said. “We need a declarative ‘Thus saith the Lord,’ not a ‘What do you think?’”
Preachers aren’t the only ones who need that prophetic imagination, he added, calling also upon laypeople to speak up for justice and fairness.
The church also must reclaim its apostolic commission, Johnson said. “We must get outside the walls of the church (and be) catapulted into the world” to make a difference in the lives of hurting people.
“We’ve got a great mission, a wonderful Leader and the best message in the whole wide world,” he insisted. “We have no reason to be depressed.”
U.S. Christians must help their nation reorient its priorities, declared Lee Cooper, pastor of Prospect Missionary Baptist Church in Oklahoma City.
“America has to begin to face its ridiculous prejudices and face the things that keep us apart,” Cooper said. “We’ve got to see if our faith and religion really mean anything.”
He described how Jesus rearranged the priorities of Zacchaeus, the Jewish turncoat who collected taxes for the Romans and cheated his fellow Jews to make himself rich. After Jesus changed those priorities, Zacchaeus made full restitution to everyone he harmed.
“Zacchaeus paid attention to Jesus … because Jesus is a friend of sinners,” Cooper said. “Jesus comes into our human hearts to rearrange our misplaced priorities. Every one of us is under construction because God is rearranging things in our lives.”